Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Year Resolutions

I’ve never been big on New Year Resolutions myself, I always feel that if you can achieve a new goal from the first of January then you should be able to do it anytime.  Therefore, I’ve always shunned the notion of making resolutions that happen to start on the 1st day of the year in favour of doing whatever it is I want to change when the time feels right.





This approach has worked fairly well for me over the years but 2016 has brought its own very specific and major challenges, so I’m feeling a little different this year.  This does feel like the right time to make certain changes and I’ve started some of them already (a little rebellion going on here I think?!), 2017 just HAS to be a better year all round!  So, here I am, sitting in my local Costa, making a flow chart of the things I need to change and how I’m going to go about making those changes.

I’m also setting goals which is something else I haven’t done for a while, life has been so unpredictable and changeable that goals have felt like an unachievable dream, better not to set them in the first place has become my way of thinking.  This, of course, is totally wrong of me, if you don’t know where you’re going how on earth are you going to get there?  Most of us don’t set off in a car without knowing what our destination is, why should we treat our lives differently?  I’m hauling myself up by the bootstraps on that one and giving myself a firm rap on the knuckles for being so stupid!

And I’m not just making professional goals, I’m setting goals for my health as well.  I’ve neglected myself over the last couple of years, which again, has been rather stupid of me, how can I care for anyone else if I’m not well enough?  Self care is not a selfish act, it’s a necessity, without our health we have nothing and the general aches and pains and lack of energy I’m currently experiencing has got to end, I have far too much to accomplish to allow my general health and wellbeing to hold me back.  I have a lot of changes to make in that area and I’m jolly well going to make them, and stick to them.

Work wise I know what I am going to achieve every day/week, health wise I know what I’m going to do in order to feel well enough to do them, and, in terms of personal development, I need to get back to some old, good habits that have fallen by the wayside.  It’s time for me to give myself a huge kick up the backside and I guess I’m pretty screwed as I’m making it all public!

Maybe this is a good time of year to review our lives and consider making any necessary changes, maybe I’ve been narrow-minded in not, at the very least, looking at my life from a different perspective at this time of year and considering what could be better in the coming year?  Well, this year I’m doing it, I will share update reports every so often to let everyone know how I’m doing and what has worked and what hasn’t, maybe sharing my successes and failures will help someone else?


Podcasts…..and why taking action changes lives

Doing something new…..

I’ve never been much into Podcasts, I tend to prefer videos,  but when I was asked if I would do one I was more than happy to oblige, in fact, I felt extremely honoured as it’s a new set of Podcasts being created by my good friend Ryan Hildebrandt, the founder of TEDx Leamington Spa.  I hold him in high esteem as someone who makes things happen so I guess it’s fitting that the series of Podcasts he’s created are called ‘The Maker’s Journey’.



We’e still on our journey but watch this space for some exciting things coming up soon!

Why Podcasts?

And, of course, the inevitable has happened and I’m now an avid Podcast listener!  It’s so convenient to listen on phone on the train and or whilst waiting for something (in hospital with my daughter recently is a very good example!), much easier and less battery life than videos.  And you can learn so much on so many different subjects from some fascinating people, all with just a phone and a set of earphones!

Small actions change lives……

My Podcast traces my journey back from when I took our local paper to tribunal over the piece they wrote about my husband’s inquest, they sensationalised the story and revealed information that my (then) very young children hadn’t needed to know at such a young age.  I was disgusted as it caused my children a huge amount of stress and unhappiness when their peers started being so cruel about the way their father had taken his life.  It was too late to help my family but I hoped they would think again when reporting on anything similar and consider the family’s feelings.  I won and received a retraction in a later issue of the newspaper.  The point that Ryan wanted to make was that I took action instead of just having a moan on Facebook, which would have been the easy option, but wouldn’t have helped anyone.

As a result I was asked to do more press pieces which led to radio interviews which led to   writing a book which led to TV interviews, making a film, doing a TED talk and having a small voice which some people listen to in my quest to change people’s perceptions when it comes to mental health, Autism and Neurodivergence.

