James, BAPS winner 2018 - Stories about Autism, with Gethin and his award

My Family, Our Needs is still bringing you the winners stories from our amazing BAPS Awards earlier this year. James blogs over at Stories about Autism and is a Dad of two. Both his sons are autistic and he writes honestly about the highs and lows of raising children and juggling life. James won the award for Most Supportive SEND Blogger and here he tells us what his win meant to him.

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the BAPs Awards, having been nominated in two categories.  I found out I’d made it to the final back in January, and I couldn’t wait for the event to take place and get to mix with my fellow SEND bloggers.

Why I love blogging

I’ve been writing my blog for nearly 3 years now, and it’s become a huge part of my life. I tell stories about life being a dad to two boys who are both autistic, and the interest in what I write has been way more than I ever expected.

The best thing I’ve discovered whilst blogging is the sense of community it can create. Firstly, with the people who follow your stories, but also with other bloggers who write about similar topics and can understand what life is really like. Thanks to the power of the internet, you can end up becoming friends with people all over the UK and the rest of the world, but the likelihood is you’ll never meet in real life as you live so far apart. The BAPS Awards changed all that for me.

Receiving recognition

With ‘Special Needs Parenting’ not being the most glamorous of topics to talk about, there aren’t any events or awards ceremonies that feature or celebrate us as a group. Then, last year the BAPS Awards were born. They created a chance to not only receive some recognition for all of the hard work we put into our blogs to raise awareness and understanding of important topics we talk about, but also give us a valid excuse to have a night off and meet in person some of the people we’ve been chatting with for years!

Having attended last year’s event (where I won an award!) I knew what to expect and couldn’t wait for it to get started. After booking 2 days off work and organising overnight childcare, I got to the hotel around 11am and took full advantage of my day off by having a round of golf with a friend.

By the time we finished and reached the bar, a few other nominees had turned up, and I had a chance to get to know them before the event got started.

A quick shower and change of clothes later and I was back in the function room meeting more bloggers, and catching up with the My Family, Our Needs team. I was also lucky enough to be supported by some friends and family who made the trip up from London, so we were all going to make sure we had a good night.

On with the Awards

Then the Awards started, and our host for the evening, Gethin Jones, took over. Gethin has a nephew who is autistic, so has a personal connection to what many of us write about, and it was clear to see he had spent time reading through all of the nominees blogs.

The first award I was nominated for I missed out on winning, but it wasn’t all bad as it was won by a very good friend of mine, another dad blogger! It was good to see that this year there were a few more male nominees, and that more dads seem to be talking about such important topics.

With each award that was read out you could really see just how much it meant to each winner as they went up to collect their award. Special needs blogging is often talking about subjects that are very emotional. You really do cover the highs and the lows of life. Putting it all out there for the world to see can be a scary thing, so knowing it’s being well received, and even led people to vote for you, is a lovely feeling.

My second category was the last award of the night, and it was a nervous wait. It’s only when you’re sitting there waiting for the winner to be read out that you realise just how much you do want to win!! This time it was good news and I made my way to the stage to collect my award and have a mini interview with Gethin. Luckily I’d had just the right amount of alcohol to not be drunk, but have enough dutch courage to speak to the whole room!!

Celebrating my win

I made my way back to my table, and it was time to celebrate. This year, not only did I get a lovely award, but there was a prize too. A 2 night break with Room2Reward, a company set up to offer hotel breaks for people who deserve it. Knowing how hard it can be for some parents to get away and have a break, especially when all of their money is focused on providing the right care and therapies for their children, it really was the perfect prize. I can’t wait to make a booking (when I can find the time to get away!) and have a break.

After that, it was food time, a chance to congratulate the other winners, and then the party started. Watching a room of parents party, some of whom have never had a night off from their children in over 7 years, was a joy to see. Being surrounded by others who just get what life can be like at times, and have a drink with them and a chat, is as good as any award.

So, a massive thank you from me to My Family, Our Needs, Bringing Us Together and all of the sponsors. It really was a fantastic idea to come up with an event to celebrate people who have challenging lives, but who also put so much effort into making a difference for their children and the rest of the special needs community. This year’s event was even better than the last, and I can’t wait to attend next year.

You can see more of James’ writing over on his blog and don’t forget to catch up on our previous 2018 winners posts here.