I must get asked this question on an almost weekly basis. When did I realise there was something slightly different with Jude?
I know some people don’t like this sort of discussion and I totally agree that fundamentally, everyone is different. BUT it doesn’t take a genius to see that Jude is slightly more multifarious than most people. I love him. I really love Jude and his quirks – his “people”, his obsession with food, the way he can amuse himself for hours with that hideously repetitive cat game on his iPad (it feeds his love of echolalia). I also love his ability to start conversations with total strangers in any situation we find ourselves in. “What’s your name?” or “what are you doing?” are his preferred opening lines.
So we’ve established that Jude has some noticeable differences to his person. I don’t feel offended when people ask questions about Jude, in fact I love talking about him because I think it opens up so many potential conversations and shows that these are things that can be talked about.
I realised Jude wasn’t quite like the other babies in our antenatal group when he was merely a couple of months old. There were six babies in our group – four boys and two girls, all born within a month of each other. In fact, Jude was the first (he was meant to be second)!
Whilst all the other babies would look around, follow lines with their eyes, appear to “take things in” (if I can use such a vacuous phrase) Jude would just lie there or sit in my arms or just cry.
Jude appeared completely vacant of any social ambitions. I would hold him up and chat, babble, smile right at his face but there was just no recognition looking back at me. Once all the other babies were starting to embrace their baby gyms, Jude would just lie there and not have a clue what to do. Never reaching with his arms to bat the dangling ornaments, never attempting to reach anything waved in his direction.
I took Jude to our doctor to ask for a Paediatrician referral and they said he was fine, all babies develop at different rates and that I shouldn’t worry. But I did worry. I knew he wasn’t developing as he should, I even recognised this despite him being my first child. I was lucky I had comparisons to go by with my antenatal group. And I know people say you shouldn’t compare but I think it’s both natural and useful in many cases. If I hadn’t compared in this scenario then we wouldn’t have had specialist input so soon.
Anyway, Jude continued to develop at his own rate. I’m jumping ahead a bit here but he sat up at 7 months old which isn’t too bad really. However, once sat he had no idea what to do! I could have left him in a room, sat there like a little podgy lump and gone out for a few hours and he wouldn’t have been bothered in the slightest. Needless to say I never did this but it was such an odd time. Typically once sat up, babies learn to reach over to one side to get into a crawling position. Jude never did this and it was only through physiotherapy and occupational therapy that we managed to get him on his hands and knees.
A second GP visit a few months later (about six months old) and I was again told that Jude was fine, not to worry and that babies all develop at different rates. This was a sentence I heard an awful lot as you can imagine both from outsiders and medics alike.
A third visit at 10 months old and FINALLY I convinced the GP to refer us, even just to shut me up with proof that Jude was perfectly fine. Hilariously, a few weeks later, he passed his one year check (taken early on my insistence) but thankfully, this didn’t hinder our paediatrician application. One month on at 11 months, our wonderful paediatrician in Cambridge confirmed that there was something going on that we needed help with. She could neither confirm or deny whether this would be a serious disability however, she did rapidly put in place physiotherapy and occupational therapy so we could get Jude moving. Both amazing women I’ll never forget because of their dedication to their jobs and enthusiasm for helping Jude. They gave Jude the mobility and initial independence that was fundamental for further development.
It makes me feel really emotional thinking back to the start of this journey (another term I hate, sorry!) My god, we’ve been through a lot. Jude has an amazing family around him, he’s a lucky boy. I remember going to the children’s centre in Cambridge a couple of times a week with Jude and my mum for support. She was an amazing additional help back then (and still is), always driving up for me so I didn’t have to go alone to therapy sessions. It was during this time, maybe when Jude was between 1-3 years old that we discovered his amazing sense of direction; my mum and I wouldn’t have a clue where to go, navigating the myriad of hospital corridors but Jude knew exactly where to go! Anyway, that’s another story…