Two years ago I knew nothing about ASD and then my child turned 14 and the whole world changed for us as a family.
He was depressed, unfriendly and unmotivated.He couldn’t get out of bed and couldn’t do his school work. Shutdowns daily and meltdowns too were becoming a problem.
Both him and I looked at ourselves and did internet research which pointed us to a strong suspicion of Aspergers.
I self-referred to CAMHS (Child Adolescent mental health Services) and the intake nurse asked immediately if we’d heard of Aspergers.
A diagnosis and pills came next but neither helped and he got to breaking point and we both were very frightened.There seemed to be no practical help.
I had to change my perspective entirely on what was right for my child.
I took him out of school at 15 and stopped all pressure and allowed him time to recover but not hibernate in his room.Small bite sized programmes of activities.
My priorities are now life first then happiness and mainstream education comes a long way down the list.
By sheer chance, a small group of Tauranga people were looking at forming a social support group for atypical kids. I heard about this through the wonderful Dorothy at Aspergers Connections , Tauranga.
I went to the initial meeting at Parent to Parent Tauranga which was standing room only and both my teen and myself left knowing this for for us. We were desperate to be involved.
Mockingbird was formed and began in Feb 2016.It its now an incorporated society of which I am the President and I am there to help most days we are open.
We are open three days a week 9.30am-2.30pm .Even holidays we still open with reduced times because no one wants to leave.
Our approach acknowledges ASD,Tourettes,OCD,ADHD and other atypical kids as differently-abled not disabled.
We are a judgement free zone in a cosy,home like environment.Grab a sofa and chill.
We cater to sensory needs like light, sound and space. We are totally relaxed about time and food.No bells ring here,no lines,no exams,no bullies.
We minimise stress to enable kids to get below the hyper-arousal line which allows them to be relaxed as their true selves.
Humour and kindness with understanding and compassion is how we work.
These kids who have seemed difficult and oppositional in the mainstream setting are now
a delightful and caring bunch of kids who just hum together.
Adults with aspergers are a valuable resource for our kids.Amazing mentors and role models.
We have Jason Edgecombe and behavioural consultant, Ross Barker as part of our team.Their input has been a big part of us getting it right.Ross has volunteered help with layout and day to day dynamics of our group. His intuitive knowledge is widely respected in our community and many parents have come to him after a long and unsucessful journey trying to help their kids.
My son and I have been going to Mockingbird Inc all year and he is a different kid.Much calmer and I see smiles now.He is able to express himself far more and understand his responses to situations clearly.He comes out of his room and I get cuddles again.For me it has meant new life long friendships and support from other people who totally get it.
Some parents have asked me for private mentoring for their daughters and I had seen the work Jason Edgecombe (featured last month) has done with his Dungeons and Dragons programme, which my son goes to. I decided there was a need for a separate teen girls group. A place where they could make friends and feel safe to talk about their personal thoughts and feelings. Along the way I would include some chats and activities such as grooming, friendships, body image, safety and other topics parents suggested.This has become a small business for myself which I can run from home and sometimes kids just take it better from someone else.
It might seem high hopes but my dream for the future is to see these kids right through to adulthood and a comfortable and stress free retirement.
The other families and myself are working towards the goal of having a co-op, community place where young and old can perhaps share training,work and sustainable living.
Often anxieties make full time employment difficult for us and therefore money and housing is often an issue.
As a group we are now looking at leasing a property in Tauranga to get this going.Our chances may be slim but we have to try and make this happen.
It is my goal for my son to be happy,have a safe community and a reason to get out of bed long after I’m gone.If he can help some other people as well to save suffering and hardship then I will feel I have done my job.