This cartoon shows what can look from the outside like a simple tantrum.
However, in autistic children and adults it is actually very likely to be a result of environmental over-stimulation.
Zaffy was born into an Italian / Australian family in Sydney Australia as the youngest of three children.
Zaffy’s mum says Zaffy was always an unusual, happy, self-contained child.
Zaffy has always felt a close affinity with animals. This is a photo of Zaffy as a child. Zaffy was sensitive, quiet and gentle as well as being highly energetic.
Although Zaffy has matured, he still shows all of these traits. Autistic children respond well to calm, structured, low arousal environments. At the age of 3, Zaffy’s family moved to the Central Coast where Zaffy discovered SURFING at the age of 9.
Zaffy’s mum says when Zaffy’s feet first ever touched sand, Zaffy cried because of the uncomfortable feel of sand on skin. Once Zaffy found the sea at the other side of the sand however, all worries were washed away!
Around the same time, Zaffy discovered snow. Zaffy was on a family holiday in New South Wales, Australia.
Zaffy was having a fabulous time, playing happily in the snow until some got inside his boot. Zaffy’s mum reports that it seemed as if Zaffy’s whole personality had changed!
Zaffy was screaming and was inconsolable. Zaffy was in what he now calls ‘meltdown’.
Zaffy says, “As a child I was just perceived as having an unusual personality – I was a little bit odd.”
Zaffy was raised in a close, religious community which was governed by strict rules. Zaffy’s days were tightly structured.
It is obvious, looking back, that this is how he coped with childhood.
School was quite another matter.
Zaffy struggled to understand why he was there at all. Zaffy was learning so much outside of school.
All of the noise and confusion in the classroom and the transition from one lesson to another meant Zaffy completely was unable to take in and process information.
School is not an easy place for autistic children to learn!
Consequently, by the age of 10, Zaffy had been labelled as a ‘problem pupil’ and special measures were put in place to ‘manage’ what Zaffy’s teachers called ‘challenging behaviour’.