I was thinking today about the things in life we may take for granted and to be honest the list is quite long, but I’ve settled on friends. I don’t mean that we take for granted our friendships but the fact we have them at all.
I for one always thought that I struggled to make friends but then I look around me and back at the past. I may not have a large group of friends, but I have a really good selection. I know if I picked up the phone and called one of them for anything that they would be there and that’s something that some people don’t have. My forever friends aren’t all from the same pats of my life but rather from different times, which shows just how true they are. True friends don’t stay with you because you do the same things or know the same people. They stay because it feels right.
I remember being younger and playing with friends in primary school, partaking in every craze going, Pokémon, yo-yos, crazy bones, and everything else our parents probably hated. We ran around in our summer dresses pretending to be the spice girls whilst obsessively collecting their collectable photos for the album.
I remember growing up down a little cul-de-sac and all the kids were of similar ages, I suppose that’s the advantage of moving into a new build area. Everyone buys their first homes and starts families, I guess. We played out from the moment someone knocked on our door and asked our parents if we were allowed, we didn’t leave the cul-de-sac and came home when the streetlights came on. We spent hours with our dollies pretending we were parents and hours with our craft sets playing at being teachers. Summers spent on the playing field at the top of the street building forts and treehouses, not letting the boys play with our girl gang and Barbies, hundred of Barbies with missing shoes and as we got into our teenage and stopped playing out, we would still come together like friends and neighbours do.
As a teenager, I remember hanging around in my local park or friends back gardens whose parents were more laid back than mine. We would drink awful cheap cider and acted like mini adults. We partied, we drank, we smoked and stayed up late talking about absolute rubbish, thinking we were older than we were and worried about problems that seemed huge at the time but minuscule now.
As an early adult, like most do we drank, we partied and went out three or four nights a week, fuck paying the bills and being on time for work when we can have fun. We were stupid and immature and thought that because we were of adult age we could look after ourselves, but we were wrong. We weren’t ready for the things that life threw at us and we suffered for it.
We flicked between friend groups and changed our interests to fit in, as someone who doesn’t drive (I am learning… slowly all these years later) would you ever think I belong to a car club? No? well I did. We drove around for hours every night. Parked up in car parks and down quiet streets and probably irritated all the local residents, we camped out in little Ford Kas and Corsa’s and went to rallies and shows. We worked on cars in driveways, kitchens and anywhere you could. I knew what engines were in what cars, despite what insurance certificates said. If we look at youngsters driving now, they’re all driving financed new cars. Where is the pride of building up your own clapped-out banger and adding a spoiler?
As time went on, I grew more responsible and got my own place, focused more at work but still partied on the weekends. Slipping into new friend groups with ease. We spent weekends partying at the beach camping and drinking, listening to live bands, we swam in the dirty ocean without worrying about disease and would stay up hours chatting about life and what we want in the future unaware that we were already living our futures as we partied.
And then all of a sudden, we are full on adults, proper homes, proper jobs, responsibilities, beautiful children, marriages, divorces, and challenges that we fight and battle every day. We can come together when we all have time but it’s so difficult to schedule anything, but it doesn’t matter. We have different friends with different interest. Some will go to harry potter quiz night, some will come to your house for a cup of tea to sit and put the world to right, some will dye your hair, some you won’t see in months or even years but when you finally do it’s like you have never been apart.
My point of this is to say that over the years I have had many friend groups and found it relatively easy. Some came from location, some from work, some from circumstance but it was easy but what if it wasn’t? I look at William who is always alone, it doesn’t seem to bother him, but I wonder if he knows he doesn’t have friends, I wonder if it’s something he wants but he doesn’t know how to get it. Does he see children playing together and want it but it’s too hard for him? Or is it just something I want for him? I think about the children in his class and how they can interact with each other, and I want that for William. I want him to experience friendships, even the ones that crash and burn, the ones that you realise are one sided and the ones you will remember and cherish forever.
For now, William is happy on his own or at least I think he is. He’s so inside his own head and I would give up everything I have just to know what he is thinking. Is his inner voice as cute as the fleeting moments I’ve heard his real voice? Does his inner voice feel trapped within his disabilities? He forms connections with adults easily, I mean let be serious we have all seen him and Big Nan and that’s love and kinship, so he is capable, does he maybe just not like other children? Do they not engage with him in the way he likes or understands? Is that why he ignores them?
I look at this picture and he loves his dog, and Rusty loves him but is it enough? I will always be William’s mom; his advocate and I would like to think I will always be his best friend, but I do want more for him. I want what I had? What most people had? William’s dad and I have booked his first proper birthday party for next year and we will be inviting his whole class which I am very much looking forward to, but I have this feeling that William won’t notice if his classmates are there or not. He will be more focused on Big Nan, his dad and his partner or me and Liam. I guess until we try these things, we just don’t know but I want him to have a friend. I want playdates and sleepovers and I guess in a way I want him to want that too.
