Autism’s Got Talent, Ruislip 2019 …. a night I will never forget and will carry with me to my last breath.
Watching my son, who by this time next year will be more qualified than the head of English teacher and her team who categorically told me that Ollie “would never achieve more than two GCSE’s “due to his autism (and who removed English literature from him as well as the higher GCSE paper in English) , reading out his poetry to an audience of hundreds where you could have literally heard a pin drop, really brought home our journey.
Each of the three poems Ollie read were met with thunderous applause that felt like it would lift off the very roof. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. As I peeked out through the wings on stage I could see people wiping their tears. People back stage were crying and I was crying too because I cannot believe all my son has achieved through so much, both at home and school, to become the gentle, kind, incredibly talented , giant of a man he is today.
I don’t think my heart will ever return to its normal size after this.
Ollie read some poetry from his first anthology “Lungs” about some of the horrific domestic abuse he both saw and then later experienced directly, prompting our departure from such a toxic atmosphere. He also read a poem from his second anthology “Wings” which is “a collection where Ollie reflects on the domestic abuse of his mother and the family , becoming a space where vulnerabilities and hope are explored in the butterfly transformations of his mother. ” The anthology is dedicated to me and simply says “For my Mum,who always taught me to find my song”.
Anna Kennedy OBE kindly invited Ollie to sell his books on the evening. It all felt so surreal seeing my son who I have advocated for all his life, now advocating for others by taking part in such a impactful event.
Each act, each unique , strong, beautiful human being ,was so powerful and gifted that Ollie said to me during rehearsals that he didn’t feel adequate by comparison. My heart went out to him as this message is one he has had for so long from so many. The chilling fact is that each of these kids’ stories could have been so entirely different if they hadn’t had someone believing in them. And half of them,including Ollie, almost ended up not being here at all after being driven to suicidal thoughts and attempts when their gifts went unheard along with their voices.
After the show Ollie pulled me to one side away from the crowds, and very quietly said “Mum, for the first time in my life I feel a tiny bit proud.”
Yes – I did cry again …buckets,! It had taken Ollie 22 years , a Degree and participating in Autism’s Got Talent to at last feel of worth.
I feel even more strongly than ever that Autism’s Got Talent should be on mainstream TV, played at school assemblies and absolutely incorporated into teacher training. If only they could be made aware of how when you tap into that special ability and find what I call their super power …. these kids FLY ! Thank you to Anna Kennedy OBE ,Phil Barnett, Steven Smith,Dawn Avery Lisa Robins and all of Anna’s hard working team and ambassadors for getting all our special children heard.
Following the inundation of emails and messages I received after the show, here are copies of the three poems which Ollie read out. The actual footage of him reading them out at the show can be found on my Therapies For Special Needs FB business page, YouTube and Anna Kennedy Online.
Straight Jacket Of Flies
You feel them tug free sometimes: horseflies,
botflies,craneflies,fruit flies,picture-winged flies –
the ensemble is fear.It must feel horrible,
knowing that wherever you go,they will
surely follow.This is how we felt father
when you bugged us, to the point where my chest
would tighten if the phone rang – you’d
be in the background listening to every word.
You set up this landscape of fear for me:
now you’re living it.Every waking moment you tremor
at the nail varnish colours of their thoraxes.
Their stirring reminds you too much of the new baby you left
that night to take a flight to Indonesia.
It’s crying out for a father went unheard,
Mother slept with it that night ,crying over it’s head.
The flies keep you busy, falsifying albums
of our so-called ‘privileged life’ as evidence
for Crown Court.The botflies remember;
looping their milky eggs in your scalp.Mother had
a flower pot business and taught French as a private tutor
to keep her family from going homeless.
Now, horseflies crowd in around your eyes,
turning the eye sockets inside-out.You had money
that you spent at hotels with mystery women
you were having affairs with.
You have nothing now.
The flies know.
Under The Wheels
The night you left The White Horse pub
with father,he pushed you through
the car door. Heft up inches
from the asphalt and the road
darting away like a massive
tarmac arrow.You were flightless
as you scooped your knees
and laddered your tights on the road.
He dangles you by a string of air.
He says, “You’re having an affair with John”. The recoiling ferns and gridded
oaks’ boughs at at he wayside put
their ears to your complaints; ‘Let me go,
let me go’. Then a tough wind blew
up a sail of your dress and you could
feel the cold in your bones.
You tried to kiss the unbearable gravel
like it was holy soil. Father rose over you
with gritted teeth ,roaring at you,
ravined V-lines veins set the tension
in his forehead as he bent
his face to yours. You will never
forget that night or that look
in his eyes.
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 wreaked.
Its vine decaying the good ores 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 in my veins like a concealed guilt.
