Advice for Parents of a Newly Diagnosed Child with Autism

You searched through what felt like hundreds of blogs until you found a story that sounded like yours.

Hello. I see you. I understand what you are feeling.

I was you. I am you.

You are looking to me for hope and answers.

I know you are in shock. Even if you knew deep down that something was different about your child you are still in shock.

When I walked out of Cooper’s diagnosis appointment I felt every single emotion possible.

We waited for 7 months for that appointment. The day came. The appointment happened. We got the diagnosis. We left. I cried.

Everything was immediately different yet exactly the same. I was not the same woman that walked through the front door of Fraser.

I was an Autism parent. A special needs parent. I had a label. The words felt foreign.

I was immediately different from other parents. I felt like it was tattooed on my forehead.

I immediately questioned everything I did during my pregnancy. I hated my body for failing this child.

I felt every single emotion possible. As I am sure you do too.

But they are flying at you so fast you can’t actually make out one from another. It’s a flood.

Relief. Sadness. Confusion. Isolation. Fear. Embarrassment. Anger. Desperation. Grief.

I wanted to take my beautiful baby and run away to a cabin in the woods. I think I actually tried to figure out a way where we could move to a remote part of the state.

I wanted to hide. If I hid him this would be fine.

I could outrun Autism. I knew I could. No one had to know.

This is called fight or flight. And it’s the grossest feeling ever. It’s not logical.

I get it friend. You are an autism parent now too. A special needs parent.

You are in a group. A group that you don’t want to be part of. And you feel more alone than ever.

I know how you feel. All these emotions are flying at you and you don’t know how to manage any of it. And to make it worse you still have this super challenging child.

Then add in everything you’ve ever heard about autism from Google and your mother’s sister’s friend’s daughter.

The advice is pouring in. Random friends of friends are emailing you.


But the oddest feeling of all is how the world keeps going on around you.

You are different. But yet your child is not. They are the exact same child. They don’t know they have a diagnosis.

You feel so confused.

You went to the appointment. You got the diagnosis. You left the appointment. You told Grandma and Grandpa. You tried to answer questions. You cried. You hugged your spouse.

You talked about the unknown future. You drove home. You fed your child dinner. You gave your kiddo a bath. You put him or her to bed. You hopped on Amazon and ordered 5 books on autism.

You joined a special needs parenting group on Facebook, thought about the day.

You spend hours wondering if the psychologist was wrong. You immediately Google, ‘Autism Misdiagnosis’ and find a wonderful blog post about a child cured from Autism.

And you think, ‘This is going to be fine. This will be fine.’

Then your child will completely and utterly throw you for a loop. Or maybe you will see them next to a peer and the blatant differences will scream at you.

This is real. This is happening. And you can’t outrun it.

You will look at your baby and see the exact same child you did pre-diagnosis. Nothing has changed.

All of a sudden you hate the term Autism. You think if you hear it again you might scream.

Can you say it out loud yet? Can you say, ‘my child is autistic.’?

It took me a year to be able to say my son has autism to a group of people. Even to this day it still sounds odd when it comes out of my mouth.

This will sound crazy to you but a day will come when you will tell someone that your child has autism and it will be a good thing. That sounds ludicrous right now. Just believe me.

The day will come and you will say it and you will see understanding in a strangers eyes.

And you will be thankful that you can explain to people why your child is hitting them self in the head. Or rolling on the ground screaming.

In a super weird completely messed up way that word is now your ally. But you aren’t there yet. So don’t think about that please.

If you are anything like me your first thoughts post diagnosis are ‘what now? You need a plan. A focus.

The night after his diagnosis I needed to research. I needed to stay busy. I needed to fix my son.

I want to tell you that I did it all wrong. I put way too much pressure on myself and my marriage and most of all Cooper.

Well, maybe not all wrong. But I was so panicked. I didn’t have the best support system and I isolated myself. Cooper’s dad would say I became a martyr.

So, here is my advice to you as a newly diagnosed parent:

Grieve. Feel every single feeling.
-Go easy on yourself. We all know you still love your child just as fiercely as you did yesterday. This is just hard stuff.

