Special Saturday is a campaign started by Wendy at The Savette Gazette to promote awareness and understanding of special needs. Every Saturday a prompt is given to encourage people to write something and to spread awareness of special needs through the hashtag #specialsaturday. This week the theme is on introducing ourselves.
Hi, I’m Deb and I am the creator and author of Aspie in the family.
I’m married with three wonderful children. My eldest daughter has just started college with a view to fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor. I also have two other children who are the focus of my blog. My 13 year old son who has an autistic spectrum disorder and my 10 year old daughter with aspergers syndrome.
My son is a practical boy. He loves helping out at home particularly with jobs such as mowing the grass, washing the car or helping to bake the family’s favourite – chocolate brownies. He can also be funny, loving and caring and has a particular affinity with horses and guinea pigs. My younger daughter is sensitive and shy and quite a perfectionist. She also has an incredible eye for detail and a keen sense of style and will often notice things when we are out and about, things that I would never notice. She is also artistic and a lot of her expression can be found in her artwork.
As for me, before I had my children I spent many years working as a personal assistant. Contrary to the stereotype of ‘just being a secretary’, being a PA can be a demanding role, one where you essentially ‘run the office’ as well as having responsibility for junior members of staff. I enjoyed the dynamic nature of my work but started to hate the ruthless way senior people behaved to one another and their staff. I wanted to work in a more caring environment where I felt as though I was contributing to society rather than feeling like a cog in the machinery.
As it was, becoming a mother forced me to re-evaluate my life. Instinct told me to stay at home when I had my elder daughter but the need to contribute to the family income meant I continued as a PA until my son was born. At that point, with two preschool children, I decided to give up work for a while and to concentrate on my family though it was always my intention to return to work.
But then as my son grew into toddler hood, his behaviours became more challenging and life started to become difficult. With such a demanding child, returning to work was not an option as I found myself becoming more than a mum, but an advocate too, as I fought to seek a diagnosis for my son. In between all of this I also had another daughter who had her own difficulties which were later diagnosed as aspergers syndrome.
However, I missed the intellectual stimulation that work provided so I did a part time degree in social sciences and also some voluntary work. I adored the academic nature of my degree and achieved a degree that I never thought capable of at school. It made me consider taking my studies further but the current governmental cuts to university courses and the hike in fees has put me off for the time being. My voluntary work was also another worthwhile experience as I started to work with mature students from all walks of life, helping them with their basic skills. This led me to my current job as a part time (sessional) support worker to students with mild learning disabilities, a job I really enjoy.
Overall my motherhood (and I’ve been at it now for 16 years) has been an eye-opening experience. I have developed as a person that I don’t think would have been possible for me if I had remained in my old career. I have learnt the value of family life and relationships and the importance of community and am glad to have had the opportunity to have experienced all of these things.
However, I have also experienced ignorance from those who look down on stay at home mothers and who assume that people like me are neither intelligent, have a strong work ethic or have the transferable skills for the workplace. Such attitudes are shortsighted and wrong; its time we acknowledged that there is knowledge and experience within the parental community that can be harnessed by wider society.
But this is nothing in comparison to the ignorance of those who do not fully understand what autism and aspergers is or what it is to care for special needs children. As a result I have lost friends (though I have gained new ones) and I have become disliked by teachers as I have fought for the rights of my children.
But this is a price I am prepared to pay for, as my children deserve a chance at a quality of life that many others take for granted.