Category Archives: Mental Health

Failure isn’t falling, it’s not getting back up again….

I’m going to let you into a secret, deep down I’m one of those people who would love to live in a world of rainbows, fairies, seahorses and unicorns!   It wouldn’t be for everyone but here is my idea of a perfect world…

….and this is what I’ve got!

Now, don’t get me wrong, Lorie asleep in her Unicorn onesie that I bought her for Christmas is wonderful and very endearing, and I love Bear very much indeed and he does do a passable impression of a Unicorn, for a dog.

But you can see the difference, huh?  It’s not quite the same as my fantasy world is it?

It’s sad that we can’t all live in a happy world of unicorns, fairies etc….but this is real life and sometimes it sucks!  The last year for the Shanks family has been one of incredible highs and desperate lows, it’s all very confusing.  The film being launched, winning a major award and being nominated for a BIFA and now a BAFTA was beyond our wildest dreams at the time of filming, and the film receiving such an incredible response from the audience on Netflix is simply amazing.

On the other hand, me having a heart attack, the children’s grandmother passing away and  various other rubbish events have had us all on a rollercoaster of emotions from which we’re all still recovering!

But that’s life isn’t it?  Highs and lows…the trick is managing to ride them well enough to be able to get through to the next rainbow on the horizon.  Oh yes, and keep searching for Unicorns, they’re out there somewhere!

 

Kingdom of Us: Searching questions on Woman’s Hour by Jane Garvey

BIFA’s!

Sunday night saw the entire Shanks family attending the BIFA’s, a glittering awards ceremony celebrating all that is best in the world of British Independent Film Making.  It was all very surreal, walking down the red carpet and having dozens of photographers taking pictures and shouting directions to us to look this way and that, and stand here and there, all very confusing!

Party time at the BIFA’s!

It was a fabulous night and we had the best time, we didn’t win Best Documentary but just being nominated and being in the top 5 was accolade enough when you consider how many documentaries were submitted.  It was an experience we will never forget and a huge ‘Thank You’ to Netflix for enabling us to be there.

Woman’s Hour

The morning after saw Lucy, Julia, James and I plus 2 babies (Lucy’s and Julia’s) at Broadcasting House for Woman’s Hour!  It was my first time on Woman’s Hour and very exciting, I’d been really looking forward to it.  It was Jane Garvey, a tough presenter and she had some pretty hard-hitting questions to ask.

‘The Gang’ at Woman’s Hour!

Having covered the back story to the film she mentioned that she had felt uncomfortable at watching parts of the film, as though she was intruding into our lives.  She’s the first person to say this, most people feel that whilst the film is very intimate and raw, the way it was filmed meant they didn’t feel as though they were intruding.  We wanted the film to be extremely honest and hard-hitting, we wanted to start conversations around the issues raised in the film, and you can’t accomplish that unless people feel strongly in some way when watching it.

She also asked Lucy whether she ever felt as though she was intruding too much.

Lucy answered by telling Jane that she knew not everything would end up in the final cut and as we had total control over the finished film she knew that some of the hardest things may never be broadcast.  She also said that she felt it was important that some of the hardest moments be caught on camera as they were important to the essence of the film.  We had total faith in Lucy and never had any reason to question her integrity.

Jane then asked me how many times I asked Lucy to put the camera down and ‘push off’?

The answer to that one is NEVER!  I knew, as Lucy did, that we had total control over the final cut and felt that everything should be filmed so that we had the choice.

The truth of it is that I never asked Lucy to stop, but there was one occasion when I told her to carry on and she decided herself to put the camera down.  That was a huge moment for us, we knew then that we could trust Lucy implicitly, she has become one of our closest friends over the years and we love her dearly.

Jane also asked whether it was right of me to put the children through making the film, and was it too much for them now that it’s out, in view of how much they’ve already been through?

I agonised over this one for the entire 4 years of making the film, but the children kept reassuring me that they wanted to do it, and they knew they would have the opportunity to cut anything out of the final edit if they didn’t feel comfortable with it.  They felt safe in Lucy’s very capable and compassionate hands and were always passionate about the whole thing being totally ‘real’.