-You were pregnant just like every other mother out there and never once did you pray for a child with special needs. It’s ok to be sad.

-You pictured your child in one way and now you know that may never happen.

Take time to process.
-Nothing is going to change right away. I thought that our lives would change immediately once we had a diagnosis. I was wrong.

-It took months for us to see any services.  There was no medication. No magic pill. Honestly, there was no hope given. By the time we hit the car I was already on Google trying to find out how to fix this.

-As a result I did too much too soon and it left me feeling extra anxious. I was making phone calls and raising expectations and put way too much stress on myself.

Wait to tell people until you are truly ready.
-I told way too many people about Cooper’s autism appointment. I immediately regretted that because I didn’t know what to tell them after. I was scared and sad. I also had no answers.

-I didn’t know how to answer people’s questions. Still to this day people ask me if Cooper is going to talk. Or they ask what his future looks like. HELL IF I KNOW.

-I wasn’t prepared for people’s questions and they made me feel so much worse. I was too sad to help them understand Autism.

Find other Autism parents and resources.

-Build a village around your family. Find the best people to help and support your child.

-Finding other parents changed my life. Blogs helped. Facebook groups helped. I joined an Autism support group. Reach out. Don’t isolate yourself.

Get ready for a fight.

-I know this sounds funny. But it’s true. You are now the sole care advocate for a vulnerable child that most likely can’t communicate.

-You are going to fight battles that you didn’t even know were out there. You can do this.

Grief is not linear my friends. When you love something as much as you love your children you are going to have highs and lows. I still do.

That’s life and you are human.  Starting kindergarten was a toughie for me. It was supposed to be a joyous time in my son’s development and it was overshadowed by the lens of special education.

It’s a journey.

I want to tell you that you have the strength to do this. You will become stronger than you ever thought possible.

Your skin will get so unbelievably thick and you will become the strongest advocate for a vulnerable child. That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.

You don’t have to fight Autism. Or carry the torch against it.

But you do have to fight for the best services possible for this little person that is completely and solely dependent on you.

And good god friend you will feel isolated and alone because of this child.

Build your village. Find the best people and resources that fit your family.

I know it’s not the life you planned for…but I can promise you that you will get through these hard times.

You can do this. You are not alone.

In Defence of the Stay at Home Mum

Mention that you are a stay-at-home mother from Stoke-on-Trent and nobody will imagine anything good about you.

But add the information that you have a disabled child and you will be assumed into heaven, or at least promoted from ill-educated fecklessness to martyrdom – a state of shabby grace.

It might sound like an improvement, but the upgrade from stupid to sacrificing isn’t one I care for when both are equally inaccurate and damning.

I once had someone manage to incorporate both assumptions into one, single, condemnatory sentence: ‘Are you really so bovine that you can’t see how s*** your life is?’ (I should point out that this person wasn’t a complete stranger).

I gave them that stare – you know, the one Paddington Bear only wishes he could do.

Nothing I have done for any of my children, disabled or non-disabled, has been a sacrifice.

If anything had felt like a sacrifice, then I would have known I was making the wrong choice. Because that is all I have done: make a choice.

Admittedly the choice was initially presented to me by circumstance.

I had intended to return to work full-time when my maternity leave ended because … well, to be honest, just because that’s what everybody else does.

I knew that at first I’d be working for nothing, my wages would just cover the cost of childcare.

Although it seemed silly, and rather sad, for me to go to work to earn the money to pay someone else to do a job I desperately wanted to do myself, I never questioned it.

Returning to work after having a baby is what is expected of a woman these days.

Then, one day, a few weeks after my maternity leave started, I got a phone call saying that my employer had sold the business. I was effectively redundant.

I’d had several miscarriages before my longed-for baby arrived.

My husband suggested that it might be good for both myself and our son if I were to take a year out before looking for work, and just concentrate on being a mum: if we tightened our belts we could manage on his wage.

Later we decided that it would make sense to have our second child while I was still at home.

I did make a tentative foray back into the world of work when the children started school, but my eldest, who had been such a contented child until he went to pre-school, had real trouble settling into classroom life.

