A pioneering support programme has been described as a “lifesaver” by a couple whose son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
Linda and Gordon Bell, from Lenzie, found out eight-year-old Lewis had the form of autism in 2011.
At first they felt as if there was little help available, but all that changed when they got involved in the National Autistic Society (NAS) Daldorch Family Support Programme.
The scheme - which is supported by the National Lottery - offers a number of services, including an information helpline, group seminars and one-to-one guidance in the family home.
Linda said: “After Lewis’s diagnosis I felt we were just handed a pile of booklets and left to get on with it. There was no follow-up. I‘ve often thought that if Lewis had been diagnosed with an illness or another disability, there would be more understanding and support.
“Like many people with autism he struggles in social situations. Nursery was difficult - a roomful of children, their noise and activity, just overwhelmed him.
“I see now he was keeping out of the way of things that disorientate him. He would play alongside other children, rather than with them and it made him seem aloof.
“Trying to make sense of what was going on around him would make Lewis overwhelmed and tearful. He would become frustrated and there were meltdowns and rages, then afterwards he would be so apologetic. I couldn’t understand what was upsetting him and I couldn’t make it better.”
“The Family Support Programme’s seminars helped us talk to parents who were going through the same experiences as us. After being isolated for so long, this felt amazing. They knew and understood what we were going through, and I was able to pick up tips and techniques I had never dreamt of.”
Since being set up in October 2011 the programme has helped more than 1,800 families across Scotland from its Ayrshire base.
Linda and Gordon are now one of ten families across Scotland who are keen to share their success stories - and encourage high-level financial support for the programme to continue.
More than 58,000 people in Scotland are thought to have autism, with more than 200,000 families affected by the challenges of the condition every year.
Shona Pinkerton, Principal of NAS Daldorch House School, who leads the service said: “In the overwhelming number of cases, families have the lion’s share of caring for children with autism. This can bring rewards, but also present a wide range of complex challenges. Often very little training or support is available for families to tackle these challenges.
“The Big Lottery Funding has meant that much-needed flexible, individually tailored support is accessible for more families affected by autism than ever before.
“The Family Support Programme not only brings radical, positive improvement to the lives of people with autism and their families, in the longer term it also means significant savings to the public purse.”
For more information call 0808 800 4104.