About 18 months ago, I could not have predicted what would be happening this week. At that stage, I was pretty low, wading through mud, eyes peering through fog and simply trying to take each day as it came. My daughter was confused, easily upset and I was seriously concerned for her happiness.

Fast forward to a photo being taken last night by a newspaper photographer. My daughter wanted to be in the picture and gave her name & age because she wanted to be part of the story.  The flowers in the photo are the ones she bought me to say ‘I love you’, she told me she was proud of all I had done and that the idea I had all those months ago had changed her life.

That is the only comment I ever need to hear.

If nothing else ever happens, the fact that my daughter is on a pathway to happiness, love & laughter means I have achieved the one thing I strived for.

So, why the photo… well, my little blog/private facebook group/group/meet-ups have been shortlisted for a National Diversity Award. Out of 22,000 nominations, I am now one of 8 who may be crowned the ‘Community Organisation Award for Gender’…WOW.

But in usual ‘me’ fashion, I take no credit, the group is so amazing because of its members, a feisty, determined troupe of mums and dads who want the very best for their autistic daughters. Who fight tirelessly every day to ensure that they are receiving the care, love and support they need to flourish.

Is it their words, as they filled in the nomination form, which probably swayed the judges, their honest opinion of the difference our wee group had made that perhaps made those judges stop, and think and understand. Those words are more powerful than mine because they resonate, they reverberate and they leave a little tattoo on my heart. To hear their praise and love & empathy, has really made my day, week, month & year…

Here are a few:

“This is such a positive group, giving people from all over the world the opportunity to connect and learn in a non-judgemental environment from parents who are going through the same issues. I have learnt so much from this group, and it also overcomes the feelings of isolation that parents of autistic children have to deal with. We know we are not alone.”

“Colouring outside the lines is a great support group, i don’t know how I’d have managed without it. Gemma manages the page beautifully and it’s just great. COTL brings us all together beautifully and helps us along the way. Our girls can connect with one another and know they’re not alone and are in great company. The group provides Immeasurable support to us.”

“I joined the group at my lowest point of seeking diagnosis for my daughter. We were waiting for appointments, having difficulties with anxiety about school and nobody would believe our suspicions that our daughter was autistic because she was “so well behaved”, “a model student”, “very bright” etc.  With nowhere else to turn, I searched online for more info on autism in girls and found Gemma’s blog “Colouring Outside the Lines”. Everything I read described my daughter so I head to the Facebook group. I’ve never looked back – it’s been an amazing source of support, a place to share, compare, vent and just read other people’s experiences. The group is friendly and safe, with absolutely no nasty or judgmental comments. I feel like I’ve made some virtual friends through the group, and I feel very comfortable posting my own experiences and comments there. The group has a set of rules so every member knows what is acceptable, and there is an excellent library of useful & important files. It is amazing and is such fantastic ongoing therapy. “