Lessons

Today has taught me many things.

  • I’ll never go on holiday in a hotel with Reilly as long as I live.
  • I know what every floor in Hilton Gateshead looks like.
  • I know what every lift in Hilton looks like.
  • I know what every toilet in Hilton looks like.
  • For the amount of running I do I should be skinny.
  • I have shouted “don’t you go near Robs car” on more occasions than I care to mention.
  • My middle child Ellis is growing up too fast. First razor bought today.
  • That there are a lot of people who will let you down and disappoint you.
  • There are a lot of people who will cheer and champion you regardless.
  • That gluten free/dairy free pizza from dominos is not a replacement for an original Americano.
  • That mental health is more important than anything. ANYTHING.

Was fantastic to take Reilly to Brooke’s (Ellie in The Life of Reilly) party tonight. We stayed way longer than I thought we would he thoroughly enjoyed himself. I didn’t sit down once and must have looked like Flash Gordon in my yellow jacket trying to stop Reilly moving lights, knocking over fountains, getting in fountains.

We had to split as always Shane/Ellis to footy presentation and Me/Reilly to party. I’ve stressed non stop all day about taking him but so pleased I did.

The young girls at the party were so courteous. Standing in queues distresses him. They would let him in first little things make a huge difference.

Big shout to the IceCream Man. Interacting with Reilly like an absolute star. Love it when people make an effort with him.

All in all a great time, thoroughly exhausting but he loved it ❤️. Thankyou to everyone.

It’s a long one ….

It has taken me most of today to get over the nerves and excitement from yesterday.  Unless you work in the industry you cannot imagine the amount of work that goes into getting that show on stage. It started off being a very late one the night before battling the clock trying to get a programme together to give to guests. I eventually put the lap top down at 2am and then lay thinking about all the things that could go wrong. I’m anxious all the time anyway but this week i’ve been hyper aware of it.

Alarm went off at 6am and I hammered away at it only pausing to get Reilly off to school. 10.20 I hit send and prayed my friend at Sploshh could print it in time (straight opposite Northern Stage so terribly handy).

Into the bathroom and there’s my toothbrush accompanied by a something I’d rather not talk about that certainly didn’t belong to me. Irretrievable. What a start.

I’ll spare you the details of the inbetween things that went wrong like the allergic reaction to my handbag and the urgent antihistamines. Back to the play.

The Life of Reilly play is blessed with being an incredible set of cast and crew.  When I say crew I include the parents of the girls.  They are there for every rehearsal and help out as much as anyone on the day.  That in turn means their families must readjust for their other children etc and we are eternally grateful. There’s always an emergency pair of American Tan tights to run for for Grandma Mary and in this case a single duvet and some fairy lights.

It was really exciting for everyone for the cast to meet Paul, Nicky & Hannah (and Dani later on) from TryLife for the first time. There to start documenting the rise of Life of Reilly. Interviews, candid shots and all round greatness. Also Kieran Rose The Autistic Advocate who has been an absolute godsend giving brutal honesty on the things he has loved or loathed about the production. We have taken every piece of advice on board and it has helped the play evolve over the last year into something really special.

From arranging vans and drivers, learning scripts, techs, lighting, props, tickets, guests it’s pretty exhausting.

Yesterdays show was by invite only at Northern Stage.  Some of the regions top business/industry men and women. There were canapés (Thank you McKennas) and bubbles on arrival and the whole thing made me stand back and admire what the play has become.  I admit seeing Ian Whyte from Game of Thrones got me incredibly excited as many will tell you i’m a little bit obsessed.  I tried for spoilers for the finale but sadly I didn’t get any, I found it highly amusing that when the photographer from Luxe Magazine cane along I was dressed with makeup on and Alison was in costume (she’s usually super glam with sparkly nails and immaculate hair etc) leggings, T-shirt with Nutella on, no make up and her hair in a pony tail. She’ll suffer for her art though 😂. Also an absolute pleasure to meet was Kim Tserkezie. Anyone who has kids will know her from Balamory. A very talented lady passionate about diversity in media. We were honoured she came along.

As guests began to gather I’d catch glimpses of myself chatting and hosting and think who the hell is this imposter. How on earth is she standing there when her knees are weak and she wants to run.

The call to take seats came and I headed down to the green room to work on my speech for free the play. I could probably tell you the script word for word I’ve seen it and read it that many times. I knew what they were laughing at without seeing the gesture or hearing the words. I knew the cast would smash it. I was nervous nonetheless.

