I don’t want to even imagine where I would be without Kindred. During those first two years, I had no one, no other parents, who I could ask for advice or for support. And that’s a long time, especially at the beginning when you feel so overwhelmed and alone.
When my daughter Emily was diagnosed with Autism, life became incredibly overwhelming. I didn’t know what I should do next, I was totally unsure about how to move forward. I’d been thrown into this new space of complex systems and services and I was alone. I knew absolutely no one I could turn to for advice or support.
Emily had just turned three, and she was still so, so tiny. The world was a very scary place for her. She didn’t want to be around other people or leave the house. And it was a lot for her to adjust to this new life we were creating for her, going to therapy, and doing therapy at home. I think the first six months of speech therapy, she cried in every session.
Emily needed me to help her through those really big feelings, through her anxiety and the meltdowns. I desperately wanted to be there for my daughter and give her what she needed. But it was draining for me mentally and emotionally. And I had to press pause on the rest of my life so I could give Emily what she needed.
For a very long time, I did the really hard parts alone. Dealing with the outside world’s lack of acceptance and understanding of what Emily was going through was probably one of the hardest things. It was a process learning to accept that if my child makes loud noises in public, to just keep going on and not let it stop me. I had to get used to ignoring the stares from strangers when Emily was clearly struggling. That judgement was hard.
Looking back, I wish I had been able to talk to someone who was on the same journey. To seek their advice or even just to have someone to talk to about how I was feeling. I’m incredibly lucky that I have always had a wonderful support network that includes my family and friends. However, they hadn’t been through anything remotely similar.
A simple yet life changing step
When I first decided to sign up to a Kindred event, I had no idea just how much the decision would change my life. There was just this sense of comfort in finally being able to connect with other parents. I noticed the difference in talking to people who knew what I was going through because they’d lived it too. There was a deep understanding. I felt seen, and I felt understood.
I can actually say that I’ve benefited from each and every one of Kindred’s programs. From the online events to the peer groups and one-on-one support. If I ever need advice on anything, the Kindred Community is a place I can go to ask for help. And I know there is always going to be someone who will share their experiences or answer my questions.
Emily’s speech is very limited, so I actually don’t know how she is feeling much of the time. And whilst I can ask her therapists, attending Kindred’s workshops and having access to the resources are actually what has made the biggest difference. It really helps me understand Emily and her experience better.
I feel like I’m a better parent for Emily when I educate myself, and I know more. It also really helps me to feel more confident. Honestly, I go to bed at night, and I think, ‘I’m so glad I took the time to listen to that Kindred workshop or go to that peer group because I learned something tonight that will help me, it will help my family and it will help Emily.’
Today Emily is 9 years old. She has an Intellectual Disability and ADHD, as well as being Autistic. Our family is doing well. Emily is about to become a big sister very soon, which we are all excited about.
Thinking back to when Emily was diagnosed to where I am now, it is like chalk and cheese. I’ve completely changed having peer support in my life. I put so much less pressure on myself. I’m more confident. And it feels so empowering. I never imagined I would be in this position to share my experiences with other parents and support them on their journey too.
I know Emily will have a great life with the right support and resources. I feel so much less afraid for her future. Because I know there are parents that are further along that I can seek advice from. I know I have a safe, supportive place to come for help. I honestly don’t want to ever imagine my life without Kindred.