I hope most people reading about my boys are inspired by our story.
But, sometimes, I worry that I terrify people when they read that all four of our boys have classic autism? Perhaps you already have one child with autism and reading about our family makes you think that your risk of having another child with autism is really high?
Can I start by saying that I personally know no other family like ours, where all four have classic autism. We are rare, very rare. There are familes with more than one child ‘on the spectrum’ but that might encompass a very broad range and include children with ADHD or dyspraxia, conditions which may classify them as also being ‘on the spectrum’ but not quite in the way that full blown classic autism is. So, there are perhaps a handful of families like ours out there but honestly, the risks are much lower than we as a family seem to project.
We consulted the genetics departments of two leading London hopsitals after we had three boys diagnosed and I still wanted to try for another baby. One gave us ‘odds’ of 50% after three children in a row (the twins are non-identical) but the other said our risk would always be 20%, however many children we went on to have.
The usual risk is given as around an 8% chance of another child in the family having autism when you already have one diagnosed. So even our personal risk only increased from 8% to 20%.
What if there were a pre natal test to predict autism ? What would we even do with the results? How could we know how the autism predicted by the test would impact on the child? All I knew was that our fourth child was a boy and that to me meant his risk was increased just because he was a boy and the more severe form of autism is more prevalant in boys than in girls.
And I was right; but I have never, ever regretted taking that 20% ‘risk’. My fourth son seems to be the least affected by his autism of my four boys in the fact that although he had no language at diagnosis, fortunately for us his behaviours were far less serious than his older brothers’. I hope though, that I would never have regretted that risk however he was as it was my choice to have another child.
Most of us make a choice to have children and we hope that our children will be unaffected by disability but when they are, it doesn’t make us love them less however much it challenges us as parents.