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Ben and James’ story: Brotherly love, the great outdoors and living with autism

Ben and James on a bench overlooking the sea
31 March 2023
Come and meet Ben and James – but we won’t disturb them, they’re just enjoying the view!
The great outdoors is where you’re most likely to find the two brothers, and they’ll probably have brought their family along for the ride too.
Big brother James is always on the go. Tapping out rhythms on his drums, or cheering on his teammates during orienteering races. His little brother Ben is the joker in the family – always cracking them up – and is a huge fan of Star Wars and building new things from Lego. But the two brothers share a strong compassionate streak for supporting themselves and each other, as well as a love for nature, cycling trips and – interestingly – spotting CalMac Ferries.
Their mum Laura said: “Lots of what we do as a family is guided by their love for the outdoors. We’ve been on some amazing cycle trips around the west coast of Scotland and camped on wild beaches together.
“James was first diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago, and Ben was diagnosed just before Christmas. When I first started reading up on what autism actually was, I realised that what I saw was far from the stereotypical views. I didn’t want my children to have those limits imposed on them.
“Because it’s always been there, you can’t separate the boys from the autism and so it’s not really about how it’s affecting them, it’s dealing with society and making sure that people don’t put them in boxes. My first thoughts after the diagnosis were that we actually just have some understanding now and it helped us make sense of things.”
Growing up, James had sometimes struggled when taken outside of his comfort zone, although he recently had a breakthrough in finding a hairdresser he liked. By the time he was diagnosed, he had begun to recognise his own differences.
Laura said: “He was very happy to take ownership of it. He stood up in front of his class and presented about what he was good at and what he struggled with. He’s brilliant at advocating for himself.
“Ben has additional learning difficulties which make school a little more challenging. He has some 1-2-1 support here though, and we’re so proud of his resilience and perseverance.”
Ben was also assessed by our new Sensory Service around a year ago while in school. They provided both the school and his family with valuable insights.
“I hadn’t realised how big a part of this sensory processing was,” added Laura. “The Sensory Service were fantastic in helping us understand this.”
As today is World Autism Acceptance Day, Laura also has some useful advice for other parents.
She said: “The first thing would be to find out more about it. The are some great books written by neurodivergent authors, but it’s also important to remember that your child will have their own unique autistic profile – no two autistic people are the same.
“There are also some really helpful support groups and advocates, locally and nationally, who understand the struggles of getting your child’s voice heard. You are not alone in this.
“And finally, it’s time to embrace the wonderful things about autism – the unique perspective of the world, the attention to details others may miss, honesty and a sense of justice.”
Thank you to Ben, James and Laura for sharing your story – we’ll leave you to keep searching for those ferries!

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