Speech. Mine, not Ian’s.

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This is the speech I gave at the book launch.  I hope you will find it interesting :-

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“When you are gifted with a child, you may not even be fully aware of it, but that child’s future lies mapped out in the back of your mind. A future that may include mundane things like a particular school, or college, or gainful employment … or special things like marriage, and children.

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But even if it includes none of those things, above anything else, it will include sharing.

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Sharing thoughts and ideas and jokes and opinions.

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Sharing conversation.

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When a child is diagnosed with autism, that future is wiped away from you. Now you are faced with a child who may never talk, will probably need a specialised education, is unlikely to go to college, may never marry or have children. A child who may never share. And you grieve. You grieve for the loss of something you may not even have known you had.

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Suddenly, everything is different.

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But what have I learned – in time – is this: Different needn’t be all bad.

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In fact, if you can embrace the different, there’s fun to be had.

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I’ll give you an example: One morning, a few years ago, Ian and I were doing the shopping in Tesco and Ian took it upon himself to fixate on the song ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ from Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, recreating the moment when Mary Poppins is getting ready before taking the children out for a walk. She puts on her hat in front of her mirror while she is singing, and her reflection sings back to her, in harmony. As Mary Poppins puts on her coat, she turns away and stops singing, but her reflection carries on without her, singing higher and higher and hitting a terrific top note. Mary Poppins turns back to the mirror, says “Cheeky!” sternly to her reflection, and then she walks away.

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As we were walking around Tesco that day, Ian sang that section of the song at the top of his voice, expecting me to harmonise with him (which I could), his boy soprano clear as a bell and hitting that top note flawlessly. Then he paused, looking at me, waiting for me to finish the sequence – ‘Cheeky!’ – and when I did, he grinned from ear to ear, and made me laugh with sheer enjoyment.

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Ian sang that song several times as we walked around the shop, and we certainly kept everyone in Tesco entertained.

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I was embracing the different, and we were having fun.  Together.

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And occasionally Ian’s language is just so perfect …

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The other night he leapt onto his bed, forgetting that his big continental cushion was on the floor, and he banged his head on his metal headboard. I was kneeling on the floor, ready to do evening prayers, and I gasped and looked at him. “That was silly,” I said. And after a pause, very quietly, Ian said “Yes, it was. Yes … it was.”

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I asked him, ”Are you okay?” and then he smiled and said “Yes,” and rubbed his head, repeating his mantra, “Must be careful. Must be careful.”

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That momentary connection is all the more precious for its rarity. And I thank my lucky stars for my ‘angel sent from heaven’ and I’m grateful for all the hours of work I was able to put in with him which mean that he can sometimes share wonderful, unforgettable moments, like this.

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The book being launched today, ‘From the Inside – raising, teaching, loving an autistic child’, is a story of two journeys:

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My journey into the working mind of my wonderful autistic son, and his journey … into our world.

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It is a story about the lows and highs of autism … from the INside.

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Thank you.”

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