Wow, so on Wednesday 12th February 2020, I was absolutely thrilled to discover, purely by coincidence though I must admit, that No Magic Wand UK (NMWUK) had been nominated for the BAPS Awards, under the ‘Newcomer’ category!!
Whilst I was totally ecstatic about this, I must confess that I’d never heard of the BAPS Awards until then, so massive apologies to those who may be offended by this!
So, I madly started to google ‘BAPS’ (yes this acronym made my middle (adult) daughter laugh out loud too, she is such a child hehe!), only to discover that this stood for ‘Bloody Awesome Parents’ and were awards given to SEND Bloggers (and others) to recognise/acknowledge their achievements and contribution to the SEND community! How awesome is that?!
The following day, came further exciting news……NMWUK had actually been shortlisted by the judges and was now a FINALIST!!
I feel extremely honoured and very touched to have not only been nominated, and a massive thank you to whoever nominated me in the first place, but also to have been shortlisted! As you will see, there were so many incredible people on the nominations list!
Why I started blogging
I first considered blogging a few years back and even made a crude, scribbled, list of the types of things that I wanted to share. The highs and the lows of having a child with additional needs. To be honest, there were more lows, at this point, than highs and life was tough!
One of the biggest challenges, for us, was living with what I’ve now come to learn is termed SEND VCB (Special Educational Needs & Disabilities, Violent & Challenging Behaviour). A term introduced by the lovely Yvonne Newbold! Experiencing violence from your child is not something that any parent could possibly imagine being involved in, let alone living it! The impact of this affects every element of our lives, at home, at school, my employment, family, friends etc.
The other major difficulty of having a child with additional needs is the challenge of navigating ‘the system’! It is a minefield and a frustrating one at that! Quite often resulting in what seems like endless challenges and in all honesty, it’s not fair and it’s not right! This journey is hard enough without being at logger heads with the very services that are meant to be there to support you!
Alongside the SEND VCB, there were several other, what could be termed as ‘taboo’ subjects that were part of my family’s daily life. Mental health, self-harm, suicidal ideology, hallucinations…to name a few!
I remember, a few years ago, being approached by another parent and she was almost beside herself with excitement to introduce herself with the opening line of ‘oh my goodness, you are the ONLY other PDA parent I know!’. Yes, word had got about locally that my daughter was a PDA’er and this connected the two of us instantly! She was so overwhelmed that she had found someone that ‘got it’! And in all honesty, she was the first parent, I’d met in person, that also had a child diagnosed with PDA! There was an instant connection!
Quite quickly I was being approached by friends, asking for advice for a ‘friend of a friend’ or being approached by ex-colleagues as they came to work with families who had autistic children. I didn’t have all the answers, not by a long shot, but I still felt very honoured that they had come to me and thought that I would be able to offer some advice or at least some understanding!
So having considered blogging previously and life having taken over, it now felt like the right time and NMWUK was born.
So, now the time was right, where on earth to start?
I had absolutely no clue! I had no idea how to set up a website! I didn’t know the front end from the back end, yes that’s a technical term that I still don’t really understand lol! There was ‘hosting, plugins, domains, SSL certificates’ and a whole heap more that I needed to try and get my head around….and to be honest, you may well have been talking double Dutch!
I also had no clue how to set up a Facebook page and I certainly didn’t know how to begin to use Instagram! This was definitely going to take some work lol!
However, the one thing I DID know… I knew the sort of things that I wanted to share about our journey, so I madly started typing! My daughter by this point had just turned 11, so I had a lot to catch up on before I could even begin to think about starting to blog about the here and now. Our primary school journey, the diagnosis journey, the difficulties/challenges, what helps and what certainly doesn’t, the things I wish I’d had known at the beginning of this journey etc etc.
I was very fortunate though to have the assistance of Al, founder of The Dads Net, who also happens to be my third cousin, not that I have seen him since we were kids! However, his mum and my mum are very close and see each other regularly and it was his mum that suggested I enlisted his support. I am sure I must have driven him mad with all my naïve questions about setting up my website! However, he was a great help and I can’t thank him enough for his time and particularly his patience!
The difficulties with blogging
The difficulty I have found, not only about blogging, but also sharing our journey on social media, is finding the balance of protecting our privacy versus speaking out!
How much is too much? How little is too little? Surely, I needed to put ourselves out there if I was to reach out to people and say ‘hey, I get it’! I also needed to share the ‘bad’ stuff, the stuff that so many people are experiencing but think they are the only ones. Unless I speak out, how would any of us ever connect?
But talking about the taboo subjects, which naturally for us came hand in hand with additional needs and mental health, is tricky. It lays my family bare and that wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I also had to get my family on board, this HAD to be a whole family decision.
