Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Nuala - Interview 56

Age at interview: 43

Brief outline: Nuala's son, Robert, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when he was eight years old. He attends a mainstream primary school with support and is now much happier and settled.

Background: Nuala, a software engineer, and her husband have a daughter aged 11 and a son aged 9. Ethnic background/nationality: White British

Audio & video

Nuala and her husband have two children, a daughter aged 11 and a son aged 9.  Nuala didn’t think there was anything particularly wrong until her son started school and he hated it.  The school thought that he was badly behaved and Nuala noticed that Robert was not developing in a similar way to his sister.  He needed much more attention and help with things, had huge temper tantrums and couldn’t sleep on his own. 

When he was seven years old, she took him to the GP who referred him to a paediatrician. The paediatrician suggested that he may have Asperger syndrome and referred Robert for assessment.  The assessment process lasted a few hours and Nuala and her husband had to think back through Robert’s earlier development to answer very detailed questions. He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome which has led to a change in the way he is treated at school and he is now much happier and settled.

Nuala feels that the assessment process was useful because it reminded her of things and she thinks that she always had a feeling in the back of her mind that there was something different about him. She was surprised to get the diagnosis because there were aspects of his behaviour which did not fit the criteria and she describes feeling terrible for six months or so afterwards.

Robert still has tantrums which tend to be around feeling that things are not fair, perhaps in games with other children, or because there has been a change in routine.  Nuala has a wallplan detailing the week’s activities and she describes how “we simply don’t change the plan”.  She describes Robert as “lovely, bright as a button and incredibly engaging”.  He is “odd” but entertaining and loves history, museums and zoos. 

For Nuala, the hardest thing is the way other people react to Robert and thinking about the responses he might meet in the future.  However, she feels very positive about his future and thinks that with the right partner - who will need to be very patient - he will have a good life.


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