Helping business owners and podcasters gain visibility and grow their presence online.

Why you need a virtual assistant

Why you need a virtual assistant

Many business owners are looking to outsource work as their businesses grow, but don’t know where to start or how to find the right person. A virtual assistant is the perfect solution. Virtual assistants can help you save time and grow your business by ensuring you’re spending more time on the tasks that will help your business grow. A virtual assistant can be a valuable asset, providing you with freedom, efficiency and productivity. 

A virtual assistant can be a secret weapon for your business, and you may want to consider hiring one at some point. Your time is valuable, and if you spend it on tasks that don’t require your expertise, you lose time and money. To improve your profitability, you need to look hard at your business and determine what tasks can be outsourced. Once you have sourced your perfect virtual assistant, you can start reaping the rewards!

Virtual assistants excel at helping with all sorts of tasks, from writing blog posts to managing your social media accountsand sending out newsletters to planning events and booking flights. You name it. If you decide to try working with a virtual assistant, I recommend starting small with a few basic tasks and then building up from there.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of our businesses and lose sight of what’s important. But if we aren’t careful, we can end up sinking too much of our valuable time into the mundane tasks that don’t necessarily have a big impact on our business. While it might seem sensible in the short term to avoid having to hire a full-time employee, paying for things like a virtual assistant can be more cost-effective in the long run, allowing you to concentrate on your core business offerings.

Save time – save money – get more done!

Podcast take over: S03 E20 Psychics by We Knew the Moon

Podcast take over: S03 E20 Psychics by We Knew the Moon

Listen as Randa Podcasts with sister on We Knew the Moon Podcast.

"My sis Randa is back to talk to us about Psychics. Who is Glen and why do we love him so? If there are spiritual fakes, does that mean there are no spiritual reals? Do all psychics talk to ghosts? How did psychics influence the Cold War? Who is Joan Quigley? What does Derren Brown think of psychics? What does he convince people he is capable of when he goes to the States? And how? What is confirmation bias and how does it play a role? Who is Sally Morgan? Would you be open to someone testing your skills and abilities? What are hot and cold readings? What is the Forer Effect? Is self-delusion harmful or a healthy coping mechanism?"
Adult autism diagnoses: Why, what’s the point?

Adult autism diagnoses: Why, what’s the point?

There has been a renewed wave of interest in autism when the spotlight was shone on TV presenter and model Melanie Sykes and TV personality and National Autistic Society ambassador Christine McGuiness, who both recently revealed that they had, in their adult years, been diagnosed as autistic.

Their diagnoses shattered and challenged many of the beliefs that society held about autism, who it affects and how. Neither Melanie Sykes, nor Christine McGuiness, fit the stereotypes surrounding autism. They are seemingly confident – they are TV personalities after all – articulate, expressive, compassionate, empathetic, personable and even funny – everything we have been taught that autism isn’t. But was society wrong about autism all along? The simple answer is yes.

But why is there a sudden increase in adults being diagnosed with autism? Why obtain a diagnosis during your adult years? What benefit can this have, knowing either way? Why were adults not diagnosed in their younger years? How could it have been missed by their parents, teachers and doctors?

It is important to begin answering some of these questions by explicitly stating that there is not an increase in the existence of autistic people, there is an increase in diagnoses. Statistics will tell you that one in a hundred people are diagnosed with autism. This is true. But how many autistic people are without a diagnosis? Recent research suggests the figure could be one in 28. While reports vary from country to country, the figures of the number of autistic people are always far higher than the number diagnosed. 

Diagnosis has always been deemed a privilege, which is why in the autism community self-diagnosis is revered and accepted; the community as a whole is very accepting, by nature. The reason why diagnosis is considered a hard-to-come-by privilege is the hoops one has to jump through to acquire one – a multitude of pre-assessments and a years-long waiting list with the NHS, or the cost of a private diagnosis. 

Concurrent to all the above-mentioned difficulties in accessing a diagnosis and the vast number of autistic people either unaware that they are autistic, or aware but unable to easily access diagnosis, is the unacceptable tragedy that they have been lacking in vital support. Once a diagnosis is obtained, the doors (with a bit of resistance) open to speech therapy, occupational therapy, mental health services and more. For years, many – women and girls especially – were misdiagnosed as having anxiety or simply being “eccentric”, “difficult”, “awkward” or “shy”. According to the charity Autistica, seven out of ten autistic people have a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or OCD.

