Day 14 of 100 Days

Sarah Swaysland

Thursday, 14th January, 2021

I’m officially two weeks into the challenge! The last fortnight has been really enjoyable, and I feel like I’m really in my stride now. It’s been a bit of a juggle sometimes, having to find time around childcare, but my partner has been really supportive in helping me in my daily volunteer goals. I’m really focused on getting something done each day, so that I feel like I’ve achieved something – which can be notoriously difficult in lockdown times!

What: Google Ad Grants
Organisation: Only A Pavement Away

Today was our penultimate meeting with our team from the Google Ad Grants Online Marketing Challenge. They’re from the University of Media, Stuttgart and it’s been really enjoyable to work with them. They took us through a presentation of their findings, and in it there were a couple of bits that were in both German and English. It was then that it really hit me how not only are they are not only having to be bilingual in their interaction with us, but everything they’ve had to do in this project has required them to seesaw between German and English, and that’s remarkable to me. My German and French teacher at school was called Mr Spain (no, he didn’t teach Spanish) and I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t really pay attention (I’m fairly sure I tried hard), if it’s because I’m not a natural linguist, or if it’s just cultural that we’re not really required to learn another language that I’m no good at languages. My sister managed to learn Mandarin in her 30s, so you’d think that if the motivation is there you can certainly do it. She was living in China at the time though.

Back onto the Online Marketing Challenge… I’m really pleased that we did it, as it’s been a really good way of getting a professional eye cast over our Google Account while I’m still reasonably new to it. The professional eye is the eye of the students’ professor making sure that they’re doing a good job, not the students themselves. The campaigns they ran for us were really useful at a time when I was busy running the #ServeOurSoup campaign, so it was also great to have someone looking after the account so I could focus on something else for the charity.

What: Team Project Meeting
Organisation: Transforming Autism Project (TAP)

When my partner was on his lunch break today, I was able to partake in a call with the Transforming Autism Project about a fundraising event we’re putting together in March, called March into March. This will be a sponsored, 10k walk or run to raise £5,000 for the charity running costs, and I will be helping by writing the sponsorship pack and helping to market. I’m going to try and get my son involved – his grandparents will sponsor him.

My son was diagnosed with autism at 3½ in 2019, so I wanted to volunteer for an organisation that supports children with autism. TAP seeks to transform the lives of children with autism by early intervention and empowering their parents and carers – through practical guidance and resources – to unlock their children’s true potential. Once the Covid pandemic settles down and they are able to offer support, TAP will be running workshops and providing support to families who have been lucky enough to receive an early diagnosis for their child.

Autism is a strange one, because it’s not universally understood – maybe because you can’t physically see autism as a condition (a bit like not being able to see if someone has Covid, but nowhere near as bad). When someone has autism, it means that they see and feel what you see and feel, but they process their thoughts and feelings differently. It takes empathy to understand that people see the world differently – in a world that isn’t particularly empathetic. When we received our son’s diagnosis, we experienced a feeling of relief, because we knew that he wasn’t ‘mainstream’, but we also knew that his development wasn’t where it should be in terms of his speech and language. What’s interesting is that when we told our friends about his diagnosis, their first words were ‘I’m so sorry’. But there’s absolutely nothing to be sorry about. It’s a part of who you are, but it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you.

I have trouble with describing my son as ‘autistic’ because I really don’t like that word. I’m not overly offended when people use the word because when they do, they’re usually trying to understand autism so I can’t complain about that. The reason I don’t like the word ‘autistic’ is because when you say that someone is autistic, it’s like saying being autistic is all they are and that’s it – I find it very black and white, and autism isn’t black and white (it’s a colourful spectrum). Autism is a part of who my son is, but it isn’t entirely who he is. To me, calling someone autistic is like saying that someone who has cancer is cancerous – I know that’s a brash way of putting it, but I’m speaking as I find. Understanding autism is a process for everyone, not least the person who has been diagnosed with the condition. As far as my son is concerned, he’s ‘normal’; it’s everyone else who has trouble understanding the world.