Autism Awareness Day – An Interview With Gemma
Autism Awareness Day takes place on the 2nd April each year. It is an Internationally recognised day to raise awareness of this lifelong developmental disability. Autism affects how a person communicates and relates to other people, and can alter their sensory experiences of the world around them.
Gemma, our BabiPur photographer, has agreed to share her experiences with autism in an interview about her eldest son. Joe was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old, and is one of our main Babipur models featuring in many of our product photos. You may well already recognise him – going to show that not all disabilities are always immediately apparent.
Hi Gemma, thank you for coming to chat with us today about your son Joe. We would love to hear more about him, what sort of things does he love doing?
Joey is a very confident, popular, and happy 5 year old boy. He is full of energy, loves playing outside, riding his bike and team sports. He also enjoys his home comforts, staying at home in loungewear playing with his toys, reading and learning new things. He is extremely clever, people often describe him as gifted or a genius. He has excellent numeracy skills and a photographic memory.
Joe is on the autism spectrum, how did his diagnosis come about? Is day to day family life affected by his neurodiversity?
Joseph was my first child out of 4, I always had a inkling he was different but often doubted myself being a new mum. It wasn’t until he started playgroup at 2 years old, after discussing his needs at a parents meeting we started to look into getting him assessed. He saw so many different health professionals over a matter of months at home, playgroup and hospital. We were very lucky to have an amazing playgroup team behind us because to be honest I didn’t have a clue about the whole process or who he had to see next. It took just over a year for him to be diagnosed as Autistic.
Every child on the autism spectrum has unique abilities, symptoms, and challenges. For us the diagnosis has helped immensely, I know some people see it as a label but we see it as a way for him to get the support he needs from everyone. As Joseph grows I feel like we’re still learning to adjust and live a life that keeps him feeling safe and happy, and for him to just be himself.
All children are so different, what does being on the autism spectrum mean for Joe?
Joseph can be very sensitive and emotional at times. He has difficulty expressing feelings and will get upset and frustrated when people don’t understand him. He also has a sensory processing disorder where he dislikes certain scents, foods, fabrics and sounds. He likes routine and being told in advance if there will be any changes to it, if things don’t happen how he expected them to be he can get fidgety, loud and upset. He’s often hard to get motivated to do daily tasks and he wakes often through the night.
Right now I don’t think he notices he is different to anyone else. We’re lucky to have lots of friends and family around is that just go with the flow.
We know you are a big advocate of wooden toys – was this a conscious decision with Joe? Does he respond in a certain way to more open-ended toys?
For me the great thing about open ended wooden toys is I can buy one toy that each of my four children will get enjoyment from in their own way!
When left on his own to play Joseph will arrange colours, count and spell out words with his toys, but you may have seen from the photos I share that I often set toys up as an invitation to play, to encourage him to use his imagination or learn and talk about different subjects.
Are there any toys from Babipur that Joe particularly enjoys, and what is it about them that sparks his interest?
The Plan Toys Robot has been fab to help him show how he is feeling when he’s having a tough time getting words out.
I always have a Plan Toys Mini Tin in my bag to pull out for him if we go out to help keep him occupied and deflect any upset in places he feels uncomfortable.
We also have stainless steel divided plates from Babi Pur to help with meal times. His food can’t be touching and they’re great for portioning out what he eats and encourages him to try new things.
Some days are harder than others with Joseph but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Joseph has taught me more than I could have imagined, but most importantly that having autism (or any disability) may present challenges but it certainly does not define someone.
Thank you for letting me tell you a bit about my lovely little boy and hopefully raise some awareness of Autism.
Thank you so much Gemma for sharing your experiences with your wonderful son Joe, an extraordinary little boy x
For more information on Autism and Autism Awareness Day head to the National Autistic Society