Podcast Episode 02. Hear a Mother talk about how she helps her son, with Asperger’s, navigate the challenges
of growing up. Thoughts on how to deal with managing friendships and finding common interests to encourage those friendships. Tips on dealing with puberty and ways to encourage independence slowly but surely.
[1.00] – All about Linda and her son
[3.00] – What it means to have Asperger’s for the child and the family
[4.45] – Trying to manage the outside world through visualization
[6.10] – Learned behaviors and the problems with having a limited set of scripts to manage encounters
[10.00] – The role of context and a shared focus in friendships
[13.00] – Developing independence skills the benefits and the challenges
[19.00] – How an independent future might look
[23.15] – The challenges of puberty and resources that could help
[25.20] -Remembering you’re not alone and how important it is to take care of yourself
Show Full Transcript
Finding shared interests to aid friendships
Take care of yourself
DERBA: Welcome to this week’s episode at the Journey Skills podcast. This week we’re talking to Linda. She has a son who has Asperger’s and with that comes issues around his ability to make friends and develop relationship with others. So I’ll let Linda introduce herself and tell us a little bit about herself and about her son and then a little bit about the story of how she’s come to where she is today and particularly what she does to help him become more independent as he grows older and goes through puberty as he is at the moment.
LINDA: Okay yes well my name is Linda. I’ll start really back at the beginning, so I am living in a family of four. We are a same sex partnership and we’ve been together more than twenty years now. But early on in our relationship, I wanted children but of course in a same sex relationship that isn’t an easy route. Eventually, we decided on adoption and we adopted two children together. They were a sibling pair, a girl who at that time was 5 and a boy, Tyler who’s 21 months. When we first met Lauren and Tyler, Tyler was fairly unresponsive. At 21 months, you’d expect a child to be crawling or maybe even walking and saying a few words. When I first met Tyler, he could barely focus his eyes on me, he was clearly very delayed in his development.
As time marched on, we became aware really by the age of 4 that there was something not right with his development and that he was unable to play with other children. He would play alongside others and want to be playing on his own and in fact, if children were to get in his way, made too much noise around him or take toys from him he would act, aggressively. And it was really aggression that indicated to us that things weren’t as they should be.
We sought a fair amount of help at that time but it wasn’t until Tyler was 7 that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s. It was a shock honestly because he was quite engaging little boy. He was quite good at eye contact. He was very friendly and loving and there weren’t obvious signs of autism at that time, not to me in any case and I thought I was fairly well-versed in what autism was about but clearly, I wasn’t. So, there’s a big difference between autism and Asperger’s. Autistic children typically don’t seem to want to interact with other children whereas Asperger’s children do, and Tyler now at 13 really wants to have friends and engage with other people but doesn’t understand intuitively rules of engagement in terms of friendships and play at all and he doesn’t learn them. So, you can’t teach him one week how to interact with other child and then expect him to do the next time because he doesn’t remember it.
So, it creates a really difficult social environment for him and he struggles with that and has done all of his life and I’m sure he will always continue to struggle. So, there had been a few issues that have dominated his progression and development. One of those has been his inability to socially interact and when you can’t communicate with other people very well, it means your communication doesn’t come on very quickly because you don’t get the experience of talking to others. And of course, his social interactions in a playful way never happened, so has never learned to really play and all the child development experts will tell you that playing is very important for children. So, he’s still isn’t able to share. If it was taking turns in games, very difficult and stressful. And so that’s really impacted in everything we do as a family too, so anything we want to do; go out shopping, go to the cinema, go to the restaurant, go to the park to walk. Unless he wants to do it and feels the need to do it, he finds it very difficult to agree to do so. And he’ll find ways of reacting against us doing it. So, it’s been a challenge all the way through.
The other thing about autism is it makes him very anxious. He’s anxious about different experiences in different environments and he’s anxious about being outside of the house. Even today, he doesn’t like going out for a walk. I think he’s actually nervous about what he might find on his walk or what he might experience. And very early on we had to find ways of helping him. We’ve always traveled a lot as a family. And we have to manage the airport experience, the flight experience, the traveling experience. So, when we go to somewhere else, abroad, say we went to my sister who lives in America, we’d have to make sure she sends us pictures of the house before we went in there. We have to explain what each room was and where he’d be staying, what his bed would look like. We’d have to do visual stories of how the experience of the journey would happen. So, we go to the airport, we have to go through security and how that would look like and what they have to do, what it’d be like sitting on a plane for a number of hours, how he would do while he’s on the plane. So, all of those things have to be explained to him but not verbally, but visually with pictures and drawings.
