Families with autistic children seek better public awareness

Families with children with autism seek better public awareness
WATCH ABOVE: April 2 is "World Autism Awareness Day" -- a chance to learn more about the health issue that affects one in 68 children. Jacqueline Wilson reports.

April 2nd marks World Autism Day — a chance to learn more about a condition that affects one in 68 children, and what life is like for families impacted by it.

For parents with children on the autism spectrum, life can be challenging at times. They have had to learn how to parent, communicate and teach in unique ways.

Amy and Evan Shout know this all too well — both of their sons Ashton and Tristan have autism.

“Ashton had some skills and then regressed; Tristan just didn’t develop at a typical rate,” Amy explained.

“For two children on the spectrum, they have totally different mannerisms,” Evan added.

READ MORE: 5 things you didn’t know about autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that presents differently in every person, meaning you can’t always tell when someone has autism.

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For the Shouts, one of the hardest parts of having children with autism is dealing with public judgement.

“You can’t see autism all of the time. We could be out at a playground and our kids could look very typical and fit in with the rest,” Amy said. “Something could happen that sets them off … and it looks like poor behaviour, poor parenting, or something like that.”

“Yes, they act differently in crowds. Yes, we may have to leave an event early because of a behavioural episode, but that doesn’t mean [we] have to treat them different. They’re still kids,” Evan said.

READ MORE: ‘Sesame Street’ to introduce muppet with autism in April

Sharla Carr, whose son Blake also has autism, wishes people would put more effort into understanding and accepting those living with autism.

“I think it’s important for people to open their minds and gain some understanding of these children, appreciate them for who they are, and what obstacles they might be facing at that time,” Carr said.

“People are quick to judge, and that has been really difficult. I wish everyone could see [Blake] the way I see him.”

Both Blake and Tristan are in the “little tots” program at Autism Services of Saskatoon, which provides vital communication and behaviour lessons for both children and parents.

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“It has helped us understand our son, which I think is very important, because we can’t parent Blake the same way we can parent our other child,” Carr said.

As unique as kids with autism may be, Carr has the same hopes for her child as every parent: “I just want Blake to be accepted for who he is.”