Christine McGuinness

Since the start of lockdown, Christine has been at home with her three-year-old daughter and six-year-old twins, who are all autistic. Her twins have recently gone back to school, so we wanted to find out how she’s feeling about getting back to normality, what she’s learnt since lockdown and how she gets through a tough day.

How has lockdown been for you and your family?

Like most families with young children, it has been a difficult time not being able to take our children out to play in the park, meet up with friends or go to play centres. With them being so young, they really didn’t understand and in some ways I am happy they didn’t understand the seriousness of Covid-19 as it was such a scary time.

The most difficult thing during lockdown has been watching my children regress; this can happen with autism throughout their lives but more so during times of change. Their anxieties were super high and their speech and communication skills really suffered. It’s been heart-breaking to watch after years of appointments and time invested in helping them, but they always amaze me and I’m confident they will get back to their best soon!

How have you helped your children adapt to the changes?

I kept information really simple; I told them we couldn’t go out because everything was being cleaned. With autism, too much information can be overwhelming, I also didn’t want to worry them and trigger more anxiety. I made it clear mummy is here with them every day and if they want to talk or ask questions, I’m there for them.

What has home-schooling been like for you?

Not great to be honest. My children thrive on routine so I started with a visual calendar, trying to create some kind of school day at home but my children are very set on knowing ‘school is school’ and ‘home is home’. So, I changed the plan from ‘set lessons’ to ‘fun learning’ I just tried to educate through games, baking, maths bingo!

It was challenging at times, but my focus was ultimately to keep them safe, happy and calm.

How are you feeling about your children going back to school?

They had a very slow introduction back to school, just two hours twice a week which then gradually built up to four hours. We are fortunate that they go to a very small school; there were only four children in the class so social distancing wasn’t too bad. The school made it fun for them and we were all delighted to have some familiar faces and routine back in our lives.

What gets you through the day when it’s a tough one?

Knowing that each day is a new day; the bad times always pass no matter how long a meltdown might last. With experience, I’ve learnt to stay calm knowing eventually this moment will pass and they’ll be smiling again soon! Naturally, I am a very positive person, my glass is always half full and I’m confident that I can deal with whatever is thrown my way. Nothing fazes me and I’m realistic about the fact that things could be much worse. I’m grateful my children are all doing so well.

Where do you turn to if you need support or advice?

I don’t really have anyone personally other than my mum. She visits most weekends and she comes with me to get the children out somewhere but other than her, I just use social media. I get a lot of thanks for discussing autism so openly but, really, I should thank everyone else because it’s only those online who truly understand what it’s like to parent SEN children.

Favourite thing to do if you have some ‘me’ time?

Before lockdown, the gym was my therapy. It was the only place I could switch off, focus on me and I always left feeling better. I’ve struggled without it but I’m not sure when I will be able to go back as it’s now the school summer holidays. I only ever went whilst the children were at school! Roll on September…

Describe yourself in three words

Loving, patient, determined.

All-time favourite snack?

PHD white chocolate protein bars!

If there was a film of your life, what would it be called?

‘The secret life of her.’

Or something like that, I’ve never really thought about it but this title sprung to mind as there is so much people don’t know about me personally. I suppose it’s because I really focus on talking about my children and autism whenever I can, I never really put much out about me so there is a whole life story unknown. It’s pretty incredible when I think about it, it would be an amazing film, but I’m not sure I will ever tell my whole story.

Which talent of yours are you most proud of?

Not necessarily a talent, but my ability to cope with a lot on my plate! I feel I’m very good at staying calm, positive and determined. I just tend to get on with things, no matter how difficult and I always find a way to make things right. Even I sometimes look back and think, wow, how did I get through that?!

If you could be one fictional character, who would you be?

Ooh, she doesn’t exist! I think the world is missing a super strong, independent female character with a zest for life and a fabulous sense of humour!

What’s the closest thing to magic?

Children’s smiles and laughter, the most magical thing in the world.

What are you most looking forward to about hosting the BAPS Awards?

Meeting people who might understand my situation at home. To know what it’s like to be carer as well as mummy. I’m looking forward to seeing the winners realise that what they do is recognised and appreciated.

The BAPS Awards

The BAPs (Bloody Awesome Parents) Awards allows SEND bloggers to be recognised for their talents, tales and achievements. Founded by Bringing Us Together and My Family, Our Needs, these awards celebrate SEND Bloggers everywhere. Click here to find out more…

The BAPs (Bloody Awesome Parents) Awards allows SEND bloggers to be recognised for their talents, tales and achievements. Founded by Bringing Us Together and My Family, Our Needs, these awards celebrate SEND Bloggers everywhere.  Click here to find out more...
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