We learned that from about the age of maybe eight I think we started doing that when we realized the value of pictorial stories to help him understand what was going to happen in the future and that made things so much easier. We don’t have to do that now, he’s 13 actually. He manages very well without. But if it’s a really new experience he is going to do, we do have to explain how it’s going to happen and we can do that verbally now with him. We don’t have to resort to pictures which is a great development for us as a family.
DEBRA: You said he was very engaging but sort of lacks empathy, when you say engaging, what did you mean?
LINDA: So, when you meet Tyler, you would think he was a very polite, caring little boy. He come up to you, shake your hands and say “Hello, my name is Tyler. Pleased to meet you” that’s because that’s a learned response. That’s what he’s seen me do, a million of times over his lifetime and whenever he does it, he knows he has to go and shake someone’s hand, or if it’s a lady, he might just say, “Hello!” And he knows that’s the rules of the initial interaction with somebody else. Once that’s happened, he won’t know what to say to you. He might say, “What did you have for lunch today” because whenever he comes out from school, I would say “What did you have for lunch today, Tyler?” So, he has learned that as a way of interacting with somebody else. He won’t know to say to you, “Did you have a nice journey?” if you’ve traveled somewhere or “Not very nice outside, is it?” if you’ve come and it’s been raining, he won’t know what to say. Naturally like you and I might do.
So, he learns what to say and all he can remember is the first few bits of conversation, then he gets stuck. So, he’ll come up to say “Hello I’m Tyler. Nice to meet you” and then he might answer one question then he’ll just look at you and not know what to say next. And so, he seems very engaging and polite when you meet him but when you dig a little bit deeper, spend a bit more time with him, you’ll realize that he actually doesn’t know what to say to you and that makes conversations quite difficult. So, you might ask him a question and then suddenly he’s got bored or looking somewhere else. He won’t even answer you at all because he doesn’t know what to do next and he’ll find something else to interact with.
So, it’s funny because he seems so lovely and polite when you first him and you might get a minute or two of conversation out of him and then it’ll stop because it will dry up on his side. He won’t know what to say next. He won’t know how to carry on the conversation. And how that plays out socially with friends or peers of his own age is that he won’t know what to say to them. So, say he’s going up to somebody in the playground, they’re playing football for example, he wouldn’t know what to say. He wouldn’t know to say “Can I play with you?” So, what he often does, he goes up and taps you on the shoulder or goes “Boo!” in your face to only get your attention. Because he doesn’t know what to say to people.
So, unless you’re coming up to him and should put your hand out, shake his hand, he knows what to do then. If it’s not something he’s learned to do, he won’t remember how to manage it. So, we have lots of problems with at school, trying to interact with other children but it will go badly wrong because children don’t like to be tapped on the shoulder or gently punch in the arm to get their attention. They’re not used to that and don’t like it. So, he gets into a lot of trouble with other children very quickly.
DEBRA: So, do you do a way of helping him to do learned responses or learned behavior?
LINDA: We have done but because they’re all so unpredictable because each child is different, each situation is different. They’re not predictably enough for him to learn it. And the schools have tried also to get him to engage. In fact, it’s interesting because we had a meeting with the school teacher last week. And his teacher said to him, “Tyler, can you write down for me two or three things that we can do to help you enjoy school more?” And he came home and wrote a list and the first thing on it was “Help me to learn to play with other children” because he still can’t do that. Despite all the interactions, all the investment we’ve taken in time trying to get to help him with those interactions, he still doesn’t know what to do. And I think it’s because every interaction is different with each child. You just can’t learn it.
DEBRA: Do you feel that’s a step though, the self-reflection that he knows…
LINDA: Yes. I absolutely do. I think, years ago he wouldn’t have understood that was a problem. But he does now. And he understands now that he didn’t have any friends whereas that take a long time for him to learn and he’ll often say to me, “I don’t got any friends, Mummy and no one wants to play with me”. And he knows that now whereas years ago, he would never have recognized that was a problem but now he does. And he does know that he has difficulty making friends and keeping them and he wants help with it.