About one per cent of the adult population has been diagnosed with autism. Nearly half of autistic adults will experience clinical depression in their lifetime, according to new research published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Autism is not a condition that affects children alone, although it is a common myth that autistic children will “grow out of it”. Autistic children become autistic adults, often requiring lifelong assistance and support.

Another reason why adult diagnoses have proliferated is the fact that autism is predominantly a genetic condition, something of which we are becoming increasingly aware. Adults of the millennial generation and before are often finding out about their own autism after their kids have been diagnosed. This is often because they see their own traits in their children, raising questions about whether they are in fact neurodiverse themselves. 

Here are some common autistic traits in adults (according to the NHS):

  • Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • Getting very anxious about social situations
  • Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • Finding it hard to say how you feel
  • Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg”
  • Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes
  • Not understanding social “rules”, such as not talking over people
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
  • Noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not
  • Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • Planning things carefully before doing them

Reading this list, it is plausible that, some years ago, when our understanding of autism and neurodiversity as a whole was far less clear, these traits could be labelled as something other than autism. This is precisely how generations of autistic people have slipped through the net. Excusable though? I am still not convinced. 

So, does obtaining a diagnosis in adult years raise more questions than it answers? Or does it serve to quell those questions you’ve asked yourself your entire life but couldn’t ever really conclusively explain? Many autistic adults have reported being relieved by their diagnosis, that they finally had answers to questions they had mulled over for years, that they had been given permission to be authentically themselves, and, fundamentally, that they had been able to be kinder to themselves. Diagnosis = medical (and even financial) support. Diagnosis = self-acceptance. Diagnosis = self-understanding. 

So, why are more and more adults choosing to seek diagnoses? As Christine McGuiness so beautifully put it, “I’m trying to be a bit more myself now.”

Translation & Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

Translation & Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince

A lot of my work consists of editing translated writing. I’ve written before about how different translations of the same text can convey a very different essence and flavour, despite the original subject being the same (see my blog post on Albert Camus’s book, The Stranger).

One of the books most dear to me is Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. Although it’s only in adult life that the profound messages in the book weren’t lost on me.

My favourite passage from the book is the phrase, “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

There are lots of different translations of this famous passage, but this is the one that moves me the most, although there are only very subtle variations in the translations.

Which translation do you prefer? 💫💫💫✨

#CopyEditorsOfInstagram #WritersOfInstagram #CopywritersOfInstagram #ProofreadersofInstagram
#WritingCommunity #Editor #Writer
#ContentWriter #CopyWriter #Journalist #CharteredInstituteOfEditingAndProofreading #CIEP
#StyleGuides #StyleManuals #Books
#AssociatedPress #FreelanceCommunity
#Solopreneur #FreelanceLife #WritingTips #ContentWritingCommunity #WomenInBusiness #News #MediaEditor #NewsEditor #thelittleprince #thelittleprincequotes #antoinedesaintexupéry

When you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”

When you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”, it troubles me because your understanding of race/ethnicity/culture/heritage doesn’t take into account all the shades of grey and richness that exist outside of your own. I appreciate your sentiment, but what you are implying without realising is that I should be pleased, and even flattered, because I would rather be like you than like me. 
When you say to me, “I don’t see you as a foreigner”, I want you to see that we are different from one another, that we see the world through different eyes. That what bothers me perhaps doesn’t even faze you. That I do not want my culture/race/ethnicity/heritage to be erased by you to make you feel more comfortable; because we are not the same, but that’s ok – good, even. 

When you say to me, “I see you as British”, it’s problematic for me, because your equation of ‘Britishness’ with ‘greatness’ is something to which you think I should aspire. I agree with your high regard for Britishness, but I want you to understand that I don’t see my ‘foreignness’ as a hindrance or a hardship, nor something from which to distance. 

You may not even be aware of all the nuances and implications of your words, but I want you to acknowledge and appreciate the value of the complexities and the intricacies of the cultures that exist in the UK, that have formed the foundation of the country in which you and I live, and to know that foreigners are not burdened by their ‘otherness’ – quite the contrary! And neither should you be on our behalves. The UK that we adore is not homogeneous, and nor should we want it to be.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I love the UK and all its glorious Britishness: Sunday roasts, a stoic resolve, a stiff upper lip in times of adversity, not running for shelter when it rains, Pimm’s O’clock, James Bond, the 2021 England football team, a comforting cup of builder’s tea to solve even the world’s worst crises, Princess Diana, a meticulous politeness that never falters, the Harvester and even spotted dick. 