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Let’s talk about inclusion… as an adult, I can honestly say that I genuinely like my own company. It’s much harder to end up in an argument although not impossible. 🤣
We worry about our kids been included in the playground, getting invites for parties and things of the like but as a parent of a child with special needs inclusion is something we worry about for everything. Will I be able to navigate his adaptive stroller around that shop, do the disabled toilets have a suitable changing facility? Will that cafe or restaurant understand that he may be noisy and throw his food?
I feel uncomfortable in situations in which it is obvious that William is uncomfortable, it’s mainly because I still worry about what other people think and I’m not sure that will get go away but I hope it does.
I recently attended an event, or a gathering of sorts and I had the strangest experience, something that I have never experienced before; total all-encompassing inclusion and understanding. It sounds really strange to say this, but I have taken William to places that should have been safe for us, but they weren’t. I was terrified of doing a first new place/event, as I usually am because let’s face it, I can be the queen of anxiety and overthinking and believe me I had been doing a lot of it in the run up. What if I William had a meltdown? What if people didn’t understand?
I panic about going to my parents or big nanna’s and they’re regular occurrences so its natural that I would panic about somewhere else, I often have my mom or my friend on a standby in case William doesn’t cope with new places or people and it’s a silly thing to think I have to do but it is just one of those things.
I guess what I am trying to say is sometimes you have to take that leap of faith, whether that is faith in a person, an event or yourself. If you’re not willing to try then how will you ever experience new things, how can you write people off as not understanding your child if you’re not giving them the opportunity to do so. In a world of people that can be judgmental and cruel, there are still people who are kind and accepting, people who include our children without trying.
Inclusion is something we all crave, whether we like to admit it or not, it can be in conversation at the dinner table, inclusion in a game of football on the park or in our case it’s the inclusion into society or inclusion into people’s lives. Its something we can take for granted when we are neurotypical, I know before having William it wasn’t something I even thought about but now the thoughts can be all consuming.
Today’s post it to simply say, think about what you are doing, think about the child that you may class as a little odd, think about birthday parties and events, think about how you would feel to be excluded, then think about how it would feel if the sole reason behind it, was because of who you were; something you have no control over.
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Look at this girl and analyse what you are seeing. A happy young mom holding her sleeping baby posing for her husband to take a photo… but that’s not whats really happening here.
It was my first day back at work after almost a year off. I woke up early, did my hair and make up to plaster over the cracks of how I was truly feeling.
I remember feeling relief as I left the house; like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could finally be away from William. My job has always been a constant in my life, since I was 17 so I felt like I was going back to do something I was really good at and since that wasn’t how I felt about being a mom, it made me really happy.
Only it wasn’t a relief, things had changed and people had left and I couldn’t focus on any one task. I was now part time and there weren’t enough hours in a day. I was constantly chasing my own tail. I remember coming home and faking excited to see William… I should have missed him. I held him close whilst he nodded off and had a little cry because ‘I missed him’ only I cried because I didnt. I cried for me. Not for him.
‘Take a picture Dave’ I don’t have many pictures of William and I over his first 2 years purely because I was alway the one behind the camera (This made post separation purging a nightmare🤣) I felt it was important to take a picture and prove that I was OK. That I was happy. Its silly isn’t it, that’s what this social media age has done to us. I think that’s why on here I try to be as honest and open as possible.
I’m not ashamed to say I was I was spiralling down a very dark hole and ended up at a stage I couldn’t see the light. I worried about my family dying when there was nothing wrong with them but the thought consumed me and kept me awake at night, I couldn’t cope with the changes is my career and found myself struggling to do the most simple of tasks but faking it with a smile and a cheery attitude. William was missing his milestones and I thought it was my fault, did I do something wrong during pregnancy? Was it because I didn’t love him enough? I began focusing on the fact that he might be taken away from me, social services would somehow get involved and take one look at me and know that it was my fault.
William was 18 months old and I had reached a point in which I felt like things would be better if I wasn’t around anymore by the time I sought help. I spoke to the doctor and just sobbed, I don’t know how he could possibly understand what I was saying but he listened and offered me help and I personally chose to be medicated, Sertraline to help with my depression and Propranolol for anxiety. It was hard, really hard and I came off them early and I wasn’t ready and soon spiraled back down that hole but I knew… I knew I wasn’t ready and went straight back to the doctor and this time when I thought I was ready, we slowly weaned off them and it worked.
For two years I have been off all medication and coping well. I have embraced that darkness I felt and can happily share my story. William is my word and the love I have for him was always there but was hidden by the storm clouds in my head. It didn’t flood in immediately but bit by bit as the clouds cleared, just like the sun does… it creeped through.
I know that Williams delays and medical issues are not my fault, that I did everything right when pregnant and that I loved him unconditionally from the moment I saw him on my scan and that even though I didn’t feel it, he did. He knew I loved him and still knows now.
There are days, even now in which I feel a darkness but speaking to people and being open about it really helps. This blog saved me as did all of you who read it, whether its ever post or just one. Each of you help me overcome every hurdle, every obstacle just by allowing me a platform to rant and cry about how I feel. Sometimes about myself or sometimes about the system that fails us.
