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Celebrate Uniqueness - A Parent-Carer’s Voice. By Lea Bamford Additional Needs Sports Group

My Motherhood has not been one I had expected. Yes it has been a beautiful, never-experienced-love-like-it, warm and wholesome experience. It has also been an interesting and eye opening journey of discovery, awareness, segregation, prejudice and fear.

My Sons are 5 years apart and both on the Autism spectrum. My eldest is sensory sensitive, fearful of the world around him, hyper-sensitive to other people’s attitude towards him and a keen writer. My youngest is sensory seeking, a biter, a climber of all things and a nature explorer. My two boys are very different in their appearance, one pale - blonde hair blue eyes, the other olive skinned- hazel eyes and dark haired. They are also very different in character; they have different levels of tolerance to the world around them, differing levels of comprehension, social cues and language. One of the challenges of being a Parent carer of a child with Additional Needs is that many people still hear the word ‘Autism’ and their mind takes them to the familiar things they have experienced such as ‘Rain man’ and we are then faced with generalised comments such as “Oh, they’re so clever though aren’t they” “They all have the most amazing memory and ability to retain information” and the most damaging one of all “Not very social people are they…… prefer their own company”

The world is becoming more educated in the vast sector of Additional Needs; and that’s both needed and fantastic. The problem is that not enough information out there emphasises Individuality and uniqueness in any single condition -As we all human beings are completely unique in our DNA, so are we with our challenges and our strengths. We all have our own level of ability whether it be academically, with tolerance levels, sense of humour, social engagement. A child with a Neurological condition such as Autism is just as uniquely individual. Their Autism / ADHD/ Dyspraxia/ PDA / OCD is unique to them. It is a part of them.

Many times throughout my son’s lifetime I as their parent have cried for them. The lack of party invitations, the steely stares met by disapproving strangers when they suffer a sensory overload, or become emotionally dysregulated and melt- down, the desperate tearful pleas of School avoidance fuelled desperation, the sheer exhaustion from them not being able to switch their busy brains off when society tells them that they should.

Society demands a lot from our children on a daily basis, which can put strain on us as their parents to have similar levels of expectations for our children. What we need is for society to be well educated, empathetic and sympathetic to each individual child’s needs and abilities. We need for society to look at how better we can support our parent carers and the children they are caring for, thus releasing some of the high demand of expectation on the Parents and creating a happier, more inclusive world for us all to live alongside each other in. We need for people to stop labelling adults with different behaviours as ‘odd’ or quieter people as ‘loner’s’ and think about the bigger picture – because even only 30 years ago society had even less knowledge and understanding of Autism and ADHD; and because of this, sadly, there are many Adults who will have felt like they never really fit in, and they don’t know why – because they were not supported appropriately and their strengths and abilities were not celebrated the way that each small achievement should be celebrated in a child, because they will have been abhorrently labelled as ‘Naughty’ or ‘slow’.

As a Mother of two very uniquely brilliant, beautiful and wonderful children I am grateful that there is more medical acknowledgment into these conditions today. I am also fearful that the stigma, generalisation and prejudice still has a long way to go.

What can we do to proactively end the prejudice and build our resilience to it?

· Lower our own expectations of our children in public and at home.

· Don’t give up seeking the support your children need and deserve.

· Reach out to support and information services to equip yourself with the knowledge to gain additional support within the School system.

· Research and take on training to better understand your child’s needs.

· Educate other’s to your child’s condition.

As a Mother I urge everyone

to Educate, Understand and Celebrate each child’s uniqueness, especially those who work in any capacity alongside our most precious little people.

It may not change your whole life, but it could make the whole world of difference to a child.

Lea Bamford

Additional Needs Sports Group

Additional Needs Parents Group

Parent+ Additional Needs Ambassador

DiAS Ambassador Volunteer

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