10 Reasons to come see the life of reilly

Don’t just take my word for it. There are hundreds who will back up my claim that this play is groundbreaking. A must see for everyone!

1

A thought provoking, funny, emotional, educational and honest insight into real family life with autism. I laughed and I cried, I listened and I learnt. This is a must see for all, highly recommended.

2

This is not a play aimed at parents of autistic children. This is not a play highlighting the concerns, traumas, battles and challenges they face on a daily basis. This is not a play that makes you realise you’re not the only one serving up beige food. This is a play for the whole of society. A play that will make you realise that autistic people are the same as everyone else, just different. This is a play that will make you belly laugh, a play that will make you weep, a play that will make you realise how intolerant our society has become. This is a play that you must see, watch it with open eyes, an open heart and above all an open mind.

3

Watching similarities of your own personal story being played out in front of you with such honesty and rawness made this play unforgettable. The humour and simplicity of what parents face on a daily basis was demonstrated throughout and it gave a magnificent insight into the wonderful world of Autism. Great for raising awareness and showing the reality of what happens behind closed doors xx a must see x

4

A must see for everyone! Such an in-depth insight into the world of autism from point of diagnosis to dealing with the daily struggles of meltdowns and routines not to mention the completely unhelpful opinions of people on the outside! The play is an emotional but accurate account highlighting the need for acceptance and empathy. Absolutely incredible and really keeps you gripped from start to finish. Well done to the writers and cast, I cannot wait to see the film! 💙

5

Incredible performance last night by all the cast. My son Fletcher has ASD and we can completely relate to the issues raised in the play. I only wish all my friends and family could have been there to see how incredibly hard it is for children and young people with ASD and their families. The fight continues #understanding #support

6

This play pulls no punches in telling how Autism impacts on everyday life for all concerned. The joys…..of which there are many the heartache, the frustration, the lack of understanding, the struggle for services….I don’t know how they achieved to convey all of this with humour, pathos and sensitivity. I would recommend this play to everyone. I’ll be going to see it again.

7

Spellbinding. Better than The Curious Incident of The Dog

8

What can I say? As a step-Mum of a boy with Asperger’s, this play had me weeping both with its raw honesty and its humour. It’s a must see production… but bring a tissue! Well done to all, it’s so rare to see such an accurate portrayal of life for a family on the spectrum.

9

I absolutely loved this! They represented the autistic spectrum with dignity, and humour, whilst showing the challenges of living in a world that insists on conformity.

10

This was a such a powerful story, I know people dealing with similar realities and their description matched the journey I was taken into by this amazing project. Very strong collaboration and performances too. This deserves to be watched and shared!

Next show is 7th Feb at Northen Stage tickets available here

2019 Good Riddance – A Dad's blog.

It’s been quite some time since my last blog, so long I can’t remember the last time I wrote one to be honest; quite a lot has happened in Reilly’s life, development and this has changed the dynamics of the house somewhat and had a profound effect on us all as a family.

The first 6 months of the year seemed to pass without too much incident in the grand scheme of things from Reilly’s point of view (I think), our boy rolled with his routine, he settled into his Monday to Friday routine of going in his school transport without too much issue, developed academically very well, he’s by all accounts a helpful, keen student even taking it on himself to collect the class register and participate in running 1 mile a day with few of his class mates and his teacher.

After school in the lighter nights Reilly is keen on playing out in the street, going swimming, going to Air box trampoline park, the Cinema (we tried numerous times but it’s just too overwhelming for him and he is off before the movie starts), Weetslade country park; Fridays are different we always get the bus, same X8, has to be a double decker so he can sit up stairs and get a good vantage point on his journey, straight off the bus at the Haymarket and into Greggs for a sprinkled donought and a bottle of Dr Pepper light then through M and S up the glass lift and depending on his mood its Fenwick’s toy department or HMV or both.

After shopping it’s like clockwork off to Subway for a Bacon sandwich and pop sitting in the front window watching the Buses pulling out of the station.

So good so far right?

