I am SO proud !! My son,Ollie, who happens to have autism amongst his many other gifts, abilities and characteristics, the boy who was literally written off by his mainstream school when he was just 13 years old, has just completed his second year at his first choice university with a resounding FIRST for much of his creative writing and publishing degree. He has also finished his first anthology of poems, aptly named “Lungs”. The front cover has been designed by his older brother,James.
I never stopped believing in my boy’s voice and his gifts and now he is truly singing his song. All those authors to whom I sent Ollie’s work in desperation when he was so broken at 13 were right : that Ollie was indeed already a writer and to never let others define him.
Here is a poem Ollie wrote at 13, the year he was removed with no warning from top set English and told he would never be allowed to sit the higher paper . It was set as a Valentine’s Day challenge to write a love poem to a fly. It was also the year I was told that Ollie would ” never achieve “, whatever funding I managed to fight for.
I am the fume that lives in your clothes
I am an irritation of love beneath your skin
I come in swarms like a flock of birds
A mist to your eyes you see a plague of love in me
I am a grain of the dark skies scattered on the stars
Within you is the fly.
Now that very boy is a young man living his dream and touching a very real future where he can sing his song and touch the world, contribute to that world and achieve his full potential. He once thought his future had been removed when his dreams of reading English at university were removed when he was not allowed access to the higher English GCSE paper . Now that future is blooming and his chosen degree is more perfect than we could have ever guessed during those dark years of complete heartbreak.
Ollie has made lifelong friends at university during the past two years and plans to do a Masters once he has completed his degree after the third year !
He has learned how to live independently, in a shared flat in the city, manage his own bills and bank account, cook and do all his own shopping . He catches trains and public transport , can plan journeys and cope with changes of station if necessary. It has been a challenging year in some respects and a huge learning curve …. but also a MASSIVE triumph !!! Ollie has thrived to such a degree that he has put forward his name again to be a ” peer mentor ” to help new first year students with different abilities to find their feet and have someone to turn to . He said he knows how the new students will be feeling and would love to help . ( and yet people with autism aren’t meant to have empathy ! )
NEVER STOP BELIEVING !! My ribcage actually hurts with the volume of pride I feel !
My incredible and inspirational son, Ollie, the boy who I was told ” would never achieve ” due to his autism , has just completed the first year of his creative writing and publishing degree at his first choice university. He achieved a First , the very top grade, for this first year of assignments.
Yet Ollie had his writing, his gift, removed from him at the age of 13 when teachers refused to allow him to sit the higher English GCSE paper in spite of me securing funding and regardless of the fact that Ollie had been in gifted and talented sets for English throughout middle school.
That decision nearly broke him and led to all sorts of terrifying mental health issues including suicidal thoughts and at least two attempts. We persevered and I sent his work off every author I could find asking for their help. I have two huge box files of personal replies all telling my son he was a writer already and to never let school or others define him.
He proved everyone wrong ( gaining 11 A to C GCSE’s and 3 A* -C A levels ) and is blooming . He has learned not only to grow his tremendous gifts but to use those gifts to help others, raising money for charity by reading his poetry at gigs, bravely accompanying me on some public speaking events where I raise awareness about just how amazing and ABLE these kids with different or special abilities are , he has spoken to national newspapers with me and even read his poetry out and been interviewed for BBC radio. Alongside all this , he has learned to organise himself, cope with the unexpected, learn to be flexible , live totally independently for the very first time, learn from his mistakes and pick himself up again, deal with homesickness , go shopping, wash, iron, budget, cook, travel, negotiate timetables and public transport and make new friends …. all steps to becoming the most inspirational and capable young man . He has already had several job offers for internships in publishing houses as well as writing for organisations worldwide. Just one year ago he had never even had a sleepover anywhere !I could actually burst into a billion pieces from sheer pride and I hope that ollie’s bravery, tenacity, strength and determination help touch so many for a long time to come.
I will never stop believing , not just in my own son, but in all those with different abilities out there. They need to be included in education , the workplace and society. We all have something to give. We all deserve a voice. We all deserve to grow and achieve our dreams and all their potential.
I always see it as a huge honour when I am approached by schools to offer work experience placements . This was a particularly special young lady sent to me by Bridgwater College , a school where have already trained staff members in my massage techniques for children on the SEN register or having a very difficult time. I used to massage this young lady some years ago for little while when she was at her old school and this has brought her a tremendous empathy and sensitivity along with her natural gifts and talents for this sort of work. It always brings me such immense joy to help people find their voices and to then see them grow and blossom to help others. I really do have the best job !!