The other major consideration of sharing our journey, warts and all, is the possible long term impact. How will this affect my daughter’s future? Truth be told, it’s a very fine and difficult balance, something I truly hope I’m getting right!
A year on
This fantastic nomination, coincidentally, almost coincided with No Magic Wand UK’s first birthday (5th March)! How awesome would it be to be declared winner of the Newcomer BAPS Awards in May?! That said, I am just stoked to be a part of it and amongst so many amazing people, each in their own right a very deservable winner!
I am truly touched and a little overwhelmed, to be honest, of how quickly NMWUK has connected with so many people! Not only here in the UK, but globally! The website alone is getting on average 200 visitors and 400 page views per day and on Facebook, there is nearly 6K Followers on the main page and almost 500 members on the Closed Group! I am feeling very grateful to have, already, connected with so many likeminded people!
Prior to setting up NMWUK, I was definitely more familiar with Facebook and am still only just getting my head around how Instagram and Twitter work!
In a little under a year, I have also, somehow, managed to write 38 blogs on various topics including: the financial impact of having a child with additional needs and mental health conditions, the impact on my employment, why for us there is no magic wand, why parent blaming is so damaging, safeguarding, the impact of SEND VCB, how to manage PDA etc, as well as several blogs on our diagnosis journey and educational journey, plus many more.
The one thing that I am in awe of from other bloggers, is how they not only find the time to write blogs and keep up-to-date on social media but how they have the confidence to post videos, do podcasts etc! I feel awkward and totally out of my comfort zone even taking a selfie!
There are many great bloggers out there!
I totally admire everyone that opens up their world, to support and reach out to others, sharing the most personal of information…that of your family!
There are many great bloggers, all blogging about their own personal journey with Autism, PDA etc, which is just awesome! However, when I thought about blogging I got thinking about what was different about our journey? I didn’t want it to be purely about my daughter being autistic, or the challenges of having a PDA’er. I wanted to share ALL of the journey, the diagnoses journey, the education journey, the impact of SEND VCB on the whole family, the effect on EVERY aspect of life, the things I had learnt along the way including what I wished I’d done differently, the reality of having a child with additional mental health conditions and much more.
How NMWUK has already began to develop into much more
I have recently been approached to deliver a PDA workshop from a parent’s perspective, which again I feel very honoured about. I’m not going to lie though, even just the thought of it cranks my anxiety up!
It’s strange really as I used to think nothing of public speaking and used to run training sessions and workshops in a previous job. Talking to strangers was a daily occurrence. But I guess that’s all part and parcel of the life we live as Parent/Carers, and sadly, those skills that we develop and used to use regularly within our jobs, fall by the way side, alongside our self-confidence.
The Victoria Derbyshire Show
Since becoming a Parent/Carer, one thing that really put me outside of my comfort zone was when I was invited, by Yvonne Newbold (founder of The SEND VCB Project), to be a part of the Victoria Derbyshire show (back in November 2018), to raise awareness about SEND VCB, alongside other very brave parents.
This was daunting, very daunting! We were filmed by the BBC and this was going out on national television!! However, what it did do was give me the confidence to open up to the other aspects of the journey we found ourselves on. So, I revisited the idea of ‘blogging’, and decided ‘yeah, I’ve got this’! I hoped!
The amazing SEND Community!
Since setting up NMWUK, I have already connected with so many amazing people!
The SEND community is not only one of strength but also one of resilience, compassion and empathy, for which I admire each and every one of you! The connection that is made with people on a similar path, wherever we are on this journey, is one that is inspirational and empowering!
This journey could be so isolating but being part of a community of people that understand the challenges is SO important to reduce isolation as well as raise awareness! The SEND Community are awesome!
So back to the BAPS!
I would personally like to say a huge THANK YOU so whoever nominated NMWUK and also a massive thank you to the judges who have had to make the difficulty decision in shortlisting!
There were some amazing people nominated for the BAPS Awards and I would like to wish ALL the FINALISTS the very best of luck!! I am very much looking forward to meeting you all at the ceremony on 21st May!
To vote for your favourite finalist, here is the link to all the finalists across all of the categories:
And again, here is the link to vote for your favourite ‘Newcomer’:
It’s now all down to, you, the public vote, and you only have until 19th March 2020 to cast your votes! Naturally, NMWUK would love to have your vote, but no pressure lol!
Finally, there is one person at the very centre of NMWUK!
My youngest said to me recently, in fact I think it was the day when I was madly flapping about and squealing at the news that NMWUK had been shortlisted as a finalist for the BAPS Awards: