Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Helen - Interview 41

Age at interview: 46

Brief outline: Helen's older son, Joseph, was diagnosed with autism when he was 7 years old. Joseph now attends an independent church school after a negative experience in a mainstream primary school and is making good progress with appropriate support.

Background: Helen, a civil servant, and her husband have two sons aged 9 and 10.

Audio & video

Helen, a civil servant, and her husband, a welder, have two sons aged 9 and 10.  Helen felt there was something different about their older son, Joseph, at about twelve months old because he didn’t babble or make eye contact.  However, her concerns were not taken seriously until Joseph started at mainstream school and eventually, with a lot of perseverance, Joseph was referred to a clinical psychologist and diagnosed with autism when he was seven years old. 

That Joseph’s autism was not identified by various professionals over the years was frustrating, particularly in view of signs such as lack of eye contact, temper tantrums, delay in speech and language and asking repetitive questions.  Instead, she was made to feel that she was a paranoid mother looking for an excuse for her son’s behaviour.

Helen was ‘shell shocked’ by the diagnosis but also relieved to get some answers.  She thinks the way the diagnosis was delivered – gently but without holding back – was the best approach. The clinical psychologist arranged to see them two weeks later when they had had time to absorb things a bit, which helped.

Joseph is now in a small independent church school after a disastrous experience in mainstream junior school.  He has settled in well and is making some progress with appropriate support by the school.  Things like sending notes home from school informing Helen and Neil of lesson changes allow them to prepare Joseph in advance and the school are also tailoring Joseph’s work to suit how he learns.

Helen described Joseph as a lovely, smiley boy who is very loving.  He enjoys football, swimming and riding his bike, watching DVDs and going to the cinema with his mother.  Joseph can have tantrums which are very difficult to manage and he worries about things like thunderstorms.  Joseph knows he has autism and this can play on his mind sometimes.  The experience has been turned the family's lives upside down;  they all cope with it in different ways.


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