The joy of watching the mask lift and seeing my child for who he is.

It has been 2 years now since I changed my parenting to a collaborative, low demand approach and I have seen such a change in my son. This was really illustrated by a trip to the opticians on Friday when, for the first time, I noticed he was able to stop masking before he got overwhelmed and communicate his experiences instead.

It all started 3 weeks ago when he started to get anxious about his eye sight, he said the he felt it was not as good as it has been in the past. We had a chat and I said if he wanted I would make an opticians appointment to put his mind at rest and much to my surprise he said that he would like me to do so. I’ll be honest I left it a couple of weeks and waited for him to remind me before doing it as I wanted to be sure it wasn’t a passing worry that he has no intention of carrying through but when he was still adamant he wanted to go I made an appointment at the local Specsavers. I explained to the receptionist that my son was autistic and may be anxious and find it difficult to respond to questions and she put him in for the last appointment of the day.

In the run up to the appointment we talked about what happens at an eye test and how he might feel about wearing glasses if he had to. My son seemed calm and relaxed about going, probably because it was his idea and he felt in control, but I was aware the was still a chance he might not feel able to go on the day as had happened many times before.

Anyway Friday dawned and my son was his usual happy self even after I reminded him that we had the appointment in the afternoon. I kept the day relaxed and free from study as I know how much doing something new and unfamiliar takes out of him. When it came to time to get ready though my son said he didn’t need or want to go, I said that was fine but it seemed a shame when he has been so worried about his eyes and the appointment was made. He sighed deeply and said he would go but he was not happy about going there and asked me a few more questions about the appointment. Walking down the road he told me how bright the sun was and how his legs always ached.

A short walk later we arrived at the opticians and were settled in an empty waiting area, my son described his discomfort at only one of the chairs not having arms and breaking the pattern and the huge photos creepy faces staring down at him except he didn’t mind the one that looked like his grandad because the eyes had the same space between then and the nose was the same shape…

We didn’t have to wait long and were called in by the lovely young optician who obviously had a good grasp of autism and quickly put him at his ease. Throughout the appointment he was able to express what he found uncomfortable and say no to what he didn’t like. He made it clear he did not want his eyes touched and she explained that that would never happen although she would be holding up lens close to the eye and was that Ok? He nodded his acceptance.

When she shone the light into his eyes the first time he made a sucking noise like when you put your finger on something hot and looked away and she was able to respond by keeping it to a minimum and warning him it was going to happen. He got quite anxious when the sounds of a child squealing permitted the door which the optician was quick to notice and explained that it was a child who came regularly for eye drops and didn’t like having them in. My son chatted with her about the Xbox games he played (and are officially too old for him), how he didn’t like to get up early and home education and I didn’t interfere even when it didn’t put me in the best light as it was great to see him being himself.

We walked home together chatting with the piece of paper stating he has 20/20 vision but should wear sunglasses as he has exceptionally large pupils. “See Mummy”, my son said, “I told you I didn’t need to go and that the sun was bad for me.”

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