Sam's Mum

A letter to the “Refrigerator Mothers” of the past.


To my fellow tribe Mamas,

I will call you that because if you had been born later and were cradling your young child with autism now, we would be huddling round you, ready to advocate, ready to listen and most of all ready to comfort and reassure. You see, I have no doubt that you loved your child as much as I do my dear son however, you became a mother at a time when fear and lack of understanding dominated. It was a time where a doctors word was law and you couldn’t possibly know your child better than them, they were medical professionals of course.

I can’t even begin to imagine the fear you felt when the word Autism was uttered and the fierce look of blame was shot your way, like a bullet to your heart. For in that moment, a thousand memories flashed before you, the endless sleepless nights, the desperate attempts to soothe your distressed baby, the overwhelming guilt of thinking you are not doing enough. The doctor will not see this, he never saw it, his judgement was made on his own singular findings. He hopes to use this moment to further his research and great name.

Your child will be his claim to fame, he will write reports and studies and make assumptions on his findings. His most prominent feature will be you and your obvious “lack of maternal warmth”.  All of the crushing guilt you so desperately tried to free yourself from, will now surround you. You will believe him and it will break your heart.

A new title will be bestowed upon you “Refrigerator Mum” the cause of your child’s condition.  No longer will you just be a ‘Mum’. Your small child is taking you off on a different journey and will be your tour guide however, all that the people around you can see is ‘different’ and their actions mean you are unable to explore this new world with your little one. Their world apparently is only made for one type of person and so your little square peg must be forced, unwilling to fit the round hole.

Before you even had time to process this diagnosis and the newfound opinions of you, suggestions of possible treatments are being discussed. The obvious one being that he should be removed from your care and be spared from the cold, barren environment that has caused his autism and with an emptiness that will never again be whole, you are forced through tears, to agree.

There were many mother’s like yourself, back in the 1950’s that would have experienced a multitude of these feelings and would have felt that their maternal love was not enough. And although we were a mere twinkle in our future father’s eyes when this was happening, I want to speak for us now.

I am sorry that you were ever made to feel like your precious child was less than. I am sorry that nobody really took the time to listen to your unique, wonderful child, without the need for words. I am sorry that if they had taken a moment to listen to you, the mother, they would have seen that you were the one who could calm him. I am sorry that you were ever blamed for anything and made to feel as if you simply didn’t love your child enough. I am sorry that they could not see that you knew exactly how to communicate with your child and he with you, that love transcends all.  I am sorry that they never appreciated the stillness in a moment with your child, observing him with quiet wonder, as you had every day since he was born.

I am sorry that the world wasn’t ready for different yet and so they tried to hide it away, never to be found.  I’m sorry that we were not there, not yet, to comfort and support you and allow you to celebrate the beautiful child you had brought into this world. But I want you to know, that we are here now, we have brought our own precious bundles in to this world and we are making everyone see ‘different’ everyday. We are advocating and teaching as far and wide as we can and I can tell you that there is no blame here. We are mother’s and father’s just like you, we are stepping forwards making those square holes right next to the round ones, our children have their own place, they always have.

I wish they’d have looked at your child with their hearts, not just their eyes, only then would they have truly seen.


Sincerely yours,


A fellow Mum who loves her son.



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