We’re grown ups now…

One thing I love to do is look after people and this is one of the reasons I adore being a Mum (and one of the reasons I went into teaching). I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that before I actually endured childbirth, I wanted lots and lots of children; lots of packed lunches to make, uniforms to wash and iron, and dinners to cook.

Owen, however, is the most independent child I’ve ever come across. He hates it if I try to help him; one of the first Makaton signs we learnt to use was ‘help’ and he promptly learnt to sign back ‘no’!

On ‘diagnosis day’, his consultant handed me a pile of leaflets about assisted living. Owen was three at the time and I decided then and there that I was going to prepare him for the ‘real’ world as much as I possibly could. The world isn’t going to suddenly become an Autism friendly place so he needs to know how to cope and how to cope well.

This is going splendidly! This morning for example, he has dressed himself for school, made his packed lunch:

Done the washing up for me:

And made his bed…

He also fed the dog!

I’ve had to learn not to interfere but it’s so difficult. If he wants help, he comes and asks for it. Generally it’s with things like the buttons on his t-shirt or if he can’t reach something. If we get the train somewhere, he presses all the buttons on the ticket machine, feeds the ticket into the barriers etc…if we buy anything in a shop, he scans it, packs it and pays for it. I’m beginning to feel a little redundant!

As independent as he is though, there’s still that difficulty of understanding danger. I’m sure he would love to iron his own uniform and he gets as involved in making our dinner as he can but letting him do these things at the moment (even supervised) would probably result in a trip to A and E!

There are also things that just require a little more understanding – I don’t let him brush his own teeth because he doesn’t quite understand the importance of making sure they’re clean properly etc.

So making packed lunches is one more thing crossed off of the ‘list of Mummy’s jobs’…..I’d feel sad but if it buys me the extra time for another cup of tea in the morning, who am I to complain?

All I want to know is, it too soon to get him hoovering?


Your animal still isn’t house-trained and Percy is still unemployed…

The second of April is ‘World Autism Awareness Day’. It’s also two years since I began writing this blog AND one of my lovely Uncle’s birthdays.


As I’m with Owen near enough every single day (apart from that one glorious Saturday a fortnight when he’s with his Dad), it can be difficult for me to spot the changes in him. Sometimes I worry that progress has stalled, despite reassurances that he’s changed in so many ways.



I could be tempted to agree with Queenie and exclaim that ‘apart from my nose getting prettier, nothing much has changed around here. Your animal still isn’t house-trained, Percy is still unemployed and Nursey is one stick short of a bundle.’


Sadly, over the last two years, my nose has not got prettier. In fact, the lines around my eyes and the greys in my hair have tripled in number.


But…I’ve had a read back of the first few posts in this blog and I can’t believe how much HAS changed.


Owen can now do things I thought he would never be able to.


He sleeps through the night 99.9% of the time for 10 hours.


Eats anything and everything – salmon and couscous being his favourite tea.


Read. Oh my goodness can he read! He’s an absolute bookworm!


Hold a conversation. Ok it’s not fantastic but we can have a little chat about what he did at school.


Dress himself, use the toilet by himself, wash himself etc. In fact, if I ask him if he needs help, I’m usually met with ‘NO!’.


Play. Just to sit and watch him playing (which I’m doing on this wet bank holiday Monday) is an absolute joy. He’s really developing his imaginative play.


He also is just developing so well ‘generally’. Last week, the dog got into the bin. Owen took the bin away, sent the dog out and got a broom to clear up the mess. What a star!


Hopefully this progress will continue and Owen will keep developing into the wonderful young man he has the potential to be.


Along with the break ups, house moves and horrible weather, I’d say we’re all doing rather well.


Now, off to apply my face mask,  dye my hair and have my SlimFast.




Just as there is another man in my life (Mick Jagger), there is also another pastime, bedsides music. I am a reader…admittedly, I don’t seem to have the time or energy (or eyesight) to read anything much more highbrow than pastel coloured paperbacks about unrequited love, but I always have a book ‘on the go’ downstairs…one upstairs and one on my phone.


Despite being a huge fan of all things Mathematical,  I am trained as an English teaching specialist and I wrote my University dissertation about how boys can be encouraged to read, using ‘Dr. Who’ and ‘Metal Gear Solid’ as mediums.


