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Denyse Kirkby felt like an outsider until she recognised her social problems in her eight-year-old son


Thursday February 17,2011

By Bess Manson


DENYSE KIRKBY, 43, a midwifery lecturer, felt like an outsider all her life until she recognised her social problems in her eight-year-old son


WHEN I was growing up I always felt different to other children. I didn’t like playing noisy games in the playground, preferring to read quietly in a corner. I didn’t understand why I detested physical contact or why any sudden loud sounds upset me so much.

I didn’t understand why as I grew older I never really got jokes or why I was ostracised for saying the wrong thing. I was odd. I always have been.


As a child I took everything literally. I was very gullible and children would ridicule me for being socially inept. If someone swore, I would copy them and get into trouble for shouting the word out.


As I grew up I learned ways to fit in. For short periods of time I could pretend I was the same as other people. I learned to prepare myself for meeting people at work, to stop myself saying the wrong thing. I became a midwife since my obsession with following procedures methodically made me good at it.


I also found I could form relationships with men. Unfortunately I didn’t really understand myself so I didn’t choose the right people and my first two marriages ended in divorce.


My third husband Chris, who is 47 and a postman, has always been understanding and patient. For the first time I didn’t feel anxious about what was expected of me but it didn’t stop me wondering why I am the way I am. The answer only revealed itself after I became a mum to TJ, now eight.


I knew TJ was different when he was just three days old. He was very fretful, he’d be up feeding all night and was always very tense.


At nursery he was different to the other children. He didn’t communicate. Rather than join in games and songs he was obsessed with opening and closing a particular toy, arranging things in order, over and over again. The nursery couldn’t handle TJ so I sent him to the Willows Centre, a school in Portsmouth for children with special education needs.


I had long suspected he could have autism and our community paediatrician sent him for an assessment. This process takes a long time and while going through various tests I couldn’t help but notice similarities in his and my own social behaviour. One night I said to Chris, “perhaps I should find out if I am autistic”. Chris wasn’t sure it was necessary for me to know, having lived 40 years the way I was but the more I watched TJ the more I needed to know. Our GP referred me to the National Autistic Society’s diagnostic centre and for the next few months I too was assessed.


In January 2008 I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which is a form of autism. It was a relief.  There was a reason why I was different. I wasn’t just being a wimp at school, things were genuinely more difficult for me than for other people. At last I could understand my own behaviour.


TJ was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in April 2009. Socially he is about three years behind his peers. He is so vulnerable and it worries me because I recall what I went through at school with the bullies and taunts. I didn’t want that for my son. For TJ’s sake I’m grateful I have autism too. It helps me understand what he’s going through. When he struggles to express himself I can help interpret his feelings. I tell TJ autism is not an excuse for not being able to do something, it’s an explanation for why it’s more of a struggle for us.


Read in Full:

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/229513/How-the-recession-bit-sandwich



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