14th December 2021 • My Family Our Needs

As 2021 draws to a close, MFON columnist, Carly Jones MBE, reflects on BAPS, writing her new book, and shares what helps her to have a happy Christmas.   

It’s December and as we snowball (pun intended) towards all things Christmas 2021, I thought it may be good to talk all things festive and reflect on the Bloody Awesome Parents (that’s you guys by the way) and also talk about my  book coming out on the 21st of December about Safeguarding autistic girls from abuse – an abstract and not particularly festive subject matter I must admit but when I saw a major book store’s advertising along with crackers, Christmas wrapping paper and my book on the same advert – I was also as relieved as I was confused.  

Let’s start with the book so we can end on all things festive, shall we ?  

Putting pen to paper 

For the best part of the last 18 months, I have been writing ‘Safeguarding Autistic Girls Strategies for Professionals’, which is published by the brilliant Jessica Kingsley publishers. The task? To not cut any corners, to not sweep any gritty subject matter under the rug and to give insights and strategies to professionals. These professionals are social workers, police, judges, paramedics, policy makers, Government departments, teachers and more. I also hope (and goodness knows how) to make it readable. I have added humour, mostly self-deprecating, to not only act as a palate cleanser between hard to swallow courses, but also frankly to be able to write it without falling apart myself. I sincerely hope that the book safeguards as many autistic girls as possible. Diagnosis of autistic girls has in the last decade skyrocketed (a good thing by the way ) however, the pattern of vulnerability remains the same and we now need to skyrocket safeguarding. I have a pre-publication copy sat here on my dinner table that I’d like to offer to a family as an early Christmas gift who may find this book helpful. 

A to-the-point, jargon-free guide for professionals involved in the safeguarding of autistic girls. Packed full of insight, Carly Jones’ highly readable style provides advice to ensure the best support for this most vulnerable group. Pre-order here  

A night to remember  

Right… now onto the cheerful stuff, eh ? I was thrilled to be invited to meet many of you at the Bloody Awesome Parents (BAPS) awards in early November. I must admit that when I imagined a parent’s awards night, I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe I thought we would all be sitting in our floral day dresses drinking tea from a china teapot, pinkies up and back to bed by 9pm for coco or something? YOU GUYS WERE THE BEST FUN. I have never seen so many mums and dads look so epic, absolutely stunning the lot of you  –  who says SEN parents don’t know how to have fun? From what I can recall (yes that wine was very good ) the BAPs awards should come with a health warning, and I mean that in the best way. I was so surprised (and thrilled) to be able to join you all in the best, sparkly, glitter-filled, full of laughter and a night of hair being let down, which I have ever experienced. Thank you all for being so kind and lovely and for not laughing at me too much for drinking alcopops for nostalgia. It is rare for me to get a night off, too. I’m so glad that I spent it with people who ‘get it’ and wasn’t Mathew Horn the most epic host? To have a host who can not only relate to SEN but also constantly make the night rightly about the nominees and winners is a rare talent indeed. Can we have him again next year? 

Huge congratulations to the nominees, winners, sponsors, and entire team for breaking the mould and misconceptions of what a parents awards night looks like –  mind blown and still recovering.  Five stars! 

Happiness at home 

I know that Christmas can be both a wonderful and challenging time for SEN families. The thrill of the festive time can bring as much dread as it can joy. My youngest has been enjoying events in a manageable way. He’s been bowling, reading winter wonderland, and visiting our local town centre’s ski lodge, its stalls and attending drama displays. We are finding that going at the less busy times works well and mid-week is normally best. If days out are just too overwhelming, simple Christmas joys can be found at home, such as making paper chains with a Christmas film on in the background or making mince pies or cakes with Christmas songs on low in the kitchen.  

Over the years, I’ve found that the key to a happy Christmas is to simply let it be a Christmas, your Christmas and not to compare it to your next-door neighbours, friends, or the endless picture-perfect families all in matching Pjs and not a hair out of place on Instagram. Have your Christmas your way – Merry, Merry Christmas all, here’s to 2022 ! 

About the Author 

Carly Jones is a British Autism Advocate who has worked for the inclusion of Autistic women and girls since 2008. She regularly speaks on news channels, at universities and in government departments and she was the first British Autistic woman to address the United Nations on Autistic females’ rights. Carly also holds a public appointment as a member of the U.K. community and volunteer services Honours committee, an independent panel member for the Ministry of Justice and acts as an advisor for national media outlets, health departments and Autism charities.