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The highs and lows of family life, as a mother pieces together the effects and possible causes of her son's fairly severe autism.

Huw has an original slant on life, which means that it often takes unexpected turns, not only for him, but also for his dad, mum, and his sister, Rhiannon Lucy. Huw, from age four to his mid teens, is at the centre of the book, surrounded by the conversations and reactions of various members of his family, their friends and his wonderful troop of carers. The book proceeds at a cracking pace, trying to keep up with Huw as he explores the world around him, with little regard for health or safety.

Meanwhile, his Mum particularly is concerned with important questions. How can they get more sleep? Can a change in diet help Huw speak more and run around at a slightly slower rate? Is there more than one reason why Huw won't use the bathroom? Why does he keep ripping his clothes and what is it that is so terrifying about the theme tune to Postman Pat? Notes at the back of the book offer some explanations, along with the more useful scientific findings around such questions. A key insight emerges as time goes on, and seemingly disparate theories on the causes of autism and epilepsy are drawn together by one underlying, possibly primary, factor.

This is a book for the many families like Huw's, who may be looking for some answers, but it is also a vivid account of what it is like to live on a day to day basis with fairly severe autism.  It is a good-hearted and sometimes heartbreaking odyssey through the unpredictable, an unflinching look at the realities the family faced, through a range of emotions from distraught to hilarious and back again.

Video by www.sarahadairillustration.com

Anna wrote her first prizewinning story when she was still at school, but later won enough money with a book design to buy the family's first apple mac computer.  Eventually she trained as an artist, but before that she graduated in English Literature at UCL, and then became a key organiser behind a women's theatre group based in Brixton, London.  Here she learnt about the new wave in testimonial theatre, and crossed the floor to become a playwright. Her experience provides the key to the style of her book, 'Your Life as I Knew it'.  She says she remembers conversations in a similar way to how others have photographic memories, and this gives a vivid reality to the family biography she has written.


After moving to Manchester with her husband and daughter, Anna co-ordinated a play-writing project based at the Contact Theatre, and then moved again to North Wales, where Huw was born and where the action of the book is based.  While teaching here on a Performance Art course, Huw's autism diagnosis threw any career plan she might have had to the four winds for quite a while, but ultimately the peace of creating visual art led to her later career as an exhibiting artist.  This book has resulted from her attempts to make sense of it all. There is much wit and insight within, and many tears at times, but it is ultimately an uplifting story of survival.

Great!!  Huw is at the beach with Arthur the big black dog, and Lucy, Maria, and Maria's Mum and Mum.  There's the sea. It is very, very bright. The sun is right on top of it. Arthur and Huw run along the beach, which has lots of round stones as well as sand.  The sea is very near. They run and run and run.

 

Huw comes to the end of the beach and the sea is on two sides.  He takes off his clothes. He doesn't need swimming trunks because this is the sea and there aren't any people to shout at him.  The water is FREEZING. Huw is going towards the biggest bit of sea. The waves are quite big, too, but soon he is away from the beach, and there are no more crashing sounds, just swaying up and down.  Huw's feet are off the ground – and he is swimming and swimming.

Read more...

Epilepsy and Autism

Monday, 1 April 2019

Huw's magic pic

One of many pictures Huw made using his beloved Sesame Street Art Workshop - were these multiple images the result of the absences he was experiencing (every seven minutes, at the age of twelve)?

There were signs, looking back, but we (all the experts as well as myself) didn't make the connection.  It was too easy to assume that they were the signs of autism: absences manifest as a disengagement…

Newly changed after his fall in a river, Huw is tempted by more water....

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Ioan at school age 6

'Stop, Huw! Oh, Nohhhh. Stop him!' Mum yells.

Huw is running round the fountain. The edge of the fountain is not very high. He can step up on it to jump in, but he is running round and round the fountain and it is hard to turn and jump.

'You go one way, I'll go the other,' shouts Lucy.

Then Mum and Lucy go different ways and they are both coming at Huw from each side and - Oh, no! They…

ART HELPS!

Friday, 22 February 2019

Spring picnic

Most of 'Your Life as I Knew it' is about when Huw was at home with us, but at the back of the book I have written notes which fill in some of the gaps.  There is quite a lot about my attempts to modify Huw's problems through diet, and there are also other sections, which might be helpful to anyone struggling with daily pressures similar to the ones we faced.  After Huw left home, I continued to make…

ROMANTIC COMPLICATIONS

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Racing pulse

Like many marriages in families with an autistic child, mine came to an end - when Huw was six years old and Lucy was eleven. For three years or so afterwards, I was too busy to think beyond the odd crush, so it was a nice surprise when a meeting at a fancy dress 'do' ended in what I hoped would be a long term relationship. Simultaneously, flirtations with an American artist were becoming more serious…

Time and Space for Lucy

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Lucy's day off by mum

Siblings of children with severe autism need some space to call their own, and some time alone with one or other of their parents, too. (Rhiannon) Lucy was no exception and here she is on a much-needed day off from school, captured by me in my favourite medium and style.  Beneath is an extract from 'Your Life as I Knew it' which gives one example of why she needed a break sometimes.  My gratitude…

(A bit) more Sleep!

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Melatonin image

From NOTES on 'YOUR LIFE AS I KNEW IT'

Not long after Huw's brain scan, which was normal, there was a somewhat hectic appointment with the hospital consultant. The wait had been longer than expected and I'd made the mistake of giving Huw an outsized flapjack from the hospital cafe to eat. This had the effect of catapulting him into manic activity, even before he had finished eating it. We entered…

Huw wants to talk

Monday, 14 January 2019

Huw at school

Welcome to all of you who have recently supported my book, 'Your Life as I Knew it', about family life with Huw, and also to all of you who joined us earlier, and those who may be joining us shortly.  Thank you for helping with a publication very dear to my heart and which I believe ought to be available to everyone.  Near the beginning of the book, I have a strong altercation with a Speech Therapist…

Where we lived in Wales

Monday, 17 December 2018

View in winter

Hello,

There are many snowy scenes in 'Your Life as I Knew it' so I thought a view from one of our windows would be appropriate for this time of year.  Many thanks to those of you who have backed the book so far.  Please spread the word - it's a good read, and hopefully a real insight into life with someone growing up with fairly severe autism.  Huw is such a character and it has been a privilege…

Huw's Dressing-up Phase

Friday, 16 November 2018

Slideshow 5

Hello,

As you will find in 'Your Life as I Knew it', Huw's relationship with clothes could be described as experimental.  Here he is wearing one of my dresses.  Other favourites were his sister's giant monster slippers, which he wanted to wear to school. Shoes and shoe-shopping involved high drama at times and we only found out one of the possible reasons recently.  It's all in the book, so please…

First weekly update

Thursday, 8 November 2018

The still small voice

Hello and thank you to all of you who have already committed to buying my book.  I hope you like this image, which I made when I was doing a project on autism for my art degree.  This gicle print is on textured paper and it combines a photo of Huw at his favourite lake, atmospheric artwork from me, and a poem entitled 'The Still Small Voice', which I wrote at the time.  Although it's quite a sad poem…

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