On Saturday 13th October 2018, my friend contacted me to say that she’d received a letter stating that Ruby-Rose does not meet the criteria for a Family Fund Grant. In the summer of 2018, after seeing Ruby-Rose several times I encouraged her family to apply for a grant after receiving 3 years of grants that had significantly made a difference for my eldest daughter, Amber (now 6.)
Since the age of 3 months, Ruby’s mother, Claire has been asking my advice as she noticed something regarding Ruby’s development, some may say that this is very young, but I can completely relate as parents, we are the experts on our own children.
Ruby has been seen by a great deal of professionals at her young age, she also received hospital care for Meningitis at 5 months old, this was an extremely worrying time for the whole family. Ruby has been seen by Health Visitors, GPs, Paediatrician, Physioterapist, Specialist Play, and staff at a local SEND school who are offering support as Ruby will need to attend this school when she teaches Nursery/Reception age.
Ruby has been assessed as having a cognitive age of 3 month old, she does not interact with her 2 sisters, to this I’ve witnessed on several occasions. She doesn’t respond to her name and has a great deal of sensory processing difficulties. On the whole, Ruby is a ‘Sensory Avoider’ she is startled by sudden movement, loud and unexpected sounds, has difficulty eating foods that aren’t soft/puréed and therefore has a very restricted diet. She is very tactile defendant, she doesn’t like physical contact and gets distressed, especially when being examined by professionals, such as a Physiotherapist, making it difficult to work with her.
Ruby is currently screams for hours on end and demands and needs around the clock care, she is also having sleep difficulties, finding it hard to settle at night.
Ruby is calmed via sensory equipment such as lights, we known this from when the family attend the ‘stay-and-play’ sessions at the local SEND school and they’ve also taken her to an ‘Autism and Additional Needs’ stay and play session locally. The huge barrier for Ruby’s family, is that the specialist equipment and toys she so desperately needs are very expensive, as you are well aware.
Ruby does not play with regular toys, as ‘Neurotypical’ children her age would, as they are not age appropriate due to her Global Developmental Delay (GDD.)
Ruby requires a calming space she can relax in when she becomes overwhelmed and goes into sensory meltdown. A place where her parents know she will be safe with toys she can not put in her mouth and hurt herself with.
As Ruby hates physical contact, her parents can not hold her to calm her, she doesn’t give eye contact and becomes distressed when doing day to day tasks with her such as feeding and changing her. As she does not sleep through the night, she will sleep for 15-30 minutes and wake up distressed, screaming headbanging to the point she is sick.
Claire, Ruby’s mum, can not work due to Rubys complex needs, and this why the family are struggling financially. All they want is to provide their daughter with the specialist toys and equipment that she desperately needs.
I’ve always been a huge advocate for the work that Family Fund have done for families, I’ve shared this via the parents support group I coordinate locally, to which Ruby’s mother is a member. My own family have had our photographs taken to use for Family Fund promotional materials.
Mum heart is literally breaking for this little girl and her family, I urge you to please re-consider your decision.
I wasn’t going to write anymore posts before Christmas, I still have so much to do, writing cards, buying the last few gifts, wrapping a mountain of presents!
But I just wanted to write this post as I get what I’m wanting to say flowing through my head all the time and it won’t go away until I’ve got it all written down!
At my local parents support group (that I help to run,) we had a meet-up on Thursday 7th December and the subject of ‘after diagnosis’ came up again. This is so relevant for us as a family currently, as our eldest daughter, Lou (5) was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) only 4 weeks ago. We had a wonderful guest speaker from Autism West Midlands attend the group and we got into the discussion of what happens after our children are diagnosed, that there is non-existent after care for parents, whose child has just been diagnosed with something that they will carry for life, it doesn’t just disappear. We all mentioned that it is usually the procedure that the diagnosis is sent via paper, the child will then be discharged from the Autism diagnostic team and maybe even their paediatrician and then sent on their merry way. Lou hasn’t been discharged from seeing her Paediatrician, (who is one of the only professionals that has seen Lou’s full traits,) because she will be assessed for ADHD around February/March time, as children are usually assessed after their 6th birthday.
I knew I’d read something to this affect before my child was diagnosed and it was a fantastic post written by a fellow SEND blogger: Faithmummy:
I can 100% agree with what Miriam (Faithmummy) is saying in this post, especially as Lou was first given an IEP (Individual Education Plan) at the age of 3, then given a support package including interventions to support:
Gross motor skills (caller ‘Smart Moves,’) as she was diagnosed with Hypermobility at the age of 4.
‘Relax Kids’ to support with self-calming and regulation methods which can also be carried on at home.
‘Sensory Breaks’ given throughout the day in a specified sensory area with sensory toys and equipment to allow Lou to offload her sensory seeking needs. To avoid build ups and to prevent such a large ‘sensory overload’ when reaching home.
Emotions cards- recognising and naming emotions to help Lou to identify how she is feeling.
This support package was working for Lou, even without an official ASD diagnosis. What’s happened since she’s been diagnosed is that this support is now non-existent. It is more noticeable that as soon as Lou reaches me at the end of the day, as her ‘safe person,’ she immediately ‘offloads’ to me, often right next to a busy road, we’ve often missed the local bus to take us home and then it’s taken us over an hour to get home, what would normally be a 20 minute walk as Lou is so frustrated and overloaded from a day of ‘holding it all in.’
I’ve currently done 3 different parenting courses in the past 3 years, all suggesting different methods, but sadly none working for Lou, as she displays a high amount of PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance,) although her diagnostic report states that she’s too young for this to be officially recognised as part of her ASD.
I still get comments regarding my parenting skills, even now Lou has an official diagnosis, I’m so exhausted with the fight to ensure that Lou gets the support she so desperately needs and deserves. My feelings on this are that it’s very much money dependent on SEND budget, and because Lou doesn’t cause trouble in class, she’s seen as ‘fine’ and just gets on with it. She would need to cause disruption in school and experience a meltdown/sensory overload in school to then get people to stop and recognise her struggles, but I don’t see why I should let it get to this point. The interventions she has been receiving are the sort that would benefit any class of children the same age. She needs support in terms of her comprehension and understanding, as in my own experience in school, I would nod and make it appear I was listening and understanding, but underneath I hadn’t got a clue what was being asked of me.
But what happens if girls ‘mask’ in school?
If girls on the autistic spectrum hide their ASD traits in school, it can cause long term effects in terms of their mental health, we have no positive experience with services such as CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service,) as Lou was referred to this service then they didn’t even observe her, and discharged her that same day! We were yet again given a whole load of ‘parenting strategies’ and sent on our way as we were receiving Family Support, which ironically, we no longer qualify for, yet our daughter’s needs are now much higher!
To me this simply doesn’t make sense! If you give yourself a ‘mask’ in school, this requires such a lot of mental effort and it leaves you mentally drained afterwards. I didn’t even realise I was masking my traits until I researched into my own difficulties, I didn’t even realise it was a ‘thing.’ So I had no awareness of why I was finding school so mentally exhausting.
You only have to look back into my medical records to see what has happened as a result of my masking in school and then into adulthood, several episodes of depression, one very bad (Psychotic Episode,) and regular reoccurrences of anxiety. I hardly spoke all throughout my whole school experience, I didn’t tell anyone I was struggling, I put my head down, made it appear like I understood and just got on with it, desperate to make myself seem ‘invisible’ and not drawn attention to.