There were plenty ready to make assumptions then, too: to point the finger at me, for not sending him to nursery when he was a baby.

But I knew that there was something more fundamental at the root of it; after all, my daughter did not have the same problems.

At seven he was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I know there are many mothers out there in just this position who do work, but for us it just didn’t add up.

There were times when he just could not cope in school, or when school could not cope with him, and I would get a phone call asking me to pick him up even before the lunchtime bell had rung.

Not best practice, granted, strictly not even legal if I had objected, but School and I both agreed that during these times he needed to be in a predictable, low-stimulus environment where he felt safe, with a person who understood him and his difficulties very well, and was supportive of his needs.

In short he needed to be at home, with me.

I could see him through a meltdown, or help him to calm himself better than anyone, and if he had to be off for a couple of days I’d make sure we used the time constructively.

Even when he managed a full day at school, by the end of it he’d have steam coming out of his ears from the effort of holding himself together all day.

The last thing he needed was to have to then go to a childminder or after-school club, and cope with other children in an environment less orderly than a classroom.

Help for autistic children who do not also have learning difficulties was not then, and still is not, readily accessible.

I was the best resource available (and the cheapest): and the only one that all parties would trust implicitly.

We might have been slightly better off financially if I had gone back to work, but in no other way would our family well-being have benefitted.

I know what you’re assuming – something along the lines of: ‘Oh, that’s all very well if you’re a nice middle-class mummy whose husband has a well-paid job.’ But that isn’t how it was with us.

Our one income was relatively modest, and still is. But we didn’t have to make sacrifices, we just had to make choices about what was most important to us as a family.

I don’t think there can be many families in the land who don’t have to prioritise how they spend their money; we just had to be a little more rigorous than most.

We never had to do without the essentials; if we’d ever faced a choice between paying the mortgage and paying the gas bill, it would have been time to rethink our arrangements. But it never came to that.

In fact, in the end we realised that we weren’t substantially worse off than most of our two-income neighbours – possibly because we weren’t paying out a big chunk on childcare, or after-school clubs and holiday play-schemes.

And we only had to run one car. I don’t need a work wardrobe either.

We also never had to juggle whose turn it was to take leave if one of the children was ill, or who would take which week in the school holidays to try to reduce costs a bit.

We got to spend a lot of time with each other, and with the children. Freddie coming along when he did was a surprise for a whole host of reasons.

Because he has Down’s Syndrome we were inundated in his early years with appointments for various check-ups and therapies on a weekly basis.

I’ve never had a problem fitting these in around my work schedule, though (because I don’t have one), nor the hassle of trying to find affordable, inclusive childcare that is both willing and able to meet his additional needs.

So please do not assume that because I have chosen to be a stay-at-home mum that my life has been sacrificed, that it is less than.

A child’s first school is its mother’s lap, and you would not assume that a Nursery Nurse or Early Years Practitioner was bored with her job, or stupid, or that she had wasted her life.

was Nursery Nurse to my own children, I did everything with them that any decent childcare provider would do, and in the process I had the inestimable privilege of witnessing, and being heavily involved in, every moment in the development of these fascinating little beings.

I realise that the choices I have made are not possible for every family. Many mums have to return to work out of cold, hard, financial necessity.

Others are engaged in professions that require them to undertake Continuous Professional Development in order to keep practising in their chosen field.

For them, being a stay-at-home mum is not an option. But for us, my choice to stay at home has been our saving grace.

Although we have less disposable income than other families, we also have less stress, and more time.

This alone may well have saved us from imploding under pressure.

As far as I am concerned my family are my life; therefore, nothing I do to preserve the wellbeing of the family is a sacrifice.

The Normal Family

How I laughed. I probably laughed a little too loud and a little too long.

You see, one of the things that ‘Special Needs’ parents (for want of a better phrase) grieve over, in addition to the ‘loss’ of the child they were expecting to have, is the ‘loss’ of the normal, perhaps idyllic even, family life that they were expecting to have.

