31 August 2016

Dear son,

Yesterday I lost you. Not physically, physically you were there...

But the whole day felt like I was stuck inside a dream.

My words were encased in bubbles drifting off just out of your view and disappearing with a sudden pop as you answered, What?

The world around you seemed to have speeded up whilst you stood still, oblivious to what was happening. Like you were viewing the world on long exposure, caught in our light trails not sure which way to turn, what to do next...

Did you eat your breakfast? Have you got clean underpants? Did you clean your teeth? Clean your teeth...clean your teeth. Where are your shoes? Have you brushed your hair?

"What's wrong with you today?" I ask in a fit of frustration and immediately feel the guilt...

I'm sorry!!!

I know what's wrong, it's the school holiday and whilst most kids are settling into the holiday vibe and feeling chilled and happy all you feel is confusion, anxiety, lost...

I need to slow down instead of trying to make you speed up.

To become immersed in those beautiful light trails with you...

Help you feel safe...

Yesterday I lost you. Not physically, physically you were there...

A glimpse into our autism is my new series. Short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

What teachers should know about Autism

30 August 2016

Dear Teacher,

I am happy to see that my big lad is in your class. I am sure you have chosen your profession because you love working with kids and have a passion for teaching not because of the short working day and many lengthy holidays (joking, it's definitely not the pay.) I am sure that you are dedicated and highly motivated and that when you realized you were getting a child with ASD you did a lot of research to ensure he would make a great start. However, there are many myths about autism!

  • You have probably heard that autistic children are robotic and unfeeling, that they can not show love or emotion. This is a myth. I know that one of the most difficult struggles you will face will be dealing with his emotions. The truth is that he does feel, probably too much. It is almost as if his emotional thermometer is faulty and only registers extremes. As soon as he enters the classroom you will know if he is happy, sad or angry. I know that this will sometimes take over the lesson that you have spent your evening lovingly preparing. I am sorry for that but believe me it's worth spending the time working out the problem now or the emotional tap will keep running and the bucket will spill later and make an even larger mess. The big lad will learn to trust you and I hope you will like him. He loves jokes, he loves computers, he loves calm, he loves rules and he needs patience.
  • My son is not mentally retarded nor is he gifted. He has strengths and weaknesses the same as all children. However, he has a disharmonic profile, this means he is excellent at some things e.g. visual learning, memory skills but very poor at others e.g. following verbal instructions. Autistic children see the details, what they need help with is putting all these pieces together, seeing the bigger picture. Take care that he understands the task. Sometimes it is too many instructions, too much stimuli or simply too many words that can lead to failure rather than lack of understanding. In short, he can learn given the right circumstances and may surprise you at times. 
  • Autistic people can make friends and have successful relationships. However, he often misreads or misinterprets situations and this makes him feel very nervous and stressed. I compare it to trying to communicate when you are learning in another language; always feeling that you are a step behind everyone, you are missing the joke, not quite getting it, embarrassed at making silly errors, always just missing the point, wondering if you have it right, never really being able to relax. That is hard work! Please take the time to help the big lad with social interactions. Positively, he thinks that everybody is his friend. 
  • Autistic children blow up over nothing; Myth!!! There is always a reason for a melt down and sensory issues can be it. Sensory issues are significant! He may not stay in his chair, he won't always look at you when you are speaking and he may repeat himself many times or fail to answer. But, the traffic is piling up in his brain; he sees every detail, he hears every pencil scrape, he can smell the coffee you drank at break time, I forgot to cut the label out of his new trousers and it is prickling him, he is sitting on a different chair, he missed the last thing you said. He is not being rude, naughty or not listening, he does not have ADHD (but some ASD kids do) his senses are in overload. Imagine trying to give a lesson while riding on a roller coaster and you are close to how our big lad feels.