So naturally I thought that I would be a bit of an expert when it came to teaching and encouraging  my own son to read.  I’d have him discussing Hamlet’s descent into madness and Philip Larkin’s poetry (maybe not ‘They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad’) before I knew it. Ho-lee-shit was I wrong!

no idea




Owen is learning to read in the opposite way of how he ‘should’ be learning to read.


There are two sides to being able to read; the first being ‘decoding’ which is the actual reading of a word. I used to teach five and six year old children who were in those crucial first stages of learning to read. We started by teaching the individual letter sounds (beginning with the set of letters S A T P I N) and then transferring that knowledge to ‘real’ words in their reading books. We’d then teach them how to segment a word (sound it out) and blend those sounds together to make a word. This would be accompanied by lots of games, writing letters and small words in chalk on the playground, writing their own labels for displays etc.


For the majority of children, this works beautifully and they become confident and hopefully enthusiastic readers. Is this how Owen is learning to read? Of course not. Owen is trying to read in this manner because that’s how he’s being taught at school. He loves his foam letters in the bath, can tell you that his name is spelt ‘Oh Wu Eh Nnnn’ and can spell words like ‘Pixar’ but it’s not because he understands the phonics; it’s because of that amazing visual memory. He’s seen the word ‘Pixar’ so many times at the beginning of his various films that he’s memorised the word.


(I am being forced to watch the same Pixar films repeatedly. Send help.)




There are certain words that all children have to learn to read in the same way that Owen does, simply because they cannot be ‘sounded out’…examples being ‘the, for, my’. He’s quickly learnt the majority of his key words flashcards just by being able to read them on-sight. The hitch with learning to read this way is that if and when he comes across an unknown word, he doesn’t have the tools to figure out what it says for himself. He needs somebody to tell him what it says. Once he knows, he never forgets and one of his first words he was able to read was ‘dehumidifier’. This is why I still plough on with the learning to segment and blend words.


The other problem, which is the same for a lot of children, is that you can’t be sure if he actually understands what he is reading. This is the second side of learning to read; comprehension. All children begin learning to read by memorising stories and the delightful tales of Biff, Chip, Kipper and their hapless Mum and Dad lend themselves beautifully to being learnt by heart.



Owen knows the story of the time that Floppy the dog jumped through the window of a burning barn to save the puppies completely off the top of his head. This could be seen as a negative but as he’s saying the words, he’s seeing them written on the page, making the link between the two and remembering them for next time. How do I know that he understands what he’s reading? By asking him questions about the story. The pictures in books play an absolutely vital role in helping children understand what they are reading and the Biff and Chip pictures do this so well. Does this word say happy or cross? Let’s look at Mum’s face and see if that helps us! (It’s always cross…Dad broke the washing machine in the last book).


Dad cocks something up again…


Owen’s speech disorder does mean that it can be difficult to ask him about what he is reading but seeing him laugh at Dad pinching a sandwich or Kipper screaming ‘NO!’ when Dad suggests pulling his tooth out with a giant pair of pliers suggests that his comprehension level is better than what he lets on.


The important thing is that Owen LOVES reading and is getting better at it everyday. He knows exactly who has sent me a message if I ask him to check my phone and is a never ending source of amusement at shouting out words he probably shouldn’t be able to read yet.


He is, as ever, an enigma…but then so is my beloved Mr.Heathcliff from ‘Wuthering Heights’.

mr heathcliff










Rik and Mick…

Rik Mayall features in near enough every blog post I write but the other man in my life is a certain Mick Jagger (or Nick Dagger if we’re talking Counterfeit Stones). I’ve recently moved house – the first thing I did on the day I got my keys? Put my Stones poster up in the bedroom and my ‘Under the Boardwalk’ canvas in my new living room. Throw in my Stones tattoo on my leg and it’s pretty safe to say, I’m in deep.



Music is a HUGE part of my life (apparently this goes for 99% of Tinder users along with travelling yah) and therefore, Owen has no escape from my musical taste. He also adores music and has his own playlist of his favourite songs on Spotify. I’m pleased to report that this playlist holds such gems as ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ by Sparks and ‘White Room’ by Cream and he’ll often pick up one of my guitars to sing and have a go at playing along.