Even in those days, before Freddie was born with his (apparently) family-destroying diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, that (apparently) promised lay waste to any hopes of normality that we could ever harbour (heads up, folks – it doesn’t), we weren’t quite a ‘normal’ family anyway.

From the outside we must have looked like a regular, Ladybird book, Topsy and Tim, ideal family (only without the robotic, slightly glazed-over, patience of the mother. I’m waiting for the series where she finally flips her lid and starts setting fire to things).

A mum and a dad, only ever married to each other; two children, a boy and a girl; a three-bed semi with a family saloon on the drive; we even had a cat just like Postman Pat’s Jess.

I’m sure when we first moved in we must have looked to the neighbours like any other, ‘ordinary’, young couple.

They did not see the mother of one of us, who came to help us move in, become extremely agitated when I placed tins of cat food on the ‘wrong’ shelf in my cupboard.

If they had they would not have been alone in not understanding what the problem was. I didn’t either. Not then.

They also wouldn’t have been aware that sometimes, on lovely sunny days, my husband could not comfortably go out into the back garden, because he could hear the infinitesimally faint beeping of their car immobilisers, parked in the street out front, and the noise, inaudible to me, was almost unbearable to him.

After we acquired children, I, Mummy, stayed at home while Daddy went out to work. I didn’t wear a frilly apron, but I did bake things.

Anybody peeking in through the kitchen window might have concluded from the fruit bowl that our favourite was lemon sponge, or that I enjoyed a refined cup of lemon tea in the afternoons.

They would never have guessed that the reason there were so many lemons in the fruit bowl was because some members of my family like to peel and eat them like oranges.

That caused a few ‘issues’ at the school whose fresh-fruit-only snack policy couldn’t encompass the idea that a child who chose to eat lemons and redcurrants could find his senses so offended by more socially acceptable fruits like bananas and apples that he would vomit if he ate any of them.

It also didn’t encompass the fact that it took so much energy just for him to process the information he received during the first hour or so of the day, never mind to keep functioning in a ‘normal’ way like his peers, that by morning break he’s be shaking with hunger, despite having had a good breakfast, and a bit of fruit just wasn’t going to replenish him. He needed carbs.

It didn’t have to be a sugary snack, if they’d just let me provide him with unsweetened Scottish oatcakes he would’ve been fine with that.

But no, it had to be fruit; they couldn’t change the rules just for us, even though everyone at the school was very well aware that we were not ‘normal’.

No one at my daughter’s school was aware of this, though, as we had sent her to a different one, so that she would have a chance to be judged on her own merits, to be treated as a typical kid from a typical family, instead of being automatically tarred with an unfair brush.

This seemed important when she started school. But then an accidental breach of confidentiality during a meeting at my son’s school allowed another mother to become party to my son’s diagnosis, because her son had the same.

This lead to me being invited to a Parent Partnership coffee morning, where I discovered that there were actually a few of us, apparently, “chocolate-box”, families, that didn’t quite fall onto the ‘normal’ spectrum.

One or two were faces that I knew, but I’d had no idea they were facing similar challenges to us.

Then the husband of one of the Alpha Mummies, a woman who treated me with a particularly nauseating blend of pity and disdain, developed a case of blabbermouth, and let slip a few secrets during some locker-room banter that my husband overheard, and, uncharacteristically, shared with me (he couldn’t stick her attitude, either).

Neither of us ever breathed a word to anyone else, but we basked in the secret satisfaction of knowing that, in any person, and any aspect of life, the veneer of perceived ‘normality’ may only be skin-deep.

By the time Freddie came along I was quite at peace with the idea that family was ‘different’, an adjustment perhaps made easier by the fact that neither my husband, nor myself, come from the perfect Mum + Dad + 2.4 kids model of nuclear perfection.

In my husband’s family there were three kids and one adult, and not another living soul anywhere nearby who was related to them.

The only adult worked two jobs to make ends meet, so often the younger children were looked after by the eldest.

In my family, however, there was just one child, but three adults, because my Gran lived with us.

A childless aunt and uncle lived across the road, and I spent a lot of time in their house, and sometimes went away with them for the weekend.