DEBRA: So, in the past, his friendships, have they just sort of I guess pitied out? Disappeared? Or…
LINDA: Yes, they’ve disappeared because he’s not a friend that can give of himself. So, he’s not a friend that can give anything back to another child. So, for example, he was going in a taxi to school with another boy who lived in a local village and because they have a taxi ride together, they gotten very well in the taxi, they shared games on their phones and they had so much to talk about. But when the taxi’s changed, he was no longer going with that boy, the relationship quickly pitied out because they needed that time together, captive in the car together to keep that relationship going. As soon as that wasn’t happening anymore, they didn’t seem to have so much to talk about at school and that the boy has gone out and gotten up another friends. And Tyler isn’t able to interact with him anymore.
So, yes, and it’s because he lacks empathy in friendships so can’t understand that the other boy might want to play something different to what Tyler wants to play. He only wants to play what he wants to play. And so, he can’t understand why other boy might want to go do something else, might want to go and play football, or might want to play with the tennis bat and a ball against the wall or might want to go and play marbles in the playground. If he doesn’t want to do that, he wants the boys to play what he wants to play and of course, boys don’t play like that. They give and take, don’t they? And Tyler can’t do the taking, basically.
DEBRA: So, what you’re sort of saying there is it’s contextual as well his relationship with someone in the taxi and then he could move that outside the taxi but when that ended, he then couldn’t take it naturally as I suppose someone else might outside that environment.
LINDA: Yes. The relationship was about the games they played. Once those games weren’t there anymore because they weren’t in a taxi together with phone, left there was no way of re-interacting anymore, there was no link. So, I remember very well, we took Tyler to see a school, miles away from my house as I have looked at the school to go there, and it was the start at school and it was a lovely school. And I remember, we walked into the classroom that he would have been in and they had guinea pigs in the classroom and the children were holding guinea pigs and they asked Tyler, “Can you hold the guinea pig?” and he got hold of the guinea pig and he went straight up in the middle of the class and they were talking to him, stroking the guinea pig. That guinea pig was the link and gave him something to interact about but when you take that animal away or take that game away, he’s got no way of talking to a child, doesn’t know what to say to them.
DEBRA: So, if you give him a focus then he can talk around that?
LINDA: It helps, yes. As long as both children want to talk about that focus.
DEBRA: So, do you do that in other outside school, do you try that strategy?
LINDA: Well, we have and that we’ve got an Xbox now, of course, he’ll play with the boys at home or go to their house but it’s only because of the Xbox game. So, if gets a new game, he wants to go show his friend. He did make a friendship with a boy across the road from us but that’s four runaways. Unfortunately, because the boy doesn’t want to play with Tyler anymore and that’s been quite a heartbreaking for Tyler actually because they played together for years. But the boy’s grown up, moved on and Tyler can’t understand that. He can’t understand that he wants other friends to play with and the type of things that Tyler wants to do, he no longer wants to do because he’s growing up and developing quicker than Tyler is. So, it’s difficult for Tyler.
DEBRA: In terms of independence, how much independence do you give him?
LINDA: I think he’s actually quite independent. I think we’ve always treated him fairly well in that respect because we live in a small village, our daughter was going to shop from about 9 or 10 to buy me a bottle of milk if we need something as how you do with children. And from not much older than that, for about 10 or 11, Tyler’s been going out for shop for me. He likes riding his bike in the summer and we’ve always let him ride on elevator on his own, so if he wants to go see a friend, lives in the same village as us, he lives few streets away and we will let him cycle to that house. The parents are good friends of ours. He’ll go to another family around the road, also to see their children. He’ll go on his bike on his own or if I want to go and give them something, he’ll take it round for me. And we’ve always let him do that.
Now, we’re at the position where if we were going to town on a Saturday, I let him go off on his own for half an hour. He’s got his phone with him. I know where he’s going, he’s going to the game shop and his going to play on the games and he’ll stay in there till I call him. And he’ll come back to me. I know now that he can safely do that.
We started off let him go off with his sister for an hour or so. We wouldn’t let him go on a bus on his own to town but we would let him be in the town on his own for maybe half an hour to an hour. As long as we knows exactly where he is.
DEBRA: Whilst you’re in the town.