This is what occurs when difficulties such as ASD aren’t picked up on and even if they are identified, when support is still not given. I find it so confusing as to why there are clear strengths and areas for improvement, and also recommendations on Lou’s diagnostic report, however none of these are being addressed. When we fought so hard for Lou’s diagnosis to be recognised and addressed via appropriate support. I was further knocked into the ground every time my parenting skills were mentioned.
There’s a question that’s hanging over me currently: “to EHCP or not to EHCP?!” Lots of fellow SEND parents have advised me to start the process myself. Lou I think is doing ok academically, her reading was taken back down to the first level, where she was at in her Reception class, when she had been moved up, there’s still a question over her reversing letters like ‘b’ and ‘d’ and words like ‘on’ and ‘no.’ She also didn’t meet her early years goal for writing at the end of Reception year, as she struggled to actually get her writing down on paper. It’s not only the academic side where Lou requires support, it is especially socially and emotionally where she struggles, and currently struggling with her self-confidence, which is worrying at not quite 6 years old. I have read that with an EHCP, it supports the child/young person until they are 25. Which I think would benefit a child like Lou, who may very well struggle more and more as the pressure of school mounts, e.g SATs and GCSEs.
For now, it’s December 12th 2017, I’m physically and mentally exhausted, I currently have no fight left in me. I need to enjoy the festive season with my family, then re- group and continue the fight for support for my girl, ‘Warrior Mum’ will have to return in January 2018!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Here are some more fantastic posts regarding ‘diagnosis’ from fellow bloggers:
PDA is a part of the autistic spectrum that is currently not recognised as a stand-alone diagnosis in the county of Worcestershire where I live, there seems to have recently been some diagnoses given of ‘Autism with a demand avoidant profile.’ It wasn’t until I came across information on PDA from the PDA Society via my networking with other SEND bloggers that I found out about PDA and realised that we’ve been living with it every day with our eldest daughter.
As time as gone on and I’m researched more regarding PDA, I have come to realise that I too have certain traits, although as an adult they are not as recognisable as my daughter’s traits, as over time I’ve learnt how to cope and train myself to deal with everyday demands, even though I had no idea that these feelings, in fact, had a name. One of the main traits I recognised in myself was the strange feeling I get if someone tells me to do something, especially if it comes across in quite an aggressive manner or someone tells me I’ve done something wrong and I wasn’t sure of the right way to do something. I get this awkward ache feeling at the pit of my stomach, I will hold it in as I want to appear ‘normal,’ on the surface but inside I’m screaming, I’d very much like to exit the situation and run away, but I can’t. I often hold these frustrations in until I get home, usually by holding in tears and letting it out, or in fact feelings of anger. On the other hand, if there’s something that I really want to do, such as make a hot drink for my partner and I haven’t been asked, or told to so, I get a better feeling of ‘I like doing this.’ My eldest daughter, Lou, is exactly the same as this, we have to carefully word questions and instructions in insure it isn’t perceived as a ‘demand,’ such as using a statement like “arms in your coat,” in a positive tone of voice, rather than “put your coat on.” As she will usually respond to this demand by throwing the coat on the floor and a refusal to put it on.
For this first post in the PDA series I am looking at explaining why people on the autistic spectrum may say things we don’t mean to someone who has opposing views, or someone that has just ‘told us off,’ or given us a ‘direct demand.’ It is important to remember that individuals with PDA are highly anxious and the anxiety they are feeling may come out as anger, frustration or even aggression, due to the feeling of being out of control of a certain situation. For myself, I really don’t like confrontations, I don’t like raised voices and I will do all I can to avoid confrontational situations, even to the degree where I’ve agreed with things I don’t really agree with to avoid a varying and opposing point of view.
Where individuals on the autistic spectrum themselves described what a ‘meltdown’ actually feels like. When I read the following statement, I could 100% relate:
“I feel all sorts of emotions all at once and I want to run away from them all. I lose sight of what is socially appropriate and start to say things I either don’t mean or something I’ve wanted to say deep down. Whenever that happens I end up hurting someone or confusing everyone.”
This keeps happening to me now, even as an adult and it is the main cause of my anxieties, particularly social anxiety, as I simply cannot remember what I’ve said to people in meltdown mode, as I haven’t even been aware until after the meltdown that it was in fact a meltdown that I’ve been experiencing! This is such a complex thing for me to understand about myself and therefore to try and get others around me to understand is one of my biggest challenges to date. The self-awareness that I now have with this has taught me to make people aware that it is best to actually ignore me if I’m starting to say horrible things, if I’m in a stressful situation or if being challenged about something, such as what I may have written on social media. Unfortunately, some people have pressed me for answers or ‘had a go’ at me after something I said when I was mid-meltdown and there is no going back, I will say stuff that may have been floating around in my head or thoughts that I have deep down but ordinarily wouldn’t say in public, but lose all sense of filter during a meltdown and it all just comes flowing out and I simply can’t stop it.
The guilt that comes after these occurrences is intense, this time last year, after occurrences where I’d said something I really didn’t mean to I would hide myself away and be too afraid to go out where I may see the people who I have ‘upset.’ The best way forward after an occurrence like this is to just forget it and carry on and not become absorbed in analysing what shouldn’t have been said as it will just take over and it becomes very difficult to get on with everyday tasks. These occurrences are just like when Lou, will come out with some hurtful words during a meltdown and as a parent, I have to just let it all go over the top of my head. I often get responses such as “you’re a really bad mummy,” “You are so stupid,” and “I think you’re a terrible mother,” which for a child of not quite 6, is quite complex. At first these sorts of statements hurt me emotionally but after researching, I now let it go over the top of my head and don’t respond as I know it will cause even more upset and cause an arguments, which is what I desperately tell other people to do even though I’m an adult, when I say things like: “please don’t keep pressuring me as I don’t want to talk about this right now,” and “Please stop as I don’t want to say anything hurtful.”
I do hope that this gives a bit of insight into the reasons behind this trait that can be seen by individuals with PDA, or indeed any person on the autistic spectrum experiencing a meltdown.
I also watched an amazing webinar by Operation Diversity where Dr Jody Eaton (Clinical Psychologist) explains about PDA in children. She mentioned that often children cannot remember what they have said or done during a meltdown. This webinar can be found here:
Only last week I had my first experience with an internet ‘Troll,’ someone for the first time in my 18 months of blogging wrote a negative comment about my personal journey and I feel that I handled it a whole lot better than when I first started sharing our journey in March 2016.
I noticed that a relevant article to my journey to adult assessment for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC,) was shared via a support group I belong to called ‘Mums on the Spectrum,’ which is a group of just over 1,800 mothers who are on the autistic spectrum. This was the article shared: www.healthy-holistic-living.com
This post was shared from a Facebook page about ‘Vegetable gardening,’ which didn’t matter to me, but when read the comments a lot of the posters were complaining about why a post about recognising autism later on in life, in women was shared on a vegetable gardening page. So, I wrote a summary about my journey with misdiagnoses and how each one could be seen as traits from someone on the autistic spectrum and I also wrote how it didn’t matter where this post is shared as it is very good for awareness and understanding. A poster was complaining about individuals who “just seek a label,” and I realised that because I belong to so many supportive networks such as my SEND bloggers group, that I forget that there are still so many people out there that just don’t understand about autism, or even want to try to understand, even in today’s society and wonderful nationwide awareness campaigns from the National Autistic Society (NAS.)