During this period of relative stability as I have mentioned in previous posts I have wrote ordinary life goes on, bills have to be paid, work commitments have to be fulfilled, cars will still break down; even in times of really unsettled behaviours unfortunately the same applies.

The first 6 months of 2019 were tough for many reasons personally, like most in modern life we are spinning numerous plates and modern life is stressful enough and parents often neglect self-care; too busy earning money to pay the dreaded bills, keep the car on the road, the roof over the head, rushing between kids activities, probably sounds very familiar to most I would imagine.

I will try to explain the gradual decline that spiralled out of control that with self-care I could of I am sure handled it better, the problem is if you’re in a lifestyle that doesn’t include regular self-care you like me probably won’t see the signs of what is coming and you dig in and think it will pass.

Towards the end of 2018 we lost a dear friend, a really kind soul Glenn who suffered like myself with mental health issues; in January we lost another dear friend Eddie to cancer after a short period of diagnosis, both fine young men were far younger than myself and should have had the world at their feet and deserved to live full and happy lives.

At this point I am seriously considering morality, Reilly’s complexities potentially may or may not need to rely on a support network as he moves into adulthood; we have little in way of support as parents get older, health declines and he’s an energetic bundle as he should be as a young lad. The first thoughts of what happens if it’s me next creep into my head, who will look after him? Who can he rely on? At this point it’s a daily thought and I try to rationalise with myself that’s not going to happen everything will be ok…..

A short period of time later I lost another friend, Gavin the word character could have been invented for him; Gavin was slightly older and like myself a father and like Glenn and Eddie he should have had years life and happiness ahead of him.

Watching the pain, anguish and struggle of bereaved parents is unbearable; I know what they are going through the fights they face and as kind as peoples intentions are bar odd chinks of normality nothing stops the living hell of how final it is. I know because I am a bereaved parent.

The rationalising with myself is now becoming more frequent and my worries are becoming more and more real in my own mind….

Still trying to hold myself together the crushing news comes in a phone call my friend Anthony is in hospital, diagnosis pancreatic cancer; kind, funny, principled, slightly younger than myself and also a father.

Again the first thoughts are this is shit, just wrong, a very fit young man, regular half marathon runner, he should have his life, a long happy life. The battle in my head is now all consuming in fact its lost, well and truly lost at this point. I make an appointment to see my GP and continue as best as I can to function at work and as a parent.

Getting back to Reilly, at this time my head is a mess, I spend time with him and all I can think of is what will become of him, will he need support, will he have a career and who will care for him, protect him and support him? The day before I was at the GP’s I attended a concert at his school and all I could do was cry, not out of pride but fear, real fear for his future.

I left that concert and went home with stomach cramps, never slept and rang in sick the next morning, went to the GP’s unloaded on him and was as honest as I could be, top tip to any men if you don’t be honest you can’t get the correct help. I will be forever grateful to the GP and my friends who recognised the signs and offered unconditional help and support.

The severity of the cramps had been on and off for periods of months and In my lost battle in my thoughts I was terminally ill, the GP took what seemed like a dozen samples and reassured me it was stress related and proscribed a new course of anti-depressants, diazepam and signed me off work for 3 weeks.  Work were supportive thankfully, the next few weeks existed of wondering around the house and waiting for the kids to come in to have a sense of purpose.

Fast forward 2 weeks and results day at the GPs, I was physically sick before I went I was that convinced I was seriously ill. The GP got straight to the point and advised me I had neglected my own care in short, was suffering with stress/depression related illness and I was type 2 diabetic undiagnosed for considerable time. I have never been so relieved in my life as a result I have had to alter my lifestyle, take the medication, slowly build up my mental health and taking enjoyment out of my life and being a parent. I returned to work after 6 weeks and have nothing but praise for the way I was supported and treated since, it’s easy sometimes to forget who helped you when you needed it, but remember you should and repay them and stay loyal to them in the future.

Anthony was a dear friend and comrade, whether it was that daft message, a phone call, quick pint, a music session or a day out to the football there was never a dull moment.  His battle and outlook on life will stay with me forever, so brave and dignified.

