When Debby Elley’s twins were three years old they were diagnosed with autism. The mother from Stockport was shocked — she knew very little about the condition or what it would mean for her sons, Alec and Bobby.
Mrs Elley threw herself into learning about the condition, left her job as an editor in a busy newsroom and used her experience to co-found AuKids, a resource for parents of autistic children.
Eleven years later, and to coincide with Autism Awareness Month, The 47-year-old has written a book for parents, to fill what she describes as a “void” in information on how to cope.
Mrs Elley said: “There are many books on autism, some written by professionals, others personal accounts by parents. But it is unusual to have a bit of both. I now feel in a position to share my experience.”
One of the things she would have liked to prepare her for was the anxiety her children would struggle with as a result of being autistic. “It is the single biggest thing that impacts people with autism.
“If you can understand that, it is easier to help them cope with things that might make them more anxious. You can learn about ways to limit the anxiety caused.”
Published next week, her book 15 Things They Forgot To Tell You About Autism, includes anecdotes and coping strategies. Mrs Elley said having children with autism had “limited the family in some ways, but there are joys it brings too.
“My boys were able to have a joint barmitzvah and at the start of the autism journey that is not something I thought would be possible.”
Having a supportive rabbi willing to work with the family and overcome hurdles such as reading from the Torah, had helped.
“Menorah Synagogue in Manchester were great. Autism doesn’t have to get in the way.
“I want to help other parents embrace it, learn to deal with it and find a way for it to work within their lives.”