Children with autism: let their personalities shine through!

This photo represents a significant milestone for our family: Sean who has autism recently turned 10 and just to see him smile into the camera was a big thing, because for the first five or six years he refused to make regular eye contact. So we had lots of photos of our first daughter but not many of him looking into the camera.

Today we are seeing the true him and his personality is shining through, when before it was hidden. Before he was born, we used to worry about every little thing, but as he has progressed we’ve got to appreciate some of the simpler things in life.

There is no ‘look’ for autism

Sean has mild to moderate autism and also has a developmental delay. When we tell people that Sean is on the spectrum, they will tell you, ‘Oh he doesn’t look autistic, but you have to tell them every time there is not a look’. But they have this perception of what an autistic child looks like.

However from this at least we can have this dialogue, and help spread awareness. Autism doesn’t have a face and we have spent a lot of time trying to convince family and friends that he’s a person.

You look for some goals, which might not be a big deal for other parents, but they can be a big deal for us. When he was first diagnosed he had sensory issues, so when we were at church the sound of the PA system and the feedback would give him a hard time. So we couldn’t go back to church.

From challenges to confidence

Now he’ll go inside and sit by himself. He does drumming and the other day there was a concert at church. He was onstage by himself drumming and that was a big deal for all of us because we never thought he could reach that stage, whereas now we have that confidence.

We are the ones living with him and what other people see of him for 30 mins is not his life. They don’t see all of the challenges and also the positives. We’ve stopped trying to convince some people and we just support our family because we don’t want to leave out our other two girls – all our children need the same love.

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UNICEF was speaking to parents at a family support group held by the Jamaica Autism Support Association. Contact JASA for help if you are the parent of a child with autism. For access to additional benefits, register with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD).

Lisa and Stephen Henderson at a recent parent support group meeting held by the Jamaica Autism Support Association (JASA).
UNICEF/JAM/Nichola RichardsLisa and Stephen Henderson at a recent parent support group meeting held by the Jamaica Autism Support Association (JASA).

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