My outlook on the future is still very much a case of uncertainty, I still question my morality and the what ifs creep in but I can shut them out and replace them with positive thoughts and behaviours; the truth is even neurotypical kid’s parents will have worries of their kids futures but unfortunately it’s not a level playing field with a child or a young adult with ASD is it?

For any readers who aren’t familiar with me I am very opposed to the current government and their savage cuts on social care, the NHS, education and the welfare state; I will openly challenge people in person or on any platform available. I make no apologies and stand by position, an example is £0 yes £0 extra funding for SEN schools from 2023, the current lot don’t want to educate my child never mind care for him if god forbid the what ifs ever became reality.

So when you think here he goes again banging on about Labour or Socialism or the likes you now have a deeper understanding of what makes me and my wife tick, I like you want an equal, fair and accepting society for my kid as you do yours; I don’t expect special treatment just a level playing field it’s not too much to ask. What isn’t ok is 1000’s of kids and families struggling out of education, unsupported, confused and suicidal in a world they don’t understand, parents struggling relying on charities and kindness as the magic money tree doesn’t stretch to our kids.

Recent political goings on don’t fill me with long term confidence so we have options to consider what is in our best interests as a family, for Reilly individually and what can we do to remove uncertainties and improve the outlook for families, ASD kids and as importantly young adults.

If we don’t take the lead who will? No one is my guess, bar our own community bubble of teachers, parents, families we are very much on our own in my opinion.

Ps. the second 6 months were an absolute disaster in terms of Reilly and his behaviours bless him but that’s another blog.

Thank god for that!

Four words.  Four very simple words with a massive impact.

There is a line in the play The Life of Reilly which is delivered by autistic actor Scott and it says “They say words behind my back that move to my heart and break it”. It’s about thoughtless people, I met some of those today.

The holidays are hard for us, when I say us I think it’s safe to say I speak for many. We are 4 weeks into the holidays the kids are out of routine and back to school anxiety is taking root. I’ve given my Katniss salute to a few when I’ve seen them out and about. Just so they know I know, I get it.

 

Reilly made it really clear today he wanted to get the bus into Town so that’s exactly what we did. I was a bit nervous about it as sometimes Reilly will want a certain registration plate rather than bus number, I am many things but a conjurer I am not. Anyway all good a double decker came immediately and we had a lovely ride in.

He has a route he takes every time and that’s through M & S and then straight to Fenwicks or HMV. Today was HMV for a new DVD. I should really take a camping chair as we could be there all day while he looks at all the covers. He bought Thomas Trouble on the Tracks then led the way back to the Haymarket. No stopping for an ice cream at Mark Toneys or Fenwicks so knew something wasn’t quite right.

A doughnut from Greggs and we got back on the bus. He didn’t want to get on it but seeing as I don’t live in Whitley Bay his choice was out.

It was horrific. From the second the bus moved he screamed literally til he couldn’t breathe. He was shouting go back and clawing at his own skin. He is covered in scratches. Now I knew if I turned around I would see, best case scenario would be 2 different types of reaction. Half bus thinking ah poor woman and child other half wish sh’d shut him up. Worst case would be a bus full of the latter.

A man and woman late 60s ish were sat in the seat behind me. I could hear moaning and would occasionally see her hands go up to her ears. Did I turn around and boot her? No maybe she had sensory issues, maybe there’s more to her story. So I persevered with Reilly. I cuddled him, I kissed his scratches, I explained we had to go home. Not once did I raise my voice or get angry with him. He’s non verbal this is his communication. Me getting angry would achieve nothing. In this situation I have to his anchor and safety net. I could almost hear them willing me to give him a smack.

Worst 25 mins Ive ever had with him. I was sweating, stressed and on the verge of tears. As the couple got off they avoided my eye contact and I heard her say to the driver in a snidey tone “THANK GOD FOR THAT!” Not satisfied that she was getting off the bus and out of the situation but wanting to drum up some comrades of hate, which she didn’t get. one lady said to me some people just don’t get it, they are awful and she’s right.

