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Parent experience, Emily

I am a mum to three beautifully neurodiverse children, two of whom are autistic. They are incredible and inspire me to be the best person I can be and challenge the world in ways I never thought possible. I didn’t always understand what autism was or what difficulties or strengths it brought. Looking back now I realise this was because I’ve always accepted my children as amazing individuals. And they are all very different.

If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person

But when difficulties started to occur and my sons are struggling, in ways I can’t always make better, this was the point that as a momma bear, advocate, and cheerleader, I had to educate myself on what they were struggling with and how to help.

I’ve broken these down below into sections of issues that affect us as a family but won’t affect every autistic person.

Social Communication

My teenage son (who was diagnosed autistic 2 years ago) now has significant struggles with his social communication. He doesn’t enjoy socialising to any level. This may change in the future but in a neurotypical world, this can create real difficulties. There are expectation – he plays rugby and the social expectations around this cause him huge anxiety.

Avoiding making ‘demands’ and changing my language

Being asked to do things, sometimes even things you enjoy, can be seen as a demand and it can create anxiety. If this is something that you struggle with significantly like my youngest son, it can create challenging behaviour. I have had to learn to adapt my communication style so that I’m not overwhelming my son with “demands”. This is easier said than done because anything can be a demand. The school run in the morning for example… “Put your shoes on, brush your teeth, where’s your homework, we are late” can all send a demand-avoidant person into a meltdown. My youngest son will even get upset by what he sees as a demand to do something he enjoys. We are still learning as a family, but if you see a child in public whom you might perceive as “naughty” – shouting, distressed, or even swearing, as my child does, it may not always be as it seems. That child may be so overwhelmed with anxiety and expectations that it’s almost like they’ve exploded.


While awaiting an autism assessment both of my sons have had ‘sensory profiles’ to establish how over and under-sensitive they are to certain senses. It’s a big topic and I still feel I am learning. My teenage son will often get very distressed and ask me to turn out the lights because he struggles with this. It can also be calming for autistic children to have a sensory tent. They can also struggle with body position and movement – my son can struggle with this when his anxiety is very heightened (usually in social situations) and he’ll feel faint, and not know where to put his hands.

My youngest son has different sensory needs. He struggles with noise and busy environments. And both of my children have restricted diets and will only eat certain plain foods. It’s incredible how differently autism can present itself. My teenage son would repulse if you tried to hug him or comfort him. He prefers you keep a distance when trying to do so. But my youngest will almost squeeze you and be a very sensory seeker of touch especially if he’s anxious.

I have learnt and adapted to so much and continue to do so raising my amazing boys. They inspire me in so many ways. My teenage son is incredibly artistic.  He’s a brilliant sportsman, plays two types of rugby and always wins cross country at school. My youngest son is the kindest, most sensitive child who gives the best hugs.

Given the chance and understanding, children and adults with autism can thrive to become incredible human beings. 

Go to MindMate Neurodiversity Information Hub