Our Autism Story
By Sophie Holmes | Published on October 8, 2020 | 8 Minute Read
I’m a Mum of two boys, Matthew aged 9 and Edward aged 7. We live in the beautiful county of Devon in the South West of England. Matthew is neurotypical and Edward is autistic.
As a secondary school teacher I was already familiar with autism having taught autistic children in mainstream schools. Even with this knowledge and experience I still wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis of Edward at the age of 3. Similar to most parents I found it challenging to process the diagnosis and what it would mean for the future of my son.
The journey to diagnosis was fairly straightforward. The staff at Edward’s nursery noticed that he was, developmentally, two years behind his peers, so he was referred to the child development centre. At the time, the wait was 18 weeks to be seen for the initial appointment, this has now increased to at least a year.
My husband and I then moved Edward to the preschool attached to the mainstream school that his elder brother attends. Here, the staff started the ball rolling for his EHCP application in preparation for Edward starting foundation. This was awarded to him in the summer of his foundation year, so the process takes ages.
When we went for Edward’s yearly review at the end of foundation, the school said that were unable to meet Edward’s needs and that we should start looking for a special school. Initially, I wanted Edward to stay in mainstream because I felt that it was important for him to be part of the local community. However, his special school is so amazing and they can meet his needs in ways that mainstream school cannot. Even with the best will in the world, mainstream schools are significantly underfunded (this is a huge problem that needs addressing) and so are unable to adapt to his needs. I am glad that he did start at mainstream because all the children in the local area know and love him. We often meet with them and have play dates. So Edward is still very much part of the community.
I found all of this difficult to process and I was looking for ways to help me come to terms with both the diagnosis and the move of schools. So I decided that I would start writing a blog.
"I found all of this difficult to process and I was looking for ways to help me come to terms with both the diagnosis and the move of schools. So I decided that I would start writing a blog."
My blog is called Mummy of a Square Peg. It was the saying ‘Square peg in a round hole’ that inspired the name of my blog because a lot of autistic children face struggles to fit into our current society. The aim of my blog is to raise more autism awareness, to offer support and advice to other families going through similar.
A lot of my blog posts are about our experiences and adventures in the great outdoors. As a family we love being outdoors, going to the beach, walking in the woods and on the moors. I believe that most autistic children love being outdoors and parents shouldn’t be afraid to take them out. Of course, the outing probably won’t be very relaxing but it will be worth it for the child’s experiences. When I first took Edward to the beach, he refused to even put his feet on to the sand. Then he would run off as far as he could along the beach and I would have to sprint after him and physically carry him back. In recents months, his behaviour on the beach has improved, he no longer runs off (he does still wander off but doesn’t run anymore). He also now takes an interest in playing with other children on the beach and he will actually build a sandcastle using a bucket.
I also believes that autistic children thrive when they go camping. Edward absolutely loves the freedom of camping, the fact that he can collect some twigs and leaves and run around pretending that they are spaceships. Then when he’s had enough of running around the campsite, he will just take himself into the bedroom compartment, climb into his sleeping bag and play on his tablet.
Again, just like visiting the beach, camping will not be relaxing for the parents. Before parents embark on a camping adventure they should contact the campsite first and ask how they can be supported. For example, Harlyn Sands holiday park in Cornwall gave me the key to the disabled toilet to change Edward, a wristband with my name and number on and they gave the staff a description of Edward in case he had wondered off. Hendra Holiday park in Newquay also gave us free swimming passes and took us to the front of the queue. If the campsite aren’t forthcoming with these sorts of things then find somewhere else to stay.
Edward is 7 now, still in nappies and only eating Weetabix. He is the most adorable and funny little boy who melts even the coldest of hearts. Being a mother of an autistic child is an incredible journey but it must not be embarked on alone. It is important to connect and reach out to other parents going through a similar. Keep talking and sharing experiences. You are not alone.
About the Author
I’m an RS secondary school teacher in mainstream and I’ve been teaching for 20 years. My passion for teaching RS comes from growing up in multi-cultural society in South West London then when we moved to Devon when I was 11. I missed the diversity so much and I felt that people need to learn more about it. My social media channels are there to offer support and advice to families going through something similar.