“Since I was a child I knew I was different, but until I was 33 I didn’t understand that what was happening to me was that I had autism spectrum disorder (ASD)”, says Aline Bravo (Madrid, 35 years old), the visible face of the last campaign of awareness that the Spanish Autism Confederation and the Gmp Foundation have launched on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, celebrated on April 2. Bravo has been telling her story since 2021 wherever they want to hear it. She is a consultant in an important multinational company, she has three children and it was not until the oldest of them was diagnosed with ASD that she also received her diagnosis. Since then, she has added another challenge to her role as mother, worker and caregiver: to make visible and raise awareness about neurodiversity, both in the work environment and in parenting.

According to data from Autism Spain, one in every 100 children in Europe has a disorder within the autism spectrum, a condition that cannot be cured and that, despite the individuality of each person who suffers from it, normally affects the ability to communicate and individual’s emotional It also makes you have repetitive behaviors and restricted interests, which often limits your aspirations.

ASK. You are a triple mother, a partner, you work inside and outside the home… How does your autistic condition influence your day-to-day life? Does it hinder or help?

ANSWER. Well it depends on the situation. The good part of all this is that I am always prepared for any possible emergency, from a cut finger to the zombie apocalypse (laughs). But, on the other hand, I also have difficulties with routine changes. And with children that is a constant. I can’t afford to panic when we are late, for example, or when the route is changed or someone has to be picked up early, but I must admit that having to be flexible affects me a lot. I always say that I am like an old computer; If I’m starting up and you try to open the word processor at the same time as the spreadsheet, I’m going to hang. I need to start and end my processes individually once I start. The feeling of panic is inexplicable when I can’t finish something. The truth is that I am very lucky with my surroundings because they understand me: in my work I find total flexibility, the children’s schools are wonderful and my husband offers me co-responsibility.

Q. And what is it like raising a child with autism as an autistic person?

R. It is an interesting experience because I see myself very much reflected in him, I understand the reason for his behaviors, I can understand when a stimulus like noise, for example, overwhelms him. He has reactions that I had and that, due to social rejection, I forced myself not to have. I understand what he sees, I understand the patterns he is looking for and that generates a lot of ease for empathy, even though he doesn’t speak. But I also tell you that I also suffer from the same sensory problems as him; It’s a huge effort for me to keep control of my own reactions and have to calm him down at the same time. Many times I also feel like throwing myself to the ground with him in the middle of a tantrum, but of course, I understand that it doesn’t look good as an adult woman (laughs). I think that sensory problems can be seen as silly by a part of society, but for me, for example, noises hurt, and there are also textures that when you touch them you perceive the same sensation as if you were burned with a frying pan.

Q. And how does the rigidity of thought, one of the symptoms that you present, combine with family reconciliation as we understand it today?

R. It matches. My husband knows that my rituals may not make sense to him, but they do to me. Like, for example, my habit of eating with a special fork; I’m sure he doesn’t understand it and he thinks it’s silly, but he respects it. As for children, I suppose they get used to living with what they have, they adapt to our life. My priority is that all their physical, emotional and mental needs are met to the maximum, but of course they see and are aware of my autism and that of their brother. There is a learning curve, and the important thing is that the goal is common.

Q. What would you say the difference from a mother without autism?

R. The main difference is that I cannot do anything that has not been previously checked and approved by myself. I try that my need for information to understand the world does not control all my decisions and allows me to be more spontaneous with my children. I believe that neurotypical mothers have a born instinct and I have to find it, although, of course, that does not mean that I defend my children above all else and that I have a great need to protect them and see them happy.

Q. His father was also diagnosed with ASD. As far as he knows from his experience, what influence does genetics have on autism?

R. I can guarantee that in the case of my father and mine it is pure hereditary genetics. We did not grow up in the same environment and he was not involved in any aspect of my upbringing, having left when I was less than a year old. We met again when he was an adult and it didn’t take me more than 20 minutes to appreciate autistic traits in him. It was a year later that I was able to convince him to seek a diagnosis. I think his life would have been much easier if he had known it from a young age. Of course, it is very common that in the family of a person with autism there are other members within the spectrum, even without diagnosis in many cases, although it has not yet been discovered which combination of genes is responsible.

Q. She is very used to making her status as a person with autism visible. Have you noticed that at some point someone has been able to question their ability to exercise motherhood normally due to having ASD?

R. Of course. Before, I was very afraid to talk about it because it is obvious that suffering from a neurological disorder or a mental health problem is still frowned upon, despite all the efforts that are being made on different fronts to normalize it. There are labels and prejudices associated with autism that are not pretty or funny. I consider myself a capable person, with an excellent professional career of more than 15 years, and even so I have had moments at work in which I have noticed that they spoke to me more slowly, carefully, as if I were a little girl, even if they knew me very well. And if I am questioned like this in an environment in which I have years of experience… how can they not judge my ability to be a mother! Women with disabilities quickly lose our status as women; only our disability is visible most of the time. And that is one of the reasons why I started to make my condition public. I am lucky to know that I will not have problems in my social or work environment for talking about my disability, mainly because everyone knows it. I want it to normalize, to be able to ask for help, to talk about it without fear.

Q. She has been the protagonist of the latest communication campaign for the World Day of People with Autism, #Let’s Call HimByHisName. What do they claim from the collective?

R. I cannot speak for the entire group because the autism spectrum is extremely broad. Personally, what I ask for is patience and understanding, which are free. I understand that no one is required to put up with me or my child or treat us in any special way. But we don’t want to be judged either.

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By Nail

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