Autism: The fun bits, courtesy of Lorie!

My wonderful daughter, Lorie, is not renowned for her culinary skills but last night was a bit too far, even for her!

Just for clarity, the items on her plate include baked sweet potato (vaguely recognisable), a pepper, courgettes, mushrooms and a dollop of tomato sauce (for health reasons!).  I was going to run a competition to see if anyone could ‘guess the meal’ but it felt impossible that anyone could manage to even remotely start to get their head around it so I decided not to, for humanitarian reasons….

Definitely not renowned for her skills regarding food, further proof below!

She tells us that she put the vegetables in the oven and it didn’t occur to her that there was a time limit as to how long they could stay in there and still be edible (?), raised eyebrows all round.  And their were many eyebrows to be raised last night, 15 in fact (a couple missing in the photo) we were having a get together to mark the fact that Meg is leaving us to go to uni in Gloucester, it was a kind of ‘send off’.  We’ll all miss her 🙁

Lorie comes in for a lot of stick but the photographic proof below shows exactly why!…..anyway, she knows we’re laughing with her, not at her!

Exhibit A: Eating an entire ‘Red Velvet’ cake, straight from the wrapper!

Exhibit B: Trying to eat a meal with 2 forks and not even realising until she was half way through!

I could go on, but for the sake of Lorie’s self-esteem, I will stop there.

Lorie keeps us all laughing, she is an endless source of joy and hilarity, intentional or not, we all absolutely adore her.  We all need to keep laughing so we don’t end up crying…laughter really is the best medicine.

Thank you Lorie, and please, don’t ever stop being you!!

The Mad Shanks Residence: Lemons to Lemonade!

I’ve been looking back at my last few articles and it’s all become a bit serious hasn’t it?  Nothing wrong with serious, we need to give subjects the weight they need and deserve, but we also need to have fun along the way.  In fact, I wrote about just that a couple of years ago in my blog, it’s actually imperative to have fun once in a while, we get a bit grumpy and sour otherwise!

The last few weeks at The Mad Shanks Residence have been, shall we say, ‘not very nice’.  I was talking to a friend about all the goings on and she commented that ‘you really couldn’t make it up!’, no change there then, it’s always like that but not quite to the extent of recent times.

But the ‘bouncibility’ of my family never ceases to amaze me.  Jamie had a horrible experience but a few days later she was climbing the very overgrown tree on the front drive and sawing branches off like there was no tomorrow!  I stood underneath as any self-respecting mother would, imploring her not to fall out!

THE FACE!

By the time she’d finished venting her anger on the foliage around the driveway there really wasn’t much left!  And no, I’m not moaning, it was well overdue and needed a damn good pruning.

She then proceeded to put my new bed together (no mean feat with Ikea flatpacks!) and move my entire room around to the way I wanted it.  I was grateful for that.

No comment on what’s going on here, but this is Fudge!

On another note, we have 7 cats (long story!), the trouble is that 4 of them are Tabbies, 2 of them are easily distinguishable whereas Tufty and Fudge (I know, I know…not the most imaginative names but chosen by the children when they were a lot younger) are so alike that I sometimes struggle.

2 nights ago Jamie was lying in bed and heard a thud followed by distressed meowing, a cat had been hit by a car…that didn’t stop!  They went hunting for the cat and eventually found him and Jamie declared that it was Tufty.  He had obviously been hit on the side of his head but we had no idea how serious his injuries were, or whether they were life threatening.  Off to the vet at 1.30am with said cat.

They kept him overnight to observe him, meanwhile Jamie was so distraught she was almost inconsolable, Tufty is far away her favourite cat.  Once we picked him up from the vet and brought him home with orders to keep him as quiet as possible, Jamie fed him luxury food in a little tin (something they never get, they’re farm cats!) and fussed over him.  Then the subject of collars arose, all of our cats wear reflective collars so that cars can see them at night, they all drive way too fast down the lane and it’s the cats only protection.

Someone mentioned that one of the cats had lost their collar and they rang me to get another while I was out, which I duly did.  By the time I got home though, the whole house was in uproar, it turned out that the injured cat (who, somehow, miraculously, is fine now) wasn’t Tufty…it was Fudge!   Whilst Jamie was fussing ‘Tufty’, Tufty walked in and started eating, making everyone do a double take!

