Waleed Aly has shared his experience raising a son with autism and explained why keeping children like him out of mainstream classrooms would be a mistake.
Aly, whose nine-year-old son Zayd was diagnosed with autism in 2011, said Pauline Hanson’s calls to separate kids with autism to keep them from holding back their classmates echoed a major misconception: that all kids with autism are the same.
“One of the problems with autism … it’s not that it’s never true that it can be really difficult for teachers, but it’s that the experience of autism is so diverse that you can’t possibly categorise it in this way,” he said.
“There’s this saying that goes around among people who either have children with autism or are experts in the area: ‘If you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism’. It’s incredibly diverse.”
The TV presenter made the comments on his Project co-host Carrie Bickmore’s radio show with Tommy Little on Hit FM on Thursday afternoon.
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He told the hosts Zayd was “high-functioning” – so much so it was only subtle differences, like an obsession with trains, that alerted he and wife Dr Susan Carland to their son’s condition.
“It showed up in early years when we would tell him off and he would look at us blankly like, ‘Why are you making these noises?’ He wouldn’t pick up the social cues. It was just little things like that,” Aly explained.
Since Zayd’s diagnosis, Aly and Carland had relied on specialists’ advice on how he would learn best, changing their play-style to match his way of processing things.
He argued it was a mistake to keep all autistic kids out of a mainstream classroom based purely on their diagnosis, adding that his son is “thriving”.