Eric's Autism Journey
By Agnes Chapman | Published on December 24, 2020 | 7 Minute Read
When Eric was born in 2003, I was an extremely excited older sister; I could not wait to have a baby in the house and a new friend to play with. However, little did 5-year-old me know that Eric was going to be different to other brothers and that he would have a greater impact on my life than I could have ever imagined. As I sit here typing 17 years after he was born, I can’t help but smile at the journey we have been on and the unconventionality of our family life (in fact, I just took him to the toilet and dealt with a smelly poo despite him being a teenager – you have to laugh!) We have so much to thank Eric for and he has taught us a lot but, his diagnosis, and our subsequent struggles, weren’t always that easy to accept.
For the first few years, everything went as planned. Eric developed into a lovely little boy who was alert and famous for his big blue eyes that he would use to stare at everything and everyone that came his way. He would play with other children, he could point and name different colours and he could concentrate with ease. Yet he gradually became unwell and regressed, losing his ability to paint, play and point. Our once-happy Eric was replaced with an incredibly distressed child; he would scream for hours on end, he couldn’t go to the toilet, and he wouldn’t sleep or eat. In 2008 – when he was 4 years old – he was diagnosed with autism and those first few years of dealing with his condition are some of our family’s darkest memories. Looking back on that time of uncertainty, we were completely isolated and clueless. We were given a name on a piece of paper and then sent on our way without advice, support, or community. Autism was now a part of our lives and we had to deal with it on our own.
"We’ve had our fair share of sleepless nights, depressing school meetings, and awkward public encounters, but autism has brought our family together when it could have driven us apart and, today, Eric is a happy and wonderful 17-year-old boy. "
Luckily, my parents took action and refused to let Eric suffer. We found community through books, films and charities and we fought for Eric and his health when no one else would. After finding that he was allergic to several foods, we dramatically changed his diet and we almost instantly found ourselves with a happier boy as a result. It was clear that his gut was damaged, and we tried (and are still trying) to remedy that with all sorts of therapies and treatments; from massage to probiotics, we have always had the aim of making Eric as happy and healthy as possible. We’ve had our fair share of sleepless nights, depressing school meetings, and awkward public encounters, but autism has brought our family together when it could have driven us apart and, today, Eric is a happy and wonderful 17-year-old boy.
It has been a significant year globally - for obvious reasons – but also for our family. Eric has grown up a lot in the last few months and, thanks to COVID, I’ve been at home to witness his gradual development into a man. Every time I catch a glimpse of his moustache, or I mistake his low voice for Dad’s, I am reassured. Reassured that the future I once feared beyond everything else is not so scary after all. He is easier to handle than he once was, his school are teaching him important life skills and, above all else, he loves us dearly.
Having a child with autism in the family is one thing but having an adult with autism to take care of always seemed to be a different and more complex battle. In many ways, it is; we won’t get much respite as he’ll no longer go to school, he will need to live with us forever, he won’t work and he won’t have a family of his own. However, as Eric has taught me, life is never as challenging as it may at first appear. There is always someone in a worse position than you and there is always so much to be grateful for. We will continue to adapt and cope with his condition as we have done in the past and we will continue to learn more about autism - and life! There is uncertainty and there will be struggle but we have learned to take each day as it comes and let Eric lead the way.
About the Author
Agnes is a 22 year old uni graduate living in Cornwall, UK and is striving to share her brother Eric's story. He was diagnosed with severe autism in 2008 and, ever since, Agnes has wanted to share their family's journey. Whether through Instagram ( @theericchronicles ), articles or vlogs, Agnes wants to connect with as many people as possible and show the world how wonderful Eric is.