I must confess that I suspected that we were calling the injured cat by the wrong name but Jamie is normally very reliable at knowing which cat is which, so I just trusted her, whilst all the time thinking it was Fudge because of his tan coloured ears.  I should have trusted my own judgement!

I think the vet still thinks they treated Tufty but unless they need to go in again it doesn’t really matter, we can always correct it next time.

Stuff happens but life goes on and in the fabulous words of Jean-Paul Satre:-

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

SUICIDE: THE WHY…ANSWERED

TOO MANY LIVES LOST…

Unsurprisingly I guess, I’m hugely passionate about suicide prevention and the misconceptions that are generally held by the wider population.

Our brains tell us the most unhelpful things when depression takes hold

In my experience, most people who feel suicidal don’t actually want to die, they just can’t see any alternative way out of the ‘black hole’ they find themselves in,  and if you’ve never experienced that black hole, I will try to describe it for you.

You wake up in the morning wondering why you weren’t afforded the gift of passing away peacefully  in your sleep.

Then the list of things you have to do that day rushes into your head and the panic rises like a Tsunami, engulfing your entire body until you feel as though you’re drowning in a tidal wave of panic that is going to carry you so far into the black hole that you suffocate on the enormity of the tasks ahead.

Even pushing the duvet back and putting a foot on the floor is a task so enormous that it feels tantamount to climbing Everest.  You finally manage to drag yourself out of bed, and if it’s not one of your worst days, you manage to drag on a hoody and sweat pants.  Self care has gone out of the window, brushing your teeth and washing are just too much, so you manage to get down the stairs, one weary step after the other.

You have zero appetite and making a cup of tea is beyond you so you just flop, staring into mid-air trying to work out why you should even try to go on.  Life has nothing left to offer you when you find it impossible to engage in even the smallest task.  Talking, even to the ones you love the most, is too much to bear, taking a breath is like running a marathon and moving is out of the question unless nature calls and you just can’t hold it any longer…And then you crawl back to your safe place on the sofa…

You feel as though a tonne weight is bearing down on you and crushing the life out of you, but you’re paralysed, so moving out of the way is impossible, the weight keeps bearing down, the light turns to black, there is no future…

You can’t connect with anything, it’s as though there is an unbreakable wall of glass between you and the world, you can see what’s going on but no-one knows you’re there and no-one can hear your screams…..you feel invisible to the world, you want to join in with the game of life but the wall is too thick, the pain too intense and your body is too heavy to co-operate anyway.

There is no light, there is no hope, there is no future, you can’t feel the love of those around you, nothing inspires you…you’re just an empty shell.

And this horrific feeling can last for days, weeks or even years.  So many people have told me that they would suffer the worst physical pain they’ve ever experienced rather than the debilitating numbness of depression, and I have to say, I totally agree with them.

When your brain shuts down to the extent that living is more torturous than the eternal nothingness of death, is it any wonder that people give in to those feelings of wanting to end it all?

IT TAKES A SPLIT SECOND TO BE SUCKED INTO THE BLACK HOLE

THE RIGHT KIND OF HELP?

I love the NHS but when I was under the care of their Mental Health team a few years ago, a group of us would sit in sessions designed to help us.  That was great, but so much of it revolved around positive thinking and gratitude, both brilliant attributes, but let me explain how someone struggling with depression feels when asked to engage in these tasks.

We were asked to write down all of the things that were good in our lives, having food, a roof over our heads, family etc…and then focus our thinking on how fortunate we actually were.

This served one purpose for all of us, we then added even more guilt into the mix than we were already feeling and crashed even further down into the black hole.  You see, depression isn’t the result of being ungrateful, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, we are still aware of how lucky we are compared to the majority of people on this planet, and we already feel guilty for not being able to be happy about it.

But being reminded of that by professionals makes us feel as though we are being ungrateful, that we should be able to ‘snap out of it’. By understanding that, and that the underlying insinuation feels as though we are being scolded for not being grateful for what we do have is totally counter productive, now a learned person with letters after their name has told us that we are very lucky to have what we have, so what’s wrong with us?   Everything is amplified when you are depressed and the guilt is really too much to bear.

