Being a parent to our neurodiverse family

Ann Hickman by Ann Hickman Additional Needs

Ann Hickman

Ann Hickman

Mum to three, special educational needs writer and part-time tutor

I'm not sure if I'd really thought about what it would be like being a parent.

I remember being all gooey eyed when feeding our new nephew a bottle of milk and that was it. Must have been some maternal instinct - I was pregnant within a month.

Not everyone chooses to have children.

Some people are desperate and have difficulty, some like me get them first time round and some others have no plans for kids and get them anyway.

But not many will have sat down and thought, I know, what I've always wanted in my life and what would make it complete would be if we could have an autistic child.

There's no denying that being a parent is way more work than you think it's going to be.

When the midwife came to see me the day after we took our first child Anthony home she found me still in my pyjamas despite it being nearly noon.

Within minutes of her asking how I was I'd burst into tears.

Once I'd had Anthony I was surprised by lots of things. I wasn't prepared for tar like poos or weigh-in centres.

Being a mother is overwhelming.

Over 10 years later we now have two boys with autism and a little girl and I still get that same feeling but it’s not just overwhelming in terms of what I need to do and support them, it’s been overwhelming because of the amazing people they are.

Anthony struggles with being the centre of attention, sensory and motor skills, and following instructions. He came last in his race in the Swimming Gala but I was bursting with pride as his achievement for taking part, coping and even celebrating the win of school.

David is non-verbal, has sleeping difficulties and struggles in a world not built for him. However, when his sister cries he comes to find me and takes me to her side so I can comfort her. He also finds joy in the smallest and simplest of moments that can take my breath away.

Raising children is one of the best and one of the most time-consuming jobs ever.

I love being a parent. I love my kids to bits and it's without a doubt the best thing about my life.

But, that's not to say it's not tiring and tough sometimes. Exhausting actually.

With my kids conditions, I'm short on sleep and time for myself. And this is likely to be the case for years to come. But 'you can’t pour from an empty cup' as my Gran used to say.

I hadn't really expected to raise a child or children with special educational needs and that's been both a wonderful and challenging experience.

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