Stephanie is a divorced mother of one, living in Blyth, UK. After working as a dispenser for a national pharmacy chain for 7 years, she decided to leave and pursue a further education after the company refused to negotiate on her hours. Achieving an Access to HE Diploma, she was privileged to receive one of thirty places at Newcastle University studying Speech and Language sciences, a degree she decided to undertake after having limited success with local NHS SALT services. However, after receiving a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in December 2015 (which explained many years of suffering), and Jack’s behaviour becoming increasingly challenging, she decided to put her studies on hold in order to best support Jack and care for her own needs.
That was in February 2016, almost 5 years ago. A lot has happened since then. Jack was diagnosed with autism, after over a year of battling to get referred for assessment and a further year going through assessment and diagnosis. Stephanie was also diagnosed with borderline bilateral hip dysplasia in December 2016 and has undergone three surgeries since, including one to reconfigure the left side of the pelvis, and one to reconfigure the right. The right side was done during the COVID-19 crisis, and recovery is going well at the time of writing.
As of October 2020, Stephanie is a virtual assistant, Chief Executive and Chair of the board of trustees at The Jack Ward Inclusion Initiative, and she is also retraining to add a new branch to her business.
Jack is six. He is a lover of Lego and all things gaming. He’s also autistic, although many people who don’t know him well might miss it at a first glance. Ten years ago, his diagnosis would have been Asperger’s Syndrome with Dyspraxia. Now it’s just Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I asked Jack what he likes the most. He said Mammy, his iPad, his video games, and Daddy and Bryan (although its a standing joke he tells Bryan he hates him every morning). His dad and I split when he was very small, and so the fortnightly drives down to Selby are nothing new to him, and I don’t think he ever remembers a time when we were all under one roof. He is very lucky to have not two, but three parents who love him dearly.