Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Barbara and Howard - Interview 45

Age at interview: 80

Brief outline: Barbara's son Howard, 53, was diagnosed with autism when he was in his teens. He worked at a bakery for over twenty years, then returned to university where he did an HND in computer science.

Background: Barbara, a retired social worker, and her son, Howard, live together. Ethnic background/nationality: White British

Audio & video

Barbara, aged 80, lives with her son Howard, aged 53.  Howard was diagnosed with autism in his teens after Barbara read something about autism and went to the doctor’s to get a referral for diagnosis. Howard also has diabetes and asthma.  Barbara’s husband left home before Howard was born and Barbara has cared for Howard since then.  Howard was diagnosed as having a ‘disability of the mind’ when he was five years old and spent time in a hospital for the ‘mentally deficient’ when Barbara was in hospital having an operation. 

As a child, Howard would line up the pots and pans and would never make eye contact.  She describes him as a fractious and difficult baby and he had severe tantrums during his childhood which were difficult to manage.  When he left school, Howard worked as a post office cleaner and then at a bakery for twenty one years before he was made redundant.  He was bullied at both school and at the bakery and dealt with this by developing a very good sense of humour.  About seven years ago Barbara and Howard signed up for part time computer courses and became hooked; Howard became so proficient that his tutor’s nicknamed him “cyber-junkie”.  They both gained BTEC diplomas in computer studies and three years ago Howard graduated with an HND in computer science. 

Howard has a strong interest in trains and buses and enjoys going to vintage rallies and playing on his train simulators.  Barbara describes how Howard is great company and is kind and affectionate.  She thinks her father was probably on the autistic spectrum as he was an eccentric character with an incredible memory for facts and she herself has some ‘traits’.  She gets cross when people talk about ‘suffering from autism’ because she thinks that people on the autistic spectrum have a different type of mind which flourishes within a virtual world.


Please use the form below to tell us what you think of the site. We’d love to hear about how we’ve helped you, how we could improve or if you have found something that’s broken on the site. We are a small team but will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Please note that we are unable to accept article submissions or offer medical advice. If you are affected by any of the issues covered on this website and need to talk to someone in confidence, please contact The Samaritans or your Doctor.

Make a Donation to

Find out more about how you can help us.

Send to a friend

Simply fill out this form and we'll send them an email