My story started in March 2005 when I gave birth to my son Kyle. I adjusted to parenthood easily having worked with children for over 10 years as a Nursery Nurse and a Teaching Assistant.
By the time Kyle was 6 months old I knew he was different. No eye contact, feeding was still every 3 hours and weaning was a big ‘no no’. I told my health visitor that I thought Kyle was autistic and asked for help. I was given the impression that I was a paranoid first time parent who should go home, enjoy my son and stop comparing him to others. By 12 months Kyle was only just sitting up and was not interested in toys or people. He would happily lie on his play mat and hit the balls then watch them rock back and forwards. He was still not sleeping through the night. I went back to my health visitor and asked again for help. She reluctantly referred us to a paediatric paediatrician.
Kyle was then referred to speech and language and a paediatric dietitian. By the age of 2 ½ he was diagnosed with Global Development Delay. I was sent on various parenting courses to help me deal with Kyle.
Kyle started nursery aged 3 ½. Straight away his teacher noticed he was different and agreed that Kyle could be autistic. He was referred to CAMHS. School put support into place and when Kyle went into reception they started gathering evidence ready to apply for a statement. Kyle received his diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder 6 weeks after his 5th birthday. At last I thought things were sorted and I would get some help and support for my family. How wrong I was. Yes, we had a diagnosis but we were then discharged from CAMHS and left to get on with it!
When Kyle started school year 1 he had a 10-hour statement of special educational needs. I still wanted to know more, so I asked around at work and found out about a 10-week programme called “earlybird”. I got a place on the programme and Kyle’s Teaching Assistant also came along. We completed the course and, working together, helped Kyle make progress with home and school using the same techniques. Sadly, a year later I was made redundant and trying to get another job that was term time only and allowed me to be around before and after school for Kyle, as well as fitting in his various appointments was crazy. I made the decision to be a stay at home mam.
Having a son with additional needs and being a stay at home parent started to cause problems with my marriage. The further courses I took were beneficial and made me think that Kyle might have more than just ASD. When he went into year 4 I spoke to school and the GP and we were referred back to CAMHS who added an ADHD diagnosis. He started on medication which helped and Kyle was soon much calmer and coping better at school. Unfortunately, the marriage difficulties became worse.
Transition to middle school began in good time in May with weekly visits to his new school with a few friends and his TA. By September he was really prepared and settled in straight away, making new friends and really enjoying the new challenges of middle school.
By January I made the hardest decision of my life to end the marriage, split up my family and become a single parent. Slowly we adjusted to life on our own.
A few months later I found Take 5 and chat. Going along every other week and talking to other parents who understood was a real lifeline. I was able to share my concerns in a non-judgemental environment. I completed 2 courses with Take 5 and chat and started offering a listening ear to new members to the group.
Two years on I’m now divorced and my confidence is growing every day. I have started doing voluntary work at The Salvation Army and now run a lunch club for old people, a toddler group, and co-run youth club and Guides. I have recently joined the Whitley Bay Take 5 and chat team. It’s great to be able to help and support other parents who are going through some of what I have been through. I don’t know all the answers and still get it wrong sometimes but no one ever said life was easy!