Autism AwarenessOn Friday I received a ‘phone call from the local newspaper asking my views on the new Adult Autism Strategy, which had been given legal force by the Autism Act.

I said I was pleased.

Anything, which tackles the ignorance surrounding autism can only be a good thing, and this new strategy aims to introduce major improvements in health, social care and other services.
Despite the rapid increase in the rise of people being diagnosed with autism and autistic spectrum disorders, there is still very little awareness about the needs of people with autism,  or the problems faced by those who support and care for them.

It has to change, because whether we like it or not, we all know someone whose life has been affected by this lifelong disability. 

Autism doesn’t just affect the sufferer.   The ripples are far reaching.

My youngest son has autism.  He will be twenty-one this year, on 2nd April, which is National Autism Awareness Day

Ironic, don’t you think?

Anyway, he’s one of the lucky ones.  He was diagnosed with the disability when  it was quite “rare”, and got into the “system” when he was very young. Now, it’s incredibly difficult to even get a proper diagnosis, and without one you cannot access the appropriate help.

Jodi currently has a placement at a residential  college for young adults with various special needs.  I see him regularly and ‘phone the college at least twice a week for updates.

Rarely do I chat to him on the telephone because he doesn’t really speak.  Like so many other autistic individuals he uses echolalia, which means he’ll repeat the last word you say.

He communicates well via other means though.  Sometimes he’ll point, other times he’ll gesture or mime, and other times he adopts the NIKE motto and just does it.

Jodi likes to know what’s happening, and in his room he has a calendar on which are marked important dates like birthdays, holidays, etc.

On Saturday, he’d written,  “Mums Birthday”.

He’s a bit like a good Internet Marketer -very organised,  plans in advance, and I could learn a lot from him!

Whenever Jodi comes home he checks the calendar to see what’s going on and a few weeks ago, it was a relation’s birthday.

 He was 87 years old and is now a shadow of the large, overweight, jolly farmer, he used to be. Diabetes has taken its toll and he’s just had his toes removed.  They wanted to remove his entire leg but he said “No”

On his birthday, I rang him up to offer our best wishes and told Jodi to sing Happy Birthday to him.  He did so – beautifully.

It made HIS day.

Now, on  Saturday, when he was at college, Jodi pointed to the calendar in his room and indicated to his support worker it was my birthday.  He then went to the telephone and indicated he wanted to ‘phone me. 

His support worker dialled the number, handed the ‘phone to my son, and when I answered the call, Jodi burst into song and I got a rendition of Happy Birthday.

It made MY day.

I cried, but it was the best birthday present ever!

What he’d done was HUGE. 

If you compare it to a marketer, he’d been able to work out his goal, the deadline on when it had to be completed, and how he was going to achieve it  – all with no verbal communication.

Yes,  I welcome the Adult Autism Strategy.  These individuals have a lot to offer and too often they are written off. 

Like all of us, they deserve a chance.

Jean Shaw

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