Do they regret making it now that it’s available to the entire world?

No, if anything they are even happier about the project now that it’s out.  We’ve been swamped with messages from all over the planet thanking us for making such an honest film about the realities of the subjects it covers.  The people who’ve watched it say they feel reassured that they’re not the only ones experiencing some of the issues raised and they now understand people they are close to much better.

‘Besmirched’

Jane also made the statement that she felt ‘besmirched’ after watching the film.  This seemed to be a slightly unusual way of describing her feelings and very personal to her.  Besmirched means:-

to detract from the honour or luster of: to besmirch someone’s good name.

We all made the film in good faith, hoping that it may help some people in some ways.  Our intentions were honourable, we had no desire to make people feel ‘dirty’ in any way but we  were quite happy for people to feel uncomfortable.  We need our boundaries to be pushed sometimes in order to make us think in a bit more depth about certain things and I believe ‘Kingdom of Us’ does that.

 

 

The interview is here…

 

Numerous people have also messaged us to tell us that they were contemplating taking their own lives but have now changed their minds because they realise the terrible impact on the people they would leave behind.  That is a powerful reason for being so happy that we saw the project through to its conclusion.

And it does cover all kinds of things that we feel uncomfortable with, but knowing that people can relate to it and are potentially being helped makes that pale into insignificance.  If a little discomfort for us can change a few things then it’s all worthwhile.

Without controversy and discomfort there is no debate, and there must be conversation around subjects that make us uncomfortable.  

Autism: 4 things I believe contribute to the tragically high Suicide rate in Autistic people

Following on from the piece we did recently for ITV News regarding Autism and suicide, I think the facts and statistics speak for themselves, 66% of people on the spectrum have contemplated suicide, that is an alarming figure.

We can all do our part in giving people a hand up

 

What we don’t yet fully understand is why the actual suicide rate is so high within the neurodivergent population, although I have a few theories of my own.

  1. Having watched my own children grow up with the challenges that autism can create, and knowing the degree of mental health difficulties they ALL face, I believe that a proportion of their struggles relate directly to the everyday challenges they have to deal with just having to understand, and be understood, in a world that they find hard to relate to.  Autism can’t be ‘seen’ so it’s very difficult for ‘neurotypical’ (I hate that word, what is ‘Neurotypical’ anyway?) people to know that they may be having difficulty in communicating.
  2. A large number of people on the spectrum also have to contend with various sensory issues, constantly.  It may be a sensitivity to sounds, smells, textures, the list is a very long one.  What most of us don’t understand is that these sensitivities are not just irritating, the offending issue actually creates very real, agonising pain.  My children have a variety of sensory challenges and I’ve witnessed them contort with pain at  various inputs that they can’t cope with.  While they are out in the wide world they have no way of controlling their environment so these problems can ambush them at any moment.
  3. Another challenge is that people on the spectrum need to know what’s going to happen next.  They visualise everything in their heads, the problems occur when the reality doesn’t match their expectations, but, when does life ever pan out exactly the way we want it to?  Most of us adapt readily to the vagaries of life, imagine not being able to do that?
  4. Another huge challenge for people on the spectrum is actually accessing the help they need.  So many conventional therapies don’t work for them so even if they manage to ask for help in the first place, the likelihood of it helping them in real terms is very slim.  Fortunately, Autistica is doing very real research with people on the spectrum to find strategies that actually help, long may they keep up the good work.

I’ve only briefly listed a few challenges above, but try for a moment to imagine living in a world where there are so many variables that you find so unmanageable that your life is lived at the highest end of anxiety at all times?  We all experience stress, unfortunately, autistic people very often experience it on a totally different level, is it any wonder then that they often feel that they can’t cope any more?

The proportion of people living in our society with neurodivergent brains is actually very high, we need to be doing a lot more to create environments that they feel comfortable with.  A quiet room in shopping centres, colleges etc…would go a long way towards offering a calm space to collect oneself before trying to continue.

