The Eldest is 5 and was diagnosed with Aspergers about 6 months ago. For a long long time I refused to totally entertain the idea that she might not be straight forward and "normal".
I put down any differences in her to her slightly unusual upbringing. She was born when we were living in Italy. I returned to the UK for her birth and she was born 2 and a half weeks early, which isn't very early, but has had a huge impact on her because had she been a day late she would have ended up in the next school year and had a whole extra year for growing up in before she started school.
I returned to Italy with her when she was 6 weeks old and at that point she went from being an angel baby, to being pretty hard work. I don't remember those early days with her much, she cried a lot and I think that I ended up with undiagnosed post natal depression. Not speaking Italian, I didn't have much access to other mothers in the area and ended up very isolated and alone. I did my best with her, but I wonder how much of an impact the depression had on her.
When she was 8 months old, we moved to Mumbai. It was fun in India, we did a lot of swimming and we had easy access to baby sitters. Life improved for me, I made plenty of friends and life was easier. The expat community in Mumbai was much tighter than the one in Milan and there were always people willing to meet up and make friends.
When Bea was about 14 months old, I employed a nanny (Nuri) because I wanted another baby and I knew how horrific my morning sickness was and I didn't want The Eldest to suffer whilst I was pretty much out of action. Nuri was a fantastic nanny, very good with the children and a sweet lovely lady. The kids adored her. I got with pregnant The Boy and then fairly soon after with The Feral One, having them close together so that I could get the sickness out of the way whilst I had help in India.
I was very relaxed about The Eldest's development. I am not a competitive mother - when she was on the later side to walk and talk, I just said that she would get there in her own time, there was no rush. She took a long and frustrating time to potty train, but other than that, I didn't feel that there were any indications that there was anything "wrong" with her.
We moved back to the UK when I was 35 weeks pregnant with The Feral One. The Eldest started preschool and I gave birth about 10 days later. When the preschool flagged up issues after 6 weeks, I dismissed them, saying that the reason that The Eldest was different to the other children was her different upbringing, that we had just moved countries, she'd suffered a bereavement by leaving her nanny behind and that she had just had a new sister. She was bound to be making fairly heavy weather of it. As well as that, other people who she met out of preschool were positive that she was "normal". However, after a while I agreed that the speech therapist should see her. We had an appointment and the speech therapist said that she was fine, and that her speech level was in advance of where it should be.
However, issues continued to dog her at preschool and then at school - things like not making eye contact, not communicating her wishes clearly, making inappropriate noises during carpet time. These issues didn't seem to occur at home, but in frustration I took her to a GP and asked for a referral to a paediatrician.
Initially it seemed that the paediatrician couldn't find anything "wrong" with her, but she sent The Eldest for the standardised test for Autism. Although I was present during the test, I wasn't allowed to prompt The Eldest, so she was shorn of my usual support. It was quite an eye opener and I began to see what the teachers at school were seeing. She was diagnosed with Aspergers at the appointment.
It was, to be honest, a bit of a blow. I was very upset about it for a while mainly, I think, because I could see that this was a lifelong condition and that she was going to have to deal with it forever. I had hoped that her life would be reasonably easy and straightforward and this was a complication that she was going to have to deal with. However, once I accepted it, I found I was actually able to relax. I realised that there were many things that I was subconsciously doing in an attempt to push her to be "normal".
She has mild Aspergers. If you met her, especially if she was in my presence, it is unlikely that you would know. She's bright, she's already reading WAY above where she "should" be for her age. She struggles to hold her attention at school, but when she puts her mind to it, she can do whatever she has been set, and she does it with ease. One on one, she is delightful. Mainly her problems are social - at home she is far too quick to lash out at her siblings (which is my biggest frustration) and she struggles to see things from the point of view of others. She has a lovely group of friends at school who seem to accept her for who she is and who support her through the day. Her teacher is very good with her and understands her issues. She will succeed in life I am sure - many many of the traits I that see in her, I see in myself (and I haven't done too badly so far). We just need to capture her imagination with her academic work and she will fly. Socially too, she is bright enough to learn strategies, in fact she already has. It may not come intuitively like it does to many, but it will come with learning and practice.
She is my delightful, frustrating, beautiful, dementing, wonderful daughter.