Mum’s autism blog up for National award

Gemma Gray an daughter Estella. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Gemma Gray an daughter Estella. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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Waiting for her daughter Estella to be diagnosed with autism was a daunting and lonely experience.

A condition more commonly seen in boys, Gemma Gray found it hard to find information relating to the condition in girls.

But the determined mum, from the Grange in Edinburgh, decided to take matters into her own hands, creating a blog to share her thoughts with others.

Soon she was flooded with messages from other local parents, most of whom were also struggling to get support for their daughters.

Her Colouring Outside the Lines blog, which she began in February last year, evolved to became a support group which currently has more than 1,000 members and Gemma has been shortlisted for a major diversity award.

Estella, now 10, was in P3 when Gemma, 41, realised she responded to situations differently from other children. Gemma said: “Looking back with the knowledge we have now I think we would have spotted Estella’s autism many years ago.

“However, it wasn’t until she was in Primary 3 that we really started to notice it, the stage where kids start to lose their quirky cuteness and their peers become a bit more critical.

“We noticed that Estella was having real difficulties understanding situations and friendships. During the day she appeared to cope, but it wasn’t until she got home she had a meltdown.

“The best way I can describe it is like a can of cola, it spent all day being shaken up and by night it exploded.”

She added: “As autistic girls can present differently to autistic boys, I felt there was a real need to find a ­specific group that dealt with the needs of autistic girls and their families.”

In order to try and connect with others in a similar situation, Gemma started blogging about autism specifically relating to girls, a subject she believes is often “misunderstood, misdiagnosed or just completely missed demographic”.

When Gemma was seeking help, all she could find was were closed waiting lists, no funding, groups for boys, groups for parents of boys – nothing that could help her or her daughter.

Gemma added: “I couldn’t do anything while I was waiting for a diagnosis. We had to wait a year on the NHS Autism pathway for a diagnosis, but we went privately for other advice, as our daughter’s happiness was our top priority.

“I set up the blog and the Facebook group because even though your friends and family can support you, it’s sometimes nice to be able to talk to someone who is going through the same thing and just understands.

“We had so many people messaging us saying they were going through the same thing. It’s a platform we can all be positive on for our futures.”

Autism is a life-long developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people and how they experience the world around them.

Colouring Outside The Lines has been shortlisted out of 22,000 nominations for a National Diversity Award.