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Creating products with a cause - with Trish ODwyer - Autism Threads
Episode 1051st April 2022 • Bring Your Product Idea to Life • Vicki Weinberg
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**Please remember to rate and review the podcast - it really helps others to find it.**

This week is World Autism Acceptance week. and today I'm speaking with Trish O'Dwyer from a company called Autism Threads. Trish is the founder of an online shop that sells t-shirts, prints and accessories to raise positive awareness of autism support, autistic people and autistic charities, with the aim of starting conversations around autism. 

Trish and I talk about her products, how they came to be, how she designed and sourced them, and where she sells them. We also talk a lot about autism. This was a particularly personal podcast for me, as my son has just been diagnosed with autism. We discussed the different ways that autism can present, the specific challenges for friends and family and how her business was born out of a desire to solve some of these situations. It is a really interesting and unique story, about a product business with a difference.

As always, I would love for you to listen in and let me know what you think.

Listen in to hear Trish share:

  • An introduction to herself and her business (01:43)
  • A brief overview of autism, what it is, how it might present, and the challenges one can face (03:20)
  • The challenges of having a family member or friend with autism (15:12)
  • Why Trish set up Autism Threads, and the idea behind the business (16:06)
  • Why she decided upon t-shirts as her main product (18:22)
  • The change and impact that her products are having (21:40)
  • Her journey from concept to making the t-shirts a reality (31:05)
  • Balancing your vision with practical considerations (37:25)
  • Attending events, and selling her t-shirts in person (40:54)
  • Building your network, and why just having a website isn’t enough (45:12)
  • Her number one piece of advice for other product creators (48:04)

USEFUL RESOURCES:

Autism Threads Website

Autism Threads Facebook

Autism Threads Instagram

Autism Threads Twitter

Trish ODwyer Linked In

National Autistic Society

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Transcripts

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Welcome to the, Bring Your Product Ideas To Life Podcast, practical advice,

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and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products.

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Here's your host Vicki Weinberg.

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Hi.

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So today on the podcast, I have a slightly different episode for you.

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So if you're listening in real time, um, this week is World Autism Acceptance week.

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And today I'm speaking with Trish O'Dwyer from a company called Autism Threads.

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So Trish''s the owner of an online shop that sells t-shirts prints

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and accessories to raise positive awareness of autism support, autistic

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people and autistic charities, and to start conversations around autism.

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She also writes a blog and a monthly newsletter.

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And Trish and I we do talk a lot about her products and how they came to be, how

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she created them and, and source them.

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Um, also importantly, we talk a lot about autism as well.

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So I know that, you know, some of you may be thinking, well, that's

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actually not what I'm here for.

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I'm just here to hear about the products, but I urge you please do

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listen to this conversation with Trish.

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I think it's really important.

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Um, So Trish started Autism Threads with the goal of raising positive awareness

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for autism starting conversations.

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Um, as I say, she donates some of her profits to charitable organizations

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and I think hers is a really interesting and different story.

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And, um, I would love for you take a listen and as always, please

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do, let me know what you think.

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So now I would love to introduce you to Trish

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So hi Trish.

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Thank you so much for being.

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Hi, thank you for having me, Vicky.

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Oh, you're so welcome.

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Can we start with you, please give an introduction to yourself, to Autism

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Threads and what you do, please?

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Sure.

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Myself.

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I'm Trish.

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Um, I, you will pick up from my accent that I was born

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and raised in South Africa.

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Although my mom is Australian, um, and I married a Brit.

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So there's a bit of everything in there.

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Uh, we live in Tunbridge Wells and Kent, and, um, I started in business

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which is an online shop called Autism Threads a few years ago, mainly around

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our youngest son, Henry, who is 11.

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He is non-verbal autistic.

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He has ADHD.

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He's a little bit demand avoidance.

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Um, he has really complex sensory needs as well.

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So, um, just having had two children prior to Henry was a whole different experience.

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And I did not know much about autism until it came to be part of who my

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son is and just felt so inspired to raise some positive awareness and,

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and support families like ours.

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Um, so that's, that's where it all began.

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I recently turned 50, um, last week and that was on St.

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Patrick's Day.

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And interestingly, I am Patricia O'Dwyer.

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Born on St.

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Patrick's day, but I'm not Irish.

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Well, a belated Happy Birthday to you

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50 is quite empowering.

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I just turned 40 2 days ago, which also feels empowering.

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Happy birthday.

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Thank you.

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Yes, it's good.

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New decade.

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It's exciting.

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So, um, if you don't mind Trish, because we're timing the release

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of this episode to coincide with National Autism Awareness week.

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Um, would you mind giving us and I completely understand this isn't going

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to be academic this is just going to be your knowledge and your experiences,

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but would you mind just talking a little bit about what autism is, how

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it might present and some challenges, a person with autism might face knowing

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that this there's a huge spectrum.

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And, um, it's I know this is extremely broad question.

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Um, but just for somebody who doesn't know, who knows very little.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I it's, it's really interesting that because it is difficult, you know?

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When you're trying to start conversations with people and,

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um, tell them about autism.

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It's not something you can really sum up in a sentence.

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Um, unlike other things that people know, you know, maybe more physical

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conditions or cancer or whatever everybody knows basically, but Autism

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needs more than a few sentences.

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Um, it's also, uh, can be quite technical and academic.

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I tend not to focus on those.

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There's a lot of, um, because of the being such a vast spectrum, there

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are people who prefer to call it a neurological disorder and people

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who don't like the word disorder or disability, or I tend personally

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not to focus on any of that for me.

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Um, autism is basically part of who my child is and it always will be, um,

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Autism is not visually recognizable.

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That's the thing I find people need to hang on to the most.

