When photographer Mary Berridge’s son was diagnosed with Asperger’s, she began to see his world in a new light. She set out to capture a series of everyday – and exceptional – stories, one image at a time. by Mary Berridge

I have been immersed in the world of autism since my son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Graham had many of the traits of autism from when he was a baby: speech and motor skill delays, sensory sensitivities, anxiety in big social gatherings and more. He had seen professionals for evaluations, but did not get a diagnosis until he was seven.

This was a kid who had meltdowns over the sound of a blowdryer one floor up, the feel of a new shirt and the sight of a slice of cherry pie. Our lowest point was when he started refusing to enter homes he hadn’t been in before, or getting so upset at entering a restaurant that he would throw up. At least now I can sort of laugh when I think of the strangers in the grocery store who would approach him, then a cherubic toddler, and ask what his name was. “Mr Stupid Nobody,” was his reply.

Like many parents, I was initially frightened by the diagnosis. Then, the more I learned about autism, the more I realised that many things I loved about my son were related to it. He is bright, curious, passionate and sensitive. His unusual and erudite use of language has delighted us since he was a toddler. On the way home from a Star Trek movie, his cousin told the then 12-year-old Graham that he spoke like Spock and he replied: “I believe I have a higher register.” Recently, he was helping in the kitchen and asked: “Mom, is there a good place for this bowl, because in my experience the counter space during dinner preparation is dynamic and mercurial.”

Seven is not an unusual age to get a diagnosis, yet we could have made his and our lives so much better if we had known sooner. Knowledge about autism is not that widespread. This lack of understanding compounds misinformation and stigma. We need to better understand autistic people, not only to make the world a kinder place for them, but to broaden our own perspectives.

Continue reading and see the photographs https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/nov/13/portraits-of-life-on-the-autism-spectrum