The Shine Family's Story
Our darling Aidan was born on February 4th 2009. As a baby, Aidan was what most people liked to call a “good baby.” He was quiet, wasn’t fussy and didn’t cry too often. Little did I know, these were signs of news to come! His older brother Kody, who was 2 at the time, was so excited to have a little brother to look after and teach. He would sit as close as possible while Aidan was feeding, and as soon as Aidan was on solid food, Kody had to be the one to feed him. The bond they had developed from so young was so sweet.
We moved homes when Aidan was 7 months of age, and this was when Autism hit our family. I remember feeling so excited to spend the first night in our new home: we put the boys straight to bed when we arrived at the house after staying with their grandparents, we were exhausted from the move but could not wait to get the boys up and watch their little faces as they explored their new home.
Then Aidan, who woke up the next morning, was not the happy, smiley baby we had before. After a week or so I realised he wasn’t coming down with illness or teething and realised something was very wrong. Over the next 6-12 months things got worse. My child who would eat anything lived on a diet of banana and yoghurt until the age 3.5, he couldn’t stand to be touched, couldn’t be soothed when in pain and although his brother was the only person he liked to be around, he would bite him terribly, drawing blood at the drop of a hat for no reason at all. We now know this was his way of communicating with his brother. He would scream if anyone looked at him, stopped sleeping through the night and downright refused the dummy after loving it for so long and we had no way to sooth him anymore during the night.
I had worked in child care before having children, and although I didn’t see myself as an expert, I knew Aidan was not hitting any of the milestones that he should have by 18 months old, and the milestones he did hit, were in all the wrong order.
We booked an appointment with a GP who tried to turn us away, saying that he was fine and boys were sometimes a little slower, I couldn’t believe she was saying this so calmly while I was trying to wrestle a biting, pinching, screaming 18 month old who didn’t do well in any environment outside our home – How is that FINE?! I finally convinced her for a referral to a paediatrician.
It took us about 12 weeks, and it was in November 2010 that we were able to get into a Paediatrician who knew within minutes that Aidan had Autism. It would take an additional 6 months of testing until we had a diagnosis and could start getting Aidan help. It was clear to us that he needed a lot of help and that was when I found AEIOU. Aidan wasn’t quite old enough to start yet, so I did everything I could over the next 3 months to prepare him.
On the 4th of August 2011 (Daddy’s Birthday) our life changed for ever. Aidan was 2 ½ and ready to start at AEIOU Townsville Full-time. Dropping him off at AEIOU on his first day was the hardest moment of my entire life. I look back now and it seems like such a long time ago. Our little Aidan just didn’t exist. I didn’t understand how he would cope with no words, so much frustration and with no concept of toileting, self-care or what the world was like outside our home.
It had been a long time since we had taken him anywhere, apart from doctor’s appointments as we couldn’t even get him into the car without being bitten, kicked, hit or having our hair pulled during the process, so avoided it all together. Without a doubt, I would get hurt every single time; I knew he didn’t mean it. I couldn’t wear jewellery or earing’s in case it was something he could get a hold off and I always wore my hair up.
It didn’t take very long to see progress in Aidan. He bonded well with the wonderful facilitators and teachers and we did all that we could at home to help him as well. Within 6 months (when he was three years old) Aidan was toilet trained, eating anything and everything he could get his hands on (still is to this day) and had a lot of basic speech. His frustration levels were still high but knowing he was making progress motivated us to keep on going. It was heart breaking to push him to the limit’s every minute of every day. The stress on our family was immense as we had to be on the ball 24/7 making sure we were consistent in every situation. And it has paid off.
Aidan’s big brother Kody was his greatest teacher of all, he would ask often why Aidan couldn’t speak or play with him and he would sit for hours singing, reading, playing and getting right in Aidan’s face to make him socialise and interact. Kody had memorised (at only 3 & 4) every single thing the teachers at AEIOU would say to Aidan and we would hear Kody constantly redirecting Aidan throughout the day. Or sitting with Aidan’s PECS book (Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), a method of communicating through pictures), helping Aidan construct his sentences to ask for help. They share a room now, and are inseparable when they are together and love all of the same things.
Aidan’s journey has been quite difficult as he is extremely independent. As heart breaking as it has been to watch and be turned away as a mother trying to help him, he spent 2 years not allowing anyone to put on his shoes, help him get dressed, do up his buttons, zips or laces, help him with his food, clean him or his hair in the bath – The list goes on and on! It has helped him gain these skills that were well above his years even if it meant sitting in the same spot for an hour, he could not move on until he had completed it by himself. It was the hardest part of his Autism for me, but now I see with each new skill that he is developing that his independence is going to ensure his success in the future.
Aidan is now 4 ½ and is a cheeky, happy, imaginative, little guy. He is such a delight to be around. He loves shopping, sleep overs, the movies and the beach. And most of all loves food, it would be his greatest passion. He loves to explore different textures, flavours and smells and gets to pick a treat once a week as a new food to try. It is normally from the fruit and vegetable section or a new type of deli meat or cheese. He asks for things with a big pretty please and if you thank him for something it is always returned with a your welcome. He is way to spoilt, well his Dad thinks so, but I can’t resist walking into to target and hearing “ Mummy, are we buying toys today.. Say yes pretty please?” out of the lips of a babe that I thought would never speak.
Without the invaluable program that AEIOU Townsville has provided to Aidan, and the knowledge that they have provided to our entire family we would not have had the patience or the hope that we have today. We have made lifelong friends with the teachers at AEIOU. The centre in Townsville is so welcoming, you don’t feel at all judged and the love and support we feel as a whole family is just amazing. As soon as Aidan starts prep next year I am starting work at AEIOU Townsville to help give back to families what AEIOU has given to us.
We had many dreams for our children while they were young and as much as I wish I could take their struggles away, our family has slowed the pace down. We take the time to listen about each other’s day, the little things are so much bigger and we are just in awe of how far both our boys have come, together. We are also looking forward to going on our 1st family holiday this year, something Aidan wouldn’t have handled in the past, but is more than ready for now. Aidan is so very lucky to have the brother he has, every struggle Aidan has had, Kody has felt too and has done everything he could to help his baby brother through it.
By Rebecca ShineBack to Stories
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