Discovering my perfect firstborn was ‘supposedly’ not quite so perfect was initially devastating and difficult to come to terms with
His arrival and early years felt like life as I knew it stopped, and a new one began. It’s been tough, but I’ve learned more from him then I could ever have imagined, he’s been my best teacher. My baby is now 21 and today I feel lucky and grateful to be his mum because guess what? As it turns out, my ‘not so perfect’ baby was perfect all along – all he needed was the right support and environment in which to thrive.
My journey has seen me fight the education, welfare, and healthcare systems
In the early days, I hit a brick wall every time. I knew my son needed support, but I didn’t know what he needed or how to get it. You can’t ask for support you don’t know exists. When support exists and your child qualifies, why aren’t you told it’s available? And, most frustratingly, why, without fail, do you then have to fight for it? I saw more professionals in his early years than I ever thought possible. We eventually secured his autism diagnosis when he was six. He has a Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) autism profile, and he also has learning disabilities. That diagnosis was a double-edged sword. Deep down I already knew he was autistic, and I felt relieved the professionals now agreed. But I also felt crushed. I feared for his future, my future and that of my family’s.
We went home with that diagnosis and waited. But nothing happened - life didn’t change. My son still behaved in the same way, which we still didn’t understand. Our lives remained upside down. I thought the official autism diagnosis was like Charlie’s golden ticket to the chocolate factory. Finally, I believed, the gates would open, and I would secure the support my son needed. It didn’t happen. If you are awaiting diagnosis for your child, keep going. Diagnosis is important but let me help you come to terms with something right now – you don’t awaken the next morning as the Walton family. The fight never ends.
I liken it to competing in the Olympic hurdles. Diagnosis is the first hurdle. You must clear it because you can’t continue until you do. But there are another nine hurdles to the finish line, which is where you’ll eventually start to secure some of the support your son or daughter needs. Over the years that followed, many more professionals came and went. Many told me: ‘You’re doing a great job’. But if that were true, why weren’t we happy? Why did I feel like my family was falling apart due to all the constant arguing and fighting? My son’s violent outbursts led to school exclusions, outings were a nightmare and friendships disappeared. How was that doing a great job?
After years of confusion, anguish, and desperation, what I came to realise was that the support my son needed simply didn’t exist
There was no “quick fix” because my son wasn’t broken - he was simply different. Nothing was going
to change him, and no stand-alone therapy was suddenly going to enable him to conform or fit neatly into our society. And so, gradually I came to realise, if I wanted to secure a happier, more harmonious life then the solutions I was seeking didn’t lay in changing my son, they lay in changing me:
It was me who needed to learn how autism in our world impacted my son - and us as a family.
It was me who needed to navigate the welfare, education, and health systems.
It was me who needed to create an environment that allowed him to thrive.
Ultimately, it was me who needed the support. I had to learn how to be a parent my son but in a different way. My journey saw me slowly and painfully accept, then learn, how to do all this. It’s my journey that led me to go back to ‘school’ and to set my experiences in a wider context, so I could help others learn while leapfrogging some of the heartache and hurdles I faced.
So here we are in 2022
Me, my husband, our four children and two dogs living in beautiful Cornwall - and doesn’t that sound idyllic? In reality the house is a tip, the washing basket’s overflowing and there are locks on our fridge and food cupboards. However, we often eat at the table together, laugh together and enjoy spending time together. Equally, it’s perfect if you love pizza, plain pasta or chicken nuggets and you’re happy to talk football, Strictly or the X factor. My life today has been transformed and is far happier than it was, indeed for us, it’s near-on perfect – but, I wish I’d learned much earlier on, that “perfect” is far more attainable when you realise it is subjective and you need your version of it – not someone else’s.
So, if you learn anything from this website and my story please do leave with this:
1. Forget trying to conform with what others expect, or what you think you “should” be doing. We get too caught-up in this, at the expense of what’s important and right for us and our own family.
2. Don’t do what I did and blame others, particularly professionals, who I blamed for their lack of input to help my son and the subsequent unhappiness of our family. Be accountable. We are, and always will be, responsible for our own happiness. Taking responsibility for my own, positively impacted my family’s happiness. Our life has changed for the better because of it.
3. No matter how dreadful things may seem today, please know it is possible to live a full, valued, and happy life where anything is possible. You don’t ‘need’ me to secure this – it’s possible to work it out yourself. Let’s face it, I did. But it is a long and lonely road and I wish I’d had someone, with all the knowledge and experience I have today, who could have helped guide me from the outset.
The reason I became a coach is because I realise now that childhood doesn’t last forever
My eldest is now 21 and we wasted too much of that time stressed and sad. Childhood is precious. You, your child, and the rest of your family deserve this time to be harmonious, happy, and treasured. If that sounds like something you want, and I sound like the type of person that might help you secure it, here’s how you can work with me.