Parenting from a special perspective: Joseph and his Amazing Spectrum Coat

8 May 2017

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 Tina. 

I’m Tina and I am mum to one 8 year old boy with autism, step-parent to 2 children aged 9 and 10 and a semi-decent partner to one long suffering bloke. I work full-time within the NHS and try very hard to be everything to everyone and sometimes it just doesn’t work out as I planned. Such is life!

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

I cannot recall the specific time but I would say around the age of 2 when the Health Visitor referred me to the Speech & Language Therapist. I trained as a Nursery Nurse and knew what they were alluding to from the questions that were being asked.

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

Heartbroken. I hear of stories of relief but I was honestly and truthfully broken. I felt like someone had taken all of my hopes and dreams away with one label and then began a long grieving process.

3. Where did you first turn for help?

My best friend. My husband and I had separated only 3 months previously and as much as we probably needed to get through it together, I couldn’t speak to him about it. I needed someone a little further away from the situation to guide me through it.

4. What advice would you give a parent who suspects or has just found out that their child has autism?

Don’t be ashamed of your feelings no matter what they may be. Just as our children are all different, we as individuals deal with these situations very differently too. It may be you need time to digest then go away and absorb everything you can about it or it may be that you march on regardless. There are no right and wrong ways, only what is right for you.

5. What exactly is autism? Did you know what it is when it was first diagnosed?

Autism is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals in very different ways but broadly speaking it is a triad of impairments that usually affect someone on the autistic spectrum; communication, interaction and imagination. I knew very little about and had my own preformed ideas about what it actually meant - most of it wrong!

6. What are the biggest challenges facing your child and your family?

Communication - most people do not understand when I say that he can speak but struggles to communicate. A two-way conversation rarely occurs, it’s usually one sided.

7. What has been the greatest help for you, your child and your family in overcoming these challenges?

Belief. I don’t doubt that we have had support from professionals along the way but I know that our positive attitude to accept nothing and challenge the preconceived ideas of others has got Joseph to where he is today.

8. What has surprised you the most about raising a child with autism?

My inner strength. There are days that I feel that life is just bloody shit and wonder how I will continue but I do. My son’s challenges frustrate me as much as I am sure they do him but for every one he faces and overcomes, he makes me incredibly proud. He is still a child with a personality and we get on each other’s tits just like any ‘normal’ parent/child relationship. He is very much like me and I think we clash!!!

9. What’s the main bit of/the best advice you’d give another parent who has a child with autism?

Don’t try and be superwoman/man. You are human and you are allowed to have off days and it’s ok to admit that there are times you find it difficult to cope. Don’t ever feel that you can’t hold your hand up and say you need emotional help.

10. Generally, what have you learnt about parenting, life, people or children from your experiences as a parent of a child with additional needs?

There are people in life who can be incredibly insensitive without even realising it but equally there are people around me who have really stepped up to the plate and shown me how lucky I am to have an array of friends who will always be there to support me. It’s harder for those with children without a disability to understand but unless you put the effort in, how will they ever? Just as you would be offended if someone thought all people with autism are the same, not all parents of children with autism are the same. Don’t ever make an assumption.

Tina writes at Joseph and his amazing Spectrum coat. I feel that she brings an honesty to the world of autism writing and that she explains their experiences with humour too. Pop over and take a look...
Thank you so much for taking part in the series Tina! Loved your answer to number 9. I know this is something I struggled with at the beginning as I felt I needed to take on the world! You are not alone...

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