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Student blogs: The diaries of a mature student - Part 4

It gets colder, darker and there is nothing much to report. Fatigue is my constant companion, partly caused by a never ending list of tasks I have to perform, partly caused by my immune system gone crazy.

My days are currently filled with lots of writing and reading. At a postgraduate level, you really have to get organised and be self-motivated to manage the workload, or else you may not realise there is a workload until two days before the deadline for essays and assignments. Sometimes I wonder if one day there will be that one extra thing that will make me feel that I can’t manage. I hope not. This is a marathon, and I am determined to last the distance.

Nonetheless, something else in my private life that made me think about universities and studying after you become officially an adult. Please do not think for a minute that I am going to dispense some pearls of wisdom about being mature. I don’t have any clever answers. Truthfully, I simply pretend, for the sake of my children, that at least sometimes I know what I am doing.

I have mentioned it before: my five-year old son is autistic. He is in a mainstream school but still struggles with his language and communication. As his parents, we always try to make sure he is supported, helped and loved without judgement.

Support for parents and carers is not that great, though. The nearest opportunity to go to official meetings is Morpeth (an hour and a half in the car and a lot of petrol away) so it was a great relief when I joined a Facebook group called Hexham Autism Parents. They meet once a month for a chat in a café to share their experiences and concerns.

Naturally, the offsprings are of various ages – from pre-school/primary school up to University. Last time, I talked to another mum whose son has just started a degree at university. So far, he has had several severe panic attacks, triggered by the stress of being in a strange environment, surrounded by strange people and the pressures of studying. These are all the things that people on the spectrum struggle to cope with: new people, new surroundings, new stimuli, noises and pressure.

"But there are excellent counselling services at the universities, better than NHS," I argue.

"There is nothing for autistic students," explains the other mum. I don’t know if that is true but if it is, that is quite alarming. Anyway, I am going to write to my university and ask them if they offer any specific support for students with ASD.

Incidentally, I was going to explore this very topic, i.e. the position of a parent with an autistic child, in a sequence of poems for one of my assignments. I decided against it. Instead, I have written something else, something completely made up. I guess it is too close to home. I am not ready to strip myself naked, metaphorically speaking, in front of the readers. Yet.

Natalie is originally from Prague, Czech Republic. However, she has lived in the UK for a while with her British husband and two young sons. In her native country, she is a published author under the pen-name Natalie Nera. She starts a part-time Master's degree in Creative Writing this autumn at the University of Newcastle. You can find more information on Natalie, here.

Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.

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