Thank you and if anyone needs to talk please get in touch, with me, with a friend, a doctor. Don’t keep it to yourself. Darkness isn’t as lonely if you have someone by your side.🥰
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I have come to realise that I’m a bit of an introvert, it sounds silly as I come on here and share so much information but in real life I shy away from people, I avoid activities and places that I am uncomfortable with, and I want to keep myself away from people who may judge me as a mother or William as a child. I am now at the point in which I don’t know if what I am doing is to protect myself or him. I want to tell you about my irrational fear of playdates…
I went on a playdate once, I mean there has been more than one over the years considering we have one every week minimum but this one is the most memorable, it much have been well over 2 years ago and I must say it was one of the most horrendous moments of my life.
William was definitely under the age of two as it wasn’t until his two-year check-up that I started to accept his potential problems.
Soft play! What kid doesn’t love soft play? My kid; that’s who!
I went with two friends from work who had both had their children around 5 months after I had William, please bear in mind that these two women, were women I felt comfortable with and had spent a lot of time with over the years, but I was dreading it, I remember being stood at the bus stop feeling so sick that I almost cancelled. I had already started noticing the stark differences between my child and children of his age and being around them and trying to sugar coat and deny Williams delays in development was exhausting and the more I had to do it, the less I was convincing myself.
Their children were beautiful but that wasn’t what bothered me, what bothered me was that they were so agile on their feet, they climbed and played independently, they communicated not only with each other but with their moms too whereas William just clung to me crying. He was barely walking independently and struggled to communicate non-verbally let alone with words.
The date didn’t end with soft play, we went for lunch. Their children played and independently ate and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. William refused to eat and remained silent.
I felt like a failure, what had I done so that my child wasn’t like theirs? Was I not loving him enough? Was it because I was working and wasn’t with him all the time?
I didn’t reach out for another play date. Was that wrong of me? I truly don’t know. I don’t actively seek out play dates with anyone, but sometimes they just happen.
We have play dates once a week with the same child and they go really well but they are often in the comfort of our home, William has familiar surroundings and can easily access his safe place. We have had a few outside the home and some have been great and others not so much, but it all depends on how William handles the situation or environment. We went into our local park once and it is truly beautiful in there, I don’t think I appreciate it enough since its on my doorstep but on this day it was busy, it was a half term of some sort and William was struggling, he wouldn’t walk and I didn’t have the stroller since we are still waiting his referral and he kept laying on the floor to the point I was peeling him off it like day old gum. Teens laughed at him and I felt myself getting more upset, William continued to shutdown… It was not a good play date, but we continue to have them, maybe it’s because I understand William more now than I did back then, I just don’t know. I don’t know why these playdates don’t bring on anxiety and sickness, but others do. Maybe it’s the unknown 🤷♀️
I guess I need to put myself and William out there more, but I don’t know if it is what is best, William doesn’t engage with other children at nursery so am I being unrealistic in trying to get him to engage with other children on his days off, is it fair on him? But then am I just saying that because the memory of how bad of a mother I felt back then is impacting my decisions now?
How silly is it that something so simple as meeting other parents and kids can make me feel so anxious that I am physically sick? How do I get passed this? Do I even need to?
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I have been sat on something for quite some time now but have been cautious about making it public knowledge until the right time, but I think now is that time, time to let the proverbial cat out of the bag 🐈
I have been a little Jekyll and Hyde in posts about mainstream schools, those that have been around since the beginning; since before ‘Our journey onto the Spectrum’ was a thing and it was just simply our life, will remember how adamant I was that William was would get the education he needed, the education he deserves. Somewhere over the last year, what was right for William got turned around and it because what was right for the Local Authority.
Pressure was put upon me to name mainstream schools, with phrases such as ‘by law you have to name mainstream schools for allocations…’ I can categorically state this is absolute bullshit! But when the forms came through, I felt forced to do so, I felt manipulated and bullied into making a decision that I new deep down was not correct for my child.
The crushing disappointment that came on February 15th when William was left of the consideration list for special school places almost tipped me over the edge mentally and knocked the little bit of fight out of me that I had left. I remember saying to Debs that I just couldn’t fight anymore, and she told me I was only just starting… she is usually right always right but I just felt so deflated that I wasn’t ready to admit that to myself. If we think back to that time; I kind of had a lot of other things going on in my personal life. Breakdown of marriage, adjusting to being on my own, juggling my finances and not being able to see my family due to covid. I think I was at a stage in which if the Local Authority told me to have William educated in the local dump, that I would have agreed.
Williams EHCP draft was completed on 29th April, but I didn’t get it until 6th May, I filled out my parental response form naming the mainstream school I had chosen and in which myself, the nursery and the Local Authority Senco had all liaised with shortly before. The head teacher couldn’t confirm they could meet Williams needs without the EHCP but I was expected to name them for the final copy without this confirmation… I felt I had no choice, so I named them and was ready to post it and I am so grateful I didn’t do it straight away.
