Book brings insight for families living with autism

Book brings insight for families living with autism

By Liz Lockhart

Sandy Howarth contacted Mental Healthy to enable her to share the story of her remarkable life with her autistic son.

"Living with autism is a challenge to most families but living in our world is a greater challenge to an individual with autism - help them in their journey through life" Sandy told Mental Healthy.

Sandy Howarth is a mother who sacrifices everything with a hope of finding help for her son Steven. The author’s son is diagnosed with autism at two and a half years of age.

She and her family live in Dubai at the time when she realises that nothing could ever compare to the trauma that she has had to endure in learning that her beautiful son suffers from Autism. This comes at a time when she is contemplating returning to work as an Interior Designer. Sandy, having graduated with honours from Parsons School of Design – New York City, had intentions of a full time career in Interior Design. However, the shock of the diagnosis pushes her to abandon any thoughts of a career as she takes it upon herself to teach her son at home.

She uses her creative skills to produce material to encourage Steven to learn and educates herself on the various teaching strategies and the subject of Autism. Sandy works continuously with her son to see rapid progress in him learning new skills.

There is a lack of specialist teaching for Autism in Dubai and the author decides to return home to the UK with her two children. This is a tough decision as she doesn’t have the same level of help at home in London that she had in Dubai. She has to cope with her Autistic son and her baby daughter on her own. She not only becomes a full time carer for her son, but she finds that what she had hoped for her son from the UK education system is not what it turns out to be. She battles with the Local Education Authority to obtain the provision that Steven desperately needs and feels frustrated in knowing that his potential is being ignored.

Through Sandy’s knowledge of Autism and her commitment to helping her son, she diverts her energy from battling with the Local Education Authority to writing her book “No Matter What.” This book covers as much ground on Autism that can be found in any one book. It speaks of the medical aspects, parental responses, the true meaning of Autism, link to the MMR vaccine, therapy in education, battle for rights to education, developing life skills and research on the subject.

The book is written to assist and offer support to families, to create awareness of the subject of Autism and to demonstrate the complexities in brain development. Here, Sandy effectively conveys the nature and depth of the disability in drawing comparisons between ‘typical’ development and ‘Autistic’ development.

Sandy starts teaching Steven again in September 2010 when he is sixteen years old. This decision is made as an absolute last resort after eight failed years provided by the Local Education Authority. She notes that this is a challenging time not just in managing behaviours but in teaching Steven new skills.

She spends a major part of the initial teaching time in breaking bad habits / unacceptable behaviours that he had developed at school. Steven could not even place a dot on a sheet of paper at the time - however, after two months of intensive teaching he is able to write in sentences, copy patterns and drawings as well as use the keyboard. Her priorities are to help Steven to communicate and to help him develop life skills. 

Sandy is prepared to give up her life in her drive to educate and care for her son on a full time basis. Her aim is to teach other parents to appreciate what they can achieve with their children through perseverance and love.


The strength and commitment that surrounds “No Matter What” has led to the following awards:

Winner – 2011 International Book Awards – Parenting / Family

Gold Award – 2010 World Book Awards

Finalist – RGVA Book Awards 2011 (Reliability Gives Voice to Autism – Autism Society of Illinois)

No Matter What is available at  Amazon

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