Recently whilst visiting the North East I met up with Alison who was recently diagnosed on the Autism spectrum in her 30s and has 2 daughters on the spectrum. Alison shared her story and ideas with me:

I was the little girl who literally my Mother didn’t know she had. I would happily play on my own, I liked being around adult company. I had a few friends at school, I was never part of the crowd though, that I liked. I liked being with the dinner ladies, strange how you still have memories from your childhood and who was important.

The dinner ladies made me feel safe where my peers were unpredictable. I have memories of coming home from school locking myself in the toilet so I that I could replay back every conversation I had that day, every social encounter, I would be playing pretend in my mind whilst my hands would be in a world of their own, flapping every time an emotion ran through me. The bathroom would become my sanctuary, the only place I could lock myself in and make everything go away, I could be in my own little world and no one would know.

Fast Forward Twenty Five Years. I am now an adult (I don’t always feel like one), I have two children of my own, Girls. My Girls are Autistic. Niamh is my beautiful social butterfly, a people pleaser, a worrier, her hands can move like mine, she is a mini me. Mila is my sensory seeking beautiful rainbow bubble, classically autistic, diagnosed at twenty one months old, never happier than when she is upside down watching You Tube or running around like the Tazmanian Devil..

Then there is Me, Alison. I’m now thirty four and I’m Autistic. It’s strange reading that out loud as I type it. I’m Autistic. I’ve always been Autistic but I’ve only just received my diagnosis. At Fourteen I was diagnosed as anorexic with an anxiety disorder, given numerous medications and therapies. Did they work, No, Why because I was Autistic.

Anxiety disorder wasn’t supposed to make you shut down, it wasn’t supposed to make you psycho analyse every social interaction you ever had. It wasn’t supposed to affect your daily living skills meaning you can’t drive or plait your child’s hair. I have co-ordination difficulties, I have sensory issues, I like to control every situation and people generally confuse the hell out of me. Why, I’m Autistic.

I now have a diagnosis, what does that mean…I should receive support like my children have. Not quite, when you have masked and hid your difficulties for over thirty years it is extremely hard to take off that mask. It is difficult to ask for help, it is difficult to admit that I struggle. The difference is now that I know why I think the way I do which means it’s okay to ask for help. It is okay to fidget and move my hands and it is okay to need time to be alone to help support and regulate myself.

I set up I am her voice- Our Autism Journey in January 2019. I initially set it up as a hobby to share mine and my Girls Autism journey. It become so much more, it has helped me help myself, my children and others. I am also an Autism and ADHD (Yes we have that too) Workshop Trainer.

Finally I am Founder of Chasing Rainbows a Social Enterprise helping to support families, children and adults throughout their Autism/ ADHD journey. I offer support to help children and adults express themselves, help find ways to regulate their senses and emotions.

I’m about to set up Rainbow Buddies a service helping adults on the spectrum who may need that understanding buddy around in the supermarket when its busy, help to attend Job Interviews, to help support them at medical appointments, the list is endless. I wanted to do this because one day my children may need a buddy to help make their day that bit brighter and help them understand that it’s okay to ask for help, that’s what buddies are for.

Chasing Rainbow’s are about to launch brand new services across the North East and then pilot Nationwide. I would like support for families and siblings, I would like support for girls and boys who are not diagnosed, I would like support for adults who need that extra care and guidance. I would like support for me and my children. That’s my aim anyway, I want my voice heard finally.

Workshops Available – Outreach Trainer and Online Workshops

I am her voice- Girls with Autism Workshop

In this workshop I will discuss the ways in which some females with autism may present. As an adult only just receiving my diagnosis in my thirties, I have learnt how to mask my autism traits to the detriment of my mental health. Learn how females are quite often mis-diagnosed with a mental health condition such as anorexia and anxiety disorder, much like Myself. Unless girls show signs that they have classic autism it is often harder to diagnose. I also have two daughters both diagnosed with Autism.

Explaining the Senses- Learning to Live with Sensory Issues

Did you know we have more than Five Senses??? Are you aware of Proprioception, Vestibular Feedback and Interoception??

How many of us know children and adults with sensory issues that have what can be described as the ‘delayed effect’, masking their sensory needs at school/workplace (yes this does happen) and then home time they experience what can be described as a Meltdown and often in my case Shutdown.

This workshop will give you first hand advice, support and techniques around your child’s sensory issues. Discover ways in which I often mask my sensory difficulties and how I have learnt to regulate my senses through time.

ADHD and Me- The Misunderstood Condition

At Thirty Four Years of age I wondered why I struggled with organizing myself, why my mind feels like it could go a million miles an hour, why my memory is poor, why can I start tasks and have difficulty finishing them…. ADHD can often be missed in both Girls and Boys. Often a child can be labeled ‘Naughty’, ‘Fidgety’, ‘A day dreamer’, ‘Can’t stop talking’…. Can you identify with this?  Is your child in attentive, forgetful, hyperactive, impulsive….

ADHD is often a misunderstood condition if not diagnosed early. Often it’s when you reach adulthood that without a diagnosis the consequences can be extremely difficult to live with. Relationship Difficulties, Keeping a Job, Passing Exams, Paying Bills, Attending Appointments..

Learn the difference between ADHD and ADD, find out how poor executive functioning skills can affect your daily life…. This workshop will give you an inside view on ADHD.

I am your voice- What is Autism

Learn about the Autism Spectrum, the traits which you can present with, why are more boys still being diagnosed than girls, the co-morbidities that can come with autism…

This Workshop will help explain autism from a personal perspective as well as the techniques and theories used to help support those on the spectrum.

News Taking My Mask Off – by Alison Blaney