Our BBC Debut! by Giuliana Fenwick

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Hello everyone. I’m writing to you yet again in huge excitement!

Remember last time I shared with you that I had achieved my challenge for April and Autism Awareness by getting my son Ollie’s journey into the national press? Well life has gone a little crazy since and this story has really made many people sit up and listen which we are just so thrilled and thankful for. It’s actually a little overwhelming—interest has been considerably huge!

One of the incredible opportunities to come from this was an invitation by BBC Radio Somerset to go along for an interview. The journalist offered to come to our home to conduct the interview so that Ollie felt at ease in familiar and comfortable surroundings, which I thought was just lovely.

Ollie, however, quickly reminded me how far he has come and said he wanted to see inside a radio studio and “get used to this work “because, as he so proudly told me, he wants to do more work like this and use his experiences to help others “like you do Mum”.
I could have burst with pride.

So this morning we set off super early chatting and singing along to music in the car. We wanted to get to the studios early so we could get our bearings and meet everyone beforehand.

They were so welcoming and actually laughed at just how excited we both were. Naturally there were hugs all round!! I can’t help it — it was so abating to be there and have this chance to give a voice to so many by talking about our own experiences. I was uncontainable at this wonderful chance for ollie and I, for the very first time, to do a joint interview and get our powerful message across. So many kids with different abilities suffer like Ollie — the isolation, the lack of true awareness and support,, the ignorance and often stigma of negative connotations surrounding “Special Needs” and the mental health issues that can then develop as a result, all needed to be brought into the open—and above all for the message of absolute gifts and abilities behind the labels to be sung from the rooftops — or into a yellow microphone anyway!!!

We just flowed!!!! I loved it! Ollie was so natural and seemed so confident, even though he later confessed that he had been shaking with nerves. We filled in each other’s gaps and gently supported each other and together we did a grand job! I was so proud of Ollie’s honesty, bravery, directness and openness. We were a good team.

The journalist was very moved as I spoke of so many other children I know through my work whose voices are removed and who are written off. She was floored when Ollie read some of his poetry to her and was horrified that he had been plunged into bottom sets for English just for being autistic — how he was never even given a chance because of his label — yet his gift of writing is so beautiful. She looked physically moved.

At the end of the interview she invited him to read two of his poems which will be played on the breakfast show tomorrow (23 May 6.30 am UK time onwards and we had so much to say — big surprise — that the interview will be spread out across the entire breakfast show in parts).
The second poem Ollie read out was called “The Yellow Dress “and it was written about me, so the entire studio was swimming through my tears.

It was such a powerful moment to hear my son, the boy who was told he would “never achieve “, reading the words he had written so stunningly well, over BBC radio. It was a moment I shall never forget all my life.

And this, I feel, is just the start.

At the end of the interview the journalist asked us what we hoped for the most from today. We both instantly said it was the message of hope, the message to never let others define you, to always hold onto your dreams and to believe anything is possible if you believe hard enough. It’s a message of triumph over adversity, ability over so called disability and strength and tenacity even when you are broken. To believe in your child and to believe they have a future with so much to contribute and above all to make school and society a fairer and more inclusive place.

Ollie could have been broken by the system. So many others do get broken. If we include, support and understand, think how many other gifted children like Ollie will bloom and thrive? Ollie is embracing his destiny at last. Think how many gifts never see the light of day because they are never given the chance?

So please keep believing in your children. Never stop. I promise you it is worth it and you will set them up for life. You must believe that your children can find their voices and follow their dreams too. We all have gifts whatever our labels.

To hear Giuliana and Ollie’s interview on BBC Radio Somerset, follow this link and skip ahead to the 39:00 minute mark.

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