He’s also partial to the occasional bit of Elton:



When I was a teacher, some fool put me in charge of coordinating Music for the entire school. I’m not sure how many blues-rock fans I churned out but it did involve dressing as the Sheriff of Nottingham for the Worthing Children’s Parade. I learnt a lot about how Music can be used to enhance not only children’s learning, but their self esteem and daily lives.



So often we talk about using visual aids to help children with Autism to aid their communication and connect with the world around them but there are so many benefits to using Music and sound as well.



I’ve seen some of these first hand with Owen. How has he learnt to subtract? By singing ‘Five little speckled frogs’. How has he learnt the names of the letters of the alphabet? By singing the Alphabet song.



Singing commits things to memory. Ever need a grab bag or skip? I know the phone number for a waste firm based in Portsmouth because it has been committed to memory thanks to their radio jingle. That amazing ‘Autistic’ memory combined with song can open up learning for people with Autism in a whole new way. Again combine this with visual aids and the possibilities are endless.



People with Autism sometimes struggle to convey their emotions. We all have ‘go-to’ songs that particularly resonate with us. How many of us have blasted ‘I Will Survive’ after a relationship ending or ‘Mad about the boy’ when totally smitten by a new love? (Possibly on repeat for me at the moment). We connect emotions with songs and music; they convey the words and feelings that sometimes we simply cannot express which is why they can be immensely helpful for people with Autism.


My teaching specialism is actually English and we learnt about how ‘choral reading’, that is, reading something as a group can help boost the confidence of those who struggle. It works with singing as well. The majority of people with Autism have speech disorders and problems. Owen certainly does! Reading or singing along with other people means that if you make a mistake with the pronunciation of a word, nobody is really going to notice. You can hear the correct way to say it and carry on without embarrassment. Owen has learnt so many new words from songs (I have to be SO careful about the music we listen to – we don’t need any ‘let’s go fucking crazy’ (thanks DNC)).



Many people with Autism suffer from Anxiety and depression. Music can be used just as a tool to help remedy this. I’m not sure I’ve met a single person who doesn’t at least have a favourite song and I know that Owen has a huge smile on his face when he’s singing along to Taylor Swift on the way home from school – not my influence!*****



Music is such a brilliant way to enrich the lives of children with Autism – even if just to lift their spirits. Owen adores it (not that he has much of a choice) and it’s working well for his education.


He doesn’t enjoy the Stones so much….perhaps I’ve overplayed them? Nah…that’s impossible…isn’t it?




***** Confession – I’m partial to a bit of TS from time to time but we have Rory Gallagher on afterwards to counteract this.









You’re so funny Eddie, you really should be on Channel 4.

In October, my relationship ended and I have once again found myself attempting to navigate the rather bizarre world of online dating.


I’ve twice deleted Tinder in a fit of despair in the one week that I’ve had it only to find myself downloading it again and ‘swiping’ through sheer boredom. (I’ve finished binging on Game of Thrones and mourning the loss of Lord Tyrion from my television).


(Why the Jon Snow love when Tyrion is clearly the funniest man in this saga?!)


The number one thing I look for in a prospective partner is a sense of humour and this can be so difficult to convey over Whatsapp or the famous Tinder messenger. Hence why I currently have a 0% success rate. Or perhaps my sense of humour just isn’t quite…right? I did afterall have to recently end a phone conversation because I couldn’t breathe for laughing at the way  Rik Mayall had said ‘yes yes yes wind smear’ on the television.


A positive in the recent few horrible months is that Owen has recently developed such a great sense of humour. Another of those pesky Autism myths is that ‘people with Autism do not have a sense of humour’.


Granted, it may be more difficult for a person with Autism to pick up on the subtleties of humorous conversation but that doesn’t mean to say it’s impossible.


Owen has a similar sense of humour to the other ‘normal’ children I’ve taught at school. Generally anything to do with bums, toilets, people falling over and pants.


He LOVED watching the first 15 mins of Ace Ventura this evening, purely for this scene:



And has spent the remainder of the evening talking to me in this manner whilst laughing hysterically.


