Hello and welcome. I sound like the headmistress of a school...but, really, hello and welcome.
I guess the idea for Autism Threads clothing apparel came about from the many occasions where I wish I had the words "I have autism" tattooed across my now 7-year-old sons' forehead. Or at least had the guts to suggest that's what I do to the rather judgemental and unforgiving public out there. I kinda put the shoe on the other foot as it were, and thought, well, how would I know if a child had autism or not just by looking at them? And if I didn't know anything about why autistic children can behave the way they do, or even just what autism is, then of course I could be giving those same judgemental and awful looks (in fact, I had probably done just that on occasions before my own sons' autism came to light). So then, how to help give others, not in the know that split second visual cue that immediately allows them to adjust their expectations and not judge, and to hopefully understand and learn too? That's essentially how this business idea and the products came to be.
I have been using a rather strongly worded cardholder from the National Autistic Society that has "Autism Alert" printed on it and when we are out and about with Henry it gets propped up on the restaurant table, and slapped down on the seat tray for air hostesses to see, and added to the supermarket conveyor belt at the till etc. I carry it around on me and in my back pocket trying to make it as visible as possible, and it actually works. It allows me to feel as though I have given others a heads-up and supported my son without having to tell every person we meet in public over and over again that he has autism hence his behaviours, making me feel like I am labelling and belittling him. Or, alternatively saying nothing and spending sometimes weeks recovering from the types of looks and comments that have come my way (and then they get away with it, and remain uneducated about autism also), drives me nuts I tell you. Someone once advised me to simply not make eye contact and focus on Henry who to date has no idea why people might find him rude/weird/naughty so that I wouldn't see the horrible looks and then I wouldn't be hurt by them. That's not exactly helpful for the greater cause though is it? i.e. raising awareness, helping others to understand and to feel they can ask questions even. I quite often do the complete opposite of the advice I was given and probably scare the life out of 'others' as I walk around with Henry like some sort of wound up Avatar creature waiting to pounce on them if they so much as even raise an eyebrow at him. Henry is so heavily curated by me that friends have even assumed he is not actually severe (chortle vomit spew). Can they not see how utterly exhausted and consumed I am not letting this little boy out of my sight for even a nanosecond and timing his every single move, mouthful, word, action, step? I feel as though I am not letting him be who he really wants to be sometimes and trust me when you shut everything out and join him in his world and observe and mimic and just be, it is a truly astonishing, heart-achingly warm and wonderful place to be. Sadly the odds are against him in the public domain and I have a duty to make sure he can survive and find a way to be happy in a world so alien to him, starting with teaching him that one waves one's hand when saying hello and goodbye. Now, who on earth said we all had to do that and why? When you think about how ridiculous and illogical it is to someone like Henry it starts to make you take his side and say, that is a strange social norm now, isn't it? Even the words 'hello' and goodbye' are foreign to Henry so he never says 'hello' (not a great start socially) and uses 'goodbye' quite often because he has worked out that that is when people stop engaging and leave.
So, Autism Threads began with the idea of tshirts, clothing and accessories usually worn or seen in public such as the products you will see and it grew to me thinking about a brand and realising how much I wanted to support parents like me trying to raise a child who has autism; to educate those who do not know much about autism on what to expect and how to approach and treat those who have autism, and to have a sense of humour about it all through sharing what it's like for me and Henry and our family living life with autism. All these threads, much like the many many threads that make up Henry's autism, have come together to form our website and quite literally, the clothes too. I wanted to design something that I would genuinely choose to buy for Henry or me because a) it looked good b) was stylish and tasteful c) good value and d) had subtle discreet and positive captions/messages. The pin badges have been designed with children and adults in mind to be used on backpacks etc. or worn on suit lapels and jackets as a very subtle way of raising awareness, like many other pin badges out there, and I hope it prompts people to stop and ask.
I already know there will be those who do not like the idea of these products, some parents of autistic children included, who will see it all as labelling or, adults who have autism feeling as though I am a "curbie" or a "normie" I believe they call us neurotypicals! All I ask is that you be kind. My son Henry is largely non-verbal and yet he is not anti-social, this is one of the ways I can protect both him and me from being socially ostracised and set expectations so that hopefully questions can be asked from which understanding and awareness will grow, to the benefit of all those living life with autism. I want to give back to all those who work with my son every day and to actually do something for autism by donating to the National Autistic Society and helping provide financially for my sons' future (job prospects not looking good). And finally, because for the first time since I can remember, I have the time, well, in-between the half term and end of term holidays of three children in three different schools with three different sets of holiday dates!
Trish, Henry and our family x