A DETERMINED Redditch mother who spent four months battling to prove her innocence after being accused of faking her son’s autism has said more needs to be done to educate people about the condition.

Bernadette Louise, aged 34, was accused of causing significant emotional harm to her four-year-old son, then three, who she asked not to be named, after saying she believed he had autism, specifically pathological demand avoidance (PDA).

The disorder causes severe anxiety, language delay, mood swings, impulsivity and obsessive behaviour.

The mother-of-two noticed that her son was showing signs of hyperactivity and unusually strong emotional responses, and after doing some research on the internet she came to the conclusion that something was not right.

After taking her son to see a paediatrician at the Redditch and Bromsgrove Child Development Team in the Scott Atkinson Child Development Centre, Woodrow Drive, Bernadette felt her worries were being brushed aside and made a complaint.

After months of assessments by the team they said he did not have the disorder.

Following this the same paediatrician and an occupational therapist contacted social services.

To her complete surprise she was issued a Child Protection Order in December and had to endure months being monitored by social services, causing her son anxiety and making herself physically ill.

Bernadette said: "It was harrowing- I was numb. It is the worst thing a mother who cares for her child can go through.

"I sat there while they picked apart every facet of who I am.

"They were blaming me for his anxiety, blaming my levels of anxiety for him and his behaviours.

"It is not unusual for parents of children with extra needs to suffer with illness. They were causing more emotional harm."

She said that as part of the Child Protection plan by social services she could not put her children under any further assessments – medical or behavioural – and because of this it was impossible for her to get a second opinion.

Eventually in January she got a second opinion from a private clinic and after just three hours a psychologist and a paediatrician consultant diagnosed her son with highly functioning autism with PDA, sensory issues and possible ADHD.

Following the diagnosis, the Child Protection Order was not immediately removed as social services asked for the NHS’ opinion.

NHS refused to do this and eventually in April, much to her relief, the Child Protection Order was removed.

"Immediately I felt relieved," she said.

"But also angry – now we had a diagnosis but we still have a child with extra needs and we always knew that.”

She added: "What we went through, what we were subjected to was horrible.

"Our children could have been removed from our family home and placed in the care of the authority, with strangers all because the symptoms of autism are so easily misunderstood.

"More needs to be done so people are aware of this condition."

"I still feel like we are just waiting, every time I hear a knock at the door- every time my son acts up I fear they will blame my parenting.”

A spokesman for Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, which runs the Redditch and Bromsgrove Child Development Team, said: “We are aware of the issues raised in relation to this case and are investigating it as part of our complaints process, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further until that has been concluded.”

A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council, which operates children’s services in the county, said: "We take the safeguarding of children very seriously. It would be inappropriate to discuss individual matters."

For information about autism visit, autism.org.uk.