A Mother’s Journey to discover her Baby
‘Dear Health-visitor, I just wanted to let you know, how Isaac is getting on. He is almost 18 months now. It’s been quite a journey. But things are going well and I’m now not worried about autism any more, because I feel I’m in such good emotional contact with Isaac. We understand each other. We love being together. He shows me things by pointing and then checking my face to see my response. He starts interactive games. He surprises me with new ideas. He even teases me. Yesterday he offered me some of his apple, but then kept feeding it to his teddy, with this twinkle in his eye that just made me laugh. He talks using gestures and I understand what he means with his gestures. I have slowed down to so much. I try to get onto his level and understand him from his point of view. We have so much fun together. And most of the time it is Isaac who starts it. Or he tries to help me by crawling off to bring me my shoes or my keys …
I really don’t know, where things started to go wrong. Everything was fine, when Isaac was born, even though he wasn’t planned. He was a big surprise. But he was such an easy baby. He was happy in his crib for hours. He loved the TV. I took him to baby groups every week. It was there that I first got worried. He didn’t join in like the other babies. He didn’t look around like they did. I thought, if I took him more often and let him watch more of the clever-baby videos, it would help. I tried really hard. But he basically stopped making eye contact altogether. I think he was about 7 or 8 months then. I was beside myself, searching for help.
The baby massage group you sent me to really helped. He loved it and it helped me to slow down. I now also understand that the rhythm of the massage movements helped both him and me to get into more of a dialogue, and he started to relax and make eye contact again.
But it was the home-consultations by the early interventionist, who you referred me to, that really changed everything. She came to observe and helped me to think about what might be going on in Isaac’s mind. She helped me to understand how communication develops and how rhythm and daily routines help with that. We didn’t have any routines then. I just used to fit in with Issac. I realised how important predictable daily routines are, because they are like a language that tell the baby what is going to happen and in what order.
We talked about different sensory profiles of different babies. We observed that Isaac is a bit slow and needs more time to process what is going on. The first thing I realised was that I was doing too much. I just didn’t give him a chance to respond. I had to wait a bit longer. Then he would respond. It was as if he was still asleep and needed waking up to become more interested in the world. Sometimes he did something different than I had expected. It took me a while not to be upset by that. I used to feel that I had failed to teach him properly, if he did things differently. Now I realise that babies have their own ideas, already at this young age. I realised that he was already a complete person. I really used to think that it was my job to make him into a person. I really thought that being a good mum was about keeping him safe and making him happy, and then he would become a person one day. It was a bit of a shock to realise it’s a two-way thing, that we need to do this together. It wasn’t easy and I went through lots of ups and downs about it all. Without the support from the early intervention therapist I would not have managed to make those fundamental changes.
With her help, I became interested in Isaac in a different way. I became curious to find out, who this small person is. It wanted to discover him. I listened more. And I listened differently. I stopped listening just whether he was unhappy and rushing to make him happy again. And I stopped feeling guilty all the time that I wasn’t a good mum every time he wasn’t happy. Instead I began to watch and listen to what he was thinking, to his ideas, to what he was telling me with his body language and facial expressions, to what HE was interested in. His favourite game was making things disappear. He’d push things under the sofa cushions and then he’d look at me waiting for me to say ‘Oops. It’s gone!?’ Then he’d pull the toy out again with a big grin saying ‘daah’. He loved peekaboo and started to surprise me with his ‘booh!’s. It was so funny. That’s when I realised, we were going to be ok. Oh, and I’ve stopped the TV and videos, and going to those groups. We have more fun playing together at home. I hope you don’t mind? Thank you so much for listening to me, and for getting us those home consultations.’ (All names and other identifying details have been changed.)