8th January 2019 • Emma Cooper
Hello, my name is Carly Jones, I’m autistic. I didn’t know I was until adulthood. I have no diagnosable learning disabilities and am an expert ‘masker’ so my autism stayed under the radar for a long time. However, my life before diagnosis was a battle and I don’t mind that being the first thing I share about myself. I’m proud to be autistic, not because I think it’s alternative or glamorous. It isn’t.
I am a lady who wears many hats. I am a community volunteer, Home Ed mum, weird cat lady, author, online course creator and Carer who is passionate about advocacy and regularly speaks to government officials, the media and United Nations. Also, I seemed to have gained a few more hats indirectly en route too! Which will no doubt be explained in due course; but my favourite, most well-fitted hat is that of being a mum.
Actually, I’d say being mum doesn’t involve wearing a hat at all. Nope, it’s a beautiful, shiny, much-loved hair grip that is worn daily. Without the hair grip successfully in place, any other hat I attempt to wear feels dreadfully uncomfortable and ultimately falls off, blowing away with the wind.
More about me
I was a teen mum to my eldest daughter who turns 21 this year. She is hilarious and can make anyone belly laugh, I wish she would go into stand-up as a job!
It’s been strange and beautiful having a daughter so young. There have been huge challenges but also unique experiences. Sometimes I will hear a song the radio that reminds me of being a teenager as it came out in late 1990s/early 2000s and she will say jokingly say ‘oh wow do you remember this? What a tune! We are so getting old mum!’ And it hits me that we grew up together all along. The age gap seems to be getting smaller and smaller the older we both get.
I also have a 16-year-old daughter who is a very talented actress and singer. She has also done a great deal of campaign work for autistic girls since she was about 8 in either films, books or TV and she also spoke at the UN when she was just 14 years old. She was home educated and worked incredibly hard to gain the great GCSE’s she did. She’s now at performing arts college with a large group of diverse and awesome friends and happier than ever. She’s taking breaks from anything campaign wise, as she deserves the chance to be young and carefree and not be focused on anything heavy. I want her to have a life that is hers and hers alone, that ultimately was always the end goal.
Last, but by no means least, I have an almost 11-year-old daughter who is too young really for me to ask her to consent to what I write, so I’ll keep it brief. She is home educated, bubbly, happy, constantly on the move, a huge lover of dogs and the most phenomenal natural code breaker and artist.
With the girls having their own lives, careers, wants and needs, it’s really hard as a mum – an unfiltered one at that – to strike the balance between friendly sharing and over sharing.
I rarely worry about oversharing about myself as I don’t seem to have a ‘embarrassment’ chip installed in my brain.
I’ve got better at this over the years by teaching myself, and more often by the world teaching me, harshly at times. The act itself does not come naturally though.
I don’t want to disclose, upset or indeed embarrass my daughters in my writings, so all articles are sent to them for their approval first.
I expect by the time an article reaches you, approximately 3000 words have been deleted and passionate in-house debates have occurred!
More about my family
I should probably add at this point that two of my daughters are also autistic like me. They were diagnosed at 2 and 6 years of age.
We are a diverse, different yet functional, loving and wildly protective family.
It’s true we all look very similar also, which of course you’d expect as we are related, but it’s commonly pointed out in public by complete strangers at times how alike we all are.
We all have dark brown hair, large alien like almond dark eyes (except my eldest who got stunning huge round green eyes). And we all wear glasses and are terribly short-sighted, we share various shades of olive skin, which is from my side of the family, I’m often asked ‘where do you come from?’ (Berkshire). ‘Are you British?’ (Yes, I am, my dad is just dark!)
It’s just us four living together, well six if you include Mr Pop and Chester the cats. I’ve been divorced for 10 years now.
I have dated since my divorce, but never got to the point where it would mean living together. That seems to have been a pragmatic and safe way to live whilst the kids were younger. I see the very best in people, to cohabit with someone when they were so little wouldn’t have been responsible, so I made a pact to not do that when they were small.
Autistic people can struggle with social imagination, which is unlike traditional Imagination. Many autistic people make very talented poets, artist and actors.
Social imagination is the pre-installed, natural, not self-taught ability to have a good idea of ‘what happens next’ in social situations, a natural grasp of consequences.
This can at times make us vulnerable because we seem to be a page behind with what’s going on socially but can also can make us very anxious about change. If you can’t have any predictions over what happens next, it’s hard to be excited about future events. So, a new year can seem scary.
For me, two choices can be made at this point:
- Choice A – feel incredibly scared, depressed and somewhat exist in a mental paralysis with no motivation. Terrible idea for a single autistic adult, even worse idea for an autistic parent with others who depend on you.
- Choice B – be the architect of your own destiny. Not a page ahead but a chapter ahead. Create events, plans, functions, lists (and then more lists), projects, goals and travel.
We may only be a few days in but so far 2019 has lots of plans for me! Firstly, there is this new monthly column for My Family, Our Needs which is a huge dream come true! I’ve always wanted to be a columnist! I also have two large national safeguarding projects to be completed by February. It is a demanding undertaking, yet I am elated to be chosen to do this vital project which means I will likely be in Switzerland during the tail end of February at the UN. There will be my monthly youth group and talks all over the UK planned throughout the year.
I will be in France in June and in Manchester in July and I fully intend to take my daughters with me – that’s another thing I forgot to mention. Apart from grandparents there is no childcare option for my youngest so 99% of the time if I go somewhere so does she. She was only 7 when she first attending a work role in America with me and 9 the first time she visited the UN. It’s proved a fabulous education which she feels very excited about and I’m fortunate that she loves planes as much as I do!
If you can’t predict change, you become it.
I wish you all the most fabulous 2019 – I look forward to sharing my monthly diary with you. As well as taking you with me on my personal and professional journey’s, I can promise more chat about home education, being a single parent, dating, autism and a whole lot more.
If there is anything in particular you want me to chat about email firstname.lastname@example.org and let the team know. See you next month!