I Am Me…
In our moments of darkness there are groups of people who reach out and instead of disabling you, empower you to change. One of these groups is Children’s Autism Foundation.
In 2017, my son who has ASD/ADHD had been systematically bullied so much that he wanted to die, and in his mind, the best thing for him to do in order to make the people around him happy again was to ask me his mother to kill him. He wanted me to do it, so it would be done properly and there wouldn’t be a mess. Until you go through this experience you really don’t know how a person is feeling. As a parent and one who is on the ASD spectrum, it was soul shattering. Almost everything I had been told by the school was a lie and I was left being blamed that this thinking was all my fault.
Trying to get support from Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health was virtually impossible, I self referred my son to CAMH in September, they interviewed me in October and I wasn’t contacted by Explore until February 2018, as Explore had decided that my son’s case wasn’t a priority.
During this time in November 2017, I attended a Children’s Autism Foundation (CAF), one day workshop in Kerikeri, where I met Arletta and Gera. From the moment I walked in, I knew that this was going to be diﬀerent to what I had come to expect. These two wonderful ladies, didn’t make me feel odd, or out of place, or like a strange mystifying abnormal not quite human being. They allowed me to be me with all of my sensory issues. They gave me hope that humanity can handle change and that my son and I do have a place in this world. Their main message to me was “Its ok to be me.” It gave me some strength to ﬁght the fear, the pain, the anxiety and the depression that was pulling me into a hole, as I tried to ﬁght the unseen.
They gave me the strength and fed my determination to speak out on behalf of myself and my son, to share how we see the world and how we’re facing the same stuﬀ just like everyone else. We’re just trying to be the best Me we can be.
Gera reached out a hand to me, and oﬀered her support when she found out what we were dealing with, and it was all I needed to refocus. She will never know how much that moment is valued by me. To have someone say “I can support you” not “You need to ﬁll in these forms and I will assess how dire your situation is, and will get back to you.”
In 2018, they ran a workshop in Whangarei on Anxiety, and had their outreach as part of it, by this stage my son had decided that he needed support with dealing with his emotions especially his “anger”. I organised for him to spend an hour in consultation with Gera. In that session, he talked and she listened. I watched my son blossom, as for once in his life someone other than his family were giving him their full attention. Actually listening and not making assumptions about what he was trying to express. As a parent to be able to sit back and just listen, not speak on behalf of, or argue for, was a breath of fresh air. My son told me “He didn’t feel alone anymore.” Gera gave him permission to call her when he needed to talk.
Knowing that CAF are just an email or phone call away, has removed a lot of anxiety and stress from our whanau. My son knows that he has someone he can call, and in the last 12 months, he has only called Gera about 3 times. They are the unseen safety net, that is there but aren’t in our faces.
Our whanau, is stronger because we count CAF as part of our whanau. Without them, we would still succeed but it would be just that much harder.
*The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in these stories belong solely to the author, and do not represent the views and opinions of Children’s Autism Foundation as an organisation, our team or our Board.
Note: Myrlene runs a Facebook page called I Am Me where she addresses the idea of acceptance for all, and supports those with neuro-diverse kids with practical solutions. www.facebook.com/pg/IamMeBetheBestMeICanBe