  • Autism is not caused by poor parenting or by cold, uncaring mothers. Autism has nothing to do with parenting. This was a very poor assumption made in the 1950's and it is not true.   My son will not bring the book/bag that you asked for or remember his homework or P.E. Kit. It isn't because he is naughty or because I am not supporting him. He doesn't remember. (But he will remember some facts/moments/things that will astound you!) School is school and home is home... Separate maps in his brain. Please send me a mail, app or tweet to let me know what he needs and his schedule. Don't judge my parenting know that I do my best...as I am sure you will. I hope we can develop a good relationship for the sake of my son.

I understand that you are probably a bit nervous and worried. Perhaps you even question whether this child should be in mainstream education at all?! Believe me that is something that I have worried about too.  I can only offer one piece of advice, as a fellow professional and as a mum. Don't look at my child as the one with autism, forget the autism and simply look at the boy... His needs are the same as any child; to feel safe, secure and happy in class. 

I wish you a very successful year and want to thank you in advance for the extra time I know you will give to my son.

This post has been revised, I first published this post two years ago at the beginning of my journey into blogging and the start of the school year.

The secret to being a brilliant blogger...

24 August 2016

Dear blogger,

I recently had a massive blogfidence crisis. I lost my blogging mojo after reading somewhere that blogger statistics were rubbish. To my dismay I found out that, unless you opt out, blogger records your page views and previews too. And seen as I rather obsessively look at my blog around a million times a day (joke, although probably not far off) my stats were certainly a bit skewed!

Focusing on the Analytics made Diary of an imperfect mum, feel and look like a totally different blog to the one I thought I had (although I was looking and comparing users to page views initially, which didn't help the matter.) It was a huge disappointment to say the least and got me thinking. What is the secret to being a brilliant blogger? Am I missing something? So I did some research...

The Secret to being a brilliant blogger...

1. Be Consistent: 
I have a schedule. I write about my family, parenting and autism and I hope my readers know what to expect and they will come back.
2. Build a loyal following: more often called find your tribe. 
I am massively grateful for all of the wonderful tribal chat ladies who have offered me so much support, are always there with a positive comment and who have been so instrumental in making #ablogginggoodtime such a success. 
3. Grow your social media channels.
I am definitely not a marketing/sales person. My social media is improving but I am by no means an overnight success.

4. Engage Your Audience.
I hope that this comes through my writing and the replies to comments made on the blog and through social media engagement too. I always put effort into my comments. But it is sometimes hard to find time to be as engaged as I'd like and I have had to leave some groups lately because I needed to focus more on my son's needs.
5. Network!
I guest blog, join linkies, join Twitter chats, comment on and share posts. 
6. Make your blog easy to navigate. 
I hope my blog is easy to navigate. Let me know if it isn't please! 
7. Find your voice.
I am unapologetically me! I write with passion and honesty. I am aware that my blog can be seen as niche as I often write about our experiences with autism. 
8. Concentrate on growth.
I know this is something I need to work on. (Why I downloaded Analytics in the first place.) But in all honesty I have no idea what any of this means or more importantly what I should do with this information anyway. 

Reflecting on my blog hadn't really helped so caught up in the middle of this crisis of confidence, what did I do? I contacted my blogging best buddy Katie and had a major meltdown! I think my behaviour could be likened to a toddler throwing all of his toys out of the crib. It wasn't pretty or funny or carefully considered and even included a threat to pack it all in. What I didn't expect was the response...
A brilliantly written, heart warming, loving post to tell me that I do matter... A post that showed me that yes my words do have an impact, that my writing has made a difference to her. (Yes it did make me cry!) The post got so many fabulous comments with many bloggers saying they also questioned their impact at times. So is this something most seasoned blogger's experience?  Perhaps this is why most blogs don't last beyond 2 years (a milestone my little space in the blogosphere is rapidly approaching).

