I’ve been trying to comment on this annual phenomenon all week but have simply been too busy being a Carer. So before it’s shoved on the shelf for another year by those who have enough time and energy to celebrate it, perhaps I can make one or two observations? Ask a few straightforward questions?
Why are proper and legal Carer’s assessments so rarely carried out AND delivered on by local authorities?
Will the (delayed) Carer’s Act actually be robust enough to deliver any real change for those in the Carer’s role?
Will proper emergency and future plans be put in place with this Act?
Will adequate respite services be promoted, extended and provided to give every Carer a chance to recharge even once a month?
Everything else is window dressing and insult to a group of people who save the public purse an estimated £10.8 billion per year.
A year and a bit into our dog adventures as a family, I remain absolutely smitten with my love for our Labrador, Bailey. This weekend we have had my good friend Barry’s dog staying for a few nights. Skye is a beautiful wee Dalmatian cross and a sweeter wee dog you’d struggle to find.
As autism parents we have something of a stressful life and recently it has been particularly difficult for us all as Andy’s sensory processing differences continue to plague him.
For a while yesterday afternoon things really started to get to me. Like so many others, I too, am prone to bouts of anxiety and depression and yesterday the pressure and worry about Andy had me in a downward spiral. Experience teaches us though, that as George Harrison sang, all things must pass and this sentiment often helps me through this type of difficulty.
This morning I took Bailey and Skye for our usual walk in the woods behind our home. The sun streamed through the deep greens of the foliage and the woods and trails were quiet. I walked slowly but steadily and became engrossed in the surroundings and my canine companions, happily bounding around . My thoughts slowed and my anxieties dissipated as I stole an hour to myself with these beautiful dogs. My mood lifted and things seemed better as I returned to family life.
I don’t know how I managed without a dog for so long.
Andy’s period of hibernation from the world has largely continued this week. He has been mostly still confined to his room or on an odd occasion ventured downstairs.
The best it got was a late evening of hyperactivity where he made it into the garden. It was something of a false dawn ( or dusk !) however as he resorted to type the following day. It was a lovely sight though to see him burst into the garden and reconnect with the outside world with excited stims. (See pic!)
One of the problems seems to be the interaction between Andy’s various autistic traits. Like a domino effect the hyper sensitivity to bright light, that confines him to his darkened room, eventually becomes the routine. The need for repetition and rigidity then conspires to make this the ‘ norm’. The same way this rigidity can be utilised in a positive way to reinforce helpful routines around everyday activities e.g. Personal care, it can also trap Andy in less positive situations.
We will keep observing, supporting, loving and encouraging Andy, but it is taking time that the outside world often fails to understand and accept.
I am happy to be able to announce that Inspired by Autism officially received charitable status this week. I have now been going for almost 4 years and have been continuously exploring how I can be most effective and best continue to contribute to making improvements for autistic people and their families. There have been lots of challenges and highs and lows but I am very driven to keep going. Charitable status feels correct as this was never about being a business in the obvious sense of the word. To maintain a truly independent perspective that ALWAYS puts the wellbeing and interests of autistic people first is the most important principle at Inspired by Autism. I will NEVER compromise that for funding or status from those in power.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Inspired by Autism’s charitable objects are:
– the relief of those in need by reason of age, ill-health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage
The company’s objects are the relief of need through:
• Raising awareness of autism spectrum disorders, challenging discrimination and providing peer support groups for parents and families with children on the autistic spectrum;
• Influencing policy and providing independent advocacy and advice, acting as a voice for families at local and national level; and
• Providing autism awareness training to businesses and professionals.
Some weeks the up and down nature of life as an autism parent leaves you feeling a little drained.
The week started with a follow up meeting to a complaint about desperately poor practice that affected my precious boy and my disappointment at realising that what was considered unacceptable previously is now become just the way it is. Suck it up innocent young people with disabilities your life chances just got fewer because things are getting so bad that we have changed the goalposts again.
My involvement in the local health care policy forum saw me attend a meeting that was considered positive by some, but involved more talk of cuts in budget and provision. We are fighting not for the services, but rather the right to simply have our views heard.
The local initiative for autism services has resorted to type as the ineffectual private members entity it previously was.
Finally our failing education system sticks with the ‘ every thing is fine here’ mantra.
The daily struggle of supporting Andy bookends every encounter with authority and I’m tired of the dishonesty that affects my precious boy and so many others like him.
Feeling quite disappointed and disillusioned with the Autism Strategy in Argyll. Today’s meeting was cancelled and they have not met since November. The next meeting is the end of March. A year ago they relaunched the strategy with promises of real action. Nationally we were 5 years into a 10 year strategy. The Scottish Government then decided to reframe the goals ( that they had failed to achieve) into very vague outcomes. So far it has produced another written plan and well nothing really. Taking a four month break sends out all the wrong messages to people living with autism regardless of the reasons.
Today an advert for this event by Autism Network Scotland has been circulated. The people at ANS are very good people and in my opinion very knowledgeable people. It is extremely difficult to cater for the geographic challenges of Argyll and the limitations and lack of freedom that people living with autism experience but for most people from Dunoon – apart from the professionals- this event is almost impossible to participate in. With respect to make the sacrifices in cost, time and organisation to attend this event to be told about national ” progress ” that has failed to impact on our lives here in Argyll along with spin about the ” progress ” locally, that NONE of us have experienced is a big ask. While I don’t have the answers I could and previously have stated goals that would be meaningful and life changing for those living with autism in Argyll but I feel I am wasting my breath much of the time.
