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Keeping it real and strengths!

On Friday, my 21-year-old amazing son, Rian, was officially diagnosed with Autism. I always knew that Rian was different and wonderful, right from when he was a baby. Throughout his primary and secondary school years I had many conversations with teachers about Rian’s behaviour. I even had him privately assessed twice. This highlighted dyslexia and borderline attention deficit disorder. I started to question my parenting style and as an educator became ever more frustrated with not getting to the bottom of Rian’s complex symptoms.

Rian became less sociable and his communication decreased as he headed towards his mid-teens. He avoided at all cost any social situation that meant he’d have to communicate with others.

His main focus is football; he’s a mean left-footed defender and can tell you everything you need to know about Arsenal. He plays for a local team on Sundays and takes part in the weekly 5k Park Run on a Saturday.

He’s also an expert in technology and can help you with anything ICT related!

On Friday, whilst we were with the consultant who was giving his professional expertise, I tried to remain grounded and fix my ‘anchor’. But I just burst into tears. In the evening I reflected on the work of Brene Brown, who talks passionately about  ‘the power of vulnerability’,  in short how at times we should show vulnerability and why this is good for our mind, body and soul. As a professional others think we’re superhuman! I think it’s helpful for others to know that professionals do indeed have challenges in life.

On Friday my thoughts were on Rian and how as a family we’re going to support him with his confidence, communication and long-term independence.

The first thing is to focus on Rian’s strengths: he is selflessly kind, loyal and has an amazing smile. This year he attended his football club’s end of year awards ceremony – a very big decision for him, which must have been incredibly daunting as he struggles in social situations. His team voted him ‘Players’ Player’ and his coach said that he should be playing professionally! To receive this accolade from his teammates meant a lot to Rian.

Autism or not, as human beings there is too much focus on what we can’t do and how we should behave to fit in to society, which can actually lead to people not being themselves! This can have an impact on our mind, body and souls.

Make a list of your strengths and qualities and ask family, friends and colleagues to do the same. You are unique, amazing and special!

Focus on your strengths and just be you!

For you Rian! Ooh Child! You are loved and admired!

Further reading: Brene Brown – Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.


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  • Sue Atkins

    Laura a difficult and emotional time for you but also a time of healing and by focusing on Rian’s strengths a time of wonderful opportunities to explore together. It’s only natural to have a pause to ponder moment and to reflect on this discovery but with your wonderfully positive outlook on life and your practicality Rian has all he needs to feel supported, nurtured and loved. Perhaps you will now go on to inspire other parents on their journeys as in every challenge there is also a gift. Sue

  • Tom

    Laura, I agree with Sue, it is an amazing opportunity and Rian has two advantages; he has some amazingly focussed skills and he has a stunning mother.

    An old friend, now sadly passed, who had severe cerebral palsy used to say when asked what his disability was would say – it’s the rest of the world… although somewhat ruder!

    Go well and worry not about tears, they wash away some pain and help…

    Love Tom x

  • Karen McIntyre

    Beautiful words Laura and so inspiring. With a mum/role model like you Rian will continue to thrive.
    I can totally relate to the joy, frustration and complete despair of parenting a child who just doesn’t learn in a conventional manner.
    Good luck with your journey and remember Rian’s strengths at all times.

  • stephanie

    Laura, I’m in complete agreement with both comments above. You are incredibly positive and Rain will have nothing to worry about with you in his life.

  • Joana Smith

    Laura, this is indeed a very moving and soul searching piece for everyone to read. I have always seen and admired the strong and positive business woman that you are. This piece has shown the caring, nurturing and vulnerable side of you, which I greatly respect. Rian will always succeed in whatever he puts his mind to knowing that he has the love and support of his family.

  • Penny Webb

    A lovely ‘from the heart’ blog Laura. Having known you for a number of years, I know you have questioned yourself and thought about reasons in connection to your son many times. I am glad you now know the core reason and can now tailor your support to meet his specific needs.

    As grandmother to a child with aspergers, and two more showing early signs, I fully understand the difficulties both for the young person and his or her family, at times it is mot easy, but everyone has strengths and weakness not just those with a label. My own difficulties were not officially diagnosed until I was 56, knowing what my issues are did not change me, but it does help others understand and support me more effectively.

    With showing own own feelings, strengths and weaknesses I have always believed in doing this, and certainly in my role as a registered childminder and now foster carer I think it is essential in supporting the children to understand their own feelings and that a) it is normal, and b) that it is how uou manage those feelings that is important, ie not hiding them, or ‘kicking off’ but being honest and discussing.

    However there was one aspect to your blog which ‘hit home’ the reference to ‘Superwoman’. I think that as caring, passionate people, in general we find it hard to say ‘no’ , hard to not offer help or support, and therefore put others needs before our own. The result is our health suffers and eventually we just can not do any more. I have learnt this lesson very recently.

    So I totally agree with every point you make

  • Sue Cowley

    What a lovely blog, Laura. Agree with everything that you and the other commentators have said. You are a wonderful and strong person.

