So who are we??????
We're Lesley and Michael Cole, parents to two amazing boys on the spectrum.
In 2013 Harrison was diagnosed with ADHD, we were asked did we want to medicate, we said we would rather try other interventions first, so were told we would be seen again in 6 months! New to the system, we took this and tried to carry on as we had trying our best to cope and do everything Harrison needed. We felt that we had the ADHD well under control, but still things just weren't right. Harrison was still showing a lot of autistic traits we weren't convinced ADHD was the correct diagnosis. Don't get me wrong we aren't disputing he has ADHD, that is very apparent when you meet our little man, but there were other issues more concerning to us. So after a lot of fighting and various doctor, paediatrician and psychiatric assessments Harrison was finally diagnosed with autism. We've been to hell and back fighting for support for Harrison, battled the education system to get a statement of special educational needs, mainstream school, the lot! All with no support from any organisation, its been a very long and hard battle that almost caused me to have a mental breakdown, but finally we've come out on top and Harrison is settled into an amazing local special needs school and is thriving! My amazing young man is doing so well in school, he recently chose to participate in his S.A.T.S, only 3 children in the school took part! It's amazing to think how far we have come, it just shows what the right schooling provision can do for a child.
So onto our little Beau. Due to our experience with Harrison we knew very early on that Beau had autism, admitting it out loud to anyone was extremely hard, things got to the point that we could no longer deny it and the dreaded process began. We have had tears, tantrums, hiding from specialists, emotional breakdowns, the lot, and that's just from me! Beau received his diagnosis in June 2013 and took our journey onto the next level.
Beau used to have limited speech, at the time he was described as non-verbal. Up until he was around 3 1/2 Beau had very few words, he would copy anything you said to him but was unable to have a conversation. With the support of Portage we began using PECS and my goodness what an amazing change it made. Beau now talks!
Can you believe it?
I know sometimes I have to pinch myself that it's actually true! I remember the first time he said Good morning Mam, I cried my eyes out. He amazes me every day with things he comes out with, he is starting to develop an amazing sense of humour too, really keeping us on our toes! I often still get lots of funny looks from passers by when I tell him he is talking beautifully today, sometime's the odd scolding looks when he's shouting really loud and I don't tell him to be quiet! Why should I? Do you know how hard its been to get him to actually talk??????
Beau also has what is know as 'echolilia' so he copies what is said to him, he also tends to copy behaviours too which his older brother finds very frustrating! Beau started Cleaswell Hill (a specialist school) in September 2016 and is going from strength to strength he has friends and his own interests, that school has been amazing!!!
Throughout our journey we have had help from no-one! We've battled every single system with sheer determination and a lot of hard work and can really stand proud and say that we have done everything we could to make our boys lives as good as we can. Even then the battle isn't over!
Specialists have questioned me as to why I didn't cry when we were given the final diagnosis, why I haven't mourned the child that could of been? To be fair they are insults to me! Yes its upsetting that they may never 'fit it with society' and have their struggles, but everyone has difficulties in their life. My boys are unique and special, who will go on to achieve amazing things!
Unless you have experience of autism I don't think you will understand, yes we would love our boys to not have to face the challenges they do but our boys are our boys and we love them with all our hearts. There are a lot of people out there who face tougher struggles than us, so for that I am thankful.
I decided that parents shouldn't have to go through these challenges alone so that's how Autism Northumberland started, since we started we have gone from strength to strength, we have supported over 600 families in the North East, some as far away as Durham and the Scottish Borders!
We have an amazing team of staff and volunteers and offer so much for families from after school clubs to our fantastic online parent/carer support forum. All of our families have said that we offer such a relaxed and non-judgemental environment and that they now feel part of a family, sounds cliche doesn't it but come and see for yourself! Even if your child can't attend a club right now, who know's with the right support from us (one to one if needed) they could engage.
Whatever it takes we will try to support your family, tell us your issue's and we will do our very best to support you.
I remember being rock bottom, hiding under a duvet sobbing whilst a professional knocked on my door thinking I can't do this again! I can't handle another child with additional needs, but I did and do! Sometimes you just need a little bit of support to guide you on your way.
If you think we could help you, offer a shoulder or a hand to help you through your journey please contact us, we have been through some very tough times and understand exactly how it feels xxxx