The worst comment I had written back to me was:
“You have been diagnosed with all these mental health issues and still decided to have a child? Are you sure you are fit to be a mother?”
My immediate response was to justify myself and referred to the ‘Heads Together,’ campaign that is being promoted via the Royal Family members, I wanted to get across the message that in 2017, it’s ok to talk about our mental health, not like in the 90s or early 2000’s when I just felt too ashamed to talk to anyone or admit that I had such issues, even to a GP or any other professional. Therefore, I didn’t receive the appropriate help and support. I gave this individual a reason for every one of my misdiagnoses, or in the case of anxiety and depression – a co-morbid condition that had resulted from spending years and years of ‘masking’ my difficulties in desperation to appear ‘normal’ in public. I explained that:
• In 1996, at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression – the reason I believe that I was aware more that I was ‘different’ to my peers, I felt different and I thought differently, also reminded through constantly bullying every day at school.
• In 1999, at the age of 17, I was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder,) and an eating disorder which my mum has described to me that this was in fact Anorexia, although I wasn’t aware of this at the time. As a teenager there was a pressure to be thin, but my eating issues were more down to texture, which I believe was a sensory processing issue and I’ve learnt over time that this is why I prefer dry and crunchy foods, rather than soft, sticky or soft textures of food. My 2 girls are also the same. I can remember gagging on a home-made stew because I didn’t like the texture. The OCD was down to a desire to keep things in order to have control over some aspect of my life as I felt so out of control at school, in that I felt I was being watched and picked on at every opportunity through people that didn’t understand me and would highlight my differences as if I should be ashamed of myself. At 17 I liked straight lines and absolutely every single item in my bedroom would have a specific place and if these items got moved I would know and move them straight back into place. I have also been specific since the age of 17 where my personal items are, and I will check every so often if I have my keys, purse and phone in my handbag as I have a fear of losing them. When completing my online course on ‘Understanding Autism,’ I learnt that OCD can be a co-morbid condition alongside Autism, also that I love to keep things in a routine, and if that routine changes It causes a lot of anxiety. The National Autistic Society (NAS) states that: “Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines can be a source of enjoyment for autistic people and a way of coping with everyday life.” Source: www.autism.org.uk
• In 2008, at the age of 26, I suffered a Psychotic Episode, one of the scariest experiences of my whole life. Mind – states that: “Psychosis (also called a psychotic episode) is when you perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to ‘lose touch with reality.” The one thing that was very noticeable from this episode was my very high level of paranoia. This happened just after I got married, a huge event to plan, where everyone’s focus for that 1 day was on me, I was working at a high level at work, full time and living away from my parents – a 4 hour drive away. On reflection planning a wedding, on the wedding day and my level of work at that time all required a great deal of ‘masking,’ appearing on the surface as ‘Neurotypical,’ and my brain just one day said, “I’ve had enough,” cue sleepless nights and my body not agreeing with Fluoxetine and the GPs in that area not knowing my background, and not enough awareness of how females on the autistic spectrum present, another missed opportunity to be properly diagnosed. This Psychotic episode lead to the eventual diagnosis of Bi Polar disorder, which the Psychiatrist I saw back in Worcestershire when I returned home, said that it was in fact a ‘severe episode of depression,’ and not in fact Bi Polar, but to this day I still have this ‘label,’ on my medical file. When I ‘mask’ as a female on the autistic spectrum, this is very taxing on my brain and I will suddenly break down and can no longer cope or see things rationally.
• In 2015, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression which a health visitor had failed to spot and this wasn’t picked up until 5 months after the birth of my second child when I took myself along to the GP as I knew something wasn’t right. And later, in 2016 at the age of 34, I still have a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, but more anxiety on my file. To date I honestly believe that this current diagnosis is a result of ‘masking’ my difficulties for so long and not being listened to or believed in terms of my own daughter’s autistic traits in the home environment, having 2 children with additional needs, fighting for support, attending all the appointments, etc all takes its toll on me.
With all of this swimming in my head, I hope that my upcoming adult assessment for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC,) will show that a diagnosis of ASC would be the answer to the struggles I’ve had from childhood, and especially from the teenage years and realisation of being ‘different.’
I therefore wanted to justify my ‘choice’ for having children and I wanted to tell the original poster that asked if I “should really be a mother?” I thought about the 1,800+ group of mothers on the autistic spectrum group where I am a member, I thought about how all of these mothers would also feel offended by this negative comment. We cannot help the way our brains are wired, and I started to think that just because Autism is often seen as an ‘Invisible’ disability, would the poster also think that people who use a wheelchair for mobility shouldn’t be parents? Would they also be in the belief that parents who are blind or deaf shouldn’t be parents? I’ve also heard of instances where friends who have children with more severe additional needs have also been told that they “shouldn’t be parents.” Who is to tell us if we are or aren’t fit to be parents? The midwife during my ‘booking in’ appointment? The first person I saw regarding the pregnancy, I was honest about my previous ‘diagnoses’ and I was monitored throughout the pregnancy but not once was I told that I “shouldn’t have this baby.” I didn’t require a specialist appointment with a psychiatrist all throughout the pregnancy. Mother’s on the autistic spectrum are very good mother’s we have the same right as ‘Neurotypicals’ people to become a parent. Not once have I had a ‘meltdown’ in front of my children, I hold it in until they are asleep. I eat well, I do order certain items but becoming a parent has helped with the OCD more as I simply don’t have the time to keep things in the same order as they once were! I don’t stim in front of my children, (stimming or self-regulatory behaviours,) I rub my hands together once they are in bed if I need to. But even if I did stim or meltdown, it wouldn’t make me a bad parent, I shouldn’t feel ashamed by being the person I am. I have had 13 years of working with early years children and why shouldn’t I have my own children? In terms of my own social anxieties, I have always been aware that I want my children to interact with others, even if I struggle socially I have still taken my daughters to toddler/stay and play groups and it’s helped me to mix with other parents.
When I found out I was going to have a child, I had no idea at that point that I could even be on the autistic spectrum and therefore my partner and I didn’t have the discussion on any implications this may have, however, I have always maintained that my children have only improved the way I am and helped me with self-realisation and accepting myself. The main aspect that I’ve learnt is how to care for others before that of myself, I had practice in this area when working in childcare, but I was very much thinking about myself before I had the children. I have learnt that their needs come before mine, I still have to look after myself in order to care for them in the best way I can, but I will now think about their needs before my own, which is a huge step for me.
Whist completing my first assignment for the distance learning course I am doing on ‘Understanding Autism,’ I was reminded of the term ‘special interests,’ some may refer to this as ‘obsessions,’ but I prefer special interests.
“Autistic people often have an intense and passionate level of focus on things of interest.”
One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard was a child being told that they should stop talking about their special interest. As a person who had special interest themselves as a child, I do my best to engage with my children’s special interests.
