We've had mixed experiences with Hardy's therapists over the last three and a half years. They tend to split into two camps, either they ask us what we want to work on (not an easy question to answer on the spur of the moment, particularly if you don't know what areas he's struggling with) or they assume because you're a parent, you're likely to be irrational, emotional. I've had to be extremely persistent recently to avoid being excluded from Hardy's most recent Occupational Therapy appointment at school. A lot of smiling and 'So what time would you like us to get here?' occurred over the course of a ten day period!

However, the best therapist we've ever had was one of the very first, a fantastic lady from the local Portage Service called Jenny. At this stage, we were floundering around, having recently had Hardy's diagnosis. We didn't have a clue what we were doing. We were like a couple of Keystone Kops, dashing around trying to make sense of this non-verbal ball of fury that we were trying to cope with.

She introduced us to masses of strategies and modelled how to work with Hardy. She made us our first schedules, an absolute cornerstone of our lives for years, we still use them to this day in the school holidays. She also introduced us to Target Time and Special Time. Target Time involved sitting Hardy at a little desk and giving him a schedule of short activities. We would mix ones that he enjoyed and could excel in, with ones that we knew he needed to work on such as; fine motor skills or labelling emotions. He took to it very quickly, though we did have a number of occasions when he tipped the table over in a rage! It was amazing how quickly our little bundle of fizzing energy was able to sit and focus for lengthy periods of time (on a good day, he'd manage over an hour, at the age of two and a half!). The final activity on the schedule was always Special Time. This involved getting out a specific mat and bag of toys that he was only allowed at this time. He'd sit on the mat and play while we commented on what he was doing. The important things were to leave him to lead the play, and for us to give him our undivided attention throughout. Years after Jenny's help, we were still doing Target Time, making all our own resources or using toys we already had at home.

The most important thing, though, was something Jenny said to me on her very last visit. I was devastated that she was leaving our lives, she'd been such a rock to me over the year she visited us, as well as being a mine of information. She told me that people would appear and disappear from Hardy's life over the years, that the only constant in it would be us, his parents. I can't overstate how important that statement was. It made me realise that the responsibility for raising Hardy is ours. This seems like such an obvious thing to say, but it made a real difference to how I felt. It's an unfortunate truth that some therapists can make you feel excluded, and even sometimes stupid and emotional. I felt enormously empowered by Jenny's words. Advice from professionals is endlessly welcome, and we listen very carefully to it, but fundamentally, we need to be the ones making decisions for our child. 

We've been ridiculously lucky with the nursery and school we chose for Hardy, he's thrived in both settings - and we have Jenny to thank for laying those initial rock solid foundations for us.

Cara is mum to Hardy, who is five and a half, has an autistic spectrum disorder, a complex language disorder and high levels of anxiety. She is currently taking an extended break from her career as a teacher. She fills her spare time making visual aids and resources for Hardy, and has a house full of PECS cards! She blogs at “Why My Autistic Son is Brilliant” which aims to focus on the positives of ASDs and living with a superhero who has an ASD.