Mum Designs T-Shirts So People Will Stop Calling Her Autistic Son "Naughty"
Caring for a child with autism can be challenging enough without strangers judging you.
This is something that 41-year-old Kellie Baker from Herne Bay, Kent knows only too well, and understandably, she's had enough of strangers' unsolicited comments.
Kellie's son Oscar was diagnosed with autism along with epilepsy and a brain condition called global development delay aged just 18 months.
Throughout Oscar's life, Kellie has found that he has been told by strangers to "shut up" and that many other people have told her that they would "smack him" if he was their child. Oscar often shouts in public or appears to an outsider to be acting "naughty".
Kellie has said that because her son looks "normal" from the outside, her family often receive "disapproving glances" and "barbed comments" from people that think Oscar is just being naughty.
To combat this difficulty, Kellie has started to make clothes that have a message printed on them pointing out that the child wearing the t-shirt has autism. The t-shirt has an image of a bee and the words "kind, I have autism".
The t-shirt will hopefully prompt people to realise that the child has difficulties, making them aware that they shouldn't be cruel and tell him to shut up or tell Kellie how to deal with it.
Kellie said: "When we go out, it doesn't look like there's anything wrong with him - he looks like a normal run-of-the-mill kid. Oscar does have unpredictable behaviour, though. He gets lots of looks and gets called naughty by adults."
She added, "We've had 'for god's sake, shut up' because he can really scream. We have experienced people saying to us before 'if he were mine, he'd be getting a smack'".
Naturally, comments like this make Oscar feel even worse as he can become anxious in unfamiliar or hostile surroundings, or if he feels claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Kellie said, "It can trigger a meltdown with him. Sometimes Oscar's behaviour can make you go 'wow'; he could be on all fours in a public place taking his shoes and socks off."
Kellie's range of clothing is called Born Anxious and also features t-shirts with messages like "unpredictable and amazing" for both children and adults.
She said, "It's about informing people in a really gentle way that he may need a wide berth when we're out. Someone could go up to him, say 'hello, mate' and ruffle his hair without realising that could ruin our whole day."
Kellie says that she has had a positive reaction to her products and that it has made a lot of people be kinder. The collection also includes tote bags, baby clothes, and vests with a range of messages.