I’ve tried to harness this new found sense of humour and use it to help Owen in other aspects of his development. I’ve managed to get him interested in reading again by making a ‘thing’ of the pants on the washing line in his school reading book and using his key words flash cards in silly sentences. Purposefully doing things wrong to get him laughing and correcting me.


It might not be the most sophisticated sense of humour in the world but it’s there and hopefully it’ll continue to develop and help him form friendships and cope with situations in adult life.



As for me? I’m waiting for someone as funny as this man to swipe right on:










No ticket!

Ah the summer holidays – rain, wind and more rain. When I was a fresh faced young and childless teacher, I couldn’t grasp why the parents of my delightful charges dreaded the summer holidays.


Karma is a funny thing.


Owen’s behaviour really took a nose dive in the first week of the holidays. He seems to have developed emotionally which is brilliant but it has come with its challenges.



He’s started to get a bit jealous of my boyfriend, he expresses his opinions (I LOVE tools) and is missing people and asking to see them.


Frustration comes with this and there’s been a lot of cupboard door slamming, head hitting and I’m sure he’s close to shattering windows with the pitch of his scream.


I had the specialist health visitor over to see me when I reached the end of my tether last week. I had to wrack my brains to think how I could get Owen to behave. I felt like an idiot – what sort of a primary teacher am I if I can’t get my own son to behave?


The health visitor and I thought and came to the agreement that we would catch more bees with honey! I remembered back to when I was a teacher – we would try and ignore negative behaviour and only focus on the good. ‘Catch me being good’ was the phrase we used. Stickers didn’t interest Owen but he loves tickets.


So today, I bought four packs of ‘Cars’ trading cards and have dished them out to Owen for anything. He didn’t slam the front door? Have a ticket! He said please? Have a ticket!


The goal has been ten tickets for a treat. It needs to be easy as anything to get a treat to begin with. It’s been exhausting but much nicer than saying ‘no’ constantly.


But it gives me something to use as a threat that I can actually follow through. Owen understands consequences and up until now, I’ve threatened him with things like not going to Grandma’s house or not going to school. Now, I know and he knows that is NEVER going to happen. I need a break! But I also need to be consistent so the threat is now ‘no ticket!’ which is easy to stick to.



And just look at his overwriting! Each time he practised his name, he was paid a ticket.


This afternoon he collected 20 tickets and got a small KitKat for each 10.


Only four weeks and 108383838293838382727 tickets handed out to go.





It goes without saying that having a child with a disability can be absolutely shit. The worst feeling in the world ever. An endless stream of appointments and paperwork, battles and sadness.


Sometimes, it’s absolute bollocks. Today, Owen had such a horrific tantrum because he had broken a coat hanger, that it brought me to tears.


However, I have discovered that actually, there can be a lot of perks to having certain pieces of paperwork relating to Owen having Autism. There are charities out there whose sole purpose is to inject a bit of extra joy into the lives of children like Owen.


Initially I was reluctant to contact any of them. Owen, in my eyes, just wasn’t ‘bad enough’ and I thought there must be hundreds of other children and families in a worse position than us; more deserving than us.


But then, I remembered all the speech therapy sessions, all of the meetings I’ve had to sit through to be told that Owen won’t do x y z. All of the times that I’ve had to decline an invitation somewhere because it’s something that Owen won’t cope with, and I thought, actually, let’s do this.


So, I applied to a charity called ‘Merlin’s Magic Wand’, who give tickets to families like ours for Merlin attractions. Chessington, Lego Land, Thorpe Park etc. They were brilliant. It took two weeks to receive confirmation that we had three tickets for Chessington (I chose it for location and because I remembered it being geared more towards little children) for my chosen date.


My super boyfriend took the day off from a very busy week and drove us there. Owen LOVES being in the front of his van (and it makes it easier for us to keep him awake!).


When we arrived, we collected our tickets from a booth. Luckily we didn’t have to queue for too long but this could have ruined the day for any children with Autism who really really really hate queuing. Maybe printable tickets straight to the gate could be an option for them?


