Gemma Ryan lives in the UK with her husband and their two young sons, William, 10, and Edward, 6. Both William and Edward have autism, and Edward also has ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome.
Both of the brothers have certain ticks that result from their conditions. When out in public, it’s not uncommon for them to do things like make loud noises or flap their arms uncontrollably.
These ticks often bring them a lot of attention — much of it unwanted. Gemma says her boys have been the subject of strange looks, nasty comments, and unwelcome judgments.
In August 2016, Gemma took William and Edward to a local play center so the boys could release some energy and have some fun. It was during the holiday season, so Gemma thought it wouldn’t be as crowded or hectic.
She couldn’t believe what happened there.
Once William and Edward started playing, the family received what Gemma describes as verbal — and even physical — threats… and she says most of it came from the other parents.
Gemma Ryan lives in the UK with her husband and their two young sons.
William is 10 and Edward is six.
On the surface, you’d never think this beautiful and smiling family have been frequent victims of cruelty from other parents.
But Gemma is now coming forward to expose something she and her children face on a regular basis.
Both William and Edward have autism. Edward has also been diagnosed with ADHD and Tourettes syndrome.
It’s not uncommon for the brothers to display ticks, like making loud sounds or flapping their arms.
The ticks often generate strange looks, nasty comments and passed judgements.
In August 2016, Gemma took her sons to a local play center. Since it was during the holiday season, she assumed it wouldn’t be as crowded, thus making it easier for them to play and avoid confrontation.
Once William and Edward started playing, however, she says an onslaught of verbal abuse occurred.
“A mum had made a comment that I should keep my ‘weird’ boys away from her son and that I needed to understand they shouldn’t be here,” Gemma told Caters News Agency.
“I was determined that I would not be going anywhere and I took Edward to the toilet while William carried on playing.
I overheard the woman in the bathroom saying to her son that she needed to hurry up on the toilet so she could get back and not leave her other child playing with William without supervision.”
“I confronted her and told her my son was not weird and that she needed to educate herself on these kinds of conditions.
Within ten minutes another man arrived with a child and he was playing nicely with William before William put his arm around him.
The dad suddenly went mad and started swearing, saying if my son touched his child again he was going to strangle him. I was completely flabbergasted.
Other people stood up to defend me and he started banging tables before he was asked to leave.
My legs fell under me. I collapsed onto the floor sobbing and crying and put my arms around my kids.”
It took a whole year for Gemma to work up the courage to return to the play center with her sons.
“William is starting to understand more and more that he is not the same as others and that people will often him treat him differently, while Edward is still not old enough to understand,” she says.
In an effort to raise awareness and help make children with autism feel more included and accepted, Gemma and her husband David coordinated an autism event.
The event, which they called “Spectrum,” featured sensory activities, a silent disco and superheroes.
Nearly 1,000 guests showed up!
During the event, William even performed his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which ended up going viral.
“Nobody should feel alone in 2018,” Gemma says.