The Love of A Brother.

Increasing the size of your family is one of the biggest life changing decisions anyone takes. Deciding to increase the size of your family when you already have a child with special needs, in our case nonverbal autism is an epic decision. We already live in a challenging world, a world of unknowns but bringing another baby into the world was delving into the biggest unknown we have ever faced.

Whilst the future is uncertain and welcoming a second child with his own health conditions has been at times completely overwhelming, one thing that is a clear certain is the benefit our 7 month old baby has had on our 4 year old autistic son. For the benefit of this I am going to narrow it down to just 5 key reasons.

1. THEY BOTH ADORE EACH OTHER:
Gotta be honest, this wasn’t clear from the get go and the day we brought a baby home our four year old took hostage in his room and refused to come downstairs. Uh oh, what have we done!? It has been a slow burner but it is obvious the adoration for each other and their bond gets stronger all the time. How do we know? Their eyes follow each other around the room and their faces light up in each others presence. The baby has to come everywhere with us and has his own personal protective bodyguard if anyone else wants to coo over him.

2. BABY BROTHERS HAVE SUPER POWERS:
Bumped your head? Snuggling into the baby will make you feel better. Can’t figure out how to rewind your favourite singing parts on TV? Pass the baby the remote and he has it covered. Something broken? Hand the baby your toy screwdriver and broken toy and he will fix it in no time. Sneakily took some crisps out of the drawer without Mum and Dad knowing? Give the baby the packet and he will open them for you. Obviously we know that a seven month old can’t do these things but it is utterly adorable the way the four year old thinks he can do just about anything.

3. SHARING IS CARING:
Sharing things is something that doesn’t come easily for our autistic boy. He is protective of his toys and trying to persuade him to give you one of his raisins etc is almost certainly a no go. Yet, he will do all of this with his little bro, he actively shares without needing to ask. I imagine this will change once he is mobile and wanting all of his toys! Sharing activities like dancing is the best and source of lots of laughter and all around happiness.

4. RECOGNISING EMOTIONS IS BECOMING EASIER:
A typical autistic trait is not being able to read emotions. Our four year old really struggles to differentiate between all emotions, often finding people crying absolutely hysterical. However, he is starting to recognize when the baby is grizzly and will often just go and sit with him and stroke him. He will get him his dummy if he cries and he definitely seems to recognize the happy gummy smiles and squeals. If he is recognizing these emotions in him, then hopefully he will pick up others emotions and body language too.

5. THE FUTURE IS EXCITING:
In our experience having a baby has had such a positive impact on our four year old and we are so excited to watch their bond grow as they both get older, with mobility and first words looming it will be interesting to see if these have any impact on his progress.

There we have it. We have an absolute zero pressure policy on their relationship and will go with the flow with how the future pans out. We celebrate the tiniest of achievements and we don’t dwell on the imperfections. We might not be your typical family but it’s so true that love needs no words.  

School Runs and Shopping Trolleys
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Dear Prime Minister…

Dear Theresa May PM,

Presumably, you get many hundreds of letters with regards to state benefits. I feel compelled to write following some unexpected situations life has thrown at our family.

Let me explain…

I’m educated to degree level with a Business Management degree and over a decade of post-graduate work experience where I worked from junior positions to middle/senior management in private sector organisations.  I am a dedicated, loyal and hard working person and at 35 years young and have many, many years left in me to advance my career, contribute to society and most importantly (personally) to support my family and give them a good life.

In 2013 I gave birth to a beautiful boy who I had longed for, way before his arrival. He was, and indeed is perfect. Following some evident differences between him and his peers when he was still only small we embarked upon a long (two year) diagnosis process where eventually it was confirmed that he has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

He is now four years old and is nonverbal. He is not toilet trained. He has absolutely no awareness of danger. He does not sleep well (ever) without medication. He has no interpretation of emotions. He has more energy than anyone I have ever met. He should be starting school in a few weeks but he is not as mainstream schools can’t cater for his complex needs and despite the fight I put up to get his paperwork in place for a specialized school, I was defeated because the Special Education Needs (SEN) budgets are so scarce and workloads so vast that they can not meet the legal time frames to get things in place.  He needs around the clock care. He is my full-time job. This year we also had another beautiful baby boy. He has his own health conditions which I won’t go into other than to say he needs frequent medical check-ups and will do (likely) for life.

Nobody plans on becoming a special needs parent. Nobody. You don’t visualize the future caring for your child for the rest of your life. Inadvertently you are training them to be independent from a very young age.

