Autism. What is “normal”? – My Family Ties

My Daughter and Autism

Years ago, when I was pregnant with Siobhan I contracted glandular fever. Since then I have blamed myself time and again, if only I hadn’t been ill, taken better care, things could have been different. Siobhan may not have got ASD maybe…. Like you do with a problem, you search for the root cause, the culprit of this condition that causes Siobhan so much anxiety.

As a mum there is a natural default that it must somehow be your fault, you need someone to blame, and by dissecting your health problems during pregnancy voilà, you have cracked it, that is the reason, that awful virus you had is the villain.

The guilt can drive you crazy.  Truth be told there will be no definitive answer.  You will never have that moment when you “know” for sure that A or B was the cause, it just is.

Once you arrive at this, hard to swallow conclusion, you just have to push aside the guilt and deal with the outcomes in front of you.  Siobhan is no less of a person with ASD, with or without it I could not love her any more than I already do.

So I say take away the guilt and blame from you, your partner and your child, as there is enough to deal with in the rest of society because your child doesn’t fit the neatly moulded  role of normalcy.

I can tell you from experience once you let it fly and let go of your guilty feelings it is very liberating and empowering.

With my daughter I protect her, worry about her, fuss and love her not because she has ASD but because she is my daughter, and it is  natural to feel all these emotions as a mother.

With the addition of  Siobhan’s ASD I do feel I throw a big blanket of protection over her, and I am more sensitive to her needs and how other people may view, judge, and treat her.

We only had a definitive diagnosis of ASD (high functioning, leaning towards apergers syndrome) two years ago, having been back and forth to this professional and that professional for answers and help.  She also has dyspraxia , combined with her ASD is a daily challenge, which she meets with a cheery optimistic understanding that I admire so much.

Having Siobhan has enriched our lives so much and rather than tolerating this”disability”, we have embraced the chance to understand and help her in everything she does, and this in turn has helped me grow as a mother and educating myself about all things Autism has helped me understand Siobhan a lot better.

Siobhan is happy to talk about her ASD to people she knows but is reluctant to tell anyone new about it, even at a young 14 she feels a sense of shame surrounding her ASD, not enforced by any one person but from the negative connotation derived from society about someone who is different.

She is however pleased that I am writing about her and Autism in my blog.

Why?    “Because you might help someone else with the same difficulties as me”.

As we were talking the other day about Autism and how it made her feel, Siobhan said something that made me smile, that perhaps all the “non ASD‘s” were the different ones and all the “ASD‘s” the “normal” ones, and it was their world, and their rules.  “Wouldn’t that be great mum,” she said ” I would be the one helping all of you, instead of the other way around!”

I was actually shocked to read that 1 in 68 children are identified to have ASD, I didn’t anticipate it would be so high, and the more I learn and talk to people about the spectrum, the more I feel I will be of value to my own daughter to help her own her own journey.

The label itself, however doesn’t detract from the fact that Siobhan is a bright, sunny, engaging, happy, thoughtful wonderful person with so much to offer and has an eager, optimistic  excitement every morning for the day to come.

Just to give an idea of what ignorance is out there the following descriptions have come from “well-meaning” family, friends, educators, medical professionals, and from the general public only to happy to dole out their helpful descriptive words of wisdom, mostly to me or my other half but in some cases to Siobhan’s face as if she was either not able to hear, or simply understand them saying these hurtful words or that she wouldn’t understand them.

I find these words hard to read, as they are very negative and hurtful words that can hinder a child’s perception of what autism is, and essentially who they are.

Siobhan – What I am NOT

Siobhan helped me with setting up this blackboard writing, we had a couple of takes, she loves chalk, loves to get messy.  So it was that a few smudges later, we had our photo’s.

The positive slant to this is that it prompted many talks with Siobhan of all the amazing and positive qualities she holds, and the shining quality she has is to rise above all the negative comments, and  she said to me “It’s not their fault mum, they just don’t understand”.

Autism certainly doesn’t define Siobhan but it is a major component of who she is and effects all aspects of her life, the more I learn about it the more I feel I can be of value in finding solutions to Siobhan’s daily struggles and to understand her more.

Below is a list of how I would describe Siobhan, a 14 year old happy teenage girl, with a passion for animals (especially cats), always with a book in her hand and a smile on her face.  Yes she has her moments but give me a teenager who doesn’t.

Siobhan – What I am

One of the questions on one of the many appointments regarding her ASD asked we could change, her would we?

It prompted us to decide if we could would we “take away” the ASD, if we could.  Initially I thought yes, right away, I would.

Upon reflection though, I wouldn’t, as she is lovely and perfect as she is, and removing the ASD would remove her.

