My biggest fear when I found out that my son was on the autistic spectrum was that he would find it hard to fit in and be accepted by his peers. That he would go through life experiencing being misunderstood and that this would negatively impact his mental wellbeing. I read books about young people and autism and to be honest these didn’t reassure me that things could be ok. I decided to try to put myself in my sons’ shoes, to see the world through his eyes so that I could understand his behaviours and his way of doing things. This helped me be more accepting and I think this allowed him to feel ok about himself. I hope that having this bedrock of “I’m ok, I’m enough” has given him the confidence and self-esteem he needs to get on in life.
We did A LOT of work over many years using social stories and role playing to help him figure out what neurotypical people expect in social settings without making a value judgment on whether his or their behaviours were right or wrong.
I started following autistic people on social media and reading articles written by autistic people to understand more of the autistic perspective.
We celebrated his strengths and encouraged him in his special interests which meant showing interest in them and seeing them as valuable.
We learned not to be ashamed when he behaved in unexpected ways. We learned to prioritise his well-being over the opinion of others when he got upset or angry. All that wasn’t as easy or as smooth as I just made it sound!
What’s changed for me?
As my son got older and things started to settle, I found that I had the energy to start reaching out to other parents who were also raising autistic children. I started this blog in 2016 and wrote weekly posts in order to try and promote greater understanding and awareness about parenting autistic children. In 2018 I completed a PG Cert training course in coaching resulting in a major career swerve last year. I am now working as a life coach for autistic teenagers and adults who need an understanding space to explore what their goals are and how they would like to reach them. This summer I also trained as a parent coach and am about to launch an online parent coaching course for parents of autistic children – I’m providing the support I would have wanted when my son was little, the space to think through some of the issues and challenges which present themselves when you have a child who does not behave, think or perceive the world in a typical way.
The parenting coaching course is for parents who have autistic children in mainstream education who may well be performing at or above expected educational levels. It is for parents who are interested in raising their children in an inclusive neurodiverse family setting and who want their children to grow up feeling good about being autistic people.
If you or someone you know would like to come on a parent coaching course then please go to my website Communication Coaching to find out more information.
Just by way of reassurance this isn’t a course where you are told what to do and how to do it. I’m not Super Nanny! It’s a coaching course designed to help you think, reflect and find your next step forward to make your family life work better for all of you.
And finally – What happened to Edward?
If you used to follow my blog you’ll know it’s been virtually inactive since I started my coaching work. Edward has grown up and his life is his story now, for him to share as he wishes. I do however have permission from him to give you a little update.
Due to the pandemic he didn’t sit his A levels this summer but managed to get a set of 4 A*s based on his predicted grades. Prior to the pandemic he got his first job, working in a bar at a local sports venue. This was not something I ever for one minute imagined he’d do as he doesn’t much care for either alcohol or noisy environments. He worked 3 shifts and was then furloughed! Since September he’s been at Durham university where he is studying Maths. Due to the current lockdown measures we have no idea when we will see him again and that’s hard (for me at any rate), in the meantime, we have instigated a weekly family zoom to stay connected and he’s made 2 out of 3 so far! He seems to be doing well both academically and socially and I know he’s already told a few people that he is autistic; he’ll have done that for the sake of clarity and openness and without embarrassment or shame. I’m still adjusting to him not being at home and keep expecting to come across him lounging around somewhere, headphones on, listening to his latest favourite podcast, asking me random questions about things I’ve never considered before. I miss him.
There’s nothing as bittersweet as a child leaving home, it’s a sign all has gone well and it’s a wrench seeing them go. I’m just hoping that all we’ve done and all he’s done leading up to this point will set him up well for his adult life.
So, although I’m no longer going to be writing posts for this blog I’m still very much an advocate wishing to raise awareness and acceptance about autism. You’ll find out more about my current ventures via my Communication Coaching website. I’ll be writing regular posts there about parenting, autism, and coaching so if you want to keep up to date pop over and sign up to receive more posts from me.
Thank you so much for being part of this blog community – I’ve learned so much from reading other blogs, your comments, and your feedback. It’s been really great to connect with so many of you and I appreciate all the words of encouragement I’ve had from you to keep doing this work.