Autistica are an amazing charity that fund research into ways to help people on the spectrum manage anxiety and understand their mental health challenges along with a huge amount of other very important research.  If you would like to get involved with helping them you can join their ‘DISCOVER’ network to help them work with even more people so they can gain more insight, they already have 5000 people involved but the more the better.

We shouldn’t be losing lives to suicide and so much more needs to be done to help, let’s all join the army and shout for change….

‘Kingdom of Us’: Can a film really save lives?

 

Kingdom of Us

Life throws all kinds of stuff at us, some good, some bad, some absolutely earth shattering.    Paul’s suicide was one of those earth shattering events that left myself and my children in tatters.  10 years after the event and we’re still here, still in one piece and, remarkably, moving forward in spite of the fact that life just keeps giving….more shit that is!

I need to write a second book in order to tell the story properly (something I’m planning to do) but suffice it to say that the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’ was my heart attack 11 weeks ago, a defining moment indeed!

But in amongst all of the interesting events that have littered our lives over the last few years we made ‘Kingdom of Us’ with the incredibly talented Lucy Cohen.  Lucy is one of those people you meet once in a lifetime, someone who is so sensitive, empathetic, insightful to the point of appearing to be telepathic and so caring that she almost seems to be from a higher plane.

We met Lucy via ‘Unravelled’, the book I wrote a few years ago, in a roundabout way.  My literary agent, Andrew Lownie, introduced me to an agency called ‘Find a TV Expert’, through this agency a lady called Dee Kahlon found my profile and got in touch.  We met with her and she wanted to make a TV documentary about autism and introduced us to her preferred Director, Lucy.

It felt as though it was meant to be, love at first sight actually!  We adored Lucy and quickly came to trust her implicitly and we started filming.  The road to completing the film was anything but smooth and there were times when we all kept filming, really not knowing why.  There were no backers, no production company, no-one interested in the project which had long ceased to be a documentary about autism and had become, well, we didn’t really know what it was going to become.

And then through Lucy’s hard work and persistence a production company called Pulse became involved, they believed in the film and Lucy.  Funding came along a few months later and Lucy started to get the feel of what the final film would be.

It’s winning awards!

Four years after starting the whole process and 18 months of editing later and we have the finished article.  The film premiered at the London Film Festival, which was awesome and it won the Grierson Award for best documentary, unbelievable!

Now it’s been nominated for a BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) and we’re off to London on Sunday for the ceremony.  Who knows if the film will win but just to be nominated is too incredible for words, who knows what next?

In amongst all of this, Netflix became interested in the film long before the final edit was complete and snapped it up.  We were overjoyed, being available on Netflix meant that the film would be easily accessible globally and we hoped that it might just change some perceptions and maybe change a few lives.  The day of the release was a tense one for us, we had no idea how the film was going to be received, it could have gone either way.

But, we have been blown away by the response from people all over the world since it’s release on the 13th October.  We have received hundreds of messages from people thanking us for making the film and allowing people into our lives, and messages like the ones below have been so humbling but also, so awesome.

 

“Wow, what an amazing documentary. I’m in a real shitty place at the minute you and your family have really made me realise the possible devastation certain decisions could possibly have on others x”

 

“I watched your documentary today I just want to thank you. I have had suicidal thoughts lately & seeing the impact it has on children has made me stop”

 

These are excerpts from messages we’ve received and there have been so many others along the same lines.  We made the film in the hope that it might make a difference, we didn’t expect this but comments like these make the whole, difficult, four year process so incredibly worthwhile.

Thank goodness Lucy believed in the project and put everything into it for four years.

Thank goodness we all kept believing in her.

Thank goodness all the other people who became involved in the project believed in it as well.

