A Glimpse into our Autism: Blanket statements

29 November 2017


Dear course leader,

Yesterday you told me that all autistic people should be in mainstream education. 

I could feel the tears prick my eyes and catch in the back of my throat and although I wanted to challenge you on this I couldn't as I knew I was going to lose control of my emotions. I did not want to do that in a room full of my peers. Now I feel sad, angry, disappointed that I missed the opportunity...

I missed the opportunity to say that I think you are wrong! 

You can not make blanket statements about people with autism. You can make a statement based on your child, your experience but you can not talk for everyone!

It seems strange that I am disagreeing with you, especially as I fought to keep my son in mainstream education. I strongly believed that I was right to go against the professional advice and leave him in his primary school after diagnosis.


We were lucky, we had an amazing school with a very supportive head and Special Needs team. My son was in a relatively small class with children who accepted him from the start and he loved it. He also received excellent additional support.

But now it comes to looking for a secondary school, our choice is simple...

The best place for our son is a special school for children with autism.

Do not think we have reached this decision lightly. Like every step we have taken on this autism journey it has come with deep thought, contemplation, discussion, professional support, sleepless nights and I am certain the appearance of more grey hairs.

We have made this decision based on what is best for our son, at this moment in time.

We have visited a few secondary schools and asked about their care programs for children with autism. All of them advised us to take our son to a Special school for autism because they could not guarantee the level of support he needs.

Today we began the process. We filled in the initial form for entry to secondary. My heart beat just a bit harder as I added my signature. There is a lot riding on this, my sons future...

And sadly we are not guaranteed a place!

Butterfly with coloured jigsaw pieces pattern with text
Yesterday you told me that all autistic people should be in mainstream education.

I missed the opportunity to say that in our experience you are wrong!

You can not make blanket statements about people with autism.


A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore the impact autism has on our family on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same but many carers are faced with this dilemma. 

More autism awareness posts...

#PointShoot week #34

28 November 2017

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 


You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.

This week's featured post comes from my lovely friend Mackenzie Glanville



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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


Link up your weekend pictures!






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Week in photos #10

27 November 2017


Dear Friend,

Welcome to my Photo series #PointShoot. A look back at our week in photos. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus.


The word of the week has to be germs. Poor hubby started off first and then rather kindly passed it onto everyone else. Big lad was sent home from school on Thursday and Little Man on Friday.

Poor hubby had to take over the care even though he was sick because I had parents evenings this week. Typical!

This week also saw my rebrand. I felt the blog needed a change of name to match my new focus. I am happy to announce that Diary of an Imperfect Mum is now Spectrum Mum. After more than 3 years of blogging, Imperfect Mum just didn't seem to sit well anymore. There are still a few things to iron out, including my redirects but despite all the hard work I am glad I made the move.

We had a quiet weekend to help the boys kick those germs. It enabled me to get some jobs done at home and to make the Surprises with the boys for their Sinterklaas party at school. Little man wanted a cat and big lad a Nintendo Switch. It was a challenge for my meagre crafting skills but they turned out well. (I'll add a picture soon.) I also managed to get some Sint/Christmas shopping done online.

On sunday morning I awoke with a really sore throat but was determined to get out for a walk and the beautiful sunshine and clear blue sky made me feel tonnes better.










Happy Days!

How to reduce Christmas stress

22 November 2017

Dear friend,

Our rose tinted memories of wonderful Christmases past, often lead to unrealistic expectations. We get caught up in the need for a perfect tree, perfect dinner, perfect presents etc all contributing to an overwhelming feeling of stress. Christmas takes a lot of work. 


Just mention the word Christmas in October and you can will see some people visibly wince. According to the Stress Management Society, one in 20 people considers Christmas more stressful than a burglary, and over half of Britons will have had an alcoholic drink before lunch on Christmas day – to try to cope with the stress.

There are many demands on your time but remember that it is your holiday too. It is completely reasonable that parents want to relax and enjoy being in the moment with their family. After all isn't that what Christmas is all about?




Talk: Make sure that you have conversations with your family and friends about everyone’s expectations of Christmas well in advance. That way you can make compromises that suit everyone. Don't be frightened to say; NO!

Planning: Be careful not to plan too much!
Advent calendars can help kids with the lead up to Christmas and we also use a month calendar with key events noted so that we can cross off the days.