My dream is still to change the world and in some very small ways I have changed some lives, I just want to do so much more!  Small things can make a huge differences do listen to my Podcast at ‘The Maker’s Journey’ and please do leave a comment, good or bad, feedback is essential if we’re to grow!



Autism, is it stubbornness or something else?

Recently heard in ‘The Mad Shanks Residence’ was an argument between Mirie and Nikita. Had one of them stolen the other ones clothes again?  No, nothing as life threatening as that, this was about Mirie having her feet up on the coffee table (yes, we allow that in our house under the right circumstances) and Nikita wanting to get through to the sitting room.


The moment of truth!…..bless them!

Let me explain, our house is very ‘open plan’ and Nikita could have walked through the kitchen, the long way round(!) in order to access the sitting room but as Mirie was comfortable and had her feet up, Nikita had the choice to step over or take the other route.  Much in the same way, Mirie had the choice to remove her feet and let Nikita through or refuse to move and make her walk round or step over.  Impasse!

So, was this stroppiness or something else?  I listened with amusement at the pair of them arguing their point and neither of them budging, it went on for about 5 minutes.  Why was I amused?  Because I was well aware that whilst stubbornness was playing a small role in this scenario,  the main issue was what was going on in their heads.  With both of them being on the autism spectrum, they both had their own ‘plays’ running in their heads and the knowledge of how their brains work makes life simpler for those on the outside looking in.

Did I intervene?  No, I knew it was the same impossible situation I’ve encountered endlessly with all of them as they’ve grown up.  You see, they have a picture in their brain which must be adhered to (hence the lack of ability to manage change) and neither of them had the ability to change this picture.  This was a tiny issue but imagine the agony for someone with this particular brain wiring when something major changes?

It’s not always stubbornness, sometimes we have to understand the way a person ticks in order to not arrive at the wrong conclusion.  Food for thought maybe?



It’s all about the Weather (well what else. the sun’s come out!)

So, the sun has come out, too late for the bank holiday of those who celebrate such things but what a wonderful sight to behold.  Is it just me or has the winter been relentlessly grey?  I remember there being only a handful of those glorious ‘freezing but sunny’ days that would normally lure us out of winter hibernation and into our warm but excruciatingly unflattering ‘cold weather walking gear’.

I’m a summer lover, not a sun worshipper, just a summer lover.  I love the freedom the summer brings, being able to sit and work outside, the long summer evenings, wearing fewer clothes with lighter fabrics,  the summer feels, well, just lighter in all ways.


Now, most people would like to be around the soothing greenery of the countryside in this weather but I’m happy to report that I’m off to London for two days on business!  I love London in the summer, I still regard London as being my real home anyway and my favourite time when I lived in the Capital was always the summer, it hasn’t changed.

There’s something about the bustle of the city when it’s hot that makes me excited to be there, maybe it’s the way the sun reflects off the buildings and cars, what I do know is that my visits there are far too rare these days.

So I wish you all ‘Happy Sunshine’ wherever you are and make the most of it, we don’t know how many we’ll get!


Influencing young minds

Last night saw me speaking at the Coventry and Warwickshire County Presentations and Awards Ceremony for Young Enterprise, a huge responsibility that I didn’t take lightly!


Young minds can be influenced so easily for good or bad so saying the right things was imperative, for the first time in my speaking career I was actually nervous!  And what a fantastic group of people they were, all so enthusiastic and motivated and what a journey they had all been on.  In their excellent presentations they told the story of how they conceived their business ideas and took their companies all the way through to making a profit.  What was particularly inspiring was that so many of the companies had taken the opportunity to create products that were environmentally friendly with a lot of them up-cycling and turning potential landfill into useful and beautiful items.

Judging from my experiences last night, the future is bright!  Our younger generations have taken on board the mistakes of generations past and are determined to make our world a better place, and, winner or not, every single one of them has already stepped out of the crowd to say ‘I’m different’, I’ll have a go and have then gone on to work extremely hard to make something happen.  They’re all winners in my eyes.