I have tried to be constructive and I have tried to participate and contribute while being heavily involved in caring for my precious boy, trying to help others and hold down a day job.
My offers of input to training staff have been rejected by our authority’s education department and I am tired and very disillusioned with the situation.
It would be much easier just to play along and say positive, nice things about these matters but this is not just a job for me. This is our lives and the life of my precious son and so many others like him. I implore you to interpret these comments in that spirit. I beg for no more ” window dressing” but rather real , if modest improvements that can be experienced by those affected in the short term who have waited so long.
No offence is meant but nationally and particularly locally here in Argyll the Autism Strategy is still failing to deliver.
Night 4 of Andy being unsettled. It’s got steadily worse and tonight he is currently bouncing off the walls. Notions of Christmas holidays relaxing at home seem to have evaporated before they have even begun and all of a sudden a couple of weeks is looking like a long, long time when yesterday I thought I was looking forward to it!
Here are my tips for unpaid Carers at Christmas and other holiday periods.
NEVER get seduced by thoughts of holidays and relaxing because that experience generally doesn’t exist for you. Keep your head down and your expectations set at your normal level. Avoid mainstream images of celebrations and festivities.
Do not let your guard or indeed your hair down. Stay work ready and alert at all times. Look after yourself and never make plans. Never complain it only makes you look bad and feel even worse.
Never, ever underestimate the lack of awareness or desire to even try and understand your life by the majority of those around you- particularly those who make a living from disabilities. Always be polite and remember your manners when seeking basic supports and remember despite the massive savings you make to the public purse , despite the fact you are a massive net contributor, other more able and responsible people will decide your worthiness for help.
Remember also that these very folk will avoid direct contact with people with disability at all costs and would struggle to last ‘ a shift’ doing what they demand of you everyday.
This post is dedicated to out of touch social workers, professionals, policy makers and politicians – you know who you are! Do try to open your eyes and seek some exposure to the lives of those you claim to act for.
At the recent Carers Parliament we were informed that all Health and Social Care Partnerships would be required to sign up to the Scottish Government’s Carer Positive scheme. If I picked it up correctly this is a policy aligned with the forth coming Carers Act Scotland. The policies of the Act won’t come into play until 2018 now and it is not entirely clear how much benefit it will provide. The legislation is badly designed and this means there is likely to be far too much wiggle room for local authorities to actually feel compelled to respond. It does help to raise the profile of Carers Issues however and that may very well be as much as we are going to get.
The Carer Positive scheme for employers will require some basic recognition of Carers rights and awareness of some of the difficulties experienced by working Carers.
People who care for a family member should still be able to pursue some degree of freedom to exercise the legal rights most take for granted. This includes being able to have interests and past times and some semblance of a social life and perhaps a relationship. It also means having ambitions and the chance to realise them in a career or by pursuing academic qualifications.
Despite the fact I work for a local authority and have done for over 25 years I have not fared well since my Carer responsibilities have intensified. Yes I have flexi working but this suits the job I currently do. It is incredible how many people in a social work setting appear to grudge me this. Last year my job role of over a decade was downgraded and my family have faced a very significant drop in income. I was encouraged to go for another post to preserve my earnings but knew this would tip my life work balance and have been unfair to both parties. In a local authority hierarchy is everything and I feel that both my skills and experience are regularly disregarded and over looked.
Sadly it is simply another disadvantage faced by unpaid Carers.
You can find out more about the Carer Positive scheme at the link below.
When you are a parent to a child without speech it can be difficult.
Glimpses and guesses allow us to have a degree of understanding about our precious boy. Gestures, expressions, reactions and behaviour shape our limited understanding, as does hearing firsthand accounts from autistic people who share their experiences.
I rarely stop wondering about how Andy experiences the world and trying to enhance my ability to support him.
A rare visit to a football game had me reflecting once again. As I sat in the stadium listening to the shouts from fans it struck me how conflicting, confusing and startling the commands were.
” Hold it” “Send it long” ” Carry it” ” Give him it” “Shoot ” ” Don’t dive in ” ” Hit him”
The assault on the ears and the contradictions were ridiculous. Of course everyone is an expert at the football ! Being able to filter it out and concentrate on the game is manageable for most of us and the players couldn’t hear it on the pitch but it was perhaps another wee glimpse for me into how Andy experiences the world. Loud , invasive, confusing and unsettling is how I imagine my precious boy experiences busy environments and social situations. This insight also informs of course. It prompts me to speak slowly and clearly and to allow time for communication to be processed. Andy’s comprehension can at times be very good , especially if some thought is given to how you speak to him.
When I was a wee boy we used to go catching bees and wasps in jars. I’m not entirely sure why we did it but we generally released them a short time later. I remember the wasps used to get very agitated at being trapped.
It’s after midnight now and Andy is displaying frenetic behaviour around our home once again. I am desperately tired and have a big day tomorrow but sleep is still a long way off I think.
Andy has been in the wet room for most of the past 3 hours running the warm water over his hands and arms. I attempted to prompt him to bed a little while ago and he did go to his room. He has a sliding door with a little window in it. He repeatedly opened and shut the door and as I observed him he stimmed furiously behind the glass panel on his door.
He is back in the wet room now and is very animated and hyperactive. He stamps up and down the stairs, puts lights on and off and opens and shuts doors. Now he is back to the taps and water . I am writing this with one eye shut as I struggle to stay awake.
Unlike those angry wasps sadly I cannot free Andy.