Hi, my name is L and I am an autistic parent of an 8 year old autistic child called J.

Despite both being autistic, J and I have had vastly different experiences of the world and not just because of our age.

J was diagnosed at 4 years old after several traits were noticed by myself, his dad, my parents and his nursery workers, and these traits had been evident by the time he was 2 years old. J will grow up in a world where autism is more accepted and he will grow up knowing that he is autistic and getting the relevant support from family and school. He will understand autism to be a strength, that allows him to think differently, notice things others might miss, and store large amounts of complex information about his special interests. J is vibrant and unashamed and completely content with who he is, with happy hands and happy humming that haven’t repeatedly been told to keep still and keep quiet.

I was not formally diagnosed until I was 39, having found out after my son was diagnosed. I grow up fully knowing that I was different but not knowing why. I was (and still am) an anxious people pleaser desperate to avoid any kind of confrontation or criticism to such a degree that I suppressed all my natural reactions and feelings completely. I told myself I was weird, useless, lazy, broken, faulty and genuinely thought that my soul had been delivered to the wrong universe by mistake. I tried to hide this as much as possible and watched my peers carefully for how to act and speak, and yet still they kept noticing that there was “something off about me”. I spent a lot of time locked in my room, listening to Abba (very trendy now, but not so much when you’re 7 in 1990!) on my headphones over and over. I had about 5 albums of their lyric memorised by the time I was about 9. I practiced conversations to myself when I was alone, and spent a lot of time in maladaptive daydreams. I struggled socially at school and with colleagues/managers in workplaces again and again.

This really shows the difference between growing up with a diagnosis compared to without, as well as the accumulation of more knowledge about Autism between 1980 and today. I may now have Access To Work support in my workplace since getting my diagnosis, but growing up without this “label” was indeed catastrophic for my mental health. J has a plan in place at school for all the support he needs and many of his friends are also neurodivergent.

I am trying to raise J in such a way that he never feels inferior to others due to his autism. I want him to be able to stim freely, and communicate in a way that is natural for him in a world where differences are accepted. Of the things that he struggles with that I did also, I try not to force him into anything because I remember how that felt. It is hard to balance this whilst also feeling the anxieties of being a parent. For example, I do not force him to try new food as I know how difficult this is, but I also worry that his is not getting all the necessary vitamins! I also worry that he does not have good special awareness when with others or any safely awareness when walking down the street. These are things we are working on slowly. There are times when we are both in sensory upset due to our conflicting temperaments.

This is all a learning curve for me to be constantly learning how to be a mother whilst also learning about the additional disability we have both discovered we have. I am very grateful for the support of my husband, (J’s dad) and my parent who live nearby.

Overall I am very happy with our little neurodivergent family. I believe acceptance and accommodations are the future.