A fish out of water

I am currently on an activity holiday.

This is not my natural environment. What am I doing here? I am taking my boys on the holiday that suits them (and us) in ways I will explain later.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a holiday where everyone does their best to be super active, super fit, learn new sports and basically be very busy being sporty.  They also play hard, so eating and drinking lots is also in order. It’s not a health farm by any stretch.

I don’t play tennis. Sailing makes me seasick. I couldn’t windsurf to save my life. Riding bikes is not my thing either.

Do you ever feel like you are a different person post children? I feel a totally different person post autism diagnoses for all my children. I barely remember the woman in my thirties walking up mountains for fun at weekends, doing aerobics three times a week and thrashing lengths in a swimming pool on the other days.

I lie on my sunbed feeling I should be joining in. I can’t. This time last week, I was tearful, exhausted and craving sleep and to sit and do nothing. I was in full adrenal crash mode.

In some ways, it made it easier that I was coming on a beach holiday. It meant I need to do very little. The pre autism me still craves temples and Asia and feels sometimes resentful that I can never go on exotic trips again. The new me post autism is grateful to have a holiday to go on where I can rest as much as I need to.

Meanwhile, our boys are water ski ing, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing and having a fantastic time. They have other young teens to ‘hang out with’. It is the perfect holiday for them.

Despite feeling like an oddity for not joining in with all the other adults, perhaps it is the ideal holiday for me too. One where the boys are happy and occupied and I have an enforced rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love unites families

We were so honoured to be invited to a very special lady’s wedding.

Marriage unites two families on the wedding day. Love unites us all. We are not family, but we have a bond that unites us to this remarkable young lady, a bond just as strong in many ways. We love her and she loves us and our boys.

Esther was studying dance at our local uni, Roehampton. She answered an ad I had placed online for babysitting and childcare. From the beginning, she was like a big sister to our four boys. Marcus was just a toddler, the older boys were seven and ten.

One of her roles was to to accompany them to scouts  every week. The scout leader invariably gave her all the ‘naughty’ boys to manage in a group , not just the two she was meant to be supervising. She was already showing signs of being very capable of handling behavioural children.

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At nearly two years old, Marcus was diagnosed with autism, like his three older brothers. We had to set up an ABA programme for him. It had transformed the older boys’ lives already and we knew we had to do it for him too. I had vowed never to run another ABA programme as the stress on a parent is huge. I was literally just in the process of finishing ABA after seven years as the older boys were going to special needs schools that September.

I didn’t want to do it, but I had to, for Marcus’ sake. How could I not? I decided to take a different approach and train people I already knew, not ABA tutors. I would feel less intruded by familiar people and his programme would be more informal in some ways. Esther was an obvious choice from the start. She took to it instinctively and turned out to be a fabulous tutor. She had great play skills, she adored Marcus and of course, we and he already loved her, so, for all of us, it was a seamless merging of a babysitter into a tutor.

Nine years later. We were at her wedding on Friday. Our familes united for always. Esther is now a qualified ABA consultant. She passed her masters in ABA with honours last year.  She is dedicated and passionate about helping families like ours. We are so proud that it all started with us.

It was a big road trip for all the boys, up and down to Liverpool to arrive late at night, the wedding the next day, all day, and then home again the following day. There was never a word of complaint about the journey from any of the boys. They so wanted to be there. Marcus declared Esther looked like ‘an Angel’ in the church and was delighted when she waved back to him while signing the register. He was being acknowledged by a celebrity!

The wedding was an absolutely perfect day. Beautiful bride, beautiful setting, all organised to the last detail. The boys danced all evening and got lots of hugs from their precious now ‘ little’ big sister as three of them tower over her all these years later.

Thank you Esther, for being in our lives and bringing joy to us all. We wish you and Sam the happiest life together.

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Realising your passion.

Everyone has something they are passionate about.

Benjamin loves steam trains and train sets. It remains just a hobby for him, but it is wonderful when our children find a passion that can be turned into a potential career.

His passion has turned out to be music. We bought him a drum kit many years ago when he seemed to have an affinity with one. For many years, he had drum lessons and piano too which he plays by ear. It was something he really enjoyed. His dyspraxia and ADHD disappear when he drums. His concentration is all consuming when playing music so we thought it was good to encourage him.

Last year, he discovered guitars too. They have eclipsed his love of drumming although he still plays the drums. Despite not really studying any music at school, he has now passed Level 2 music performance and technology with merit. He will start Level 3 in September at college.  (Level 3s are equivalent to A levels but more practically based). He writes his own ballads now and dreams of being in a band. He has found his career path.

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His twin brother has always shown a serious talent for art from an early age. That has made his life easier in many ways. At primary school, when he was barely able to commuicate with the other children, aged about seven he drew a dragon for Chinese new year. All the other children wanted him to draw one for him too. He had their respect from that time onwards.

He has just completed Level 1 Art at college with distinction. His only GCSE is in Art. He will also start Level 3 Art and design in September.

But, his absolute passion is running. We have to keep reminding him that he does need to continue with art. He may need it in order to work one day. Runners rarely earn an income purely from running. His determination is such that maybe he will be one of the lucky ones who does make it his career.

He only ran one cross country race a year with his small, special needs school but that annual race ignited his passion. He went from coming 57th to winning that race in his final year at school. His first serious triumph. Now, he is running with adults and being placed in the top finishers in races with hundreds of serious runners.  He has just come first this morning in our local Parkrun. Go Thomas!

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The twins are now 19. They have found their paths in life.

We did not find them for them. We encouraged them and have been behind them all the way and will continue to support them in every way that we can. But it was the boys themselves who chose what they wanted to do.

I believe that is the message. To give our children as many opportunities as we can, to expose them to as much of life as possible so they can choose their own passions and develop them.