lego superhero art of the brick exhibition


Lego, superheroes and an autism friendly session. You couldn't have found a more perfect exhibition than Art of the Brick for my 7-year-old son to go see.

The exhibition, which is being hosted in London near Waterloo and is advertised as the worlds biggest Lego exhibition, is a collection of Lego DC Superhero characters which runs until early September with another autism friendly session at the end of August. 

I was so excited when I first read about the exhibition and even more so when I received an email from Autistica that they were having an autism friendly session at the end of each month.  And we were not disappointed.

It was everything we could have hoped for and more. The family loved it. It was interesting, calm and well laid out.
even superman wondered about being normal #autism


Recently my 7-year-old son mentioned that he was "learning to be normal", and this broke my heart. Since he was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5 we have chosen to be open with him about autism and what it means for him.  Hearing him talking about learning to be normal is the complete opposite of what I had hoped for.

Shortly after his diagnosis, we explained to him that his brain thinks differently and that sometimes he needs a little extra help in the same way that some people need glasses to help them think. We wanted him to grow up to not feel ashamed or embarrassed, it is who he is - no big deal.

As a family, we face many challenges as a result of his challenging behaviour. This we address by learning how to best support him, and working out his needs so that we can work with him (and school) to develop the skills he needs to learn. Whilst I wish away the challenging behaviour every day (especially the moments when I am at my wit's end), I have never wished him to be normal.

For the past two years, he has viewed his autism as a superpower. He will often talk about his autism eyes (he is good at picking out details) and his autism brain. In fact he was so self-assured that he once told me that autism people are special and his autism is very autismy.

You don't understand autism people. Autism people are extra special, and my autism is very autismy
-- Eldest (aged 6)

Is his statement "learning to be normal" the first sign that he is starting to think differently about what autism means for him? Or could it be that he is starting to become aware of the perceptions of the people around him?

In Man of Steel, Clark Kent struggled at school with sensory overload and the knowledge that he was different. Are we heading for a moment when, just like Clark Kent, he will start to struggle with who he is and what it means for him?





We can't control the world around him and we can't stop people making comments. We can't hide him from the rest of the world or wrap him up in a bubble. We also can't make him see his autism as a positive, despite what other people say. So what can we do?

As I wondered about this, I came across another great insight from Brene Brown in her book  Daring Greatly. It was the chapter about parenting. In the book, she talks about children's shame and how parents can help reduce their child's shame through normalising. This means showing them that they are not alone in their struggles and highlighting having faced similar challenges.

As I read through the chapter, I realised that my goal was not about teaching my Son how to ignore name calling or feeling different. It isn't even about me trying to make him feel better, or have a chat about being normal. After all, what is normal?

It is about helping him to normalise his autism.

He is not alone. We need to show him that there are many other children and adults who also have autism and even more people who struggle with the thought of being different. We need to ensure he is able to meet other children with similar profiles and interests to himself, and help him to make connections when possible.

Highlighting our own challenges. We need to be open about our own struggles. The times we have been hurt by things other people have said about us, or have struggled to fit in. We also need to talk about our own challenges with managing our emotions, coping with unexpected change and accepting another person's point of view.

If we can successfully support him through the challenges he will undoubtedly face and show him how others have been in a similar position, then maybe he will continue to embrace his autism as his superpower and will not feel the pressure of needing to learn to be normal.

For us autism is normal, and one day I hope that my Son will feel that way too.

Spectrum Sunday


embracing vulnerability to overcome my secret fears and achieve my dreams

We all have them, those unspoken thoughts that play in the back of our mind. Thoughts that we don't say out loud, or share with the people closest to us. The things we want to do or say, and the things that hold us back.

Recently I have been reading Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the way we live. In the book, Brene Brown says "Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen". She then goes on to talk about how embracing your vulnerability and living whole-heartedly can help you face the things you fear. How acknowledging our fears can help us dare greatly.

