A SCOTTISH mum is to speak at an event in Dubai in a bid to raise awareness of autism and what can be done to help those living with the disability.

Dr Caroline Traa, who lives in Catterline, Aberdeenshire but is originally from Glasgow, has dedicated much of her life to researching autism after her daughter, Rebecca, was diagnosed aged three.

Rebecca, now 25, has “flourished” since leaving school, her mother told The National although Traa says they initially found things difficult following her diagnosis.

“Today she is well and happy whereas back then she screamed from morning to night and had no speech until aged 7”, she explained.

“Originally I was a scientist, I studied microbiology and worked as a petroleum microbiologist so was used to research.

“When Bex was diagnosed I took to studying everything I could about autism to help my daughter.”

Communication is key

April marks Autism Awareness Month but Traa believes we need to go beyond that concept and into something which marks a deeper level of understanding.

“It needs to be more than awareness. It needs to be about acceptance and appreciation for equality in all people.

“I’m fond of saying it’s not rocket science and it’s not. For parents it’s about breaking your language down. Try not to get angry. We need to understand all these behaviours which might be upsetting for us as parents.

“Your child is trying to tell you something when they’re screaming or they’re not sleeping or they’re not eating and normally it comes down to communication or sensory issues.”

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Traa admits she was initially a little unsure about the diagnosis as she thought if her daughter figured out how to talk then she would be fine.

She explained: “I was told that we’re so focused on verbal language that we don’t realise they’re already communicating with us.

“We have to put down our mobile phones and play with them and be with them. Let them let us into their world.”

Network Autism

As part of her drive to help families in a similar situation to what she found herself in upon her daughter’s initial diagnosis, Traa has set up Network Autism.

It’s a social enterprise which aims to help parents and families of autistic people support each other.

“Organisations can be about more than profit”, Traa said.

The National: Dr Caroline Traa is aiming to help parents whose children live with autismDr Caroline Traa is aiming to help parents whose children live with autism (Image: Caroline Traa)

“This is not about trying to scam parents into an expensive programme, it’s about looking after each other and having values and impact and what we make is reinvested into groups and courses.

“We have church halls and community centres sitting unused – let’s rent one where you live and have parents involved with helping others and supporting each other.

“What we need to do is teach people how to play. We’re trying to cut down our language and focus on the vocabulary our children might need.”

For example, on Network Autism’s website, there is a series of flashcards highlighting a different means of communication for those living with autism.

Dubai trip

Traa is set to speak at an Autism Connect event in Dubai on Sunday to raise awareness of the disability and the kind of work she is doing.

She adds how proud she is of her own daughter.

“Rebecca will always need support all of her life. She won’t lose that diagnosis. I think parents think that might miraculously happen sometimes.

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“She has flourished since leaving school at 18. She loves everything now, she used to be able to do very little.

“Nowadays she loves shopping, going for a meal and she’s going to her first concert this weekend.

“She’s her own person and still requires support but we’re still mindful of what she finds difficult.

“I guess the main thing I’m trying to say is that everybody’s life is valuable.”

To find out more about Network Autism - click HERE