By Helen Wallace-Iles
Hi, I’m Helen and it has to be said that I have a bit of an unconventional approach to the subject of autism.
While many people view it as a tragedy or even a disease, I understand it for what it really is: a complex condition resulting in a very specific form of wiring in the brain. This wiring produces a whole variety of different individuals, each with their own personalities, strengths and challenges, who nonetheless have some basic traits in common including complications with their sensory input and communication, plus an intense need for routine.
Autism is also what’s known as a ‘spectrum’ condition which many people assume makes it a straight line, with mildly autistic people at one end and profoundly autistic people at the other, but in fact it’s more like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope that affects each individual in different ways at different times. It’s definitely difficult to understand, but from my point of view it’s also pretty amazing.
I’ve lived with autistic people all my life (the autism gene is strong in my family) and am now the immensely proud mother of four amazing and unique children on the spectrum, so when I graduated as a Hypnotherapist back in the year 2000, I decided to run a practice specialising in the treatment of autistic people and their families.
Just as I’m sure many of you reading this article have done, I’ve helped hundreds of clients over the years in their struggles to lead more fulfilling and proactive lives, and what I’ve discovered is that there’s no big secret to treating autistic people, other than to remember this one, all-important fact: they are peoplefirst and foremost, and not a disorder to be scrutinised and untangled.
While autism itself is absolutely not a mental illness, people on the spectrum can often suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of living in a world which struggles to understand them, and that they often find totally overwhelming.
After ten years of running my practice I founded my own charity Autism All Stars Foundation UK (www.autism-all-stars.org) and from the start we focussed on the positives of life on the autism spectrum, and on breaking down the barriers of fear and prejudice that surrounded the condition.
We run lots of colourful (and geeky) character events which are great fun, but autism is a serious business, and a large part of my day has always been spent answering desperate emails from both autistic people crying out for recognition and reassurance.
What I’ve come to realise is that the need for support in the autism community is enormous, so a couple of years ago I wrote ‘The Ringmaster’s Tale’ which is the book I wish someone had handed me when my eldest son was born and I knew precisely nothing about autism. It offers a straightforward guide to what autism is, and more importantly what it isn’t, as well as chapter upon chapter of advice on everything autism-related.
It also contains a very healthy dose of humour, because believe me, staying positive when you’re living with a young autistic child is a struggle at the best of times, and learning to laugh about the absurdities of life can be invaluable.
Most importantly, I offer my readers a sense of hope that things really can improve with a little effort on their part. I describe the benefits of the Emotional Freedom Technique and give them free access to a pre-recorded programme that deals with improving calmness, confidence and (among other things) the quality of their sleep – all of which can be in very short supply in an autism household.
They then have the option to buy a variety of specially-crafted programmes from my website (www.autism-all-stars.org/quantum-leap/) covering all the subjects I’ve been helping autism families with for so many years now.
Whether you live with autism full time or are simply curious as to what it’s all about, it’s well worth reading if I do say so myself. It’s available directly from me (signed, of course) or via Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Full details here: www.autism-all-stars.org/buy-the-ringmasters-tale/
I also write a blog that deals with all kinds of autism-related issues, which you can find here: www.autism-all-stars.org/ringmaster, as well as offering talks and presentations about autism and help and advice through the charity’s social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
I’ll leave you then, with a short extract from my book, and one I’m sure many parents can identify with, whether their children are autistic or not.
A Day at the Circus
Child 1 (age 6) decides to dress himself for school. Full instructions have been given the previous evening, so am feeling confident of his success.
7:30am: Hear dreadful choking sounds coming from bedroom. Discover Child 1 strangling himself with school tie. On further investigation, realise my direction to ‘slide your tie up until you reach your top button’ have proved useless as his top button is in fact missing.
Hastily explain that reaching one’s neck is also an excellent time to stop tightening. #AlwaysCheckTheButtons
8am: Child 2 (age 3) has recently started returning from nursery each evening with dirt under his fingernails. Ask nursery staff why, and am told he plays in the same muddy spot outside every day, saving his place each night with a specific stone.
6pm: Collect Child 2 from nursery. Frazzled nursery teacher informs me Child 2 has in fact been digging escape tunnel under fence for some time, using stone as entrance marker once loose soil has been replaced.
Having finally completed tunnel, Child 2 has today led daring band of small children out onto pavement, getting three toddlers through fence before staff noticed anything was amiss.
Teacher assures me playground is now scheduled to be tarmacked.
Explain Child 2’s latest obsession is Chicken Run (film about group of militant hens constantly plotting escape from farmyard prison).
Conclusion: Child 2 may not have any speech yet, but has plenty of imagination, leadership and strategic planning skills. #ProudMummyMoment
Thanks for reading and if I can help you please email me or call