As I read, I kept thinking yes, yes yes. Then I attended a Daring Voices event and met someone who seemed so confident and self-assured. She stopped me in my tracks she when talked of what she wanted to achieve and told me "I am scared". I was struck by how much power there was in that statement, and how much it resonated with me. 

I decided to make a change. I have been hiding for so long, pretending to be strong and struggling with so many things on my own. I have been open about my struggles with anxiety, but have never had the courage to admit to the specific things that I struggle with or fear.

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen-- Brene Brown

In the past few months, I have spoken out about my fears and shared the secret thoughts that I have been carrying around with me. It has not been pretty. It has been messy, jumbled, raw and emotional.

I told my husband of the things I feel guilty about, my internal struggles, and my feelings of not being good enough. My struggles with not having a close and loving relationship with my son, who wants his Dad more than me. The guilt of sleeping in at weekends and staying in my room to recharge, rather than spending that precious time with my family after I have been at work all week. The shame and thoughts of "if you only knew the truth" whenever anyone tells me that I am a great mum or I do so much for my family. I was amazed how little he knew of my secret fears after almost 10 years together, which shows how well I have been hiding them.  

For the first time, I spoke of feeling disconnected and alone, despite all the people around me. I have spoken about my feelings of often feeling like I am on the outside looking in, whilst everyone else seems to get on with each other so easily. My secret thoughts that people don't really like me, and they are just "being nice" to me because they don't want to be impolite. The fear that I feel when I walk into a crowded room and am expected to mingle, even when there are people there that I know.

At work, I "confessed" to my manager about the work situations that make me anxious. It was hard. I didn't want my struggles with anxiety to affect their perception of my abilities but I feel that it is key for me to get the support I need. I may have totally blown any chance of getting my promotion, which I have been chasing for over 4 years now, but I need to change things and struggling in secret has not been working. I was scared and sometimes confrontational, but he listened. It feels quite liberating to be able to say, "this is me, and this is what I need".

It feels quite liberating to be able to say, "this is me, and this is what I need"

I have opened up about my disappointment and frustration of not being able to easily get on with so many people at work, and generally being seen as "hard work" or "not suffering fools easily". I am tired after 7 years of trying change to think more about other people and not create conflict.  I have highlighted the pressure I feel to get it right with the people around me and the feelings of failure when I don't. This is the thing I am most ashamed of, and have struggled with. Despite all the books, introspection and attempts to try out various techniques, I can't get this right. I have admitted that this is not something I can do, and need help with.  


I feel like I've been truly honest, for the first time. I have not just spoken about the things that I think people want to hear or feel comfortable listening to. I have mentioned the comments from my past that have hurt and haunted me. The words that are always in my mind, threatening to undermine me in everything that I do. The words that are holding me back from speaking out about my hopes and dreams.

Speaking about my fears has given me the courage to speak about my secret hopes and dreams. I have given air to the things I would love to do and achieve, but haven't found the courage to say out loud for fear of failure.

So here they are in no particular order.

To become a public speaker, where I can use my experiences to help and inspire others.  For other families like ours who are discovering what autism means for them, and for children who are young carers or from disadvantaged backgrounds. My early years were spent caring for my family as my dad passed away when I was young and my mum struggled with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I was told at school that my future options were limited because we didn't have the money for university, or further study. I want other children facing similar challenges to know that it is possible. I found a way to do it, and they can too. 

To become a neurodiversity champion, and to help bring about a much-needed change in how companies support people with autism, social difficulties and anxiety at work. 

To get my promotion and be recognised for the work that I do. This means taking the time to clearly understand what I need to do to achieve this, the support that I will need for the things I struggle with, and enlisting the help of those around me to make it happen.

To go on a 2 week holiday without my kids so I can truly relax for the first time in years, decompress and work out what I need for me. To get away from it all, and spend time focusing on working through my many thoughts and think about what I want. 