Even with all this handy, free childcare, sometimes my mother would be so overcome by frustration that she’d try to ignite the doormat, or something.

I’d never heard the word ‘divorce’ until 1977 when my parents parted. Now divorce and ‘blended families’ are common.

Eventually my Gran developed dementia and was cared for by my mother.

In the adjoining house there lived a lady even older than my Gran; but in her case she was the carer: for her adult daughter who had schizophrenia.

In the house on the other side lived a man, with two women and several children whose relationship to him we could never discern. They had an extravagant collection of cats.

Prior to that the house had been occupied by a middle-aged couple, who kept two dogs and a goat (bear in mind this was a town house in the middle of the city).

The more I think about it, the more I realise how few of the families around me have conformed to what my daughter’s little classmate, and many other people, would consider ‘normal’.

All around us are (and always have been) families of widely differing shape and circumstance.

There are grandparents who have taken over the care of their grandchildren. There are children who take care of their parents.

There are families with no children, and there are people who are separated from their blood relatives by some unbridgeable gulf, who make family from the friends they have around them.

I don’t think it is only ‘Special Needs’ families (that phrase again) who grieve over the failure to achieve this iconic state.

However, as for me, I refuse to believe I have been robbed of, “normal”, family life, because we are just fine.

Our New Badge

It was a sort of watchers guide to keep you entertained on car journeys or on days out. I remember I had one about wildlife i.e birds, squirrels and so on, and I also had a vehicles one.

Recently this popped into my head when I was thinking about cerebral palsy.

I feel like with each piece of equipment issued, or new specialist referral you receive or each service you are referred for – you unlock a new level, you earn a new badge, you can tick off another photo on your watchers guide.

Things you eventually tick off – having a physio, having an OT, acquiring a standing frame… acquiring a second or third standing frame, getting a wheelchair referral, collecting your first wheelchair, a feeding tube change, an upgrade from NG to G, trying and failing at a PEG-J, booking a holiday in an adapted caravan, visiting a city hospital, visiting a city hospital that isn’t your nearest one, your first trip in an ambulance, your second, third, fourth.

You get my point.

Our most recent badge was a big one – the wheelchair access vehicle. A year ago if you used the acronym “WAV” at me I would have no idea what you were talking about.

Now I am in the world of slidey doors, ramp access, winches, hooks, and – actual air con!

Never in my life did I expect to own (well kind of own) a new car. Nor did I really want one either to be honest.

I want to get from A to B with minimal hassle and for us that has meant needing something big and with wheelchair access.

I always said I would never drive a big car too.. it is amazing what you will do when it means making life easier for yourself and your child. Now a big car? No big deal.

(Unless I have to parallel park. Please don’t ask me to do that, with or without parking sensors!)

The whole process seemed a bit staggering at first – who do we apply to, can we afford the deposit? Do we qualify for a grant? Do we need a winch? Will we have space for her bags?

Can I even drive a big car? Will people leave space for the ramp? And many other perplexing questions.

The volume of paperwork involved in filling out the mobility component of the DLA (or PIP – what do I even call it now?!), the choosing a car, the choosing a company (we went with access alternatives and got a “nearly new” as the deposit is way cheaper and we were too lazy to apply for the grant), and then the long wait!

Prior to getting our new van (he is called Huey) I was driving a ford focus.

Days out were an arduous affair – taking apart and re-assembling Amy’s incredibly large and heavy wheelchair and eventually ending up in a situation whereby no passengers would fit in the car and so on.

It is still difficult with a WAV – the wheelchair itself has 5 clips, and then the car has 4 straps attached to each corner of the wheelchair base and in addition to this a big seat belt as well as remembering to put the brakes on the wheelchair.

All very safe and secure, and you’ll feel so proud that first time you realise you’ve done it without too much thought!

Personally I feel quite strongly that the moment your child is a wheelchair user and no longer in a pram – THAT is when you should have a wheelchair van.

There is a HUGE difference between loading a pram into a car than a wheelchair – something that we all learn the hard way.

