Sarah’s daughter Florence has autism and sensory processing disorder. This World Autism Awareness Day, Sarah talks to us about what the day means to her and her hopes and fears for the future.
We went out for lunch a couple of days ago and the food was taking ages to come out. I was noticing the signs; Florence was getting quite tense and I noticed this woman just kept staring at us. There’s so much judgment. It would be so nice for there not to be that judgment which is why World Autism Awareness Day is so important.
She sees things in a completely different way
Autism is an invisible disability. Flo just looks like a pretty six-and-a half-year-old girl. Making people aware of what is going on in her head is really important. She sees things in a completely different way.
We need to make people aware that people with autism are not abnormal. Just because you see someone having a meltdown or not coping in the middle of the street, it may not be that they are being naughty. It could be that it’s too bright, there’s too much noise or the person by them doesn’t smell very nice! They are just trying to cope with and process this.
It’s vital that we get the general public to realise that people with autism can do anything they want as long as the environment is right for them. Why change the person? We need to understand that we need to change the environment to make sure that they have the same opportunities as everyone else.
Florence and autism
Her understanding is that she’s unique. Florence goes ice skating with a disability group. One of the boys came in and he started having a meltdown because his shoes didn’t fit properly. He was screaming and shouting. Florence just turned round to me and said “mummy, he must be autistic too. He’s having a meltdown because his shoes are really itchy hurty.” Then she said “but he’ll be alright in a minute when he’s come out of it.” She totally recognises other people with autism and really feels an affinity with them.
Hopes and fears
My deep rooted fear is that Flo won’t have correct social perspective. That makes her vulnerable. She has no filter and she will say things how she sees them. However, sometimes, that’s exactly what we need to do in life. My hopes are that this will make her stand out for the crowd. I think autistic people will change the world because they can. They have no fear.
Florence said “Mummy, when I grow up, I’m going to be a special teacher that will look after disabled children because they need my help.” She has got a very nurturing, caring nature.
If I could go back and speak to myself at the time of Florence’s diagnosis I would say ‘it’s just a diagnosis. It may seem heartbreaking but a diagnosis doesn’t matter does it? It’s ok.’ Whether she’s got autism or not, she’s still Florence. And do you know what? She’s turning into the most quirky, individual, intelligent, adorable little person.
Find out more about autism on our Support and information pages. For free, independent and impartial emotional support or disability advice, contact Scope’s helpline on 0808 800 3333 or firstname.lastname@example.org