2 cups of tea and some deep breathing I’d something that resembled a speech. Half time break and the cast came to join me. Alison still tearstained from reading the poem ”My boy and me’ what I can only describe as someone standing on my heart when I hear it onstage.

There’s a brilliant bond between everyone in the show. I watched the girls doing each other’s hair completely at ease with each other and it made me think they are forming friendships that will last. Just as the parents have. Great things happening on and off stage.

I braved the second half to watch from the wings. The laughs were loud and the sobs were heavy. The cast 200% knocked it out of the park. They were brilliant! I’m not biased – there’s are many reviews that will tell you the same thing. This play is worthy of ANY stage and should be seen on every stage.

Crap they’ve done their bows. Standing ovation, rapturous applause. It’s my turn.

I totter our and almost fall into the stage after tripping on the curtain. Just what I wanted.

I introduce myself as Christine Stephenson writer of this blog. I tell the audience about the horrific stats that accompany autistic kids/adults. Dire mental health services. Struggles, fights, trials and triumphs and also why it is crucial we make the film. I nearly cried. My voice wobbled but I pulled it back. I’m just desperate you see for everyone to understand.

Paul took to the stage to talk about TryLife from Howdon to Hollywood. How he got into filmmaking from working in youth services and certainly held everyone’s attention. The introduction to these guys is what will make this film stand out in the crowd. The vision for it is off the scale. I see awards and why the hell not.

Finally Rob Armstrong stood to address the guests and gave them a little insight into why he loves the project and why everyone should get behind us and make it happen. The Armstrong’s kickstarted our find with a 10k donation! Rob is a huge supporter of Hadrian School in Newcastle’s West End. An incredible school which caters for the needs of pupils aged between two and eleven years with a range of additional needs including complex, severe learning difficulties and profound and multiple learning difficulties. He and Bev get it.

Many guests pledged to sponsor a page of the film script (example below). An innovative way to raise some funds for us and you never know it may be worth a small fortune when those BAFTAS roll in.

The Hilton gave is an incredible prize of an overnight stay, drinks, spa, dinner, tickets to see Marvel, transport etc which raised £765! They also donated the bottles of bubbly. Big Thankyou Lynn, Janet, Toni and the lady who I didn’t catch her name (shameful) for selling tickets and being such an enormous help.

All in all I great success. If you were lucky enough to be invited I thankyou from the bottom of my heart for the love and support we have received since. I know it resonated with many. The characters and scenarios can be identified with so easily when you live The Life of Reilly in your own home. It’s time for change.

Alison who plays Joanne and who is also the writer is up for a culture award on Thursday which in itself to be a finalist is outstanding! then we have our ball on 1st June (ask me about last remaining table or 2) so not quite ready to relax for a second.

What a journey. Stress and laughter our guides.

Alison Stanley , Kelly Best – We’ve got this! Xx

#TryLifeofReilly

If you would like to support us with sponsorship or anything else please see the funding page attached. (There are offline donations to be added to this).

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-autism-film

What would we talk about my boy and me?

It’s my birthday I’m 46 and feel 90!! It’s bittersweet for reasons many of our friends will know. ❤️

Shane took a day off work so we could grab a few hours together child free. Trip to the metro centre for some new make up, god knows I need it and some Lebanese food. Perfect.

Home just in time for the kids arriving home. Reilly as per usual throws his car keys at me which means let’s go mother and I always oblige. I asked him where he wanted to go and usually he would grab my phone and type it in. It’s usually in no particular order Airbox, Burger King, Spar, skatepark or Ace Playce. I need season passes for all of them. This was his reply today ….

Now what can I say about this. I drove away feeling incredibly emotional. I’m always told accept him as he is. I do but god I want to talk to him. There’s a pit in my stomach that aches to have a conversation with him.

What would we talk about? His enormous hate for undercrackers? Why he puts his chin in my eye socket when he’s trying to fall asleep? Why does he headbutt the wall when we try and wash his hair and slam his knees onto the bathroom tiles with such force it cracks them? What is he thinking about when he roars in spontaneous laughter? What’s his favourite song? Why always vanilla with a flake? Why is the food always beige? Why the back seat on the right hand side? Why’s he terrified of The Lion King? What’s his favourite colour? Does he like school? Why I can’t drink a cup of tea? Why he’s never cold or the attraction of the sea? The list is infinitive. There will never be a question that doesn’t need an answer.

Today I saw progress and I felt hope. I’m happy. Today is a good day ❤️

Taxi Driver

For most parents their kids will go to their local school, certainly where we live its an approximately 3 minute walk from my house.  Biggest nightmare is that it’s raining or that you have to carry a scooter.