We all hope that the film will be seen by as many people as possible and continue to make people think twice about mental health, autism and suicide

 

 

Autistica: An autism research charity that genuinely aims to help autistic people in a very real way

We aim to give the autism community a voice in everything we do. Through consultation and involvement we’ve made sure they don’t just direct our funded research, but autism science across the UK’  

I’ve been aware of Autistica for a very long time but didn’t know a huge amount about what they do.  Earlier this year I was speaking at an event at Coventry University and met a gentleman called Ed, he was lovely and told me a little about their work.  A couple of months ago we filmed a piece for ITV and Autistica were part of the report, we connected and I found out that they actually fund exactly the type of research I’ve always been an advocate of!

I’ve deliberately kept  a distance from all organisations as none of them seem to share my ethos with regard to autism, Autistica are different, they fund research that autistic people actually want.  They’re not looking for a cure, they’re not trying to change anyone, they just want to find ways to make their lives better.

I applaud that and would encourage everyone to join their ‘Discover’ Network, this is what they aim to do:-

Make a difference to people’s lives through research

Help researchers do bigger and better research

Cement the UK as a world leader in autism research

“Research is the only way to get the services we and future generations need. If we don’t get involved in research, nothing will change”

Autistic adult and parent

There are lots of ways to get involved and I believe we all should, check out what you can do to help and how you can be part of the revolution of change HERE

WELL DONE AUTISTICA, KEEP UP THE FANTASTIC WORK!

 

 

Kingdom of Us

After nearly four years of filming and production, the moment we’ve been waiting for is finally here!  It’s with a tiny bit of apprehension and a huge amount of excitement that we look forward to the World Premiere at the British Film Festival on the 7th October of our film about our journey over the last few years since Paul’s suicide.


Excitement because it’s been SUCH a long time in the making, and a tiny bit of apprehension because it’s such an intensely personal and real film which shows us ‘warts and all’.

We insisted from the very beginning that the film be totally real, no staging, no pretending to be something we’re not or vice versa, and that’s what it is…just us…as we are in real life.

We’re all so happy with the finished film and for that we have to thank the amazing Lucy Cohen (Director), not only a brilliant Director but an awesome person as well, we all love her dearly and really hope that the film may help in some way, if it touches one person it will have been worth every moment of the last four years.

Film trailer…

 

Tickets on sale here from 14/9/17

My story: Love your Scars

I’ve joined Spaghetti Agencies ‘Summer Camp’, absolutely brilliant, I’ve learnt so much from it, so a huge thanks to Todd and Jo!  One of the things Todd has pointed out (and he’s so right to do so!) is that people buy from people, therefore, people are interested to know how it all started, what was it that set you on your road in business or whatever your life’s mission is.

Summer Camp!  Read my blog ‘5 Reasons for loving the gift of social media!’.

This set me thinking, I write a huge amount about all sorts of things but I’ve never actually written about how I came to be walking the path I’m currently on.  Tracing the beginnings of something can be tricky, you can think it’s one thing and then realise that something actually came before that, if you really get your thinking cap on you can often trace something right back to your childhood and one single defining moment!

Sadly I can’t go back that far but it’s pretty cool if you can!  No, my journey began with a tragedy, followed by a sickening scenario that left my, already traumatised children, reeling from its impact.  I will explain.

Pippa was 6 and Jamie 16 when Paul died

My husband committed suicide, and in these circumstances there is a post-mortem and an inquest to establish cause of death.  An inquest can take many months to be heard, as was the case with Paul’s, it was five months after the event when I found myself at the Town Hall in Leamington with a room full of people, some of whom I didn’t know.  The Coroner decided that Paul’s death was, indeed, suicide, but not before he’d gone through the pathologists report in great detail, talking about some of the things I had decided, at that time, the children didn’t need to know.  They were all still very young and the gorier details could wait until they were old enough to handle them, if ever.

In happier times…..

An inquest is always a harrowing experience, opening up wounds that have barely started to heal anyway and making everything feel as raw as the day it happened.  But, it had been hanging over me for months, so, at least I could heave a sign of relief that it was finally over and done with, or so I thought.