On the 7th May, I got my fight back with help from the most amazing woman, a woman who has never stopped fighting for what is right for her child. A woman who helped me kick myself up the arse and point me in the right directions about my rights. K❤ If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have sought legal advice, which I have been given free of charge thanks to the specialists she pointed my in the direction to… I have since been awarded legal aid and its not even something I would have looked into if not for her. I tip-exed out my school of choice and wrote that I specifically wanted a specialist school and named one in which I feel and have always felt would be appropriate for the education of my child, one in which can without a doubt give my child the education he needs and deserves. I sealed it and sent it straight away. ✉ Had it have been 24 hours later I would have made the biggest mistake of my life (and believe me, I have made a few… divorce impeding remember 🙄
I think friendship and support comes from the most random and unlikely places but when your children have special needs, you just see each other and think ‘I’ve got you’ There are so many people in my life that have supported us in this journey purely because they understand and have been there themselves.
The Local Authority doesn’t tell you what you need or are entitled to, the don’t point you in the right direction for your children, they point you in the direction which is the best for them. It’s the other parents that do that, the parents that fought a little harder than we did, the parents who scraped and struggled for help and answers. They then pass that down to us.
The NHS isn’t much better, purely because the communication between departments is virtually non-existent when it come to special needs kids so not only are you fighting one entity such as the local authority but also the NHS and its procedures and policies. I am a huge fan of the NHS and the Queen has rightly awarded them with the George Cross, which is the highest award bestowed by the British government “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger” and the NHS truly deserve it due to all they have done to save lives not only during the Covid-19 pandemic but for the last 73 years.
I saw this a while ago and thought it summed everything up perfectly…
Other parents came into my hole to help me, and I will happily climb into the next person’s hole because that is how this works.
Anyway, I digressed a little from the point, should the Local Authority fail to provide William with an acceptable school setting which will meet all his needs, baring in mind this has to be done by the time the send me the final copy of the EHCP, then I am fully ready to take them to a tribunal. It looks like it may be a big fight 🥊 but I’m ready this time.
Let’s end this post on something amazing. This is something I never thought I would be able to tell people, William spoke… and in true William fashion; just like all his other firsts, it was at Big Nannas 🥰
He said ‘Nanna’ in context, six times!!! Six whole times!!! and the following day did it again when going passed her street. These may be complete flukes and I don’t want to build massive hopes upon it, but it is so much more than I ever expected. I mean Mama would have been even better but beggars can’t be choosers 🤣
Did you know there are around 1.8 million single parents in the UK – they make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children. 1.62 million of these are women. I never really thought about this until it happened to us.
I could lie to you all and say we have had an easy ride of things recently but I think you probably know that’s not the case. This is a big adjustment period for me and more importantly for William.
My main focus is to continue to ensure William has a good solid routine in place which is pivotal to him. He is keeping me extremely busy as he seems to be struggling with this huge change in his life, bed times and mornings are now only ever with me and I don’t think he enjoys them very much. He fights and kicks me when I try to change his clothes, runs away from me and screams but we get it done.
We take the dog for nice little walks (well he walks us🐕🦺) which William seems to really enjoy even though he is in the comfort of his stroller and flat of refuses to do any walking. I’m tempted to stay at home and just tie the dog to the stroller and let him pull it arpund the street like a sled 🛷 but I think that would constitute as child cruelty or animal cruelty. Maybe neglect? So I best continue to go with them 🤣
We are eating healthier (as healthy as a boy thats half chicken nugget will eat anyway🍗) and trying to turn this into a positive thing for our lives and look to our future.
We’ve had meltdowns and shutdowns (from both of us😭) but we’ve come through it and these are getting less and less frequent on both parts. He is slowly adjusting to his new routine and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel but its hard. Harder than it ever was before but we are doing ok. In fact we are more than ok, we aren’t just surviving like I thought we would. We are actually living thanks to our amazing support network of family and friends.
We can not thank everyone enough for reaching out to us, the doorstep visits, dropping off shopping and just being there for us. It means more than you all could ever know 😘 Much love M x
In the words of Akon ‘I am so Lonely’ or in words of puppet Kim Jong Il ‘I’m So RonerySo ronery. So ronery and sadry arone’
Having a baby is very misleading; when the baby is born everyone wants to know you. they visit, bring gifts and make promises they don’t intend to keep. As your baby gets older people start to fade away and are only occasionally spotted at birthdays or christmas time. People stop asking you if you want to meet up for a coffee or lunch because you would have to bring the baby or because you have said no a few times due to breastfeeding or lack of childcare.
Your circle continuously gets smaller as your child gets bigger.
If your child has special needs this circle practically becomes a dot, a little bit like a reversed ripple.
