Why alternative normal?
This story begins in the small hours, one morning in 2006, when my son came into the world. I’ll never forget those first few hours of his life. Unable to sleep, I paced the hospital room, stopping every few minutes to stare at this perfect new human.
Two and a half years later, that still-perfect boy was diagnosed with severe autism and learning disabilities – and life changed forever.
If you’ve lived a similar experience, you’ll understand the shock of that diagnosis. You’ll appreciate the denial, anger, bouts of depression that follows for many years. And the fighting – oh the fighting – you have to do to get the care and support your child needs.
… and then comes acceptance.
Fast forward to the present day; everyone accepts that my boy’s life will never be ‘normal’ – at least not in the way our society might define it. Nobody will ever get to have a proper conversation with him, as he’s largely non-verbal. He’ll almost certainly never attend university, pursue a career, get married or any of those other other things a parent usually wants for their child. He’ll probably always have ‘meltdowns’ and people will continue to stare. He’ll always rely on the care of others, simply to function and cope with daily life.
On the other hand… he’ll probably keep surprising people with moments of affection. I hope he’ll also continue breaking into joyful song, whenever the mood takes him, or to laugh uncontrollably for no obvious reason. And I’ve no doubt that he’ll keep using his uncanny charm and winning smile, to gently wrap everyone he knows around his little finger. That charm will serve him well, of that I’m certain 🙂
I find it heartening to think that so many incredible people who’ve worked my son over the years, his mum and I myself, have all done our bit to help make his life a perfectly normal one – it just happens to be an alternative normal.
alternative normal – the website
One particular period in 2019 led to my creating this website. I’d been putting in far more hours than anyone needed me to, for my day job. Looking back, I guess it was escape – something to occupy my worried mind – but spending your evenings absorbed in data and code, probably isn’t the healthiest therapy! Clearly I needed something to give my overactive brain a rest and creating art seemed an obvious choice.
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 never with much conviction.
I have my wonderful boy to thank for the gradually expanding portfolio 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 creating 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. But I’ll be forever in his debt for pushing me just long enough for the passion to take hold again.
For that reason, I dedicate this site to my beautiful, charming, alternatively-normal boy. Thank you, son! I love you.