'I would not have my autistic son any other way,' says Emma Noble, of former British PM John Major's grandson, Harry|
LONDON, UK: The British model, Emma Noble, has spoken for the first time about the pressures of bringing up her autistic son, the grandson of former Prime Minister, Sir John Major.
The former wife of Sir John's son, James Major, said that their seven-year-old child, Harry, was "a hostage to his rituals" and often stayed awake for up to 22 hours a day.
But she said that his autism, which doctors diagnosed four years ago, made him who he was and that she would not want him any other way.
"My life would be empty without my son and the experience we have been through together," she said."He makes it easy for me to accept because he makes me proud every day, proud of his achievements and of how hard he tries. There is no part of me that mourns the mother I could have been to a son without his condition. I simply don't know that person."
Miss Noble, 36, said she first suspected that something was wrong with Harry when he stopped answering to his name and became incapable of feeding himself.
Her fears were confirmed when a paediatrician assessed him and told her that Harry was "very bright but also autistic."
"Ridiculous as it sounds, the only thought in my mind was: 'What, do you mean like Rain Man'?" she said, referring to the film starring Dustin Hoffman. "That showed my ignorance and how little I knew about autism at the time."
Since then Miss Noble, who is determined to raise awareness of the condition, has campaigned on behalf of the National Autistic Society. "I could tear my hair out every night wondering why. There is no autism in the family and Harry did not have the MMR jab because I knew there was controversy over potential links to autism," she said.
"I don't want to betray Harry but it is only a matter of time before someone asks about my connection to autism and I have to tell them I have been gifted an autistic son and that I feel blessed to be his mum."
Miss Noble added: "Harry needs to know what is going to happen and in what precise order. There can be no surprises. When he goes to bed, he might have to touch the curtain a specific number of times and then similarly flick the light switch, climb the stairs in a particular way, ask if the cats are in their room, check the hall light is on and that the door is open at precisely the angle he wants. And he might make these checks 20 times."
Harry attends a mainstream primary school with one-to-one support from a specially trained teaching assistant.
Miss Noble also hinted that Harry did not have a close relationship with his grandparents, John and Norma Major, since she and nightclub owner James divorced four years ago.
She said she had had to write to tell them about Harry's autism and that they were "busy" people.
She said: "I'm sure they love their grandson very much, but they are busy people. They have him to stay when they can and John sends him postcards from wherever he is in the world."
(Sources: Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, October 22, 2007)