Wheelchairs do actually amaze me, these hefty pieces of wonderfully crafted bio mechanical engineering, perfectly contoured and adapted to your child’s specific postural needs.

They are one of the shiniest badges you and your child have earned and will enable you (hopefully!) to access the world with relative ease.

For me the need for a wheelchair is synonymous with the need for appropriate transport, something I will one day take up with someone, somewhere… maybe an MP? Who knows.

No one should have to struggle the way we did for so long before Huey entered our lives.

If you haven’t applied yet for your mobility car – I recommend you speak with other parents who have done this already. Attend any exhibitions you can where you can test the cars with your child.

I also recommend you contact anyone on your care team for help with the paperwork if you are struggling.

Take all of the help you can get, soak in as much information as you can, and most importantly – enjoy seeing your child’s happy face in their chair when you glance in the rear view mirror – for me that has been the unexpected thing that I loved most about getting this car.

I wish you all the best on yours and your child’s quest to earn more badges…

May you all wear them with pride as you reflect on the incredible journey you have embarked upon.

Lunch Date with a Tubie

We decided that the boys would pick me up from work and we’d take the dog to the groomers, then go out for lunch while we waited for him to be beautified (aka de-fluffed!).

We ended up in Pizza Hut, a place Sam enjoys because he loves the music they play and the atmosphere.

However, it always brings a little moment of awkwardness when we’re asked would we like a children’s menu, or when ordering what the little man would like.

Sam is PEG fed, completely nil by mouth (although he is allowed the odd taste now and again), but the servers aren’t to know that!

We always explain the situation and that he has his feed with him – we try to time going out for food with Sam’s feed times, so we’re not sitting eating in front of him while he waits for his.

Still, it makes me sad on a level that is positively visceral; I’d love my little boy to be able to join in and snaffle pizza like his fellow 5 year olds rather than be fed through a tube directly into his stomach.

His complex disabilities also make it difficult to try and engage him with anything – although now we will always ask for a childrens pack if they are available, and between the two of us we take it in turns to play with Sam and encourage him to do some colouring or to play a game.

It is exhausting.

You don’t get the same level of feedback that you do with a cognitively normal 5 year old, and it saps your energy as you are intently watching for the tell-tale signs that he’s enjoying himself or that its time to move on to the next activity.

He can’t talk, although he does vocalise; he’s registered blind although he does have some vision.

We know he can hear perfectly well, but he can’t respond to our suggestions or questions as clearly as other children can.

And it is soul destroying at times.

And then… then you see HIM.

The little boy, not the disabilities, focusing intently on colouring in a character on his page while his adored Daddy supports his hand while allowing him to do it himself.

Its only a brief moment, before the seizure activity overrides things and he struggles again to keep his eyes focused. But its there.

Its these little, fleeting glimpses of who my little boy really is that make up for the rest of the crap he and we deal with daily.

It’s a sign that regardless of his issues, he is winning.

Product Review: EazyHold Grips

However I was confronted with the dilemma that they are only available in the America so it was an £18 delivery charge.

This was quickly resolved with having friends who were visiting America who kindly offered to bring them back for us, winner!

I originally wanted them to assist Zachariah with using drumsticks to try and develop on from his usual banging and kicking to drumming using sticks, but I was pleasantly surprised with the opportunities they create, from holding a toothbrush to using a paintbrush.

With disabilities and a visual impairment it is very difficult for Zachariah to grab and hold onto things, and although he has done amazingly well learning to hold onto particular toys, there is still a need for assistance with others, more so with the smaller objects.

Before the Eazyholds we would do hand over hand technique when it came to painting, colouring and writing, and this would leave a feeling that it was never quite Zachariah’s own design, whereas now he can completely get ownership of his masterpieces.

The Eazyholds have opened up a whole new world of opportunities and it is beyond exciting for everyone involved, Zachariah is now signing birthday cards and painting his own pictures.

The biggest change for him has been at nursery, where he can now get even more involved in the activities with all his friends.

Inclusion is just so important to me, and with these Eazyholds it is made more accessible.