I’m not sure why this happens but slowly even the people who had previously part of your lives now even fail to ask about your child on the rare occasions they speak to you. I’m not sure if its because they don’t know how to react when you say ‘Not good…’ or because they are scared the will say the wrong thing like referring to a meltdown as a tantrum or saying things like how all children do that and will grow out of it etc. I would accept things like that as I would happily share Williams story and experiences with everyone and educate people about ASD, GDD & SPD so that those parents that come after me have a slightly larger dot.
It’s a very lonely life as a parent of a special needs child. It becomes harder to spend time with your partner and you begin to realise why separation rates are higher for parents in our situation. Its hard to maintain that spark especially when you both work opposite shifts for childcare reasons and it can be near on impossible to get a sitter (not even mentioning COVID) due to William’s behavior which can be challenging to say the least.
Exhibit A. That isn’t chocolate! 🤮
I think its sad. Actually no, that’s isn’t right. I think it’s disappointing. I know it’s disappointing that we lose what we thought would be our forever circle. People who were strangers a year or two ago became those we confide in not because we upgraded or chose to leave people behind but because they understand that aching pit of despair we often feel.
I know when William goes to school we will meet parent in situations similar to ourselves and extend our circle. I’m not saying that we will bond with all his classmates parents but even one or two would be a bonus.
As always I’m not sure what my motivation was for this post but wanted other parents to know that it’s not just them and we are here for you to be part of your circles if you need us 😘
The world is slowly starting to settle into a new normal which sadly means the amount of posts we have shared is slowly declining.
Jobs have resumed but sadly nursery hasn’t (at least not in a William friendly way) which means we don’t have as much time as we did over the previous months were it often felt like we were spamming you with content. #sorryNOTsorry 😂
We will still be aiming to write a minimum of one post a week however please remember that we both have jobs and a very demanding toddler 🧒🏼
This year has taught us so many things already that should have been obvious.
Hug your family a little tighter when you can. You never know when you will be able to do it again, if ever. It will have been 113 since we last saw Big nanna.
Appreciate your friends, who checked in on you to make sure you were ok. I tried to check in on almost everyone, especially those I knew lived alone or had health concerns. I was shocked at how few people checked in on us and it hurt a little.
We are not invincible! The ‘it wont get me’ attitude was astounding during the last 3 months and for the most part they were right. It wouldn’t get them until it did! It felt like this huge thing that was happening to other people but then it hits closer to home and it really shocks you, parents, grandparents, celebrities… it had no boundaries and we are super grateful that our loved ones who were affected have since made a full recovery.
Appreciate your neighbours and get to know them, I can honestly say that we have never made a massive effort wherever we have lived to get to know our neighbours but during lockdown we found that they were our biggest support and comfort whilst having a cheeky brew (or beer🍻) over the garden fences and wished we had done so sooner.
The family that works in your corner shop, the cashier at ASDA, transport workers, support workers and many more have kept this country cared for and stocked with essentials (toilet roll 🧻) during a time when others were scared to leave their homes. Unsung heros of 2020 🦸♂️🦸♀️
I went into lockdown in panic mode, I honestly worried about my mental health and how I would cope with no professional support with William, no days spent at the office or visits with family. I cried myself to sleep about how alone I was. How each day with William felt like I was drowning and every time I got my head above water another wave would take me under. Don’t get me wrong we have had a few issues like chicken pox, ear infections and bowel problems to make matters more tense but we did it. We were strong and made the most of the time we had as a family.
Dave and I are usually like ships in the night; I work on his days off and vice versa, these past three months we have spent more time together than we have in about 5 years. We got to know each other again and did daft things like play on the playstation and go for little walks holding hands. I am so lucky to have found a man like him, blessed to have convinced him to ask me to marry him and forever thankful that he gave me William.
Williams nursery is closed until September, they have offered us a place at a different site until then but we don’t think it is the best option for William as he would just start adjusting to the new site only to move again, we have been trying to keep things as routined as possible for him at home but its not always possible, I have been back working from home for 2 weeks and during my first meeting he came upstairs with a chicken nugget (successfully avoided the dog) and tried to stuff it into my ear. 🤣
I think is the beginning of a new normal, a new way in which we do things. Was the old way better than this? I guess only time will tell.
FYI. We saw Big Nanna on Sunday. William hadn’t forgotten her like she had feared. He acted as if we had never been away. She cried, I cried, we all cried 😭
Autism. How to raise a happy autistic child. By Jessie Hewitson
OK so I want to start by saying the cover and title of this book really put me off. It felt a little too ‘self helpy’ for my liking and although I needed guidance I want quite ready for the self help section of amazon if you know what I mean. The book itself was recommended on multiple sites and Facebook pages for parents ‘finding their feet’ in the turbulent waters of ASD. It wasn’t until Debs told me to read it did I buy it… well almost. I put it in my Amazon basket and decided I was ready a few months later.
My review may come across a little scatty but I am writing it as I read and I have a nasty habit of putting books down and forgetting they exist. (9 months I tried to Big Little Lies and still never finished it.) Don’t get me wrong I love reading but I have to really be enthralled by the characters or story line for it keep me interested. Now Harry potter is a book I can read over and over again. In fact I had read all 7 books to William before he turned one. We even read Cursed Child but we try not to discuss that monstrosity in this house.
