Llandrindod Autism Support Group is a place where people are accepted for who they are and can be themselves without being misunderstood or unfairly judged for being "different".
We like to talk about what it's like to see the world in a different way from those around us and how we try to cope with the everyday world.
At the next meeting, on 11 November, we shall be discussing anxiety and what we do to reduce or avoid it. I would encourage anyone who is on the autistic spectrum, or who thinks they may be, to come along and meet others like them.
This is my story…
When I delivered my son Mark on the first of July 1995, I had no idea of the incredible journey I would take in learning about Autism and how differently I’d see the world 21 years later.
There was nothing particularly unusual about Mark’s first year and my wife and I settled into parenting our first child thinking we had it all worked out. The first indication that Mark’s brain was wired differently was when he crawled into the kitchen, put the palm of one hand on the oven door and just left it there. I pulled his hand away and the blisters healed quickly. What we now know are autistic meltdowns became common, especially in shops, and we became accustomed to withering looks directed at us by other shoppers as Mark lay on the floor screaming.
From about age four, it became clear that Mark didn’t understand other children – if they caused problems he would neither try to stop them or walk away. My heart went out to him – deep down I recognised this from my own childhood.
We had already decided to educate Mark ourselves and looking back we all agree this was the best option. It gave Mark the chance to learn with less distractions than in a class room and gave us the chance to make sure Mark’s social life was one he would benefit from.
There were unexpected things such as sharing interests in historic architecture and the paintings of Gainsborough with Mark from age six, and reading and discussing philosophy from age ten. Mark developed a passion for Jazz and we played most days until he started college.
What made life so difficult was seemingly compulsive oppositional behaviour which happened many times every day and drove us close to nervous breakdown. For example, he would not get dressed to go out, even to do his favourite things such as spending a day on the local steam railway, and as the time to leave got closer we became more and more frustrated and stressed and Mark got more resistant to our pleas. Imagine this behaviour in almost every situation and you might just begin to understand why autistic children and their parents need all the support and understanding they can get.
Embracing Individuality – a group for those on the autistic spectrum or those who think they may be – takes place on the second Friday of each month, 10.30am – 12.30pm at the Resource Centre, Mid Powys Mind, Llandrindod Wells, LD1 5DH.