April was Autism Awareness month and we have featured a series on articles looking at autism and its stigma in our society sadly.
Last week, the Havering Daily spoke to Jemma from Romford who has a six year old daughter with autism about the daily challenges she faces.
Autism is often misunderstood and children with autism can often be over looked or even worse, heavily criticised.
Olivia was diagnosed at the age of three years old, now at the age of six she is beginning to understand the changes life is presenting her with.
Jemma told the Havering Daily: “This has been the most difficult stage for us. She is growing up and is starting to understand the changes going on around her.”
Olivia can not communicate with her family so uses pictures to identify what she wants.
“As there is no communication she cannot tell us no or yes. I can’t say to her it is time to get dressed, I have to show her a picture card so she can understand. It is very difficult and can be very challenging.
“Olivia was diagnosed early at the age of just three, so as she is getting older, her interests are growing so we know now that we are facing a hard journey.
“The other day she decided that she wanted to go swimming at 6;50pm and she could not understand that the pool was closed. She knows what she wants but can’t communicate. People don’t understand that if she doesn’t want to do something she will often try and bite me. She doesn’t use her teeth, but it is her way of showing me things.
“What is hard is that we can teach what objects are, but we cannot teach understanding.”
Jemma and her husband have completely adapted their life to help their daughter as much as they can.
“She is very much her own person. She loves being out and about and I can take her shopping with me. Olivia loves her own space and really enjoys being on the trampoline we got her. However, we know her life has to be structured.”
Olivia currently attends mainstream school and will have to until the age of 8. She does have a full time one to one support and the school have put a special schedule in place for her.
“She needs to learn life skills, things like brushing your hair and teeth, getting dressed. You can’t teach understanding sadly. Her way of telling me she wants to go out is by bringing me her shoes.”
Jemma also has a two year old since and since his arrival, he has helped Olivia develop further.
“She’s very loving towards him and since he has started talking it has helped Olivia develop. When my nephews come over they all run to her as she has a very special aura around her. We have learnt that we have to join in her world. We know her brain works differently and we are learning how to tap into her world.”
It is vital that autistic people are not only understood but also accepted into our communities. They possess amazing qualities that are over looked frequently as people are not familiar with them so pass judgement when they should be more understanding.