I knew nothing about the condition at first and perhaps; in the beginning, I was in denial that my children had Special Needs. I convinced myself that their early years were relatively normal, but once they reached school age however, their condition was so apparent it hit me like a brick. Having finally accepted they needed support, I set about trying to have them assessed, a simple process you would think. The School, although accepting of ‘A Problem,’ were reluctant to do anything specific about it without a statement and the LEA characteristically used delay tactics to avoid any assessment of their needs. This unfortunately deprived them of some essential early intervention that could have had a real impact. Eventually, it was left to me to have them independently assessed and go to Tribunal. Not only was this expensive, but also considerably stressful and time consuming. The evidence of course was overwhelming and we won, but that was just the beginning. On one level all the boys are quite high-functioning , however on the practicalities of everyday living and making decisions they find it hard to get by without constant reminders, support and direction. Living in a household full of Autistics has taken its toll. As they’ve grown older and the demands of Life have increased for them, it’s become quite a struggle for both them and me. Frequently I’ve been told that we are not entitled to certain help or have been fobbed off with indifference. Information and support has always seemed limited, so like most in my position I just got on with the job of caring for them as best as I could and didn’t make a fuss. Over time I became isolated and felt alone.
In 2008 my husband suffered a nervous breakdown and since then I’ve done almost everything alone. Caring for the children and their needs , as well as my husband’s mental health problems. The huge drop in our income coupled with misinformation from the DWP has meant we have been living well below the poverty line for years. I trusted the information given to me by the DWP was correct. Reliance on the limited benefit I was told we were entitled to and my inability to stretch it out far enough compounded my feelings in inadequacy but also meant that I had to do all the household repairs myself or do without. From decorating and roof repairs to mending the car and washing machine, it all fell at my feet. Adding that to the general workload of being a Carer, managing a household, budget and trying to start a business in order to change our poverty crisis, meant it all became too much for me. Nine months ago I cracked. Having to take myself miles away to a hotel for the first and only respite I’ve had in 18 years. How I didn’t crumble before then is nothing short of a miracle! I slept for days. The irony is that my business, as a holiday let, was set up to give people just like me, a break. Carers in need of respite, the peace, quiet and space they needed to heal. Stupidly, I ignored the break my mind and body so desperately craved and just struggled on. I felt guilty at the thought of having respite. I told myself I could not justify the cost when money was so tight, did not need a break because I lived in such a beautiful place or could not trust others with caring for the children and could not leave my husband alone. What a fool i was! The decision to just up and leave was more as a result of desperation than anything else. It not only saved my life, but gave myself and my family access to outside support, which was never offered to us before. Sad indeed, that it takes such prolonged hardship and someone to reach such a critical state before help is proffered. Reading this discussion board I’ve realised my experiences are all too common. It took me to get to desperation point before I got any break or support. If I can offer any advice to others in a similar cycle, it would be to always double check the information you are given by the DWP or people in authority (In my experience they have been frequently incorrect.) and to be more challenging when they try and fob you off. Carers matter just as much as those who need care.