So when you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”, what I want to say to you is, “but unfortunately, you are.”

12 facts about me

1. I’m a Guardian-reading, left-wing socialist. It’s how my parents raised me, and I thank them for that. I still live in hope that one day we can live in a fair and equal society.

2. I have four-year-old twins called Che (boy) and Rio (girl). They are named after Che Guevara and the Duran Duran song.

3. I’ve been with my husband for 21 years. He’s good, so I kept him. (Dear Zoo book reference)

4. My hobbies are… umm… I think my kids sabotage the potential of having hobbies.
If I were to have hobbies, they would be doing yoga, watching Netflix, sunbathing with a newspaper and drinking coffee in silence.

5. My biggest professional achievements to date have been being interviewed by Zainab Badawi on BBC World News and having my research published in a book (both are in post photos).

6. I only have three fiction books in my bookcase – The Little Prince, Animal Farm and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I have read others though! I am a SERIOUS non-fiction enthusiast. I’d take a newspaper or journal any day over a novel. Same with my TV choices; real life fascinates me. This is precisely why I specialise in non-fiction in my professional life. 

7. My twins are autistic so I spend a lot of time researching and learning as much as I can about autism.

8. For 12 years I worked as a secondary teacher in London comprehensive schools (and simultaneously as a union representative), with a prior career in academic research and journalism. Teaching in comprehensive schools taught me a lot about society, and it’s injustices.

9. I’m Palestinian and Belgian, have lived in London for over 30 years and speak a handful of languages, badly.

10. I love a quiet, simple life. Less is definitely more. I dream of countryside living and moving out of London one day.

11. I’ve played guitar for almost 30 years. Sadly, this is not reflective of my ability!

12. I really love what I do and still thank my lucky stars daily that I was able to turn my passion into my business. It didn’t come easily, having to retrain while still teaching and raising toddlers, but that makes the fruit even sweeter. 

Why I never judge a person’s grammar and spelling

I cannot emphasise this enough.

I often have people apologise to me for their spelling and grammar, or for mistakes in their text messages and emails (who has the time to proofread a text anyway?). 

Although it’s what I do for a living, I never deem it ok to correct a person’s grammar (unless hired to!) or to judge them for errors. 

Why? Because it’s ableist, it’s classist, it’s potentially racist, and it’s downright rude and naughty. It’s called linguistic prescriptivism. Don’t do it.

I also believe in creativity in language and linguistics, so let’s not be pedants and accept that language, and even punctuation, is fluid. If Merriam-Webster can accept the term ‘irregardless’ into its dictionaries, then we, too, should be more open-minded.

Aujourd’hui, maman est morte

This article from The New Yorker (link below) initially caught my attention because I have loved this existentialist book since my teenage years, but also because it highlights issues in translation. 

I work with a lot of translators and much of my editing work deals with writing that has been translated into English. 

Last week, I received two versions of the same article translated from Arabic into English, and they could not have been more different. 

Both were excellent translations. They conveyed the same message, the facts were identical, but the style, mood and the essence were so contrasting.

There are so many different ways of saying the same thing, and it is these style choices that really differentiate one writer from another. 

Personally, I’ve always loved the starkness of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce’s writings. They taught me that you don’t need to say a lot, to say so much.

Enjoy the article!

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/lost-in-translation-what-the-first-line-of-the-stranger-should-be?utm_campaign=falcon&utm_brand=tny&utm_medium=social&mbid=social_facebook&utm_social-type=owned&utm_source=facebook

My Twins, Their Autism and the Diagnosis Process

My Twins, Their Autism and the Diagnosis Process

Our story

I had a strong inkling that my daughter was autistic when she was around eighteen months old, and with my son a few months later. They were born prematurely, six weeks early, and until this point, I had put their developmental delays down to this. However, my 12 years as a teacher in my previous career helped me to identify some of the traits I saw in autistic children that I had previously taught – the difficulty with transitions, the obsession with order and routine, the disinterest in peers, the sensory-seeking, the sensory overload, the inconsistent eye contact, the sometimes-destructive tendencies, the delayed and limited speech and the sensitivity to changes in their environments. It was a slow and gradual realisation, but it meant that it wasn’t a shock to receive the diagnoses.