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So you will not be able to look at someone and know that they're autistic.

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Um, and, and that it really is around three things.

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It's social communication, social imagination, and social interactions.

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And those are often three criteria that you need in order

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to get a diagnosis as well.

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Um, and for me, those sum up perfectly, my son's autism.

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So to me, anybody who is autistic.

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Um, will have either difficulty or differences in those three areas.

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So communicating socially, um, you know, my son is non-verbal,

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but it doesn't mean he can't talk.

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He can talk.

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Um, and he has vocabulary.

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He cannot communicate socially, so he cannot even have a two

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word exchange with someone.

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Um, he's extremely clever and he knows the tone of a question as well.

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So he doesn't answer questions.

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That means he couldn't tell you how old he is or where he

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lives or what his mom's name is.

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Um, he might know a couple of things, but he won't answer them,

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um, social imagination.

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And there's a little bit trickier to understand because it's for

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me anyway, I've interpreted it as something around this theory of mind.

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Um, so where you get the sort of very literal thinking, um, that I think

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people often misunderstand as being lack of empathy, which is not true.

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Um, for me, I kind of use an example of like, you could take a three,

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four year old into a restaurant and say, we're going for lunch.

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And very quickly that little toddler will understand the

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concept of going out for lunch.

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You know, it's, it's in a place and we sit down at the table and there's nice food

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and I get a treat or, and that's lunch when you take an autistic person or a

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person who is autistic into a restaurant, Every single experience is different.

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It's new every single time, because it might be a different restaurant.

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It might look differently.

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They take in all the detail before they then understand the social

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concepts of we're just out for lunch.

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So, um, that's the sort of more, the social imagination side and

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again, and vastly varying degrees.

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And then, but then obviously the interaction, um, you know, from, from

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difficulty was just struggling in group conversations and chitchats,

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and banter and things like that to, to real one-on-one difficulty with

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interacting with any other person.

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And it really is because, you know, they are such wonderful human beings.

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They are human, like the rest of us, but their brains are

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wired different differently.

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And that's all it is for me.

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I kind of don't go into the techie stuff too much.

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I'm just a mom.

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Thank you for that.

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It's it's it's I find as well, it's really hard to sum up because every child, every

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person with autism, they're so different.

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I mean, as we all are so different and I feel like you can't sort of

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say it's this or it's that, um, I was mentioned to you at the beginning

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of the call that my nine-year-old, um, was diagnosed with autism.

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Um, and I'm sure that if we were to speak and we were to talk about

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our sons and how autism presents.

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There might be some similarities, but I think there probably be

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so many differences as well.

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Um, and, and this is the thing that I have struggled the most

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with actually since getting the diagnosis is that it's not one thing.

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And also in my experience, it changes as well.

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So my son has some issues now and some challenges that we didn't have a year ago.

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For example.

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So, um, one thing we didn't touch on is sensory things, but he's becoming

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a lot more sensitive to touch.

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So for example, today it's sunny outside.

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So we put some sun cream on before he went to school, but he has to

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put his own sun cream on because he doesn't like the feeling of

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somebody else touching his skin.

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So I supervise, but I don't do it.

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And then, but he isn't happy because he says he can feel

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it on his skin so he can feel.

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He's very aware of the fact he has something on his skin and that

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makes him really uncomfortable.

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And this is a new thing last summer um, this wasn't really a thing.

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So I think that, yeah, it's, um, it's something that's very hard

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to explain to people I think,

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And I think the sensory side of autism is so underrated and under

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researched, um, because it has such an enormous impact on their lives.

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Um, and also just because, you know, an autistic person can communicate

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like people, I think often.

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Um, sort of think.

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My, my, my situation is more clear cut because my son just doesn't speak.

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So he's automatically into whatever a special school, but you know,

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you, can't an autistic child.

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Doesn't know how to think the way we think.

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Um, so for him to your son to describe how that cream feels for

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him, You know, he can't change the way that that's making him feel.

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He can't, we can't kind of just sort of negotiate with him

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and go, oh, well, it's okay.

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It's just cream it'll sink in.

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And that doesn't, it's not the same for them.

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And he, they feel things to a level that we could never imagine.

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Um, you know, you put yourself in his shoes and think of how much harder it

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will be for him to cope with everything else that's going on at school today.

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Because, because he's got this layer of cream on it.

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That's probably feels like, I don't know that we, to us would feel like

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having a wet blanket on us the whole day, you know, it would drive you mad.

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Yeah, absolutely.

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And it's, and there's all these challenges that yeah.

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You don't foresee if we'll see as a parent, because you're right.

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I mean, we spoke this morning about, okay.

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I can't actually do any, you know, you need to have some sort of sun protection

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on, but I don't know wherever we need to research sprays or different creams.

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Um, and I don't know whether there is a solution, but yeah, you've got your right.

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I'm very conscious of the fact that his day won't go as he would

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have liked, you know, as everyone would like their day to go.

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Because at the back of his mind all day, he's going to be really bothered by

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the fact that his skin feels different.

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And, um, and it's such a hard thing.

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I think, um, I'm only just recently started to get my head

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around these sorts of things.

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But I think this is one thing that makes autism really hard to understand

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is because to a lot of people they'd say, well, that doesn't make

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sense, or that's not logical or.

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You know, they can't put themselves in the shoes of the

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person who's feeling that way.

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Yeah.

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I think that's often one of the hardest parts about autism awareness is, you

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know, there, there is, there is empathy and that can be very surface level.

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Um, but when you are, and you will find it in the close friendships you have as

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well, you know, they'll come in because you, you know, in order to be a true

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friend to an autistic person or to their parents, Um, you really do you have to

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take a moment and you have to really put yourselves in their shoes and you have

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to believe that these raindrops falling on this boy's skin feel like knives.

