Mother of autistic child standing by her goal

For Marvette Brown, ensuring that her autistic 13-year-old son Camar functions efficiently when she is no longer around, is a goal she aims to achieve.

In an interview with the Jamaica Observer to mark Autism Awareness Month, Brown said she noticed signs of slow progression in Camar’s development when he was about 15 months old.

“He walked late. He started walking a little over a year and I also noticed that at times he was not responding as other children normally would. For example, if you called his name [before age two], he would not readily respond to you,” she said.

According to the World Health Organization, autism spectrum disorder refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language, a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual which are carried out repetitively.

Upon receiving results which indicated that Camar was diagnosed with a severe case of autism at age two, Marvette said she cried constantly, but she and her husband Carey Brown have learnt how to deal with the challenges.

“We always knew something was wrong but when I got the results, I cried and cried…and I cried. Since then, it has been a step-by-step process. It’s very challenging. However, my husband and I decided that it would have to work somehow, as these are the cards that we have been dealt. We said, ‘This is what it is and we are going to be trying our best’,” Brown said.

Research in the United States indicates that autism affects one in every 54 children, according to Professor of Child Health, Development and Behaviour Maureen Samms-Vaughan.

Brown described Camar as a loving, perceptive and crafty teenager with a disarming smile, who enjoys listening to music and playing with a ball.

“He loves to listen to music — he likes when you play the drum for him. He also loves playing with a ball. I have noticed that he has a lot of skills when using the ball. He will throw it up in the air and even though he is not looking to see where it will fall, he will catch it,” she said.

She pointed out that some people have little or no knowledge about the autism spectrum disorder which causes them to react impolitely.

She added that although she does not have lot of bad experiences when travelling with Camar in public, she recalled a store attendant uttering a rude remark, when Camar decided not to accompany her to the store when purchasing his school uniform.

“A couple of years ago, I went into a store to buy school uniform for him and he did not want to come into the store. I left him in the car and went into the store and bought the uniform,” he related. “I was looking at it to see if it would fit, then the young lady asked, ‘Why not bring the child in? I told her why, and she responded, ‘A wa kinda pitney dat?’ “It just shows that persons really don’t understand the challenges that children go through,” she said.

Brown also shared her experience about spending time with Camar for online classes during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a bit challenging but the good thing is that his student assistant is there with him, so she will help him to navigate because he will not sit and work by himself,” she said.

Adding that she also got the opportunity to witness his growth, she said: “What is good about being in the pandemic, is that I was able to see him develop; I was more in tune with what was going on with him academically — I got a level of appreciation of what was happening.”

She noted that being a part of Jamaica Autism Support Association (JASA), which is a support group for parents of autistic children, she has received a lot of help.

“What I like about JASA is that it helps you a lot, you are not alone. There have been quite a few educational programmes that have helped as well. It has also allowed me to form new friendships,” she said.

Brown is encouraging other parents with autistic children to talk with family members and seek assistance from autism support groups to learn more about the condition.

“Talk about it, don’t keep it inside, talk to a family member, many persons don’t understand everything but talk with them. Also, get with a support group because when you get together with persons who share similar challenges, you can express yourself and you can get information that can help you. One thing I have learnt, is that while each child is different, there are some similarities,” she said.

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