Another brilliant blogging friend Lisa, who is a seasoned blogger and has seen many bloggers come and go since she started her brilliant blog mrssavagevangel. contacted me after reading Katie's post and made an excellent point. Was it my success/lack of it that was the problem or my expectations? She told me that we are writers not marketing people...perhaps it wasn't my content but the other stuff I needed to reasses.

I needed to get my mojo back but how? I went back to my own writing to  remind myself why I started fell in love with blogging...   

Blogging is like breathing out. For so long I feel like I have been holding my breathe, bottling up thoughts, feelings and ideas. Now through my blogging I am breathing out. 

Blogging is inspiring. One of the best things for me has been discovering a world that I never knew existed. A community of people who are willing to share their personal experiences, advice and expertise to help and support others. What a great community.

Blogging is social. Being an expat can be a really lonely experience. I have left behind my best friends and relocated to a place where language is a barrier and culture can be confusing. I have found a way to connect with like minded people. I am making new friends.

Blogging is therapy. It is my way of figuring out life's little difficulties and challenges. But it has grown from that original purpose and has become my own, small way, of raising acceptance of difference. The thing is, the more I write, the more I realise, it is my son who is teaching me.

Blogging is cathartic. On here I can say whatever I think and not feel judged. I can get everything out in the open and not worry about hurting people's feelings. I can be imperfect!

Somewhere along the line, in the hurry to be a big  blogger I lost my focus, I lost my way...I became too focused on the mechanics...the schedules, the tips and tricks to increase followers, the Klout scores, the back follows, the blogging charts etc Instead of seeing the amazing supportive friendships I've made, the beautiful, inspiring comments I receive and the feeling of peace that finding my voice has given me.

The secret to being a brilliant blogger is simple. Write the blog that you want to write and be the blogger that you want to be! 

I adapted my tips from the following article: How To Be A Successful Blogger In 12 Steps From Popular Bloggers by James Johnson. 

Being mama...

23 August 2016

Dear Friends,

I have been kindly nominated for the mummy tag by the lovely Laura over at Adventures with J. The rules for this one are simple, answer the questions and then tag two more mummies to take part. It has taken me ages to do this with holidays, work etc etc I am so sorry Laura. When I first saw this tag I thought it was better suited to mummies of younger kids so I have done a bit of adapting along the way... I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about me from the answers.

I work part-time. I initially worked 2 days a week and now I work 3 although I finish at 2p.m. on Wednesday. I work as a primary school teacher and children in Holland are free on Wednesday afternoon.

If we won the lottery I'd happily stay at home to be honest but I do love my job!

My boys are 7 & 10 so no. But we love a sleep over when papa is away and will all climb into mama's big bed. The boys have their own bedrooms but choose to sleep together in one room in a bunk bed.

An electronic device as sometimes the big lad needs to retreat into his electronic world when the sensory input is too much for him. Or a box of top trump cards can keep my two busy for ages!

3 but after a big scare when I was pregnant with little man we stopped at two. We had many extra scans and check-ups as little mans heart was thought to be bigger than normal. It was a very scary time!

Not often enough... But we have sofa picnics all the time at home that is our relaxing time. When we do go out it is normally for a meal. We socialise a lot with our neighbours/friends, we have BBQs together and dinner parties.

The boys love Pokemon of course and watch anything on Cartoon Network or Disney Channel. CBeebies is long gone (thank goodness) but used to be on all the time and the big lad had a bit of a Bob the Builder obsession...

Hunting Pokemon with Pokemon Go

A furby! Little man went mad for one and he has never touched it. Lego- I know most kids love it but not my two!

Little man sausages and big lad pizza - we are very healthy!

One. But I also have a scooter, a lovely pink one... We live in Holland.

No idea I don't own scales. I am about a size larger than before my boys were born.

Last year we stayed in a 5 star hotel in Turkey, it had a great kids program and we had an amazing time. I like to relax and read and sunbathe and hubby can't sit still so we need somewhere that can satisfy us both... I like to visit places with history.

