In October 2014 I attended my daughter’s first parents evening. She had started in Reception in September and six weeks later it was time for that first meeting with the teacher.
In all honesty, we weren’t expecting too much, I mean she had barely started school but we hoped that we would hear about how she was settling in and how the last few weeks had been.
I will never forget that parents evening. Ever.
It was then that my life changed and our Autism journey began.
The teacher mentioned to us that she had observed some behaviours and mannerisms in Olivia which she felt needed further assessment. Baffled, it was me that actually used the word Autism – “do you think it might be autism related?!” I asked. “Yes” her teacher replied.
We were shocked. We just did not see it coming at all and I promptly burst into tears. Partly from the unexpectedness of it but mainly due to feelings of mortification. I was utterly mortified that a woman who had only known my child for a mere 6 weeks knew this about her and I, her mother, didn’t. How did I not realise that my child might be autistic? I honestly felt like I had horrifically failed her and let her down.
This is when I embarked on learning everything there is to know about Autism. For the last 6 years I have researched the traits, the challenges, the causes. I have learnt about the school system and how to access support. I have applied for EHCPs, gained diagnosis, fought the local authority, prepared an appeal on two separate occasions to take the Local Authority to tribunal (I overturned the Local Authorities decision on both occasions!) as well as learnt a hell of a lot about day to day life parenting a child with Autism.
Fast forward to 2020 – I have now gone through the diagnosis process for a second time with my youngest child who was officially diagnosed in June this year. I am about to embark on a second application for an EHCP for my youngest but am also still celebrating the fact that after a painfully long battle, my eldest started a specialist school in September and is thriving. The sleepless nights, tears and anxiety were all worth it!
And so I started Waking Up To Autism as a way of sharing my knowledge and experience with other parents. Parents who find themselves in the same boat as I did – overwhelmed and fumbling in the dark for help and support. You see, when you child is diagnosed as Autistic, they are discharged in the same breath. “Your child is Autistic. Goodbye!”
Reeling from having finally received a diagnosis - an answer you have been waiting for for a very long time - you then look for the answers to “so now what?!” and find that you are alone. It is a scary place to be as a parent. I know.
In steps Waking Up To Autism…..
Being able to provide parents with the much needed advice and guidance whilst avoiding them having to go through the years of research, sleepless nights, stress and anxiety that I went through is my ultimate goal and I do this by offering workshops, 1-1 consultations and online courses.
I was employed by the NHS for 14 years and so I am also able to bring my clinical knowledge to the mix which is helpful to parents when discussing reports, assessments and letters as well as completing all the forms and paperwork that inevitably comes with having a child going through the process of gaining a diagnosis.
Parenting is such a difficult job – parenting a child with additional needs adds a whole new layer to the situation - and it can be demanding, isolating, overwhelming and stressful. I want to help parents to be able to better manage day to day life, feel empowered with knowing how to handle Autism along with dealing with the professionals and to ensure that they protect their own mental health and well being at the same time. As a qualified Solution Focused Therapist I also incorporate this into the support that I provide and have seen incredible results. Parents who once felt like they were on their knees, not knowing which way to turn have become empowered, knowledgeable, confident and feeling able to tackle all the challenges that come their way.