Both twins displayed their traits very differently, but my worries were confirmed by the nurse who conducted their 27-month review. Horrified by my son’s anarchic and wilful disregard for convention (arguably a familial trait, also one that I am covertly proud of), and my daughter’s enjoyment of eating the beads rather than lacing them on a string as instructed, the nurse noted, “they’re very sensory, aren’t they?” I immediately knew what she was tactfully implying.

To my surprise, both twins moved along the NHS system quite quickly, despite having heard that waiting times can be protracted. Their 27-month review took place in December, by the following January they were reviewed by NHS speech therapists, and by March they were seen by a paediatrician (not for diagnosis, for review). The paediatrician went through a checklist of generic questions regarding the twins’ development (both were seen separately), she then conducted some activities with them. At the end of my daughter’s review, the doctor confirmed that she believed she had autism and would place her on the “pathway” for diagnosis. I asked her whether she had any previous cases of patients whom she believed to be autistic but were in fact not, to which she answered a firm “no”. 

One week later, my son was reviewed by the same paediatrician. My son is very people-oriented; he lavishes in attention, is very chatty and has been described by many as “charming”. For these reasons, people are often in disbelief that he is autistic. The paediatrician was of the same assumption and discharged him, concluding that he was “just a boy with a lot of energy who gets easily frustrated.”

It was only six months later when the two speech therapists in his group speech therapy session asked to speak to me at the end to relay their concerns that my son was autistic. Their reasoning was that he repeated almost everything that they had said. I naively believed that this was his way of being engaged and attentive. I now know this to be called “echolalia” and that it is quite a clear indication of autism. 

My son was then also placed on the pathway, however, his diagnosis would take place at least eight months after his sister’s, who was referred much sooner, because the initial paediatrician who reviewed him discharged him incorrectly. This presented a huge complicating factor, in that we wanted them both to have their diagnoses at a similar time so as to move them to a specialist school, if necessary, simultaneously.

My daughter’s NHS diagnosis 

My daughter’s NHS diagnosis occurred almost exactly a year after her 27-month review. During the year-long period, she had multiple speech therapy sessions and was reviewed by an occupational therapist, so the time spent waiting did not seem “lost”. The clinicians employed the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) testing, whereby the paediatrician asked us a checklist of questions regarding her development, while another clinician conducted practical tasks with her.

This process lasted under an hour. The clinicians then had a discussion amongst themselves before inviting us back in to give us their verdict. At this stage, the diagnosis did not come as a shock, and was mainly a formality so that we could get my daughter the necessary support that she needed and deserved. The paediatrician was a very kind man, who provided us with reassurances and an abundance of leaflets about support services available. He had a fantastic approach in dealing with us in a very human manner, understanding that the news can be daunting to receive.

I have been very impressed by the level of care given to us by the NHS. Speech therapists are some of the most compassionate and patient people I have met, and the quality of care has been generally outstanding, especially considering the strangulating effect of budget cuts and underfunding that the NHS has endured under the current political regime.

My son’s private diagnosis

Following my daughter’s diagnosis, I decided to obtain a private diagnosis for my son, to move proceedings along. I came across an organisation called Autism Unravelled, run by two dynamic women – Louise (speech and language therapist) and Rebecca (clinical psychologist). After speaking to Louise, we booked my son in for a diagnosis to take place in our home, one month after his sister’s NHS diagnosis.

Louise and Rebecca were warm, reassuring and really understood my son. They are familiar with the anxieties that parents can have, and really helped to demystify our situation. They delivered their result, not in an automated and impersonal way, but they handled us with “kid gloves”, which is exactly what I needed. I wanted to be spoken to like I was a parent filled with apprehension over my children’s futures, and I wanted someone to help appease that, which they did. I felt like we had met the “right” people to help us, to give us counsel and to steer us in the right direction. Louise and Rebecca explained our son’s needs, but most importantly, while also highlighting his strengths. This was new for us, as I felt that until this point all I could distil from previous appointments was, “your child will have difficulties with x, y and z…” 

Post-diagnoses

It is easy to feel like you are drowning when you first find out that your child(ren) are autistic – in fear, in helplessness and in an overwhelm of information. My knee-jerk reaction was to Google every possible intervention that money could buy, in an attempt to “remedy” the situation. Did we need an ABA therapist, a music therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist?