So I hope some of the things I said last night will help them through their life’s journey, maybe something I said will inspire some of them to go and make a real difference, and personally, I believe our planet is in safe hands with the upcoming generations, they know so much more than we ever did, but, more importantly, they really do care.

Thank you to all ‘Young Enterprisers’ everywhere, you inspired me last night and for that I am eternally grateful.

Where did the future go?

Where did the future go?

Once so bright and clear

now, shrouded only with fear

Where did the future go?

Once full of dreams

Now nothingness as far as my mind can see

Where did the future go?

The excitement of things to come

The pleasure of building lives

Oh, where did the future go?

My mind muffled and bound

My body weighed down with a thousand stones

Oh please, where did the future go?

My love of life and family

My dreams to build a better world

So sad, the future has gone

But maybe, in time, the future will return

Maybe in time the tunnel will open up

Maybe in time, life will be fun

Maybe in time, my passion will return, the weight of the stones lifted

But….for now…ride it they say

Get through each day any way you can

Keep the faith and believe in your dreams

Stay with us and we’ll carry you through

Know you’ll rise again and be you once more…….


Little things can make a huge difference

Two years ago I sat at my computer and made a decision, I was aware that all of the Autism support groups run by the local NHS had extremely strict criteria for attendance and there were countless families waiting for a diagnosis, or just wondering if someone they knew may be on the spectrum and they had nowhere to go to get help and guidance.

Having got the t-shirt on this one I knew how lonely and daunting the whole process of getting any assistance was, so, with a simple Facebook page and room booked in a local restaurant, Autism One on One was born.

Vikie Shanks - Carer of the Year

My Beautiful children, their amazing support with Autism One on One has made it what it is.  Thank you so much to all of you xxxxxxx

That first night, myself and the children sat in the room wondering if anyone would come, half an hour later we were shocked to see that the room was bursting with people and it was apparent that we would need more space very quickly.  I found another venue where we could meet without cost to our members (I was adamant that the group would have to be free in order for no-one to be excluded from attending), and, two years later, it’s a thriving community both online and at the meetings.

Firm friendships have been established, people feel supported, advice is available and once a month our group can meet, free from the disapproving glances of strangers, people connect with like-minded people and feel safe, happy and understood.

Last night one of our young members performed a magic act in order to gain some practice for his show at Autism’s Got Talent, he was brilliant and the reception he received from everyone was rapturous!  Without the group he would have had nowhere to practice his short piece and we all wish him the best of luck in the show in May.

Simple things can make a huge difference and the payback is seeing people feeling supported and giving hope where there was none before.  If you have expertise in a particular area or feel passionately about something, just think, could you do something similar and make lives better?  I bet you could!

Peace and Quiet is great…….right?

Peace and quiet is great!  As I sit here in my dream office, all alone, no distractions, time and space to get my thoughts together, I feel somehow……well, weird?  It’s far too quiet, even with the noise of the scaffolding going up next door and the cars driving past, it still feels strange, as though I’m cocooned in a bubble, isolated from the outside world.

Am I moaning?  No, not at all, I need to be able to think without constant interruptions and distractions, it’s just that I hadn’t realised how much ‘getting used to’ it would take!  I dreamily thought I’d move in, hit the gas pedal and be moving at 1000 miles and hour, just like Bloodhound  (if you don’t know what that is watch Henry Moorhead’s TEDx talk, it’s amazing!) straight away……I was wrong!  I need time to adjust to being in my own head and not constantly having to get inside someone else’s.

Eight people live in our house with a constant flow of ‘extras’, friends, kids partners etc….the house is never empty, what sitting here alone has shown me is that, I actually like that!  I love my children’s company, we make each other laugh, we comfort each other when we’re low and we work together to solve each other’s problems.  We also disagree with each other and annoy each other just as any family does, we just don’t ‘fall out’ for too long.

