Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Kirsten - Interview 43

Age at interview: 34

Brief outline: Kirsten's middle child, Andrew, was diagnosed with autism when he was two. He attends a mainstream primary school in the mornings and does a combination of ABA and DIR therapies in the afternoons.

Background: Kirsten lives with her three children aged 9, 7 and 4. Ethnic background/nationality: White Scottish

Audio & video

Kirsten is separated from her husband and lives with her three children; two daughters aged 9 and 4 and a son aged 7.  Kirsten went to the health visitor when Andrew was about ten months old because she was concerned about his behaviour.  He was climbing all over the furniture and nipping and biting people.  She was told not to worry because “you know what boys are like.” Andrew walked quickly, sat up quickly and could do jigsaws and shape sorters at an early age. The family moved house just before Andrew was two and Kirsten took him to the doctor who arranged an assessment straight away.  Within a couple of months Andrew was diagnosed with autism.

Kirsten was not surprised when they got the diagnosis and read widely on the subject.  Within a couple of months, Andrew was on a gluten, sugar, yeast and casein free diet and Kirsten had started ABA therapy.  The diet has helped with Andrew’s digestive problems and he began to feel pain which he hadn’t previously. 

Kirsten, who works as a supply teacher, ran ABA therapy with the help of local volunteers non stop for nearly two years until Andrew had learnt as much as she would expect of him at his age.  She is now running a part time programme; he attends mainstream school in the mornings and does a combination of ABA and Greenspan’s Developmental Individual Relationship model in the afternoon. Kirsten has found that the use of rewards works well to motivate Andrew and to reinforce good behaviour.  He also wears glasses with coloured lenses which have helped him to focus and concentrate on his reading better. 

Andrew likes climbing, swinging, jumping, spinning and bouncing on the trampoline. He has considerable sensory issues and has very sensitive hearing.  He does not sleep beyond 4am most days which is very tiring for the whole family. He has no sense of road safety and would eat what he could find so all the cupboards are kept locked and there are no cleaning chemicals in the house.

Kirsten feels she has learnt a lot over the past few years and she has made good friends with other families in similar situations.  She has separated from her husband but gets a lot of support from her family and friends.  She also receives Direct Payments and so can employ carers to help out at different times.  While the family do not do typical family activities like going to the cinema or days out, Kirsten feels that “it’s something you get used to” and there are benefits like not being caught up with wanting the latest fashions or agonising over football practice.


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