The Smith Family | Hampshire, UK | Live Life Inspired photography
Noah, age 6, "Very bubbly and energetic, he is very kind and sweet. He is determined, pedantic and endlessly curious."
Beautiful imagery captured by Ellie Meachem of Live Life Inspired Photography and words by Noah's adoring mom (who is also on the spectrum), Anika. You can follow Anika & Noah's journey with autism on Instagram @senseautism.
Our journey has been a slightly different shape to what I usually read. I have autism myself. I can often tell when other people have autism by the way they stand, move or communicate. This is something I intuitively sense. When Noah was one and a half, he was sitting on the floor and I looked at him playing. A spark lit in me and I recognized his movements as something different. The way he turned the toy and played with the peripheral features of it; the way he moved his head and grabbed at the air with a forgotten hand. "Here we go," I thought, "he has autism." It wasn't a negative thought, just an awareness of what was to come.
Five years later, he was formally diagnosed. This came after years of contact with innumerable health professionals. His obsessive behaviours and intense meltdowns had been wreaking havoc with our lives for a long time. This was not a new journey that we were just starting but the diagnosis was an affirmation of something. It said, "You were right; you're his mum and you saw it." The diagnosis gave me more confidence and allowed me to let go of my doubts. Being able to name his behaviors and see their roots in autism, which I know so well, was something I could deal with.
The pain hit in a different way. I know what he will be facing because I have lived it. I know the possible prognosis of mental illness and short life expectancy because I have campaigned against them. I know the lack of suitable education options because I have worked in them. I would never take autism away from him, nor would I allow anyone to take it from me. But I know his world will be a harsh reality.
We still have many battles to come. He is not yet settled in a suitable school but we continue to try and find one that will suit him. He gets signed off by the health service because his needs are not quite great enough to make their lives a problem, yet at home I continue to watch him fall apart. While he is making some progress, his autism seems to be worsening over time. This year he has become much more severe as expectations and demands on him have risen at school. I have learnt not to hold onto milestones but to enjoy moments instead. He loses so many skills that he has learnt. So I cherish the moment when he can do something like dress himself or ask for help, knowing it might be the last time for a long while. What the next few years may hold, I don't know.
The one thing I can guarantee he will have is me. I will give him the tips and tricks to get through sensory overload. I will hold him when he succumbs and defend him when he needs it. When he can not speak, I will be his voice. I won't let anyone try to force him into a box the way they did with me. I will show him that you can be someone in this world because of autism, not in spite of it. It is with this fierceness that we will journey together and face the world head on.