World Autism Day: Sharing perspectives from three parents
- Posted on April 1, 2021
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
April 2 is World Autism Day, encouraging everyone to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders, including autism and Asperger syndrome, throughout the world. In honor of this day, we’re sharing the stories of three Avanade employees whose children are on the autism spectrum.
It was a challenge not to fight our reality
"You made the right choice to seek diagnosis." These are the words we were told by the team diagnosing our daughter's autism spectrum disorder when she was 4. "But we can't do anything for you,” they continued. “You have to discuss with your local authorities. " This was the second sentence, and we suddenly realized that we were alone.
Many questions came up in the first few days, but very quickly we decided to fight for our second daughter. An important thing we understood at that time was that we had to mourn our “normal” family and a “normal” childhood for our daughter. Our lives were suddenly divided into two: life before the diagnosis, and life after it.
The diagnosis was 17 years ago. Our daughter followed a mixed school curriculum: two days in a specialized and extraordinary school and the rest of the week in full integration in the ordinary school, and her final graduation score was really strong!
The difficulty was not to fight against our reality, but to allow our two daughters to evolve in their own way, and I think we succeeded. Our elder daughter is currently studying speech therapy at university and wants to specialize in autism. The second is doing an apprenticeship in horticulture. While they have different goals, they both pursue them with similar dedication and passion.
We’re proud of their accomplishments and we’re proud of being parents of our diverse family!
—Frederic Maillard, SwitzerlandLearning from each other
We went through a diagnosis process when my son Tom was 6 years old. Whilst beloved among his peers, he wasn’t showing much interest in socializing and making friends. He also didn’t like or understand team sports that all the boys were raving about, and yet he was very competitive.
We were told Tom has autism spectrum disorder. This was 7 years ago, and since then we’ve learnt a lot about our son – how his view of the world is slightly different than ours and how best we can adapt to it.
Tom often gets overstimulated – he experiences sensory, sound, smell and texture overload. Lots of people on the autism spectrum will have particular diets because certain food textures suit them, or they can’t stand them. For Tom, jeans are a no-go in terms of texture, so we make adjustments when it comes to his clothing style.
Being different gives Tom a particular disposition toward specified tasks and particular subjects. When he was little, he loved dinosaurs and deep dived into the subject of their existence, demise and different types. Now in secondary school, Tom’s got an affinity for history, science and maths.
Here, Tom’s process-driven thinking really shines, particularly when conducting experiments. Having a clear, step-by-step process drives him, and he often outperforms the rest of his peers. He is also very literal and prefers concise instructions. As Tom grows older though, I notice he is becoming more sociable, is making friends and interacting positively with people around him – an important component of childhood.
As a parent, you learn. I know I learned a lot for and from Tom. You adjust, make the necessary accommodations and challenge your own thinking and experience. The same goes for the workplace, especially one such as Avanade, where our commitment to inclusion and diversity is so genuine.
There are slight adjustments we could all do to make it the best workplace for everyone, whether you are neurodiverse or have a learning disability. It’s particularly the careers at Avanade that allow people with all sorts of experience, ways of thinking, and processing to shine.
Just as I’ve changed, I invite you all to adapt and learn from those around you so we can all build an inclusive Avanade.
—Stephen Wilkinson, U.K.
It’s not about autism awareness, but autism acceptance
My eldest son, Henry, was diagnosed with autism shortly after his fifth birthday. It had been a long pathway to diagnosis. He was originally referred when he was just 2.
As a parent I could see that Henry struggled with overstimulation and that many social situations were very challenging for him. I wanted so much to be able to adapt his environment to meet his needs.
Some friends and family discouraged us from a seeking a diagnosis, suggesting we would be “labelling” him. As I told them, labels belong on soup cans, this is a diagnosis! Autism is a part of him and not something I would shy away from.
We have put in place lots of accommodations for Henry and we work with him to do things in a way that makes sense for him and also allows him (and us) to meet his sensory needs.
Henry teaches me a lot about different ways to see the world. He also amazes me constantly with his phenomenal memory and ability to recite an entire film he has only seen once. He loves to play with friends and has a competitive streak a mile wide!
I think many people know what autism is, so it’s perhaps time to move away from autism awareness, and towards autism acceptance. Creating an inclusive and diverse workforce is so important and opens us up to talent from all walks of life.
—Helen Chandler, U.K.