“Parents are encouraged to support their child’s interests. While special interests may seem strange or random to outsiders, they are incredibly meaningful to the child. They provide a source of recreation, allow the child to develop competence in a certain area, provide a safe haven during times of stress which assists in avoiding meltdowns and sensory overloads, and improve self esteem.”
I wanted to sit down next to this child and say: “I’m listening, you tell me about it.”
When I recently attended ‘The Autism Show’ at the Birmgham NEC, I heard Lana Grant speak on the topic of ‘Girls with Autism,’ Lana founded the Facebook group called ‘Mums on the Spectrum,’ and has written her own book called ‘From Here to Maternity – Pregnancy and Motherhood on the Autism Spectrum.’ Lana spoke about the ‘special interests’ of Autistic girls and that these particular interests may be similar to those of a neurotypical girl, e.g. horses, dolls, princesses.
Some people refer to special interests as ‘obsessions,’ personally I prefer the term special interests, some may tend to look on special interests as a negative thing but I see them as something that makes people on the autistic spectrum happy and focused. Some people may even go on to use their knowledge and passion for their special interest as a career. For example, Alan Gardner, a garden designer who uses his passion for patterns and shapes and incorporates into his garden designs. He has a TV programme called ‘The Autistic Gardener.’
Lots of people collect things and have particular hobbies, however, my own description of a special interest is something that is difficult to stop thinking about and something that you like to talk about in great detail. Some people like to hear what you are describing and some people don’t! For me if I saw an item that I was collecting I would just have to have it and I couldn’t walk out of a shop until I had bought it, I will describe my collections in more detail later on. Sometimes, this can be difficult if you are spending a great deal of money on your special interest, such as my interest in craft materials for scrapbooking and card making, I have 100s of pounds worth of materials and I found I spend the majority of my money pre-children on these items that are now sat upstairs and hidden away in boxes as I just don’t get the time to sit and do crafting these days, with looking after 2 lively children!
I recently wrote down over 30 years of my own special interests and there has been many, some have lasted from my earliest memory from the age of 3 until the present day, I had an imaginary friend, a fairy called Tinkerbelle when I was 3 years old, I collected fairy statues and items until the present day, where I have restrained myself from buying anything else, but I have kept a few of my favourite figures on display at home and I have a hand-drawn framed Tinkerbelle from Disney Land Florida. A great deal of my special interests may have been shared by other young girls or teenage girls, but there has been more obscure ones, such as my love of smelling paper! I have always loved the smell of books and magazine, glossy magazines are my favourites, I also love the smell of libraries with all those books! I still do this today and my favourite thing to smell is the Next Directory Catalogue!! I love the smell of new things in general, especially new clothes before they have been worn, there was a time when I had a slight obsession (and it did turn into an obsession,) with buying new clothes from Primark, a cheaper range shop, but still not great for the bank balance! And in contrast these days I don’t buy clothes for myself, it is now for my 2 girls! Another special interest that spanned many years was collecting dolls, it started with Barbie and Sindy dolls, and I had 100s and then around the age of 12 I started to collect Porcelain dolls and these also went into the 100s, I had to clear some out and de-clutter once I had my children so I only have kept 4 of my favourites.
Here is my timeline of special interests spanning 30 years: (That I haven’t already discussed.)
‘Polly Pockets’ small collectable characters inside their cases for their homes. My mum kept these and Lou now plays with them when she visits my parent’s house!
From age 8 – Dolphins, watched films, collected ornaments, books, learnt facts about them.
Trolls! Ironically the original late 80s/early 90s Trolls figures – small, large, various themes and makes.
When the film ‘Jurassic Park’ first came out in 1993, I was 11 and interested to find out about why the Dinosaurs became instinct, so I researched via enclopedias and leant many dinosaur names. This is where my love of all ‘facts’ began, which carries on to the present day. I have collected many Guinness Book of Records and use Wikipeadia and Google a lot to find out things. I also have to know if I’ve seen a character from a TV programme from somewhere else and I will have to find out or it would bug me!
At around the age of 14 I started to collect stamps, I have no idea where this collection went, but I had a lot! I also became interested in collecting Fifa Football stickers for the sticker books and Match football magazines, even though I couldn’t play football, I was awful in defence! I had a season ticket for my dad’s favourite team and became interested. I still, to this day, do not understand the off-side rule!
I can’t quite remember which was my first pin badge, but I collected 100s and placed them onto 1 particular bag, when visiting somewhere for the fist time, I couldn’t leave without buying a pin badge to represent the place I had visited.
Whilst at University I discovered the book ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone,’ I read the book to a class of year 4 children and then went and bought the book myself. I couldn’t put any of the books down and saw all the films at the cinema when they came out and I have the whole DVD collection. Lou isn’t ready to watch the first film just yet, she watched some but isn’t keen on ‘Fluffy’ the 3-headed dog!
I got into collecting precious stones after I read about ‘Crystal healing,’ I bought books and magazine subscriptions, my grandmother’s name is Ruby and this is why I named our first child also after a precious stone.
I watched the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ films, read the books, designed costumes.
I’ve loved musicals since around the age of 4/5 when my nan first introduced me to ‘The Sound of Music,’ although very quiet as a child, I liked to tape myself singing to songs from musicals such as Grease and Evita, but would be mortified if anyone else every played my tapes! I joined the school orchestra at 9 and choir at 14, also playing the flute. There is something that stirs my emotions when I hear the songs from musicals, when I first watched Les Miserables I was very emotionally overcome after hearing the songs for many years previously. My passion for music has carried on until the present day, I am calmed by classical music and I became a self employed music lesson leader for early years children in September 2016.
My most recent special interests are, programmes such as ‘Game of Thrones,’ I have watched seasons 1 to 5 through beginning to end now 6 times, and season 6 though twice. Certain amazing episodes I have watched 3 times in a row! The music, the costumes, the fantasy – dragons, Direwolves, giants, Children of the Forest, the history – something else that I’ve always been interested in. I have read extracts from the Game of Thrones Wiki and if I see a character from GOT in another programme I will immediately recognise them. I was very close to calling my 2nd child Arya, after the GOT character ‘Arya Stark,’ one of my favourite characters, she was also almost called ‘Daenerys,’ after my other favourite character! Both these being very strong and fierce female characters. My youngest daughter is actually named after the actress that plays Arya Stark!
Blogging! And writing! I have always loved writing, I found the physical formation of letters and joining up words very difficult in school, I had intervention lessons to help, It wasn’t until I went into teaching training that I actually learnt how to properly form some letters! I wrote my first book at 11 years old which is collecting dust somewhere! It was when I discovered word processing on computers that my love of writing grew even more, I could get what I wanted to write out without worrying too much about the spelling or formation of my handwriting. I used to write essays and my sixth form tutor would refer to them as ‘War and Peace,’ which I didn’t actually understanding the meaning of until a few years ago!!! I enjoy the feeling of putting pen to paper and also the sensory feedback of typing on a computer keyboard, the sound and the click! I started my blog in May 2016 and I hadn’t even heard of blogging before! I find that writing is my therapy to get things out of my head, from repeatedly swimming in my thoughts! Whether or not people read my blogs doesn’t bother me too much as it’s more like therapy for myself. So far I have written over 100 posts. I also love social media, I like to interact with people, especially like-minded, and I don’t have the anxiety of actually talking to someone face-to-face. Sometimes I can become obsessed with social media and I can also get jealous sometimes that my life isn’t as rosy as other people’s so there are times when I do have to give myself ‘time out’ from social media.