I knew, you knew, of the lies you’d built inside.
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’d got a sour taste of lie 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’d say anxiously.
Never is a hyperbolic word.
I let out an inward gasp; the sound a balloon makes
when popped by a needle.
Or 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, steak, spear
has pricked me in solitude ,when I should be
waiting in the corridors of my house,
listening for pretend coughing, the kitchen tap running,
the slow breathing on the walls, is this all inside my head ?
You tell me if you are talking to someone behind a closed door
and someone is listening outside :
does 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 enclosure of cling film 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 ?
Podcast from this interview has now been posted and is below for you to listen to:
I was really so humbled and touched to be asked onto Aston Avery’s and Anna Kennedy’s “All Things Autism In Essex” broadcasting on the Gateway 97.8FM Radio show from 10AM-1PM on Thursday 1st August! Gateway 97.8 is an award-winning radio station with the Prime Minister’s Big Society and Queen’s Award. They can also be followed on Twitter @Gateway978.
Aston and his family have inspired me for quite some time. They truly touch my heart and are the strongest and most motivational family.Aston has had to deal with so much in his life, including autism,and like myself with my own son, his family refused to accept the invisible cage bars of ignorance, negative assumptions and the limited, restricted beliefs of others, including professionals. Aston is living proof, like my son Ollie, of busting the myths surrounding autism and growing into his full potential as well as lighting a flame for others. I am full of awe and admiration. Whenever I have a tough day, it is families like this who ensure I never give up,to brush the dust from my feet and continue to walk strongly. This is why we all do what we do, so tirelessly and with absolute unswerving conviction.
Aston and his family have used their life’s journey and experiences to help others in so many immeasurable ways. Aston is an Anna Kennedy Online Ambassador, fundraiser, DJ, presenter, singer, dancer and actor… all achievements no one ever thought possible. He has also won the NDA Award for disability.
For the first time ever in any interview I’ve ever given I became emotional .
It was also the first time I discussed at any length the full picture of what was going on for us as a family at home against which my son’s journey with autism was being played out.
As I talked about catching sight of Ollie through the doorway where he was being robed up ready for his graduation, suddenly seeing in fast motion all the chapters of our lives which had led to this moment, I really knew and felt so deeply in my heart what a giant my son is … and I just crumpled because the love and immense awe and pride I felt were just too big for my little body !
Please tune in to this incredible and informative show where Autism is given a voice from those who really know the journey from the inside out and who celebrate each unique individual behind the label.
It was with incredulity at first and then absolute joy that I recently accepted an invitation to write for Melanie Sykes’ new magazine , The Frank Magazine. I was asked to write about my personal journey .
As such an ordinary woman, I at first wondered why me, why me to write such an impactful piece ?! After some thought I decided that is exactly BECAUSE I am just a regular person that my story could bring such real hope to the average woman. The part of my journey that I have written about touches briefly on having a child on the autism spectrum but it is mainly concerned with the personal background against which I had to build a life. For what happened to me happens daily to countless thousands of people and crosses all backgrounds, cultures and incomes. Whilst there is a great deal of hilarity, magic, ingenuity and tenacity in my story, there is also horror and heartbreak ; so the responsibility in sharing what happened to us had to be carefully considered. Names have been omitted or changed, not because I had to ,but because this is a story to bring achievable escape to potentially so many – and not a story of glory or sensationalism.
The four page article will be appearing in the August/September 2019 issue of The Frank Magazine . I wrote in the article that I have heard tell that if one single pebble on your path was changed, your whole future would be different. In my work I hope I am that one positive pebble to children and young adults who feel they have no voice and no value. I understand how that feels both through my journey with my son with autism and through my own life, albeit in a different capacity. If writing this piece helps to change the life of just a handful of people or help others spot the signs and get out early, then I wouldn’t change a single pebble I have walked on my extraordinary journey.
I shall post the link to the article here when it is published. My deepest thanks to Melanie Sykes and Millie Cooper, ( Melanie’s business partner for The Frank Magazine ) for giving me this incredible opportunity to bring hope and practical positives to so many from a platform I could never have imagined.
“British TV Presenter and model Melanie Sykes has launched Frank Magazine with co-founder Caroline Beau de Lomenie. Frank is an online magazine ( although it can be ordered in hard copy ) and it is aimed at women over the age of 40. It covers fashion, beauty, travel,lifestyle,motoring, psychology and relationships, health and wellbeing ,culture, interviews with inspiring personalities, alog ith news, reviews,on books,movies, theatre and more.
All models across the title will be aged 40+ and Frank has selected top expert contributors to share theor knowledhe and expertise to nourish as inspire curious and questioning mature minds “.
Frank is live now at thefrankmagazine.com