March 10 2014 Latest news:
by Rory Brigstock-Barron
Thursday, February 13, 2014
The mother of a severely autistic teenager says her son has experienced “vile abuse” and prejudice.
Leo Andrade and son Stephen, 19, have been thrown off buses and out of supermarkets in Archway and Holloway due to ignorance of his disability, she says.
They have joined a campaign started by autistic author Kevin Healey, who is aiming to change the law surrounding cyber bullying, making it a hate crime.
The campaign has attracted support from the likes of comedian Ricky Gervais as well as celebrities Melanie Sykes and Katie Price, whose children have autism.
More than 100 MPs have also pledged their support and a draft bill is set to be read in the House of Commons.
Mrs Andrade, 49, who lives with her three children and husband Manuel in Rickson Street, Holloway, said that since her son was a toddler, they had encountered abuse.
“It would happen at least three times a week. We would get on a bus and, because of sensory issues, if the bus was empty, he would sit and smile. But if it was full and there was nowhere to sit and there were people passing and touching him, he would get upset or anxious.
“He would scream and start smacking his ears and clapping his hands.
“People would get upset and start shouting ‘crazy kid, get him off the bus’ and ‘you can’t control him, you’re a bad mother’. The driver would stop the bus and throw us off.
“Sometimes I felt like I would have to put a sign on his back saying ‘I’m autistic’.”
Despite being 19, his mother says Stephen has a mental age of seven. She said they have also suffered abuse in supermarkets and Mrs Andrade said they were once banned by security at a store in Archway.
Kevin Healey, whose twin brother is severely autistic and who was himself diagnosed 13 years ago, has experienced cyber bullying and death threats. He says many people don’t understand what autism is.
Said Mr Healey: “There needs to be a programme at school from the age of five to educate kids about autism and other forms of mental illness.”
n To find out more about the campaign go to www.autism-campaign.co.uk