Enough about me! These are my children’s current interests:
Moo is currently 2, it’s so early to tell if she’ll develop particular special interests but I can already see that she is fascinated by shoes! She gets all of the shoes from the shoe rack every morning and tries them on, she also shows everyone we meet her shoes, and looks at the shoes that people are wearing when we are out and about. She can also tell me along the washing line which particular item of clothing belongs to which member of the family, “Daddy’s, Mummy’s….”
Moo is also into ‘Bing’ Bunny from CBeebies, she will now say ‘Bing’ loudly when she would like to watch it, and if I’m not quick enough to put it on she’ll shout “Bing, Bing!” Moo has also recently got into trains and tractors, she loves wheels. She enjoys our weekly train journeys and gets very excited when she can see the train pulling into the station!
Lou’s special interests are already more defined, I first noticed her love of water from 18 months old (even though to this day she despises having her hair washed!) She used to stand at taps and let the water run through her fingers and along her arms, she would like the feel and sensory feedback of pushing her fingers up against the taps, resulting in bathrooms flooding at her childcare setting! Lou is interested in and gets very absorbed in any sensory, or messy play experiences, textured paint, bubble mixture, even if its food and not a particular sensory activity, for example, she will tip out yogurt onto the table and move it around with her hands in circular motion and tip out jelly onto the floor and move it around with her feet! She enjoys feeling the texture of various materials with her feet.
Lou got swept away with the Frozen film phenomenon at the age of 3, books, singing the songs from the soundtrack, watching the film many times in a row, many days on end! She had the character dresses for ‘Anna’ and ‘Elsa,’ and even though her interests have moved on since, she still likes to put on her ‘Anna dress,’ and will say to Moo: “You can be Queen Elsa and I’ll be Princess Anna.” She would also only answer to her name as ‘Princess Anna’ at one point! Lou had to have absolutely EVERYTHING Frozen, dresses, T-shirts, underwear, bags, purse, pencil case, colouring books, dolls, you name it!
From the age of 4 onwards, Lou discovered ‘You Tube Kids,’ she started by watching videos of ‘Surprise Eggs,’ with someone unwrapping an egg with a mixture of toys inside, with just the crackling sound of the unwrapping, someone’s hands and a rather screechy voice! These days Lou prefers to watch videos from children performing at ‘America’s Got Talent,’ with her favourite being that of a girl singing ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry, which she watches many times in a row, every…single…day! I have noticed that Lou does pronounce certain words with an American accent. From the age of 5, and current special interests are the ‘Trolls’ movie and ‘Shopkins,’ Lou collects the small figures and enjoys lining them up and ordering them. Rather like I used to do with ‘Polly Pocket,’ figures, and indeed, the original 1980s/1990s Trolls! Lou has Trolls everything! Just like she did with the Frozen craze. She also amazes me with how she can name every ‘Shopkins’ character and there are 100s! Am I tempted to re-collect Trolls figures? Yes very, especially after I needed to de-clutter before moving house around 3 years ago and I gave my collection of 100s of Trolls figures to a charity shop and then I see them going for ridiculous amounts on eBay! Whoops! But I will live my special interests like this now through my children!
Lou has been fascinated by time, she could tell me at 3 and a half years old that it was “7 O’clock.” Lou likes the days of the week, months of the year, dates, and times, she has her own ‘wall of organisation,’ at home displays days, and daily visual timetables, as she likes to know exactly what is going on and when.
I love hearing about the ‘Special Interests,’ of others, I recently asked some fellow SEND Bloggers and people I know who gave me permission to share their special interests.
Faithmummy told me how her son, Issac (8) loves lifts and hand dryers and also Bing Bunny. He takes Bing everywhere, and I know that my Moo would love his T-Shirt! She also told me how her daughter, Naomi (also 8,) enjoys Thomas the Tank Engine.
A very good friend of mine has 2 lovely children, Jessica (9) absolutely loves Ladybirds and has since the age of 2 and a half, she also loves ‘Animal Jam’ which is an illustrated game that is partnered with National Geographic. Jessica’s brother, Harry (6) is into ‘information,’ and London, especially Big Ben.
I love reading and talking about special interests, everyone is different, we all have different interest and I like to hear about them 😊
I’ve read a lot of articles and posts over the past year, most of which are helpful and informative, but once in a while I come across something that worries me and I have to avoid reading these type of articles to prevent further ‘overthinking.’
I recent read such as article that talked about how Mothers on the Autistic Spectrum are more likely to be accused of fabricating their child’s difficulties.
One further aspect I read about was that children’s services were known to have been investigating cases of fabricating a child’s Autism without parents having the knowledge that this was actually happening. I was so upset to read this, the day after I went into ‘shut-down’ mode, wondering if I should even carry on with Lou’s referral to the Autism assessment team. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the passion that drives me to fight for support for my daughter is to prevent her from suffering with mental health difficulties as I have. I want her to be supported in any way possible, as early as possible.
The problems we face as a family in getting certain messages across to the appropriate sources, is that Lou ‘masks’ her difficulties, except at home where she is most comfortable and with the people who she feels unconditionally love her, us – her parents. We recently discussed that only myself and Lou’s dad have seen the true extent to her anxieties, frustration and anger and full traits of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA.) In the past I have videoed her ‘sensory overloads’ or ‘meltdowns’ and voice recorded in hope to actually be believed that these events are happening. I hate to see my child struggle and I struggle to comprehend why anyone would want to believe that this could be ‘made-up.’ I’ve also mentioned in previous posts that even though we have a low income we are desperate for recognition and support for our child, not for financial gain, again this upset me to think that people may think this of parents. We do not qualify for DLA, and, at the moment I’m too exhausted to try again, just looking at the form gives me a huge headache! If our children need any extra equipment we’ve provided it as they’ve needed it, even if it meant we have to scrimp and save for it.
As her mother, I can sense when she is uncomfortable about something in terms of sensory issues, for example, I can tell if an item of clothing is bothering her just by knowing that I also experience irritability with seams and labels in clothing. I can also tell from a certain look on both of my children’s faces if they are about to hit out or throw something. I have tuned into their triggers and to an outsider this may not be seen.
Ironically, the day after I read the article on fabricating I received a letter from our local assessment team stating that they will be sending out a professional from their Complex Communication Needs (CCN) Team to assess Lou in school. For this I am grateful that we have been listened to, but it also puts the doubt in my mind that they will actually see Lou’s full extent of traits in this environment, I can only hope that my views as a parent, and closest person to Lou are taken into account and believed.
