I renewed my membership of the National Autistic Society today. I’m the mother of an autistic child, and when I was trying to find out more about autism in the run-up to getting a formal diagnosis, the National Autistic Society website was where I ended up – and I’m so glad it was there!
Pretty much all I knew about autism before that was what I’d gleaned from watching Rain Man twenty-odd years earlier. Clearly I had a long way to go. I needed information, and the NAS website is a brilliant source of that, right through from the basics to the latest research and what’s going on in your area. The charity does loads of other things too, including running six schools and a helpline, and it has lots of local branches.
The NAS turns 50 this year. There’s a video on the about section of the NAS website in which Ilse, one of the founder members, describes how she and other parents got together in the early days of the society.
The psychiatrist who diagnosed Ilse’s daughter with autism suggested putting her in a home. That was not something Ilse and her husband wanted to do. The psychiatrist also suggested getting in touch with the then very new society for autistic children. Their daughter went on to be a pupil at the embryonic National Autistic Society’s first school, which taught ten children.
It used to be thought that autistic children couldn’t be educated, and now we know that isn’t true. But if that group of parents hadn’t got together in the early 1960s, it might be a different story.