Oh dear, another week has passed with no blog post. I've been busy catching up after the half term and there was really nothing to say.
I may have forgotten to tell you that I finished the OU Introduction to Counselling course a few weeks ago. The official results will be out later this month but, as there was no exam element, I already know I will have passed.
It was an interesting course and parts of it will be very relevant to my voluntary work at the support group coffee mornings I have helped run for many years. Although we are all volunteers, we represent a major national charity and therefore we have to be as professional as possible. The listening skills learned on a counselling course, even a largely academic distance learning course as mine was, are invaluable. It is not rocket science, these are just the basic communication skills that many of us will have been taught as part of employment over the years, but a refresher is always timely.
We don't pretend to be trained counsellors, we are not. In any case, our branch can also offer a proper counselling service with a professional counsellor for those who need it. But we have to be able to listen to parents who are often distraught after receiving a diagnosis of autism for their child. We have to be able to offer practical information without seeming patronising. We have to forget that we have answered the same questions so many times in the past and not lose patience. We have to remember not to keep bringing the conversation back to our own child. We have to make our members, especially newcomers, feel welcome and to do so we have to gently discourage cliques and attention hogging.
It can be hard to support others when you are going through difficult times yourself. The experience in our small team is that at any particular time at least one of us will be dealing with some sort of family crisis or transition. At these times we may step back and let others cover to allow a breathing space. But because we believe we offer a valuable service, most of us return. I took last year off and just attended the meetings to receive support myself, but I'm back doing more this year.
If I can help just one other parent, it is worth the effort.