In this section you can read real life stories from children and young people with autism and also understand the challenges facing parents and carers.
"My daughter was born just before Christmas Day in 2001. In the weeks that followed, Grace slept for hours, resisting attempts to wake her and ignoring feed times - stubbornly detached from us all. I think even then I knew that Grace was different, though somehow I also did not. She was a sunny toddler, with an independent spirit. She had straight eyebrows, black lashes and hazel eyes that turned topaz in sunlight."
Manager of The AutistiX, Susan Zur-Szpiro, talks about the evolution of the band and why they wanted to be upfront about their diagnoses. She also describes their five gig tour of Spain, coping with the challenges of quick transitions and unfamiliar environments, and the band's hopes for the future.
We ask young people "What do you want to do when you leave school?" in our video on aspirations and disability. In March 2011 Ministers set out their vision for a new approach to special educational needs and disability in the SEN Green Paper. We wanted to get the the views of young people on the subject.
"When I moved up to a mixed comprehensive secondary school I experienced a lot of problems with bullying from other pupils. The bullying started within a couple of months. As I am a hyper emotive person I absorb things at full-tilt, such as if someone is frustrated, angry or mocking. When certain people realised that, the problems started."
Virginia Bovell, Vice President of Ambitious about Autism, discusses how she first reacted to discovering her son Danny has autism 15 years ago. She also talks about how she became involved with the other parents who helped found TreeHouse School in 1997, and the challenges they faced developing the organisation into the thriving national charity it is today.
In this video Tracy talks about her experience learning about both her son's autism diagnoses and how talking with other parents on our online community, Talk about Autism, has helped her in her journey as a parent. Tracy is one of the hard-working Community Champions on Talk about Autism, where she helps to support other parents and offer advice.
Cerys Evans, Ambitious about Autism Youth Patron, talks about being bullied at secondary school because of her autism. "I would come back home and I would cry my eyes out," she says. "I held all this emotion in and I let it out as soon as I got home. At school I never really talked about it because I didn't want to get people in trouble."
In this video Will, a young person with autism and sixth form student at TreeHouse School, does work experience at PAUL Bakery. We hear from his dad as well as the people who work with and support him. “I want him to live up to his potential, to acquire the skills to help him to integrate into society,” says his proud dad.
"You can prepare yourself as much as you like but when the diagnosis comes it completely hits you like a block of wood to the head," says Simon in this revealing interview about his and his wife Lucy's experience of discovering their son Oscar has autism. They discuss the effect of the diagnosis, how it's changed their lives as a family and the importance of TreeHouse School in Oscar's progression.
In this interview, Sally and Speaker John Bercow MP, Parent Patrons of Ambitious about Autism, talk about discovering their son Oliver has autism, the impact on their lives and the importance of early diagnosis. They also share their advice for other parents who suspect their children might have autism and discuss why they support our charity.
"My husband Andy and I have four children, two of whom have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Emily, 13, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at seven. I’d noticed she was increasingly different to other children when she started nursery at three. She didn’t play with toys, she lined things up, had poor eye contact and spoke in a parrot fashion. Her speech was delayed and unclear up until four."
"She got to the age of ten and everything just fell apart - she got isolated, she was bullied, she was ignored, she was ridiculed." Nicky Clark is a Parent Patron of Ambitious about Autism, freelance writer and disability rights campaigner. In this interview she talks about raising two daughters on the spectrum, her fall out with comedian Ricky Gervais and why we should celebrate autism.
"As a baby we always new Jake was very different to my friend’s babies. You couldn’t take him anywhere because he’d just cry. I couldn’t take him shopping or to baby massage, he was always looking around worried. At four months old we went to Ireland for a wedding and Jake screamed the airport down. We told people it was colic, we didn’t know what else to say."
“Life is all about being happy, that’s all that matters to me… and Francesca is probably one of the happiest kids I know.” Wendy is mum to Francesca - a pupil at TreeHouse School since 2005. In this candid interview, she talks about Francesca’s diagnosis and early schooling, as well as the support that TreeHouse School has given her and their hopes for the future.
"Every parent dreads adolescence but perhaps particularly when you have children with special needs. It's an unknown territory. I think it's been less difficult than I feared. Sam's aggressiveness certainly increased between 14 and 15 and that's probably been the biggest problem. A big mistake with autistic adolescents is to think it's all finished - it's obviously all physically finished - they're now 22 and 20, but I don't think emotionally it is finished. They seem to go on developing way on into adulthood."
"Percy was born in 2004 along with his twin brother Oswald. They both arrived prematurely at 27 weeks and as a consequence Oswald remained in hospital for three months and Percy for six months. When Percy came home he needed oxygen 24 hours a day to help with his breathing and a feeding tube to feed him as he was unable to suck milk or eat puree food. Percy remained on oxygen until after his first birthday and had a feeding tube until he was five years old."
"As a newborn baby, she was incredibly calm, watched the leaves and the sunlight and only cried when hungry. From her very first days, she seemed in a world of her own, one we could not enter. But there was nothing at that time that suggested she had autism. The word never crossed my mind. We moved to Italy when Lara was five months old. My husband was a British journalist posted there."
"I have Asperger's syndrome, I have ADHD, chronic anxiety, and, I've never been diagnosed with it, but I'm positive I have Tourette's. And what that means to me is that I have tics, I don't pay attention very well, I'm always full of energy. I used to be very anxious and have panic attacks every day and be physically sick over the worry of things."
"As a child I often felt misunderstood, particularly by my peers and at school. I remember being bullied on my first day at school and regularly, until I was in my second year of sixth form. Me being me, I responded quite belligerently. My older brother was talkative and outgoing and I was laid back and passive. Most people thought I wasn’t listening but I was absorbing it all."
"Cian was five when he was diagnosed with autism - he was at a mainstream school that wasn’t working out for him. We were really lucky to get him into a local autism-specific school. It was a step forward for Cian and a relief for me to meet other parents who were having similar problems. I was expecting Conor at the time Cian was diagnosed. I remember saying to one of the mums that it was unlikely that the baby would have autism too."
"When Dylan was 22 months a health visitor came to see us and the moment she looked at Dylan a look of horror crossed her face, she couldn’t hide it. She started asking if he liked cuddles. I instantly knew what she was getting at - if he had autism - and said “of course he likes cuddles!” I took Dylan to the GP and she said, “don’t worry, see how he goes” and I clung to that hope."
Our Finished at School campaign aims to secure more and better educational options for all young people with autism aged 16 – 25. In the Finished at School area of our website you can find stories related to the experiences of young people with autism in this country trying to develop skills, gain employment and live as part of their local community after school.