So yes…I am doing it for ME!

imageIt’s the week before my twins have their seventh birthday. The invites are sent, the venue booked, cakes arranged and party bags all ready. This crazy mum has only gone and arranged a party for them!

And you know what? I am doing it all for ME!

There I said it.

I have invited children I want there, I have organised the cakes I want, and I have put what I want in the party bags.

That may sound very selfish. And it may well be. But for once I NEED this. I NEED my children to be part of some sort of ‘social norm’, I NEED them to feel ‘included’ and I NEED them to take part in society in some way.

So yes my son will not speak to a single other child. He probably won’t even recognise the children there or play with any other person. He won’t thank anyone for a present or open any cards and it is highly unlikely he will join in any activities. He has no concept of what a party or a birthday is even about now I think about it. So I can assure myself I am not going to all the effort of a party for HIS behalf. He would happily have spent a day watching lift doors opening or closing or watching hand dryers.

His sister on the other hand may like the concept of a party but the actual reality of it is a different matter. It will be hit or miss wether she speaks on the day, wether she will join in on her terms or not and she will certainly not be the life and soul of the party in any way. Social events are a bit of a nightmare for her and the noise and bustle of a busy room could sent her into sensory overload.

So why am I doing this to them?

Firstly they miss out on so much in life. They don’t ever get out to play with friends or get invited to a sleep over. They never get to go to brownies, or rainbows or boys brigade. My son has no friends (not that he even gets that concept) and my daughter has just one friend she talks to. Play dates just don’t happen around here. They are isolated and excluded from so much and for once I want them to be part of society. Is that such a bad thing?

Secondly, they may have zero social awareness but I do. All the other kids have a party on their birthday and I want my children to experience that too. I don’t want them to be ‘neuro typical’ or ‘normal’ but I also don’t want them to be bullied for being different either, especially when my daughter attends mainstream school. They may have no idea about peer pressure just now but I also want to protect them from cruel children who think nothing of bullying a child because they were the only one not to have a party. They are growing up in a non autistic world that sadly will not always be kind to them and sometimes I just want to protect them a bit. So I am doing it for ME so I feel they are just the same. Wether that is right or wrong is not up for debate. It is what I feel is right this year.

Thirdly, for just once, I want my children to be the centre of attention even if they don’t know it. They deserve their moment in the spotlight just as much as any other child. They rarely get to be called up at school for achievements and they never get awards outside school because they are unable to attend any after school activities. So while I am throwing the party for ME it is because I want people to notice my children, love on them and enjoy being with them. We just don’t get that much.

I just want to say I am not being cruel to my children. I have booked a centre for children with support needs. There will be a fabulous sensory room for my son which I know he loves. If it is too much for my daughter she can have as much time out as she needs. They won’t hate it all, they just won’t ‘conform’ to social norms on the day. And that is fine by me.

It is two hours of their day. Seven years Is worth celebrating. THEY are worth celebrating.

So we are having a party. And yes, I am doing it for ME. Is that really so bad?

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When you watch your child struggling

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It’s the end of term here in Scotland which traditionally means schools and nurseries relax the rules a little bit, organise sports days and school trips and have end of year awards ceremonies and graduations. Parents love them, teachers spend more time decorating rooms, organising teams and taking photographs of children than they do teaching, and social media fills up with post after post of proud parents posting of their child’s achievements. But for some children, my own two included, all these changes bring stress, anxiety and confusion.

My children don’t excel in sports, or academics. School trips makes their anxiety levels soar. And the relaxing of the rules is so confusing for them both.

So while parent after parent takes pride in their child winning races, telling them all the details of their school trip or enjoying all the wonders of this years school fair, I rejoice in the simple fact of my child taking part.

Isaac had his first ever sports day at his special needs school last week. I knew he had been preparing for it when his legs had even more bruises than normal on them and he came home upset. They sent me home a photograph of his assistant helping him bend down to pick up something in a race. I have no idea what else when on that day. But I do know he took part in some of it. And that makes me incredibly proud. He has no concept of sport, or competing, or what he was supposed to do. He would have been much happier running around the hall flapping in circles. But with constant support he took part. It was a struggle for him and his teacher. But they tried. And that was worth getting a gold medal in my book!

He had his first ever school trip this week. His class of five children went to the safari park. But his taxi arrived that morning and it was a different colour, and his beloved food catalogue wasn’t there as it was in the other car. No catalogue, wrong car and the added confusion of a ‘different’ day were all too much and it took thee adults to carry him into the taxi kicking and screaming. I should have stood outside the school gates waving him away on a bus like every other parent of a child in mainstream school. Instead I was still hearing his crying as the taxi pulled away from our street. My heart was broken seeing him struggle so much. And knowing he can not come home and share with me the joys and excitement of his day because he can not speak. He came home with three photographs in his bag. The tears of pride I had when he chose to sit on my knee and point to those pictures. That was worth the struggle to get him into that taxi.

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Naomi had her first sports day at nursery last week too. As all the other children independently came out of the class and down the three stairs into the garden she had to be supported by a member of staff. As all the others formed a line and filed into rows of seats she just stood there. She had no idea of the social ‘rules’ going on so could not follow them. She had to be seated on the last seat away from her friends. As the races began her face went paler and paler. As she watched children run across a small section of garden, she looked so lost and was huddled into the rows in front by staff and pupils alike like a little lost sheep just following the crowd. When it came to her race she never moved until the word ‘go’ was said and she ran as fact her little legs could go, which isn’t very fast at all. The others finished and the next group were all lined up but she wasn’t even at the finish line yet. The tears in my eyes were a mixture of sadness, pride and overwhelming love all rolled into one. The staff and parents cheered her on like she was one of their own. And finally she made it. The others full of energy while she was exhausted from just one short race. With difficulty and support she completed every race in a similar manner! Last by a long way every time. Thankfully there was no sack race or hurdles as she still can’t jump. As all the children received medals and had pictures taken there was a massive round of applause for my daughter as she stepped forward to get hers. We had all watched her struggle. And we all celebrated her victory.

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This week she struggled again. This time it was the nursery graduation. The hat and coat annoyed her so much. The noise of all the children and adults was so loud for her. The heat in the room made her feel sick. But she sang, she watched videos of everyone’s time in nursery, and she clapped for the other children receiving their certificates and school ties. All the while her face was getting paler and her hands were moving more in front of her showing her anxiety. As all the others jumped excitedly onto the made up stage she needed two members of staff to support her up. She stood at the top terrified. But she did it. I can not begin to tell you how proud I was of her. At that moment it didn’t matter one bit that she doesn’t speak there, or that she is still wearing a nappy, or that she has autism. At that moment in time I was so proud of her for getting to that point, for overcoming her struggles and taking part.

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Tomorrow we have Isaac’s end of term celebration at his school. I know he will struggle. But I know with support he will get through it.

It is hard to watch your child struggle. But it is even harder for them. Sometimes courage can be found in children who are trying hard to take part despite everything.

They say it is the taking part that counts. And even though Naomi has had nose bleeds, fainted,and cried with it all this week and Isaac has bit himself, screamed and gone deeper into his own world as a result of struggling with the changes end of term has entailed, they have both made me so proud.

I watched my children struggle. But I watched them overcome too. It’s been a year of struggles but also a year of breakthrough.
Life really is about taking part. Because for many children, like mine, that is an achievement all on it’s own.