LINDA: Whilst we’re in the town with him. He knows the rules. He knows he mustn’t talk to strangers. He knows he must tell me if he leaves the shop where he is going. So, I’ve got quite tabs on him where he is but I do let him go on his own now.
DEBRA: And he’s got quite strict boundaries, you said he can’t talk to strangers.
DEBRA: What would he do if someone came up to talk to him?
LINDA: It’s a good question. It doesn’t happen actually. It hasn’t so far and he knows what he should do which is not to engage with that person but I think probably he would. And he’d be at risk. But you know, you can’t keep children wrapped between cotton wool can you, until they’ve had a go with it. I remember once, we were in Spain on a holiday and he was walking ahead of us along the Promenade and there’s a guy, I remember watching him quite away, he was probably 200 yards away from us and he stopped and talked to this man by his car (what I thought was his car), actually, he was asking Tyler directions where the local hotel was. And Tyler said “Come out there, come with me, I’ll show you where it is.” I was right behind him and we took Tyler off of that because he shouldn’t have done that. He should have waited for us to catch him up and he could have said, “My parents will show you where the hotel is” but he didn’t. But it’s only by doing those things that you have to learn “That’s not right”. As I say, you can’t protect him forever and we were behind him, we could see what was going on.
If we were in Spain, we do go to Spain quite regularly to the same place. We only have let him go out with his sister. I wouldn’t let him go out on his own there because people don’t know him. Whereas in the village we’re at, we know everyone knows Tyler and know where he lives, and know us. But as he is getting older, I think he’s getting better. I think that he would talk to somebody in a shop, the shopkeepers who would speak to them but don’t know if he speaks to anybody else because it hasn’t happened. So, I think he’s at risk. He’s at more risk than other children are but as I say, you can’t get them wrapped up forever. You’ve got to let them try. It’s only by making mistakes they learn and find and that you have to hope that nothing terrible is going to happen. It could happen to any children, after all.
DEBRA: Very true. Apart from the travel situation and I guess the going out in shops, what other things do you do to help his independence?
LINDA: We leave him at home on his own sometimes now, so for example, I have to go to the station and pick my daughter up from school and I leave him at home. I would leave him go and went to see the village, do some shops, I’d leave him behind. And I would leave him for about an hour on his own. Probably not much longer than that. And he’s fine with that. I trust him around the house now. I know he wouldn’t burn the house down. Years ago, I couldn’t trust him with matches but he lights fires for me independently and I know he’s safe with matches now. He knows that he really shouldn’t cook unless I’m here. He can put a bit toast in a toaster and make himself a sandwich. But I wouldn’t expect him to do cooking.
Recently, I went down to pick my daughter after school from the station. It’s only ten minutes away but he did carry on cooking pasta for me on the hub. I let him do that on his own. He’s actually a very good cook. So, I feel I can trust him for short amount of times but I wouldn’t want him to start from scratch. I don’t really like leaving him with things on the hub but I was starting to let him have a go. He uses knives independently or chop things up for me. I can go away and leave him to do that on his own. So, I think I treat him quite well with independence and we’ve always let him have a go, really.
DEBRA: So, with the cooking, did you start by just showing him?
LINDA: Well I cook every day. He watches me cook. He loves to cook with me. He has chopped vegetables out from about the age of 7 or 8 with me. He’s done it. We bought him those safety little children’s knives when he was younger but he’s very safe now. I don’t find that he’s not really ever cut himself badly. He will put things on a hot cooked potatoes, he can put things in the oven with having gloves, he’s actually pretty good. He might have burned himself once or twice but not seriously, not so that he’s not going to learn. As I say, Deb, you learn by doing things and making your own mistake. He has cooking lessons every week at school and he does very well in these lessons. And they said to me he’s very safe in the lessons, he will help other children. So, the fact that I’ve always cooked, and I’ve always included him in the cooking, I think it has brought him on quite well with that and I think he’s pretty safe in the kitchen. But I wouldn’t want him to cook a meal if I wasn’t here. There are limits. He’s safe when I’m around.
DEBRA: In terms of other things, does he do washing?
