Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Penny for my thoughts......

I heard the story of Penny this week.  Penny is the sister in law of Professor Tony Attwood. see here  Penny has lived an amazing life full of adventure, humour, competence and now independence.  She has also lived a life of torment, misunderstanding, bullying, pain and the odd moment of strife.

Penny has Autism.  I am always fascinated to learn about the lives of adults with Autism and Aspergers as I am desperate to know what made the differences in their lives between being happy or miserable.  Of course I want to know the key differences so I can continue to help my boys achieve a life of happiness for themselves.  I've talked about this before but I'll mention it again now as Penny's story rekindled a spark of pain that I thought might be dulled permanently before I listened to Professor Attwood himself tell Penny's story at the conference I attended this week about Autism and Aspergers. see here for support if Autism affects you.

The pain I am referring to is the ache in my heart I wake up with every morning that increases some times and decreases to the point of being barely noticeable anymore other times.  It's quite intense at the moment.  The ache is throbbing and causing quite a sensation on my personal scale of pain right at this moment but I have been hanging out with this ache for quite some time now and the ache and I understand one another well enough to know that it's temporary and will fade away for a while again soon.

Why does my heart ache?  Oh you know, just the usual.....  My childrens lives are pretty much guaranteed to be fraught with difficulty and misunderstanding and possibly (although according to Prof Attwood, definitely NOT possibly) bullying.  It still hurts me that they will experience hardship because people do not understand them the way I do and that some people will not see the strengths, uniqueness and joy that I celebrate.  Like I said, just the usual.

So here I am, sitting in the much anticipated Tony Attwood conference expecting to be enlightened with the answers to keep my boys safe and free from all the concerns I've already considered over and over and over again.  I received no such enlightenment.  I did realise though that I was at an advantage as a mother in that room full of people hanging on Professor Attwood's every word that perhaps not everyone else in there was.  I looked around and saw the pain in other mum's eyes as he outlined the increased risk of certain bullying, increased risk of being prey to sexual, financial and other equally repugnant predators and the certainty that our children will feel unavoidable anxiety, exclusion and difficulty.  I realised that unlike many of the other mums in the room listening with the same pain I feel in my way too soft for my own good heart....... I realised that unlike some of them, I had already considered it.  I already knew simply by instinct not by books that my kids face these challenges.  I received no answers as to how to keep them completely, utterly and definitely safe from it but I did receive enlightenment on how to help them rise above it, move through it and become independent and mostly happy adults like Prof Attwood's sister in law, Penny who now lives independently and happily.

During a two day conference on all things Autism and Aspergers presented by Professor Tony Attwood who is widely considered to be a world expert on all things Autism and Aspergers I can reveal the moment I knew my boys will be ok and the most valuable piece of information in an information heavy two days.....  When the good professor came to the end of Penny's story and I was quietly wiping my tears as I listened, transfixed by her tale of triumph he touched on the reasons he believed (as a world expert on Autism and Aspergers) that Penny's story was indeed one of triumph...........  (and I quote) "Her mother's continued support, love and unconditional belief in Penny, freedom to be herself at home and a sense of humour (shared by her whole support network)."

My quiet few tears I was already dabbing at discreetly turned to freely flowing rivers of salty tears that I had trouble stopping as the relief that I felt to realise I already had the so called keys to success was absolutely overwhelming.  Anyone who reads this blog, knows me personally or even those who have commissioned me to write the special stories of their own special kids knows my unwavering support and belief in my boys and that of all of our kids of mystery, difference and indescribable inner beauty with souls of such purity it's humbling for the rest of us.  You all already know my passion to let my boys be who they are and the celebration of their differences our house is filled with daily.  Most of you would have already gleaned my family's life is viewed and lived  with a very healthy dose of humour entwined with a drunkenness of love for these awesome individuals I am lucky enough to share my unexpected life with.

Although Penny's story stirred up that pesky ache in my never quite healed heart, Penny's story also filled the same old dodgy ticker with hope and pride in not only my boys (all three of the quirky fellas I live with which includes the hubby) but pride in myself that regardless what any of the experts say in their often conflicting advice.....  Penny's most powerful "intervention" was the love and support of her mother.  Now this is a super power I already have.  My boys just may wind up ruling the world if their success relies mostly on my love and support of them.

Thank you to Penny for allowing Professor Attwood to share her story and give this loving and supportive mother the gift of hope and confidence.  I wanted to share the moment here so that all the other mothers out there like me could feel proud of themselves today too.  I'm privileged to be living this life with the support of each and every one of those mothers and they know who they are.  The support we give each other, helps us support our kids and helps ease those aches we all carry about in our hearts on the days it hurts just a bit too much.

More soon...  I promise but for now  must get on with the most important job I have.....  unconditionally supporting and loving my boys.


  1. Hi Chantelle, I loved your story and comments on the Tony Attwood Seminar. I guess I want to let you know, is how amazing you are to put your real feelings down on paper. Maybe it's just me but I think that when you have a child with Autism you tend to put the ache in your heart on the back burner even though it's constantly there, some times worse than ever, and get on with the job of looking after our amazing little guys, which is basically what we do 24/7, and I add willingly. I often write about my feelings, in the diary, poetry or just little sentences so I won't forget little things my son has done, and my feelings at the time. I've tried to track our amazing journey for the last seven years, and after Luke's funeral went back through my diaries and to my amazement could see how far we had come. It's very reasurring to hear that the families love and support, particularly mums seems to make all the difference, because when I kiss his little head at night, and he's peacefully sleeping that's when I really believe that it will make all the difference. So thank you for being so candid, your story was beautiful. I have to go as my little man is telling me it's his turn on the computer to play his train game, who am I to deny him his fave thing in the whole world, building train tracks and stations. Kathy

  2. Thank you Kathy... If we are all candid, it will only help each other and spread awareness. Soooooooooooo pleased your little guy has come a long way. :-)

  3. Thank you for sharing that thought, it needed to be done I think as so many Mums underestimate the importance of themselves in their childrens lives. Jen.

  4. so true Chantelle - come to realise now that I can't go to a Professor Attwood seminar without shedding some tears myself. Sometimes it just seems so hard that we forget the positives or we allow the aches to get in the way.

    No need to change our kids we just need to guide them, support them, love them and be proud!