This is so special !
As you know I train teachers and other professionals all over the UK , as well as further afield , in my massage techniques for children and young people with special or different abilities as well as for those kids just having a really tough time .
Well during the Spring 2017 term I trained a really dedicated staff member from one of my local schools which is part of a six school academy within the Exmoor Coast Federation . Mrs Kerry Brooks of St Peter’s First School in Williton, Somerset took the massage into her group of special children called the ” Happy Stars “and the children began feeling the benefits straight away, all of which are being carefully monitored by the school. The therapy is having such positive effects that advanced training is already being undertaken with further courses and Mrs Brooks also helps me with my Rainbow Kids Club in her own time , taking the story massage techniques and meditations back to her Happy Stars. It is just beautiful to watch those children – and Mrs Brooks ! – bloom !
It has been such a success that just before half term I was invited by Mr Nigel Johnson, the headmaster, Kerry Brooks and the Happy Stars for breakfast one morning ! They made me toast and croissants which was bliss because I always skip breakfast ! A happy and delicious time was had by all and it was so magical to actually meet the children who are benefitting so greatly from the therapy. Usually I train parents, carers and professionals but seldom get to meet all the children so this occasion brought me a deep and long lasting joy. I will treasure that morning for a long time .
The Happy Stars always wear their slippers by the way , so I felt it was only polite to bring my own. I’m not quite sure what the local press made of that but we had a ball and it was absolutely lovely to sit in the middle of all those wonderful children and listen to their voices and their stories. It was so good to meet everyone and I’ve been invited back for a story massage morning or afternoon very soon where I can share even more with this very special bunch …. I even received a certificate in the post informing me that I have been adopted as their fairy godmother ! A beautiful and special time I shall treasure .
As you all know so well by now, I am super proud of my son , Ollie and how he has gone on to study creative writing and publishing at university against all the odds and in spite of having his voice removed by those who simply couldn’t see beyond the label of autism.
Not only has my amazing boy gone on to find his voice but in true autism style he is taking this quite literally ! I Love it !! He is now using his voice to help others – something which has made me extraordinarily proud and emotional. How my son is growing ! How he has proved all the doubters wrong ! How he has burst out from inside the box others tried to cram him into , including professionals.
This week Ollie and some friends organised an open mic night in his university town to raise money for a charity close to their hearts. There really are some tremendous kids out there ! Ollie read out some performance poetry for which he had previously attained another First – the highest possible grade ! The evening was a resounding success with lots of money raised.
Ollie is building quite a name for himself with his writing.
I am staggered by how far he has come.
I am often asked to name the school who coldly refused to listen to me when I begged them to let Ollie sit the higher level GCSE English paper and who spent his funding , quite legally, elsewhere. I refuse because Ollie’s success has brought such joy – and proved them all wrong . Ollie and I hope that those responsible for their decisions back then will never ” see” a child with autism in that way again and that deep lessons have been learned. Sadly , Ollie’s old school is reflective and typical of a vast amount of schools all over the UK , and judging by the huge amount of emails I receive weekly, it is true of other countries also. To single out one school would be unprofessional and vindictive – it is the education system at large – and more importantly the decision makers – who need to wake up to the enormous potential these children have and to channel for the good and the future.
This is why I am so passionate and dedicated to raising true awareness and understanding of autism and other special abilities and why I spend huge amounts of time educating people about just how gifted and ABLE these children and young adults are. Ollie is getting top grades at university – the boy who would ” never achieve ” !
Imagine the waste if as a parent I had just accepted the prognosis by professionals ‘ caring ‘ for Ollie ?
I have enclosed a copy of his latest poem here so you can judge for yourselves.
Ollie is living proof of triumph over adversity. He embodies that huge ability and endless possibility that so many of the young people I work with possess.
They are each so much more than a label.
So often it’s a different ability rather than a disability.
As the author of “The Reason I Jump” said, why can’t these labels simply be seen as just another character trait ?
It is my everlasting hope that Ollie’s success will encourage teachers and other professionals everywhere to rethink how they see children with different or special abilities – and to recognise the true weight of those precious futures that they hold in their hands. These children should have a voice in their own futures and not be held back due to ignorance surrounding their labels.
