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My name is Tanya, an artist and a part time teacher aid in a special school, but first of all – a mother of a 12-year old boy with autism somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. We were both born in Bulgaria but eight years ago we moved to New Zealand and that is where we live at the moment.
My child was different since he was a baby. I guess I have always known the truth, but I refused to admit it even to myself for a long time. I think at the time it was easier for me to believe what most of the people around were saying about me not doing a very good job as a mother, than to accept that my child was going to be different and alone all his life. It was easier to believe that if I tried a bit harder or if I kept pretending there was nothing unusual, we could still be part of the community. Anyway – a day came when I could not ignore it anymore. Early in 2007 my son was diagnosed with autism.
I am not going to describe all the rejection, guilt and hard time we went through – from the tantrums and sleepless nights, to the disgusted eyes of people and the difficulties to rent a proper house to live in – because it upsets me and because I prefer to focus on the good.
“Excuse me, is your child crazy?”
“Excuse me, is your child crazy?”
“Have you considered leaving him in an institution and have a normal life?”
“What kind of a human being could possibly come out of this!”
“Can you, please, remove this boy from the playground so our children could be safe?”
“Excuse me madam, we have to ask you to leave because we have a party in the restaurant and we don’t want people to be disturbed by your son’s presence in the garden.”
“Don’t look at him – he is a bad boy!”
“I don’t care what he is – if he can’t understand to stay away, it is your responsibility to keep him away from people.”
“Can you, please, remove this boy from the playground?”
As the years pass by I am learning to ignore words like this, not to take them deeply, but it still hurts… And I am really tired of explaining and apologising, so we try not to mix too much with people – we spend a lot of time in nature – we love exploring beaches and bushes…
One day, soon after my son was diagnosed, I had a call from a Ministry of Education worker. She asked me to take a week off work and keep my child at home. She said they had a report that he had been abused by one of the teachers in his day-care center and there was going to be an investigation.
This was a turning point in our lives…
People from Special Education contacted us and connected us with specialists and support groups. They also helped us choose a school, when he turned five.
I will never forget the first day we walked into the special school, because it was the first time we felt truly accepted and welcome. Meeting the people who worked there gave a different meaning to words like “love” and “care”. It was like we finally found a home.
Now, seven years later, my son is happy and relaxed (me too) . It is still not easy, but now we are not alone. He goes to the same school. There everybody knows him, understands him and respects his needs and differences. Every morning a taxi picks him up, takes him there and brings him back in the afternoon. He spends his day in a nice, caring environment, learning, doing arts and sports. He has regular sessions with music, speech and occupational therapists and he is making real progress – slowly but surely. His unusual talents are noticed and encouraged. Little by little he is starting to talk. And it is exciting and wonderful when your child calls you “mum” for the first time, even if it is ten years later than expected!
It is exciting and wonderful when your child calls you “mum” for the first time, even if it is ten years later than expected!
[Head photo: Tanya’s son’s artwork]
Tanya Bogdanova lives in Auckland, New Zealand. She is a mother of an autistic boy and works part-time as a teacher aid in a special school.
Tanya is also a jeweller and an object maker. She is fascinated by colours, nature, stories, fairy-tales, legends and traditions. She also believes that in every situation, place or person there is a treasure hidden, just waiting to be discovered.