My mother, Dorcas Walker, was an esteemed schoolteacher and curriculum adviser at a number of Birmingham inner city schools in the 80s. She loved her job and hoped I would follow in her footsteps. I didn’t! When I left University, my head was turned by the colourful world of media, PR and communications. I enjoyed a 20 plus year career working with companies ranging from Highways Agency to pharmaceutical and PR agencies. My working life changed dramatically when my son was first excluded from school aged almost six. We didn’t realise it at the time, but he had co-occurring autism and ADHD and was eventually diagnosed in 2012.
In response to the difficulties we faced at the six or seven schools he attended during those wild rollercoaster years of his mainstream school years, I founded the happyinschoolproject to ensure other parents wouldn’t have to go through same experiences as us. My goal was clear: provide parent advocacy and share my knowledge of autism and ADHD. My extensive research quickly developed into a series of training programmes, which I constantly update that I deliver to schools, local authorities and other associated health and educational bodies.
I captured our school and diagnostic experiences in a series of diaries which became my first non-fiction book S.E.N.D. in the Clowns‘ Essential Autism, ADHD Guide’ a handbook for parents at the start of their journey. I was invited by a leading publisher to write about the growing issue of school non-attendance, ‘I can’t go to school!’ This issue is now reaching epic proportions with an estimated 1.7 million children out of school at the time of writing, (more than 1.7 million children were persistently absent, meaning they missed 10% or more of school, UK Education committee report, 2021/2022).
Every child and families’ situation is different and I enjoy hosting live webinars for parents and educators on all things rmotherhood, parenting, education, autism, ADHD and family life in our post-Covid world. It’s rewarding to see families gain in confidence and feel more empowered as I help them to understand how all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together for them. You can find out more about my webinars here
I discovered my own neurodivergence very late in life (which explains a lot!), and I would say although I have some regrets about not getting some things done earlier in my life, I’m so grateful to be able to relate to the children and families I work with as well as the companies who are seeking advice on how to build and retain a truly inclusive workforce. The autism and SEND world can be time-consuming so you need to remember to come up for air from time to time!
My own brilliant ADHD brain means I can connect and empathise with the people I meet and get to the heart of their story or their aim in record time. Which is very rewarding. I have to end this piece to say how hugely proud I am of my son, he’s doing some exciting things too but I will leave it to him to tell his story in his own words.
Poetry is another love of mine, my first collection Songs of My Soul, is dedicated to ‘all the soul survivors; strong capable souls with dreams and the determination to achieve them!’
I also love music and have been known to burst into song at the start of a training session, as I believe the arts and music can bypass logic and speak to peoples’ hearts. When you’ve experienced difficult situation, I think if have enough strength to carry on, you take that experience and transmute it into something purposeful shareable and wholesome.
If I were to give two pieces of advice for parents it would be to hold onto the fact that everything changes, and your children get older and usually, things have a way of working out – and stop beating yourself up for things you didn’t know!
© Suzy Rowland 2023