For us it’s really stressful.  Reilly gets transport to school so has a driver and an escort.  We’ve had a few over the last few years and the most recent escort we are really comfortable with. Reilly likes him which is huge.

When your child is non verbal or doesn’t communicate trust is an enormous issue. I’ve written before about leaving no stone unturned while investigating drivers and escorts before meeting Reilly.  Checking social media, local online news etc (I’m not kidding).  Ive probably snooped on their cousins boss at one point looking for anything that could set alarm bells ringing.

There is currently no legal requirement for the escorts (or drivers) to know anything about autism.  It is a recommendation but not a requirement.  This doesn’t sit well.  A meltdown can be terrifying for the child but also the person responsible, surely to have some awareness of what may cause one and how to help during one would be beneficial for all parties?  So many potential triggers that you wouldn’t dream of in a taxi – air fresheners, radio, other kids, seating positions etc.

This morning I heard the words I have been dreading. “Hi Chris just to let you know tomorrow is my last shift”.

Shit, I’m gutted.  I’m so stressed.  Reilly may love the next person, he may hate them.  Who are they?  I have no idea and its terrifying.

I created this petition recently and would be really grateful if you could sign it and share it.  Having taxi companies taking part in an awareness session as part of the terms of a councils tender would be incredible.

 

 

 

 

 

Safety First

Today I had the absolute pleasure of being able to help Reilly’s amazing school. I’d had a conversation with them before Christmas about how difficult it is when our kids are ill, communication being the main factor. When Reilly is feeling unwell he doesn’t tend to point to where he hurts, he doesn’t talk; he lashes out at me. His way of showing me he’s not happy. As a parent your main priority is to mend and make better – this is no easy task with Reilly. Then there’s the going to the doctors, the treatment, new equipment he’s never seen before, lotions, potions and medicine etc. It all needs explaining, he needs to be prepped.

We decided that new PECS cards to keep at home and some social stories would work perfectly to ease frustrations on both sides.

So today I organised for my good friend and amazing first aid trainer Chris Bull from FIRST AID NORTH EAST to come along to the school and teach some of us parents what to do when there’s an accident or emergency. As many of you know I’ve run a charity with my sister in law for the last 6 years and Chris has done numerous training sessions for us. He again gave his time for free to help today and I’m incredibly grateful. I learned a lot too. Each parent had the chance to focus on their main concern and ask lots of questions too.

It went so well we will be working with Chris further to provide future sessions of the same style.

** I’ll be posting a link to children’s first aid kits with these PECS cards attached in the next couple of days. Another great contact at JAX FIRST AID can provide them at a discounted rate.

“My first aid kit consisted of a liquorice allsorts tin from 1994 with 5 plasters some out of date savlon and some drawing pins. Not anymore!!”

12 years

12 years ago after the birth of my second son I had a breakdown. It was the worst experience of my life. I had severe post natal depression and peri-natal OCD. Peri-natal OCD is possibly the cruelest form of a mental health problem I’ve come across. This isn’t lining baby bottles up or being tidy. This is trying to make a bottle and convince yourself that you haven’t filled it with salt (obvs haven’t but you check, you check again, one more check, you throw away – just in case, you start again). It’s exhausting. You have this teeny human to care for and all you can think about is the harm that they could come to (obsession) and spend your life making sure that doesn’t happen (compulsions).

This is not a combination I would wish upon anyone, not my worst enemy. I couldn’t travel alone on a bus into Newcastle, couldn’t nip to the shops or take my oldest to school. On the rare occasions I did venture outside I wouldn’t/couldn’t speak to anyone. It was the darkest place I’ve ever been to. I ended up moving home with my parents, only they knew the true extent to how bad I actually was, taking sleeping tablets 6 nights a week for some respite from my inner turmoil while anti depressants settles themselves in as my new sidekicks (still with me, couldn’t live without them). I could no longer work in finance and found myself with no job for the first time in my life. I felt I was a failure and the world would be a better place without me.

If you’d said to me then Christine hang on in there. You are going to make a difference. You’ll play a part in saving lives through the charity. You’ll produce theatre shows and a film. I’d have christened you barmier than I was. But look what’s happened! Granted I still take meds – no shame in that, I practise mindfulness and really try to keep on top of my mental health.

When I talk about being driven you have no idea how much I’m driven. I see these opportunities as second chances. I see them as my way to cover up some of the cracks in my own walls. Being driven fuelled with anxiety on most days is bloody hard. I hate anxiety, sometimes I want to get the kids off to school and then hide but I don’t I sometimes need some encouragement to keep it moving and I do my absolute best.