My next question for myself will come once we receive news if Lou will be kept on the assessment path or discharged, I hate to think of things too far before they happen, but I’ve made a mental note to myself not to appeal the decision made if it means that Lou is discharged from the service. And do I then use the pot of money that I’m continually saving for a Private Diagnosis or just leave it, but then have the worry of watching my child suffer further as the pressure continues to rise throughout school? There are so many people out there who cannot fund a private diagnosis so should why should the conventional route be this hard? Will girls who mask, and suffer in silence, such as I did as a child in the 1980s and 1990s, produce another generation of ‘Lost Girls,’ https://spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-lost-girls/
I have, until recently, held back concerns I had regarding my youngest child’s sensory issues, I believed that it would be thought that if both children were presenting with difficulties, then it must be my parenting skills, even though the sensory issues she is displaying are different to those of her sister’s, such as wanting to chew and eat inedible objects such as sand, mud, stone and chalk. We recently found out that Moo is also Hypermobile, she has been referred to Orthotics and Physiotherapy and this being found has taught me that the sooner any difficulties are identified then we can hopefully try to gain support for her. After going through the system a 2nd time, I’m now more familiar with how things work and I’m hoping that things are put into place before Moo starts school. I’ve done things differently this time around, as I’m now more familiar with the services to access. I’m now taking Moo to a ‘Stay and Play’ session at a local Special Needs school, where I can ask the advice of staff. I have also contacted our local ‘Early Years Inclusion Team,’ at our local County Council and I have chosen an Early Year’s setting that I feel is the best place for Moo and where I feel there are good links with the local Special Needs school where an ‘outreach’ service is offered for those children who are identified to require this support. They also offer ‘split placements’ where a child can attend some sessions in a mainstream setting and the rest in the Special Needs School’s own Nursery. I found the staff here to be incredibly intuitive to spotting Moo’s triggers for identifying when she is about to hit out at other children, just from the look on her face! They also taught her a technique for placing her hands onto her knees when her hands go out to hit out.
So for now I’ll just concentrate on what I’m doing, chasing up the appointments and test results and writing blog posts and updating my Facebook and Twitter blog pages and will try to put the worry of what other people think about me to the back of my mind.
So after having my initial adult ASD assessment on 13th April 2017 and it going to a panel to review, I had the feedback letter through the post today.
On the day I filled out questionnaires whilst in the waiting room and then had a 1 hour and 15 minute discussion based on my answers.
Firstly the report went through a lot about what I had discussed on the day in terms of my childhood, how I am socially and certain ‘traits’ such as ability to handle changes, collections of items and sensory difficulties. Many of these aspects I had included in the paperwork that I’d sent in to the practice because I knew that I was likely to freeze on the spot when being questioned directly. What this meant is that I was questioned and guided by what I had aleady shared before the day of the assessment.
The main thing from this feedback report was reading the results of the ‘Adult Autism Quotient (AQ) questionnaire,’ which measures behaviours, feelings and experiences associated with potential ‘Autistic Spectrum Conditions.’ Individuals with ASC typically score 32 or higher and I scored 47.
I then read that:
“The AQ is a screening tool and does not provide enough information for you to be given a diagnosis, but a score of more than 32, then taken alongside the information discussed, suggests that further assessment of an ASC diagnosis is warranted at this stage.”
These are the recommendations given in the report:
One thing I have noticed is that the term ASC is now being used, when I originally received my referral letter it stated it was a referral for an adult assessment for ‘Asperger’s Syndrome. ‘ Since I began blogging in March 2016, I’ve used the term ‘Autisitc Spectrum Disorder’ (ASD) and reading this on a report does make me question if I’m now using the ‘correct’ terms!
I’m fully expecting the journey to a possible diagnosis to take a while longer, I felt happy and sad yet again at the same time, but again a great sense of relief, all those years of doubting myself, questioning who I was, telling myself I was ‘different’ was for a huge reason and to be on the path to having this clarified for me is so liberating.
It is sad though, that my process for adult assessment is so much more straightforward than my own daughter’s, since January ’17 I’ve not really known what is going on in term of Lou’s assessment, no word of any assessments happening in school, no information. And to think that without understanding and researching regarding my own child, I’d have never have found out about myself.
My advice to anyone wondering about themselves being on the spectrum is that it’s never too late, try the AQ questionnaire and take it to your GP.
I will now wait for my next appointment and continue to share my journey 🙂
A few months ago I saw an article on the Redditch Advertiser website, where I read about fellow ‘warrior mum’ who was fighting a battle “to prove her innocence after being accused of faking her son’s autism.” Source: Redditch Advertiser 24/08/16.
A few days ago I saw on Bernardette’s Facebook page that she “is holding an art and spoken word event, which aims to expose the true harm caused by authorities to families with ‘unseen disabilities’ at Bromsgrove’s Artrix on Slideslow Drive.”
The event, which is taking place in the Artrix gallery, will run from Wednesday, February 1 to Sunday, February 26.
I was honoured to be approached by Bernadette who asked if I would like to include our story in the exhibition. I wrote quite a long passage! But I thought I’d share our most recent time line here, It really made me think – this is why I’m always feeling exhausted and I could look back on how much we’ve actually been through in a short space of time.
Here’s the time line of events:
On 16th March 2012 our first child was born via Emergency Caesarean Section after suffering meconium in the waters and a drop in her heart rate. It was an extremely scary time…
…Our current journey started when my daughter was 18 months old (September 2013,) when I noticed that she was distressed by sudden and unexpected noises and would scream, she would seek out anything related to water, and keep taps running until the bathroom at the nursery was flooded. She was extremely active and screamed and got angry – when I discussed this with anyone I was told “It’s the terrible 2’s come early,” or “she’ll grow out of it, but she didn’t. I was working full time, my daughter was attending a childminder’s and nursery, I just got on with things.
May-August 2015 – Health Visitor wrote in a report questioning whether I had bonded with my child from birth – to which I said: “Of course we bonded – she’s my world – I think about her before myself everyday.” I asked our Health Visitor’s advice regarding her behaviour, she replied: “Well you know more about childcare than me, you’ve been in the job longer.” A few weeks later I saw the Health Visitor outside the GP’s surgery and she asked my daughter: “have you been naughty today? This professional was supposed to be supporting me in my darkest hour – my child’s behaviour was worrying me and I’d just had my second baby. I felt cheated after building up a rapport with this person.
August 2015 – I wrote a letter of complaint to the local health visiting service (Worcestershire) to which they defended the actions of the health visitor, but also said that “lessons have been learnt.”
•September 2015 – referred to ‘Early Help’ via our local children’s centre. We were then assigned a ‘Family Support Worker,’ and I was put on both ‘Family Links,’ and Triple P (PPP) Parenting courses. I have since learnt that this is the usual protocol if a parent identifies an additional need in their child. Since researching ASD and PDA for the past 12 months, I now know that the methods advised to use from the PPP course do not work with my child, who scores high on the online scales for PDA (from the PDA society website.) Family Support was given to us once a week, a lot of parenting strategies given and I took on board absolutely everything that was suggested.
•October 2015 – Starts a new Pre School, staff there noted observations of sensory processing difficulties and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) was first mentioned so I researched more via the Internet and publications. An Area SENDCo is mentioned but my daughter was not seen by this professional once in the whole 12 months of attendance, I was told this was due to SENDCOs being made redundant because the company Babcock International had taken over these roles at Worcestershire County Council. New Health Visitor noticed our daughter’s behaviour at home and said: “It’s not your parenting, I believe you,” actually puts a referral through to CAHMS that we thought was put in by previous HV.
•December 2015 – Appointment at CAMHS Worcester, appointment with an Assistant Psychotherapist. Requested not to see our daughter so we attended with our youngest child. Outcomes basically from this appointment were that they were focusing on my anxiety and we were told to just “carry on with Family Support, as that seems to be working.” We left feeling very disappointed and I cried on the way home, after we had taken 2 buses to get there, and all this without even seeing my child.
