Lillian (mother of Tash, 13, who is autistic): Emotional development has been an interesting one. When she was very young and right up until probably about six or seven, we could see she was just trapped inside, really trapped and she was deadpan a lot of the time. There wasn’t a lot of expression in her face. We did certain therapies that actually opened the emotions up and we started to see some real delight and some real upset and much more emotion.
Katharine Annear (disability educator who has Asperger’s disorder): For the most part you can safely assume that people will be behind in their emotional development. They may have developed physically in relation to their peers. They probably have the same body changes and even be into some of the same physical activities but emotionally there is a tendency to be probably even about six years behind their peers, so they’ve got this fully functioning teenage body but emotionally and socially they are well back in early primary school in terms of their social and emotional security.
Dolores (mother of James, 14, who is autistic): James’ emotions as he’s gone through puberty I don’t think have changed too much. All we really saw was that he just was trying to push the boundaries a bit. He would get a little bit non-compliant and that didn’t last for very long.
Marie (mother of Sam, 15, who is autistic): He’s always been emotional but he’s a lot more emotional. He will cry very easily and he has begun to tell me how he feels.
Elena (mother of Alex, 15, who is autistic): As far as feelings, he’s not one to really say a lot of feelings. He’s not a huggy kissy kid and we’re not huggy kissy to him because he has never really wanted it, so we’re close but we’re not physically huggy kissy close, so I suppose in some ways he is not going to go and do that to other people because he is not used to doing it so much at home.
Kerryn Burgoyne (trainer and educator who has Asperger’s disorder): For me, I had no emotions and no feelings because I didn’t know what they were. I would always ask my mum ‘I feel sick’ and she would say ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Are you thirsty?’ Couldn’t comprehend. It was the comprehension as well. I notice a lot of teachers may use picture boards and iPads, that is a great assistance for parents who have children with ASD who have a difficulty in comprehending feelings and emotions, so they get sometimes in occupational therapy they will get the individual to actually point out the face of ‘I’m happy’ or ‘I’m hungry’ or ‘I need the toilet’ or ‘I’m sad’ or ‘I’m thirsty’ or anything like that.
Dolores: James does recognise when people are happy or people are sad and I don’t think he takes a lot of notice about people around him too much. With family and in the home environment, if I got upset for whatever reason he would say ‘Oh mummy’s sad.’ He does see that and does address it. I don’t think it actually really affects him that much. He sees it and acknowledges it but it doesn’t then make him terribly upset.