Today I had a great privilege to share the story of my boys with over 200 people. And not just any people, the most important ones - our future educators. Teachers trainees about to embark on the scary world of employment which moulds our childrens brains and determines their outcomes.
A couple of years ago I felt I was meeting too many parents of SEN kids, who felt disconnected with the world around them, and a disgruntled feeling of being misunderstood. And nowhere can this feeling be more problematic than if it is with your childs school. But not being someone who can moan without taking action, it occurred to me you can't complain no one understands you without you doing something to help them. So I set about to write a presentation which gave an outline of what autism is, how it affects my children, and share the impact it has on our family. It was an opportunity to share what goes on behind closed doors, and explain how it feels for me to be a parent of two boys on the autistic spectrum.
Two years ago I did my first presentation in my sons primary school, and from there it escalated, and have since been invited to talk not only to many schools, but also to professionals, health professionals, childrens centres and carers staff, and more regularly now for PGCE students at two universities. It has been a really wonderful experience being able to discuss things that can often feel taboo, or too personal. But it seems I no longer have any secrets (well - maybe just the odd one!), and if sharing my story can help others approach another child with a more enlightened approach, then it will be worth every minute of my time.
So today I had the really wonderful opportunity to go into a University, as part of a Special Educational Needs conference and talk with a large group of people who will next year be out in the world of work making a difference. And if speaking to so many people puts the fear of - well - scares the bejeebers out of me - it is nothing compared to the challenges my boys face every day. They have bravery I can only admire, and so make sharing our family secrets with strangers seems easy in comparison.
So over the years I have now spoken with many hundreds of professionals and students, and little by little go about the ambition I have of raising autism awareness, and with any luck maybe our story will help someone else when you least expect it.
Today was also Lucie's first day with me doing a talk. She had perfect patience listening to the lethargic tone of my voice going on. And she is part of the optimism we now have on our journey, so was a great addition for me to share that new chapter of our life into the presentation.
I suppose where I am coming from is wherever there is frustration at ignorance it can sometimes be up to you to ask how you can help to fill that gap. It has been a great experience for me learning to talk in public, facing my fears, and in many ways very cathartic. What do they say - a problem shared is a problem halved? Well in that case, sharing has been great, and always so pleased to see people eager to learn more. Great opportunities come from the most unlikely places.