IT'S JUST over a year since five-year-old Aidan Kay was diagnosed with autism. At first his mum Susan thought her son was simply "a bit of a handful". But when his behaviour deteriorated and upset other kids at playgroup, the family sought professional help.
"I used to get really annoyed with him because I just thought he was being naughty and I didn't fully appreciate why he was doing things and what was causing upsets," explains Susan Kay from Westhill, in Aberdeenshire.
"I am calmer now and can deal with my emotions much better, which helps him. Just being aware makes a difference," says Mrs Kay, who has launched a support group for parents of autistic children.
Mrs Kay spoke about her personal experience at the launch of a new information resource to help parents whose children have recently been diagnosed with autism, and adults whose condition was identified later.
Next Steps is a three-year pro-ject launched by the National Autistic Society Scotland in partnership with Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councils and funded by the Scottish Executive Education Department to give support and information to those diagnosed, and to their families and carers. It will be introduced in partnerships with local authorities throughout Scotland in the early months of this year.
Autism, including Asperger's syndrome, is a lifelong developmental disability affecting an estimated 50,000 Scots. It is a spectrum condition, and affects people with varying degrees of severity.
"In some cases I have heard of, you've just been given a diagnosis and you are left to find out about it yourself, and it's sometimes quite difficult," says Mrs Kay.