The last post

22 April 2019

Dear friend,

Spectrum mum is no more.

I fell into blogging. I never wanted to make money or become an overnight success. I never thought I was a great writer, I didn’t even know what an influencer was. But it quickly became all consuming.

I discovered an online world where people offered support and friendship. Where there were other people like me. It felt really good. It was a comfort at a time when I was lonely, confused and vulnerable

This space started as a way for me to share my thoughts and feelings. It was cathartic. But a year ago things started to change.
  • I discovered the darker, Machiavellian side of blogging when I inadvertently upset a very prominent blogger.
  • Something significant happened and I didn’t want to share it online.
  • We suddenly, devastatingly lost my father-in-law to cancer. 
  • Life got very busy when I started to teach four days a week.
  • Big lad started secondary school and he needed extra support.
  • I got trolled on twitter by an autistic person.
  • I started to write my book.
As I collected all my thoughts and ideas, to make sense of my feelings over the last twelve years and put my book together, I realised that this felt like a suitable place to pause our story. 



The time feels right to hand the baton on to my boy. Our story has come of age at the same time as him. This is after all his story and as the autistic community keeps telling us, we need to listen to the voices of actually autistic people, hear it from the horse's mouth. My young man is capable and old enough to advocate for himself.

And I recognise that I have changed...

I don’t want to be Spectrum Mum. I don’t want my thoughts, ideas, time, energy or life to be consumed by autism. As I don’t want my son to be defined by having autism. Our lives are so much more. We are so much more!

It’s time to celebrate all that I am... teacher, mum, writer, wife, photographer, friend, deep thinker, sister, over sharer/carer,  daughter and lover of life and gin.

I will always be grateful that I founded this space to share our story and to raise awareness and acceptance of autism. That I discovered a supportive community and found friendship too. But it is time to say goodbye to Spectrum Mum, to put her to bed. 

This is my fond farewell, my valediction, my swan song, my last post. Perhaps it is also the ultimate acceptance?!

Thank you for always listening!

Kind Regards,

Invisible

11 March 2019


Dear friend,

We sat in the airport assistance waiting area surrounded by people. It was a busy day but our big lad calmly played on his mobile phone. There were a lot of people needing assistance, a child flying alone, several elderly passengers, wheelchair users and someone with a visual impairment.


A lady sat next to us and struck up a conversation. The usual questions, It’s busy today isn’t it? What time do you fly? Where are you going to? Then she asked; What’s wrong with him?

I saw my son shrink into his chair.

I calmly answered, we are having assistance today as he is autistic and finds the crowds in the airport overwhelming. Then I turned my attention to my son who was now really agitated and wanted to leave.

This is not the first time that a member of the public has questioned our entitlement to help. My boy is tall, healthy and very handsome. You can not see his autism.




People have stared at and tuted at us as we have been lead to the front of a line. One snooty woman actually said to her husband, we are privilege members so we go before them. A member of staff asked us, why are you in this line? And we are not alone. I have read accounts on social media of people being abused for parking in disabled spaces or using disabled toilets because they don't look disabled.

Encouraging children to read

4 March 2019

Dear friends,


One of the most frequently asked questions by parents is how to support their child's reading at home. Parents can lack confidence when it comes to sharing books with their children. Yet reading to your child regularly is one of the most important things you can do. Here are my tips to teach your child to read at home.


Encouraging children to read

Make books visible
From being babies my boys have had books. Board books in the toy box, books that attached to their prams, bath books etc they have also had book shelves in their rooms since they were tiny. Books have always been on hand for when we had 5 minutes spare. Buy books for birthdays and other special occasions.

Prepare for reading
Ideally find a quiet place but you can read anywhere, on the train, in a cafe, in the park. Turn off the TV and your telephone so there aren't any distractions.

Focus on talk

Talk about the pictures as well as the story. Make connections for your child like, Do you remember when we went to a museum/the zoo. 




Repeat favourite stories
Don't be afraid to repeat favourite stories again and again. Repetition helps young children understand and remember language.