A week or so later a friend rang me to ask if I had read the local paper, I responded no and she suggested I buy a copy as the inquest had been covered by reporters who had attended (the unknown people) and she was concerned at the content.  When I read the reports, the way it was written reduced me to tears of despair, frustration, anger and anxiety about how it would affect the children.  The journalists had seen fit to report the findings in the minutest detail and in the most sensational way.

I was devastated but also galvanised into action when the children found themselves on the receiving end of a stream of bullying at their various schools as the story spread like ‘wildfire’ throughout the community.  But, almost worse than that, they had been exposed to traumatic details of the event that caused them even more pain and left them asking me why I had withheld the truth (the autistic mind needs to know all of the facts and excluding certain details had left them doubting me, however good my intentions), all this at a time when I was the only person they had in the world and I needed them to trust that I would be their rock.

Anxious, raw and angry I contacted the Press Association with a complaint about the way the inquest had been reported and, to cut a long story short, they agreed with my complaint.  The relevant papers had to print an apology and I got to choose where in the paper it should be.  A small victory, and not helpful to us, but maybe, just maybe, they would think twice before covering such a traumatic event in the same way, maybe someone else would be spared the pain we’d been subjected to.

That piece in the local paper and the subsequent apology was picked up by the national press and several newspaper and magazine pieces followed, I wanted to raise awareness of how that report had affected the children and why people need to be so much more aware of how different people are affected in different ways by such events.

This led to my Literary Agent finding my story online and him asking me to write the book which led to another person finding me through an agency website called ‘Find a TV Expert’ and the idea of the film was born.  As time has gone on I’ve done many TV, radio and press pieces all aimed at the same outcome, better awareness of Autism and mental health issues and I now speak at conferences and events far and wide.

For the first time in my life I’m actually doing what I want to do and really enjoying it, so, from tragedy sprang a purpose and a cause that needs to be fought by all, if I can spread the word a little faster and to a wider audience through everything I do, that’s great!

My favourite saying is ‘SCARS REMIND US WHERE WE’VE BEEN, THEY DON’T HAVE TO DICTATE WHERE WE’RE GOING’and this is the philosophy I’ve tried to bring my children up with.  Life will leave you with plenty of scars, both physically and mentally, but they can be used to hold you back or propel you forward….let it be the latter.

 

My TED Talk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA

My book ‘Unravelled’:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1500593442&sr=8-1

Website:  http://www.vikieshanks.com

 

 

 

Don’t Steal People’s Dreams Just Because You’ve Lost Yours…

 

I’ve have a lot of defining moments in my life, but recently I seem to have had more than my fair share.

This is a good thing; I learn a lot from these sparks of inspiration and very often they have helped to shape my future in a very positive way.

But how easy is it to project our perceived limitations onto someone else?

Osborn’s 18th birthday…need I say more?!

I try so hard not to limit my children’s ambitions, but when Osborn was selected to take part in the ‘Two Castles Run’ locally (it’s 10 Kilometres), to say I was concerned for his health would be an understatement!

Osborn has Cerebral Palsy, right side hemiplegia, which means that his CP affects his right side more dramatically than his left.  The muscles in his right leg regularly spasm, which is extremely painful and affects his ability to walk easily. His right leg is also an inch shorter than his left and all of the muscles in his leg are very tight.

All of this has always made running and sport very hard for him but has never deterred him from taking part, knowing all of his life that he would always come last.

He was never put off by this, he just wanted to have a go, and when numerous doctors consistently told us as a child that he would NEVER be able to ride a bike, he rose to the challenge, spent 3 entire summers trying (and falling off repeatedly) but, eventually managed to stay on and now regularly rides into town without any problems!  What a hero!

So, Osborn embarked on the 10k run with me biting my nails wondering if he would be rendered incapable of continuing after a short time.

I waited at the finish line in a state of nail-biting anxiety, the fastest runners came through at about the 40 minute point.  I naturally assumed that Osborn (if he made it at all) would be with the stragglers at the end and was prepared to settle on the grass for an hour or so waiting for him.

