Welcome once again to a beautiful new year, I say beautiful because we are still here, still hoping. I pray all our dreams and desires become a reality in 2021.
Today we will be meeting an amazing woman who will be sharing her story. Why not get yourself comfortable and enjoy her story.
S.A.B: Who is Adesola? Tell us your name, the schools you attended, where you grew up and anything else you would like us to know about you.
Adesola: My name is Adesola Toyin Adesokkan. I was born in Nigeria where I was called to the Nigerian Bar as a barrister and solicitor of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before coming over to the United Kingdom to obtain my Master’s degree in Law of International Trade. I also sat the necessary exams and became a solicitor within the England and Wales legal jurisdiction.
Added to my law qualifications, I have a qualification in Health and Social Care, certification in Applied Behavioural Analysis amongst other certifications in creative education. I am married with two children. My daughter Ademurewa is 14 years old and my son, Adegbemirois 13 years old.
S.A.B: Can you tell us about your children and how you found out they were autistic? How did you respond when you got their diagnosis? For those who have never heard of Autism,(Note that there are many types of autism)- It is a spectrum of disorder, a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication (Definition from www.autismspeaks.org )
Adesola: “Truly when you meet an autistic person, you have only met an autistic person.” The story of my children towards diagnosis could not have been more different.
I did not notice anything unusual about my daughter as she was talking and appeared to be meeting all her milestones right on time. However, when she was two and a half years old, a health visitor came visiting as usual and was concerned that throughout her visit my daughter did not sit still and was walking on her toes most of the time. The health visitor informed me she would be making a referral for my daughter to be seen by specialists. That was how the journey began for her.
In my son’s case, I actually noticed he was losing his words and I raised this with the health visitor when I visited the baby clinic. She, on the other hand, felt he was doing fine. Her conclusion to me was no consolation because I knew something was off with my son. I booked an appointment to see the General Practitioner (GP). By the time I got to see the GP, my son was almost mute and unresponsive to the world around him, even to us his family.
After about a year and a half of going from one specialist to another trying to unravel what was happening to both my children, the paediatrician diagnosis for both of them was “Autism”. The word was like a poisoned dagger piercing through my heart and almost shattering my soul. it was an emotionally wrenching experience.
I will be talking only about my son from this point on. This is because the book I wrote is all about my experience raising him so far.
S.A.B: What are the struggles and triumphs you encountered bringing up your son. Which organisations were you able to get support from?
Adesola: I have encountered many lows and highs on this journey. Imagine having a non-verbal and non – responsive child. After my son lost all his words at about the age of two, ( the saga actually started when he was 18 months ) he also became non-responsive. It felt like all we had was a body without a soul. It was draining and scary, almost like watching a horror movie play out in front of you. Ade said nothing and seemed to understand nothing. No matter how many times we repeated a message to him using the simplest of words or expressions, he made no response, no acknowledgement, just blankness.
As Ade had become non-responsive, we were unsure if he was learning from his environment and the educational resources he was been exposed to. As if that was not tough enough, Ade would run around the library during storytime ( which he appeared to love doing) resulting in disapproving stares and comments from other parents. It got so bad we stopped going to all library activities for children. We decided to take him to the children’s section of the library when there were very few people there which was a shame really.
Ade until recently was very sensitive to noises, so as a family we did our best to avoid loud and crowded places. None of these was perplexing as Ade’s desire to wander. It is difficult to explain how I felt the first time Ade went missing. It felt like my entire world had collapsed around me, leaving me in a state of emotional trauma and the ensuing pandemonium made my head spin. The police became our close ally in finding a son who loved to wander.
We experienced many highs also with Ade. For example, after Ade’s tongue was freed from tongue-tie ( he was moderately tongue-tied since he was born) at the age of five, he started reading words from books and subsequently began to communicate with us and responding to words. I discovered by accident that Ade ( now age 7 ) is mathematically gifted. I realised he would answer off-hand many two and three digits multiplication questions. By chance, I also realised that he a calendrical gift which means he can tell you what day of the week a particular date fell on.
I find living with a child with autism a conundrum as joyful moments are interwoven with moments of utter despair.
Throughout this journey, some organisations have been very supportive. A kind couple from Burgess Autistic Trust ( now known as Choice Support Autism ) was with us at the paediatrician’s office when the diagnosis was delivered. CSA provides support and advice for families living in Bromley and South East London who have autistic children. Wining Stars Bromley Disabled Children and Destiny Children and Family Support Group (I am a member of some of the groups) These groups have helped me at different times to tackle everyday situations like handling temper tantrums, managing sleep problems and going on family outings. They also provide me with resources on important transitions in life for my children.
Join in next Friday to read the concluding part of the interview. Keep your Sparkle glowing and do have a fabulous weekend.