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’ ⬇️
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.