30 November 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked me
What is this?
as he was practically sticking a piece of chicken wing up his nose.

It made me snort with laughter as memories of him as a toddler flashed before my eyes.

He looked at me with disdain and turned to his dad repeating what is this, while examining the wing like it was a piece of important evidence in a criminal investigation.

Any new foods presented to him were always investigated with the interest of a true scientist at work. Before the food came anywhere near his mouth it had to first be examined closely, turned around and viewed from each angle, it would then be inhaled with the skill of a perfumer and inspected again before being carefully but purposefully licked.

Most foods were left abandoned and we returned to the trusty sandwich or pee and carrot mush. For a long time his diet was extremely limited!

But not any more! Now we can't fill him, now he will try (just about) anything...

To him eating is about engaging all of his senses, including his memory. He often asks, have I had this before or gives us a running commentary of when, where and with whom he last ate said food.

And chefs like Heston Blumenthal and researchers think he is right. Saying we rely too much on taste and sight and that we should be engaging our other senses more. They are looking at ways to make us use all our senses together, including memory, to improve our eating experiences.

We made jokes about him being a food critic in the making... but perhaps we were right. Maybe I should be pushing him into the kitchen and not out of it. (Too many knives + clumsy boy =scared mummy)

Yesterday he asked me
What is this?
as he was practically sticking a piece of chicken wing up his nose.

It made me snort with laughter as memories of him as a toddler flashed before my eyes.

A glimpse into autism is a series of 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.

More autism awareness posts...

The Perfect Present: The Perfect Steak

29 November 2016

Dear friends,

It's getting around to Christmas time and I am wracking my brains again to try and think of something amazing to do for the hubby. I know getting to live with me should be prize enough for the man but he does deserve a little something.

As my beautiful and amazing Nana always said the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and she wasn't wrong very often! Hubby loves a good steak and whilst I would absolutely love to take him to Barbecoa London – Jamie Oliver’s barbecue steakhouse, it's not going to happen for us this year!

However, have you seen Barbecoa’s new ‘Guide to cooking the perfect steak’? This beautiful guide features expert advice from Steve Pooley, Chef Director at Jamie Oliver. It recommends the best kind of steak to buy, what to look for, ingredients and cooking methods and serving suggestions. Whilst I am not well known for my cooking skills, the guide promises to help you to cook steak like a pro. I am sure that even I could manage this easy to follow guide and make hubby a slap up steak and an evening to remember.

Here is the brilliant guide from Barbecoa for you. Maybe you can join me by having a romantic steak night too? It can be a nightmare to get childcare over the festive period so what could be more fabulous than to celebrate Christmas with a romantic meal together at home. We can start a Great British Barbecoa off!  If you do give it a bash tag me in your photos on IG @animperfectmum

This is a sponsored post.

In the club

23 November 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked
Can I join football too? 
The panic rushed through my body, like the feeling you have when you suddenly realise that you've lost something. I don't want my son to lose his confidence I don't want him to feel disappointment, feel less...

He has never shown any interest in football. He has issues with hyper mobility, balance, coordination and spacial awareness and has always needed support during gym. So when he asked the question it knocked me off my feet...

Little man joined the football team and he has seen how it has brought him closer to his friends and made him feel more included in the group. But he would not be in the same club as his friends... how do I tell him that?

Most children have a hobby, do a sport or attend a club. He wants to fit, he wants acceptance. He wants to be with his friends. Why wouldn't he want that too?

I fought hard for my son to be 'in the club' I went against the initial advice and kept him in a 'normal' school. I wanted him to have the same opportunities as everyone. I believed that we had to aim high, that he was "clever" and I have never regretted that decision because he has exceeded all of our expectations.

But I have questioned that decision many times over the last 5 years. Every single time we have hit a bump in the road, I've questioned that decision. Every time he has been made to feel different, or has been excluded or has struggled, I have questioned that decision...

We sit in a no-mans land where our big lad is 'too good for' some things and 'not good enough' for others... He doesn't quite fit in either club, special/normal...

We have faced this with many things, but most notably therapy and swimming lessons. We had to fight really, really, really hard to get the support he needed. If he had been at a special needs school would we have needed to fight so hard?

Now we need to fight again, for the right for him to feel like his friends. For him to have a hobby something he can succeed in and get pleasure from. We need to find something that he can do...

Yesterday he asked
Can I join football too? 
The panic rushed through my body, like the feeling you have when you suddenly realise that you've lost something. I don't want my son to lose his confidence I don't want him to feel disappointment, feel less...

Update: A few weeks ago our big lad started DJ lessons. He loves music and can tell you exactly what is in the Slam top 40 (a dutch dance music channel). His friends think it's cool! He is happy. 

A glimpse into autism is a series of 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.

More autism awareness posts...

Book Corner: Message in a bottle

21 November 2016

My book corner choice this month is: Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle is a really exciting and brand new book written by Tom Percival with the most beautiful illustrations by Tuire SSiiriainen. This is a book with a twist because you get to personalise the story. What I really loved about this personalised story was the ability to add a totally individual and unique message (including a photo) at the end. 