A diagnosis is crucial to unlocking support for your child – whether that be in the form of a teaching assistant at school, or speech and occupational therapy, and potentially more. A positive diagnosis of autism is not a life sentence, it is only the start of your new collective journey.

I would also like to stress that your child is no different after diagnosis than the child you knew before. During my time as a teacher, I often wondered why some parents refused diagnosis, as their dislike for “labels” was depriving their child of the support and intervention to which they deserve access. A friend and former colleague, who is a SENCO, once told me, “if you don’t get your child a diagnosis, they will still have a label, and it might be ‘the naughty kid’.” If ever there was a valid argument for diagnosis, this was certainly one.

We are now reimagining our futures, and although there are still lingering question marks, I feel optimistic. I am under no illusion that my “real” children are hiding underneath an invisible veil of autism, and that with time this will be shed. This is the real them. They have quirky, captivating and endearing personalities, their uniqueness is what I admire most about them, and it is our job as parents to embrace that and to help remove their barriers and struggles.

My Guest Blog Post for Autism Unravelled

My Guest Blog Post for Autism Unravelled

My Twins, Their Autism and the Diagnosis Process

https://www.autism-unravelled.com/blog/2020/6/11/autism-assessment-amp-diagnosis-a-parent-voice

This month the Autism Unravelled Blog has a take-over guest, a parent who has been through the autism diagnostic process twice with her girl and boy twins.  We approached Randa, who is the mother of 3.5 year old twins as we felt that she has a unique story to tell which would be helpful for those families who are yet to have an autism diagnostic assessment or who are still processing and making sense of their diagnosis as a family.

Randa shares her experiences of top tips and useful resources for families awaiting diagnosis. She describes her own experiences of two diagnostic assessments for her twins, and her decision to undertake a private assessment for her son.   Randa is a working mum who juggles looking after her twins by day and fits in her work around caring for her family. The juggle is real and Randa shares her parent lockdown survival guide.  We would like to take the opportunity to thank Randa for sharing her experience of the journey so far.  Randa’s parent voice provides beautifully honest, relatable insights and we hope it gives you some understanding of her journey to date.

Question: What was your experience of going through a diagnostic assessment with your twins, I know your daughter was diagnosed by NHS clinicians and your son privately. Can you tell us how that felt from your point of view?

Randa’s Perspective

I had a strong inkling that my daughter had autism when she was around eighteen months old, and with my son a few months later. They were born prematurely, six weeks early, and until this point, I had put their developmental delays down to this. However, my 12 years as a teacher in my previous career helped me to identify some of the traits I saw in children with autism that I had previously taught – the difficulty with transitions, the obsession with order and routine, the disinterest in peers, the sensory-seeking, the sensory overload, the inconsistent eye contact, the sometimes destructive tendencies, the delayed and limited speech and the sensitivity to changes in their environments. It was a slow and gradual realisation, but it meant that it wasn’t a shock to receive the diagnoses.

Both twins displayed their traits very differently, but my worries were confirmed by the nurse who conducted their 27-month review. Horrified by my son’s anarchic and wilful disregard for convention (arguably a familial trait, and one that I am covertly proud of), and my daughter’s enjoyment of eating the beads rather than lacing them on a string, as instructed, the nurse noted, “they’re very sensory, aren’t they?” I knew immediately what she was tactfully implying.

To my surprise, both twins moved along the NHS system quite quickly, despite having heard that the waiting times can be protracted. Their 27-month review took place in December, by the following January they were reviewed by NHS speech therapists, and by March they were seen by a paediatrician (not for diagnosis, for review). The paediatrician went through a checklist of generic questions regarding the twins’ development (both were seen separately), she then conducted some play-based activities with them. At the end of my daughter’s review, the doctor confirmed that she believed that she had autism and would place her on the “pathway” for diagnosis. I asked her whether she had any previous cases of patients who she believed to be autistic but in fact were not, to which she answered a firm “no”.

The paediatrician was clinical, and delivered her findings in a very matter-of-fact way. I hoped that she would follow with some points of reassurance, but we were swiftly told that my daughter would be placed on the pathway and would be seen for review by other professionals, but that the wait for actual diagnosis would be lengthy.

A week later, my son was reviewed by the same paediatrician. My son is very people-oriented, he lavishes in attention, is very chatty and has been described by many as “charming”. For these reasons, people are often in disbelief that he has autism. The paediatrician was of the same assumption, and discharged him concluding that he was “just a boy with a lot of energy who gets easily frustrated.”