Zachariah gets such a huge sensory feedback from using the Eazyholds as it allows him to hold items of different sizes and textures and allows him to feel what it is like to use a felt tip and brush paint against the paper.

His face lights up when he uses them and this makes me incredibly happy.

So now I can give a legitimate review of the Eazyhold grips after using them with Zachariah for a few months, and I can honestly say they are incredible.

Simple, yet so effective and they bring so many opportunities.

Highly recommend them and look forward to seeing what other adventures are ahead of Zachariah, and look forward to pinning up many more Zachariah masterpieces onto my fridge.

It is such a proud moment seeing his creativity all hanging together in the kitchen.

It’s the big things, the small things and all those wonderful things in between.

Autism Awareness

My 8 year old daughter has autism. She attends, and is doing very well at, mainstream school.

April 2nd is autism awareness day around the world and the start of autism awareness month.

My daughter’s school are not doing anything to mark this at all.

There will be no autism awareness assembly.

There will be no dress down day for an autism charity.

There will be no information given to the children at all about it at any time that month.

Most parents of autistic children would be bitterly disappointed.

It seems like a missed opportunity as more and more children with autism attend mainstream schools in line with current policies of inclusion.

What people often forget though is that inclusion does not just mean more autistic children attending mainstream it also means more children will a huge mix of abilities and cultures attending mainstream.

Inclusion means everyone is welcomed and treated equally. It means classes have an eclectic mix of children of varying backgrounds, abilities and cultures in order to enhance the learning of everyone.

In practice my daughter has four children in her own class who do not have English as a first language.

She has children with learning disabilities, gifted children, children from all over the world and some with various medical conditions.

It is a rich learning environment where all are nurtured and all educated to the best of their ability.

My daughter is no more special than any other child in that class just because she has autism.

In fact the children in her class do not even know she has autism because there is no need for it to be known.

Exactly the same with the children who have asthma or the child who has ADHD.

Difference is totally normal and not something that is singled out for attention.

That is how it should be.

I want her to be celebrated and honoured for who she is NOT in spite of or because she has autism.

How would we feel if a child in her class was singled out because they have a different skin colour and it was mentioned their achievement was extra special because of their skin colour?

Or when a child did well at spelling the school singled them out as being ‘extra special’ because they come from a single parent family?

If this was done we would cringe. We would feel uncomfortable and even upset.

I feel a little bit like that about autism awareness month in relation to my daughter.

I am not ashamed she has autism just like I am not ashamed of her strawberry blond hair or her sparkling blue eyes.

I am not against anyone knowing she has autism either. I openly blog about it and talk about it.

BUT if her school were to mark autism awareness month in a big way and single her out she would feel uncomfortable and so would I.

Everyone is different. Everyone is beautiful. My daughter is wonderful because of who she is not because she has autism.

Autism does not define her.

Please understand I am all for autism awareness. I have made autism awareness videos, written poetry, done media interviews and I blog weekly about autism.

The world needs to know more about autism to be more tolerant and understanding.

But singling a child or children out in a mainstream school during autism awareness month is not always the best way to do this in my opinion.

I am delighted her mainstream school are not marking awareness month and I support them totally as a parent of two autistic children.

Special Needs Parents Need to Absorb Your Positive Energy

For instance being around an exceptionally bubbly, optimistic and humorous friend can bring the other friend out of a sad and depressed state and vice versa – a overly sad friend can bring down the happy friend under certain circumstances and conditions.

As human beings we all draw energy from one another like sponges.

We absorb the energy around us no matter what that energy is giving off.

This often can cause many people to become uncomfortable when they are within a certain groups of people who have a mixture of energy and emotions – as they are doing their best to filter that energy and decide on what they’re absorbing.

So why do we absorb the energies of others around us?

Theorists believe that this is common because we crave feeding our emotional state, and we often feed off of the emotions of others – however healthy or unhealthy that may actually be.

This also can account for why people can change their moods often multiple times throughout the day.

And some people, like special needs parents can be hosts to several conflicting emotions often simultaneously or concurrently with each other.

A special needs parent be stressed, angry, overwhelmed and anxious, and at the same time be optimistic, and joyful.

