Gillian Geddes, 36 Group
Gillian Geddes discusses representing an autistic mother in public law Children Act proceedings, outlining the difficulties her client presented with due to her disability. Autistic characteristics are likely to include difficulties with communication, understanding body language and children’s emotional cues, appearing insensitive to the views and needs of others, sensitivity to perceived injustice and a somewhat ‘black and white’ view of issues. The local authority criticised many of these characteristics, arguing that they were emotionally harmful to the children, and seeking to remove the five children permanently from their mother’s care. The article describes the protracted fight to keep the children with their mother, the obstacles faced in achieving fair assessments and in identifying the appropriate support for the mother, the recommendations and guidance provided by the experts, and the difficulties encountered in ensuring that these recommendations were carried out in practice. For a diagnosis of autism, an individual’s symptoms must have a ‘significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning’. However, just because there is no psychological therapy or medication available to reduce or eliminate autism, being autistic is not a bar to being able to provide parenting that is ‘good enough’, with the right support.
The full article will be published in the August issue of Family Law.