I did my best for my boy that’s all I can do. Everyone else has the luxury of moving their seat. What am I supposed to do? Get off?

I’ll tell you what YOU can do in this scenario.

  1. Don’t tut.
  2. Don’t roll your eyes to the person across the way.
  3. Don’t do massive loud exhales of breath behind my head you might lose your lips.
  4. Don’t stare.
  5. Say things like I know there’s maybe nothing I can do but let me know if I can.
  6. Be a friend. A knowing smile is enough to top up our batteries.
  7. Don’t judge. This isn’t bad parenting.
  8. If you get off at the same stop offer to carry a bag, ring someone. Our hands are usually full.
  9. Move your seat. If it’s too much I understand honest I do.
  10. Give us a break.

I did mouth out the window WTF is wrong with you which she saw. She just looked at me disgusted. I’m over it now but for the love of Tom people pack it in!

When I eventually got him home I tried to work out what happened. I know he wanted to go back to town and kept handing me my bag. He took my phone and typed this ….

He had changed his mind about the DVD he bought in HMV. Honestly I’m heartbroken. The meltdown was born through pure frustration because he couldn’t tell me. I had put my phone away to hold him on the bus. My little lad and what he does every day deserves a medal of Olympic standard.

I put him in the car, drove to HMV metro centre and changed his DVD. We went to the Disney shop and the lady on the till recognised him immediately from his blog and Facebook which was lovely. We had a Burger King and shoved some wool up the sucker in the build a bear factory (always a favourite).

Up yours old cow on the bus. Maybe some education from playing outside your house maybe useful?

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

Pop Fantastic 

Don’t you just love it when you order something and then forget its coming and it’s the best surprise when you see it drop through the letterbox!

Earlier in the week I ordered a book called Pop Fantastic. The book is about Pop who is 7 years old, autistic and the writer is from the North East – what’s not to love here?  obviously I was going to buy it.

The book written for children and not just autistic children is beautifully illustrated and the perfect length to keep little curious minds happy.


The story shows that although Pop experiences things differently those things make him incredibly special. A magical land, a new friendship and a hero in the making.  I see this as a perfect bedtime story and will be reading it to Reilly tonight.  I hope to see more of Pops adventures.

More books with autistic characters please 😊.

You can buy Pop Fantastic (The Adventures of) by clicking this link:

Conversation frustration 

​Reilly said cheese tonight. He’s said it before and I love it when he does as it lets a tiny chink of light through on what lies ahead. He went on to babble for about 15 minutes and for some reason tonight it made me really emotional.  

I cannot express how huge my desire to have a conversation with my boy is.  


He tries so hard. It makes me so fucking angry the frustration he faces daily to make himself heard. Don’t get me wrong we manage most of the time I know what he wants as he is a brilliant communicator via other means but sometimes it overwhelms me that he’s 6 and we haven’t had a conversation.  

Imagine having none of the magic conversations about the run up to Christmas, I tell him regardless and talk to him as much if not more than Alex and Ellis, sometimes searching on his face for clues that he gets it. I think he does there’s no flies on Reilly and I think he knows exactly what’s going on but I can’t be sure because he can’t tell me. He points to Cars3 track in Argos book and then at Santa so I know he’s made that link which is great and I’m now working on Reindeers and carrots.  Might not sound like a big deal this is just an example but apply to any part of his life. How was school today Reilly? Nope  I’ll just check what his teacher has written in his diary or I just don’t know. 

As a Parent it’s your job to ‘get it’. I need to know what’s up so I can fix it, help him, make him happy. Sometimes I just can’t figure it out and that pisses me off royally. 

In my poem called I’m Jealous which I wrote a while back I didn’t hide my jealousy of others in fact I was practically green with envy. I still am at some things and sometimes when my head is straight I know people might be jealous that they don’t have a Reilly. He’s awesome and I long for the day that we might talk, that day might never come I’m prepared for that, I think.