Mother discovers she has Asperger's syndrome after daughter is diagnosed with condition|
DERBY, UK: A mother discovered she was suffering a high-functioning form of autism only when her daughter was diagnosed with the same condition.
Jayne Chesterman, 51, had unknowingly had symptoms of Asperger's syndrome since she was a girl. She had to take anti-depressants at 14 and dropped out of school before taking exams because she struggled to concentrate and socialise.
When her 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, was identified with the condition two years ago, the mother of two realised she was suffering the same symptoms.
Mrs Chesterman's 12-year-old son, Andrew, is also autistic but still receives mainstream schooling.
Now she is hoping her family can act as a role model to help others overcome problems the condition can cause by holding a fun day to raise awareness of the support services available.
In 2001, Andrew was diagnosed with autism after showing poor social awareness and behaviour that was difficult to control.
Five years later, Sarah was then diagnosed with Asperger's, a less intellectually impairing form of autism which had not affected the development of her thinking skills.
Only then did Mrs Chesterman realise that she herself had classic symptoms of the same condition.
Mrs Chesterman, who lives with her children and husband Malcom, 48, in Fenton Road, Mickleover, said the breadth of the spectrum of autism was not understood when she was a pupil.
She said: "It was a nightmare for me growing up. I didn't seem to be able to make friends like other people. It made me feel vulnerable and I had to go on anti-depressants.
"My children have had the support that I didn't have, especially because autism wasn't understood 40 years ago."
Mrs Chesterman proved that she could not only live with Asperger's syndrome but also make achievements by becoming a financial advisor with Barnardos' in Harrogate before she moved to Derby.
And she said organisations such as the Derbyshire Autism Services Group and Umbrella, a charity which supports special-needs children, had helped to make it possible for Andrew to do the same.
The youngster said he wanted to be a designer when he grew up, while Sarah is preparing to train with the RAF to become a weapons technician.
Mrs Chesterton, who no longer works, said: "My son is now in a mainstream school and the teachers are very happy with his progress. People who are autistic think outside the box and tend to be very smart. They just don't know how to express it.
"Groups like the autism services group helped me by giving someone to talk to and organising activity weekends so that I could have some time with my daughter."
Mrs Chesterman organised the inaugural fun4funds day last year.
On Saturday, June 28, she is running a second event, featuring stalls, a magician, music, a puppet show and information desks from the autism services group Umbrella and other organisations.
The fun day will take place at the Riverside Centre, on Pride Park, from 11am to 3pm.
Anne Rowlands, head of services at Umbrella, which has a base in Derby, praised the Chestermans for their efforts.
She said: "We are extremely grateful to them. The family are impressive because they make sure that Andrew gets so many opportunities."
(Source: Derby Telegraph, May 20, 2008)