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(UK) NI: Mother has 3 with ASD; "With one in 20 children having diagnosis in Northern Ireland"

April 4, 2024, Belfast Live: North Belfast mum opens up on baby son's autism diagnosis after spotting 'classic signs'

“Conor would struggle understanding relationships, and needs support with his social and emotional needs.”


When Michelle Clarke found out that her eldest son was autistic, she wasn’t completely shocked.

Since then the North Belfast mum has acquired the knowledge to deal with it as she now has three children with autism. It all started with her eldest Conor, now 11, who received his diagnosis at the age of two and a half.

"Conor was quite young at the time of his diagnosis but he was displaying some of the classic signs," said Michelle, 39, who has shared her story to mark World Autism Acceptance Week.

"He was very textbook - he lost his speech, had no eye contact and it was very hard to get him engaged in anything other than what he wanted to do.

"I didn't know much about autism up to this point but everybody around me did. The health visitor worked with me behind the scene and got an appointment set up with the Child Development Centre (CDC).

"Conor got his diagnosis within a year which was quite quick. I have three other children, two of whom are also autistic, and a baby showing symptoms, and it's a much longer wait for a diagnosis."

While Michelle now has the knowledge about what autism actually means for their child, for other family members, it was a bit more difficult in the beginning.

She explained: "My dad didn't really understand it and he just thought Conor was a bit different than everybody else and maybe needed a bit more time. As time went on, Conor needed a lot more support like visual aids. . . .

This World Autism Acceptance Week, which runs until next Monday, April 8th, Autism NI is encouraging everyone to get behind their important message, ‘Be Kind to Different Minds’.

With over 35,000 autistic people in Northern Ireland. the local charity is encouraging everyone to get involved and show their support for our vibrant autistic community. . . .

Conor and Autism NI’s Family Support Manager, Kris Morrison, are supporting the ‘Be Kind To Different Minds’ campaign(Image: Autism NI)

Conor added: “Autism acceptance to me means that people understand and accept autism and all its forms, there is a wide spectrum, and we are all different.

“I am supporting Autism NI’s message to ‘Be Kind To Different Minds’ as it would make me feel accepted and comfortable to stim, and be myself in public.”

Autism NI’s Family Support Manager, Kris Morrison, said: “This World Autism Acceptance Week it would be great if the wider public could support our ‘Be Kind to Different Minds’ message. 


“With one in 20 children having a diagnosis in Northern Ireland, we campaign to inspire and educate local people, communities, businesses, and government to ensure everyone can understand autism, and how to support autistic people and their families.

“Together we can build an inclusive society in Northern Ireland and give our autistic community the best tools and opportunities to live fulfilled lives.”

Autism NI provides vital services for autistic people and their families throughout Northern Ireland, and campaigns for autism understanding and acceptance within society.


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