By David Hennessy
A father with two autistic children has written the second book in a series that aims to address common misconceptions about autism and evoke greater understanding of the condition.
Denis Deasy, whose parents came from Bandon and Dunmanway in Cork, has just written I’m Sorry, My Son’s Autistic as a follow-up to 2015’s Living in Harry’s World.
Denis told The Irish World: “Bringing up a child is hard enough as it is but you’ve got to multiply that many times over when you have an autistic child.
“It is very hard, it really is.
“We go to the island of Jersey once a year and simple things are tricky. James kicks the seat in front of him the whole time so whoever’s in front of him isn’t going to be happy understandably.”
The condition’s representation in media such as The Good Doctor or Rain Man do not showcase the full spectrum or the reality.
“I find lots of misconceptions about autism and I just wanted to write a book about what it’s really like living with two autistic kids.
“James is very severely autistic and he’s completely non-verbal and Denis is mild so we get both sides of the autistic spectrum.
“If you talk to someone and say, ‘I’ve got two autistic kids’, they nearly always say something like, ‘What special talent have they got?’ As if they can draw the world map from memory or something like that. One per cent of autistic children have something like that.”
Denis often has to explain his children’s behaviour but is quite often surprised by some people’s lack of understanding or forgiveness.
“James has very severe OCD so when we go out he approaches people and he’ll either tap them on the shoulder or he might give them a gentle head butt on the arm. Nothing violent, it’s just his way of saying hello. You get quite mixed reactions to it. Even when I explain, people are very unforgiving sometimes. Sometimes they can say, ‘Please keep your child away from me’ or something like that. That’s not that often.
“When you say, ‘He’s autistic, that’s how he says hello’, they just stare at you.”
Other parents with autistic children have identified with the challenges they read about in the books while also appreciating Denis’ humour that he brings into a book with such a serious subject matter.
“It was quite enlightening for other parents to see what we go through on a daily basis.
“I try and put some humour into it because it can be quite depressing. We go down to a local pub and when we go in there, the first thing James will do is try and grab somebody’s drink and drink it. He doesn’t care what it is. It could be coke, water, lemonade, wine, beer, it doesn’t matter. Even a simple thing like going to the pub, he will try and grab somebody’s drink.
“A couple of months ago actually James ran over to this guy, grabbed his drink, thought it was beer- Not that he drinks much anyway because he is on so much medication- but it was cider. James took a big gulp of it. He doesn’t take a sip, he takes a big gulp. And he decided he didn’t like it and spat it all over this guy’s shirt. Luckily that guy was really nice but other people are not so nice. When he takes sips out of people’s drinks, I always say, ‘Let me buy you another drink’. Most people say, ‘No, don’t worry’.
“There’s so many things. My older boy Denis has got Asperger’s. He’s quite vocal and he just says what he thinks really.
“Last year it was a friend of our’s 50th and she was having a party. We hadn’t seen her in a couple of years and she had put on weight in that time. He said, ‘Oh my God, you look terrible, you got so fat’. That’s what he said and even if you warn him beforehand, he has to. Whatever he’s thinking comes out.
“We love our kids and they’re really well behaved. People have said to me their kids are acting up and I said to one of our friends once, ‘I’ll tell you what. We’ll do a swap for the weekend. We’ll have your two daughters and you can have Denis and James’. And they said, ‘No, you’re alright. Thanks very much’.”
Of course, Denis is joking about swapping his boys because he never would.
“They’re lovely kids. They were born into autism, they can’t help it.
“My mother-in-law was staying with us a couple of years ago. The whole of her front teeth are false teeth and she put them in a jar in a glass of water in the bathroom and in the morning they were gone.
“James throws objects into the neighbour’s garden. It could be a mobile phone, CDs, clothes, cutlery, anything and we think he threw the false teeth into the neighbour’s garden so the next morning I knocked on my neighbour’s door and said, ‘Excuse me, have you got my mother-in-law’s front teeth?’ But they were never found.
“It can be a bit of a crazy house at times.”
I’m Sorry, My Son’s Autistic is available from Grosvenor House Publishing, both books are available on Amazon.