Flying

11 February 2019

Dear friend,

Whilst patiently cueing for passport control, I watched priority travelers whizzing through their separate section. I kept the boys busy talking and handed out sweets. I was trying to keep big lad out of the crush and in a safe space, as much as possible.

Getting on the plane customers were given priority: disabled and elite members. We waited while people, who should know better, jostled for position with me my 2 kids and 3 bags. The whole situation shed light on my sons invisible disability. Ok he wasn't freaking out but he was uncomfortable, and exhibiting stressed behaviours; repeating the same question, pacing, fidgeting. What would make this better for him?

As an EXPAT we are regular fliers, visiting my family in England a few times a year. My big lad is used to flying and actually enjoys it. He has been flying since he was 3 months old. But, flying can be a very stressful experience for someone on the autistic spectrum. Especially at busy times of the year.




My son finds it extremely difficult to be in unfamiliar situations and in crowded areas. He has super sensitive senses and struggles with the lighting, sound and amount and proximity of people in the airport.

I don't want to highlight my boys disability. I don't want him to be given a high visibility coat or special card to wear around his neck. He doesn't want to feel any more different. I just want to reduce his stress (and truth be told mine too). How hard would it be to make invisible disabilities a priority?

Sadly many autistic families choose not to travel!



I have never considered myself a campaigner but after this difficult experience and spurred on by reading about changes made at airports in the UK I decided to mail Schiphol airport and KLM. I urged their care teams to begin providing support for people with hidden disabilities.

Amazingly my letter landed on the desk of a staff member who had an autistic daughter. He started a project, Flying with autism and in the last 2 years has made real changes for autistic fliers at Schiphol. He introduced us to the DPNA code (Disabled passenger needs assistance). You can have this code applied to your ticket and then receive assistance at the airport when you fly.

Write the letter. You could be the one who helps make a real difference!



How to teach children about money

21 January 2019

Dear Friend,

Teaching your kids about money may feel at times like a tall order. Especially if you yourself are not great with money. But it’s important. According to personal finance writer Beth Kobliner in her book, “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not): A Parents’ Guide For Kids 3 to 23,” parents are the biggest influence on a child’s financial behaviour and the lessons kids are taught by age 7 can determine their money habits for life.

Our boys couldn't be more different. Little man wants to spend his money immediately and has in mind exactly what he wants. Big lad will save for something of higher value that he really wants. Perhaps it is an age thing and experts recommend that you take age into account when talking about money. But we are trying to talk about money and teach our boys the value of things.

With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to share the expert advice that I have found through my research...

How to teach children about money...


1. Start early. It is never too early to teach your children about finances, especially today as Internet banking, online shopping and card payments makes money almost invisible. Play shops, play games with money like junior Monopoly, or the shopping game from Orchard toys.

2. Make saving fun early on. Giving pocket money from around age three can help children better understand the value of money, especially if you encourage them to save towards something they want. We try to encourage saving by matching what they put aside or sponsoring them to help them buy something of a higher value.

3. Let them do simple errands. From the age of ten children should be encouraged to buy simple things in a shop e.g. a loaf of bread or milk. If children have saved for something let them take their wallet and pay themselves.



4. Teach them to budget. Give them pocket money on the same day. Be prepared for them to spend it all quickly at first. Don’t buckle under pressure! As they get a bit older encourage them to write down what they spend.

5. Don't say we can't afford it. Experts warn against saying you can’t afford something. It’s easy to use this response when your child begs you for the latest toy but doing so sends the message that you’re not in control of your money, which can create future anxieties. Instead say: “We choose not to spend our money like that.”

6. Be a good role model. Parents have a great deal of influence on their children, and it is not just the positive messages that resonate. Children tend to copy what we do rather than what we say, so limit the amount of shopping trips as a leisure activity, as they might start to think that money is an unlimited resource and that spending is fun.

Saving up and waiting for something you want is really the key to money – if you’re able to delay gratification. - Beth Kobliner




Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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