To see this blog in full please visit www.icare4autism.org where I write weekly blogs.
Regular Blogs can be found there and at different brains.com
Links to these can be found in this section or on the home page – just click on them and you will be taken straight there. It’s like magic !
Atoms – By Ollie March 2017
Someone says they are particles of salt sailing on the hot azure
Don’t undermine the vastness of the outer brink
They will hover in a fleecy mass above the trees, in love with a hundred leaves strung out from branch to branch in a green waving flag.
O rare incidents, I will see their o shapes drop from birds’ claws,
palming volcanic ash before it fades too soon.
You don’t want to get too close to it, or the nucleus dot will give out.
That is why only some of us can see it , a task for the un – searching eyes.
Tomorrow I probably won’t see them , but that doesn’t mean they won’t vanish into my worn flannel shirt.
I see a girl’s polka dot skirt while she is swinging , it reminds me of their rhythm as it blows softly on the wind .
How old are those O’s , will my mind ever know .
The belly skin of the sky bloats as it is filled to the burning sides
Trillions of them pushed together chanting upupup upupup
Don’t make a joke of their ” the world is too small theory ” because when you know everyone , you learn to look in different places.
I am beyond proud of my son, Ollie.
He achieved a FIRST for his poetry assignments following his first term at university where he is reading a creative writing and publishing degree.
He got the highest grade possible for his performance poem ” The Joker”. He read this and another poem at a performance in front of fellow students for the very first time. You can view this on my Giuliana Fenwick / therapies for special needs business Facebook page.
The poems are written out below on this post.
I am crying writing this because this is the boy who was told he wouldn’t even be allowed a bite at the cherry for higher English GCSE in spite of being in gifted and talented sets for English throughout middle school. That decision all but broke him and was the first time the word ” disabled” was ever mentioned in our home – by him , through broken sobs.
It never was again. Authors wrote to Ollie after I sent his work to them , telling him he was a ” writer already `’ and to never let school or the education system define him .
Ollie is living proof that those with special or different abilities are so much more than a diagnosis or a label. And that you should never be defined by other people’s ignorance or limiting beliefs surrounding that label. No child should ever be written off or have their future broken . Everyone has a right to a voice and my son has found his at last. His broken wings are mended and he is soaring into the huge blue sky of his future.
I AM SO PROUD !!
*The Joker *
My father stepped on my back so hard, why so hard ?
A loveless chain of thorns he strung on each of our necks
The false purples cancelling out the Crimean flush in our chests
Like the love that was traded in, for the malice he wreaks.
Its vine decaying the good ones of virtue I have in my flesh vessel,
Your vessel no more.
” Dad, why are you waiting on the stairs at night ? What is that black box you clutch to your chest like an unseasoned Pandora’s Box ? Small, ticking silently in its mechanical heart .”
A past fever pumped pumped in my veins like a concealed guilt.
I knew, you knew, of the lies in you in-built,
The treacherous glee you hide but show in your cold blue eyes.
A hoar frost, dissolving on the tongue of an adder tasted with self-glorifying ill-will.
When a boy of 17 tells his father to stop lying , his father’s eyes crinkle as small as sunflower seeds
As though he got a sour taste of lime in his mouth.
He told me these words opening his jack-knife smile, ” I could never lie to you , I wouldn’t hurt you like that ” he said anxiously. Never is a hyperbolic word , NEVER, NEV-er, Never
I let out an inward gasp; the sound a balloon makes when popped by a needle.
Not the balloon that my Border terrier burst through to bite with salivating maul the soft skin of my shoulder –
No, no , no this object : spike, stake, spear has pricked me in my solitude, when I should be watching the corridors of my house for forgeries of coughing; the kitchen tap running ; the slow breathing on the walls , is all this inside my head ?
You tell me you are talking to someone behind a closed door and someone is listening outside : does not something feel funny about the air ? How it lies thick , pregnant and obscure in your oesophagus.
My father will talk of how he met ( trapped ) my mother ; red peacock butterflies in a jam jar ,
leaving her in the confines of clingfilm and glass . In these transparencies of space the butterfly could only glimpse the wasting powders on her wings.
A lidded sky, housetop, every morning and night is shut, the edges of a face looms in the sky, says ” come out, spread your wings’. Is it the Joker or the moon; that this seems to sing ?