LINDA: He washes up for me and we’ve got expressive cookery we recently bought and I make sure he’s very careful with that but he does wash out and he dries up. He does put washing on and he handwashing out. He doesn’t do independently; I still ask him to do it. He empties the bins around the house for me. He gets logs in from the log box and he’ll make up a fire and he light the fire. But then again, only if I’m in the house. And I’ll let him have the fire home run not in the house. We’ve got a log burner so as long as the door is closed. I think for a boy of his age, he’s got more independence, I know a lot of children his age has got. But that’s because we’ve done it very early on. I think that’s quite important as parents and I think that you have to let people children do what they want to do and as a boy, he’s always wanted to be out his bike outside and so we let him go.
DEBRA: So just thinking then about the future, what would you like?
LINDA: I’d like him be able to get on the bus into town. He goes with his sister on the bus. I’ve never let him go on his own yet, but I think, in the next year or two, probably at the age of 15, I hope he’d better get on the bus into town on his own. And I hope that he’ll be able to spend time on his own in town and then meet me in there and I think he can put a go and do things. He goes to shops on his own in town.
Recently, he went into shopping and asking about watches. He wanted to buy a new watch and he went in there independently. And then he asked the lady at the counter “You’ve got watches for boys my age?” And she showed him a few watches and he said “Oh, I like this one, Mommy” and we went into the shop and had a look at it with him. So, he’s done that, independently but I’d like him to go into town on his own independently one day.
DEBRA: What about longer term?
LINDA: Longer term, I want him to live independently from us. I think there’s still a question mark about that, honestly. But I’d like him to and I think that we want him to be working and I think that he’ll have a nice easy job without too many demands on him. I think pressure of what life these days isn’t something Tyler can manage so it would have to be a job that’s a fairly simple one. I’m hoping he’ll be able to drive and I want him to be able to drive because he loves cars and I think he’d make a very good driver. He’s very calm and very careful. I think he’d make a good driver one day. I’d like that very much because I can see him driving, maybe as a living. I’d like him to work independently. I’d like him to live independently. Quite how that’s going to work out, I don’t know but that’s my plan, definitely.
DEBRA: Have you sort of got any plan about how that might be achieved?
LINDA: No, I think that he’ll go to college after school. I think he’s at this school until he’s 16. They do support college for children from 16 to 18. I see that happening. And I see him have some kind of trade. I don’t know where that would be yet. Cooking is the obvious one but he doesn’t cook very quickly. He’s got slow processing so in a modern kitchen, he wouldn’t survive but maybe that’s a job for him in a kitchen for a company that will employ children with special needs or adults with special needs. That’s a possibility. Something like that, I don’t know. Would have to see how his interests develop as time goes on.
DEBRA: And in terms of relationships, what would you like for his future?
LINDA: I’d love him to be married, obviously. I’d love him to have a family. He talks about having a honey. He calls a wife a honey. He talks about living near us and driving a truck and having a wife at home. I’d love that to happen and I think there’s probably somebody out there that would be able to manage someone like him. I think that he’s a delightful, engaging child. He knows he’s an attractive boy, I can see him growing up and being in a relationship. I think it would be a difficult for his wife because he’s not as empathetic as other people are but that’s part of his Asperger’s condition. There are other children, other adults out there, one day they will be able to live with that, I’m sure and I understand that and I hope that will be the case.
I see him, if he’s living alone being in some sort of assisted living. I’d prefer not to be us. I think he needs to be away from us. That’d be the easier thing to do, wouldn’t it? Buy a house to a lot next but that’s not what’s best for Tyler. I think he needs to be away from us and independent from us. And that’s part of the life journey, isn’t it? As a child, you need to grow up and move away from your parents, I’d like him to do that.
DEBRA: Yes, regardless of your additional needs.
LINDA: Yes, I think having additional needs is an issue but it’s not the main one. I think you’re still going to be an adult one day and adults need to live independently. They might need a bit of support. I could see him he had a bit of support being someone that might need to call on somebody. I think financially, he might need support. He not have a visual with money. I don’t think he really understands money. I think he’d be vulnerable to be giving his money away to somebody who was unscrupulous. I think he might need help with that. And he might need help with getting jobs done like round the house; he might help with building companies to do DIY stuff on the house, that kind of thing. I don’t see him doing that. I think he might need help getting that kind of thing done. But I think as a career, he can have a job somewhere, certainly. So, I don’t see him living independently completely. I think he needs some help.
DEBRA: He’s 13 now, so he’s obviously going through a change as a young man, has that been challenging for you?
