When their son Harry was 2 ½, English model and actress Emma Noble and James Major — son of the former Prime Minister John Major — watched in bewilderment as their toddler slowly retreated into a world all his own, losing his vocabulary along the way. The last word to go was ‘Mummy,’ Emma, 36, recently recalled,
He was trying so hard but all he could get out was ‘Mu, Mu’. All the time I was desperately willing him on. That look of fear and confusion on his face will never leave me.
What the couple, who have since divorced, later learned was that Harry — who is now 7 — has autism. Receiving the diagnosis was devastating, Emma said, leaving her feeling "very alone and isolated." Fortunately, years of therapy and determination are yielding good results for Harry — whom Emma likens to an "encyclopedia" and describes as a "chatterbox." Her son is now mainstreamed in school, but progress was not quick or easy.
It was like slowly building the bricks back up which had just been knocked down. It was Harry who pulled me out of that despair. I started doing courses on autism and could then see tiny improvements – they meant everything to me.
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Although her marriage began to unravel not long after Harry began his descent into autism, Emma said "it is very important to me that people – and my son, above all – know the two were not connected." Both mother and son have "come a long way" since the initial diagnosis, a moment in their lives that Emma said feels like "another lifetime." She added,
I felt I really wanted to know why. I was very angry, very upset. It was a form of grieving, a bereavement. But that feeling dies – the desperate wanting to blame – and what takes over is the day-to-day living…Now I can honestly say I don’t feel bereavement. Time helps things move on. You have to be very positive – and Harry makes that very easy.
That’s not to say that there still aren’t obstacles to overcome. Harry, Emma said, recently started telling his mom ‘I love you’ — a breakthrough in any context — but he also says it to complete strangers. He gets frustrated and angry, and has difficulty making friends. There’s also the issue of dealing with the reactions of others who are unaware of Harry’s diagnosis. A recent outing to see The Lion King led to an uncomfortable exchange. Recalled Emma,
[Harry] desperately wanted to go but even such a simple trip takes a lot of preparation. I had to explain there would be a lot of people and a lot of noise. We took his ear muffs and reassured him that he could leave at any time. He was squealing, putting his hands over his eyes, loving it as any child would.
Then a woman next to me said, ‘Can you please control your child? I have paid a lot of money for these tickets.’ I replied, ‘My son is autistic and is behaving impeccably. Please be quiet.’ Well, I wasn’t quite that polite – but words to that effect. She did apologize but I was angry. There are times when a little bit of understanding would go a long way.
Emma said she imagines autism must feel like "being in a foreign country and not knowing the language."
If he is in pain or hungry he can’t communicate it. Can you imagine how frustrating that would be – not knowing your way around or how to ask for directions?
Still, with so much to be thankful for, Emma said she wants to "give others hope" by speaking out about Harry’s diagnosis and progress.
He does have a disabling condition but by the same token I don’t want to slap a label on his head. I want people to stop thinking of the film Rain Man whenever they hear of autism. I am lucky to have Harry and very proud of him. I have high hopes for his future now.
Source: The Sun; Photo by Ferdaus Shamim/WireImage.com
Thanks to CBB reader Chloe.