"My little boy changed my world and opened my eyes": mother and autism activist Rosemarie Maughan
April is Autism Awareness month.
During the month of April on HerFamily we're going to be focusing on autism awareness and more importantly autism acceptance.
Last week I wrote about my own experience of being a parent who is autistic but this week I spoke to a mum parenting an autistic child.
Rosemarie Maughan is a mother of two and autism activist who is a member of the Traveller community in Ireland.
This week she spoke to me about the lack of support for autistic children, the stigma that still remains around autism and her campaign Celebrate Autistic Travellers.
"I'm a Traveller woman from Mayo, I'm married, got two kids, one of which is autistic.
Before my son was diagnosed as autistic I didn't really know a lot about the autistic community or autistic struggles.
It wasn't something that was spoken about within my community.
As I learned more about autism and the lack of services and the lack of understanding and acceptance within society, I was at the same time hearing about more Traveller children being diagnosed as autistic.
I saw there was no Traveller line of support or cultural understanding among services and I didn't want my son to have to create awareness when he was in his twenties.
I felt it was my responsibility to create that awareness for him and other autistic children and that's what made me start the Celebrate Autistic Travellers campaign."
"It's so difficult to get a diagnosis because the system here is almost non existent.
Regardless whether you're a Traveller or not it's so hard to get tested because of waiting list, but I think with Travellers many are stuck in poverty traps.
While some people can pay to get a private diagnosis that's just not an option for a lot of Traveller families.
I was very lucky that I was in a position to go privately, but the majority of Travellers wouldn't have that luxury."
I would love to see autistic children's constitutional rights to education and supports upheld.
I would also love to see more acceptance in society and a true understanding of what being autistic means.
People shouldn't have to hide the fact that they're autistic in order to be treated equal.
There's so much damage that masking can do to the mental health of autistic children and adults.
If you're autistic you hear all these things like you won't be able to get a job or have relationships or go to college and it's not true. Yes, it's more difficult due to discrimination, lack of understanding and acceptance within society, but not because a person is autistic. It's society that needs to change, not autistic people.
Before I had my son I didn't realise all this was happening and being a parent to an autistic child has opened my eyes.
I felt so guilty because I thought what kind of human rights activist am I to miss something so important?
My little boy changed my world and opened my eyes for the better."