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Realising the potential of Children in Care

Autism is a Superpower

Posted on by Judy Molyneux

The UK’s oldest children’s charity Coram has teamed up with Kent County Council to co-produce a new booklet written by a young person about her experience of being diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Autism is a Superpower by Poppy Thorne is a creative and interactive booklet designed for young people with autism and ADHD to better understand how their brain works and why their everyday perceptions might be different from their peers.

Poppy was three years old when she was adopted along with her three brothers through Kent County Council, yet it was not until she was eighteen that she was diagnosed with autism and ADHD in the summer of 2019. In the booklet Poppy explains how her ‘quirks’ were initially attributed to attachment issues. Dr Ana Draper, Clinical Lead for post-adoption support at Kent County Council, explains that this is too often the case for children who have been adopted because attachment disorders or trauma behaviours can cause similar problems as those caused by autism, such as difficulty regulating behaviour.

Ana said: “It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with Poppy in her discovery of her extraordinary brain and the things that make a difference to her in her wellbeing. In the therapeutic work we were doing, she often created ways of thinking and maps that I saw could be really useful for other children and young people with extraordinary brains. She has been generous in sharing her journey of discovery to support others and this book is a result of that generosity.”

The booklet celebrates Poppy’s journey to self-discovery and her exploration of some of the remarkable things her brain can do. She tells readers how she came to realise that her diagnosis was not a weakness, but a strength and a ‘superpower’. The resource includes her own original illustrations of how she navigates concepts such as colours, communication, organisation and stress in everyday life. These visual aids provided the starting point for the project as Poppy found that these images could help other young people understand more about living with autism and ADHD and find their own inner strength and superpower.

Poppy explained “As part of my therapy sessions with my counsellor we started to create diagrams and pictures as to what I experienced as someone with Autism and ADHD. As we went along, we started to see that this could be put together as a help book to anyone who needs advice. So that is what we did. Whether you’re a parent looking for advice, a teen who has Autism and/or ADHD, a sibling to someone with ADHD and/or Autism or even just someone who is interested to know more and understand better then I hope my booklet gives you a little bit more of an insight as to what it’s like, how you can help and more importantly how you can connect or understand someone with ADHD and Autism.”

Poppy shares her top tips for other young people with a similar diagnosis:

  1. Always believe in yourself and don’t let other people dictate what you can and can’t achieve
  2. Take time to read and learn about your diagnosis as it helps you to really understand yourself
  3. Build a support network around you of friends and family who are willing to learn about you and help you when you need it
  4. Don’t be ashamed of your diagnosis as it doesn’t define who you are, it is purely just another part of what makes you special
  5. Have patience with yourself and be kind to yourself when you are struggling

The booklet also features a section from Poppy’s mother about her journey of adopting four young children in 2004, three of whom have been diagnosed with ASD and ADHD. She said: “Poppy and one of her brothers are going to their first choice universities next year - they have overcome so much and we are so proud of them and I know they will be absolutely wonderful and I hope happy adults - they are all amazing and we are so lucky to have them in our lives.”