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Sophie Holmes from “Mummy of a Square Peg” talks ‘All things Autism’ and medication – interviewed by Anna Kennedy at Women’s Radio

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Anna Kennedy OBE’s guest for this week on ‘All things Autism’ is Sophie Holmes​ from “Mummy of a Square Peg” , which will be aired at 1pm and 1am each day this week on  www.womensradiostation.com.

This is Sophie’s story:

Sophie is a Mum of two boys, Matthew aged 9 and Edward aged 7. They live in the beautiful county of Devon in the South West of England. Matthew is neurotypical and Edward is autistic.

As a secondary school teacher Sophie was already familiar with autism having taught autistic children in mainstream schools. Even with this knowledge and experience she still wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis of her son at the age of 3.

Similar to most parents she found it challenging to process the diagnosis and what it would mean for the future of her son.

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Sophie HolmesThe journey to diagnosis was fairly straightforward. The staff at Edward’s nursery noticed that he was, developmentally, two years behind his peers, so he was referred to the child development centre. At the time, the wait was 18 weeks to be seen for the initial appointment, this has now increased to at least a year.

Sophie and her husband then moved Edward to the preschool attached to the mainstream school that his elder brother attends. Here, the staff started the ball rolling for his EHCP application in preparation for Edward starting foundation.

When they went for Edward’s yearly review at the end of foundation, the school said that were unable to meet Edward’s needs and that they should start looking for a special school.

The journey to diagnosis was fairly straightforward. The staff at Edward’s nursery noticed that he was, developmentally, two years behind his peers, so he was referred to the child development centre. At the time, the wait was 18 weeks to be seen for the initial appointment, this has now increased to at least a year.

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Sophie and her husband then moved Edward to the preschool attached to the mainstream school that his elder brother attends. Here, the staff started the ball rolling for his EHCP application in preparation for Edward starting foundation.

When they went for Edward’s yearly review at the end of foundation, the school said that were unable to meet Edward’s needs and that they should start looking for a special school.

Sophie says that parents should look around as many special schools as possible, then when parents find the right school for their child they should write on the EHCP specific reasons why their child should attend that particular school. The other important advice is to keep nagging the 0-25 team at the local council. If parents don’t get a response from emails or voice messages, then just keep constantly trying other numbers and the persistence will pay off.

After all of this, Sophie struggled with her mental health for a while, so that’s when she started writing a blog. She had a few friends who were writing blogs so she decided that she would start one as a way to help with her mental health. She felt that by writing down her experiences as a parent of an autistic child would help her to process all that had happened.

Sophie’s blog is called Mummy of a Square Peg. It was the saying ‘Square peg in a round hole’ that inspired the name of the blog because a lot of autistic children face struggles to fit into our current society. The aim of the blog is to raise more autism awareness, to offer support and advice to other families going through similar.

A lot of Sophie’s blog posts are about their experiences and adventures in the great outdoors. Both of Sophie’s boys love being outdoors, going to the beach, walking in the woods and on the moors.

Sophie believes that most autistic children love being outdoors and parents shouldn’t be afraid to take them out. Of course, the outing probably won’t be very relaxing but it will be worth it for the child’s experiences.

Sophie HolmesWhen Sophie first took Edward to the beach, he refused to even put his feet on to the sand. Then he would run off as far as he could along the beach and Sophie would have to sprint after him and physically carry him back.

In recent months, his behaviour on the beach has improved, he no longer runs off (he does still wander off but doesn’t run anymore). He also now takes an interest in playing with other children on the beach and he will actually build a sandcastle using a bucket.

Sophie also believes that autistic children thrive when they go camping. Edward absolutely loves the freedom of camping, the fact that he can collect some twigs and leaves and run around pretending that are spaceships. Then when he’s had enough of running around the campsite, he will just take himself into the bedroom compartment, climb into his sleeping bag and play on his tablet.

Again, just like visiting the beach, camping will not be relaxing for the parents. Before parents embark on a camping adventure they should contact the campsite first and ask how they can be supported.

For example, Harlyn Sands holiday park in Cornwall gave her the key to the disabled toilet to change Edward, a wristband with name and number and they gave the staff a description of Edward in case he had wondered off. Hendra Holiday park in Newquay also gave them free swimming passes and took them to the front of the queue. If the campsite aren’t forthcoming with these sorts of things then find somewhere else to stay.

Sophie spoke about her mental health struggles. She believes that initially people should phone their GP and then self refer to the Depression and Anxiety service.

Sophie was offered a place on a group CBT course. She was initially sceptical about this but soon discovered that not only did it equip her with tools to cope with her mental health, she also made friends with some terrific people who shared their journey together.

Sophie HolmesSophie also attended some hypnotherapy sessions with the lovely Tiffany Armitage in Ivybridge, Devon. These sessions don’t involve someone swinging a watch in front of your face but rather you are placed in a daydream like trance through guided story.

Sophie says that when you are having a bad day you must think to yourself ‘I’m allowed to have a bad day, everyone has a bad day. I know I will feel better tomorrow.’

Then have a shower, brush your teeth and get dressed (you might have to force yourself to do this, but you will feel better) That night, before you go to bed, plan a simple routine for the following day and work to achieve those small activities then reward yourself afterwards with a big bubble bath and play a relaxation track or something similar that you enjoy.

Above all, as parents of autistic children it is important to connect and reach out to other parents going through a similar journey. Keep talking and sharing experiences. You are not alone.

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