Sharon (mother of 2 children, 1 with autism): My relationship with Peter is umm... is an interesting one, because I guess that umm, just as much as he has fun with me, you know, sometimes he can push the boundaries and I need to be Big Bad Mum. But what I will say is that he’s the most precious thing to me, and I think I am to him.
Marita (mother of 2 children with autism): I think we have a very good relationship. I know my older daughter has some trust issues. It took us so long to realise that she did have Asperger’s, and in that time we treated her as a typical kid and when she misbehaved we responded with what would have been the appropriate response for a typical child, but for her was not the appropriate response. So we’ve been seeing a counsellor once a month now – it was weekly, and we’ve sort of been able to pull it out – being able to help to build up that trust again and go ‘when you feel worried, you can come and talk to Mummy, or Daddy,’ or we’ve provided her with other safe people to talk to.
Jane (mother of 2 children, 1 with Asperger’s): I have a very loving relationship with Julian. He is a very loving boy and he can be very kind and very caring and he comes up with some of the craziest ideas that send you laughing or have you out in the street at nine o’clock at night with paper and – what is it? – those bamboo sticks, lighting things up to see if they’ll float up to the sky. His mind is constantly going. So in terms of our relationship, I’m happy with our relationship. Aspects of his character, in terms of his anxiety levels – I wish for his sake he didn’t get so anxious about things. Umm, he can get very anxious about just putting a cup down on the table. If you don’t put the cup where he expected it to be, that can cause him great anxiety, which is really difficult to deal with, because it is quite painful as well. Umm, so it’s hard to see him going through something that’s obviously distressing for him, and not really being able to do much about it. We’ve got more strategies now about how to calm him down and breathing. But sometimes he can get stressed and anxious about something that you’ve got no control over and that’s very difficult to manage.
Marie (mother of 2 children, 1 with autism): It’s different. Very different to a relationship I would have with most other people. I don’t really know what Sam’s thinking or feeling. I’ll ask him and he’ll say ‘I don’t know, I don’t know,’ because he finds it really difficult to express. And we’re working on that, with outside help. Umm... and he’ll talk very superficially about games he’s played, Playstation 3 games, or the immediate things he’s done like a new move in tae kwon do... But if you kind of try to, umm, talk about things like, you know, ‘When So-and-so did whatever to you on the bus, how did that make you feel?’ And he’ll go, ‘I dunno, I dunno.’ I can’t have what I would call a really satisfying conversation with him. So I find that really strange – and hard – because I want to have a really good relationship with my children, and I just want them to know that I’m there and umm... be a good mentor to them. And I feel that I’m not always achieving that with Sam, because I don’t get any response sometimes when I say things so I don’t know if I’m doing it right or... Yeah, it’s hard.
Shannon (father of 4 children, 3 with autism): Well they’ve all got their own different needs. I mean, Dominic likes one-on-one time, sometimes he likes it by himself. Umm... it’s good when Dominic comes up on his own and gives you a hug. I mean, he’s always been reasonably cuddly but, you know, if he actually comes up off his own back, that’s a really good thing. Umm, because he actually wants a hug himself. Alexander’s more emotional, so he likes more one-on-one time, or he’s a lot more cuddly than the others. Amelia – she sometimes, I don’t know, she’s sort of a funny one. Sometimes she likes being with us, sometimes she doesn’t. Umm... she used to be really cuddly. And now, she hardly wants to know you. And Emily, well she’s with us all the time. Like, she follows us around everywhere. So that’s her choice.
Jane: Julian gets very anxious when I’m not around so he very much needs to have me close by, whether or not that’s actually interacting with me, or not. When I was, ahh, when he was younger, if I was going out to a meeting at school in the evening, he could sometimes cry for an hour or two before I left and then cry until he went to sleep. And then the next morning when we’d get up, he would start being upset again about me leaving the house. So it was pretty difficult because I felt like I couldn’t have any time away from him at all. And at the same time, if I did go and do something for myself, there would be these recriminations for sometimes days afterwards. Like one day, he said to me – I’d been out the night before at some school function – and he said ‘Mummy, when I grow up and have children, I’m never going to leave them. I’d only leave them for one minute, and that would be it.’ It’s like, hmmm, OK, so that’s his understanding. But now he’s gotten a lot better, he can cope with me going away for a couple of nights and things like that. I actually went away for a week this year, just Monday to Friday, for a course I’m doing, and he cried a lot the first night but managed to cope with it for the rest of the week. So that was a really massive achievement for us, to be able to do that.
Sharon: I guess with Peter what I was looking for was, you know, just looking at me. It’s amazing the difference that makes. And that kind of connection. But it also makes me realise how much fun you can still have without someone looking at you. Do you know what I mean? Like, you make the best of what you have. But the one thing that’s never missing is the fact that you love each other unconditionally.
Bobby (father of 2 children, 1 with autism): Aah, we’re best friends. We spend a lot of time together. Umm, we play, we wrestle a lot, he likes to wrestle on the ground and play. We go for long bike rides. When we draw pictures or when we do, umm... educational programs together, we spend time together like father and son, but also like best friends as well.