Again we had to queue for Owen’s ‘fast pass’. He didn’t automatically get one; I still had to prove his disability at guest information. However, he’s now got a photo ID card so if we go again, this shouldn’t take too long.


Once the admin was done and we had our pass (10 fast track tokens), it was BRILLIANT! Owen had such a wonderful day. We walked on to rides that had 90 minute queues. Owen, it turns out, is an adrenaline junkie and loved the rollercoaster he went on.


There are are plenty of disabled toilets but you do need a radar key for them. We don’t have one and poor Owen had to put up with the hand dryers he’s terrified of.


‘Merlin’s Magic Wand’ is definitely worth looking into and I thouroghly recommend Chessington. I’d love to take him to Alton Towers and visit CBeebies land. (Rob wonders if a drunk Mr.Tumble slumped at the bar, signing that he wants another gin is a feature of the hotel).


There are days where Owen’s behaviour causes tears. But then there are days, like our Chessington day that the look of pure joy on his face does too.


And that, I have concluded, is why charities like ‘Merlin’s Magic Wand’, exsist.

Not all who wander…

What a difference a year has made. Today I took Owen to the optician for his annual review. He sees an orthoptist every year at the hospital as well so I’m not entirely sure why this is deemed necessary, but it’s something to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Last year, he sat on my lap in the ‘chair’ and the optician just had to check which way his eyes were moving. Pictured is today’s visit:

He aced his eye test and even threw in a bit of phonics knowledge for good measure. 

Owen is also attempting to write his name which means that everybody is getting cards and letters from him. 

His speech has really developed. Instead of saying ‘Would you like?’, he’s saying ‘Can I have……please?’ and has developed a real sense of what his likes and dislikes are. 

We’re currently getting a lot of ‘I like trains!’, and ‘I like tools!’.

My Dad offered Owen a drink and he asked ‘What is it?’ before making a decision.

He sleeps in his own bed, has learnt to use the toilet and has been on his first fairground rides.

All of these little things add up to a brilliant little boy who is constantly moving forward in his learning and day to day life and is not letting Autism hold him back. 

But he’s started to wander! This can be a huge problem with children with Autism. If they can’t express a need for something (toilet, drink etc) then they’ll take themselves off to get sorted, without the understanding of what getting lost means, or indeed the empathy for the frantic parent!

I was that frantic parent yesterday.

I let go of his hand for a second because the man in the café asked if I wanted my iced coffee blended or not and Owen was gone. He knew exactly where he was going and we found him by the money gobbling £1 machines but it took a good 20 seconds (it felt like 20 hours!) to find him. I think with Owen though, it’s more the stage he’s at developmentally rather than the Autism. He knew why he’d walked off and I don’t think he’d have gone too far.

And as the hipsters / gap-year (yah) travellers like to say, not all who wander are lost.

Unless you’re me and wandering around the downs with the dog. Lost.


Last week my boyfriend had a vacant look on his face (probably after I’d talked him to the verge of death) and so I asked him what he was thinking about.


‘Absolutely nothing’, he replied. Apparently this is something that some people can actually do. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.


There is always something going on in my head. Rik Mayall quotes, Rolling Stones songs, shopping lists……I plan things months in advance. On the rare occasion that there’s not something actively going on (other than sawdust), the ‘screensaver’ to my mind will be playing. Currently this is ‘Pen Pineapple Apple Pen’; the Deathnote version.




One question that worms its way into my mind on occasion is:

What is going to happen to Owen when he’s an adult?

Hand on heart, I try not to think about it. It is one of the few things in life that terrifies me. Along with fire alarms and wasps.


Realistically, he could need to live with me until I peg it. On the day of his diagnosis, I was handed a pile of leaflets and paperwork about warden assisted accommodation for adults with Autism and job schemes etc. There are other options out there. He may even be able to live by himself. At his school, there’s a room that has been made into a studio flat, to give the children the opportunity to learn how to make the bed and cook dinner. Important life skills. One of my friends wondered why I had taught Owen to set the washing machine. In my opinion, if I can teach him these life skills now, it’s one more tiny step to an independent adulthood. It’s also jolly handy for when I don’t have a magic kettle to wish for extra arms a la Neil in the Young Ones:




He may never have a full time job. There is a very low number of adults who have an ASD diagnosis who also have full time jobs. I think it could be along the lines of 2 in 10. With cuts in benefits for people with ‘mental’ illnesses happening constantly, it’s another huge worry. Hopefully he will find his calling.