We watched as the main pack came through at around the hour mark and to my amazement and enormous relief, there was Osborn!

He resembled the colour of a beetroot and was obviously exhausted but, none the less, he was still going and looking every bit as determined as he always is.

His actual time was 1hr 1 minute and 32 seconds. This is an incredible achievement in any event, but, add to that the fact he hadn’t done any training, and it was nothing less than a miracle!

And so, yet again, I was taught, to never underestimate my children!

How many times have I panicked when they’ve wanted to do something that I was scared they would fail at?  How many times have they proved me wrong?  And how many more times in the future will they leave me flabbergasted with their achievements?

I don’t know!

All I do know is that I love it when they prove me wrong!  I never tell them they can’t do something they plan to do, I keep my reservations to myself so as not to discourage them, but I worry internally.

That concern will never go away for me, but that means I have many more years of being delighted and experiencing that exhilarating feeling of pride as they overcome all the odds yet again.

Always believe in people and if you doubt their abilities, keep it to yourself.

DON’T EVER BE THAT PERSON WHO STEALS SOMEONE ELSE’S DREAMS…

My TED talk is here:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA&t=1s

Website:- http://www.vikieshanks.com

Book:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

 

Gender Neutral: A step too far?

I’m constantly banging on about acceptance, tolerance and understanding.

I also try to have an open mind at all times, so I do hope no-one misreads this slightly controversial post!

Sadly, I was born in the era when boys were boys, girls were girls, and if you deviated from ‘the norm’ you were, at best, ostracised, and at worst, bullied, beaten and tormented!

It’s stating the obvious to declare my abhorrence at such unacceptable discrimination, but, unfortunately, it still persists in many areas within religious beliefs, communities and, more importantly, in people’s personal beliefs.

Has it already gone too far?

It will be many more generations before we reach a point of genuine love and acceptance of all people (if we ever reach that point), but the times we live in now are a very far cry from, say, 50 years ago. We continue to grow and the human race continues to learn, and long may it continue!

But we’re human beings, and we’re renowned, as a species, for taking things too far the other way, almost as a form of rebellion, and so it is becoming with gender neutralisation.

It’s great that we want to allow people to be who they are without judgement but, how far do we take it?

And nor should we!

I hear the term ‘gender neutral’ constantly now, especially from ‘parents to be’ who are declaring they want to dress their newborns in ‘gender neutral’ clothes etc…  Absolutely no problem with that as the baby won’t give a jot about what colour their nursery is or what they’re wearing as long it’s comfortable.  And the only challenge the rest of the population will have is when they first meet your offspring and have to mutter the words, “Oh isn’t….errrrrr….aren’t they beautiful!?” as they try to discern whether it’s a boy or a girl.  I’m guessing if we take ‘gender neutral’ to it’s natural conclusion the baby will just be ‘it’, we don’t want to impose either gender on them after all!

I jest, but where does it end?  What if your ‘gender neutral’ girl wants to wear pink fluffy princess dresses when she’s 3?  Or your ‘gender neutral’ boy wants to play with trucks and cars at a similar age?  Do we give girls Action Man and boys Barbies and make them play with them – or should we give them the choice to play with whichever they want?

‘Gender neutral’ wasn’t a thing when I was bringing my lot up, so I did put the girls in dresses and Osborn in rugby shirts and trousers, it didn’t occur to me to do anything else.

Osborn preferred playing with Lego and cars and the girls loved playing ‘dress up’, having tea parties, and nurturing their dolls. I had no problem with this!  Osborn mostly grew up with seven women and very few males in sight – people frequently postulated that he may become gay because of it!

Spot  the ‘Osborn’!

Herein lies one of the problems I believe. One doesn’t ‘become gay’; one either is or isn’t.  On a couple of occasions when he was very young, Osborn was subjected to the (in his mind) indignity of being put in a dress and having make up slapped on his face.  I guess with so many sisters it was inevitable that it would happen, but it hasn’t ‘turned him gay’, he is very much himself and happily heterosexual.

