Parents of autistic boy to lead awareness rally

PUBLISHED: 14:31 25 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:21 25 August 2010

HUNDREDS of parents are poised to march on Downing Street to raise awareness of the hidden epidemic - autism.

THOUSANDS of parents are poised to march on Downing Street to raise awareness of the “hidden epidemic,” Autism.

Lara and Mark Hawkins, of Eden Road, Crayford, helped gather parents from nationwide to call for more research into autism and for more support for parents, on Saturday.

Their autistic son Edward, six, goes to Joydens Wood Primary School but his mother packed in full-time work to be on call’ to step in and deal with his unpredictable behaviour.

Mrs Hawkins, 38, originally from Swanley, said: “We have given up on big charities like the National Autistic Society because they are not interested in the pain parents go through.”

The part-time swimming teacher at David Lloyd gym, Sidcup, added: “Edward can find it very hard to express himself and ends up hitting things which appears violent. He is very misunderstood.

“There are thousands of children like Edward and many of them end up getting excluded from school or not going altogether.

“It’s like the government are happy to keep their eyes closed.”

Edward’s behaviour is usually not a problem, but as a talented child with the reading age of a ten-year-old, he becomes frustrated with the regular school work he is set.

Hundreds of parents are expected to attend the march on Saturday which was organised by Mr and Mrs Hawkins and four other families acting under the name Open Your Eyes to Autism.

The action follows Cambridge University research suggesting that autism rates are nearly twice as high as the traditionally accepted rate of one in 100 children.

Mr Hawkins, a 42-year-old IT analyst, said: “Autism is a hidden epidemic that affects the parents on an unrecognised scale, from medication to schooling to adult care.

“I think special schools are overwhelmed because there are not enough places to allocate.

“Some thirty years ago they said autism affected one in 10,000 children. Today, we think the figure for boys could be as many as one in 38.”

A mandate consisting of a letter from each parent march, was prepared to be handed in to 10 Downing Street.

Christine Bett, deputy chair of Bromley Autistic Trust said that on top of schooling needs not being recognised, too little money was spent on research into autism.

She added: “Autism costs £28 billion to the country each year through care and lost working hours.

“Everyone knows what cerebral palsy or leukaemia is, and whist autism affects more people than those put together, it receives half the attention.

“The huge effect it has on families is not being recognised.”

A Bright Blue’ coffee morning will be held at Bromley Autistic Trust, in Southlands Road, Bromley, from 11am, on April 2.

The London Stand Up for Autism rally begins at 2pm at Temple Tube Station, this Saturday.

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