A dad who set up a blog to raise awareness of autism has received hits from as far afield as Canada and Vietnam.
Mike Wardley, 31, from Penshaw, only set up his Daddy Fool website a week ago, but it’s already received global attention.
The sales manager established the page to talk about his experiences of being a dad to Olly, five, who was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum (ASD) when he was three.
Entitled Married Dad of an Autistic Lad, the blog is aimed at sharing the highs and lows of raising children with the condition.
Mike, who is married to Kelly, 35, said: “It was actually Kelly’s idea to start the blog as we’d been on the internet and realised that whilst there are lots of blogs from a mam’s perspective, there aren’t many from a dad’s. Especially dads of children with autism.
“Olly sees the world differently to other kids. He goes to a mainstream school, but he is one of only two children with the condition there. Every day is different, he could be having the best day and then something will trigger him and ruin his day.”
Mike says he hopes the online posts will reach out to other parents of autistic children and also help parents who think their children may have the condition.
“We first noticed it in Olly when he was 11 months old,” explained Mike.
“He’d been trying to talk and then when he began walking it was like all the words just fell out of his mouth and he didn’t talk for months and months.
“We’d also bought him a jigsaw and he tipped it out of the box and put the pieces together straight away. It was things like that that made us realise he was different.
“He was diagnosed when he was three after seeing a paediatrician and speech and language therapist, but we actually knew earlier than that.”
Mike says there is support available for parents of children with ASD – which stands for autism spectrum disorder – but it’s important to know where to look.
“Generally, a lot of people just don’t understand the condition,” he said. “The amount of times we’ve heard ‘he’ll grow out of it’ is so frustrating.”
He added: “Help is available, but you have to ask for it. We attended an early bird course run by the autism outreach team at Columbia Grange School, which was really helpful, and Olly sees an educational psychologist.”
Speaking about how ASD affects Olly, who attends Barnwell Academy, Mike said: “He doesn’t know he has autism, or understand it. I think one of the main ways it affects him though is that he doesn’t get distressed about being left alone, like other kids might.
“He’s very independent. He has friends, but he likes playing on his own, and he’ll do it for hours. As parents it upset us at first, but if he’s happy, we’re happy.
“He’s a very cheeky child. He’s short-tempered and stubborn, which may be the condition, or may be just his nature, but he’s very loving too.”
l To read Mike’s blog visit www.daddyfool.com or follow Mike on Twitter @daddyfoolblog