The Life of Reilly is cathartic for me. I love writing when I get the chance. I love to share our experiences and feel I’ve evolved over the last 3 years of writing. I hadn’t a clue when I wrote my first blog that it would be viewed all over the world. I get thanks from countries I’ve never heard of because they feel like they aren’t the only ones ballsing this parenting lark. I get it wrong. We all do but I do my best.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that the stage play travels. I will work my nuts off to make this film. Wherever possible it will include autistic people. Acting, crew, runners. Everything in my power to make it happen. There are important issues to raise and millions to educate but I need your help to do it.

If you can help with any aspect of the film be it donation of time, sponsorship, product placement, locations, expertise then please shout. We have some great fundraisers coming your way including a Midsummer Nights Dream Ball!!

Moral to this one is no matter how shitty you feel there is hope on the horizon. Keep your chin up, seek help, take the meds, speak to the counsellors just do what you’ve got to do when times are blue. Never be afraid to speak up.

Great things could be just around the corner xx

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-film

Nightmare – when I’m gone.

Bear with me its a strange one.  I can’t stop thinking about a dream I had last night.  I’m exceptionally stressed out at the moment and I think that may have a bearing.  The dream or part of it goes like this ……

I’m on a London double decker bus with my face pressed against st the window and I’m screaming and banging on the window.

Out of the window there’s Reilly around age 30.  He’s stood at a bus stop surrounded by a load of people.  He’s on his own and still non verbal.  He doesn’t know which bus to get and can’t ask for help and is getting upset.  I’m banging but he can’t hear or see me and I can’t get off, my bus pulls away.

God the tears writing this.

From what I can pull from the dream its my fears for his future and its rocked my core.  I know I’m not the only one, there are millions worrying just the same.

I’m not prepared for this.

How are you preparing for your child’s future or like me have you no idea where to start?

I’ll be looking into what is available currently to calm my raging anxiety about my boy which I will share.

What’s your greatest fears?

 

 

 

 

Little things

Yesterday was one of those days that come along just when you need a reminder that the world is not actually filled with horrors.

Ellis was very kindly invited to a birthday party at the Metrocentre, I have a love hate relationship with the place.  I only like parking where there are 2 spaces next to each other which is a near impossibility here and for someone that suffers from anxiety my biggest fear is no quick escape route to fresh air,  there’s no windows when you are walking about and it makes me feel claustrophobic, sometimes.

I found my little bit of sanctuary after dropping Ellis off at Game and found I had 2.5 hours to do whatever I please.  Yay says the Christine who craves time alone, boooo says anxious Christine – what if I need to leave earlier, what if I have a panic attack etc etc.  I wandered straight to Waterstone Cafe and bought the book I had been waiting for.  Notes on a nervous planet by Matt Haig.  All bout how to stay sane in a world that is anything but, ironic that 2 armed cops were stood outside the window when I looked up.  My incessant need to be attached to social media for my charity work and Reilly will be the downfall of me and something I need to address and get some organisation in my life.  We’ll see how that goes, its not the first time i’ve said it!

I grabbed a tea, soya milk and tiffin and started to read.  I could have stayed for days.  I NEVER do things like this.  Im that busy trying to be busy to stop overthinking everyday life I had forgotten there are simple pleasures in actually taking 5 minutes for myself.

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I then decided I would do something else I never do and went for a make up consultation at Urban Decay.  I an absolute gem of a girl called Rhona invited me to take a seat and we chatted while she explained what a setter was and the likes and even proved they work by doing a demo, i’m cynical, i’m not the girliest of girls and still apply all of my makeup  with one finger, quick dressing gown wipe for next product, you get the picture.  Anyway she was right I was wrong and that never happens.  We discussed our love for Harry Potter and got to talking about Reilly, lack of sleep, autism and defibrillators in no particular order.

When I was leaving she gave me her email address and said she was inspired by the things we talked about and she would love to do my makeup for free for our winter ball in December.  I nearly cried.  Biggest of thankyous to Rhona she probably has no idea how much she made my day and i’ll definately be taking her up on her offer.

Little things that restore my faith in human nature.  Ellis had a great day at  his party, Reilly had a great day at the beach with his dad and I went to bed trying to read my book by the light of my phone trying not to disturb the tiny cherub sleeping peacefully beside me.

A good day xx

The Life of Reilly Premiere was a success!

So the premiere was an amazing success!  I have never been quite so terrified in the days leading upto the event.  Will people like it, will people turn up and watch it, will people want to see more, what the hell will I say for my speech, why wont Reilly sleep for more than 4 hours this week?  Will Alison kill someone?  I could go on.

