A Ray of Sunshine
By Kerry Harrison | Published on December 29, 2020 | 8 Minute Read
My name is Kerry. I am a 40 year old single mum who has been blessed with two beautiful boys that have taught me so much about myself and life. It all started with my first born. Mason was very distressed as a baby. He cried like he was in constant pain until he wore himself out. Other people would describe him as difficult or blame my parenting. I couldn’t take him to baby groups since he was too disrupting. Shopping was impossible and family visits were difficult. I soon became isolated. I knew then that something wasn’t right. As he got older, his behaviours were strange. He would constantly cry, had delayed speech, would not take any food, would not talk, and would not look people or me in the eye. At that time, the comments were that he was just naughty or that boys usually delayed in development. I battled for years with the doctors and then at 4 and a half years old, we got his diagnosis.
Also around this time, his father left and I went on this journey into a whole different world that I fell right into. After attending the Early Bird Course with my Grandad, the greatest man I ever met, I learned how to help and understand Mason, but also found out why my world had always felt different from everyone else.
Since I want to focus this story on Mason, I will share one way this course has helped. My sister worked at the Trafford Centre Crèche so I would leave Mason there for about an hour and have a walk around the shopping centre for a break. I was able to have some me time for once since I had no other respite. Mason was happy to stay here as he recognised my sister. This was great until I picked him up. I could always hear Mason on my approach. He would be hysterically screaming and there would be 2 to 3 staff members trying to keep him safe as he lashed out. He would be between 2 doors (this was the exit from the crèche) on the floor kicking, screaming and throwing his head back. I would hold him tight in my arms and walk straight out to the car with the help of the staff. The strength he had was unreal. It was a struggle, but the absolute pain in his scream was what really hurt me. Everyone would be staring, but I learnt to block that out eventually. I would sit in the back seat of the car holding him until he exhausted himself. This could sometimes take up to 20 minutes.
"It was a struggle, but the absolute pain in his scream was what really hurt me. Everyone would be staring, but I learnt to block that out eventually"
From the Early Bird Course, I learned about giving warnings and times to children to let them know if something was going to happen. So on the next visit to the crèche, I asked the staff to give him a 5 minute warning using hand gestures as well as words when I would be close to picking him up. Mason was non-verbal at this stage and I wasn’t expecting a miracle, but I was willing to try. When I came to pick him up, I couldn’t hear Mason. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I turned the corner, there he was in between the two doorways peering through at me with his coat and shoes on. I couldn’t believe it. One small comment changed everything like a flick of a switch. It was a miracle. We walked calmly to the car and never looked back. I think I cried all the way home.
When Ray came along I knew there was a possibility he would be in the spectrum and early on, the signs were there. This time I had more knowledge and experience and we had a diagnosis at 2. I went through the Early Bird Course again, which helped refresh my knowledge.
Ray is now in mainstream school. We have 25 hours support with his EHC Plan. He is doing four full days in a mainstream setting and he loves it. Ray is the complete opposite to Mason. He is very wild, active, loud, and more of an extrovert, while Mason is quiet, loves films and his computer, and is a definite introvert. When the lockdown first started, my mental health broke down, my marriage ended and I had to fight my way back to a reality that I could cope with. I finally addressed my difficulties and the fact that I am also on the spectrum. This is something that is currently a work in progress. But just connecting with people on social media and knowing that I’m not the only one has been a massive support and has helped in these times.
At present we are all doing really well as a family. Mason is at college studying film and Ray is just starting out at primary school. I am getting the support I need. My advice would be to always reach out. Trying to do everything on your own will catch up to you as parents/carers. We need to focus on our self care.
About the Author
Kerry Harrison is 40 years old and a single mum. She currently works as a private cleaner and has two boys Mason ,16 Ray, 4. She also has a cat and a dog. She loves to exercise, dance and go to the cinema.