Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum

Paula - Interview 5

Female
Age at interview: 40

Brief outline: Paula's older son Alex was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome two years ago and her younger son David has been diagnosed with ADD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, agitated depression, speech dyspraxia and Asperger syndrome over the years. Both boys attend a mainstream secondary school and Paula is still trying to organize appropriate support for David.

Background: Paula, a specialist senior nurse practitioner and teacher, is married and has two sons aged 14 and 12. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

Audio & video

Paula, a specialist nurse practitioner and teacher, and her husband, also a teacher, live with Paula’s two sons from her first marriage' Alex, 14, and David, 12.  While Alex had behavioural issues when he started school, it was only when the family moved to a different area and the boys changed schools after the divorce that both children were flagged up with difficulties. 

Paula didn't know at this point that Alex had been diagnosed with difficulties with semantics and David with speech dyspraxia.  When she went to the school, the SENCO asked if she had thought about Asperger syndrome and so Paula went to the GP to get a referral for a diagnosis. It took a long time before Paula got the diagnosis for both boys because the relevant authorities made mistakes and because her ex-husband resisted the boys getting labelled.

In the meantime, David’s behaviour had deteriorated at school and Paula felt she was being blamed for the boys’ behaviour.  The statementing process for Alex was lengthy and the statutory assessment request was turned down three times.  Alex was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome by a consultant psychiatrist who worked with Paula and an academic working in a well known autistic research unit. 

Even with these diagnoses, however, the school did not provide appropriate support for Alex so Paula took the school to a SENDIST tribunal which found the school had discriminated.  The statutory assessment followed soon after the court case and Alex now has appropriate support at school to enable him to make very good progress.  David is a totally different child from Alex and has also suffered from a lack of appropriate support at school, which is not yet resolved. 

Paula finds that having life very well structured at home suits the boys and she pays close attention to their diets.  She uses herbal and homeopathic remedies and has avoided the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin) or other medication for David’s ADHD.  She describes both boys as wonderful and feels they have been let down badly by the delay in diagnosis and, therefore, the delay in the provision of appropriate support and by the lack of proactive support from their father.

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