It was only six months later, when the two speech therapists in his group speech therapy sessions asked to speak to me at the end to relay their concerns that my son had autism. Their reasoning was that he repeated almost everything that they were saying. I naively believed that this was his way of being engaged and attentive to their activities. I now know this to be called “echolalia” and that it is quite a clear indicator of autism.

My son was then placed on the pathway as well, however, his diagnosis would take place at least eight months after his sister’s, who was referred much sooner, because the initial paediatrician who reviewed him was incorrect. This presented a huge complicating factor, in that we wanted them both to have their diagnoses at a similar time so as to move them to a specialist school, if necessary, simultaneously.

My daughter’s NHS diagnosis took place almost exactly a year after her 27-month review. During the year-long period, she had multiple speech therapy sessions and was reviewed by an occupational therapist, so the time spent waiting did not seem “lost”. The clinicians employed the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) testing, whereby the paediatrician asked us a checklist of questions regarding her development etc, while another clinician conducted play-based activities with her.

This process lasted under an hour, the clinicians then had a discussion amongst themselves before inviting us back in to give us their verdict. At this stage, the diagnosis did not come as a shock, and was mainly a formality so that we could get my daughter the necessary support that she needed and deserved. The paediatrician, Dr Najib Yusuf, was a very kind man, who did provide us with reassurances and an abundance of leaflets and information about support services available. He had a fantastic approach in dealing with us in a very human manner, understanding that the news can be daunting to receive.

I have been very impressed by the level of care given to us by the NHS. Speech therapists are some of the loveliest people I have met, and the quality of care has been generally outstanding, especially considering the strangulating effect of budget cuts and underfunding the NHS have endured under the current political regime administration.

Question: Your boy twin was diagnosed by Autism Unravelled, what was the experience like for you to follow a private route?

Randa’s Perspective

It was following my daughter’s diagnosis that I decided to look into obtaining a private diagnosis for my son, so that he wouldn’t have to wait up to a year longer for his NHS diagnosis. I consulted Google and read through posts online, and came across Autism Unravelled. After speaking to Louise on the phone, we booked my son in for a diagnosis to take place in our home, one month after his sister’s NHS diagnosis.

Louise (speech and language therapist) and Rebecca (clinical psychologist) were warm, reassuring and, most importantly, they understood my son instantly. They are also so familiar with the anxieties that parents can have in this position, and really helped to demystify the situation for us, with their clear guidance and advice. It is easy to feel like you are drowning when you first find out that your child(ren) has/have autism – in fear, in panic and in an overwhelm of available information.

My knee jerk reaction was to Google every possible intervention and support that money could buy, in an attempt to “remedy” the situation. Did we need an ABA therapist, a music therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist?

Louise and Rebecca really helped to clarify our situation for us, explaining our son’s needs, but most importantly, also highlighting his strengths. This was new for us, as I felt that until this point all I could distil from previous appointments was, “your child will have difficulties with x, y and z ……” They helped to alleviate our worries, and transform them into optimism.

Rebecca sat with my husband and I to talk us through the assessment questions for parents, which seemed much more specific and detailed than the previous assessment we had for our daughter. Meanwhile, Louise sat with my son in another room to conduct the play-based activities with him and assess his speech. He had not yet met Louise prior to this, and I feared he wouldn’t be compliant, but Louise obviously has the magic touch because he willingly participated without a fuss.

The whole process was much less daunting than our previous experience, especially having taken place in our home. Louise and Rebecca delivered their result, not in an automated and impersonal way, but they handled us with “kid gloves”, which is exactly what I needed. I wanted to be spoken to like I was a parent filled with fear and apprehension over my children’s futures and I wanted someone to help appease that, which they did. I felt like we had met the “right” people to help us, to give us counsel and to steer us in the right direction. Once we received the diagnosis report from Louise and Rebecca, we were booked in for an hour-long call to discuss any further questions or concerns that we had.

I have since been in contact with Louise and Rebecca for several reasons, and they are my first port of call when I have any questions regarding difficult decisions we have to make on behalf of the twins. They have been marvellous in advising us on the statutory assessment and educational health care plan (EHCP) processes, and also the very heavy decision about which type of school would be best for our twins – mainstream or specialist.

I can also, without hesitation, recommend the Autism Unravelled team to any parents in a similar situation. I am lucky that we found them in the early stages of our autism journey and I know that they will continue to be a part of our process in the future.

