Writing to change attitudes

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 March 2015

Holly Gaunt and her son James

Holly Gaunt and her son James

Archant

STARES and whispered comments can be a regular occurrence for a Portishead mum whose young son has autism - something she hopes to change by taking part in a national disability campaign.

The 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign has been created by the national charity Scope and will see 100 stories published every day in the run-up to the General Election from disabled people or a family with a disabled child. It is aimed at ensuring politicians understand disability in the hope this could later influence Government policy.

Holly Gaunt is a mum to five-year-old James who, at the age of four, was diagnosed with autism.

After a stressful experience supermarket shopping, which saw James run off numerous times and also lash out at his mum, Holly has been keen to raise awareness of how autism can affect a person’s behaviour. She started an online blog, documenting her experiences and sharing her stories with the wider world.

It is because of this that she has taken part in the Scope campaign, seeing one of her entries published as part of it.

Holly, of Lambourne Way, said: “My experience in the supermarket is why I started the blog in the first place and so Scope thought it would resonate with a lot of people.

“It is an everyday experience that most people take for granted.

“I think it is vital that awareness is raised with Government so then the wider public can be better educated, especially when it comes to what 
I call invisible disabilities.

“The only way people can be more understanding of disabilities is if education is pushed from the top.

“Certainly for James that would make a huge difference.”

Since the incident in the supermarket, Holly has sourced cards from the National Autistic Society which she can hand to people if she wishes to explain James’ behaviour. They say he is autistic and describe how this can affect the way a person acts.

However, Holly still feels more needs to be done to ensure people are made aware and have better understanding of disability as a whole.

Her story for Scope describes how she ‘kept everything crossed’ that James would cooperate on a visit to the supermarket.

A short extract says: “Unfortunately, about 10 feet inside Waitrose James decided he’d had enough of holding my hand. Before I could stop him he had bolted around the corner and out of sight.

“After trailing the aisles for several minutes in panic, I eventually located him in the packed café.

“I summoned my strength and managed to hoist him up over my shoulder while he screamed and smacked me in the face.

“I could feel about a hundred pairs of eyes on me and I knew exactly what they were all thinking.

“People don’t realise he has autism, because he looks ‘normal’ – so he is judged by normal standards. To other people, James is just naughty and needs a firm hand.”

To read more of Holly’s online blog visit www.doyouspeakautism.wordpress.com


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