To rebuild my friendship circle, and find some friends close by that I can meet up with to talk about the things that are happening in my life (over a glass of wine or two). People I can be myself with. People who I can feel connected with. People who feel comfortable enough with me to invite themselves over for a visit. 

I feel exposed and my fears have not gone. I don't know if my new found honesty is going to trip me up or spur me on. My dreams are just words on a page, and I have no grand plan to make them a reality. In fact, if I am honest, I don't really know if these are my real dreams or whether I am just listing the things that I think "would be nice".

I feel exposed and my fears have not gone

Speaking out has not helped me radically change my life but I am talking more to people around me about things that go beyond the surface. We are sharing more about how we feel, and I feel like people starting to understand a little more about the real me. I am also starting to understand myself more and I am starting to embrace how I am rather than be secretly ashamed of the things I struggle with. 

It feels like a start. 

I can see small things starting to change, and the possibility that these small things may lead to big things. The big things might be one or more of the dreams on this page, or it may be something completely different. I don't always get it right or know what I want from life but I do know I want something to change. 

So from now on, I am committing myself to wholehearted living and embracing my vulnerability, no matter how scary it is. 



trying to make sense of love between my son and i

I like you, but I don't love you, not even a little bit. Hard to hear from someone you care about, even harder when it is your 7-year-old child.

This is how my son responded to me recently when I told him that I loved him, and it hurt. It hurt a lot. It wasn't the first time, and he wasn't trying to be unkind. He doesn't realise that words can have an emotional impact on others, especially when it is "the truth". By truth, I mean a thought in his head.

That night I wondered does he even know what love is? Dad was dispatched to talk to him about what he had said and to try to understand why he said it. The talk revealed that he determines who he "loves" based on an assessment of what he likes and doesn't like, and the extent to which that person is similar to him or does the things that he wants to do.

He likes Lego, superheroes, Star Wars, watching TV, Asterix comic books and eating treats. He doesn't like people not listening to him, too many rules (unless he has made up the rules), being told "No",  and shouting (unless he is the one shouting).

Daddy is a boy (instant bonus points) and likes doing lots of the things that he likes - he loves Daddy. Mummy is a girl and doesn't like all the things he likes. Also, she has too many rules & she sometimes shouts. He just likes Mummy.

For him, this makes sense. He knows what he likes and doesn't like. He can work out if other people like the same things as him, and the determine how much he likes or loved them by the sum of how aligned they are to him, his wants, and his expectations.

It doesn't make sense to love someone who is not aligned with his likes, wants and expectations. How can you love someone when you don't like the same things, and they don't always behave the way you want? It also doesn't make sense that I would get upset when he tells me that he doesn't love me.

Two days later as I sat in the garden thinking about life and his views of love, I was surprised when he turned up with a plastic bunch of flowers and suggested that I sniff them as if they were real before disappearing inside. Wondering where that came from, I remembered the cake he insisted making and decorating for me on Mother's Day, and the joy on his face when he saw me at his end of term assembly.

Sitting there I wondered Do I know what love is and how see love in others? Do I need my son to love me in the same way as his Dad?

It seems like I am not the only one to have questions about love. What is love is one of the most frequently searched phrases in Google. Reading through the definitions, I realised that everyone has their own definitions of what it means to love and be loved.

love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection to pleasure. It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment. Love is based on trust, and may take time to develop, like is an instant feeling
Reading through the definitions, I was reminded that love is not measured by words, and it has many different forms. If love can grow when there is trust and our love for someone can change, it is up to me to ensure that there is trust and that he feels loved. The important thing is that he continues to know that I will be there for him no matter what.

I don't know if my son loves me, but I'd like to think that he does. I know that I love him, and will always strive to make sure that he feels loved. I realise we may never reach the stage of kisses, cuddles or unguarded emotion, but he likes me and sometimes takes my breath away with an unexpected action of affection. I'll take that. At the end of the day, it is our actions that speak louder than our words.


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