Sunshine in my shadows

Welcome to sunshine in my shadows. This blog is my space to share all the stuff that makes up my every day life. Family, friends, crafts, recipes, books and all the little things that add 'sunshine to my shadows'. We all have a sprinkling of sunshine and an equal sprinkling of shadows in our lives. Hopefully you will find more sunshine than shadows to read about here and on the days when shadows fall, know that the sunshine is peeking just around the corner!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Autism awareness....

April is autism awareness month. As a mother of two children on the autism spectrum I like to take any opportunity available to raise awareness and education on this lifelong disorder.
Most people when asked what they know about autism will immediately give the example of the character from the movie 'Rainman', the stereotypical autistic savant. Only a small percentage of people with autism fall into this category.

Autism is best described as a group of characteristics and behaviours that affect communication, social interaction and imaginative thought. Individuals with autism share some similarities but they will all have varying degrees of severity of the disabling characteristics and behavioural traits of autism.This is why autism is called a spectrum disorder. Imagine a line with very low functioning individuals at one end and very high functioning individuals at the other. In between are people who are affected by the impairments of their autism either more severely or less. Some individuals with autism will never live independently while others will go on to lead productive and very successful lives.
** Temple Grandin is a highly successful person with autism. I swiped this photo from Wikipedia. Read about this inspiring lady here:

I like to call autism an invisible disability. We cannot tell a person has autism just by looking at them. Sometimes a person with autism may display behaviours that are considered odd or strange or be mistaken for bad manners, rudeness or just bad behaviour. These behaviours are usually due to frustration, anxiety and difficulties with communication and the different way people with autism think about things. (I was labelled a bad mother many, many times before my daughter was diagnosed with autism at almost 8 years old. I still carry the psychological scars from that time in our lives)

Some of the signs of autism are:
  • Poor eye contact
  • Lack of interest in people
  • Poor social skills
  • Repetitive behaviours
  • Obsessions
  • Echolalia (repeating words or phrases )
  • Rigidity around routines - intense dislike of even the smallest change
  • Flapping or twirling of body parts
  • Flat facial expression, lack of smiling or smiling or laughing inappropriately
  • Sensory issues - extreme sensitivity to noises, smells, refusal to wear certain clothing
This is of course by no means a complete list and usually there are concerns about a child's behaviour long before autism is diagnosed. Always seek professional advice if you are concerned about the possibility of your child having autism or any other developmental issues.
If you wish to learn more about autism here are some sites to visit. I have no affiliation with any of these sites, they are just sites I think may be useful.

Living with and raising children with autism is very stressful, often on a daily basis. Especially for those who have little family support. It takes a heavy toll on the entire family and the relationship of the parents. My understanding is that the divorce rate for parents of children with autism is higher than the norm. Certainly I know it places extreme stress on the relationship. My observation has been that whilst support services (including respite care) have improved a lot in the last ten years there are still many, many families who continue to struggle with very little by way of practical day to day support. If you know someone with a child with autism learn what you can about how autism affects their lives. If you can offer to babysit and you may well be giving that parent a much needed respite that will give them the strength to get through another difficult day. When my children were very young I was too ashamed to ask for help but I would have gratefully accepted if someone had offered. (I did eventually learn to ask for help, many stress filled years later)

My children are on the higher end of the autism spectrum. My daughters diagnosis is Aspergers syndrome and my son High Functioning autism. Often my children did not meet criteria for support because they were high functioning. This was very frustrating for all of us as they still suffered severe impairments due to their autism. (they still do) My hope is that one day ALL children will get extra support when they need it based on need alone not on ticking certain boxes on beaurocratic paperwork.(especially within the education system) ALL children deserve to have every chance to attain their full potential.

If you have an interest in Aspergers syndrome I highly reccomend reading any of the books written by Tony Attwood

If you have read this far I thank you and I hope you have found this post informative. Please feel free to share it with a friend.
wishing you sunshine in your shadows


  1. What a wonderfully, informative post. This will really help many people understand the isssues of those affected by this "invisible disability", and great that you've included references for further reading.
    Have a wonderful easter Helen.

  2. Thanks Bron it was hard for me to condense what I wanted to say in this post but I am glad you thought it was informative. I remember getting my daughters diagnosis and it was terrifying. Thankfully there is a lot more knowledge and support available now.

  3. My youngest son also has a spectrum of Aespergers syndrome he is 16 and was only diagnosed a few years back would have made life easier if we had known earlier but back then they were blaming his Klinefelters syndrome for his problems.No one could tell he had anything wrong with him and he is much better socially than he used to be.He is turning into a lovley man who enjoys gardening and animal care so we are hoping he gets a job in something he loves.The school he goes to is great its his last year at school.

  4. Great Post Helen, its great that you can share this with others and that there is support if it is needed. Wishing you and your family a glorious Easter with lots of eggs, Tam x

  5. Great post, very imformative - thanks for sharing. Scarlett x

  6. Nelly I understand what you mean about earlier diagnosis would have made things a lot easier. Thankfully things seem to be improving in that regard. I know when my daughter was finally diagnosed it was a real lightbulb moment for me and made her behaviours so much easier to understand and deal with.I am glad your son is coping better socially.I hope he can find a job doing something he loves. He sounds like a gentle young man.My son likes people but lacks the social understanding to get on well with his peers. He has made great friends with a couple of other special needs kids in his year at school. Sam is generally quieter than other boys and this makes him a but of a target for bullying. My daughter avoids people due to her anxiety. They both love animals too.

  7. Tam and Scarlett thank you both for reading. Wishing you all a wonderful Easter too :)

  8. Thanks for sharing this highly informative post, I think more people should be aware of it.

  9. 'Rosy' thanks for stopping by and reading a post very dear to my heart. :)