Jessica Offer, 28, Sunshine Coast, Qld
My girl Scarlett, then four, was having another tantrum. I’d taken her to the supermarket and the crowds and noise had set her off.
'We need to take her to the doctor,’ I said to my hubby Chris, 33, that night.
‘I think she’s fine. It’s just a phase,’ he said.
Recently, Scarlett had become very sensitive. She hated the feeling of sand on her feet, and even a shower that was slightly too hot or cold left her in tears.
It was a relief to finally have an explanation.
Having been around many children, I thought her behaviour was the sign of a condition such as autism, but Chris thought she was fine. It all came to a head when Scarlett was six years old and we moved from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. Scarlett really struggled to adjust, and Chris agreed we should get her assessed by a psychologist.
After three sessions, Scarlett was diagnosed with autism. It was a relief to finally have an explanation. Scarlett wasn't having tantrums, she was just struggling to cope.
‘I thought all of these things were normal,’ he said.
A week later, Chris and I looked through leaflets on autism. Reading how people on the autism spectrum can find it difficult to socialise and can be overwhelmed by loud noises, Chris had a revelation. ‘I thought all of these things were normal,’ he said. The more we read, the more we realised that Chris had many of the symptoms. I’d been with my hubby for seven years and loved him for his attention to detail and ability to fix anything. But he found it hard to socialise and didn’t like busy places.
Maybe Chris was on the spectrum too! Instead of being upset, we laughed about his quirks.
Chris went to see a psychologist, where he was formally diagnosed. It didn’t make me love him any less, in fact the things I love are his most autistic traits. As well as Scarlett, now nine, we have Aurora, seven, Pippa, four, and Nell, two. Pippa is also autistic, but presents differently. She has great eye-contact, is social, but doesn’t have a sense of personal space and can be very loud.
Having an autistic dad and sisters has given Aurora and Nell a lot of understanding. I’m confident they’ll grow into kind and forgiving people. I love my wonderful family and wouldn’t change them for the world.
Originally published in that's life! Issue 20, 2016.