*My Side Of Eden In an English Garden*
Flies, oil-specked, dance their night wraiths on the skinny buxus branches,
Another follows their soliloquy.
Tamarisks of air lance their hushful blows in the hive.
The doubloon above oscillates to the milky muse of the cool air.
Taking a breath, I look at the garden , spurning me looking poppies in their hundreds chase my cheeks in drapes of fire.
I try to silence all this noise , but am pushed asunder the red satin cloth, so that I am choking in this button-press of heat and redness – it’s unbearable.
Ouch ! Stung on the mouth by a deity ray, I retreat to the doorstep, cacodemons lie in dishevel on my burning hairs.
Afraid to cry, to anoint myself even more in this deadly rush, I close both the shucks of my eyes till the wolfing hour of day threshes them wide so that gold glimmers in their pods.
*To see more of Ollie’s poetry from previous years, please go to the homepage and click on About Giuliana. The link is at the bottom of this page. *
Here is one he wrote aged just 14, to give you a taster ….
*Guitar Strings *
Vibration shedding sound ripples
on the writhe, serpentine string of guitar.
Sound embracing illusional imagery
of spirals, bolts and spots of iridescent sequins.
Memory prolonged in the mind of tears,
muddy fingers dashing against fury
of field colour.
Heart throbs in the ends of each finger,
opened by the sudden pluck
conjuring sound waves to clasp your lips to be silent.
Guitar brings a dance at the finger tips to be
successor or entertainer for Shakespeare
who is weeping with laughter result.
Adventurous in rhythm of fingertips, cutlass,
sabre, scythe showing on mine
who conjure a collision of elaborate imagination
and instrumental tingles.
I , nor confusion, nightmare, horror,
but a magician cloaked in instrumental notes.
I am thrilled to share with you that my blogs for ICare4Autism and Differentbrains.com are still going strong . However with all my other writing, articles and the second book underway, it eaves precious little time for a separate blog here ! Please click on the links in this blog section or on the home page to be taken straight to blogs you might wish to read.
On another wonderful, happy, inspirational note, the short post I wrote on linkedIn last spring about my own son with autism achieving his goals against all the odds, proving his doubters and some professionals wrong, – and finding his voice , ended up reaching just under 40,000 likes and comments worldwide ! I could have BURST with pride for him ! He is now thriving at university doing a creative writing and publishing degree – not and for the boy who I was told “will never achieve ” ! As I’ve always said, the children and young people I work with are the bravest and most beautiful people I know.
You can click on the link to the Linkedin post by clicking on my Jessica Kingsley Publishing link on the homepage where they have the link attached to my book.
Due to an increase in my articles and blogs else where, I am not publishing as regularly to this site. For regular updates and news please see me on I Care 4 Autism and DifferentBrains.com.
I love Autism Awareness month and always go to town ! I ran two extra courses where I was so happy to train funded placements and part funded placements for schools and colleges, along with some therapists who wanted my therapy in addition to those they are already practising. I also spent a great deal of time helping my students speak to and email heads of schools and autism centres in order to start using the therapy there . I really do want those who train with me to get this out there and help some wonderful children and young adults to thrive.
My double page article came out in the Spring issue of International Therapist and instantly I was flooded with emails from all over ! This article was about the science behind my therapy too which reassures any sceptics out there ! and proves why it works.
I also took part in a live radio show with Oasis Universal Radio as part of their raising awareness theme for April. See more at In The Press.
The biggest highlight for me however , in this very special mont , is that my son Oliver , against all the odds, and after being told he would ” never achieve ” by a senior teacher at age 13 and being told he was not allowed to sit the higher English GCSE because his autistic brain couldn’t negotiate multiple choice papers and lining up booklets ….. got his first choice place at university to read Creative Writing and Publishing !!
I wrote a very short post on LinkedIn and within a week had burst through 6,000 likes and comments and even as I write this more shares and comments are still pouring in. This news has gone worldwide and ollie has been flooded with offers to write ~ which he was born to do . This has made my entire month. We are blown away and overwhelmed by the heartwarming response. After years of being made to feel second rate in spite of his huge intelligence , my son might now just begin to believe that he is indeed an inspiration.
I am very excited to announce my first WHSmith book signing event to be held in Minehead on Friday 29 January 2016. It is a real honour to do something like this for such a major mainstream book store . The first of many I hope !