Lisa is the mother in a very busy home consisting of five teenage and adult children, three dogs, two cats, fish, and let's not forget her husband, Andy. Lisa beams with pride when talking about each of her very intelligent and caring children. She goes on to share that her family may not be a typical one because of the disabilities within the home. But she would not change it for the world.
Lisa has a son, Finn, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of eleven. This followed many years of her little boy being called “naughty”, despite Lisa knowing that he was really trying his very best at everything. Hollie is one of Lisa’s youngest children, aged thirteen, and her confident smile shines. Hollie takes on a lot of caring responsibilities for her big brother, not only due to her beautiful caring nature, but also because of her and Finn’s incredible relationship.
Hollie and Finn have a remarkable sibling relationship. Hollie is Finn’s sister, teacher, protector, and friend. Finn says that she explains the world to him. Hollie automatically stepped into these roles from a young age, being identified as a Young Carer at around seven. Throughout her short life she has always put her brother first, including choosing her own friends based on whether they will understand and respect Finn. She has faced a lot of bullying from her peers and she often takes it upon herself to educate them, that negative terms and discrimination are spiteful and incorrect. To educate her peers Hollie has run assemblies and has admitted to “nudging” a boy – the “ringleader" of bullying children with disabilities - into a bush. The boy has since left the school and as a result of that and Hollie’s ever-growing confidence, the bullying has stopped.
Hollie: “It can be frustrating having to reassure someone and explain yourself all the time, especially as it’s your older brother and many others do not have to. I have my mum to offload and ramble to though: she understands.”
Hollie is always on guard for her big brother. She watches to see if he is okay and checks that the room is not too loud, too bright, or too busy. She is often the first to recognise when Finn is not feeling okay; to most people these warning signs are unrecognisable. If these signs are missed, he can become overwhelmed and begin to self-harm. Even when Hollie is not with Finn, she is thinking about whether he is okay.
Hollie: “It's hard to explain really: I can just tell when Finn is not okay, even before anyone else. He just kind of goes into himself, gets more tense and quiet. That’s the point when I try to think of something to do that would help, like go and get a drink or go for a walk. If plan A does not work, I always make sure I have a plan B.”
Lisa wants the very best for all her children, and after fighting to get a diagnosis for Finn not to be simply labelled as a naughty boy, she then had the challenge to find the right educational setting for him. The nearest college to the family home, which suits Finn’s additional needs, is in Frome: a one-hour drive every day. This college is somewhere Finn feels is thriving, and so Lisa will continue the fight to ensure he stays there for the rest of his education. One of Finn’s challenges is that he has no facial recognition: he is unable even to recognise his own mother’s face. He explains that he only knows it is his mum when she talks because she is loud. Lisa giggles at this comment, but it's hard to imagine how heart-breaking it is that her son is unable to recognise her smile. While looking after a household of seven, including a son with autism, Lisa also works in a care home kitchen: she often finds that she is unable to stop and rest. What she loves, when she does have free time, is to bake and then share what she has made with her friends, family, and neighbours.
Lisa: “There is never a dull moment in my home, but I love it that way. I couldn't imagine it any other way.”