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And how would you feel in that situation?

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Um, and it's quite hard to get people to go that distance because

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it's so unfamiliar to them.

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Yes,

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you will.

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You know, they, when you tell people about your child's autism or something,

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they might be struggling with that day.

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Um, Your friends will try to, you know, and it's a perfectly natural, and

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actually it comes from a good place.

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They try to sort of, they want to help.

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And, um, so they try to sort of normalize some of the things, you know, like I

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can remember saying once, um, my son, he refused to go to the toilet at school.

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Um, and it was becoming a real problem.

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And, um, You know, uh, because he also can't communicate

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when he needs the toilets.

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And the other Mum had sort of said, well, oh, my son never went

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to the toilet at school either.

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He hated it, you know?

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And that's, she's trying to make me feel better, but I'm wanting to say to

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her, you just, you just don't get it.

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You don't understand this is a whole different ball game.

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Um, because he can't cope with the sensory issue of needing the toilet all day

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while he's sitting there, you know, or.

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We can't figure out why he won't go kind of thing.

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So, yeah.

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Yeah.

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It's a whole other journey.

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And, and like you mentioned earlier, Things will come and go.

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You know, the one thing I've learned as well, you don't, um, when you're

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supporting an autistic child, things, things don't work in a sort of step.

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You know, you take one step at a time and you're making little

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bits of progress at a time.

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There are huge setbacks and regressions, and it's very inconsistent.

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Everything about raising a child who is autistic.

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So inconsistent because we feel different every day.

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All of us don't, we, we wake up in different moods.

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We, some days we feel more sensitive than others.

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Um, and some, some days, you know, they're developmentally in different stages

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or emotionally at different stages.

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So those added sensory things can have a huge impact through different

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stages of their lives and not others and others, I guess they will come to

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understand as they mature and learn to deal with or cope with better.

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But the stress of it will still be there.

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Yes.

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And that's actually, for me was probably the biggest learning

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is that it doesn't look the same or it isn't the same every day.

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Um, and there will be things that were once, a problem.

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And now, you know, uh we're okay.

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For whatever reason.

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And then there'll be new challenges.

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And that's something that I wasn't anticipating, and I don't think

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anyone really tells you, um, um,

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It's very difficult to deal with us, the parents, you know, it's

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upsetting and it's worrying.

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The deep concern

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is, is a huge impact and it has a huge impact.

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Yeah.

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And I think it's also hard for those around you.

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When you talk about those supporting you, because family members, for

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example, they might get used to, okay, so this child behaves in this

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way or this child doesn't like this sensation or, and then that changes it.

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I think it's a lot for everyone in the child's life, actually.

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To what am I trying to say?

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It's just, it's just harder.

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Isn't it?

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It's just hard for everyone.

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It's very hard.

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And then of course, you know, the other layer here, w w I think

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will sort of lead a nice, into talking a bit about your products.

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Trish is that we're talking, you know, about how challenging it can be as the

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friend or relative of person of autism or, um, the parent of a child with autism.

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But then there's of course everyone else in the world who has no idea,

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um, who has no idea that maybe they have no idea what autism is.

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They have probably certainly have no idea that your child has autism.

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And, um, yeah.

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Not just children, but adults as well.

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I think, um, because as you say, it's not something that's immediately visible or

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obvious as are lots of, you know, there are lots of people talked about hidden,

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you know, sort of hidden disabilities can't necessarily tell someone has

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a visual impairment, for example.

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Um, but yes, I think it presents lots of challenges.

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So it'd be really nice to talk a bit about why you set up Autism

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Threads and what your aims are really with the products that you sell.

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Yeah.

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I set it up for that, almost that exact reason.

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You know, I had my Henry, my autistic son, his siblings are quite a bit older

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than him and I had been through the whole toddler primary school well they were in

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primary school, midway through when, when Henry was born and then as his autism

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came to light I just, well, first of all, I, I had no idea what it was either.

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I mean, I'd never even heard of autism.

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I had absolutely no idea.

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Um, I also thought it would be something visually recognizable.

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And I actually, I had no idea about anything to do with the

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world of special educational needs.

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It wasn't in my world and so I didn't pay attention to it.

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And, um, I couldn't believe the way people were treating Henry and I,

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even as a toddler, the kind of looks and stares and the way people judged,

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not only him, but me, um, as his mum, like, um, some sort of terrible mum.

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It really, really struck me because I knew that I had done the same

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thing prior to having had Henry.

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I knew that I had given a parents a dirty look in a supermarket with a kid that

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was probably having a major meltdown that I just assumed was having a tantrum and

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thought, I know, I know I had done it.

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So I just suddenly felt so ashamed.

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And, and then I thought, yeah, but how, how will they know?

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You know, we're so desperate for people to find out about our child's autism and

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to ask us questions and just for us to be able to explain, and for us not to have

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to kind of shout it out constantly and even worse, you know, we go and apologize.

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You find yourself walking up, going.

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I'm so sorry.

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He's autistic.

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Um, we shouldn't have to apologize for them.

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And we're so desperate to talk to people, but they don't know to ask.

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I would never have had the courage to go up and go, oh, is he autistic.

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Imagine if he wasn't, you know?

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And so I just thought I have to, I have to do something I have to, you know,

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initially it started around my own son.

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I had no plans to set up a business.

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I just thought I need a t-shirt I need something visual.

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Um, you know, so that people can get a quick heads up.

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Um, And so I went looking for an autism type t-shirt and I really didn't

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like what I saw, um, and thought, you know, a couple of years later, I just

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thought, you know, you've met, I just got launched into this world of special

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needs moms, and it just opened my eyes.

