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Rachael Phillips - Author of 'Autism, Declan and Me'

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Name: Rachael Phillips
Children’s Names & Ages: Cally is 5 and Declan is 3
Lives: Hackbridge, Surrey
Job title: Full time mum and part time receptionist
Company: Pure Sports Medicine
Hours/Days at work:Saturdays from 7.45am to 5.15pm
Nappy Bag Brand: Naty
Push chair Brand: Phil & Teds
rachael phillips
1. What’s a typical day like for you and your family?
From waking up to getting the Children tucked up in bed at night?  We all get up at 6.45am and the next couple of hours are spent eating breakfast, washing, dressing and generally preparing for school.  We then walk Cally to school.  Our son Declan is autistic, so our mornings are generally either spent seeing various professionals or doctors, or going to special needs play groups.  If we’re not out and about then there are different therapies that I have to do with him at home.  He attends a specialist nursery in the afternoons, so we have to have a very early lunch and then I drive him to school.  Afternoons are mine, but they tend to be taken up with courses or support groups for Autism, and once a week I read with the kids at my daughter’s school.  Housework is squeezed in where I can! The school run starts again at 3.15, and if my daughter doesn’t have one of her many activities then it’s time for homework, dinner, bath and bed!  We try and have the children settled by 8 so my husband and I can have some time to ourselves in the evenings.
2. How has becoming a parent changed your life?
Massively!  Before I had Cally and Declan I was not at all maternal.  The only baby that I had ever held was my sisters and that was under pressure!  I was a Senior Manager for a mortgage company and my career was my life.  When I was pregnant with Cally, the company I worked for relocated to Bournemouth and I was made redundant, so I reached a real crossroads in my life.  When I finished work to go on maternity leave I had every intention of taking six months off and then looking for another role.  However, from the moment I brought Cally home I felt an overwhelming urge to be there for her and protect her and I just couldn’t imagine working the long hours I had done previously and not ever seeing he.  So we decided I should stay at home with her and then with Declan.  I was lucky because I had my redundancy money to fall back on, and that kept us going until Declan was one, at which point I took a job as a part time receptionist at a private sports injury clinic.  I work Saturdays so my husband has the kids and we don’t have to pay out for childcare.  The plan was always for me to get back to full time work as the kids got older, however when we found out that Declan is autistic and the logistics involved in that, we realised that may not be possible.  My favourite quote is from a song by John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” and this is so true.  I have gone from being a great life planner to taking one day at a time, and I am definitely happier for it!
3. What challenges have you faced as a parent?
The biggest challenge has been finding out that our beautiful little boy is autistic.  I don’t think anything could ever prepare any mum for the moment that she realises her child isn’t going to have that wonderful life that she had planned out in her head.  Declan is autistic and has a lot of sensory issues too. So firstly we have effectively had to learn how to parent again from scratch.  We have had to learn how to communicate with a little boy who can’t speak and has very limited understanding of the spoken word.  And we have also had to learn how to support his ongoing therapy at home.  Secondly, we have had to fight to make sure Declan is given all the support available to him.  Every parent of a special needs child will tell you that nothing is given to them easily.  From the outset my aim was for as many people as possible to see Declan, so that whenever he was discussed they could put a face to the name and they weren’t just relying on the information they had on a form in front of them. I have attended every workshop or support group that has been offered to me, and never missed any of Declan’s appointments for therapy.  This has really taken me out of my comfort zone, but I am lucky to have a very supportive husband who is very good at pushing me on when I’m ready to admit defeat!
4. Any tips on how to get out of the house on time, without yoghurt on your top and cereal in your hair with two little ones in tow?
The only way I can do this is by doing as much as I can in advance and not leaving things till the last minute. So the night before I always check I have uniforms ironed, packed lunches made and homework in school bags ready to go.  If we have meetings I always have the paperwork to hand.  In the mornings I have a timetable in my head so I know when we’re on time or when we’re running late, and if we’re running late then I prioritise us getting ready and leave the messy kitchen for later!
5. What’s your favourite activity to do with your children?
Both Cally and Declan love being outside, so any outdoor activity is guaranteed to make them happy!
Thank you to Rachael for taking part in our ‘A Life in A Day’ feature, read more on Rachael’s fantastic blog: Autism, Declan and me
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