April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2nd is National Autism Awareness Day! But how much do you know about this condition?
Autism is known as a spectrum condition. This means that while all people with autism share certain difficulties, the condition affects each person differently.
Autism affects the way a person communicates with and relates to other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. People with autism may also experience some form of sensory sensitivity or a lack of sensitivity – for example, to sound, touch, taste, smell, light or colour. (Source: NHS)
A video has been made to show people, and raise awareness, of how an every day activity could be experienced by someone on the Autistic Spectrum. To watch it, and see if you can make it to then end, click here.
As hard as it can be for someone with Autism, it can be equally challenging for parents and other family members. I spoke to Charlotte who has been kind enough to share her story:
“I have a 6 year old daughter, she is the light of my life and I love her just as all parents love their children.
Daisy* is funny, clever, and like any other 6 year old, but Daisy is different. She is on the Autistic spectrum. This means that life is different; she can ask for something and once she has the item she doesn’t want it. She will say ‘turn it on’ when she means turn it off and if we explain that something is already on she will continue to say ‘turn it on’ until we turn it off and then on again. Living with a child who will open and shut doors or repeat words, phrases, and instructions can be stressful. The noises she can control are acceptable to her but if we turn on the hoover we have a complete meltdown and she will cry and shake and shout. Trying to understand this behaviour is difficult because it can have different triggers.
I work full time and try to spend as much time with her and try to help her progress with her development. Trying to get her to focus is difficult and can mean you have an activity set for her but she may only sit for a few minutes before she gets bored or her attention is taken by something else. This can be frustrating and demoralising.
Daisy is able to communicate which is fantastic as this helps with her progress and she has been able to learn other communication tools such as sign language and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) which means that if the words seem to fail her she will still be able to let me or her dad know what she is trying to say.
There have been difficult times and when I take her out this can be very difficult even visits to the doctors. Her coping mechanisms have not been developed so having her eyes tested, going to the dentist, or just to the GP can be difficult for me as her mum because she finds the environment challenging and different to cope with so will start crying and protecting herself. Taking her out to a shopping centre is even more intense for her. Usually due to other dangers that are around I go with a friend and she will push Daisy in a buggy so that she is safe and protected as she has a tendency to run off and has no understanding of traffic or stranger danger.
Life I will admit is hard but it is also so rewarding. We have our good days and bad days just with any other child but the good days are that little bit more precious as I know what the hard days are like and they can be like a dark cloud over your head. But when that sun shines it shines oh so brightly!”
Spread the word on Autism, it is Autism Awareness Month, after all!
(*Some names have been changed)