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And I just thought I have to do something I'm completely passionate about this.

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And I want the awareness to be positive.

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There's so much negativity out there and there's so much shouty type of language.

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And I just thought that's wrong.

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I, for me, for people to accept autism first, they have

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to actually understand it.

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And they will never understand it if we don't give them the information.

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So I felt like with some of my products, they are, you know, captioned t-shirts

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with a whole sentence on the back.

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Um, and it's not really about this lairy message to everyone.

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It's just.

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Something for someone who's standing next to you in the queue or sitting at

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the airport, um, who notices something and can then read the t-shirt and

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think, ah, and then, and then they feel okay to ask those questions.

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Because as a mom, all I want is for people to just ask, then I can

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talk about my child and my child's autism, because as we've mentioned

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there, they're all different.

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And.

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And I cannot stand having to apologize for him all the time, you know?

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Um, so that's where it begins.

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Um, and yeah, the products are obviously based around raising positive awareness.

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I wanted things that, that I would want my child to wear.

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So stylish and tasteful with nice colors, um, you know, um, as

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organic as possible in a sensory soft and comfortable as possible.

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Um, and then, you know, to embrace the autism family, to support the

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carers and the, the moms and parents that are with those children to help

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this siblings embrace autism, feel like they can have conversations.

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If they've got a really cool kind of logo t-shirt on and their friends

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think that's nice, then you give them a chance to talk about their sibling.

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Um, and then also I went into this sort of fashion side of it because I thought,

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well, You know, I don't need to raise awareness amongst the autism community.

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We eat, sleep and breathe it.

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24 7.

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It's the general public you want to reach out to.

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So, um, came up with the idea of more fashion, generic focus

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t-shirts with slogans on them.

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Everyone can resonate with.

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Um, and, and when you buy one of those t-shirts you support an autism charity.

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Um, so, so started on that.

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And then the accessories, the smaller products are things

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that are very affordable.

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They're typically things that you have with you when you are out and about so

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lanyards and pin badges and tote bags.

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And again, it's just an opportunity to start a conversation I'd like people to.

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You know, I don't think parents again are also the parents of autistic

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children are so vastly different and their opinions and their journeys.

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And I think you come to fully accepting your child's autism at different stages.

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Um, and one of the best things about having set up this business and

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going to the markets and events is the conversations I have um, and me

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learn, I've learned so much, I've learned not to judge parents whose

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opinions are different to mine.

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You know, if you, if you need to believe that the MMR jab caused your

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child's autism, that's actually okay.

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Um, and we can all have our different opinions on the therapies they

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need, but we can all come together.

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And, and show a united front and kind of drawing people in to learn

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about autism, rather than pushing them away by going, don't call my

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child this and don't use that word.

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And don't, you know, um, so yeah, I've, I've learnt a lot in the process and,

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and I've met some incredible people.

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So, and like you mentioned earlier, just if I can just, if my son's wearing

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that t-shirt and one person gets to clock it, then, then that's amazing.

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You know, I'm not trying to, you'll never stop people's judgements.

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And some people don't want to know, you know, even when you do go up and

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say, I'm so sorry, he's autistic.

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They go, yeah, sure.

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He is.

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And you're like, oh, okay.

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Um, I just, yeah, one person at a time and, you know, um,

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embracing the community around us.

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It's such, because it's invisible.

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The parents become invisible and you.

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You know, when you have a market stand or something, it's really fascinating because

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you realize that literally it really is 1 in 10 people who come, who walks

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by actually has a connection to autism.

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And that's, that's amazing, you know, that's amazing.

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We need to support each other more.

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That's really interesting.

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And I think you're right.

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I think since speaking out about my son's autism, I found out about,

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you know, people, um, I've a few adults that I know with autism or

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people who have children with autism.

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And I never knew that, and it's almost like if you're on the outside, you just

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not the outside not the right way of saying it, but it's almost like you don't

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know until, you know, and when someone thinks finds out, you know, if you're

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open with people and you, and you talk about it, all of a sudden there were all

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these connections and people are happy to talk, but it's almost like until you have

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that diagnosis or you start going down, you know, you start looking into it more.

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It almost feels like it's something that people don't talk about.

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And which is one of the reasons that I am keen to talk about it.

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Um, as I know you are, because I just think the more of us talk it

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normalizes it and it just, you know, I, I'm not quite sure looking back why.

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Well, not even looking back, but just I'm not sure in general anyway, why?

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But it is something that people don't tend to want to talk about.

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And in fact, I know for myself that sometimes if I mentioned my son having

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autism, there are people who will ask questions and want to know more, but then

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there were other people who are clearly uncomfortable and almost looked like

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they wish you hadn't said that because they're not quite sure what to say.

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Um, and they'd rather just not have that conversation.

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. Yeah.

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I meanthat's partly why I put so much information on my t-shirts

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so that you don't have to.

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I mean, it's, it's quite funny.

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Cause when you, when you have a market stand as well, it's amazing how, you

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know, how autistic people can behave.

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They, they they've come to a market supposedly to shop and yet they don't

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want you to make eye contact with them.

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They don't want you to go.

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Hi.

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Would you like to look at my t-shirts?

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It's hilarious.

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So, so yes, I think the subtlety of the information sometimes allows people to

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absorb as much as they want to or not.

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And it certainly gives them a starting point as well.

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Cause, cause obviously you don't want to feel like you don't really know.

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Um, and I've also had the standard, you know, I can't count

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how many times people have gone.

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Oh, well I, the only thing I know about autism is the Rain

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Man and, or, you know yeah.

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You get that, but you just have to, you have to rise above some of that.

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People people are using very sort of social language.