•March 2016 – After the frustration of the CAMHS appointment, I started my own Blog that I named ‘Sensory Sensitive Mummy’ and opened up social media accounts alongside. I then connected with fellow SEND bloggers and joined many online support groups for the parents of children with additional needs.
•April 2016 – We saw Paediatrician for the first time who recognised that our daughter has ‘Sensory Processing Difficulties,’ with traits of ASD and ADHD, although she wouldn’t be tested for these until she has settled into school from September 2016, and that ADHD assessments are not usually completed until the age of 6. A referral was made to Occupational Therapy. Paediatrician also finds that my daughter has ‘Hypermobilty.’ “People with hypermobility are particularly supple and able to move their limbs into positions others find impossible. Joint hypermobility is what some people refer to as having “loose joints” or being “double-jointed.” (Source www.nhs.uk)
•May 2016 – attended Play Therapy at the SMILE centre in Malvern, staff extremely supportive and encourage us to apply to the ‘Family Fund,’ a charity who provides grants to disabled or seriously ill children. I applied but wasn’t very hopeful. The Family Fund sent out an assessor to our home, and this person noted that she could see that our daughter was a huge ‘sensory seeker’ as she was attempting to launch herself off furniture. The assessor said “I’m going to recommend a grant for sensory equipment and 8 play therapy sessions and I really feel that your child will really benefit.” I was shocked when we were awarded the grant and cried a lot, in relief, as the equipment such as ‘bubble tubes,’ were out of our budget range. Encouraged by Health Visitor to apply to DLA to help with costs such as a ‘Weighed Blanket,’ which was to help calm our child during ‘Sensory Overloads.’ These blankets range at around £180. Refused 3 times for DLA, due to “need is not great enough.” Even though our daughter requires constant supervision.
•June 2016 – Bloods requested by Paediatrician to check for genetic anomalies in our daughter.
•July 2016 – told that the OT referral hadn’t actually gone through due to a “mix-up” our Health Visitor does the referral herself.
•August 2016 – Family Support ends due to us “getting on well.” I offer a ‘Sensory Diet’ throughout the whole summer holidays. Behaviour gets progressively worse throughout the holidays as she struggles without the education routine, behaviour at home includes: – Spitting in our faces – Shouting – Screaming – Hitting out at me, her father and younger sister – rough-housing younger sister – throwing objects – damaging property such as doors, walls (from slamming doors,) pulling stair gates from walls. Results from daughter’s bloods show a “copy number imbalance of uncertain significance.” A letter was sent out with details. No letter actually received until Oct 2016 when I requested from our GP. No actual genetic numbers given to explain the imbalance. Bloods requested from both myself and partner.
•September 2016 – Settles well into school, interventions offered such as ‘Relax Kids’ and ‘Sensory breaks.’ Some sensory processing difficulties noted by staff, in terms of processing time and sitting on the carpet. No sensory overloads seen at school. Behaviour at home continues to spiral due to the step up in what is expected after the jump up from Pre School to School, holding in sensory overloads all day and ‘exploding’ as soon as reaching home, overloads seen up to 10 times a day and some overloads lasting an hour until she is calm. Often takes both myself and her father to help calm her. I attempted to self-refer back to Early Help – Family Support to help at home – told that we “no longer qualify for this service due to government funding cuts, and that ‘targeting’ families will be concentrated on.” I was told to “ring the Autism West Midlands helpline and they can advise you further.” I attended a talk on ASD run by Autism West Midlands (advised to by staff at children’s centre,) which initally confused me, as we still have no formal ASD diagnosis, but what I gained from this was a lot of reassurance that my daughter was indeed displaying very similar traits to other children with ASD and I had my ‘Light Bulb’ moment regarding my own difficulties that I’ve had since childhood (where I have written a separate blog post on.)
•September 2016 – I stood up and talked about our journey at a scrutiny meeting at Worcestershire County Council directly addressing Cllr Marc Bayliss who is the ‘Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Children and Families,’ responsible for the decision on funding cuts, that resulted in us no longer receiving support at home. I later directly email him and his ‘officer’ Hannah Needham replied to me on Cllr Bayliss’ behalf, and told me that “you have received your package of support.” I hadn’t named my daughter in my email and I was angry that she had referred to my daughter by name, as well as delving into our records without my permission. This email completely ridiculed me.
•October 2016 – received appointment with OT who notices Sensory Seeking and difficulties with gross motor skills, offers to observe in school and gives advice at home such as a ‘Traffic Light’ behaviour system. OT assistant finds that school are ‘doing all they can.’ And gives them equipment such as a ‘wobble cushion’ to help support her listening during carpet times. Heard nothing about our blood tests until I chased, had tests.
•December 2016 – OT rings to discharge my daughter from the service although I share how difficult at home her behaviour still is and that we no longer qualify for family support at home. OT unaware of children’s centre cuts and advises to keep behaviour diaries to send to the Paediatrician. I constantly research ASD and PDA and talk to other parents who have children with the same. I try out methods that are used for children with PDA and my daughter responds to these methods such as avoiding the word “NO” and avoiding negative or demanding phrases (where possible,) more than the methods that I had previously been advised to do. I spoke to the school nurse to ask for advice on my daughter’s inability to feel full, that she is constantly asking and seeking food, and that she will rip off locks on the kitchen door to get to food, this professional advised that my daughter is under OT and that this should be the professional to offer advice.
•January 2017 – Still fighting to be heard. Advocate for my daughter. Still waiting for blood test results…
As you can see from this timeline of events, there has been a lot of passing the buck and loop holes in the system. How many more families are meeting the same fate? Especially if their child has an invisible additional need. I am very lucky to have linked up with fellow SEND bloggers and spoken to a lot of parents whose children show identical traits to our daughter, many of these children have a formal diagnosis of ASD/PDA. We know of another family who have a daughter so identical to our child, they could be twins! If our health visitor and the Family Fund assessor could see what I do – why am I not being listened to or believed? What’s different about our case? Do they think it’s still my parenting after all this time? Am I exaggerating, making it up? I often think to myself after my daughter has had a serious sensory overload, “I simply couldn’t make this up, why would I want to?” We are not in this for the money – we don’t qualify for DLA! I am simply fighting for support for our child, to act as her voice, to ensure that she doesn’t have to go through the same struggles as I did – all the way through my school life and beyond.
Bearnadette has started a petition to help spread awareness of ASD/PDA, please sign and share to prevent other parents and their children slipping through the net and being misunderstood:
I first heard the word ‘Autism’ whilst I was studying for my 3-year teaching degree. Autism was referred to during my lectures on SEN and the SEN Code of Practice 2001 (as it was then known as back in 2001.)
I then completed a few courses run by the county council such as ‘Autism in the Early Years.’ I worked in a school in Norwich where there were a few pupils with ASD, just referred to as ‘Autism’ back in 2004. I must admit my initial thoughts about Autism were limited to people who find eye-contact difficult and those that seem to be ‘in their own world.’ How wrong I was, I had no idea that the ‘Spectrum’ was so wide and varied, util i started researching Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in terms of gaining information about my own child and starting my blog in March 2016.