Fortunately, I won’t be here on my own for much longer, whilst it’s a ‘silent office’, Kacie Shanks Designs will have their studio here, Maid in Kenilworth will run from here and Relative Blue will be working on their newest songs from here.  Lots of activity but no cats, no mess, no outside distractions, just the buzz of accomplishment and moving forward!

New office, new work life for all of us and the space to achieve our individual dreams…..what’s not to love?

Watch my TEDx talk here:-


Depression…..ride it and have faith

I’M BACK………(I feel as though I’ve said that before?), and, to be honest, I probably have!  My life is in a constant state of flux, the week may start off looking relatively sane but as anything can happen at any moment, it can all change in a flash!

The past few months have been even more crazy than ‘normal’ and those of you who know me well know exactly what crazy means in ‘The Mad Shanks Residence’.  Anything can happen, anytime, anywhere and anyhow, not only that, it does….frequently!

And so the last few months have rolled by with crisis after crisis and me in the middle wondering woefully how I’m going to get through the day in any fit state to be able to get through the next…..and the next…..

I’ve spoken openly here about depression in the past and people tell me it’s helped them to know that feeling indescribably c**p is, not only experienced by more people than you would imagine, but it’s also OK to feel that way.  Actually…..correction…’s not ok to feel that way but it happens to some of us, and sometimes the only way through is to ride the wave and just survive it as best you can, knowing that eventually, you’ll appear out of the other end into, maybe not sunshine but something that resembles daylight.

I’ve been there countless times but I’ve come to learn that eventually, just like the mythical Phoenix, I will rise again and manage to fight another day.  And the same goes for you…..but it helps to have something you feel passionately enough about to have the desire to rise in the first place.

Fighting and campaigning for better resources and help for people with Autism and mental health issues has become my ‘why’, along with the happiness and wellbeing of my children, so, here I am, on the rise again!  I’m not quite on my feet yet and I’ve got a feeling that there’s a way to go yet, but, at least the direction is up!

If you’re feeling low reading this, don’t beat yourself up, it happens, ride it, get through the days as best you can and know that it will get better.  Have faith in yourself, I have faith in you…….

My TEDx Talk ‘Neurodivergency’ is at:-

Why having a Plan ‘B’ is a really bad idea!

Why having a ‘Plan B’ is a bad idea!

A lot of people think I’m wrong to have brought my children up believing that having a plan ‘B’ is a bad idea, most parents will encourage their children to take a ‘safe’ GCSE, like Business Studies, so they have something to fall back on.  I was criticised when mine were choosing their options because I allowed them to take all creative subjects.  What?  No back up plan?

The dreaded Plan ‘B’!

Errrrrrrrr……no.   Why not?  Simples, if you have a Plan B you will fall back on it as soon as the going gets tough in Plan A, thereby, giving up on your passion, your dream.  We all need something that drives us to strive for better things and for most people money just isn’t enough incentive.  Sure, we need enough of the stuff to keep a roof over our heads and feed our families, but is life really just about survival?  I know plenty of lawyers and accountants who hate their jobs, even though they’re well paid and have lovely lifestyles, but to spend a huge proportion of your life doing something you hate is surely tantamount to mere existence without meaning.

And I’m not suggesting that we should all be running around brandishing banners and fighting for World Peace (although if everyone joined in it would sort itself out anyway!) and I’m also not suggesting that we should starve in order to follow our passion.  What I have encouraged my children to do though is to find something they’re happy enough with so they can pay their bills which therefore allows them enough free time to pursue their real passion.

For Kacie it’s fashion design, for many of the others it’s the performing arts, they’re following their hearts and doing what they love with a view to it one day being their full time occupations, in the meantime, they’re not stuck in jobs they hate with nothing to look forward to or strive to achieve.

They have formed a band, they write music, they make films with film makers they know, apart from the film we’re all making as a family.  Kacie makes most of the clothes I wear when I make TV appearances, TEDx talks etc…. In a lot of ways they’re already living the dream!

And I’m also proud to say that they are all unemployable, just like me!  Why is that a good thing?  Well, I think I’ll save that controversial one for another day!