My guest this week was therapist, author and teacher Giuliana Wheater on Women’s Radio Station. Giuliana shared her experience.
‘It was with a sense of real privilege and joy that I met with Anna on Tuesday to be interviewed for Women’s Radio Station.
‘Having met Anna in person for the first time at the Autism’s Got Talent Roadshow in St Ives last month, I was struck by how passionate, motivational and down to earth she is in real life – just as I knew she would be. The show blew me away. It was so emotional just seeing how all these young people with different abilities had risen above their challenges after being written off by professionals and also because after so many years of feeling isolated and like a lone voice in the dark, I was suddenly surrounded by the warmth, belief and inclusion of so many others who have fought for their child as I have and come through such odds to help them achieve their dreams. I’ve never got through so many tissues in one sitting and that’s the absolute truth. I came away knowing that this really is work I will continue doing until I draw my last breath in this world.
‘After meeting Anna she invited me into her radio show just two weeks later. I shared with her some of the utter heartbreak, frustrations and triumphs that my son Ollie and I have shared. Much of this journey took place against a background of quite intense domestic abuse. We not only survived all these challenges – but thrived – and my son who was written off at school, his dreams of an English degree removed as a result and who had his funding legally spent elsewhere, purely because he has autism, has just completed a creative writing and publishing degree and been personally invited by his tutor, an eight-times award winning poet, to do his master’s degree in creative writing. I actually don’t know how I’m holding it all together; I am so proud and so bursting with love and admiration for my boy.
‘For those of you who missed the show, I would say three words : Never stop believing. Don’t let professionals – whether they be teachers, doctors or psychologists – ever define your child because they have a label. Just as 100 people a common cold aren’t all the same personality, nor are 100 people with autism. You will all, as parents, know that life for our special children is never going to be straight through a front door. So get your mental ladders, ropes and shovels out and scale roofs, tunnel underneath or climb through windows to find another way. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Don’t let your child be forced into restrictive behaviours or ways of thinking. Don’t let them be hemmed in by the invisible cage bars of negative beliefs and limitations.
‘Go to see the teachers and advocate for your child. Hold schools directly accountable for any funding you receive as it often goes into a huge melting pot and won’t be spent on your child. I printed postcards each year for Ollie with his photo, a little about his condition but on the reverse all about what he found challenging and what his strengths and gifts were. I would meet regularly with staff and suggest simple things such as breaking down multiple instructions on a white board for the whole class for instance so that it was inclusive and discreet.
‘I also ensured that Ollie sat his exams in my therapy chalet in spite of being told this wasn’t possible: A child can sit their exams anywhere so long as it has an invigilator and an examiner present. I also made sure that Ollie could stop the clock whenever he was overwhelmed so he could calm down before re-starting the exam. I had to fight hard for this but I gently and continually persevered, knowing Ollie had this right. He got nine GCSEs more than the school predicted and they could lap up the better league table results: win-win!
‘I would love to say more here but space won’t allow it – and I do love talking! However if you’d like to know more of how you can help your child, head over to my website. Thank you so enormously to Anna for having me and allowing our voices to be heard.’
If you missed Giuliana’s interview please tune in everyday at 1pm, Women’s Radio Station.
Dr Anna Kennedy OBE is an educator who has worked to provide an improved education and other facilities for children with autism spectrum disorders.