Sometimes the best thing for someone with mental health issues is the tiniest touch.  I have been corresponding with a lady in Texas for the last 6 months, she is suicidal, her life is in tatters and she has nothing left to live for.  She messaged me and I responded, just the fact that I took a couple of minutes out to answer her and treat her like a real person meant the world to her.. She’s watched our film ‘Kingdom of Us’ over a hundred times, for some reason it keeps her going but she told me that I was the only person she has reached out to that has given her any time.  The tiniest task for me and she is still hanging on in there.

Sometimes, just knowing someone, somewhere cares enough to engage with you is sufficient to carry you through.  Sometimes, that little act of kindness lets you know that people do actually think of you and value you enough to make the effort…and, sometimes, knowing that can be enough to enable us to feel just worthy enough to keep going and not give in to the hopelessness of living.

THINGS NEED TO CHANGE…AND FAST

Our mental health service is very well-meaning but, there are far more useful ways of helping people than the ‘uncomfortable’ appointments system we have now.  Walking into a doctor’s office and having them ask us ‘how we are feeling’ when we actually have no idea just makes for a feeling of even greater worthlessness and lack of gratitude.  At least you’re one of the lucky ones who is actually getting help…..enter more guilt because so many aren’t and you can’t make the most of the appointment because you’re brain refuses to co-operate, and what ARE ‘feelings’ anyway?  They’re a dim distant memory of something you know you long for but cannot access however hard you try.

Our mental health services are well-meaning but I can’t help but feel that they are being organised and run  by people who have absolutely no idea what it is to be depressed, experience bi-polar disorder etc….  We need real people who’ve been there and got the T-shirt to make the decisions on what’s best for the people struggling to cope in every area of mental health care…who agrees?

FILM: ‘KINGDOM OF US’        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc8_spETMBY

BOOK: ‘UNRAVELLED’            https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

TED TALK:                                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA&t=8s

LIFE: What does that mean to you?

If I said to you ‘what is life?’ and you had to say the first thing that came into your head, what would it be?  Do it now…and I would love to know what the first thing you thought was.

That’s why I’m writing this, I’ve just been thinking about life, firstly thinking about Pippa and something I’ve just sent her about BPD that I found online….

Matt here, mental health contributing editor for The Mighty, and it just so happens that my partner lives with BPD. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight some of the things I want my partner to know about my perception of BPD.

So, here it is, my dearest one, and everyone else out there who believes their BPD makes them “manipulative,” “broken” or “unsuitable” to be in a relationship.

I see how it hurts you, not only the stigma of others but the stigma you place on yourself. You believe I see you the way the stigma portrays you: as somebody who can’t possibly be in a loving relationship without your supposed “inherent toxicity” driving it into a smoking crater. But, that’s not the truth at all. I see a woman made raw by her trauma, stripped bare and left to scar without any kind of healing. I see the fear you will be abandoned, and I understand it. You’ve been abandoned so often, made to feel like you’re worth nothing but loneliness. I see you compare yourself to other women you believe are more beautiful and worthy than you, and expect me to do the same.

These things you feel toward yourself are not true. Your worth lies not in your scars, but in how you’ve survived them for so long with no guide to life but yourself. You are worthy, and strong, and fierce, and beautiful, and all of these things and more. You are not broken. You are not evil. You are not “too much” for me, and if anyone else believes you are then they definitely don’t deserve you. You were touched by trauma but not infected by it.

You’ve got this, and I’ll stand by your side the whole way.

She’s just told me that she relates to this totally but life is still hard for her.  Pippa’s story is so incredibly complex, from her autism to her Cerebral Palsy and endless operations, to her Anorexia and Borderline Personality Disorder, from her PTSD from her father’s suicide to the constant Anxiety and depression she fights every day.  She’s been through so much and yet she’s become a strong woman in spite of everything that could have stolen her life before it has really started.  

I’m incredibly proud of Pippa, proud of how far she’s come and how she keeps battling on, proud of how open she was in the film and how many people have contacted us to tell us how much her openness has helped them, it took a lot of courage for her to be so brutally honest.

That’s all very deep and meaningful but ‘life’ means so many things to so many people and, on a lighter note, as I started writing this I accidentally opened the photos on my phone.  So, from mental health to fish!

