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Autism Awareness Month

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Zowie Kaye

Zowie Kaye

My Big Fat Greek Family – we love our food and love each other even more. We're a like liquorice allsorts, all a bit different. I’m a full time wor...

I noticed early on when my son was about two that he was different. I never shared this with anyone initially but would always compare him in toddler groups or against family’s children. He used to flap his hands, gag at certain textured food, bang his head or repetitively rock.

He was four years old when he was diagnosed and I was extremely fortunate that the correct support and intervention was put in place so early. My son is now at the national expected level in most his subjects, about to sit his SATs in May and although he is not the most academic child in his class he is by far the least.

I want to address some facts and myths and then tell you our own experience of these.

Here are some of the facts:

• Autism affects more than 1 in 100 people, of these. There are more autistic people in the UK than people with caravans – and we all know how many of those we see day to day.

• Autism cannot be cured but with the correct support, people can thrive.

• Four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with Autism.

• 70% of Autistic children are educated in a mainstream school with support, although 60% of teachers in England do not feel they have adequate training to teach these children.

• Primary school children with special educational needs are twice as likely as other children to experience persistent bullying.

• 85% of people with Autism do not work full time.

Here are some of the myths:

• People with Autism do not have empathy.

• People with Autism are anti-social.

• Autism is a mental illness.

• Autism is caused by the MMR vaccine.

All of the above will not be a surprise to most people – ok maybe the caravan one!! I know people with caravans but I know a lot more people with Autism so that seems to check out.

Here are my facts:

• I have a son with Autism, my sister has two – we both have a brother with Autism also.

• My sons best friend is a girl and has a form of Autism – this confirms the boy to girl ratio.

• The support given to my son after his diagnosis helped him thrive in school.

• All the people mentioned above were/are in mainstream school.

• My son has been bullied.

• My autistic brother struggles in a work environment and is unemployed

My experience of the myths:

• My son is the most empathetic person I know – he loves and he hurts for people, he feels injustice.

• My son is the life of a party, loves to have a dance and will approach anyone to try and make friends with.

• Autism is not a mental illness although factually teens with autism do have a higher chance of suffering with their mental health.

• Autism was not caused by any vaccine – it is neurological, it’s a more likely argument to blame genetics.

Ultimately though what does it matter – you have this person in your life who you love.

Yes, the diagnosis is unexpected and not welcomed but you have to just improvise, adapt and overcome.

I am open and honest with my son and I use the internet and knowledge to my advantage, I know as a visual learner using the “Amazing Things Happen” video by Alexander Amelines to introduce him to autism was better than confusing him with words.

He asked me the next day could he show the video to children in his class to help THEM understand him.

Please talk to your children about autism; tell them that there may be children in their class that are a little different, it needs to become the norm. If it is learned behaviour to accept then there will be less judgment and more understanding.

Use this year’s awareness dates to start those conversations – they will be hearing about it in school I guarantee.

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