Who will look after him when I’m gone? I’m sure he will be perfectly capable of looking after himself but who will he have? Programs like ‘the Undateables’ give me some reassurance. He may find love and have a family.
Before I had Owen, I wanted lots of children. Lots of sons – Malcolm in the Middle style.



I still ache some days for this and I’m very aware that I’m 30 this year. I get broody . I think about what having a brother or sister would mean for Owen when he’s an adult. Someone who would love him as much as I do, someone to keep an eye on him later. On the other hand, I wrestle with the idea that I can’t have another child solely to be there for Owen. I’m not sure I could handle Owen and a baby at the same time and with Owen being six this year, going back to ‘day one’ is a very daunting prospect.


But enough with the worrying – I’ll have to up my dose of Omeprazole if I think about it too much. At the rate he is progressing, he’ll be absolutely fine, I’m sure.


My boyfriend totally agrees and there’s a reason his mug at my house says ‘Mr Right’ on it…

My survival kit…

If I had £1 for every time I’m asked how I cope with having a child with Autism, I think I’d have enough money for a private concert with the Counterfeit Stones (yes I’d rather that than the real deal).


There are things that make it easier. Some of them are not exclusive to being the parent of a child with special needs. We all need alcohol to cope with mother / fatherhood from time to time.


1) The afore mentioned alcohol. Fairly self explanatory. Fortunately I have every other weekend child-free to really give my liver a good workout and forget what an EHCP even is.




2) Make-up. My god, I love it. I could spend every penny I have in Boots. The nights that Owen decides that sleep is for the weak mean that heavy duty concealer is required the next day. My ‘no makeup makeup’ is the most expensive and extensive collection I’ve ever had. I was fairly insulted when  my boyfriend commented that I looked ‘very natural’ then I remembered that it was perhaps the point of the ‘no makeup makeup’  ⬇️


It takes a lot of makeup to look this natural…

3) A slight attitude problem. I’m a ‘nice’ girl (albeit slightly bizarre). I even won a trophy at high school, purely for being a nice girl. But when it comes to Owen, I’ll tell anyone and everyone to Foxtrot Oscar if need be. I’ve even been known to show people some very special grown-up Makaton signs. Granted, this is something a lot of parents of ‘normal’ children need to be like but the point is that those of us with children with additional needs have to deal with the stares and comments for a lot longer. Yes, my son is perfectly entitled to use the disabled toilets. He is after all, disabled and absolutely terrified of hand dryers.


4) A large drawer or box. As Al Pacino said in ‘Stella Street’,

‘I need a bookcase to store all of the screenplays that I’m not going to do’.

When Owen was first diagnosed, I had a folder with coloured tabs and a contents. Everything was filed away carefully. Now it gets dumped in a drawer that has ‘OWEN’ written on it in Sharpie. A ‘one pile filing system’ if you like.


5) Other ‘special Mums’. My ‘mum’ friends are great. You need each other to talk about nappies and later on, schools etc. The thing is, as your child heads off to a totally different school to his pre-school friends, you kind of drift. It gets difficult to talk nappies with someone who hasn’t had to change one for a good couple of years. Mum friends who have children with special needs are amazing. We completely understand each other and a morning with them is a brilliant tonic. (NB – I still have some brilliant ‘normal’ Mum friends for dog walks and coffees).


6) Non-Mum friends. Friends who can take you out and remind you that there is a life beyond motherhood. Normally involves alcohol and Fat Man Scoop.


7) A general support network. I’m not doing this alone. I have amazing parents, Owen’s dad, his teachers, a wonderfully supportive boyfriend, friends, teachers etc.


8) A sense of humour about it all. Having being brought up on a diet of Rik Mayall, Jackie Mason and Rowan Atkinson, I’d like to think I have a fairly robust sense of humour. As I said to my friend yesterday when she was told she’d probably need a cast, if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.


NB – if you haven’t seen ‘Stella Street’, look for it on YouTube.