We have a huge number of fish in our pond, they’ve discovered breeding and now they’re doing a lot of it!  But the ‘Grandaddy’ of them all is a Koi that I’ve had for several years, we don’t see him very often but this morning he was lying half under a Lily pad so I took some photos.  The pictures don’t really give much scale but I can tell you he’s about 12″ long and looks like ‘the monster of the deep’!

NOT THE BEST PHOTO BUT, TRUST ME, HE’S ENORMOUS!

So, the word ‘life’ means something totally different to everyone and sometimes my personal perception changes depending on what’s going on in my life at the time, and sometimes, like today, it has many different meanings all at once.  So, here’s a picture of my fish (and the pot I planted last week that I’ve managed to keep alive so far!)

Why am I so proud of this pot of plants? Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have ‘killing plants’ on my list of hobbies (gardening isn’t my strong point!)

ONE LIFE, LIVE IT!

 

To Die or Not to Die?: Living Life After Near Death

A near death experience is a funny one I’ve found!  I’ve always assumed that my reaction to one would be to embrace life even more than I already do and spend my time treasuring every second.  The reality has been entirely different and I’ve discovered that I’m not the only person, by a long way, who has responded the way I have.

The heart attack I suffered last year should have killed me…no, really!  Had I not already been in hospital at the time I wouldn’t be here, scary stuff, I’m pretty much living on borrowed time.  Borrowed time that I’m definitely grateful for but it’s taken time to recover psychologically, much more than physically.

The light has always been there, I just haven’t been able to see it!

It’s been 9 months now recovering from the actual heart attack and starting to feel physically back to normal actually took about 6 months, but another bout of very serious illness 6 weeks ago really knocked me back again and it’s taken this long to get over that fully.

The truth is though, that for a good 6 months I felt as though there was no point in living any more, having no energy, motivation and stamina made life a pure chore, not the exciting adventure I’ve always felt I was on!  I couldn’t see it changing and the thought of living half a life just wasn’t something I felt I could tolerate.  Was I suicidal?  Yes and no, I would never have actively taken my own life but there were long periods of time when I went to sleep feeling as though it would be better if I didn’t wake up.  My only motivation to keep trying were my children, I know how much they would struggle if anything were to happen to me and I also know how much devastation I would be leaving behind.

Wanting to be here for them kept me going but didn’t alter those deep feelings of hopelessness, the future had disappeared and I felt as though this time it was gone for good.

So, am I ok now?  Yes, for the first time in a very long time I can say that I’m OK, not skipping and dancing, but, OK.  And, you know what, for the time being ‘OK’ is enough.  I still have days when I feel as though someone has turned the light off again but they’re getting fewer and I hope that theme continues.

I’m writing this to help others who have serious health issues understand that it can turn around and it can feel as though life is worth living again, it can just take time.  Sometimes we have to be kind to ourselves and allow the recovery process to happen without beating ourselves up because ‘we should be ok by now’, some recover more quickly, some of us take more time.

Keep going, it’s worth it, and, you’re not alone…..

Film ‘Kingdom of Us’ :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc8_spETMBY

Book ‘Unravelled’ :- https://smile.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=smi_www_rco2_go_smi_9905632998?_encoding=UTF8&ie=UTF8&qid=1528106227&sr=8-1

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

 

Mental Health Awareness Week: Mental Health/Physical Health-One and the same

A lot of you know that I had a heart attack eight months ago but what you may not know is that it had a drastic effect on my mental health as well.  Since then I’ve had another bout of severe ill-health physically and my heart does all sorts of weird s..t all the time so that’s been a constant source of worry.

Pippa says it so well in ‘Kingdom of Us’, sometimes we need someone else to get us the help we need.

I guess we all kind of know that physical and mental health are linked, but, do we realise exactly to what extent?  I don’t think we necessarily do but it makes total sense, if our bodies aren’t working properly it’s not easy for our brain to work properly either.

And it’s not just the worry, it’s the fact that you feel so ill, achy and lacking in energy all the time.  If every physical task feels as though you’re climbing Everest, how can you possibly be full of the joys of spring, however much you may want to?

I decided to write this because I’ve finally had some more heart tests done and saw the consultant this morning to see just how badly affected my heart was when I had the heart attack.   I went to appointment full of dread, expecting the worst and wondering if I was going to be admitted (I feel as though I get admitted every time I visit a hospital these days!).