Naturally we wish her life was easier for her, and less a mine field of learning and re-learning little things that we find easy but take for granted (shoe laces, zips, idioms, sarcasm, jokes, riding a bike, organisation), but she is the person she is because of her Autism, and we love her regardless.

I’ll leave the last words from Siobhan “Don’t see just the Autism, see me.”

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My name in red 'Caroline"
I am linking this post with the Mad Mid Week Blog Hop #MMWBH

Super Busy Mum

I am also linking this post with Share With Me from Let’s Talk Mommy


  1. June 26, 2014 / 9:12 am

    Beautiful. Thank you and Siobhan for sharing, please tell her that she will help lots of other children who feel alone. x
    Sarah (

    • June 26, 2014 / 11:44 am

      Sarah thank you I will tell her. I love that she has a 'voice' in such a powerful way, and that it may help someone else is amazing xx

  2. June 26, 2014 / 9:17 am

    She is a beautiful and talented young lady with a heart of gold. It's lovely that she wanted you to write to hopefully help others in the same situation understand xx

    • June 26, 2014 / 11:46 am

      Thank you Emma, she has so much to offer, she just needs the stepping stones to overcome her challenges, thanks for lovely words xx

  3. July 2, 2014 / 10:09 am

    How amazing is this post! Your daughter is such a beautiful and amazing young lady! Thanks so much for sharing this amazing post with #MMWBH! xx

    • July 2, 2014 / 12:19 pm

      Thank you so much. She is amazing and I make sure I tell her every day, I am such a lucky mum to have her, thanks for the comment and the link experience, I look forward to doing it again next week xx

  4. July 2, 2014 / 11:45 am

    What a fantastic inspirational post, you must be so proud of her x

    • July 2, 2014 / 12:20 pm

      Thank you so much. She is a wonderful young lady and such a smashing daughter, we are so lucky to call her our daughter, and it was so great to talk about it xx

  5. July 2, 2014 / 5:48 pm

    WOW what a powerful and beautiful post. So inspiring too. She is beautiful and so amazing she wants to help others. I bet you so very proud! Amazing story too. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  6. July 3, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    Thank you Jenny. Yes I am bursting with pride for her, and it was so great to write this post with her helping me as we could talk about so many positive and negative aspects about having Autism. It was such a pleasure to link up with you on the Share With Me and I look forward to continuing next week 🙂

  7. July 11, 2014 / 5:47 pm

    Way to go to you and Siobhan, you are an inspiration. My son Nick is 15 and I just love him to bits. Mind you, to be truthful, I do wish that I could make life a lot easier for him and remove some of his obstacles.

    • July 21, 2014 / 10:45 am

      Thank you, how kind. I know what you mean, society makes it even harder when you do have are different , it's not easy. 🙂

  8. July 20, 2014 / 11:30 am

    I burst into tears. Lovely girl! Wonderful blogpost. We are still waiting diagnosis about my boy….

    • July 21, 2014 / 10:47 am

      Thank you for your comment. Let me know how you get on with your son, it is not easy to go through, message me any time if you need to chat x

  9. July 20, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    By the way: I'm an adult woman (54) with autism. Oh yerah, life is very difficult, sigh…but life is wonderful.
    Glad, that I found your blog (in my two blogs autism is not an issue)

    • July 21, 2014 / 10:44 am

      Thank you for the comment Mascha, great to hear from you. I get the feeling that life for someone with autism is hard, when others make it hard for them (from the experience I have had with my daughter) by others I mean non ASD people. Like you say despite that life is wonderful and it shouldn't be such a hurdle that other people make it. Beautiful name by the way x

  10. September 29, 2014 / 11:50 am

    I love the chalkboard exercise, for all children or any form of SEN.
    Might just try it with my children this week.

    • September 29, 2014 / 11:53 am

      Thank you Hayley, I have framed the photo of the positive one and put in on her wall to re-enforce how special and wonderful she is to us, and it has helped with her self esteem. Let me know how you get on if you use it too, Caroline.

  11. Elizabeth
    May 17, 2015 / 2:31 am

    I have Asperger syndrome and it drives me mad that people always define it in terms of what we find more difficult. I got hired by my current employer because I pointed out the advantages of being an Aspie in terms of observation, attention to detail and analytical skills. There are increasing numbers of influential people, notably the tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who argue that beneficial autistic spectrum traits should be celebrated and valued by employers.

    (N.B. It may therefore sound odd that I describe myself as having Asperger syndrome when the term is no longer officially in use, because a syndrome generally means something that's wrong. However, when you talk about adults with autism, people think of the Buzzfeed article about a man who couldn't do anything for himself and I don't want people to think I'm like that. I remember once seeing a social worker who was convinced everyone on the spectrum had learning disabilities – then took offence when I told her I didn't have one.

