Thursday, 14 June 2012

Dads in Scotland raise awareness

With Father Day (17 June) just around the corner, Ambassador dads in Scotland have been raising awareness of autism.   

Glyn Morris from Moray told us his experiences of caring for his 13 year old son Gregor who has autism

“Being a father of a child with autism can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. If another dad happens to drop into conversation that his child is on the spectrum, you suddenly feel an overwhelming connection. It’s like finding a long lost brother. Our children see the world very differently and every day we do our very best to support them and see the world through their eyes.

I would like all Moray fathers of children with autism to know that you are not alone. Many dads are experiencing similar challenges every day. Getting the right support at the right time can be a real struggle, but it is out there. 

At first, Gregor seemed to develop as expected. He was hitting all his milestones. He could say ‘Da’ – which is a fantastic moment for any father. Then suddenly, around 3, he started to regress. He lost his ability for speech and hasn’t said ‘Da’ since. 

At one stage he was getting up over 20 times in the night. Many people with autism rely on predictable routines to help make sense of the world, and Gregor would find changes in his routine distressing and disorientating. There would be 'meltdowns' in the car if we continued driving and didn’t turn off into a relation’s home as expected. Gregor also experiences huge sensory challenges and couldn't stand to walk on sand or even grass in bare feet. A simple thing like a visit to the hairdresser’s was torture. Loud noises were unbearably painful and disorientating.

These days, Gregor is a much happier, more laidback teenager. I couldn’t be prouder of the way Gregor works every day to overcome the challenges of his condition.  Some people with autism find socialising very challenging and disorientating, so we are very lucky that Gregor absolutely loves meeting new people and spending time with friends and family. His smiles and laughter are just infectious, and he has such a positive effect on everyone he meets.  He loves swimming, horse riding, car trips and anything with wheels attached. He has an extraordinary photographic memory and a fascination with numbers and jigsaws.

The right support at the right time at school, and calm perseverance at home, has made a huge, positive impact on Gregor’s quality of life.  So much credit has to go to my wife, Jennifer, who is not just a fantastic mum, but also the most patient and thoughtful person I know.

Gregor has very little speech, and mainly communicates by making vowel sounds. He has limited muscle control and movement and still needs constant care, but he has shown amazing progress.  He rarely wakes up in the night these days, and copes very well with changes and unpredictability when they are explained to him in advance.

Being a father of a child with autism does turn your world upside down but, I honestly, hand on my heart; feel incredibly privileged to be Gregor’s dad as he is such an amazing individual.” 

Ambassadors Kevin Foley, James Parker and Norman Gray also told their stories to the local papers.  

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