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And then you just, I've learned to just become, I used to get pretty

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angry, not at them, but I used to get really stressed about it and wanted

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so badly for people to understand.

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But you have to, you have to be a little bit more polite and accepting

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and just, just go with what what's in front of you and take your

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opportunities to be as positive as you can about your, your child's autism.

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And, and you're very brave, you know, the.

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It's not an easy thing to do.

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It's a complicated world.

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And, um, I totally get, I totally get parents who, who don't want it known.

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Um, if you, if you are faced with a child who's in a mainstream school, um,

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you know, you've got a whole, you've got a whole other ball game going

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on, compared to the education journey my son's on for instance, and I've

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learned to fully embrace that as well.

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And I do get it and I, I think they will come to it at some stage.

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And sometimes it's matched with, with how much their own child is prepared

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to accept of their own autism.

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I've met children, 11 year olds or whatever who are completely,

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they think they are amazing.

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They are so proud of their autism.

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Um, I rock it, I need this one-to-one support in my class.

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I'm good.

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They're there there's others for whom that journey is completely different.

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Um, and, and also autism has been perceived so badly in the past.

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that you can't blame these parents.

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I mean, why would you want someone to think you're, you know, these, these

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really crazy ideas, people have of autism and then you want, then they,

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then they start judging your child and that's, that's difficult too, you know?

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So, um, I think it's, yeah, I think it's really important for us

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as especially autism parents to, um, to just embrace each other.

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Absolutely.

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And what I think is.

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One thing is talking about how it's perceived and, and talking about it.

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One thing that I've really, I quite like actually is because my son is young.

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Um, he doesn't, and the first he had of autism was when he got his diagnosis

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and he didn't know anything about it.

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He didn't know any, there was no stigma, but there was no shame.

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If anything, he loves having, it sounds really silly.

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He loves having the label.

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He likes knowing this is why.

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I think like, this is why these things bother me and he's fully

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embraced it, which I love.

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And he really likes to tell people about it because for

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him, it's such a big part of.

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Who he is.

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And it also, I think it gives him comfort that, um, because before we had

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the diagnosis, he kept saying things like, I think something's wrong with me.

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I don't know why I feel like this.

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And there was lots of anxiety around, why am I feeling like this?

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Why does this bother me?

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What, you know, there was lots of why.

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And now he's like, okay, I know why.

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And, um, yeah, I really like the fact that he's, I would almost

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want to say almost proud of having

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you should be

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diagnosis.

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I think it's wonderful.

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And I guess where I'm coming out with this is that I really hope that because there's

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a generation of children coming through who hopefully don't have that stigma that

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may be things in time will, will change if

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absolutely well, I can, I can see it.

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You know, I have, when we go, when we get on an airplane with our son, I really

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do how he's he absolutely loves flying.

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Um, very, very excited for takeoff.

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So I do, I feel for me, it's important to just mention to the people in the

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front of his seat and the people behind.

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I usually put one of his siblings behind because he, he does a lot of

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stemming and rocking in the seat.

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Um, and I'm always blown away because it is always the 20 somethings

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who are absolutely amazing and cool and totally fine with it.

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Um, Yeah, way more so than previous generations who, who who've

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not had the information who are stuck in us in those stigmas.

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So, yeah, I think, and I th I think the schools are changing

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slowly but surely, um, too.

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And I'm I'm so, it's so wonderful to hear about your son feeling proud.

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And even when you hear these stories about adults receiving diagnosis you know,

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the, the vast majority of them feel that it's finally, they understand themselves.

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So that it's a good thing.

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So, and, and obviously for parents is essential because that's your ticket to

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accessing help to get their needs met.

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Yes.

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And I know we are going a little bit off topic kicks.

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I do.

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I get practical and I really hope people are enjoying it.

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And I've noticed that actually the last couple of weeks, I guess it's becoming

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up closer to Autism Awareness week.

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I've been reading lots more stories of adults who are diagnosed

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with autism at a later age.

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And every story that I've read has been really positive in terms of how the

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person feels about their diagnosis.

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I think every single story that I've read the person has said.

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You know, something along the lines of finally.

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Um, yeah.

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Yeah.

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I think it's yeah.

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It's very positive.

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So I just want to come very quickly pack back because, um, so I'm just really

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curious actually about sort of how you went about actually, well, I've got a

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few questions that your first for the actual product, so I'm really interested

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with your t-shirts cause it sounded like you had such a vision for them.

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How did you go about actually making that a reality.

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So you mentioned that you wanted them to look quite cool and you wanted to have the

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information on them, but you also wanted them to be very soft and very wearable

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you covered those sort of sensory things.

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How did you go about actually getting those made?

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Oh, wonderful dreams.

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Um, I, I really visualize myself really actually designing a shirt, you know,

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and having made, um, that, that, that doesn't work in the real world, unless

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you have vast quantities of money and you come from a fashion background

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and you personally know suppliers and pattern makers and China, and yeah.

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So I got some wonderful advice from a friend, a local friend

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who is very involved in fashion.

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Um, who said, um, don't, don't go there.

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You know, you, you have got to think, first of all, you've got to

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think about imagine having how much every t-shirt costs, then you need

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it in every single size available.

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Cause obviously I'm going from children all the way through to adults.

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Um, If you want to buy a t-shirt from a supplier with no label in it,

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that actually costs more than buying the t-shirts with the label in it.

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So it's like, okay, so those will just need to be cut out

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because I can't afford that.

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Um, and so yeah, you have to, you have to adjust.

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I, I absolutely stuck to my own sense of colors and fashion that I

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would want for my own son to wear.

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Um, um, And then I think it helps a lot with, um, you know, my son's godmother

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is one of my really good friends.