The story centres around a beautiful, kind bird called Kiki who finds a message in a bottle and sets off on an exciting adventure to try and deliver the message. Along the way she has lots of thrilling encounters, meets many interesting new characters and makes some firm friendships.

Do accents still matter?

16 November 2016

Dear friend,

I never ever thought I would be able to say that I have something in common with the beautiful Cheryl Cole, until now. We have both been the victims of accentism.

Accentism is where people are discriminated against because of how they speak.

Unfortunately for Miss Cole her Geordie accent halted her plans to conquer America. My plans were a bit less ambitious than that, I hoped to teach English to 7-12 year olds in a Dutch primary school but my accent wasn't 'Oxford' enough.

I was born and raised in Middlesbrough in the north east of England and I have quite a strong Northern accent (no I am not a Geordie, as anyone from Middlesbrough will tell you but we won’t go into that now.) Ten years ago I moved to Holland and began working in International schools.

In the international school system there are many different accents, national and regional. Children often ask where I come from and I have had many discussions with my pupils about language differences e.g. Portuguese in Portugal versus Portuguese in Brazil. In our multi-cultural, multilingual environment differences in accent are normal.

Do accents still matter?

Media obviously has a significant role to play in our perceptions of people and accent. In the early days of broadcasting the BBC only used announcers who spoke with Received Pronunciation. However, more recently Received Pronunciation has been perceived negatively in Britain as it is associated with undeserved privilege. In a recent research study led by Dr Lance Workman, at Bath Spa University, the Yorkshire accent was rated as the most intelligent-sounding, beating received pronunciation, for the first time.

The world is changing, in many ways it has become smaller. There is a high level of mobility in the international world and we are exposed to more regional accents. In day to day conversations in international corporations we are more likely to come across people with a Chinese English accent or Italian English accent.

In the UK we have seen the Emerson of Multicultural London English. Young people have grown up in London being exposed to a mixture of second-language English and local London English and this new variety has emerged from that mix.

Our language is constantly evolving, therefore doesn't it make more sense to expose our children to a range of language experiences in preparation for this?

British broadcasting now represents a broader range of accents, look at the One Show and the popularity of Ant and Dec. Steph McGovern, BBC business news presenter is a fellow northerner (also from Middlesbrough). She has received some criticism for her strong accent.

“…there are still some viewers who can’t accept that someone with my accent can have a brain…I’ve had tweets questioning whether I really did go to university because surely I would have lost my accent if I did; a letter suggesting, very politely, that I get correction therapy; and an email saying I should get back to my council estate and leave the serious work to the clever folk…What’s scary is the ignorance about what having a regional accent means, or indeed doesn’t mean. It certainly doesn’t equal ignorance.”

I strongly agree with Miss McGovern; my regional accent has no bearing on my professional ability or level of intelligence. Unfortunately, the Dutch school I visited (who were looking for a native speaker to teach English to their pupils) didn't agree! The feedback that I received could not have been clearer.

Why does this school believe that Oxford English will better equip their pupils for the future when only 3% of British people have an RP accent? Is it simply a question of old fashioned elitism? Are these Dutch parents hoping that the RP accent will buy their offspring power and prestige?

There is currently no legislation to protect someone from accent discrimination. We legislate against discrimination according to age, race, gender and sexuality but there is nothing to protect us against accentism. Research by the law firm Peninsular in 2013 found that 80% of employers admit to making discriminating decisions based on regional accents.

I refuse to compromise my identity and culture by altering my accent to suit an elitist, exclusive organisation. 

In an increasingly mobile, multilingual society will accent even matter? For my children's sake, I hope not!

This is a revised post.

Parenting from a Special Perspective: Upside Mum

14 November 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 Emma to Diary of an imperfect mum. Emma is mum to two boys: J (6), B (4) and her baby girl W (1). Her eldest son J was diagnosed with autism aged 3. She is a primary school teacher who likes to read, drink wine, watch crime drama and is currently more than a bit addicted to Instagram.

1. When did you first realise your child has Autism?

We had been monitoring J's development since he was a new baby due to his difficult birth and what unfolded in the days afterwards. As a result we were attending outpatient appointments with a paediatrician. We noticed he wasn't reaching milestones like sitting up and crawling at the recognised ages. When he was two we were more aware that he wasn't developing language, making eye contact and was displaying some repetitive behaviours. We officially found out when he was 3 years and 2 months old, though we thought it was the case for a while before this.

2. How did you feel when you found out that your child has Autism?

Although we had expected the diagnosis and it hadn't come as a big surprise, it's strange that it still came as a big blow. It was a bit like having part of his life and future ripped from us before it even had the chance to begin. We were also told he had a Global Developmental Delay (which includes Autism but is more than Autism alone.) Although I knew what they were going to say I still cried when I got back into the car, all that night when I got home, on and off for a few days afterwards and again when the letter with the official diagnosis arrived. There's no history of Autism in our family either so we knew very little about what to expect.

10 things not to ask an autism parent...