Instead of my worst fears being realised, the doctor tells me that whilst my heart is definitely not 100%, I’m not going to keel over at any moment either!  Yes, there is damage to my heart, yes, I have too many ectopic beats and yes, I have heart disease, (heart disease is, of course, for life) but, when I asked him about exercise etc…he told me to go run a marathon if I wanted to!

I burst into tears instantly, apologising between every blub!  I realised in that instant how much the worry had been weighing me down as I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.  I feel as though I have my life back, dramatic I know, but very real.

Suddenly I have a reason to go on, suddenly I can look to the future and actually feel as though there is one, suddenly the world doesn’t look as dark.  And I know it will take a while to sink in and for my brain to adjust to being able to look forward to the future again but, it’s one hell of a feeling!

Could it be argued that I was worrying unnecessarily?  Not really, I had a severe heart attack, they call it the ‘widow maker’ as the survival rate is low and I believe if I hadn’t already been in hospital I probably wouldn’t be here now, I was lucky.  Add to that the fact that it all happened on the 10th anniversary of Paul’s suicide and that I was in surgery at the exact time he was calling the Police to tell them he was about to kill himself, it was all too weird to be real.  Also, I was readmitted a few weeks later with complications and the test results at that time didn’t look good,

All in all, I’m going to let myself off the hook for being terrified for the last 8 months and whilst my heart is still doing weird s..t as I’m writing this, at least I know that the new medication I’m starting may help to lower the number of ectopics I have and therefore help me to feel a little better.

So, I have my life back, I can plan for the future and take every step I need to in order to live a happy, healthy(ish) life. I hope to be displaying the new ‘spring in my step’ very soon!

LIVE WELL, LIVE HAPPY, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND UNDERSTAND THE INEXTRICABLE LINK BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH IN THIS ‘MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK’

Domestic Abuse: 4 reasons why we stay

I was watching a documentary the other night about a lady who was in an abusive relationship which ended in her being set on fire by her partner and dying.  A horrific story, but it set me thinking…  I lived in an abusive relationship, it was just more subtle and very insidious, some physical abuse but mostly mental and controlling.  The law now recognises this type of abuse as ‘coercive control‘ and can carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.  It’s also very much a gender biased form of abuse with most abusers being male.  I felt it would be useful to analyse the reasons why I stayed with Paul for so long, and having done so, I also realise that the reasons are pretty much the same regardless of the type of abuse.  So, for those of you who cannot begin to get your head around ‘why we stay’, maybe this will help you to understand how powerless you can feel in these relationships and how staying can feel like the easier option.

 

1. Fear

This is probably the biggest and most chilling reason why so many women stay in an abusive relationship and the fear is very real on a number of different levels.  There may be children involved in which case the fear of not being able to look after them adequately is very hard to overcome.  Another, more sinister fear is of your partner coming after you and hurting you, either physically or in any other way, this can be paralysing.  There is also the fear that life will actually become worse if you leave because of your partners inability to let go. Many women from abusive relationships end up being stalked by their partner and the consequences can be deadly.

 

2.  Love:-

It’s easy for onlookers to forget that we fell in love with these people, that they were wonderful when we first met them and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with them, that is, the person we initially fell in love with.  When you’re head over heels in love you don’t see, or ignore, the negative aspects of your partner, you’re actually so blindly in love that it’s almost impossible to believe what you subconsciously suspect.  And hindsight is a very wonderful thing that we are deprived of at the actual time we need it!  I know, I look back now and realise that the writing was on the wall from very early on in our relationship but I blamed myself for causing his behaviour, vowing to become ‘better’.

 

3. Isolation:-

Sadly, in a lot of cases, the changes happen slowly and imperceptibly, distancing you from your family,  restricting your access to friends for what always seem to be perfectly good reasons and the anger if your partner suspects you may have confided in someone, always preventing you from doing just that.  The isolation builds until there is no-one left that you are close enough with to be able to ask for help, being totally alone makes the prospect of leaving even harder to contemplate.  Another aspect of this type of abuse is the constant reinforcement of your belief that it actually is all your fault and you’re the one who is lacking.  I was brainwashed over many years to believe that I was the one who was mentally ill due to my childhood experiences and my mother dying when I was a teenager, eventually I believed it wholeheartedly.  It was only a few years before Paul’s death that I ‘woke up’ and saw the reality, by that time I had 7 children, all with special needs, and leaving was going to be painfully slow and also a mammoth task, but do it I must.