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Who's a graphic designer, so I get friendship rates off her.

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And she came up with, I had come up with the kind of information

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and captions that I wanted.

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And then there was a, um, she came up with sort of three different scenarios,

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color palettes, um, That we thought we would turn the t-shirts into as well.

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I was, I was, I was very, and sometimes I, sometimes I still wake up and think,

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do I, do I know what brand, what a brand is I'm not so good at that.

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Um, so she's been amazing on that front and I just, I totally resonated with the,

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um, the thread and the splatter pattern.

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Um, you know, it was describing to her what autism was for me and how my son's

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brain was wired so differently and that it's made of all these tiny millions

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of threads, you know, and then she's will, will then threads or threads as

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clothing threads, as cotton threads is the t-shirt threads is everything that has

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to come together to make this business.

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So I absolutely loved that.

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Um, The people who set up the website for me were also, I mean, I was, I

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was initially thinking of calling it something completely random and then

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the marketing side of things, they sort of impressed upon me that maybe

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having the word autism there was actually going to be vital because.

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Um, if you're not having a physical shop and you're competing with Google, you

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know, getting yourself onto the front page of Google, you, you're going to

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need to have those words and people's search engines and, and focus on

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what, what, what this business is for.

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So that, that was actually quite a brave step in a way, because I have had people

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come up and go, I love that caption, you know, crowded, noisy places, make

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me anxious and then they'll go, but I don't want the word autism anywhere.

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As long as like, okay, you're not ready.

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You haven't embraced that journey just yet.

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Um, so yeah, and then my designer was also amazing with the fonts, the use

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of the fonts and we, you know, a lot of the minty cool colors to, up to me and,

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you know, felt very sort of calming.

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And, um, I don't know if you could describe a font as kind

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of soft and embracing, but, but, but that's, that's where we went.

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Um, I love, I just love what she's done.

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I love the splatter pattern as well.

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Just these kind of, you know, we're all different and splodges, and we're all.

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Um, yeah, so it's, she she's, she gets all the credit for the design.

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Absolutely.

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Um, I was all about the, the wording.

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Um, yeah.

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And, um, I have managed to find, you know, um, some wonderful organic

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t-shirts, which are super soft.

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Um, I've tried to stick to a hundred percent cotton.

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Um, wherever possible.

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And I've also, um, initially wanted to really stay local.

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I wanted to use a local printer and a local, and then, and

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then a pandemic came along.

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Um, so that's also had, had to change a bit, but yeah.

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So, yeah.

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Thank you.

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So do you have the, so do you have your designs printed onto

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the t-shirts that you've sourced?

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Is that how

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yes, yes.

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Yes.

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So I source the t-shirts and have them printed, um, and I've had to change

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sadly, two of, two of my printers have gone out of business during the pandemic.

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So you have to start all over again.

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But that is what it is for everyone.

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Yeah.

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And that is really sad.

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I'm thank you for being so honest about all of that as well, about how

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you had a vision for the t-shirts and how you would do it and how

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that didn't quite go as planned because you do, you do sell t-shirts.

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You do have these physical t-shirts that you sell, even if it's not even if the

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means is not quite as you envisioned at the outset, because I think it's really.

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Really grateful for you to be really honest about that, because

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you don't know what you don't know.

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And quite often I think it, it can almost, it could have put you off.

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It could have put you could have sort of said, oh, well, if I can't get someone

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to manufacture these t-shirts to my exact specification without a label.

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And you know, you could have said, I actually, if I can't have it

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exactly as I want it, do you know what I'm just going to give up?

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I'm not going to do t-shirts.

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Um, and I think that's understandable people do make these decisions?

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So I think it's really commendable that you actually said, okay, no, I

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can't do it exactly how I thought I was going to do it because I didn't know.

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But actually there is another way around it.

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Um, because I think it can be so easy to be thrown off when things aren't

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quite as simple or straightforward or as inexpensive as you think they might be.

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Absolutely.

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And you, it makes you.

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It makes you really focus on why you're doing what you're doing and who it's for.

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And, um, it became because of that, it became something like, well, let's,

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let's embrace the whole autism community.

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There's there's neurotypical siblings who will happily wear a cheaper fashion.

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T-shirt you know, if, well, what are we trying to do here?

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Is it about the feel of the t-shirt or is it about the message?

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And overall for me, it became about the message.

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And I know that I've got a hugely sensory son who, who does wear my t-shirts.

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He loves them and he's, you know, I can cut the label out if it needs to

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be cut out, but he's actually fine.

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And he's been fine with them.

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And then I sort of take my lead from that, like,

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yeah.

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And I think it's good that I really appreciate what you said about sort of

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sticking to, what's actually the most important thing here because you can't

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always create exactly what you want for various reasons, but I think that

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knowing that, okay, the most the most important thing for you was the message.

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And having getting the message out there meant that you knew

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what you could compromise on.

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Um, and I think that's really good because we all have to compromise somewhere.

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Yes.

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It's scenario.

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And then you also have to sort of remove yourself.

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For me as well.

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I, I don't come from a fashion background.

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So I'm, you know, this, this, this can't be about some gorgeous fashion,

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as much as I probably had dreams of things like that initially.

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Um, and it has to be, it has to be affordable, you know, uh,

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because also a lot of moms have to absolutely in with their children.

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You know, an autistic child who doesn't want to wear a t-shirt

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is not going to wear the t-shirt.

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So she's risking spending whatever 15 pounds on a t-shirt that they

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might hate or not want to wear.

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Um so there's no way I could, could make it, you know, as a small business I would

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have, if I'd covered those dream, you know, design my own clothing and wonderful

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fabric, they would have been so expensive.

