Amaiyah is six, and lives in Glasgow with her mum, dad, younger brother and sister.

She is autistic, and mum Anisah explains: “I’ve had parents literally back away from me when I’ve told them she’s autistic. Like it’s a disease. And I’m like ok, well, that’s not very nice. It’s really annoying that people can be so uneducated about it, but then I suppose they don’t have to deal with it unless they know a child with autism.”

Amaiyah’s condition

Anisah says that she was searching for a diagnosis right from when Amaiyah was born. “When she was a baby, we knew she wasn’t developing properly. They said it was more than likely autism. It took a long long time for a diagnosis because no one would listen to me. But after appointments with specialists and watching her develop, I’ve learnt a lot more about her autism and thankfully we did get the diagnosis.”

One of the biggest challenges for Amaiyah was communication. “Her speech wasn’t there at all, she couldn’t talk. It was really fast mumbo jumbo. She couldn’t express herself at all, so she’d lash out and become angry. She was biting and everything.”

“Finally the health visitor agreed and said we should visit a speech therapist. Amaiyah didn’t have much time with her, but in the time that she did have, the therapist taught her so much. It made a huge difference to her and the way she could communicate. Even if she couldn’t talk, she started pointing at things she’d want.”

“Then she got sent to Southbank, the child health centre, and she got two visits to there and was diagnosed pretty quickly.”

How it affects Amaiyah

Anisah explains that Amaiyah’s condition has also affected her socially. “She’ll play situations over and over in her head, and then she’ll start stimming where her hands go rigid and her eyes roll back. It affects her socially, because people don’t really understand or know how to deal with her.”

Socialising became a challenge that Anisah wanted to tackle when Amaiyah started nursery. “In a couple of nurseries we found that she was playing by herself. She was in her own world, doing her own thing, but she was never involved in anything. That really annoyed me, because I felt she wasn’t getting the support she needed from the staff.”

“We took her out of that nursery because of various things, and took her to another nursery. But not long after starting there, Coronavirus happened. She did manage to a lot in that sort period of time though, as they focused on helping her. She developed really well in that time, but then lockdown hit and summer holidays hit, and she regressed.”

“But when she started school in September, everything clicked. She was learning well, and the teachers were saying she made lots of friends and was very popular.”

When lockdown hit, it had a big impact on Amaiyah. “It knocked her out of her whole routine. She likes her routine, and she missed her routine. Even though I tried to explain the virus to her in a kid friendly way, she still couldn’t grasp why she had to stay of school or not see her friends.”

And yet with everything she’s been through in such a short period of time, knowing it hasn’t affected her too negatively means so much.

Impact on the family

Anisah adds that Amaiyah’s behaviour can have an effect on her younger siblings. “She has a brother who is three and a half, and a sister at 18 months. When Aiden was born she didn’t take to him well. She didn’t like him. She’d push him off the couch and things like that! She’s poke him in the eye. They could never be left in a room together, even for two seconds.”

“They just know it as their sister. Even though Aidan is very advanced and intelligent, he’s still too young to understand things like autism. They just see her as Amaiyah.”

How we helped

“Family Fund helped us with an iPad for Amaiyah – an iPad is really the only thing that calms her down. Otherwise, she’s jumping around and she’s not settled.”

When she didn’t have the tablet, she didn’t have a focus. She couldn’t focus on anything. She would run around and scream, and have tantrums. Her tantrums were off the scale.

How it made a difference

“Ever since having the tablet she’s really come into herself. It’s let her focus on things more. I do believe it has helped her a lot.”

She can use certain apps to play games and design things and draw things. Oddly enough the biggest difference is that it’s helped her communicate, in particular communicating through play. She does some play now with her dolls house, which she never did before.

“She also uses it for video calls with her grandpa and her granny, she does that a lot. That’s the only contact she’s had with them recently, because her grandpa is very ill and is scared of coronavirus. It’s not great, but at least she can communicate with them.”

“She downloads whatever app she wants to play on, fixed by age settings of course. She can play what she wants and it gives her some space in her own little world. The difference it’s made to her is unbelievable. It may seem like something so small but I can’t thank you enough.”

How you can help

If you would like to support more families like Amaiyah's, please donate to Family Fund.

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