Parties: Christmas parties and extended time with family and friends is special and should be treasured but some children may need support.
Encourage children to socialise initially but have a survival kit to take with you. (This could include a book, music, computer game/ipad, drawing pad and pens) Give your child a timescale e.g. We will leave at 8, but be prepared to leave earlier if necessary.

Decorations: Don’t go overboard on decorations: keep them out of kids bedrooms entirely.
If you are away for Christmas (hello my EXPAT readers) then why not focus on one area of your home or on one thing e.g. the tree.

No Bribery: Remember some kids take things very literally: Autistic parents do not have the advantage of 'neurotypical' parents who can use an element of blackmail to ensure their kids are good before Christmas. The big lad had a lot of stress around being good (as in his eyes he hadn't been good enough) and this lead to several sleepless nights. Many 'neurotypical' kids also find this pressure too much.

Routine: Stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Try to build in some quiet time before bed. But be prepared that kids may not be able to sleep on Christmas Eve, relax the rules a little and let them stay up a bit later.

Shopping: Set a budget and stick to it! Take a list and check off as you go along.
If you hate the Christmas rush then the kids will, leave them at home with a friend/relative.

Gift giving: The anticipation of a day when you get lots of new stuff can be totally overwhelming. Some children find it too stressful having presents under the tree and some children find too many presents overwhelming. Writing letters or making wish lists helps. You can also stagger your present opening. Set up some gifts so that they are ready to play with.

Food: A traditional Christmas dinner is a lot of work and many people are choosing to eat out or eat on Christmas Eve instead so Christmas day is free to relax. Why not share the work by asking guests to bring a dish?

Exercise: Get out of the house. Exercise reduces stress and keeps family strife to a minimum.

Relatives: We all have those annoying relatives who were obviously perfect parents. Nod and smile sweetly, or better still change the subject when they start to give you advice. Say, Can you excuse me for a minute, walk away and don't look back...

Breathe!

Have a stress free Christmas!



This is a revised post.


#PointShoot Week #33

21 November 2017

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 


You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.

This week's featured post comes from TippyTupps



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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


Link up your weekend pictures!







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Week in photos #9

20 November 2017

Dear Friend,

Welcome to my Photo series #PointShoot. A look back at our week in photos. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus.

This week has been tough, really tough... I lost all motivation at the start of the week and needed a boost to get me going. Big lad had a few problems at school that required sorting out quickly (Kids can be so mean) but we are very lucky to have a supportive head. 

On Wednesday we attended the open afternoon at the secondary school we want for Big Lad. He loved it! Now we have to hope that he gets a place... It is really scary to think that your child's future rests on being drawn out of a hat. 

The working week flew by as usual and I was happy to see Friday arrive for a bit of peace, relaxation and family time.

Saturday started with a bump as we slept in and had 5 minutes to get our little man to football. We also had an exciting day because of the arrival of Sinterklaas in Holland. First we watched on the television and then saw him arrive in our village on a double decker bus. The boys and I snuggled up in bed together and watched Strictly, on Saturday night, which was bliss. 

On Sunday we headed out for a bit of beach therapy, it was a windy day but the sky was beautiful and the boys loved splashing in the foam. We finished off our weekend by leaving out our shoes for Sinterklaas...






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A Glimpse into our autism: Hope

17 November 2017


Dear friend,

Yesterday he asked me: Mum I am going to the school for autism aren't I?

The question made me freeze in my tracks because I don't have an answer.

I want more than anything in the whole world to be able to say Yes! But I can't...

We attended the open evening at 'the school' the second one we have attended this year (we are so desperate to show our commitment). We watched the same promotional video and I tried hard to sink into my stool as I felt the tears prick my eyes.



Everything seemed to be taunting me; small class sizes, specially designed building, trained staff, purposefully developed timetable, split playtimes, homework support... I could go on.

You don't need to sell your school to me. We can see that for our son, this is the perfect learning environment.

But... next comes the hard bit. There are only 55 places.

I look around the hall frantically trying to count how many people are here. 200-250 adults (half that because most are couples) and we have around 100 children. It isn't hard to see that there are not enough spaces, lots of families and children are going to be disappointed.

The questions roll in, thick and fast. You can hear the desperation in some parents' voices. I can't even ask my question because I just can't focus and I stare at hubby in shock (and pride) as he does.