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And I just think they would have, again, you know, so many of these

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autistic families are struggling you, know, to get those diagnosises in the

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first place and having to sacrifice financially to pay for private specialist

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reports, what could be more important?

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You know, so I felt, and again, again, with the accessories, I had to come

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in with some really, um, cheap, you know, cheap and easy, wonderful, small,

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simple ways to help awareness as well.

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And I feel like, yeah.

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And I think it's really nice to have that because you're right.

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If, if there's someone who says, well, that's quite like a t-shirt, but I

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don't know if I can afford it or not.

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Cause I don't know if my child or I don't know if my child would wear it, actually.

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It's nice.

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They could say, well, we could try a lanyard or we could try

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something more affordable.

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Cause they're looking for a solution I assume and yeah.

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So I think that's, I think that's great that you have things for

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those different price points.

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Thank you.

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And for what it's worth, I do think your t-shirts look fashionable

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thank you.

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That's great.

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That means a lot.

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Thank you.

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And did they, did they honestly do look really nice.

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Um, I just wanted to kind of, I've only got a few questions I promise

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because I know we're coming towards the end of our time together.

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So I was interested when you were talking about doing like

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the market stalls earlier.

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I just wondered and purely out of curiousity cause I don't know.

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Trish, are you going to events for people with autism or are you going to general

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market stalls in the hope of you know, general sort of outdoor events trying

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to raise awareness or a bit of both.

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Um, a bit of both, actually, I, again, I started, um, local.

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I just felt if you you've got to you, when, when, when you

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set up a small business and you it's just you on your own.

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You know, you start with your friends and family, don't you and, and, and

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they all get suckered into buying one of your t-shirts and following you

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on Instagram and honestly, for the first six months or so that those were

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my only sales on my website, where people, my own family and my relatives,

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and, and then the net broadens.

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And it's your friends and it's your social group.

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And, and then it's where you live for me.

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It's the community.

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It's the, the other moms and my son's school.

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It's, you know, so.

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Um, and I did come across some local general events.

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Um, that's I think the lady who ran and probably thought it was

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very brave to do, but I did.

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I don't know.

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I don't know why I do these things.

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I just felt like I needed to start.

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Um, and it, and it was quite interesting because, you know, I was in this

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beautiful little hall in Tunbridge Wells and people were selling earrings

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and candles and gorgeous things.

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And then, and then, then it was me, but I.

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I have, my designer has made my stand market stand look amazing as well.

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So, um, it really does draw people in and even just to see people

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will pass and then I thought, you know, it doesn't even matter.

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It doesn't matter if I don't sell anything all these people are going to walk

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past the stand and see the word autism.

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And I mean, that's, that's epic.

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Um, and the number of people who came and did buy one of those

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little small accessories as a way of contributing towards the charities,

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my product support was incredible.

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And then suddenly people were like, oh, you know, my godson's autistic and yeah.

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And so many people who were like, oh, I've never, never seen things like this before.

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And the idea that they could even maybe buy their autistic relative a gift.

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Which is amazing because that's really hard to do as well.

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Buying presents for autistic children who particularly mine who's, who's

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not, um, accessing education.

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You know, you can't just Google boys toys for age five to seven

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because that's not going to cut it.

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Um, that was amazing as well.

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And so I did, I did start out very locally and also those

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were the stands I could afford.

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Um, and, and then I have, I do now, um, look for autism specific events

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and I've been invited to a number of schools and I've had a lot of success

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with the Christmas markets that some of the schools who have really big learning

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support departments or, um, special needs schools, they're their Christmas markets.

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Um, you know, I'd love to tap into the really big autism event.

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I'm not in their price bracket for them, for this dance just yet.

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And also I'd have to turn up with so much stock.

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You know, I'd have to sell, I dunno, seven, 700 t-shirts to,

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to, to, to break even at the national autism show in London.

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Um, I do, I do visit it and I have some friends at stands who take my

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postcards and things and spread those around for me, which is amazing.

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And that is something I've really genuinely is one of my goals

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to aspire, to, to, to get to the really big autism events.

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Thank you.

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And I think it makes sense what you're saying to start small and start local,

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or because, well, for lots of reasons, as you say for the cost, but also you

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were talking about how your first sales and your website, your friends and

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family, um, personally, I feel it was a great way to start because people are

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going to then wear or use your products.

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And other people will ask where they came from.

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I think word of mouth is how a lot of small businesses get off to a start.

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And I think even if your first however many customers, all people that

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you know, or your neighbors or, or whatever, it doesn't actually matter.

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You just need to get the ball rolling somehow.

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And, um, I'm always surprised when people who have their own small business, aren't

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telling their friends and family about it.

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Cause some people do want to keep it a bit close to their chest.

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But my advice is, yeah.

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Tell everybody and anybody, because you never know who somebody's.

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Knows either it's amazing.

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The connections that you can make just by talking about what you do

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or what your friend does or, um, and it's really, it really is.

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It's such a, you, you, I mean, you, I was advised about some of these things, but I

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don't think it really hits home until you.

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So you actually do it and your website, isn't going to sell your products.

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I mean, it's, it's quite, it's quite shocking realization.

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You know, you, you, you sell your products and this website, you know,

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you have to really work really hard and it starts with word of mouth.

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Absolutely.

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Yes.

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And also even getting people to your website in the first place.

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I mean, the only thing is it's very easy to think I'm going to put up a website

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and then I'm going to sell my products.

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Actually, there's getting creating your website is almost the easy part, isn't it?

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It does no good like that.

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It's really is mind boggling.

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You know, you D you don't, you, you imagine it as if it's a shopfront,

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but you actually, you don't have the footfall cause people aren't seeing it.