One’s sexual preference isn’t a choice one makes, it just is.  What concerns me slightly is that if we take the neutrality too far we’ll end up with people who worry about ‘coming out’ as being heterosexual.  Sounds far fetched?  My lot already talk about feeling slightly uneasy about admitting their sexual preferences although a couple of my girls have questioned their sexuality and worried about telling me.  But why would I care?  They’re still the same amazing people I already adore and respect and their sexual preference is right at the bottom of the list of things that I worry about.

Maybe I have a vision of the future where everyone wears baggy boiler suits and hides their gender as best they can for fear of judgement either way.  Both extremes are unacceptable, so is it time we stopped and paused for thought?  Maybe we need to take a breath and consider both sides of the coin and reach a logical, balanced approach that leaves people feeling free to be whatever they want to be.  No pushing, no leading, just acceptance of what is and who we are.

My children have each turned out to be very much their own person, in spite of dresses and long hair for the girls, and cars, Lego and short hair for Osborn.  We had boys’ toys and we had girls’ toys, and they were left to choose which they wanted to play with, the fact that the girls naturally leaned towards more traditionally girls toys didn’t bother me one iota. The fact that Osborn had no interest in wearing dresses and make-up didn’t concern me either.  I neither pushed nor led, I just let them be who they wanted to be, I have to say I’m very proud and happy with the way they all turned out.

Long live difference?  As long as it’s tempered with acceptance I say…….

My TED Talk:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA&t=2s

Website:-

http://www.vikieshanks.com

My book, ‘Unravelled’:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1494715845&sr=8-1

 

Autism: At last, help is at hand!

We need more help…

As the tired old saying goes, ‘If I had a pound for every time…!’

In my case, for every time an anxious parent had asked me to refer them to someone independent to get advice about their special needs child.

Help is thin on the ground, not only via the NHS but independently as well.

….and we need people like Leo who understand this!

I’m not knocking the NHS provision, nothing could be further from the truth.

They’re a committed, hard working, passionate group of people. But they simply have too many referrals on the waiting list, and far too few resources to be able to keep up.

They’re just as frustrated as you are, I can assure you of that. Their dream is to have no waiting list and to be able to help everyone who needs it.

Post diagnosis

A lot of the frustration I encounter via the Autism Support Group I run (Autism One on One), is the very real lack of support or help post diagnosis.

It’s for this very reason that I set up the group 3 years ago, at least it’s somewhere for people to come and chat, exchange ideas and meet other people in the same situation.

The children have a ball as well, they get to be themselves without judgment – and meet other people who think in similar ways.

 

But there is still a huge lack of professional support available for parents who just need to know the basics or urgently need advice about schools etc…

Someone with very real answers

Enter Leo Berry!  Some of you will have come across her via IDS and the Autism Team, if you have encountered her, you know that what Leo doesn’t know really isn’t worth knowing!

Say ‘Hello’ to Leo!

The extent of her knowledge regarding Autism is second to none and she’s the ‘go to’ person when it comes to knowing what strategies will work best in the school environment.

The sort of issues she can help with include:

  • Communication
  • Girls and autism
  • PDA
  • Sensory processing
  • Social interaction
  • Teenagers and autism
  • Understanding behaviour
  • The education system for pupils with SEND.

Leo has now founded her own organisation following her retirement from the authorities, which means WE can have her, all of us!

All of her knowledge and expertise is available and you can now reach her via her website www.autismsupported.com.  

Personally I feel a huge sense of relief and gratitude that she’s now free to help anyone who desperately needs it, and yes, of course she will need to be paid, but her knowledge and advice is priceless.

Leo will be one of the professionals now attending Autism One on One so everyone can chat to her about how she can help if they come along to the group.

Thank you for listing Autism One on One as one of your partners Leo, I feel very honoured and privileged, and on behalf of all of our members, I wish you every success with your new venture and look forward to seeing at the next meeting on the 17th May.

My TED Talk is here:-