Meet the woman widely awake to the needs of autistic children
In 2020, the world found itself in a very strange and unpredictable place - lockdown. For me, it resulted in having to quit a job I had been in for 16 years and finding myself for the first time, since the age of 16, being unemployed.
Although this was scary, overwhelming and a place I had not navigated before, it also brought with it a sense of opportunity and space to reconsider who I was and what I wanted from life.
In 2018, my eldest child Olivia (eight years old at the time) was diagnosed as autistic. This was after four years of assessments and a great deal of stress and worry. But we finally had a diagnosis and I was so grateful to be able to move forward and engage with help and support.
But there wasn’t any. My child was diagnosed and discharged in the same letter. It was brutal. I felt so out of my depth and not experienced enough to know what to do next. As a parent, that is a horrid place to be.
And so in 2020, when I discovered myself unemployed, armed at my dining table with a pad and paper, I sketched out the idea for ‘Waking Up To Autism’. My main aim at this point was to help support other parents of autistic children. Over the two years since Olivia’s diagnosis, I had been on a personal mission to educate myself and arm myself as best I possibly could, including completing an Autism Awareness Diploma. I wanted to give parents the space and help that I so badly needed but didn’t get.
That was just the start. When Waking Up To Autism launched, it opened up this huge world of other families going through exactly the same things and highlighted just how serious the problem is. Over the last three years, we have supported hundreds of families going through the diagnosis process, applying for an Education, Health and Care plan (EHCP), parenting advice, and also parental mental health – but we knew that we needed to do more.
In 2021, we launched our CPD Accredited School Training Course to train and support education staff to be able to embrace neurodivergent children in the mainstream classroom - training that has been exceptionally well received. And we are now taking our training into the workplace.
Creating Waking Up To Autism has for sure been a labour of love. I have such a strong passion for the work that I do as I want to create a world where my children (my son Adam was diagnosed autistic in 2020) and all other neurodivergent people are understood, embraced and celebrated.
The last three years have shown and taught me so much - mainly that we are so much more capable of doing things then we give ourselves credit for. Sometimes we just need a lockdown and no job to give us the push we need!