I know all too well how important it is to make sure that daily routines are followed without spontaneous deviations, that strategies are implemented, prior warnings are given to any transition and not to mention constantly looking out for possible obstructions which could lead to sensory processing difficulties, which may ultimately result in a meltdown. This list is not exhaustive and is just a tiny insight into the working mind of a parent supporting an autistic child. Of course, I also know only too well how my son’s life will simply implode if his anxieties are not carefully managed and how the world simply becomes too much, overwhelming and unmanageable.
In addition to ensuring my son’s needs are met I must also ensure that my ‘neurotypical’ daughter’s needs are met as life for her can be equally challenging for very different reasons. There is a constant juggle of ensuring the needs of both my children are met, which can create unwanted stress, worry and uncertainty.
Families can unfortunately breakdown for many reasons, but often at the core you will find insurmountable stress. When there are already fractures in a relationship, it is no wonder that when pressure builds, unless both parties are able to support one another, that relationship can sadly breakdown.
Very often families facing permanent separation come to the process already emotionally exhausted, tired and drained, doing all they can to channel what little energy they have to ensuring the needs of their children are being met.
Autistic children can support complex needs which is why autism should not be underestimated and neither should a simplistic view be taken, after all caring for an autistic child is so much more than merely providing them with a ‘routine’. It is therefore important for legal representatives, who are instructed to deal with cases involving autistic children to have a full and clear understanding of autism which will require more that light reading around the topic. How the world looks to an autistic child is vastly different to how the world looks to a neurotypical child. It is not possible to judge all autistic children the same way as they are all so very different, just like neurotypical children each child is an individual with differing needs and different interpretations on life.
Families going through the process of a relationship breakdown need to feel supported and understood by their legal representatives within a non-judgemental environment. Conversely legal representatives must understand how autism impacts on each individual family as well as gain a full understanding of the intricate needs of each child, to ensure they are able to effectively advocate the needs of their clients. If the needs of an autistic child and the impact their needs have on their siblings are not correctly explained and advocated, how can we expect to be able to achieve just and fair outcomes for our client’s.
It can be said that routine, structure, love and a nurturing, supportive environment is paramount to any child’s development and so very often when this is advocated for an autistic child the interpretation is the same as for a neuro-typical child. However, the meaning behind this statement is very different for an autistic child as are the consequences if those provisions are not fulfilled which could be very damaging.
If cases involving autistic children are not explained properly due to a lack of awareness and understanding on the part of legal representative then the welfare needs of our children are unlikely to be met following decisions made in the Family Courts. The lasting impact causing nothing more than devastation not only for the dependent children of a family but also parents and their wider family.