Because of all of the above, I am unable to get a regular job. I want a job so desperately but only being available for a few hours a day, term time and with the likelihood of unforeseen absences due to therapy  / medical appointments and sheer exhaustion after stints of months of severe sleep deprivation I don’t seem such a sexy choice for any employer.

I’ve recently resigned myself to having to consider the Government funded Carers Allowance. I am insulted. A mere £62.70 a week is pitiful.  Particularly when you consider the hours of above and beyond care needed, equating to what, in my experience is much more demanding, tiring and time consuming than any job I have ever had. To qualify for carers allowance you need to care for someone for at least 35 hours a week, let’s say that you care for someone for just 35 hours that equates to £1.79 per hour! And let’s be honest when you live 24/7 as a parent of a special needs child, you are never off duty. Never.

As I’ve already pointed out, I want to work. Actually the dream is to go solo and to set something up to benefit others who are in similar situations to myself. To provide a service that is so desperately needed so that people don’t  feel so alone and isolated as I have the last couple of years. To bridge the gap in my community where funding has been stripped so much that disabled people are excluded from society for outrageous reasons like there not being any Changing Places toilet facilities. I spend, quite literally hours every day thinking about this and how I can make it a possibility. But the reality is hard. Made even harder because in the time I have been unable to work I have spent savings and have some debt so again, I appear unsexy to any bank whom I would need to back me. Let’s not beat around the bush, there would be no surplus to put aside from the Carers Allowance to help.

I am becoming reliant on the pittance you provide – through no fault of my own with no future in sight. More is offered for Job Seekers Allowance. Why? Why give more money to people that can work – but often choose not to – and I apologize for generalizing. I know from personal experience this isn’t always the case. I am stuck and angry. Angry that more isn’t being done to help some of the most vulnerable in society. Angry that because there aren’t enough services to help my son so that I can get a job more easily.

I ask that you consider revising the Carers Allowance, one day PM you may need a carer, or you may be the carer. You won’t choose this, circumstance will. I ask that more is done for carers, more help and support is offered so that people like me don’t feel a burden to society. The thought of this being it for me is petrifying.  How is it that I know more about prisoners being given help and support to be integrated back into society when I know of nothing that helps carers?

Kind Regards,

 

A Special Needs Mum

 

 

Face of Mum

You will only see this on here once. A tear stained, blotchy face and stinging red eyes. Not an uncommon occurence in reality but a face of mum that you can’t see behind a keyboard.

Today we have spread autism awareness everywhere we have been. It would be great to be able to pick and choose where and when we do this, like I can on here but in reality we can’t turn autism on and off.

This face of mum has been up since 4am this morning (aside from the sleeping with one eye open until finally relenting and putting Cartoonito on at 6am). Apparently that’s an acceptable time to start the day – not for the first time in recent days. A 4am start combined with 3 get ups for The Small One through the night no less. 

This face of mum has been on a playdate with friends this morning.  A pang of jealousy ripped through her for their seemingly normal life. Four year olds playing together nicely in a bedroom. Parents eyes not fixated on every move their child made. She hates that feeling of jealousy but the feeling of guilt for feeling it in the first place is worse. The Monster was golden until it was almost time to go and he spread a sprinkling of autism awareness in the form of running at lightening speed through the house, escaping upstairs and trying to then come down unaided, shouting, refusing to put shoes on, slamming doors, lying on the pavement and refusing to walk to the car.

This face of mum has taken the boys to the Dr’s where The Small One had an appointment for his jabs. Here he spread his usual autism awareness by turning the self check in screen on and off and caused havoc in the waiting room, with the additional excitement of some furniture being brought into the surgery. Game over. Luckily they were then given a private room to wait in and the lovely nurse gave The Monster a pack of sweets whilst The Small one had his injections. After playing with the taps and a splash of water around the room later they left having only received a couple eye rolls from the elderly couple in the waiting room.

This face of mum instinctively let go of the pushchair for 3 seconds max to check The Monsters hands whilst walking home and he rubbed his hands through a thorn bush. In those three seconds (max) the pushchair had free rolled into the road and was still moving. Thankfully there were no cars coming.

This face of mum has received post for yet another hospital appointment for The Small One. As usual on a day The Monster is not in nursery. This mum can’t deal with thinking about that today.

This face of mum has had emails from The Monster’s Educational Psychologist today delaying an appointment made for June by almost a month and also wants another meeting in less than a weeks time, looks like she will be facing that one without Dad again.

This face of mum has packed the boys in the car and driven until they have both fallen asleep just so she can catch her breath today.

Today, this mum craves normality, an easier carefree life for her babies.