Guest blog from Jodie Isitt
It started late on night, you know those nights when everyone is asleep but you daren't close your eyes because as soon as you do someone WILL wake up screaming. Life as a carer for three autistic children was busy and oh so tiring, but in those days I was surviving on a couple of hours sleep a night and pushing my body daily to meet the caring needs of my children whilst attending hundreds of appointments a year! Was this it? Was I destined to be a carer for my children all of my life? Would I spend my days researching new conditions, learning sen law and attending umpteen IEP meetings a month? I loved working, I have been a career girl all my life, starting out in catering and following the birth of my children becoming the accounts manager in my family building business. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I love learning new things. Unfortunately due to the extensive health needs of my family and becoming increasingly unwell myself through exhaustion and stress I had to stop working. It was too much. It consumed me. To be honest if I had been employed by anyone other than my own family business I wouldn’t have lasted that long at all. Pretty sure I had become unemployable due to the time I needed to take off work just to simply attend meetings and see the children’s psychologists. It was a full time job and one that paid lousy! Carers allowance was something like £62.00 and I was working over 300 hours per week! Okay okay there aren’t 300 hours in a week, but when you’re a parent of three autistic children and a disabled fiancée there sure as hell needs to be because I was fitting in 300 hours of stuff in a week that only has 168 hours. Parents like myself are saving the government thousands with their caring - but alas that’s another post for another day way in the future. So there I was, tossing and turning unable to switch off and in that instant when everything was quiet just the soft sound of the trees blowing in the wind, my daughters 18 bubble lamps and youtube ocean music playing on repeat I had a brainwave. For months I had been on-line actively advocating for people to learn more about autism, speaking to adults, trying to make them understand, hell even some family members didn’t quite ‘get-it’ Advocating for understanding and acceptance and I realised that when I was a child I was NEVER taught about disabilities. Disabled people scared me, unnerved me, and made me anxious. I didn’t know what they were thinking, were they violent, why were they behaving in this unsociable manner? What was wrong with them? It wasn’t until I had my children that I fully understood disabilities as a whole and teaching myself everything I needed to know about them I could finally accept them for who they were. We don’t need to teach adults about autism, or disabilities or neurological conditions. We NEED to start teaching children. Thats where it will count. Incorporating awareness into their daily routine would be invaluable for generations to come. Creating the most understanding, diverse, accepting and kind individuals of the future would change the lives of millions of disabled people and what better way to do that than through storytelling using the most cutest and relatable of characters. A journey through mainstream school, using my daughter Lola as inspiration I developed the next children’s book series designed to help children understand and accept differences in the classroom. Drawing on her own experiences and her own difficulties I have written four children books using a Badger as one of Lola’s trusted friends to give the children the tools they need in order to be a kind and helpful friend to someone less like themselves without compromising their own wellbeing in the process. The books were primarily designed and written for children who don’t have neurological condition, a social story for the ‘normal’ child some might say, however following the amazing reviews and feedback from hundreds of customers its clear to me that they are more than that. They are a double whammy! They are not only helping children understand and accept other children. They are helping children understand and accept themselves. One child’s mum reports that she wore her ear defenders to school for the first time in months and was proud to be like Lola Rabbit. Another describes her child wanting to dress up, spending ages choosing an outfit complete with hair bow to look exactly like her. Some children have opened to their parents and admitted they felt like Lola, lonely and scared of the noise. Giving parents the opportunity to finally realise what kinds of things they were struggling with in the school environment. I am so excited about this project, and I cannot wait to release the second book - Lola’s wobbly lunch time where Lola gets very stressed out during lunch time and has a breakdown in the lunch hall describing the smells and sounds and the extreme busyness of the lunch hall dev
Additionally and because I'm not 'professional' I asked expert speech pathologist Molly Dresner and Occupational Therapist Lucy Bates to contribute in the book and they have done amazing job at explaining the difficulties and giving teachers and parents ideas on how to help children should they present like Lola Rabbit. This is a very unique addition to children's books and I am super proud and honoured to be able to bring these books to schools and homes near you!
Autism with love publishing