why alternative normal?

the beginning

This story begins in the small hours of one morning in 2006, when my son came into the world. I’ll never forget those first few hours. As my exhausted wife and our baby slept; I paced the hospital room, stopping every few minutes, just to stare at this life we’d created. He was so perfect!

Two and a half years later, our son was diagnosed with severe Autism and learning disabilities – and our lives changed forever.

It may sound a little dramatic to say that what followed was a grieving process. Nevertheless, following the shock of the diagnosis we’ve certainly experienced stages of denial, anger, bargaining and a level of depression, in the years from then to now.

… and then comes acceptance.

Fast forward to the present day; we’ve learned to accept that our boy’s life will never be ‘normal’ – at least not in the way the society in which we live might define it. We’ll never get to have a proper conversation with our mostly-non-verbal son. He’s almost certainly never going to attend university, pursue a career, get married or whatever. He’ll probably always have ‘meltdowns’. Sometimes these will be in public and people will continue to stare. Our son will always rely on the care of others, be that his parents or professional caregivers, in order simply to function and cope with daily life.

But, on the other hand… our boy will probably keep surprising people with brief moments of affection. I hope he’ll also continue breaking into joyful, full-throated song, whenever and wherever the mood takes him, or to laugh uncontrollably for no obvious reason. And I’ve no doubt whatsoever that he’ll keep using his innate charm and winning smile to gently wrap almost everyone he knows around his little finger. That charm will serve him well, of that I’m quite certain 🙂

I find it heartening to think that we, his parents, and many incredible people who’ve worked with our son over the years, all do our bit to adapt so that his life can be a perfectly normal one – it just happens to be an alternative normal.

alternative normal – the website

One particular period in 2019 led to this website’s existence. I’d been putting in far more hours than anyone needed me to, for my day job. I love my job but spending your evenings absorbed in data and bits of code, probably isn’t the healthiest hobby! Clearly I needed something to give my overactive brain a rest and creating artwork seemed an obvious choice.

I’ve drawn since I could hold a pencil and it remained a passion well into adulthood. I graduated from art college many years ago, intent on making a career of it. I’m not sure when or exactly why that fire went out… but it did. I returned to drawing and painting numerous times since graduation but, to be honest, never with much conviction.

I have my wonderful boy to thank for the gradually expanding portfolio you’ll find here. When I started work on the first piece, he came and sat beside me. He said nothing and wasn’t always really watching me but I’d not seen him sit so quietly content in a long time – so I kept going and he kept joining me. On several occasions he even led me to my desk and quietly urged me to start drawing.

Being the fantastically fickle boy that he is; he got bored of me after a while and rarely joins me these days. But I’ll be forever in his debt for pushing me to continue, just long enough for the passion to take hold again.

It’s for this reason that I dedicate this site to my beautiful, charming, alternatively-normal boy. Thank you, son!

Chris, Aug. 2020