Wednesday 6 May 2020

Talking about additional needs kids

Child with Dinosaur

We've been using a lot of Makaton at home over the lockdown. Makaton is a simple and unique language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. We've been using it since before our first son was diagnosed with autism.

Each week the Makaton Charity shares a sign of the week to help people learn it. This week the sign is 'dinosaur' and it reminded me of a time when I had difficulty communicating with others too because I felt different.

It can be difficult to talk to other mums about your kids when your kids have additional needs and theirs don't. It's not that I have difficulty talking about my kids. It's just almost impossible to talk about my boys without mentioning that they are on the autistic spectrum. Conversations used to just fizzle out or become difficult because the other parent and I had very different experiences and we struggled to find common ground. It was like they are bringing up kittens and I had dinosaurs.

Take for example a week at a playgroup. Once my boys were both at school I'd been trying to enjoy quality time with Jane, who was by then three years old) at regular playgroups. We couldn't attend 'normal' playgroups with my boys as it was too stressful for me, the boys, other kids and the other mums. Now it was just Jane and I during the day, I'd been back in the playgroup rota.

 Sadly a study earlier that year found that nearly a quarter of new mothers felt isolated. Playgroups are great. Along with other things, they provide a way to get out and meet other mums. I wasn't with my dinosaurs, so surely I'd get some regular kitten conversations?

Within minutes the question would arise, "Is Jane your only child". I'd reply that I also have two boys at school. "Oh really, that must be a handful(!), which schools?" And that's it; the answer means the conversation is about the boys and their ASD. Then despite me asking about their kids the conversation stops. Sometimes it feels like I should just wear a badge "I also have autistic kids - there, now let's talk about something else".

But the good news is that I do get to have adult conversations, often it's with the volunteers running the playgroups and, you've guessed it, other mums of kids with additional needs that are there too. There are also SEN parent activities and most of all with our loving family and friends.

 During the lockdown Skylarks, a local charity that supports children with additional needs and their families, have been running a variety of social and therapy events online. These guys are all comfortable with my dinosaur/kitten chat and are happy to roar and purr with me appropriately.

For the palaeontologists out there, I'd say I was overall probably more a fan of dinosaurs and kittens, but now I have both I'm not surprised to learn that several cat like mammals existed when the dinosaurs did 66 million years ago. Both of which lived for far longer than us so I guess I should always have something interesting to say.

1 comment:

  1. I can so relate to this, even when it comes to close family, it can be really difficult. I like how you compare it to kittens and dinosaurs, it really highlights how it feels sometimes! Thank you for linking up with #KCACOLS, hope you'll join in again next time xx


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