Some questions were raised myself, after watching a documentary on ‘Girls with Autism’ http://www.itv.com/presscentre/press-releases/girls-autism a documentary shown on ITV in July 2015, based at Limpsfield Grange in Surrey. Which is the only state run boarding school in Britain specialising in girls with Autism. During this documentary it was highlighted that in some teenage girls, diagnoses such as Anorexia, Depression and particularly Bi Polar, have been given and not Autism. This hit home for me, remembering the time that my mum took me to my GP and said “please help, my daughter won’t eat,” after I only ate minimal food such as cucumber and gagged on the majority of my food, at the age of 14. I have often been told that I am anxious and/or depressed, In 2009 a doctor in Norwich labelled me as ‘Bi Polar,’ but I’ve always had serious doubts that this is the case.
It wasn’t until I attended a talk led by ‘Autism West Midlands’ in September 2016, that I had a ‘light-bulb’ moment. As we discussed various traits and issues experienced by other parents I sat there thinking, that sounds just like me! When discussing that some children simply cannot tell when they are full and have no idea when they are full, I thought “that’s me.” This also applied when talking about masking at school and building up sensory overloads all day at school, and then finally releasing like a volcano erupting once reaching home. I was a huge conformist as a child and a teenager, I can remember only ever having 2 detentions in my whole school life! I am, and was scared of authority, I used to get upset if other children were shouted at in class.
After the Autism talk I decided to look into the pro’s and con’s of going to ask my GP about the possibility of an adult assessment for ASD, in particular Asperger’s Syndrome, but I’m currently unsure if this can still be referred to?
I realised that I had taught myself how to deal with a lot of my traits as I’d grown into adulthood and that I am functioning fairly ‘OK’ these days, so I wasn’t looking for any sort of support in terms of strategies, although I’m always open to suggestions! Some of the things I have taught myself over time are:
Understanding jokes and sense of humour – although I still don’t always get some jokes!
How to gain and keep eye contact – this didn’t happen until I was around 18 and got my first job in customer service.
How to understand non-verbal cues in conversations, e.g. winks, yawns (if someone is bored!) etc.
How to hold a conversation that isn’t entirely one-sided! Sometimes I literally have verbal diarrhea – If I’m talking about something that I enjoy, or that I’m passionate about I forget to allow the person I’m talking to to respond or have their own say, so I’m now more aware of how conversations should go!
To know that not everyone has to be ‘my friend.’ I spent a great number of years trying to please everyone, I have been known to change my point of view to one that I know that the other person would agree with, if only to diffuse a situation and to avoid a disagreement or argument as I really am uncomfortable with any sort of confrontation. As a result I have often been ‘walked all over’ and have been a easy target to manipulate. It is only in the past year that I have said to myself ‘enough is enough’ and have stood up several times for what I truly believe in. I think becoming a mother has played a huge part in this!
Relationships ! This has always been a sore subject! Well until now! I’ve always struggled to find people that actually ‘get me.’ I was often called weird and it was difficult for past partners to live with my ‘quirks!’ I think this explains why I have struggled to commit long term in the past and also struggled to trust. Once I found someone who understands me it was very different, very difficult to live with at times, but I am not as impulsive as I was in my 20’s!
Saying things I don’t mean and speaking without thinking first, I don’t have a filter for the majority of time! If a though pops into my head it literally comes straight out! This results in me often wallowing for hours after a conversation wondering about why I said what I did and if the other person in the conversation was offended by what I said! Saying the wrong thing and people looking at me when I talk are the reasons that I didn’t talk very much as a child at school, I was labelled throughout my school life as ‘painfully shy.’ In fact, I knew most of the answers to questions in class I was just desperate not to be noticed or attention drawn to me, I like to fade into the background and would have loved an ‘Invisibility Cloak!’
Knowing that I am functioning in terms of running a household and caring for 2 young children, I had to think about the possible advantages of an adult ASD assessment:
I would hopefully be given answers to questions that I’ve had about myself my whole life, to confirm or dismiss any previous diagnoses.
Not a great deal would change, I would still have my home, my 2 children and partner of 6 years. I have also been able to hold down a job since I was 16 and I’ve worked in Childcare and Education for 13 years with only having around 6 week’s off work sick. I would also hope that my friends would understand me and that I haven’t changed, friends are precious to me as I find it so difficult to make and keep them!
I would hope that it may support future job roles, as I do hope to eventually work with children with additional needs, especially those with ASD, and Sensory Processing Difficulties as I can put myself in their place, I kind of know how they may be feeling, and If they are getting upset about something, it can be something as simple as a label in their clothes that has been making them feel uncomfortable all day.
I also had my doubts:
Would people treat me any differently? Think of me as only trying to gain money from a diagnosis, when it’s the same for my daughter, we don’t qualify and it is not the reason behind it – the reason is helping to accept myself and move on.
Would it affect my career? I’m worried that some may think that a diagnosis would effect my ability to do my job, but as stated above I have been doing it for 13 years, my paperwork is meticulous and I could never do any other job as it’s all I’ve ever known!
As I have dispelled my own doubts, I went to my GP after scoring myself with an online Asperger’s test where I scored 48 out of 50. I sent this test prior to my GP appointment and from there I was referred straight on for an adult ASD assessment. This was in October 2016 and I’m fully aware that this is going to be a long process and I’m prepared for the wait. I have spent many appointments with my daughter where I have explained in great detail how she feels, and have been often questioned:
“How do you know how she feels?”
My reply has always been:
“Because I feel the same.”
This is especially prominent in terms of sensory sensitivities such as itchy jumpers and labels in clothes!
What I hope to say in future appointment is:
“Because I am an adult who has ASD.”
I have taken a while to write this post, I felt ashamed at first, I wrote a poem and had it shared anonymously, very kindly by Kelly at ‘Its a Tink Thing.‘ Here is the poem I wrote;
“Their own autism, often undiagnosed, means they put professionals’ backs up and can be accused of causing or fabricating their children’s condition,” said Gould.
Source: theguardian.com 26/12/16.
I’m literally had no idea about my traits until I started looking into Sensory Processing Disorder, and I was invited to the talk on Autism by our previous Family Support Worker, this article states that there are other people who have the same experiences. I am currently in limbo as to whether I continue the fight for Lou or give up as I often left to feel like I am ‘making it all up,’ ‘fabricating’ or ‘exaggerating.’ My parenting has been blamed many a time for the behaviours that our daughter displays at home, I’m often left to ask people around me if they believe me, my poor mother has been asked this so may times, but as I have dedicated 12 months to building my Blog, Facebook and Twitter to my daughter’s story how could I simply be making this up?
For now, I’m taking each day at a time and seeing where it takes us.
One thing is for sure, I’ve learnt that I am who I am and I cannot change who i am and that I should be accepting of myself and proud of what I have and what I have achieved in my 34 years on this planet!
I would be completely lost without online support groups, there are support groups for people who are experiencing the same and it helps so much to talk to people that completely ‘get’ what I am saying. I have to also thank Autism West Midlands and The National Autistic Society for their wonderful websites, which have given me so much support and information.
If anyone is interested below is a link to my notes that I hope to take to my initial ASD assessment appointment. I welcome any feedback in terms of other adults who already have an ASD diagnosis to see what they think about my traits.