We must fit the criteria for the school, we must sit in the catchment area (thank god we do) beyond that the future for our son is based on being picked out of a hat.

Almost every day he asks me: Mum, I am going to the school for autism aren't I?

What can I say? I'm sorry son, we don't know yet. It depends if your name is drawn or not. No, all I can say is we hope so...

I can not put into words how stressed I feel.

Autistic children need to know what is happening. They need stability, structure, reassurance to make them feel safe. This system we are stuck in does not provide that.

Quite simply this system is failing our kids.

The right kind of school care for your child does not seem like a lot to ask for! Surely all children deserve the best education for them.

I want more than anything in the whole world to be able to say; Yes son you are going to the school for children with autism! But I can't guarantee anything, I can only hope...




A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore the impact autism has on our family on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same but many carers are faced with this dilemma. 

More autism awareness posts...

Is "nice" a compliment?

15 November 2017

Dear friend,

When I was at primary school my teacher banned some words. We weren't ever allowed to use the words lovely or nice. I remember it clearly and I understand why she did it, we all overuse words and in those days it was probably the in phrase like, cool or chill or whatever it is those in the know are using today.

Twice in the past few weeks people have described me using the word "nice"and it doesn't feel "lovely". Am I being oversensitive? Maybe but it definitely made my hackles rise!

What's wrong with being nice - well nothing per say... Only there is that fine line between being nice and too nice. And is nice ever a compliment?




SIGNS YOU ARE TOO NICE...


  • You apologise for things that aren't your fault... I definitely apologise when things aren't my fault! Bump into me and I will automatically say sorry. In fact my brother-in-law regularly berets me for this! He has a point it is a particulacy British trait, I often wish I was more self assured like the Dutch (read more). So perhaps apologising for things is a cultural not a kindness issue?
  • You work way too much... I work hard, I always have. It is something that was instilled in me by my parents and as a teacher I certainly work in a caring profession. The best teachers in my opinion are the ones that teach from the heart  (read more). I would like to think that my pupils see me as a kind, fun teacher. But I don't think I work too much! I used to but having a family made me get more balance in my life. I am however guilty of working too hard on my blog and have had to take a step back and schedule my time better.
  • You never ask for help... This used to be true and was almost my downfall. I definitely saw asking for help as a kind of failure. I thought I had to cope with everything myself be perfect in everything. This was magnified as my husband also worked away during the week so in many ways I had to take on things myself. But having a child with special needs forced me to reasses and I asked for help. My husband changed jobs to share the load. We found support for our son and for us. I learned very quickly to ask for help was not failing but succeeding...
  • Everyone comes to you with your problems... People do come to me with their problems. But I love it, I really don't mind. I like helping people and if that makes me too kind then tough. I will not compromise...
We rise by lifting others!
  • You are awkward with compliments... I am learning to be better at accepting a compliment but still find this hard... Again I feel that this is quite a British trait. But rather than deflecting with a denial or self insult I tend to boomerang that compliment right back or look for reassurance e.g. I really thought  you made a great point about... Oh really did you think so I felt I waffled a bit?!
  • You forget to be kind to yourself... Being kind to yourself is difficult for many parents as we struggle to find time for and really feel like ourselves. I am finding more ways to be Catie, not mum, wife, daughter, sister, or teacher just Catie. Blogging has certainly helped me to do that and given me a voice.

On reflection being called nice is perhaps not so bad after all. However, the people that used this adjective are also people that I would argue don't know me very well. It's not the word I would choose for my final resting place

Here lies Catie she was nice...

 But then again there are worse things.


So what do you think, is nice a compliment?

#PointShoot Week #32

14 November 2017

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 


You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.

This week's featured post comes from Oh Pretty City.



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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


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Week in Photos #8

13 November 2017

Dear Friend,

Welcome to my Photo series #PointShoot. A look back at our week in photos. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus.


It was a great start to the week. I had a little blog makeover with a new theme from Fearne Creative Design. I found them on Etsy and the service was excellent and really fast! I love the new look it is so clean and easy to navigate. I took the opportunity to reorganise the blog and refocus on the things that I am really interested in. 

I turned into a house mouse at the start of this week as I spent most of my time cooking, cleaning and also doing some work at home, only venturing out to walk the dog. I have been enjoying the cosy Autumn evenings.

