Wearing autism on the sleeve

By Ursula Skjonnemand

An autism advocate has defended a mum who advertised her a child's disability on a T-shirt.

A newspaper photograph showing a boy in a T-shirt reading 'Don't judge, I have autism' has prompted letters to the editor criticising the mother for labelling her child.

ABC 612's Stacey Milner asked the founder of the AEIOU austism centres, Dr James Morton, is it a good idea to let people know your child has a condition that might affect their behaviour?

Dr Morton says he fully supports the mother's actions.

"People are not understanding of these children... hence why they're wearing this T-shirt," says Dr Morton.

"It really is a real problem that you face as parents raising these children that they look normal and people can't accept that they have a disability, they just think they're bad children.

"She's really just asking people to understand the needs of her child."

Dr Morton says he and his wife considered doing the same thing themselves with their autistic son.

"Certainly when Andy was little and we'd take him out into shopping centres he would find that with the crowds a very anxiety-inducing situation," says Dr Morton.

"You would see the behavioural things that people wouldn't understand and you would get the label 'bad parent' etcetera.

"People need to understand that these children do have a disability," says Dr Morton.

"There are three parts to it: they don't learn how to communicate normally, they're not socially aware and they get very socially anxious, and they have limited patterns and interests."

Dr Morton says the people who say it's wrong to label children should walk a day in the life of the parents of children on the autism spectrum.

"Then they would have a very different view," he says.

from http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/12/19/3394069.htm