Do children with Autism get the support they need from ourselves.
Every once in a while we hear of people who despite their circumstances achieve a win against the odds. This is Madeleine’s story as told by her Mum about the fight for autism to be accepted.
Madeleine is 11 years old, as she is my daughter I’m rather biased in my wholehearted belief she is beautiful and amazing with a slightly wicked sense of humour. I am extremely proud that she is getting a short story, which she wrote herself, published in an Ancient Adventure book after winning a young writers competition.
Extremely proud and to be honest extremely shocked, as shocked as the nation was at Leicester winning the premier league. As her mum I should, I feel, believe in her enough to not be surprised and at the time of entering the competition fully believe in her talent. Instead however, I blu tacked the rough draft on my fridge door along with the many other weird and wonderful creative delights forgetting about it. So upon receiving her certificate and consent for publication form I felt a stab of guilt, and really looked at this beautifully different girl of mine.
Madeleine has autism and selective mutism; she is a unique little character who is far more comfortable out of any limelight hiding in the shade. Professionals will talk about her mental age and what her future may or may not hold, they’re guessing of course as nobody can know how she or any of us will turn out. I have resigned myself to listening to these kind of people with a tight smile on my face and occasional nod of my head.
Until two years ago Madeleine attended the local mainstream primary school, which was a test of the biggest kind for my patience. Just because Madeleine suffered with autism, she was a silent victim of verbal and physical bullying who never got a party invite or included in any school activity. The schoolwork was so beyond her she was left to sit alone making no progress, the only thing to grow was her firm belief she was no good at anything. As I watched her one day laid on the settee refusing to go to school something in me changed, I no longer respected these academic people in suits I would no longer try to please them and abide by what society expects. My little girl was hurting and confused, it was time to fight. Yes, well, time to fight sounds good but I’m just a mum who used to be a hairdresser what on earth am I to do? Whatever it takes.
That is what I knew I had to do, whatever it takes to make her accepted and happy. With the help of a family who had been in a similar situation many years ago advising me and the love and support of my family I took on the school pointing out they were unable to meet her needs, to which they vehemently denied. The money they were given was not used for her, in fact she was sent home at the drop of a hat.
Could I really take this further? One look at my daughter told me I could and would. So next in line was the board of governors and finally the Local education authority. I’d gone from scribbling out my shopping list and jotting down reminders on post it notes to creating in depth official letters. This wasn’t easy, looking back now I’ve an image of me in my own head with a permanently cold cup of coffee next to me with wild messy hair and a slight deranged look in my eye.
I won. We won. We took everyone on and won. Madeleine now attends Mowbray school in North Yorkshire, set on a farm its beautiful and every single member of staff is a God send. She now has friends and goes to birthday parties, her mutism is almost a distant memory. She is bubbly, cheeky, fun, and is blossoming daily into the child I knew was inside her. She is now the kind of child who is getting her own story published in a book. She is my daughter, my courageous daughter who happens to be autistic. So next time you walk through the park on a sunny day admiring the pretty bright flowers, take a moment to look into the undergrowth and shade, for its there you may find a flower just as beautiful if not different that can easily be overlooked.
Have you ever come across someone with autism and stopped to think about how they see things. You may be surprised as to how close their thoughts are to yours. They see the same things as you or I but just see it slightly different.
Is that so wrong?
Just because Madeleine has autism, it doesn’t make her any less of a person than the rest of us. She has handled her disability with courage and become a success. That we must applaud.