On Wednesday afternoon we managed to squeeze in a beach walk. It was a beautiful afternoon and really quiet, ideal for little man to take over the dunes, rolling down and running up over and over again. He came home looking like a sand monster.

I can't believe we have completed the 3rd Week of half term, it is flying by! We have even started to use the C word at school.

The word for the weekend was celebrate as we had two birthday parties to attend. It was great to spend time with family and friends. The wine flowed and there were plenty of laughs. In between the celebrations we visited Leiden and a Christmas show. Happy days!






Time for Reflection...

10 November 2017

When your time on earth is over, 
How do you want to be remembered?

You worked hard.
You were busy.
You were successful.
You were generous.

Or...

You were kind.
You listened.
You were a good friend.
You enjoyed life.

Sometimes we need to 
stop. 
Take stock and evaluate 
what really matters...


Put down the phone.
Switch off the TV.
Really be with your family,
Rejoice in the ordinary...

Sharing sweets in the car.
Buttoning up little coats.
Opening that door.
Decorating cakes.
A kiss on a tired cheek.
Washing the dishes together.
Reading favourite stories.
Asking; Are you ok?
Sharing a coffee.
An arm around a weary shoulder.
Looking into someone's eyes.
Listening to the small talk.

One small kindness 
Leaves a lasting impression on people. 
Just live,
One small kindness at a time.




This is a revised post.

The one with the mobile phone

8 November 2017

Dear lady,

Yesterday I heard you talking about us. I heard your disapproval and I felt your judgement.

Look at that young boy on the phone, isn't it terrible?

Initially it made me feel small, ashamed, like a bad parent because to be honest part of me agrees with you as I do wish that my son wasn't on his mobile phone at the beach. I would much rather that he was enjoying the beautiful scene before him than staring at a Pokemon.

But please don't judge my choices without understanding my reasons.

In most of the photos I take of my big lad he has his trusty mobile in his hand.

You look at my son with very different eyes...

I see a gadget that connects me to my son.

I see an aid that connects our son to us.

I see a tool that takes the focus off the things that cause him anxiety.

I see a family out together, relaxed and enjoying a walk without their son constantly asking when are we going home?

I see a family enjoying a drink, in peace  and a boy happily playing.

I feel a boy who struggles with anxiety becoming more confident.

I hear a shy boy actually chatting with the waiter (a stranger) about which Pokemon he has caught.

I feel his enthusiasm and use that to make a connection with him by sharing his passion.

I feel proud of a boy who has started to play out on his own, call for friends and make new friends too.
Butterfly with coloured jigsaw pieces pattern with text

Far from stunting his social development having a mobile has actually expanded it.

His trusty mobile has enabled us to get out as a family and explore new places.

I don't pretend to be a perfect parent, I am a real one! I am not living my life to please others I am celebrating it for what it is.

I will use whatever tool possible to connect my son with the real world and reduce his anxiety. You see my son has autism.

Yesterday I heard you talk about us. I heard your disapproval but I don't care because I know that being a parent is the easiest thing to have an opinion on but the hardest thing to do...

Enjoyed this post then read more autism posts here...




#PointShoot week #31

7 November 2017

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 


You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.

This week's featured post comes from Mummy Here and There.



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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


Link up your weekend pictures!







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Week in Photos #7

6 November 2017

Dear Friend,

Welcome to my Photo series #PointShoot. A look back at our week in photos. I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus.


We've had a week of sickness, hubby has one of those irritating coughs, my endometriosis has been really playing up and little man had tummy pain and had to have an afternoon off school. It reminded me of my dad, as when my brother or I were sick, he always arrived home shouting "Bring out your dead!"

We got over the illness only to be struck by an emotional tidal wave as events prompted us to have the Father Christmas discussion with little man. There were lots of tears as well as anger, recriminations and huge disappointment. I was left feeling totally deflated by the end of another era, this growing up lark is happening far too quickly for my liking!

I was quite happy to celebrate the end of the working week with a glass of baileys...

This has been one wet and miserable weekend here but we haven’t let the weather dampen our spirits. We managed to fit in two walks by taking shelter under the forest trees. We spent Saturday night with our friends. The wine flowed and it was a really ‘gezelig’ evening. The Autumn ambience has really set in and on Sunday afternoon we took full advantage by turning up the heating and snuggling under a blanket catching up on Strictly and the amazing Blue Planet.








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