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Autism is a very complex condition and has a vast spectrum with many variants. Among the many variants, you will find autism on the higher end of the spectrum such as Aspergers syndrome, high functioning autism and ADHD. These are very complex variants as the effected person ordinarily has a very high IQ, and some have an intolerance to additives, preservatives and many chemicals making it impossible for them to freely enjoy the treats many take for granted! As a general rule, those with autism lead a very different life to that experienced by many of us, that in itself can bring on a whole new level of stress so it's vital you have the right support when needed. I can only really touch on high functioning autism with any degree of accuracy as my son has this variant of autism. We have had the highs, the lows and everything in between! So I hope you find the following testimony helpful and hopefully it may act as an insight for relevant authorities such as the police, justice system and education system, as awareness is everything and without it you cannot ever hope to engage in protecting your young person! Now, where to begin?!
Throughout his childhood, we experienced my son's little quirks such as nibbling the sleeves of his school sweaters to the point of disrepair and likewise with his polo shirt collar button, his repetitive behaviours, although not vocally repetitive, and his exceptional intelligence. The other usual traits were also present such as taking things in the absolute literal sense and a non understanding of sarcasm, etc. Both my son and my daughter were members of the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) and he was playing chess at the age of three. He went to mainstream as his degree of academic ability was shining for all to see and he spectacularly smashed his SATs both in year two and year six. Unfortunately, my son is under the impression that everybody that smiles at him is his friend and this in itself has caused issues many many times! Once he started senior school, year seven, his attitude changed dramatically and the clingy boy I once knew had sadly gone. Suddenly and without any tangible reason, my son started to refuse to go to school. We attended lots of meetings held at the school and regularly liased with the Education Welfare department. I am very fortunate as a parent to have never been prosecuted for his persistent non-attendance! The LEA even tried switching him schools twice, but the problem remained, he refused to go. Eventually, after a spell with me home educating him, he reluctantly agreed to try a school that wasn't mainstream, and for little over a week, he attended each day! He then lost his temper and deliberately put himself in the position of being expelled. I was both horrified and mortified. That school was notoriously bad yet he managed to get himself kicked out indefinitely! Following his expulsion he did his upmost to avoid school altogether and eventually the LEA exhausted all their ideas and finally disengaged with him. Although I avoided prosecution, as I tried every trick at my disposal to engage him with his education, it left me distraught as my son is highly intelligent and left me worried what lay in store for him in the future. I embarked on the task of home educating him whilst we tried to get to the bottom of the fundamental problem of school avoidance. He flourished in certain subjects, such as maths, science and history, but dragged his heels with literacy and food tech although loved the practicals.
It was during this period that Adam started to rise to peer pressure and found himself engaging in risky behaviours such as smoking cannabis and acts of petty criminality such as vandalism and antisocial behaviour. Away from his friends his behaviour was dramatically different and it was during these moments that I tried to positively reinforce the idea that he has his own voice and the basic knowledge of right and wrong so if something felt wrong then it usually is wrong to a degree. The problem became very apparent fairly quickly and the problem presented that Adam doesn't fully comprehend consequences, nor the capacity to understand them. It was almost as if on one hand he is highly intelligent and quite articulate but on the other extremely foolish and self indulgent.
The peer group he mixed with at this time were also either NEETS or non attenders themselves, and despite all my efforts, to my horror and mortification he used to climb from his window and disappear in times of finding himself grounded, to mix with them.
It wasn't long before he found himself in trouble with the police at the age of 12 years old and since then has faced many a panel of magistrates, been a key witness in a murder inquiry and has served a custodial sentence at Vinney Green secure unit in South Gloucestershire. He is due to appear in Crown Court next month for yet another very silly decision with very unsavoury 'friends.'
I fought to secure an assessment for Adam regarding his autistic traits, sadly the wait was extremely long and by the time an appointment was given, he was 17 years old. We attended the appointment only for Adam to declare he didn't feel the need for an assessment as he doesn't feel he has it! You can imagine my joy upon hearing this to then be told by the therapist that it was his decision and wasn't obligatory!
He is still undiagnosed and yet again facing a custodial sentence.
Upon finishing his sentence at Vinney Green, he informed me, quite matter of fact, that he thrived in the structure and routine, and what worries me is this, he is now 20 years old and certainly will not be sent to Vinney Green but rather a man's prison. Again he fails to comprehend this fact. As a mother it is both frustrating and heartbreaking to be in the absolute knowledge that my baby is highly likely to have autism yet will not accept this to perhaps understand who he is and explain why he behaves in certain ways.
I would love to know how I could get him agree to be assessed and I will admit I have even considered questioning his mental capacity in certain areas, all I know is there are many many young people in the grey zone of diagnosis like my son, and this needs to be addressed and highlighted.
This is a factual and true account of some of the problems autism or like conditions can pose and the disruption it leaves in it's wake...