9 November 2016

Dear friend,

This morning I crossed the road too quickly (narrowly missing a cyclist and a van) just to avoid talking to a parent from school. She rubs me up the wrong way. Every time I walk away from a conversation with her I feel worse. She is nice, she is pleasant. She just always asks the wrong things! Instead of avoiding this woman I should simply tell her:

1) Please don't ask me every time I see you how my son is doing at school.
Especially when you obviously know/think you know. Part way through our conversation you will throw in an anecdote from your son which is usually about one of the big lad's bad days. I get feedback from school thank you!

2) Don't ask for details of the support/therapy that my son is receiving.
I don't ask for details about your child's education, or their problems.
Is (child) struggling with maths? I hear you have a tutor.

3) Don't tell me how lucky I am that my son is clever enough.
Autistic does not mean retarded.

4) Don't tell me that my son is lucky that the school/class/teachers etc accept him.
I thank my lucky stars that we have found a good school and that he is in a relatively small group of nice kids. But they are also bloody lucky to have a funny, warm, caring child like my big lad.
Acceptance is a big word. How many of those kids invite him to play or to their party?

5) Don't ask if my son will go to the next group.
The answer is yes because the school and us, recognise the importance that he stays with his peers. Do you? Refer also to point 3. (In Holland children who are struggling academically will repeat a year.)

6) Don't ask if my son will stay at this school.
I don't know what the future will bring. But with the right support, the right teachers, we hope he will continue at this school! Is this code for he should be in a special school? (See point 3.)
This question highlights that my son is different it excludes us.

7) Don't ask if autism runs in the family.
Perhaps, but we are not sure what causes autism.
You are basically asking me if it is my fault that my son has autism.
Does insensitivity run in your family?

8) Don't ask me if I know your second cousins best friends kid who has autism.

9) Don't ask if I have tried...
Autism is not an illness. It is a developmental disorder. There is no cure.

10) Don't ask if he will grow out of it!
No. Autism is for life.

Don't ask a special needs parent a question that you wouldn't ask a neurotypical child's parent.

Please treat my son and I the same as everyone else. I know it can be difficult but if in doubt just smile and say


This is a revised post. 

How to rock Parent's evening

7 November 2016

Dear Friend,

Parents evenings are coming up again so I thought I would share with you my tips for a successful evening. I'll let you in on a little secret. Most teachers feel a bit nervous on parent's evening, even old hands like me who have been teaching for 20 years.

What should you ask the teacher at parent's evening?

For a successful parents evening preparation is key:

Ask your child: 
  • How are things going at school? 
  • What do you want your teacher to know?

Write down your questions: 
  • How is my child progressing?
  • Is he particularly good at anything?
  • Is there anywhere you think he could improve?
  • What's he like in class?
  • Does he join in with group activities?
  • How does he get on with the other children?

You might also ask:
  • What can I do to help with my child's learning when we're at home?
  • Is there anything you'd like to know about what my child is like at home?
  • How Can I Contact You? It’s good to know how to get in touch with your child’s teacher, so find out whether he or she prefers emails, phone calls or written notes.

Be on time!

Try to keep the relationship with the teacher non-confrontational, even if the news about your child is not all positive.

If you want to discuss things further make a follow up appointment.

Parents’ evenings are not the place to bring up issues about school policies. Make an appointment with the school management or governors instead.

There should never be any surprises at parents evening. If there are issues the teacher and parents should have spoken before now!

Congratulate your child! Make sure you have at least one positive thing to congratulate your child on after the parents’ evening, to boost their confidence.

This is a revised post.


2 November 2016

Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked me:
Why am I like this?
He came downstairs after bedtime and stood uncertainly in the doorway. I could sense his anxiety.

I swear I felt another chink appear in my already battle scarred heart.

I didn't need to ask what he meant. The week had been filled with many small instances of confusion, anxiety and mislaid moments.

At half term we lose the familiarity that a day at school brings, we lose the structure and enter into unknown territory. We go back to walking a tightrope but negotiating the wobbles that appear on the path becomes harder because of the holiday.

A trip to the UK, on an aeroplane, staying in a different house, different bed, staying up late, going out for dinner, visiting people, shopping etc adds to the chaos. What for us is a holiday filled with fun, to him is a time filled with anxiety.

He cried, his head was too full, we had done too much...

His tears were ones of desperation and exhaustion, physically and mentally.

What do you do when your child finds holidays stressful? Should you stop going away? Many autistic families do.

I can't stop seeing my family. We only return to the UK twice a year but faced with a boy in tears my choice feels selfish...

All we can do is reassure him. We have learned to restrict our trip to 4/5 days to make sure that we have a few days afterwards when he can rest and experience some normality before returning to school.

We try to bring some calm in the chaos of his thoughts...

Yesterday he asked me:
Why am I like this?
He came downstairs after bedtime and stood uncertainly in the doorway. I could sense his anxiety.

I swear I felt another chink appear in my already battle scarred heart.

A glimpse into autism is a series of 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.

More autism awareness posts...

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

©spectrum mum ~ ( 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.