This week is World Autism Awareness Week - a week that is designed to raise awareness of the invisible disability that is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD.)
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the U.K.
Fay Hough (pictured with her son, Bowie) is a member of Jon's team and a caseworker for Havering. Her son has autism and Fay regularly shares his story during WAAW to raise awareness of the disability and what it's like to be a parent of an autistic child.
Fay Hough: "My son Bowie was diagnosed at the age of 3. Bowie wasn't reaching the milestones he should have been reaching as within his development as a toddler. He also struggled with eye contact, flapped his arms a lot, spun round in circles, didn't play with toys, would put his fingers in his ears throughout the day and struggled in social situations. He also never slept!"
"Bowie is now 9 years old and attends a special needs school. When diagnosed I was told to prepare myself for the fact that he may never speak, but Bowie was 5 years old when he said his first word which was ‘mum'. Bowie now has what is called ‘functional language' and can hold small conversations. He loves the London Underground and rock music! He's fantastic with a pair of drumsticks."
"Bowie's difficulties however are still there, he has extreme anxiety and can become quite violent during meltdowns. He can be very emotional and struggles to deal with his emotions. As a mum it is my job to help Bowie understand his emotions and lessen his anxieties."
"During WAAW I would like to highlight autistic meltdowns in public. An autistic meltdown is when a situation becomes extremely stressful or sensory overload and the autistic person cannot take anymore. My son is 9 but tall for his age and very strong. He recently had a meltdown in public which attracted a lot of stares, comments, and fear. I understand for those who are not sure what is happening it can look scary but adding to the pressure and anxieties by staring or making comments makes it so much harder. As a parent of an autistic child I just want to be able to safely calm my child down. If I need help, I'll reach out to a member of public or a shop owner for a quiet space for my son to calm down in. Judgement and unnecessary input upsets not only the autistic child or adult but the carer accompanying them too."
Fay is an avid campaigner for autism and has held local demonstrations that have seen huge turn outs. She is a parent campaigner for The National Autistic Society and has appeared on numerous National tv and radio shows such as Good Morning Britain, Loose Women and Radio 5 Live talking about her experiences of being an autism mum. Fay works closely with families living with autism locally and has toured local schools delivering autism awareness assemblies for children.
Jon Cruddas MP: "Before lockdown I would usually hold an autism coffee morning for parents with children with autism living in my constituency during WAAW. I have previously spoken about Autism in Parliament and continue to support The National Autistic Society with their campaigns to spread awareness and fight for the rights of those living with autism."
If you would like to show your support or find out more about autism you can do so by visiting several sites, listed below.