Ever wondered what it is really like to parent from a special perspective? Parent to a Special Needs Child? Where do you turn for help? What challenges do you face? What has surprised you? What have you learned? Every month I will be featuring one of my brilliant fellow SEND bloggers and sharing their reflections on raising a child with special needs.
Welcome Jeanette to Diary of an Imperfect Mum.
Hi, I'm Jeannette and I'm from Berkshire, U.K. I started blogging 4 years ago when I realised it helped me to "blog it out" when days weren't so good. Other people's blogs had helped me and I wanted to pay it foward as it were.
The blog has helped me through diagnosis of my second child with autism, my depression and battling some inner demons, we do have some lighter moments too!!
1. When did you first realise your children have autism?
I started child minding when my daughter (D) was 18 months old, it became apparent that she differed in progress from her similar aged peers, they'd be chattering away and playing and I'd started to wonder and investigate autism.
She was diagnosed at 4.5 years and it wasn't a surprise, more of a relief that she'd receive support in nursery. I did go through a grieving period for the child she wouldn't grow up to be but that was very quickly replaced by a passion to understand more about autism and try and increase some awareness and acceptance out there.
Her brother (T) is 18 months older and we knew that he was also displaying some traits, he was also 2-3 years ahead of his peers and again, as he grew older, his mannerisms and traits were setting him apart from his peers, although he is very good at masking emotion during the day. T was diagnosed with high functioning autism at age 10.5 as, by then, we realised that, should he need any support in secondary school - which was looking fast - he needed a "label" by way of a diagnosis.
T is now 13.5 and D is 12 on 20th May.
2. How did you feel when you found out that your child has autism?
As above, I almost grieved at first but then became determined to try and change the perceptions of others for them.
3. Where did you first turn for help?
The nursery school D was at. I found authorities very unhelpful, they didn't see her as an individual, more a budget figure.
4. What advice would you give a parent who suspects or has just found out that their child has autism?
To seek out other parents and speak to them. Professionals who've studied autism are no match for those who live with someone on the spectrum.
Trust your instincts and act on them. If you suspect that your child is struggling in an environment, despite being told that everything is "fine", act on it.
Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice.
5. Did you know what it is when it was first diagnosed?
I knew of autism before D was diagnosed as I'd had my suspicions. The traits she was showing all made sense once I'd researched the condition.
6. What are the biggest challenges facing your children and your family?
Acceptance from others. Because neither D or T look autistic, it is tricky if we're out and they become uncomfortable.
We haven't had a family holiday for years because they prefer their own environment.
I never "switch off" and that has been detrimental to my health.
My biggest worry is the future, they are children with autism who will grow into adults with autism, they won't be "cured" but they will hopefully learn to cope more with the challenging environments that they'll encounter.
7. What has been the greatest help for you, your child and your family in overcoming these challenges?
Talking to other parents.
8. What has surprised you the most about raising a child with autism?
That in the right environment they can flourish.
When D was diagnosed, they couldn't tell me if she'd read or write and she was overwhelmed by a mainstream environment.
She now reads anything and everything! Writing is still a challenge but she has achieved far more than I ever envisaged.
Her SN school has provided wonderful opportunities, I'm so glad she's in the right environment, for her.
Also, that my children are so similar but very different. For example, D will cuddle, cuddle and cuddle, the tighter the better and is very affectionate, T doesn't like cuddles or any contact, he'll put his head onto an arm or shoulder and that's as far as it goes.
9. What’s the main bit of/the best advice you’d give another parent who has a child with autism?
Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to seek help or guidance from others. Appreciate your child for the individual they are and focus on what they can do, not what they can't.
10. Generally, what have you learnt about parenting, life, people or children from your experiences as a parent of a child with additional needs?
That no two days are the same, which is strange considering my children require a routine! That a diagnosis can be a positive if it means that support can now be sought.
Jeanette blogs over at Autism Mumma. and started out as purely a parenting blog, but she now finds it helps to journey her wellbeing and battling some inner demons!
Thank you very much to Jeanette for taking part in the series. Jeanette's brilliant blog was one of the first autism blogs I ever read and I am over the moon that she agreed to take part in my virtual interview series!
Liked this post then check out more in the series here.