Everything has changed. Simply put my kids come first...

Next, Vingino, Tumble Dry, Name-it...

I see my boys together, laughing, talking, playing just being together. They are inseparable!

I can't go out without my eye-liner and mascara on! But I am not a slave to products. I do swear by Nivea cold cream, my nana used it and she had the most beautiful skin!

I never really questioned it. I just always accepted I would...

Unconditional Love...

I am not going to tag any blogger's in this post, I'm just going to leave it open and say, if you would like to take part, drop me a tweet or DM and I will be sure to read, comment and share! 

I don't want my sons to be heroes...

19 August 2016

Dear man at the beach,

If I wanted your advice I would have asked for it. If it wasn't bad enough that my son was jumped on by a dog and chased around shocked and scared you choose to attack me too...

Did you think it was a good time to step in with your excellent advice? Are you a child behaviour expert or just an interfering knob head? Do you even have kids?

None of this actually matters. You don't matter, neither does your opinion. All that mattered to me at that moment was comforting my frightened son and making him feel safe. 

You don't know me or my son. You have no idea who we are, how we tick. What if my son had been attacked previously by a dog? What if he had special needs (as it happens it wasn't my autistic son who was shocked.) Would you have reacted the same?

At first I thought you were showing sympathy but no... according to you by comforting my son, I was making it worse, making him frightened of dogs. As I understand it (you were speaking quickly and angrily in Dutch at the time) he needs toughening up...

At this point I was like a goldfish gulping for air and conscious that my autistic son was now looking very stressed at this man talking loudly to his mum. (Loud talking makes him very nervous.) So I muttered something about; What are you talking about? We have a dog ourselves, he's not frightened of dogs...and walked away quickly!

But then I mulled over what you said all the way home and all afternoon it went round and round my head. Stupid really as I imagine I haven't crossed your mind once. Maybe verbally attacking vulnerable women with children is a regular occurrence for you? Having my parenting skills questioned thankfully isn't a regular occurrence for me.

I wish I could see you again to ask. Would you have reacted in that way if he had been a girl?

Why is it that my son must be a hero, a tough guy, why must he hide his emotions and not show fear. Why shouldn't I comfort him?

I am raising my son to be a loving, kind, caring human being who is not afraid to express his feelings. He is sensitive and thoughtful and wants nothing more than to be a clown because they make people happy. I am proud of the person he is becoming...

I do not need/want to toughen up my son. Why should I? Does it make him more of a man?

I suppose that depends on your view of what a man is.

Let me tell you that he is already becoming the kind of man that I admire, who will make a difference to others, will treat his partner with respect, be a strong yet caring father, who will spread happiness and laughter, wonder and fun wherever he goes...

I hope you heard our conversation as we walked away. I told him not to listen to the silly, big, tough man. I told him never to hide his feelings. I told him it was normal to be shocked and scared when a dog jumps up at you... I told him he was OK and I held his hand until he was confident enough to go off and play.

A boy does not have to act like a super hero to be a man... My boys are my heros they make me proud every day simply by being themselves... 

So man at the beach take your advice and stick it where the sun doesn't shine!

Holding hands

17 August 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he held my hand. He reached out and took my hand and held onto it.. 

It was more than a fleeting exchange, not that butterfly kiss that sometimes happens when we are walking... There was a determination about it, a need to be held, like someone walking along a precipice and seeking extra security. It took me by surprise...

When I looked at him I saw... There was a brief flutter of panic across his handsome face that was quickly wiped away with a smile. A smile that was a million unspoken words...

Sometimes I catch little glimpses like this but how much has he learned to keep hidden. How much of his behaviour is a mask for his real feelings, fitting in with the expectations, trusting that because he is with us it will be OK. 

I am sorry, sorry that going to a busy market causes him discomfort, pain even... My instinct is to help my son escape, wrap him up in the familiarity of our home, happy and safe. I want to shield him from the pain...

