Mum's Plan to Help with Autism; the Number of Children Being Diagnosed with Autism Is on the Rise. Cathy Owen Talks to One Mum with an Autistic Son Who Wants to Help Other Parents Find the Help They Need

Article excerpt

Byline: Cathy Owen

NADINE Honeybone's son was two when he was diagnosed with autism. Tommy's early months passed without problems but he was 18 months old when his parents became concerned that his speech development had ended abruptly. Within seven months the couple were told their gorgeous, blond-haired son had autism.

"It was all very quick," admits Nadine, who works as a life coach. "The first thing we noticed was that Tommy's speech and language stopped and he seemed to regress into himself. We were concerned and got it checked out. I felt like I was being a neurotic mother but I suppose deep down I knew there was something wrong.

"He had been saying a few words and then it just suddenly stopped. Seven months later the doctors sat us down and told us he had autism. "We were told there was nothing much we could do, they didn't know what had caused it and there was no cure.

"And then that was basically it. We were sent away and told to look at the National Autistic Society's website and that was it. "They told us to come back in six months' time and effectively just left us to it."

Tommy is now five, does not speak or communicate and is still in nappies. Recently he has developed a fear of going upstairs in their home and has been sleeping on the couch in the living room.

Now, Nadine, 45, wants to help other parents who find themselves in the same position by setting up a website that will act as a directory for parents who have been told their child has autism.

The Autism Network will give tips and details of organisations that help the parents of autistic children, how they can get financial help through Disability Living Grants, what sort of help a social worker can give and even where they will find friendly and helpful hairdressers and dentists.

Nadine is planning on it being a UK network but wants to start off by listing South Wales information.

She has also set up a Facebook site that acts as an online community for the parents of children with autism, called Wales Autism Mothers.

And the former business consultant is organising a workshop to take place next month for parents whose children have autism.

The aim is to help parents with coping mechanisms, stress management and as a way of gaining support from each other.

"My husband Frank and I had heard of autism but we didn't really know what it was," says Nadine, from Penarth. "We had to reach out ourselves and we found the whole process overwhelming.

We had not been prepared for it at all and I have to admit it took us a lot to get our heads around it."

Nadine says that it took her a long time but that now, three years on, she has accepted Tommy's autism. …