We are a spectrum of emotional fun.  (Enter sarcasm).

And in knowing this, it often detours people from wanting to be our friends and either let our energy rub off on them, or allow us to feed from their energy – whatever that may be.

Our energies as special needs parents can be intimidating – and come from a place which is hard to understand.

While I can assure you that the large majority of us are not bi-polar, we do rock our emotions from one end to the other – almost all day long.

Perhaps a coping mechanism, but really because we’re in touch with the emotional expressiveness that this journey takes on caring and parenting children with special needs.

But you will find that if you can isolate a special needs parent into a favorable energy space with another person that they’ll be more hopeful, optimistic, uplifted and refueled faster and more quickly than if they had no positive energy source or person in their lives.

Likewise the same is true if you take a special needs parent and put them into an energy space with a grieving person, a depressed person, or one that is continually pessimistic about all circumstances and situations – you will see that special needs parent fester feelings and emotions that are less hopeful and even emotions that could be considered less than being in productive space.

Knowing that we all crave energy from each other, and that we all can absorb both positive and negative energy – how can one best help be the best energy source for a special needs parent?

Make a conscience effort to be in a good space with a special needs parent.

While offering them a sincere listening ear – also offer them great laughter, humor, fun – a cheerful presence with lightheartedness.

Certainly, it’s more than okay to offer them a mixture of understanding and compassion about the gravity of the situation, but let them feed off of any positive you can throw their way.

It refuels the balance of the roller coaster of emotions that they go through in a single day.

And at the same time, don’t shy away from a special needs parents because you fear their energy.

While our energy is unique and often unbalanced, our energy has the potential assist others with both empathy, compassion and patience.  Don’t be fearful of our type of energy.

It’s often so across the board and we can’t always help where our emotions take us.

It’s hard and complicated and something that we try to be gentle with ourselves about.

So make an effort to offer and throw some positive energy in the direction of a special needs parent.

Guaranteed they are craving it and need it to refuel them through all the difficult moments and stages that come along with their children.

You had the potential to be a rainbow in their clouds –

“The human body is very similar to a plant that sucks, absorbs the energy needed to feed your emotional state, and can energize the cells and increase the amount of cortisol and catabolize, feed the cells depending on the emotional need. ” continues Bader-Lee.

That is why many people can change their mood which leads to being nervous, stressed, angry, anxious, sad, but also happy, optimistic and laughing.

15 Easy Ways to Beat Stress and Boost Happiness

This post is being written after I spent all of last week in the hospital with our son, who was having some difficulty dealing with a GI bug of some sort.

He is back home and doing much better now.

The morning after we returned home from the hospital our daughter got sick with what was most likely the same stomach virus our son had.

We all know having sick kids equates to not getting enough sleep, and let me tell you that sleeping on a hospital chair/couch is not at all restful either.

My body is great at telling me when I’m worn down and stressed out, so doing research for this blog post on Stress Awareness Month is going to come in handy as I seek some ways to get extra relaxation and rest.

For me personally, more stress brings on more anxiety.  When I’m away from home in the hospital or not feeling the best myself, it is a challenge to get to the gym to exercise.

Sometimes I just plain do not have the energy, so it is important to find little ways to take better care of myself, and to decrease the anxiety that stress can create.

If my stress and anxiety are not well managed, some real health issues can surface, and if mama is sick, running a normal home life is very difficult.

So do yourself and your health a favor and take a look at some of these great ideas to eliminate stress this month and every month!

Try out adult coloring books

Listen to music that makes you happy

Find a positive phrase, scripture, quote to repeat to yourself

Keep a gratitude journal of things you are thankful for


Try yoga, jogging, or Pilates from free online videos

Take a break, even just for a day, from social media like Facebook and Instagram

Get outside for a bit…nature and fresh air can do a lot for the soul

Soak in a hot bath

Go for a walk – a 10-minute walk can relieve anxiety

Laugh…it reduces stress hormones!

Spend five minutes breathing slowly and deeply to reduce stress hormones

Get a massage or spa treatment

Listen to a funny podcast

Get a good night’s sleep