Mark is the proud father of James, and a staunch advocate for bringing about change for children, young people, and young adults with additional needs and disabilities, and their families.
An ally himself, he understands the importance of having a supportive network. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a professional or a complete stranger, knowing there are people out there who are willing to learn and understand can be a huge source of comfort.
Mark and his family do their best to support James, but when onlookers make unpleasant comments when they see James behaving a little bit differently, it can be disheartening and hurtful.
Visiting a public place such as a café can take a lot of preparation, so when people respond with judgement, it undermines their hard work and adds to the existing feelings of isolation.
It can be hard for all of them, and especially James, when people are being unkind. In these moments, Mark worries about how James is feeling; what his thoughts are. He won’t know why people are being like this towards him. As a parent, Mark just wants to protect and help him.
One of James’ favourite activities becomes disrupted by judgement from other customers. People’s intolerance and lack of understanding can be difficult to experience, and this is why Mark continues to fight for acceptance and inclusion through his advocacy work.
But the presence of an autism ally makes all the difference. When a stranger offers up her table at the café, Mark’s family are overcome with gratitude. It makes their experience just that bit easier, knowing that they’re not alone and there are people who support them.
The staff at the café are kind and thoughtful. They love James and go out of their way to ensure he has the best possible time when visiting them. Thanks to their caring and supportive attitudes, Mark and his family love coming back each time. It means so much to his family – they appreciate every effort, no matter how big or small.
The kindness and compassion from strangers serves as an uplifting reminder that there are people out there who are empathetic and accepting. It’s a source of hope and optimism which drives Mark further in his advocacy and passion to instigate positive change for the autistic community.
His Top Tip: It doesn’t take much to be an autism ally – a small gesture of kindness can make a world of difference.