“After a normal pregnancy and labour, Ryan entered the world at 03:33 on 7th October 1993. Ryan was around eight months old, when we started to notice he wasn’t developing at the same rate as his brother. He was not interested in or engaged by the same things and didn’t interact with toys or respond to stimulus in the same way. We were aware that development differs in babies and young children and hoped Ryan would ‘catch up’ as the months went by. This was not the case and important milestones were not reached (even today some have not been reached!). Alarm bells began to ring in our ears.
The 18-month check was the turning point where Ryan ‘failed’ every test. This triggered referrals to every specialist possible, Paediatrician, Audiologist, Physiotherapist, OT etc. It became very apparent there was a delay in Ryan’s development, but the extent of the delay was unknown to us at that time.
Ryan is non-verbal and is not at the level to understand the communicative tools such as sign language / Makaton / PECS (picture exchange communications system). He is doubly incontinent, he has no awareness of danger, he requires 2 to 1 support out in the community, he wears a walking belt and has a wheelchair for safety purposes BUT he is a happy handsome chap who is loved very much.
We discovered that for many people, their understanding of autism had been shaped by the film Rain Man; not appreciating the scale of the autistic spectrum or the individualistic nature of autistic traits and tendencies. While it’s true that there may be commonalities in some children with autism, each is unique in their own way.
For Ryan, he dislikes change and does best with familiar faces and a well-established routine. He doesn’t have a regular sleeping pattern and wakes frequently at night. He enjoys open spaces and spending time outdoors, however due to his lack of awareness of danger, he has to have adult support at all times, he wears a handling belt to keep him safe. Ryan cannot be afforded freedom to run, walk wherever he wants, he would run into the road, he particularly likes horse-riding and his music session where he can jump and bound about safely without restrictions (in a safe large room) and visiting zoos, parks and more recently a new found Ryan friendly beach which affords him freedom.
He has a particular brush (Denman D200 Skeleton Vent brush) which is his ‘comfort blanket’. He takes this everywhere, bath, bed, beach, swimming, zoo, woods…everywhere Ryan goes, his brush goes with him and without this he appears ‘lost'."
When did Ryan discover his love of the D200 and what is his relationship with it?
So, I have looked back at photographs to get a sense of when he first ‘took a shine’ to the D200, I believe it goes back to 2010.
Prior to the Denman brush and starting from when he was a toddler, he has used a colander (yes the one which you drain vegetables, boy were we glad when he changed to something smaller), various other brushes (that just don’t make the grade!), Brio wooden train track, DVD case, wooden spoon as his ‘flappers’.
Ryan’s relationship with the Denman D200, is I guess somewhat unique in that it is used by him as ‘a flapper’ a sensory object which he ‘twiddles’, bangs rhythmically in his hands. It is like a comfort blanket, and he is definitely ‘lost’ without it. If he drops/loses it, you can see anxiety build up on his face and then relief when it is found. It is very useful to use as an incentive for him. If he ‘plonks’ himself down not wanting to move, we can use the brush to encourage him to get up (this is usually done if he sits in the road). One of us will hold the brush and walk with it and he usually moves. He will move for the brush! We don’t like to take the brush from him but when it is a safety issue it has to be done.
Ryan seems like such an active man, is it true he brings his D200 everywhere he goes?
When Ryan left school and it became apparent that there were no services that would meet his needs, I vowed that I would take him out daily and give him quality life experiences. I believe I have done this and he sure does take his brush everywhere he goes, as you can see from the photographs.
Can you recognise any reason you can think of as to why this brush has become a firm favourite?
Ermmm, that is the tricky question. I can make assumptions, maybe because its plastic, but that would be quashed because he has had wooden objects previously. I could assume because of shape, but that is quashed because he has had DVD boxes. We will never really know the answer for certain but being something he can move from hand to hand rhythmically has to be a key component!
What is Ryan’s hair routine?
Oh gosh, Ryan has his hair washed and cut whilst he is in the bath by myself! It has taken years to get him to be comfortable with this (p.s. I am no hairdresser!). It started when he was young and I guess we made him very anxious (not realising at the time) about having his hair cut using clippers. He struggled. For this reason we stopped using them and gradually built up his trust to use scissors and a set of quiet clippers (this is as recent as this year). It is a challenge but one that is getting easier and I hope that continues. He does love his hair brushed but only for a minute! He does like his head massaged though.
Can you share any tips to other parents?
My tips for any parent going through challenges with their own children is ‘listen to your child / young person’s communication’. This communication can come in many forms. Facial expressions, body language, vocalizations and just requires lots of observations from the caregiver/parent to ‘hear’ what they are trying to communicate.
Ryan is non-verbal and does not sign but through observing him at all times, watching his body language, tuning in to his vocalizations and noticing his facial expressions, this has given me so much more understanding of his needs, likes and dislikes. Communication is key and communication comes in many forms. I am certain that for us as a family doing this has kept Ryan the happy chap he is today. We tune into him, not him into us!
Oh, and if it’s a brush (Denman, of course), a colander, a piece of brio train track that makes them happy then go with it. Life will be a happier one. P.S but as I said I am glad he changed from the colander (it’s a bulky item to carry around!) Hee Hee!”