Two week ago, thanks to many of you lovely people, I got to attend the BAPS Blogging Awards, (Bloody Awesome Parents in case you were wondering) as a nominee for 3 awards. It was my first time at an event like this, and I’ve got to be honest, I loved it!
It all started last year when Bringing Us Together, Debs Aspland, and My Family Our Needs, hit upon the idea that we needed a separate awards night for the Special Needs Community. There are many blogging awards throughout the year, but with what we talk about being considered quite niche, often the importance of what people write and the value of it is overlooked.
Parent blogging is a big industry these days, with thousands upon thousands of bloggers out there. And I’ve felt the ‘exclusion’ a few times. When you tell them what it is you blog about, they glaze over. Either they don’t know quite what to say about the topic, or they’re simply not interested, it’s not always an inclusive environment. (I guess kind of like what happens sometimes when people start talking about kids and you drop into the conversation that your kids are autistic)
So, they decided it was time to have their own awards ceremony, and celebrate everything about SEND, and the BAPS Awards was born. This meant a room full of bloggers, special needs parents, caregivers, and professionals, all with so much in common
And, if you didn’t know already, (or hadn’t guessed from the main pic of this post) I won!
I had been nominated for 3 awards, and after losing the first 2 to the amazing blog Don’t Be Sorry, I thought I was going home empty handed. It’s funny how you don’t realise how much you want to win something until you lose!
With my last category, “SEND with a Side Dish of Humour” it turned out to be third time lucky! I made my way up to the stage to be presented with the award by the lovely Sally Phillips (of Bridget Jones and Smack the Pony fame). Last year Sally starred in a powerful documentary about Downs Syndrome, and works hard to raise awareness and campaign for change. Not only was did I win and get to share the stage with a celeb, I then got to be interviewed by Sally too! I don’t really remember too much of what I said but I didn’t freeze and it seemed to go down well. Right as we were wrapping up, Sally’s son Olly decided to face-time her. So I got to say hello whilst I was on stage as he asked her “When are you coming home!”
When I returned to my table a man, who worked for one of the sponsors, came over to congratulate me. He told me some of his back story, and how he was so inspired by what he had seen and heard tonight that he was going to start blogging to. He felt that he had a story to tell, and that telling it would help improve his life too. That connection of seeing and listening to a fellow dad, it really struck him
There were so many other good things about that whole day and night…
- The awards were in Coventry (3 hours away from where I live) so it meant a whole day and night out. From the moment I was nominated I also had 7 friends and family who wanted to come and support me, making it even more fun! Being held at a golf hotel we decided to make the most of it and go up in the morning. It meant I got to play my first round of golf in 4 years, and a real chance to spend some quality time with those that I love.
- I got to meet so many people in real life who are already online friends, or I who’s blogs that I follow. That meant other bloggers who were nominated such as Someone’s Mum, and RainbowsR2Beautiful, people I speak to online such as It’s A Think Thing, Emma4Facs and O’Jo’s World, and other nominees such as Revelations of A Slummy Mummy, Joseph and his Amazing Spectrum Coat, and Mama Unexpected
- I also got to meet a good friend of mine who you’ve seen on these pages before, Kevin from the Facebook page Autism from a Dad’s Eye View. He also runs a Facebook support group for autism dads that I’m a part of and has connected people all over the world. Kevin lives not too far from where the event was held, and came especially so we could get to share a beer together. So thank you Kev, I really appreciate it!
- Then, once dinner was over, we partied hard. The majority of the people in that room were special needs parents who very rarely get a chance to have a night away and let their hair down. Some of them were doing so for the first time in many a year, and boy did it show! It was great to see, everyone so relaxed, knowing they were in a room full of people who understand them and are free of judgment…ok, well maybe some judgment on the dance moves and drunken behaviour 😉
I’ve been writing this blog for nearly two years now, and over that time it has given me so much. When I started I just wanted to share our stories, and give friends and family a chance to understand more about what our lives are like. I hoped that other people might read it too, that it could help them in some way, and that they’d enjoy what I write. The response, and the love that people show me, Tommy and Jude has been overwhelming, so much more than I ever expected. It’s surreal knowing that there are thousands of people out there rooting for us, commenting and messaging encouragement, offering support when times are difficult.
Being an autism parent can be quite a lonely experience. There’s so many events you have to miss out on, so many days you’re stuck at home, so many days where you might not get a 2-way conversation. There’s a feeling that our friends and family don’t always get what we’re going through, maybe that we don’t want to burden them with our problems. Thanks to the internet and social media it’s never been easier for us to find, connect, and talk to people who have things in common with you, who understand, and who can be that support that you need.
Blogging did that for me. Firstly when I began reading other blogs to learn more about autism and try to find stories I could relate to. I needed to feel that there were other people out there experiencing day to day life just like what I was experiencing. Then, since I started my own blog it’s been a very cathartic process. Talking about autism, about Jude and Tommy, has enabled me to become a much better and stronger parent. It’s given me an outlet to share my thoughts, and enabled me to interact with and make friends with people all over the world.
So I’d like to say a massive thank you to all of you.
Thank you to the organisers of the awards, Bringing Us Together, My Family Our Needs, and Debs Aspland for coming up with such a great idea, and hosting such a fabulous event.
Thank you to all of the other bloggers, for the brilliant blogs that you write, for helping more people than you’ll ever realise, and for inspiring me to throw my hat into the ring and give it a go myself.
Thank you to my friends and family who took the time off work to travel up with me, and help make that 24 hours so memorable.
And last, but by no means least, thank you to all of you out there who read my blog and the many others like it. For taking the time to vote for me, and for all of the support you’ve shown my family for the last 2 years. Words can’t express how much I appreciate the love you’ve shown us.