Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nick Hornby and autism

There is an interesting piece about Nick Hornby in The Times today, along with an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Juliet Naked. You can read it here.

I have a lot of time for Nick Hornby. Not just for his writing, which is good and accessible, but also for his quiet championing of services for children with autism. Nick and his ex-wife set up a very specialist school in London for children with autism. Whilst the specific teaching approach used at TreeHouse school is not the one we chose for son 2, I do know other parents who use it successfully and indeed have children at the school.

Nick Hornby doesn't often speak or write specifically about his autistic son, but when he does, as in this interview in 2000, it is always moving. I'm currently writing a novel about living with autism and I can only aspire to express the tangled emotions as successfully as Nick Hornby.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mummy blogging

Despite the strapline of this blog, I have never really intended it to be a 'mummy blog', so I was interested to read this article about mummy blogging and why people do it.

Parenting is, of course, a huge part of my life and that is why I do write about my family from time to time, but on the whole what gets on to this blog is a fairly sanitised version. I think long and hard about what I want to expose to the world, but even so there are probably a few posts which I would remove from the blog should my readership ever rise substantially.

My real reason for creating this blog was to chart my own progress in moving away from being 'just a mum' and finding myself again. The sense of losing your own individuality is one experienced by many parents, especially parents of disabled children who are perhaps unable to work because their lives have been taken over by educational provisions, behavioural issues and medical appointments. It is a challenge which at some point, needs to be addressed for the parents' own sanity and for me writing has filled the gap and hopefully set me off in a new direction.

I've 'met' lots of lovely people through this blog, both writers and parents of disabled children. But that has been a happy coincidence, I didn't set the blog up to find parenting or special needs advice as I have plenty of friends just up the road who regularly offer coffee and support. Nor did I set up the blog to encourage parenting advertisers or freebies...I have had offers but have always turned them down.

I've been asked why I don't post pictures of my children online, either here or in a 'private' forum. There is a simple answer. Both my boys are, in their own ways, quite vulnerable and it is my job, as a parent to protect them. Now that is not to say there aren't pictures of them online. Son 1, like every teenager, uses social media, but there he is control of his own images. We have on occasion given permission for a charity to use unnamed pictures of Son 2, both in print and online, because we know they will be used with integrity. Having in the past been the subject of online nastiness, even from people who should be supportive, I don't want to expose my children's identities. I may be paranoid, but we are quite a private family in many ways.

So if you are looking for a true mummy blog, there are many bloggers out there covering both special needs and regular parenting with a depth and humour you won't find here. My kids will continue to pop up on the blog but I'm starting to wonder if it is time to change my strapline...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The X Factor... back. I'm so excited! Four good contestants tonight and how cute and good is Danyl?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Here, there and everywhere

First of all thank you for all your lovely comments on my last post. They are much appreciated and it is good to be back. But now I'm about to disappear again for a few days, as tomorrow I'm off to the seaside for some internet-free rest and relaxation. I'll be staying with my parents and am taking son 1 with me to act as escort and porter.

While I'm there I will be doing a lot of thinking about my writing. Not about my current novel, I do know where that is going even if progress is slow. It is novel 2 which is now unexpectedly on my mind, as yesterday the characters for a new story started to introduce themselves. The second novel is clearly not going to be what I had originally intended to write and it will require some considerable research. But the main characters are here, solidly lodging themselves in my head, and now I just need to let them lead me towards the plot...

Friday, August 07, 2009

Bad times, good times

The bad news first.

A week ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable condition with an uncertain progression and prognosis. It wasn't a surprise. I have been feeling 'not quite right' for maybe eight years, have had various tests, with minor symptoms being attributed to stress or the side effects of drugs. All of this seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, I have no complaints about my medical treatment. But this time I had tingling in my face, my GP suspected MS, was honest enough to say so and refer me on. That was at the end of June.

After a more recent week-long convoluted story involving two hospital A&E departments and an MRI scanner, my consultant neurologist broke the news. I was just thankful it wasn't a brain tumour, which was the other possibility. At the moment I have severe double vision, because the muscles in my eyes are not working together. I can't drive, I'm walking with a stick, feeling very weak and wobbly, and I need patched glasses just to function. I know this is just a bad relapse, part and parcel of MS. I am already better than I was, it should all improve further with time.

But all this was forgotten yesterday when my Open University results came out. I got the grade I had hoped for in my Advanced Creative Writing course, not a distinction but the next best thing. As a result I am now the proud owner of a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing, as well as an Open Degree with 2.1 Honours ( due to the eclectic mix of courses I have studied I can take this as either a BA or BSc. I think I will go for the BSc, despite the strong creative writing content, as I already have a BA!)

There is a wonderful symmetry here. I initially joined the OU ten years ago to study one course in Health and Social Care, in order to better understand the systems we would be fighting because of son 2's autism. I had no intention of going on to do another degree, but due to my kids' special needs over the last four years I found myself stuck at home with a need for distraction from a lot of stress. I went back to the OU and found a new direction and validation with the OU creative writing courses, making a dream into a reality. I have learned so many practical writing skills, I have been published and I will continue writing, not just as a means of one day hopefully perhaps making a little pocket money, but above all to enjoy a 'career' which can fit around not only my role as a carer but now also my own future health needs.

I hope the best is yet to come.