I will never forget the day my son found out that he was on the autism spectrum; it was a life-changing moment for us both. After 14 years of frustration and searching we finally had an answer, and although it was a confronting diagnosis it also brought with it a massive sense of relief.
That relief came thanks to way the message was delivered, which was by a professional - a caring and highly knowledgeable expert who gave my son a deep and very meaningful explanation of being on the Spectrum.
He sat opposite him, took my son’s hand in his, and asked him a series of questions: "Did he sometimes feel like he was from another planet?” “Did he often want to be on the outside of group situations?” With every question – asked in a calm and understanding voice – my boy seemed to relax a little more.
Finally, the psychologist said “You have Aspergers Syndrome". He then spent a couple of hours explaining what a diagnosis of Aspergers meant; that it didn’t mean that he was odd or weird; and that it was a condition experienced by plenty of people, including Bill Gates and Albert Einstein. He emphasised to my son that he was a unique and worthwhile individual with many special traits that should be celebrated not hidden.
My son left that appointment feeling relieved, empowered and armed with knowledge.
He received the diagnosis in the very best way possible, with the full support of a caring and dedicated network of family, friends and professionals. And the way the information was delivered allowed him to start to overcome the bullying and taunting that he’d endured for years from people who thought he was different or unusual.
My heart goes out to Melania and Barron Trump, who have been forced to publicly confront an issue that should only ever be dealt with in a sensitive and private way.
Last week the US actress Rosie O’Donnell shared a video on Twitter that questioned whether 10-year-old Barron Trump (Donald Trump's son) was autistic. The tweet came after years of animosity between the President-Elect, and O'Donnell, who has a daughter with autism.
Melanie Trump's lawyers immediately threatened to sue, and the video (which the creator said was compiled to "support" Barron") was taken off YouTube.
Melania has also released a statement stating that Barron is not autistic.
She should never have had to make such a statement in the first place. No one, Rosie O’Donnell included, has the right to speculate on such an intensely personal issue – even when it comes from a place of concern.
My son felt like an outcast for years thanks to the comments and concern of do-gooders who had no understanding of his situation.
Who knows what's happening in the Trump family? And who knows what damage an ill-informed diagnosis from the court of public opinion will inflict?
These days, my son is comfortable in his own skin and very aware of who he is as a man. Would he be so well-rounded if he had been publically forced into a corner, as Barron has been? I doubt it.
If you would like to find out more about autism, visit the Autism Spectrum Association.