I want to kick my review off with a quote from one of the first pages in her book.
I should have read this book a year ago and I’m not the only one. I couldn’t put the book down for the first few chapters which is always a great sign. Have any of you heard of Donald Triplett? Well neither had I!
This is Donald Triplett. He was the first ever person to be officially diagnosed with autism. Case number 1. Numero uno. Patient zero. His parents were told to put him in an institution… and they did!!! Can you imagine giving up on your child like that? I can only imagine what was going on in their head. Thankfully after a year they went back to collect him. He was their child not a puppy you can return to the pound.
Donald is now 87 years old. He has had a successful career as a bank teller, drives his own car and enjoys travelling the world. Donald is an inspiration to anyone with autism and hope from any parent of a child with autism who thinks its no longer possible for their child to live a ‘normal’ life. My advice to those parents and believe me its something I have to remind myself is to think of Donald. When things get exceptionally tough and my head goes to all those dark thoughts about things William might never do. I need to remind myself to think of Donald.
If you have read our post about the poem entitled Welcome to Holland you will understand why this next exert really resonates with me. If you haven’t read it then click the clink 😊
The book has introduced me to the term ‘Refrigerator Mother’ in 1949 Leo Kanner (who diagnosed Donald) suggested that autism was a response to a lack of maternal warmth, in fact he went as far to condemn parents of autistic children. Bruno Bettleheim took this theory and ran with it resulting in the ‘Refrigerator Mother’ theory becoming the mainstream consensus as a reason for autism.
Thank God this was way before my time because I feel irrationally guilty now but imagine if someone had told me it was all my fault because I didn’t love my child enough. It would be devastating. My heart breaks for all the mother back then who already struggled to bond with their babies.
It wasn’t until the 70s when 2 British doctors; Lorna Wing and Judith Gould developed a better understanding of autism. Lorna who had a daughter with autism knew firsthand that the ‘Refrigerator Mother’ theory was absolute bullshit and set out to prove both Kanner and Bettleheim wrong. She concluded that autism was in fact a spectrum meaning it was most definitely not as rare as her predecessors had claimed.
The two men had started the job of establishing what autism is but like any job, the men (or at least Dave anyways) never finished it and the women got fed up of waiting so finished it themselves. Before you jump on me… there was a hole in my bedroom wall for two years that I eventually fixed 🤣
Jessie talks in depth about building a team. This team helps both parents and child and can include professionals, friends or family members and its made me think of our team and how its members came to us in the most surprising ways.
First on our team is my amazing mother (honestly look at her, how beautiful is she?!) and our best friend Debs. Both from day one slowly dripped into our ears that something wasn’t quite right, William wasn’t meeting his milestones and originally they could be laughed off with a joke ‘Oh he’s just lazy like his dad’ I’m not going to lie either they weren’t always met with nice responses and I remember yelling at my mom through tears ‘don’t you think I know!’ and I cringe thinking of that conversation now because even though I was angry it was probably the first time I admitted out loud something was wrong.
Ian, I’m not going to lie I have known him for probably over a decade but we had never been ‘friends’ until maybe about 2 years ago. He was kind enough to drive me home from work when I got stuck for a bus. It took a few journeys before broaching the subject of his little boy and asking not so subtle questions… ‘When did you first know?’ Well its safe to say he saw straight through me and soon our chats about our children’s development became a regular occurrence and were something I looked forward to as I could speak openly without being judged. Fast forward to present day and Ian has done so much for us whether it is letting us know what certain acronyms mean, what processes need to be followed or what help we can get and from where. Only the other day he spent 45 mins on the phone with me helping me fill out a form and recommending drinking cups that William wont chew through 😬 I can safely say that I am ashamed it took me so long to get to know Ian as in his own words he is skilled at being a good person and a fucking arsehole at the same time!
My sister H who listened to me bitch and moan when the comments about Williams development stopped being subtle. Who has answered the phone and celebrated with me every time I have cried and laughed because William looked at me or touched bread or did something that other parents see every day.
Emma, Tish & Danielle who are always on hand to listen to me rant and are Willing to spend their free time doing William friendly activities that don’t necessarily keep their own children entertained.
These are but a few people but there are so many more. Everyone that asks after William, thinks of him and those that read our blog are all supporting us and we are so grateful for each and everyone of you. I don’t think we could be so open about our journey with out you all.
The professionals involved are equally amazing, Laura, Linda and Val are his amazing support team at nursery. We have recently been contacted by our local school nursery as we had put his name down for a place before we have even moved house. It’s that close I could literally throw William like rugby ball from the front door and he would be there. We have decided we no longer want a place for him, not just because he wont be going to the school but the ladies at his current nursery have been amazing and William has bonded with each of them. Why mess with perfection? Lisa from the council who attends ever meeting and has called to check in with us during this pandemic to make sure the three of us were doing OK. Not to mention responding to my slightly panicked emails about the recent EHCP announcement. Sarah, a real life wonder woman! Our health visitor is truly amazing. I really hope her other families appreciate her as much as we do. We couldn’t have done half and a quarter of what we have without her. We moved house and even though we are outside her ‘jurisdiction’ she has stayed with us and continues to turn up to all of Williams meetings despite being over worked.