 

4. Hope:-

Maybe the most paralysing of all, the constant hope that the person you fell in love with will suddenly return and the sheer bliss that you experienced in those early days will be here again.  Deluded? Yes, of course, but by the time you realise that you’re deluded the rest of the damage has already been done.

My book ‘Unravelled‘ was published a few years ago and since then I’ve received a number of messages for women telling that they read the book, realised that they were living in a coercively controlling relationship and found the strength to leave.  I feel horribly responsible, but, fortunately, all of these stories had a happy ending with the women involved finding true love with a new partner.  Leaving was incredibly hard for all of them but it ended up being the right thing to do.

Anyone who has seen ‘Kingdom of Us‘  will know that one of Paul’s considered plans was murder/suicide, we found a notepad after his death which outlined in detail how he would kill all of the children in front of me, then me and then himself.  It was terrifying to realise how close we had potentially come to such an appalling end and really highlights just how mentally ill Paul actually was.

We were lucky, Paul didn’t carry out his plan and chose instead to end his own life, a tragedy in itself, but I’m thankful that the children have had the opportunity of living their lives free from fear.  I guess there was never going to be a perfect ending within my relationship with Paul, it was so flawed in so many ways but here we are, still standing and living the best lives we can with hope in our hearts.  It fills me with joy to watch my beautiful children living full lives and working towards their dreams, dreams that could so easily have been snatched away, I have so much to be grateful for…

Autism: Male v Female statistics…correct or not?

A very dear friend of mine sent me the link to this article about autistic girls over the weekend and very interesting it is too!  https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/real-life/girls-autism-diagnosis-research/

It set me thinking, with several autistic girls I have to say that it was definitely easier to spot in Osborn (my son) than it was in the girls.  I remember Lorie’s teacher in year 2 telling me once that she had observed Lorie watching how everyone in the class reacted and then copying them a split second later.  She felt it was absolutely brilliant and enabled Lorie to look as though she fitted in a lot better than the actual reality.  It was brilliant, but it didn’t make her life any easier, it was just exhausting trying to be like everyone else and she has always struggled with depression and anxiety.

The same goes for the other girls, the problem is that they are so adept at mimicking what is regarded as being ‘normal’, moreover, they feel that they have to appear to be like the majority in order to be accepted.  This is the crux of the matter and this needs to change…urgently.

The general consensus seems to be that there are more autistic males than females but I would respectfully disagree.  I run an autism support group and in my experience over the years (and in meeting many autistic people outside of the group), is that the split is very definitely pretty much 50/50.

Recently, some new research suggesting that autism could be diagnosed through a urine and blood sample was headline news, I was asked to comment on local radio and was shocked to hear the doctor tell us that they had only tested a sample group of 38 autistic children and a control group of 31 non autistic children.  This is a ridiculously small test sample to be absolutely definitive (although when I mentioned this fact to the doctor live on air she insisted that this was a large study in research terms!), I was even more shocked though to hear that the gender split in the subjects tested was 29 male and 9 female in the autistic group and 23 male and 8 female in the non autistic group!

I was gobsmacked!  How can professionals, learned people with huge numbers of letters after their name be so narrow sighted?  The generally perceived gender bias towards males being more likely to be autistic is because of the ability of girls to mask their autism so effectively.  If the people in charge of the research believe in the myth that far more boys than girls are on the spectrum I don’t feel there’s much hope for future research to be more accurate until our professionals become more enlightened.

I hope it won’t take many more years before autistic girls gain the recognition they need, and therefore, the same support that boys tend to get at an earlier age.  It really can’t happen soon enough.

Film ‘Kingdom of Us’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fc8_spETMBY&t=13s

Book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelled-inspirational-story-journey-darkness-ebook/dp/B00L1ENC0O/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1520080087&sr=8-1

TED Talk:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA&t=19s

The Mad Shanks Residence Easter Challenge

How quickly time flies, The Mad Shanks Residence Easter Challenge was yesterday, feels like only a few months ago that we had the last one!  As always, the people in attendance were given challenges to complete and be judged on before running out into the field to find 312 hidden chocolate goodies which were spread far and wide.

