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.