A lot of people who couldn’t make it (thankfully they didn’t as it was fit to burst) have asked  for more information about the ideology behind it all so here goes.

The short film was made to hi-light the distinct lack of support for families by the powers that be.  My greatest support comes from other parents, my actually autistic friends and Reilly’s teachers/school.  We have some incredible schools in the area unfortunately there are not enough places for our kids and many are shoehorned into the wrong environments.  It causes massive problems.  We certainly had a fight on our hands to ensure Reilly could get the education he deserves and is entitled to, we are not alone in that.

The film is a short and will be entered into short film festivals and used as a hook to try and secure funding for a feature film.  The short film which  you can view or download below for a very small fee (proceeds towards feature) looks at an ordinary morning with an extraordinary family.  How easy a life of rigid routine can become absolute chaos when the wrong transport arrives.  Transport can be a massive headache for SEN familes .  Alison Stanley who plays Joanne and also wrote the play The Life of Reilly and Charlie Price who plays Reilly do such an incredible job at really making the whole scenario hit very close to home.

The feature film which is already in writing will follow Reilly from conception, well actually just after as it won’t be an 18, right the way through to young man.  It will all be based on real life events and I can ensure you will be witty, entertaining, heartwarming with a little touch of heartbreaking reality I am sure many will identify with.  The film will most certainly call out the problems Reilly and others like him face on a daily basis.  Autistic actors, crew and consultants is a given for the feature film too.

We need this.  We have a chance to reach a huge audience and squash those myths, promote inclusion and to be frank get people to stop acting like dicks around these families making all our lives a little easier.  It’s about being human and education as I said on the night and I quote.

I’ve been that person rolling my eyes at the parent standing over their screaming child in the supermarket.  Mine would never do that! What a fool I was.  Thats what I saw a parent with no control over their child.  What i didn’t see was a child overwhelmed by their surroundings – of sights, smells and sound.  What I didn’t see was a parent desperate to just blend in, a parent desperate to help their child and get out of that situation.   I judged because I didn’t see.  I didn’t understand.

If you were there on the night you would have been lucky enough to hear a speech by Kieran Rose The Autistic Advocate.  It was incredible.  I hadn’t had a sneek peek at what he was going to say before hand and it really blew me away.  Focus was on responsibility to ensure the narrative is right.  Ill post Kieran’s transcript up in a separate blog post as it deserves its own platform.   The Q & A after the film with myself, Alison, Charlie, Scott and Kieran promoted some excellent discussion and enabled many of the audience to quiz Kieran about being actually autistic and Scott’s take on being an autistic actor.   Charlies answer to how was meeting the real Reilly melted by heart.  He’s an incredible kid and I know for fine fact we will be seeing so much more of him.

So please support us take this to the next level.  Take a look at the short film and please send me a review of your thoughts.

A massive thank you to everyone who took the time out to attend on Wednesday it means the world to us and  to every single person who donated, came to Reilly’s fundraiser, gave their time to help raise funds and those who shared our posts and helped spread the word.

Alison Stanley, Charlie Price, Chrissy Rock, Andy Mills, Scott Ritchie, Stephen Woods and the whole clan from Act2Cam.    Thankyou for a great experience.  I look forward to many more breakfast meetings with Alison & Kelly plotting the next. Got lots of exciting things in the pipeline.

Did I ever think i’d be hosting a film premiere and listed as an Executive Producer? Hell no. 

Did I think i’d be trying to make a difference for my boy?  Hell yes and will continue to do so. 

The Life of Reilly from ACT 2 CAM

 

Beach Life (of Reilly)

We’ve had a lovely day at the beach.  I made some observations about Reilly today.

  1. It doesn’t matter whether you are playing a beach based sport such as footy, cricket or rounders Reilly will sit on your goalpost, move your wickets and throw your ball in the sea.
  2. Reilly will enter any beach tent shade thing without consent and have a lie down.
  3. Reilly will claim any bucket and spade as his own despite small children’s wails of discontent. He gives no shits when I say Reilly that’s not yours, in-fact it encourages him to run faster.
  4. Reilly will join your BBQ without an invitation and will eat any bread type food you have kicking about, he is also partial of a slurp of random pop left unattended.
  5. Reilly will attempt to mount your body board or surf board regardless of whether you are on it or not.
  6. Reilly gives not one f@ck about any of it.  Oh to be that free.

Great day rounded off with some chips and an icecream.  Met some lovely  adults today who were intrigued by him.  Their kids and grandkids not so much haha.

Love him.

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