 We are now reimagining our futures, and although there are still lingering question marks, I feel positive. I am under no illusion that my “real” children are hiding underneath an invisible veil of autism, and that with time this will be shed. This is the real them. They have quirky, captivating and endearing personalities, their uniqueness is what I admire most about them, and it is our job as parents to embrace that and to help remove their barriers and struggles.

Question: Was your assessment report from Autism Unravelled accepted by your local authority?

Randa’s Perspective

I have not had any difficulties with this as Autism Unravelled use the commonly employed ADOS system for diagnosis, as does the NHS. According to SENDIASS, private reports will be given the same consideration as reports commissioned by the school or local authority.

Question: What advice would you give to families who are currently awaiting an autism diagnosis?

There is a lot that you can be doing while you wait for your child’s diagnosis. It is not “lost” time. Autism Unravelled can advise on what kind of intervention and support may be right for your child, whether it may be seeing a speech therapist or occupational therapist etc. We had several music therapy sessions while we waited for my daughter’s diagnosis, as singing is her passion, which really helped her interaction and attention-skills, and was a real pleasure to see her engage in something with such enjoyment.

Look into acquiring inclusion funding through your child’s educational institution. While we waited for our twins’ diagnoses, their school was able to secure inclusion funding to obtain an additional teaching assistant to work with them, which has had an immense and beneficial impact.

I quickly tried to educate myself as much as possible about autism and how I could help my children myself. Louise and Rebecca recommended a book which I have now passed onto other family members, as well as to other parents in a similar boat – Autism: How to raise a happy Autistic child, by Jessie Hewitson. It is written by a mother of an autistic son, in a very relatable, readable and even humorous way, without the scientific jargon or the doom and gloom I encountered in some other books. I also enjoyed reading books by Temple Grandin, a professor, prominent author and speaker on autism and animal behaviour, and on the spectrum herself.

I also got in touch with Skylarks charity, based in Twickenham, who are an SEN charity offering a range of free activities and classes for children and their siblings, as well as support for parents and carers. I would really recommend looking into local charities and support networks available to you, they really helped me not to feel isolated by the situation. The National Autistic Society is also an excellent resource, and their website is a great place to start. Attending my local children’s centre’s SEN playgroup also helped to be able to speak to other parents of children with additional needs, and to hear their experiences of the road ahead. By making connections, you can really help lift that feeling of isolation and doubt about what to do next.

I would also like to emphasise and stress that your child is no different after diagnosis than the child you knew before. During my time as a teacher, I often wondered why some parents refused diagnosis, as their dislike for “labels” was depriving their child of the support and intervention that they deserved to have access to. A friend and former colleague, who is a SENCo, once told me, “if you don’t get your child a diagnosis, they will still have a label, and it might be ‘the naughty kid’.” If ever there was a valid argument for diagnosis, this was certainly one.

A diagnosis merely means that you can now be entitled to assistance for your child. It is crucial to unlocking support for your child – whether that be in the form of a teaching assistant at school, or speech therapy and occupational therapy, and potentially more. A positive diagnosis of autism is not a life sentence, it is only the start of your new collective journey.

A drop of ink may make a million think. – Lord Byron

A drop of ink may make a million think. – Lord Byron

The Palestinian narrative is too often recounted – and distorted – and not by the actors of the story themselves. 

With the bombing of our cultural centres and the confiscation of our land, to the appropriation of our hummus, the Israeli occupation is making every effort to efface us not only from the map, but also from history. 

But a land without a people, for a people without a land, we are not. Advocating and preserving our culture, heritage and history – while also triggering awareness and altering Western perceptions of the Middle East – is essential, and it is the collective moral duty of all Palestinians. 

Now, with the proliferation of social media as a conduit for democratising and delivering current news globally, transcending and reaching all strata of society, we have a form of direct action. Through words we can achieve dialogue, and through dialogue we can achieve understanding.

The late Yasser Arafat used to say, “The Palestinian National Movement is not only the gun of the freedom fighter, but also the pen of the writer, the brush of the painter, the words of the poet.” 

Now that the Palestinians have abandoned the dialogue by arms and resort to the arms of dialogue, there is now more than ever a need for Palestinians to find a means to chronicle our history and struggle as a vehicle for resistance against negation and extinction; through self-narration, self-definition and self-representation.