Lan­guage of love

There is noth­ing that Joanne Lee, 34, from not­ting­ham, won’t give up to help her sons

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

I was wor­ried – he’d just turned 2 and still not said a word

Sit­ting my son Chrissie, 2, on my lap, I opened a story book and pointed at the car­toon an­i­mals in­side.

‘Look, it’s a dog!’ I said, point­ing. ‘Can you say “dog”?’

Chrissie smiled up at me, but he didn’t speak.

‘What about this moo-cow?’ I grinned, giv­ing Chrissie a cud­dle. ‘Can you say “C-O-W”?’ Again, my boy was si­lent. As he clam­bered down and ran off to play, my stom­ach churned.

‘I’m wor­ried,’ I told the health vis­i­tor when she popped round a few days later. ‘He’s just turned 2 and still not said a word.’

I’d not men­tioned it be­fore, knew that kids de­velop at dif­fer­ent rates.

The health vis­i­tor looked at my lit­tle boy, hap­pily watch­ing Post­man Pat.

‘I’d check with your GP,’ she ad­vised.

So a week later, in Jan­uary 2009, we went to the doc­tor, were re­ferred to a con­sul­tant.

In Fe­bru­ary 2009, af­ter lis­ten­ing to his symp­toms, she broke the news...

‘I think your son might be autis­tic – and, judg­ing by his dif­fi­culty in com­mu­ni­cat­ing, his case seems quite se­vere.’ I prayed the con­sul­tant was wrong – but af­ter ob­serv­ing his be­hav­iour, she con­firmed it. My boy had autism. Speak­ing to a spe­cial­ist, I learned how Chrissie would strug­gle to un­der­stand the world around him for the rest of his life.

He’d need ex­tra help learn­ing to com­mu­ni­cate, cop­ing with new en­vi­ron­ments, even mak­ing friends.

It broke my heart. But I had to be strong for my lit­tle boy.

A stay-at-home mum, I spent ev­ery mo­ment tak­ing Chrissie to speech ther­apy and play­ing learn­ing games.

‘Well done!’ I’d cheer when I asked him to pass me an ob­ject and he got the right thing.

Sadly, out­ings to the cinema or hol­i­days abroad were out of the ques­tion.

The com­bi­na­tion of a new place, noise and peo­ple would send Chrissie into a melt­down, squirm­ing and scream­ing.

Thank­fully, there was a spe­cial­ist school nearby that was able to sup­port him.

But, by age 7, Chrissie still couldn’t speak and I was told it was likely he never would.

A few months later, I fell preg­nant again.

I knew there was a chance this baby might be autis­tic, too, but the love I felt for Chrissie con­vinced me it was worth the risk.

Fi­nally, in Au­gust 2014, Chrissie wel­comed his baby brother Ryan into the world with a big hug.

They had such a lovely re­la­tion­ship, Chrissie want­ing to help and play when­ever he could.

But when Ryan neared his se­cond birth­day and still wasn’t speak­ing, fa­mil­iar alarm bells started to ring.

In 2016, the doc­tor con­firmed my sus­pi­cions – Ryan was autis­tic too.

‘What am I go­ing to do?’ I cried to my mum Ros­alie, 60.

‘I know you’ll do every­thing you can to give those boys the best life pos­si­ble,’ she re­as­sured me.

I knew she was right. Like his brother, Ryan couldn’t speak. In­stead, they com­mu­ni­cated through pic­tures and sign­ing with their hands.

But nei­ther of them had any dif­fi­culty show­ing their love. Ev­ery day, they’d wrap their arms around me. I didn’t

We’d have to travel a long way for treat­ment

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