    “There's no need to be ashamed of having a learning disability”, she chided me.

    I asked her where she got her degree and she mentioned a former polytechnic.

    “Right”, I replied. “I got mine from Cambridge. When you can say the same, then you can talk to me about having learning disabilities!”)

    • July 19, 2015 / 9:56 am

      I totally hear what you are saying Elizabeth, Siobhan has the same positive traits as you do, observant, fabulous memory skills and attention to detail, and the benefits of individuals with ASD in the workplace are immense. We have been 'advised' so many times that Siobhan has learning difficulties rather than ASD and this frustrates me so much as it gives her teachers a false sense of who she really is, she now will answer and educate those who label her with leaning difficulties and let them know she has ASD.

      I love your response to the social worker you saw! Fantastic. I think the more it is discussed and the more people understand the spectrum people will see that it is much more than simply labelling a group of people (and assuming that label it is a negative thing) and much more that each individual is unique with their own set of traits that can be so positive.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, I have showed it to Siobhan and it's given her a lot of encouragement and reinforced the fact she is proud to be and Aspie (or ASD teen as they now define it!) and has so much to offer the world.

  12. December 23, 2015 / 12:49 pm

    My friend has Asbergers (still can't spell it) and has lost a lot of friends because they "can't cope" with her when she has an "outburst" (sorry not sure what to call it properly). But she's not as bad (sorry again) as they make out. OK she swears (not a lot and doesn't do it when she's out), she has OCD which means she has to have a photo of her favourite actor nearby and she doesn't quite know how to interact with others, usually starts arguing if she doesn't know what they mean rather than sit and talk about it. BUT she's learnt me a lot about myself and taught me to be more tolerant (something I knew I had to work on anyway) and we have been firm friends for 5 years (which apparently is the longest she's had close friends who have stood by her). Although she lives a few miles away we chat all the time, via FB and phone calls. One of the nicest people you could want to meet. I've only been with her once when she's "gone off on one" (her words NOT mine) but we were in a cafe and she had a hoodie on with a skull design and an lady made a comment about "young girls shouldn't be wearing something like that" and my friend told her what she thought of her comment. It was a hoodie in black with a skull design on it in purple so to be honest she was completely right in asking the woman what she meant, even if she went about it the wrong way. Sorry for the long essay. 🙂

    • February 11, 2016 / 3:00 pm

      Thank you for your comment Tracy, you sound like a brilliant friend and I am sure she values your support with her daughter. It's so hard for people to be accepting and not to be rude, but I have found when out in public perfect strangers have no problem coming right up to you to tell you what they think! Having the confidence to answer now is my blessing as my primary objective is to protect my daughter and help to educate others on ASD. It's not easy sometimes and I find that good friends (like you are to your friend) are a godsend and wouldn't be without them.

      One of the things that has helped my daughter is the local youth group for disabled children and young adults, they meet up every week to chat and do various activities in a very non judgemental environment, a place to be themselves with others their age. It has been just wonderful for the social aspect for my daughter and it may be worth while your friend investigating if there is something similar in her area, the council may be able to help locating the nearest group although all are listed online with details. Best of luck to her anyway and thanks so much for your comments xx

  13. January 17, 2016 / 11:19 pm

    What a moving post, you are a fantastic mummy. Its always refreshing to find a blog like yours. great work x

    • February 11, 2016 / 3:01 pm

      Thank you so much Portia, that is so kind to say, my daughter inspires me every day and it's such a pleasure to share her strengths on my blog xx

  14. February 2, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    My daughter has ASD and her anxiety levels are really high. She is home tutored and finds it even hard to communicate with the tutors. She even finds it difficult to meet people even my parents. I have just read your article and it makes me realise that there are positives and that eventually and hopefully my daughter will be able to gain more confidence to go out in the outside world.

    • February 11, 2016 / 3:10 pm

      Thank you for your comment Susan, small steps are important I agree and with my own daughter I have found that introducing new routines albeit really slowly are the key. I found a wonderful youth group for young disabled children/young adults locally last year and I have been just amazed at her progress ever since.

      She has blossomed being in an environment which is totally non judgemental and being with peers her own age with similar challenges has helped her to come to terms with her own challenges. I highly recommend you search for a similar group in your area, if you have difficulty in finding a group online contact your local council, and failing that try an Autism outreach program in your area. Although a scary step I found with my daughter that she really came out of herself and her confidence soared as a consequence of the group, not only do they do lots of fun activities in a safe building, they also have outings for meals out, cinema trips and even bowling, something she would have only done with us as a family previously. Do let me know how you get on and feel free to email me anytime for a chat or any advise which I can help you with. xx