  • Sue Jones

    Brilliant Blog Laura! As ever you are heart warming, honest and thought provoking. Always looking at life’s journey as a medium to help others learn from your experiences. At work and at home you touch many with your Early Years and Parenting knowledge and support coupled with your awesome signature determination to keep upping the ante! Kisses to you both xxxx

  • Sarka Juric

    Dear Laura, this is a lovely blog… in the words of ‘Forest Gump’… Life is a box of chocolate, you never know, what you are going to get…and we should appreciate what we have. Rian has a fabulous and loving mum and supporting family… I can see a rising star here! Sx

  • Helen Tate

    As a mother of an inspirational daughter with specific needs I know the array of feelings you have and are going through. I have shed tears, lay awake for many nights, hugged her tightly and like you have wondered if I have done something wrong along the way. Like Rian, sport is her life line and has given her confidence beyond belief. My daughter is amazing and we as a family support and encourage her to follow her path and not that of anyone or anything else. She has soooo many strengths and she/ we use these to her advantage. There are times when I am not quite sure what to do ( not sure if you are supposed to say that as a mum!!!!!) but as you know…. time, patience and love overcome anything. You are amazing Laura and looking forward is the key. X

  • Sally

    Hi Laura,

    Rian is one very lucky son!! It sounds like he and you have dealt with perfectly up till now, so just carry on. Trust your instincts!!

    All the best,


  • Jennifer McQuillan

    Dear Laura,

    Thank you for a beautiful and heartfelt glimpse into your family life – thank goodness your son has the support he needs and one INCREDIBLE mother. Working with children with a variety of additional needs, I am aware how challenging things can be sometimes … Our parents do a stirling job. May Rian continue to grow and develop further as the lovely young man he has become, under your loving and guided stewardship.

  • Beth Thomas

    This resonates very close to home for me. My 9yr old has issues with processing things and struggles a lot in social situations. I hate to see him struggle and really hope that one day things will get easier for him. It can be really frustrating, particularly as a childcare professional, to be unable to provide your own child with what he needs, but we do our best – which is all we can do. Definitely remaining hopeful for a brightening easier future. Xx

  • Catherine Lyon

    Ah! xxx

    Sometimes it’s the diagnosis that a parent needs to hear. However, I remember Laura conversations we had about your son …. meeting HIS needs was your mission and as a result his current achievements are a credit to you! As a practitioner ‘meeting individual needs’ is what I ‘home’ into, which is why I can recall our conversation so clearly.

    I think it is hard to be a mother and a practitioner. Extra pressure (more so within I expect) when ‘leading practice’ (which you do). There is so much emphasis on being ‘professional’ but in my opinion, FEELING and reflecting on feelings IS being just that!

    🙂 We know it is only by reflecting do we LEARN and by sharing so do others!

    As practitioners we need to remember that parents always know their children best, unfortunately, some don’t have the confidence, will, know how or are resourced to fight for their children.

    Brene Brown – Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
    – another for the reading list! WHEN do you get the time?!

  • Stephanie Dorling

    I have just read this and feel so inspired! I have sat in many MDA assessments with parents, receiving news of a diagnosis for their child, and I’m sat there thinking, now be strong! (That’s me, not the parent)
    Parents absolutely have the right to express that emotion and in some ways it is as much about a release! Human nature! Compassionate understanding and empathy.
    Recently a EYSENIT told us as a staff team to focus always on the positive, that way the child receives less negativity and does not hear the language that is associated with the doom and gloom! I think a valuable lesson for life in general.
    Gorgeous blog entry as ever Ms Henry, good luck to your courageous son on this new chapter with the business.

  • Tracy Seed

    Dear Laura
    The journey of parenting can be the deepest, most profound and vulnerable of all – much love to you through all that you have travelled and with all of the gifts that life offers you- wonderful mother and son

    Tracy x

  • Sarah Houghton-Birrell

    Laura without people like Rian where would the/our world be ? Here’s a quote from an accomplished woman on the spectrum who really understands what that means :

    “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?

    You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”
    ― Temple Grandin, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism & Asperger’s

    Rian , you , your family and wider society will now be clear in your understanding of what makes him tick and from what we know that can only mean a better life :0) Onwards and upwards and the brightest of futures . I wish you all the best and always happy to help if I can x

  • Abigail Adeyanju

    A very moving account of a caring mother. There is nothing as good as knowing your child, following their lead and supporting them. The second our children know we love and support them, they grow in Confidence and courage and that’s all they need to conquer this world.

    Parents are usually in remote control mode until times like this when we feel vulnerable and forced to come up for air! I call it fixing your focus and feeding your faith.

    ……… Rian, go conquer and fulfil your destiny.

    Thanks for this piece Laura

  • linda Baston-Pitt

    Beautifully written and heartfelt Laura and am with you. My twin sisters 24yr old son Olly has Aspergers. She has had to battle with the system to ensure that he was included and struggled to find any support and help when Ollie was growing up mainly due to lack of understanding. Olly like Rian has many incredible strengths and luckily an amazing mother and supportive family

  • Julie Moinet

    Hi Laura

    Thank you for sharing this…it was so very heart-warming to read and to know that Rian is surrounded by such a loving and supportive family.

  • Arbo

    Hello Laura,
    thank you for such an honest and inspiring personal story. I’m sure many who are struggling with their children not knowing what to do and how to help, would benefit enormously.

  • Ani Crowe

    Thank you for such a wonderful story. I can perhaps offer another perspective, as I have a wonderful husband with aspergers syndrome. In his case, diagnosed officially when he was an adult. There is a life out there for those that don’t neccesarily “fit the mold” of what is deemed “typical”. I fell in love with the many aspects of his personality, and yes the genius-level intelligence & skills in his field of expertise are great, but his unrestrained heart won me over. And yes, in some social settings he may struggle, but he & I have worked on good coping mechanisms for such things, but with love & support all is possible. I think your son is blessed to have you for a mother!

  • Ana Lameiras

    Thank you for sharing such personal and inspirational story.
    Rian is lucky to have you as a mother.
    Well done Rian for attending the presentation! And what a great award!
    Much love,
    Ana Lameiras xxx

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