Introduction & Family Background
My husband works a long distance from home so has a very long day. My mother in law is elderly and lives some distance from us. My father helps where he can but this is limited as he is now in his seventies.
There are no friends or extended family that can help much with our caring role so I feel very isolated.
Our youngest child is autistic and also very adorable.
The Portage Journey
Our family came into Portage when my son was 3½. We had a home visitor from the Bromley Portage Service who came three times and on her third visit was able to identify a placement within a specialist pre-school assessment centre.
She arranged a viewing to the Phoenix Centre in Bromley and accompanied me. She kept updated with our family even after we were formally signed off from Portage. Our Portage visitor also helped to secure a Support in Pre-school (SIP) worker to enable my son to attend mainstream pre-school when not at the Phoenix Centre.
Although we only experienced a few Portage home visits the support received was invaluable.
On the first home visit our Portage worker was met with a depressed and exhausted mother along with a violent and seemingly out of control child. Instead of the usual judgmental comments, she advised that my child appeared scared and that may be why he behaved in that way.
Up until the time of our first Portage visit; our family had been in a tumultuous state. Our rather lively baby had grown into a toddler that bit and pulled hair. As this was mainly directed at me (mother) I had almost gotten used to it. I had heard of the ‘terrible twos’ and thought that this was just a phase.
I had adapted to my sons behaviour without questioning why he was reacting the way he did. By adapting I refer to leaving mother & toddler groups early when the singing starts to avoid my child running around whacking a tambourine on others heads. Looking back it’s amazing the things I took for ‘normal’.
I had not heard much about autism so when a nursery teacher asked if anyone had mentioned autism in relation to my child I turned to the internet. What I found didn’t really match my child’s behaviour so I put this to the back of my mind.
Our Portage worker, who said my son appeared scared really acted as a catalyst. She explained that some children have sensory issues and that this might be something we could research to see if it applied to our child. his came as a revelation as at the time she was telling me we had taken cover in the kitchen whilst my child pelted us with toys thrown across a stair gate (bit like cowering from an angry bear!). It was a turning point for our family as it enabled me to view my child in a new light (since discovered he is autistic).
As a family we were so fortunate that a place came up within the pre-school assessment centre. Because of this placement our Portage was cut short but those few visits were a life saver. On the second visit the Portage worker centred on supporting me. I had read more than was healthy around autism and was worrying about the future.
The Portage visitor told me to think in small steps. She shared that there can be very positive outcomes for autistic children but that it would be wise to concentrate on the here and now. She encouraged me to look at how I could support my child with his development and most of all to recognise & savour each achievement.
We have come so far as a family and my child is blossoming. My son still sings ‘What’s in the box’ and I still try to break things down into small steps for him Portage style.
As each hurdle or milestone is overcome I find a new, often unexpected one takes its place and it is amazing how these can be overcome by taking those small steps.
I have also learnt to celebrate the uniqueness of my child.
My child went onto the specialist pre-school at The Phoenix Centre. Here he was assessed and received Speech & Language therapy and was assessed by a paediatrician. The Bromley Portage team are also based at this centre and the Portage worker continued to keep an eye out for how my child was progressing.
The support received by Portage put us well on the way to both diagnosis and a Statement of Education for our child. This ensured he went into the appropriate education facility from day one.
I was also fortunate to receive the Portage basic Workshop training which in turn has led to so many avenues. Most recently this has included the successful completion of the ‘Early Support’ Train the Trainer course which has enabled me to facilitate training of other parents in recent workshops
Who’d have thought it! Thank you Portage.