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You know, I, you can still Google autism t-shirts now and my website

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probably come up on page seven.

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I mean, who scrolls?

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Even the third entry.

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Um, so to, to work your way up the Google pages, this takes an enormous

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amount and it's the kind of work that you never thought you'd ever be doing.

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Um, you know, ad money type stuff and asking people for reviews and yeah, yeah.

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That I, I still, I still have a lot to learn on SEO.

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I think the thing is running a small business is that there's just so much more

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to do than you could have ever imagined.

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And you know, that's not even about the social media that you need to do and the

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marketing, and there's like the list of jobs for a small business owner is never

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ending and never, always going to be the things that are higher up on the priority

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list and my advice for what it's worth for anybody who thinks, oh gosh, there's so

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much is just focused on what's working.

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So I mean, if you know, your SEO needs doing, but actually you make most of

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your sales on Instagram, focus on Instagram and think about your SEO when

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you've got the time and the head space.

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I think that none of us can be doing or one of the things all of the time.

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No, that's really, that is really good advice.

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And you.

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Uh, I found you kind of the things that, you know, you're not that confident at

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you avoid and procrastinate, and of course there's nobody pushing deadlines on you

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cause it's just you and your own own show.

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Um, so yeah, yeah, that is really good advice.

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So focus on what works for you as well as what's working.

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And speaking of advice, Trish, I would love to get their

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promises is my last question.

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I would love to get your top piece of advice for other product business

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owners or small business owners.

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What's the one thing you think people should know?

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Um, it's a really good, good question.

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I think don't, don't be sort of, um, disillusioned by, you know, or, uh,

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fooled by people's success, especially on social media, there's the, you, you see

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it and you can't help, but think all of these businesses with their very pretty

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posts and are, you know, churning out the sales, that really isn't the truth.

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Um, it takes years, um, pandemics aside.

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And, um, like you suggested earlier to, to focus on your passions

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on your strengths, you have.

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You know, you're going to have to work really hard.

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You, things that you do in the background, you won't realize that

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will actually start to generate sales.

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Um, you just have to keep, you have to keep at it.

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And I think my, my, you know, you have to, you have to make it, you have to

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tell yourself if you're, if you're a personality like me, who says who's

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not full of self-confidence you have to tell yourself that this is that this

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is your business because when you're a mom and you're working from home

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and it's your own small business, you can't believe how, how unimportant, it

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can become to the rest of the family.

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They just seem to assume that it just does its own thing in the background, you know?

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And, and, and you drop everything for loads of washing for family

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lunches for school runs for, yeah.

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You have to, you have to keep making it important for yourself.

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Yeah, that's really good advice.

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Thank you.

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That's great advice.

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And actually, I've got one final question, if you don't mind and I didn't

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actually cue you up with this one.

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So, um, no problem, if you don't want to answer, but I was just thinking that,

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bringing it back to, um, to this week and trying to raise awareness of autism.

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Is there one thing about autism that you would like people to take away,

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you know, if they've got to the end of this podcast and, um, is there

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one thing that you'd like people to, to perhaps know or think about

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For me, it's, it's, you know, we nobody's perfect and we all judge

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each other and we all make comparisons and even autism parents do it.

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So for me, it's, it's, it's, it's one of the captions on my t-shirts.

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It is, is just to Stop, Think and be kind because you never actually really know

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what's going on in someone's life and mind and I could draw that all towards

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autism and being an invisible disability, but it's, but it's everything, isn't

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it, as we, you know, it's the one thing we can aspire, you know, we can look up

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to autistic people for, because if you ask an autistic person how they are, I

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mean, it's such a bizarre question in our social world, we go, oh, I'm fine.

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Thanks.

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How are you?

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And if you're not fine, I know an autistic person would never say that

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they're fine, but when they're not, but we do, um, It's just those constantly,

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it's a choice you make, and you have to remind yourself if you're out and

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about in a shop, even if it's got nothing to do with autism, you look

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at someone and you know, we all do it.

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Don't we like, oh, what's up with him?

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Well, that's a bit odd or geez, did you see what she's wearing?

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Kind of whatever.

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Just those constant little reminders to yourself.

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Stop.

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Think.

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Be Kind.

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You never really know.

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I think that's wonderful advice.

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Thank you.

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And yet something that I try to remind myself such a lot is that

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you don't know what's going on in someone else's head, you don't

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know what kind of day they've had.

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You don't know what phone call they've just taken.

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You don't know.

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What's that worried about?

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And yeah, I think just remembering that.

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Yeah.

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Be kind as you say.

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I think it's great advice for all of us all at the time.

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Um, no, as, as autism parents, we, we are, we are pretty intensely in our journeys

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and I think some of the time we were just expecting people to, to be better.

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Um, but they're not, you know, and, and you just have to.

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Yeah, you have to be kind.

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Yeah.

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Well, thank you.

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I think that's a brilliant reminder, but absolutely for everyone in

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all situations, I think, yeah.

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I think that's something that we can all do.

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Thank you so much.

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Thank you for being here.

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Thank you for your time.

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And for sharing everything.

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I really enjoyed talking to you and thank you.

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I loved meeting you and thank you so much for having me.

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It's been an absolute honor.

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So this time I've done something like this.

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So it's a real treat.

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Thank you.

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Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end of this episode.

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If you enjoyed it, please do leave me a review that really helps

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other people to find this podcast.

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Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes and

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do tell your friends about it too.

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If you think that they also might enjoy it, can find me@vickiweinberg.com.

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There you'll find links to all of my social channels.

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You'll find lots of more information.

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All of the past podcasts, episodes and lots of free resources too.

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So again, that's Vicki weinberg.com.

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Take care, have a good week and see you next time.