Friday, April 29, 2011

On the royal wedding day

I drafted a blog post this morning, when I wasn't intending to watch the royal wedding. I'd got rather fed up with the build up and how it took over the media, when there are so many other important things going on in the world. And those of us old enough to remember the nuptials of Charles and Diana in 1981 know that a fairytale wedding is no guarantee of a happy ending.

But somehow I got sucked in. I was in charge of Son 2 this morning and there is no way he would let me turn over from CBeebies, so I tried to watch the wedding online. I tried the BBC, ITV, Sky News and the Royal Channel on YouTube, but every feed broke up, so I only watched a few minutes at a time. But it was enough to see Kate arriving at the Abbey and to admire her classy dress. I heard little of the vows, but I saw them walk back down the aisle, William looking elated as if, right to the last minute, he really hadn't expected her to actually go through with it. I saw the carriages and the crowds, the balcony appearance and the fly past. I smiled at the relative simplicity of their going away, which I only caught due to feedback on Twitter. It somehow reminded me of how Hubby and I simply walked away from our own wedding reception.

I wasn't expecting to get so involved, but I've lived in London for nearly 30 years and these occasions are what London does so well. The Brits are perhaps some of the best in the world at putting on and appreciating pageantry and if it raises our profile and attracts more tourists to these shores it can't be all bad. Just don't expect one happy day to make things right. It didn't cure a recession in 1981 and it won't now.

And the blog post I originally drafted? I'll save it for another day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rediscovering the personal

When I first discovered blogging, five or six years ago, I followed a small selection of blogs which had something in common, namely great writing. Some of these blogs were written by writers, others by bloggers who had a gift for writing, yet no ambitions in that direction.

The blogs provided snapshots of the bloggers' lives, both past and present. Life, death, children, broken and new relationships were covered and sometimes I would smile as I read, on other occasions I would cry. Those blogs led me to a continuing interest in the therapeutic use of journalling and creative writing.

Many of those early blogs now lie abandoned or are seldom written, though I still have links in my blogroll and on Google Reader, keen to catch any occasional post. Blogging seems to have moved in a new direction, away from the personal and over to the promotional, but I'm afraid I soon lose interest in blogs which do little other than promote freebies the blogger has received. I think we've all become rightly wary about how much personal information we disclose on our blogs and as a result something very creative is in danger of being lost.

But there are still many fascinating and beautifully written blogs out there and in the last few weeks I have found myself crying at blogs again. I have read blog posts which were truly heartfelt, yet so personal that I feel it is not right to link to them here. At a time when my own blog has been feeling very stale, I've been reminded why I first started blogging. It feels good.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Having a teenager with ASD

I was warned by friends that the teenage years with Son 2 would be hard. But he's 17 now and up until Christmas I thought we'd largely got away with. So the change from a calm boy into an often manic whirlwind, who seems to need no more than four to five hours sleep a night, has come as rather a shock.

All this comes at a time when the old support systems start to crumble. Support groups, whether online or real life local ones, tend to concentrate on families at the start of the journey and there are few parents attending who are embarking upon the challenges of decision making for their child's adulthood. Every young person presents with a unique set of circumstances, every local authority offers different services and the spending cuts add an unwelcome additional uncertainty. We should all be supporting each other, yet as parents further down the line we start to feel excluded.

Parents with younger children often seem to find hearing about the challenges of adolescence and adulthood upsetting, they don't want to look into the future. But I have a different take on this. When Son 2 was about three and very difficult, a parent introduced me to his son, who was then about 20 or 21. The young man was calm and well behaved in the presence of a stranger. Although he was largely nonverbal he was clearly bilingual, he could point out items when asked in either language and he appeared comfortable in his family home.

I couldn't imagine Son 2 ever being like that. But the father assured me that his son had been as difficult as Son 2 at the age of three. He'd gone to the same school that Son 2 now attends and his father was helping other parents to fight for a specialist education for their own children. That meeting gave me a glimmer of hope which I held on to and now, despite Son 2's current mania, I can see that he too is nearly there. I have high hopes that when the hormone rush subsides he will be like that young man.

I'm lucky that I have several friends who have adult children with moderate to severe ASD. I know who I can turn to for advice outside my previous support groups, from which I am gradually withdrawing as they seem less relevant. Everything moves on, services change, and some of the input we were lucky to receive when Son 2 was small would not be available today. I guess every new generation of parents has to fight its own battles and parents of teenagers with disabilities will continue to float away from these support groups to find advice wherever they can, unless their needs are recognised too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kindle sale alert

Amazon UK has a Kindle Spring Spectacular sale until 2nd May. Literally hundreds of books at a fraction of the regular cost, including new releases such as The Beauty Chorus by fellow Novel Racer, Kate Lord Brown, as well as old favourites. I've already bought a few, including Wasted by Nicola Morgan,which I've wanted to read for ages. I think there must be something for almost everybody there, so if you love your Kindle as much as I do, or if you want to read on another device, go take a look.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


So Hubby is away for a few days. Son 1, as befits a teenager on holiday, has been out a lot, while Son 2 has been calmer and sleeping better. Although he has still woken at around 2am, for the last three mornings he has been happy to go back to bed and drop off to sleep again, to wake at a fairly acceptable hour. He is still jumping on his trampoline, but not with the manic level of activity we've seen over the last few months.

Anyone else spot a pattern here? Perhaps Son 2 feels that just for once he is the top male rather than the bottom of the pile. The level of testosterone in the house as they battle for supremacy is usually overwhelming and I think it has a lot to answer for.

Why, oh why, did I not have daughters?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

World Autism Awareness Day

As most of my readers know, autism is a subject close to our hearts. I've lived with autism for 17 years now and worked with autism for 10 years, as a volunteer for the National Autistic Society, helping to support other families in our area and set up local services. Over the years I've tried to raise awareness of autism by writing about some of our experiences with Son 2 here on the blog, my first novel has autism as a central theme and I've given talks to parents and professionals. Autism awareness is a powerful tool in the fight for understanding and acceptance and I've tried to make use of it.

Today, World Autism Awareness Day, I'd like to direct you to two other blogs, written by friends I've made in the blogosphere. Although she doesn't blog often now, Casdok's blog Mother of Shrek is some of the most powerful writing I know on the joys and challenges of living with a young person who has severe autism. Please go back and read the archives if you are not familiar with it.

Crystal Jigsaw's blog celebrates her daughter Amy, who is living what must be an idyllic childhood for a person with autism, on a farm. The author of this blog, Kathryn Brown, has just had a novel, Discovery at Rosehill, published and for April is donating all profits on the book to the National Autistic Society in celebration of autism awareness. I've already read the lovely sample on my Kindle and am going back to download the full book. Full details of where to buy the book in print or ebook format are here.

As a family we have received tremendous benefit from the work of the National Autistic Society, as Son 2 has been educated in two of their their specialist schools since the age of four. But most families are not lucky enough to have that level of support, they are fighting for help in a world that does not yet truly understand the differences of autism or make allowances for them. Anything we can do to raise awareness, however small it might be, has to help.