Jessie explains that it will take a very long time to fully establish your team both personal and professional. I know as William gets older his professional help will change to match his needs and our personal one may differ as people flit in and out of our lives and we are trying to prepare for it as daunting as it may be. William isn’t the only one in our family who doesn’t adapt well to change 😳
Children from BAME communities are less likely to be diagnosed with autism than white children. There are massive racial disparities when it comes to obtaining an ASD diagnosis. Hispanic children are 65% less likely and black children 19% less likely to receive an autism diagnosis than a white child. Jessie explains in her book that she found pretty much nothing in relation to autism within the BAME communities. Not because it is less prevalent within their race but because there are certain barriers. Some languages do not have a word or phrase for Autism and a Somali parent is quoted stating her family and friend refer to their daughter as ‘Crazy Girl’ (If you read our post about vaccines you will recall Andrew Wakefield preying on a Somali community which resulted in an out break of measles.) It is not uncommon that families will not have access to an interpreter for their meetings meaning and that they will be forced to rely on relatives, friends or often children to interpret meetings they do not necessarily understand. Vanessa Bobb states there is a real fear that within her community that this is just another label for black boys. The misdiagnosis of African-American children is FIVE TIMES higher than that of any other race! Five times? Is there that much of a difference between white children and black children? I don’t think so!
Jessie explains that she uses list to organise her life and her sons. I love Jessie for this! I also love lists! I have lists about lists, lists about when William has had a bowel movement, lists about when he has slept through the night, honestly I fucking love lists! They not only help me with William but they also help me function in day to day life.
Parents often lose hope and according to Dr Stella Acquarone it is her job as a professional to tell parents that it is going to be a good life for both them and their child.
It was only today that I filled out our ‘Parents View’ form for our PCP meeting which is to support our EHCP application. The final section asks ‘What are your hopes and aspirations for your child’s future?’ and our only answer was for him to be happy. We don’t want him to be rich or famous. Just happy. Isn’t that what we all want for our children? Why should it be different if our children are autistic?
Jessie explains that she started writing Chapter 8 –learning to play by discussing the best ways to teach your child to play with you but eventually scrapped that idea because in her words.
She spoke about putting on a show, this is something all parents do but for parents of autistic children it is exceptionally hard. By doing this you are focusing your energy on yourself and not in spending time with your child. I am guilty of this. I have tried to put on a show. Look at my normal little family doing this, look at this… its all fake. She describes waiting for her son to start behaving normally. Something we still find ourselves doing. By waiting for something to happen you can potentially miss what is actually happening around you.
The book fully listed pro’s and cons of different types of schooling. A must read section for anyone with a child starting their school applications soon. I do wish there were clear instructions in regards to what to do with schooling but I know that’s not possible. What works for one child wouldn’t necessarily work for another. I just worry that we will make the wrong decisions but I suppose every parent has that worry whether their child is autistic or not. We believe based on Williams need that a special school would be the best fit for him and the pro’s and con’s have solidified that for us. There is even a handy list of questions to ask when viewing a special school which I will most definitely transfer to my trusty notebook when the time is right to visit.
Mind Blowing Facts about Funding! Mainstream schools receive £6,000 per year for per pupil with SEN. 💰 Special schools receive £10,000 per pupil per year. 💰 If the schools feel this funding isn’t adequate they can appeal for more.
I have already read many horror stories about local authorities and how little support the give families with children with SEN. Jessie states that when she is in her exercise class and partakes in boxing that she she doesn’t picture a person to punch but in fact pictures her local authority. I want to share her story of obtaining an EHCP document, I have shortened it a little as I have used that many exerts in this review that I may as well have just scanned each and every page for you.
The journey starts and the document states black is white.
But black obviously isn’t white so you call them to correct it but no one ever answers.
You resort to email and wait for a reply. Finally when it arrives it states that black is definitely white.
You have to reply and explain the law states black is actually black.
They never reply and you have to hound them.
When they finally respond they tell you its going to their SEN panel for discussion This can take up yo a month and yet you still have to hound them for an answer.
The panel agrees that black is white
You are forced to go to a tribunal in which the council drag out the process with £1000’s of tax payer money. Money that could be better spent elsewhere.
It is finally settled by a 2 person panel who advise black is black.It was always black.
White was never black. But it was in fact a cheaper colour than black and the local authority hoped you would give up.
This isn’t the end. renegotiation’s of what colour black is must take place at least once a year.