LINDA: Yes! Been interesting and challenging. So, of course, puberty is a scary place for any teenager but I think specially so for children who don’t interibbly able understand change and don’t accept change very well. So of course, your body goes through a change and your brain goes through a change too. And I think it’s important for children to understand that, so I bought him books and they’re all books tailored for Asperger children who are going through puberty and adolescence. And there are books about changes in the body and about obviously genital development, etc. I bought him books about that. I bought him books about the opposite sex and how you deal with those emotions as you grow up. And that’s been really successful for Tyler. He enjoyed reading it.
I bought him one, 2 or 3 years ago now just about the changes in the body. That was the first one and he enjoyed reading that with me. But the most recent books were only bought last year and they’re all about things like masturbation and things like sex and there are more intimate things. And he read that on his own. And I think it was a good thing for him to read because I think he needed to understand those things and he does now understand them. And he comes and talks to me about those things sometimes, which is great because I don’t think that conversation would ever have started had he not read about it in a book. So that’s been good for Tyler.
I think I would recommend any parent with any child of that age to get those books, but certainly children with autistic tendencies to get those books because it helps them understand the changes that are going to happen inevitably. And they need to know that it’s going to happen before it happens ottherwise I think it’s quite frightening. I think Tyler’s been quite surprised by the changes in his body and he’s being a bit unsure about it so his books have been invaluable for him.
DERBA: Okay, we’ll put links to the books in the show notes so people can see which books you used for different age groups as well. That’s really interesting.
In terms of yourself, the thing that you would give us a tip to parents who got a child with additional needs who are struggling with the same things that you struggled with, what would be your tip?
LINDA: Well I would say that anybody is going through it, you’re not the only one going through it and it is a really hard road. We’ve had a very hard time with both of our children. And I think that the one thing I would say is that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost because you can’t parent children like this unless you look after yourself first. There’s a saying that I learnt when I was in the forces many years ago and I was taught that Unless you feed yourself first, you can’t help feed anybody else in your troupe and it’s true because unless you’re strong and thinking straight and clearly, you can’t possibly help other people. And it’s the same with parenting these children because unless you’re strong, unless you’re calm, you can’t be a good parent. And I struggle many times with that over the years and I thought that I’m going a bit buffty half the time because it’s been tough managing it and I’ve been depressed a little bit of a time too.
I think that’s quite common. I think you shouldn’t feel bad if you’re through those times and remember it will change but the one thing I would say, you should take care of yourself and you need to take care of your partnership as well with your other half. I certainly found that with my wife. We’ve had some difficult times and we have to find time for ourselves in and amongst all this because you lose yourself along the way somehow; you lose yourself as a person, you become this therapeutic parent and that’s really hard road and you need to, “Hang on a minute. Yeah, I’m a parent to this child but I’m also an individual and I’ve got my needs.” So, whether it’d be you do meditation or whether you do take bath every day or every other day, or whether you go out for date night once a week. Whatever you need to do for yourself, you need to do that because otherwise it’s going to overwhelm you very quickly.
So, for me, I try and make sure I take timeout, I read books, I do meditate, I do things that help me make sense of it, so I try to take myself out of myself sometimes. I look at it from another person’s perspective because somehow you need perspective (amongst to all this because it’s very easy to lose it) and I do try and make sure I find time to talk to my other half about us, not just about our children. We were going through a phase of probably 7 or 8 years where all we talked about with the children. We go out for dinner and we talk about the children, we could be in the car talking about the children, we’d be on our way on holidays still talking about the children and we never talked about anything else.
Now we have time, we try and make time for plans. We think about where we want to go on a holiday, we think about what changes are we going to do in the house this year, what do we want to do, do we got any hobbies, do we want to take another art class. Tyra wants to do her Ironman wherever she wants to do. We try and focus on ourselves a bit because you really need to do that. That would be my advice: focus on yourself some other time.
DEBRA: Okay, great! Thank you very much, Linda. Thank you very much for your time and sharing your journey with us.
LINDA: It’s a pleasure. Thank you.
DEBRA: So, thank you to Linda. Some really interesting stuff there, particularly around friendships. And to be honest, I’ve not really reflected on the importance of context in relationships and nurturing shared interests so it’s something that I’m going to be thinking a bit more about. And also, I have to say key takeaway for me is the importance of self-care. It’s all too easy to forget to look after yourself and I genuinely believe the better I feel, the better I am as a parent.
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