On Friendship and Facebook

It was a school friend who invited me onto Facebook in early 2008. I was interested, but didn't really see the possibilities, until I lost my job the following December. Within a few months my son had been diagnosed with aspergers syndrome and I was working with the Child Benefit protest group PACUB, and Facebook became the hub for special needs support and on-line campaigning.

PACUB is now dormant, but the friendships I made are not, and some have now become autism mums too. And it is the autism mums that I turn to on a daily basis because even though I also have a severely disabled daughter, it is autism that dominates my life.

On Facebook we celebrate the successes, discuss the problems and support each other through the difficult times. We also laugh, we share information, sometimes we disagree, but I have never experienced any of the drama that others complain about. And we meet in real life too, to relax with others who "get" it, to help each other, and to have fun too.

Many of my closest on-line friends also write, and Monday night this week saw a blogging reunion when I met up with Jazzyville and Bright Side of Life, who lives in South Africa but is currently visiting Ireland. Even though we often talk on Facebook, the evening passed far too quickly, and I really hope we can do it again sometime soon.

This week I also visited a Facebook friend from the West of Ireland who was at the children's hospital for a few days. It was wonderful to see her again and meet her son and to be able to provide a bit of help and support.

Of course I've added real life friends to Facebook too, it's an easier way to keep in touch than playing telephone tag when we all have such busy lives. I love that I'm in touch with friends from long ago, and family who live in other countries. It's great to add friends from real life that you don't see as often as you would like, to share details of events and things of interest, or even to prepare for meetings such as the one I attended on Tuesday evening.

It's been a busy week...

Today I'm taking a break, special needs mum styleee - I seem to have caught a virus and I need to rest up for a few hours to make sure that I can cope with whatever the rest of the day has in store.

So while I give out about Facebook all the time, I also recognise that my life as a carer is much richer for its existence and my children have benefited too, from all the advice and information that is available. It's my first reasons to be cheerful for this week.

And despite some difficulties, I have more reasons too:

  • A successful 15th birthday party for my son.

  • I finally bought some plants to brighten up the back.

  • A book arrived for review. So I have to get back to reading now!

Hope you have a good week, and head over to Lakes Single Mum for more happy posts.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful 21.4.16

It's been a week of big ups and some downs too. But I won't mention them here today. Let's just focus on the good stuff.


I enjoyed another morning off, with an empty house, even if I had a full to do list. But after I'd finished the chores and done the shopping I sat eating lunch in peace looking out at my wreck of a garden but feeling grateful that it was mine, that I had this chance to enjoy the glorious weather and the bright blue sky. And I even read a few pages of a (new) book. Yes, I finally finished the one I started over Christmas...

After taking this photo, I did actually get organised enough to cut the grass. It's a start.

The best autism conference ever?

I was as excited as a small child going to her first birthday party. I'd bought the ticket for AsIAm's first autism conference back in December with no notion of how I was going to get a whole day away from the kids. But with the help of my wonderful babysitter and my eldest daughter, plus lots and lots of lists, it was done. And all went pretty well, except when I got one panicked phone call after lunch when Smiley got stuck in the hoist.

From the start it was clear that this was going to be a very special day. There was a stellar line up of speakers including the witty and wise Dr Peter Vermeulen, and the inspiring author Yvonne Newbold who has raised three autistic children and is living with incurable cancer, plus well-known psychologist David Carey; founder of AsIAm, Adam Harris, and many more.

The conference was for anyone interested in autism, so there were lots of autistic people there as well as parents and professionals. And the event was designed to suit everyone, so accommodations were the order of the day: delegates were asked to avoid wearing strong smelling products, and to flap instead rather than clap to show appreciation and enjoyment. For parents it was a day off from their caring duties, a chance to catch up with friends and learn something that would help their children - so no guilt involved in attending. It was easy to justify! There was no signs of the tensions you read about in the autism community, no blaming or shaming, just respect and lots of joy. Seriously, you should have been there...

For me the most thought-provoking talk was on autism and stress. Except instead of reducing stress, Dr Peter Vermeulen proposed that we should focus on increasing happiness. We should look at what makes autistic people happy and start from there. Change their lives to make them happier and the stress will mostly take care of itself.

The most useful talk was about transitioning - especially as it focused on the transition from school to adulthood. Lots of information and ideas that will be very useful, and the a wake up call that I really need to start planning NOW.

All the delegates went home with a brochure that was beautiful and useful: full of information, contact details and QR codes that link to comprehensive notes from the speakers at the event.

The conference was also well organised with food, drink and CAKE provided for all delegates.

My only complaint was that it was too short. I wanted to listen to all the speakers, visit all the exhibition stands, try all the cake and see all my friends. And there just wasn't the time.

Okay so I haven't been to many autism conferences, but it really has to be one of the best ever. Already I'm looking forward to next year and when I told my son about it, he said he'd like to come too...

the life-changing magic of tidying up your life

I have a confession to make: I haven't read the book. But with so many people talking about Marie Kondo, I've picked up a few tips and I'm thinking that I might be able to reduce the stress in my life by removing daily activities that do not spark joy. Sadly many of them have to stay. But making a few changes by following the principles in the life-changing magic of tidying up has given me several reasons to be cheerful for this week...

Starting with Socks

In this family we like to know our own socks, so everyone has to wear a different style. As a result I've accumulated a drawer full of hastily bought socks with dubious patterns on them that do not look very stylish when peeking out from under the hem of a pair of jeans.

So this week I "treated" myself to another set of black socks (with coloured toes and heels) which meant I could get rid of all the old ones that just annoy me. There's nothing worse than the glimpse of a Santa hat on a sock in July. Well you know what I mean...

Watch with Mother

It can be hard to find activities at home that I can do together with my adult daughter with special needs. But film and TV often works, and thanks to Netflix recommendations, Smiley and I can always find something to watch.

For the last few weeks we've been enjoying some gentle nostalgia and we both recommend these two classics:

Bed knobs and Broomsticks

Set against the background of World War II, three children are sent to live with a middle aged woman who is dabbling in witchcraft. With shades of Narnia and Mary Poppins, this children's classic from 1971 has catchy songs, animation and lots and lots of adventures, with a few messages about redemption thrown in as well.


The plot of this lovely cartoon revolves around an aristocratic old lady who leaves all her worldly possessions to her cats who are left in the care of her loyal butler. But after her death he feels aggrieved that he should have to wait until her pets have died before inheriting, and so plots the demise of the kittens and their mother. Their luck changes when they meet the charming roguish alley cat, Thomas O'Malley. The film also features stylish swing music including memorable tunes such as Everybody wants to be a Cat.

And next on our list is this film, which is available on Netflix for one month only until the end of April. So get watching...


Needs no introduction: Smiley and I are looking forward to watching this on the big screen in the living room, and I will *have* to sing along to keep her entertained - and with the state of my singing these days, I'd say we'll both be laughing!

Hanging by a thread

I won't lie to you.

We're back to bad here.

But I don't want to bore you either.

How to help a child with autism

Because even if you're aware of autism, accept autism and understand autism, most autistic kids need extra help to navigate childhood successfully. And most parents need help too. Maybe some autism parents are able to instinctively parent their child. Most of us cannot.

But to work out how to help autistic* kids, you first need to ask "what is autism?" And there are as many answers to that question, as there are autism 'experts'.

I would see it as a neurological difference that means that autistic people experience the world very differently and that can make it a frightening, unpredictable, illogical and overwhelming place. Lights really can be blinding and sounds deafening, people confusing and danger seemingly around every corner.

Of course, this is what I think right now - ask me again in a year and I could tell you something different. And hopefully, less negative too.