We are just dipping our toes into the murky waters of the EHCP process and we really need black to be black but we are prepared to fight if we need to. According to Jessie the EHCP process should take 6 weeks but only 58% of local authorities can stick to this time frame. We have been told it can take up to 10 weeks so I am presuming that it has been a long time since Hull has been in the 58% Some local authorities decline all EHCP requests upon first application in a disgusting way to manage their workload hoping the parents wont try again.
The devil is in the (lack of) detail EHCPs can be vague leaving them open to interpretation meaning it can sound like they are going to provide all the support your child needs but the way in which it is worded can mean they will only get a fraction of this support. They need to be exceptional detailed with time frames and what if’s.
I think this book is a must read to any parent who has or suspects they have an autistic child. Its a really well written manual of what is to be expected and prepares you for the pitfalls of ‘support’ you will receive from the authorities. Some of the sections weren’t relevant to William due to his specific difficulties but as autism a spectrum this book would have been a hell of a lot bigger than its 284 pages should she have researched and included every possible scenario for an autistic child. The book is absolutely brilliant and touched on or delved into so many subjects that I now feel a little more confident having read it and confidence is something a parent of an autistic child often lacks. I feel over the coming years this book will be highlighted, dogeared and full of scribbles as I feel we will be pulling it out before each new leg of our journey. Thank you Jessie! 👏
I always thought I wanted two children but once we actually started trying to get pregnant I soon changed my mind. I have a sister (H) and although we argued; like sisters do but I couldn’t have imagined my childhood without her or even my life now. Dave however always wanted just one. He too has a sibling but not with a bond like H and I have and maybe that is why he only ever wanted one.
We agreed we would discuss it again when William turned one… Still only wanted one child. We will discuss it again when he goes to school and again when we turn 34, after all I wouldn’t want to fall into that geriatric mom category of 35!!! since when was 35 classed as geriatric?!
I always said that I couldn’t put myself through it again but I get this little pang when I see my friends with their ‘normal’ or neurotypical children. Surely I deserve that? Why can’t I have it? All those moments I feel like I’ve been deprived of… A baby who will call me Mummy and will be receptive to my cuddles. A baby who can be comforted by me. A baby who would love me back.
Facebook is the root of all evil… & envy, its banner should be green not blue! I see so many beautiful babies and children on my news feed. Children much younger than William easily communicating with their parents and making it look so easy. Children singing, counting and developing at the correct rates and it breaks my heart 💔 I am so happy for all of my friends who are parents and why shouldn’t they sing it from the rooftops when their child learns something new. It just gets to a point that I just can’t see it anymore. I have un-followed so many people because I am just brimming with jealousy and it hurts me to admit that because I would never wish any parent to go through what we are but I just want what they have. Why can’t I have that?
But then I look at William who has started eating bread, not toasted bread or chocolate bread but normal bread and I want to celebrate it. He ate a sandwich!!! not one but several! My little man who is repulsed by the touch of bread actually ate a sandwich himself 🤭 But then he also decided he didn’t want to wear any clothes at all and chose to ignore me for what feels like the 1095th day in row.
Before i continue i just want to say it again…. My baby ate a sandwich, not once but on three separate occasions last week!!! He touched bread and it didn’t end in him throwing it on the floor and recoiling in disgust. It was a beautiful sight as you can see.
This week I called my mom very teary because I had ‘that moment’ a moment most parents have every day. me and William had spent the day I the garden and needed a bath but bath times are traumatic at best so I decided to turn the shower head on and sit underneath it with him. He laid there so calm as the water rained down on us and looked me in the eyes the entire time. That moment is something I had been waiting for for 3 years. That moment he looked at me and everything was fine. That moment I knew he did love me but shows it in his own way.
If I don’t get another moment for the next three years I can hold on to those perfect 10 minutes in which he just looked at me and with his eyes told me I was doing OK as his mom.
I think about how William would react to a sibling and I always (well 90% of the time) think it would be really selfish of us to even consider it. William needs a lot of attention and he would not have that like he does now. I don’t think he could cope with the immediate and permanent changes to his routine. You couldn’t train a baby into doing things the way your older child needs/wants them to be done.
But then… I think maybe just maybe William may flourish with a sibling. Research shows for neurotypical people that having a sibling can have a positive impact on both mental and physical health. However separate studies based on siblings of autistic children clearly show that the neurotypical child often develop social and emotional difficulties. Would there ever be enough time to give a second child the attention the would need or deserve? I look (again with envy) at other parents who are in a similar situation to ours and wonder how they make it look so easy? so effortless? I often think of these parents as ‘the Naturals’ whose days are exhausting because they have spent them being the truly amazing parents that they are. I’m an ‘Impostor Parent’ and am exhausted from spending my days trying to be an adequate parent.
I think of the trying, the pregnancy, the complications, the labour and the mental health issues that came after and I just think ‘Fuck it! lets get another dog!’ but then I think of how often Rusty used to shit on the carpet and think better of it. I clean enough poo from the floor as it is. I think it’s best off just staying the five of us… well four ifI get my way about that arsehole cat. (totally kidding as i was heartbroken whilst he was missing 🐈but still an arsehole)