All went well, they had three challenges this year, first was to make six beautiful and imaginative chocolates fit for Gordon Ramsay, again I stipulated, NO turds on plates!  Secondly they had to transform a hat with bunny ears into something creative.  The ‘hats’ were pink and the ears resembled pigs rather than rabbits, probably the reason they were reduced to 50p each in Hobbycraft!

Lastly, they had to paint each others faces, this was a first for the Easter Challenge so I was waiting in eager anticipation to see what they came up with.  They had an hour per challenge, and , as always, no rules, they could do whatever they wanted, and boy, they did!

The hats turned into everything from Easter Chicks to genitalia (both male and female, I shouldn’t really have been surprised!), they were all absolutely ingenious.

The face painting featured everything from the beautiful to the astonishingly bizarre and the chocolates were all genuinely, beautifully executed and tasted delicious, all round a huge success.

Meanwhile, I hade been roaming the field creating the egg hunt, we’d started late so it was already evening when we realised two of the dogs were missing, the deadly duo of Lexie and Cody.  The ‘dog hunt’ started and after well over an hour was called off so that the egg hunt could go ahead before darkness fell.  I’m fussy about the hunt being done as soon as possible because of the risk of the local wildlife finding the treats (all wrapped in either plastic or foil) and risking their wellbeing if they eat them, wrapping and all.

We decide to incorporate the hunt with continued efforts to find the dogs who’d both been renamed with words that really are not suitable for this blog! As eleven people scatter gunned around the field searching, I sat and waited for their return, by this time I felt as though I’d done my bit and was shattered.

Fortunately Osborn found the wayward dogs a little way from home and brought them back safely and the chocolates were counted and prizes awarded to the winners of each category, a brilliant day enjoyed by all who attended.

Bearing in mind that the children now range in age from 17-26, will the tradition continue?  I really don’t know, but all the time they are as enthusiastic as they were yesterday, I will continue to organise it.  There’s no age limit on having fun you know!

HS2: The brutal reality finally revealed…

A lot of you will already know that HS2 will be passing less than 100m outside our back door and we have 10 years of on and off construction to look forward to.  Whilst the ‘experts’ insist on telling us constantly that the noise level will be very low and they will minimise the impact on my family as best they can, the reality is that it’s going to be very intrusive indeed.

We live in the middle of nowhere, tractors ploughing the surrounding fields are extremely noticeable as we live in silence bar the birds singing and the odd car going past.  And yes, we’re so incredibly lucky to live where we do but, I personally have spent every single one of the past 31 years working myself into the ground in order to be able to afford to keep it, for what, I now ask?

Was it worth the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into being able to have the opportunity to live in a peaceful environment?  It now all feels as though it’s been in vain as I look forward to spending my older years (a time now when I really appreciate the peace and quiet) with the never ending noise of construction, the dust and loss of trees and environment that we are all so emotionally attached to.

We had a total of six people attend a meeting this morning to discuss where exactly the construction will be and what mitigation can be offered.  These people are the messengers and therefore do not deserve to be shot, but, I do resent the placating comments intended to convince us that ‘it won’t be as bad as we’re anticipating’.  I have stood next to many, many construction sites over my lifetime and I’m only too well aware of what the noise and visual impact is going to be.  Couple that with the fact that over the last seven years we’ve been told that the land they need will be ‘x’ and now we’re being told it’s a lot more than we ever imagined, no wonder my daughter broke down in tears.

On a very personal level it feels as though another part of Paul is being taken away from us as he loved our house so much and fought with me for 20 years to be able to keep it.  The ancient Oak tree that we used to sit under and where the children have some incredibly fond memories of their father will be chopped down at the end of the summer.  “You have it for the whole of the summer so you can still enjoy it” they told us.  Great, we have five more months of enjoying it’s beauty and then a tree that has taken 100’s of years to grow will be destroyed forever, along with dozens of other trees.

Yes, this blog is emotional, I’m feeling very emotional.  Something we don’t want and will never use is being forced upon us whether we like it or not, along with thousands of other people the length of the line.  None of the engineers from HS2 live near the line so it doesn’t affect them, easy to be blasé when it’s not impacting on your life.  For us, it’s the best part of our home being taken away along with so many happy memories, memories that we want to hold on to in order to override the sad ones.

The next few years are going to be extremely tough……