But I know that I must also expose him to the 'real' world, to help him learn, to let him see that he can do it. 

I want my son to live a full life and experience all that it has to offer.

Yesterday he held my hand. He reached out and took my hand and held onto it.. 

A glimpse into autism is my new series. Short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. 

Disclaimer: my son has never wanted to hold hands but this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...

Book Corner: The Night Pirates

15 August 2016

As a Primary School teacher I recognise the value and importance of reading with your children. We have a house full of children's books and each month we choose one of our favourites to review. This month I choose:

The Night Pirates by Peter Harris & Deborah Allwright

This months exciting adventure of a tale is a very special book from Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright called The Night Pirates. We have had this book in our library at home for a couple of years now but it remains one of our regular reads. It is the perfect bedtime story for any young pirates in the making...

Meet Tom, he is tucked up in bed one night when shadows begin to creep down the bedroom wall - his imagination races as to what they could be but oh no it isn't monsters or trolls... It's pirates!

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

8 August 2016

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.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

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.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

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.

Parenting from a special Perspective: Autism Mumma

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 Mummaand 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!

Spectacle wearer of the year!

2 August 2016

Dear friends,

I have been wearing glasses daily for over 2 years. It started as an attempt to help lessen or stop my migraines. Although my prescription is not strong, I have got used to wearing them and can't go a day without my glasses now. So when Catherine from GlassesShop.com got in touch asking if I would like to work with them on a product review I jumped at the chance.

Now to me glasses frames are a bit like shoes or handbags are to some people, I love trying on new glasses. But I don't own loads of frames and tend to stick to the same pair. My imagination carried me away (picture the shopping scene in pretty woman but only with glasses). I'd love to have a different pair to go with each outfit but unfortunately I don't have a celebrity sized bank account. I often have celebrity glasses  envy. Now who should I look to for inspiration?

4 celebrities wearing glasses. Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Kate Beckinsale and Anne Hathaway
The incredibly beautiful, Jennifer Anniston, Eva Longoria, Kate Beckinsale, and Anne Hathaway. Let's face it they would look amazing in even those really old National Health black plastic things (oh wait they are quite fashionable now!). 

The GlassesShop.Com website was really easy to navigate and I liked how you could see customer tryon pictures and also read reviews from customers.  And what a brilliant selection... I spent a happy evening browsing before I made my choice and you can even upload a picture to see how the frame would suit your face.

I must admit that I was worried about the quality of the glasses and I did ensure that I used a recent prescription to get the correct lenses. However, the company do state that their aim is to provide high quality prescription glasses with lenses of accurate prescription. It is really easy to enter your prescription details and you can also choose the type of lens you want; clear, tinted, polarised etc You can also customise your package with anti scratch and anti reflective coating .

The total cost for the frames and my prescription lenses was 35 pounds and 7 pence. A fraction of the price I paid for my last pair.

The glasses took 8 days to arrive. I was very excited to open the box. They were really well packaged.

tortoise shell glasses large round frames.

The frames are light and comfortable to wear and the lenses were perfect. I've been wearing them ever since they arrived.

The boys verdict: Mummy you look like a professor.
Hubby's verdict: They suit you well.
My Verdict: fabulous! I honestly did not expect them to be this good for that price. I am even thinking of picking up some prescription sunglasses.

Perhaps my pretty woman day dream can come true? A pair for every outfit?
Maybe I could sign myself up for spectacle wearer of the year? 😉

If you want to try them out you can use the diaryofanimperfectmum.com special code GSHOT50 for 50% off on eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses(sale frames excluded). (N.B. 50% off applies to frames not total price unless you choose free lenses.)

The glasses were gifted to me in exchange for writing this post. 

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

©spectrum mum ~ www.spectrummum.com (diaryofanimperfectmum.com) 2014 - present day. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to spectrum mum with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
© Spectrum Mum. Design by FCD.