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Spalding dad aims to help parents who have children with additional needs in first book Autism and ADHA – A Father’s Perspective

A devoted dad is on a mission to help parents who have children with additional needs after being inspired by his family’s experience.

James Wand (40), a plumber from Spalding, has penned Autism and ADHD – A Father’s Perspective which will be released on April 4 during World Autism Awareness Week.

The debut author is married to Emily (39) and the couple’s daughter Mia (13) has been diagnosed with autism. Son George (9) has ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and is on the autism pathway.

James Wand is the author of Autism and ADHA - A Father's Perspective. PHOTO: SUBMITTED
James Wand is the author of Autism and ADHA - A Father's Perspective. PHOTO: SUBMITTED

They have been told it is too early to tell for Finley (3), who is now in pre-school.

The book offers guidance, from his personal experience, to parents who have children with additional needs who may find themselves facing the same challenges particularly within education.

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Mr Wand said: “I'd love to help other parents who are going through the same thing.

James Wand with daughter Mia. PHOTO:SUBMITTED
James Wand with daughter Mia. PHOTO:SUBMITTED

“We were naive young parents and told kids need to be in school and taught resilience.

“But in hindsight it was wrong and we have changed our whole perspectives on how to deal with their anxieties, long term trauma and stress.

He feels that the school system is outdated and is not meeting the needs of children such as Mia and George.

By writing the book Mr Wand has been able to process what the family has been through following a four-year ‘battle’ to get the diagnosis that Mia is autistic.

He said: “I started writing as self help for me and I never set out to write it but it snowballed.

“Before I knew it I had written a book. I can't believe it really.”

The parents were then given the diagnosis that George has ADHD and both children experienced problems with school at the same age.

Finley is showing similar signs to his siblings and has been referred by their GP to a paediatrics specialist.

All three children have experienced anxiety, trauma and stress in a mainstream school setting – from concerns about going to school in the morning to issues over having their educational needs met.

What was not being recognised was what the family were experiencing behind closed doors – and they felt their experience was not on the radar.

They felt Mia was being forced to go to school but was able to mask her needs to fit in with her peers and, educationally, school was the source of trauma for their children.

James’ daughter is now in a unique programme to help with emotional based school avoidance (EBSA) and has a need for an educational health care plan (EHCP) .

However, funding is needed for these programmes for children struggling to get back into mainstream school and both Mia and George are not in school full time yet.

Mr Wand said: “When you add in additional needs, the battle is that the council (LCC) don't seem to have the funding.

“With the EHCP, if kids are struggling in school but a mainstream environment can’t meet their needs, the council can fund additional provision.

“When we had the meeting for MIA for EHCP in Lincolnshire there is nothing.

“There is a distinct hole for children such as ours. It is quite fundamental.”

The family has had input from Lincolnshire County Council and they have been allocated a case worker.

Schools have helped with educational needs and Mr Wand doesn’t necessarily feel it is their fault – instead blaming a system that he feels is not equipped prope

Mr Wand said: “Looking back we were living in survival mode and it wasn't individuals we were battling it was the system.

“The people we have worked with from schools and the local authority (LCC) have all been really good.

“Everyone has tried to fight for our children and our case worker has been amazing with us - very good and honest and we are really pleased with her.”

The self-employed plumber who owns J Wand Plumbing and Heating Limited never expected to write a book which he started writing in August last year.

He particularly wants to get the message to other dads who face similar issues with their children.

Mr Wand said: “I am not an academic and I used to hate English at school with a passion.

“But what I have encountered with the battles with education for our children I found I was struggling with my old mind and trying to help the kids.

“I want to help spread this message to the other dads as from a man's point of view we are expected to be strong and alpha males.

“It is very difficult but it needs to be spoken about.”

Pinchbeck campaigner Callum Brazzo from Autistic Lincs has reviewed the book and said: “"This book is an impassioned, comedic, practical and vulnerable journey from a father's perspective on discovering, rediscovering and defying expectations of 'normal' of his autistic and otherwise neurodivergent family dynamic.

“Parental misunderstandings of autistic experience can often blur the lines of what's needed, shifting the spotlight where it perhaps can be more effectively shone to truly enhance life lived differently but James' book is filled with love, understanding and empathy for everybody in his family, including himself.

“James' raw emotions transform into a place of empowerment to share his message and the message of others who may relate to the struggles, the successes and the generally atypical path it is better to embrace than ignore or reject.

”The work he's presented is embedded with family influence and as an autistic man myself, I feel that I can authentically vouch for the genuine allyship James narrates in his story.”

Mr Ward’s own mental health was suffering with the challenges that his children were facing and writing the book has been a cathartic process.

The fact it will be released by publishers Grosvenor House Publishing during World Autism Awareness Week is ‘fate’.

He said: “I had been struggling with my own mind and trying to help the kids.

“The more I wrote the more I went back and rewrote and it has taken over my life.”

Though the family has battled on Mr Wand is fair minded when it comes to the authorities have he has had contact with.

He said: “ I am conscious of not going after the school's or individuals as this is not a personal attack.

“I just feel that awareness is needed and it affects our whole family life.

“The fear that the children have got about an impending school week can be intense.”

The process of writing the book is an achievement that he is still getting to grips with.

He said: “I don’t know whether it is a kill or an obsession but I couldn't let it go.

“Emily is really excited and proud and we can't actually believe what has happened.

“I have received my first pre published copy and to see it in print is quite a big moment.”

“I am hoping that people can relate to it as I tried to not talk at people.

“That is the way I have written it - you are not alone it and that is the biggest message.”

Autism and ADHD A Father’s Perspective is available in paperback and as an ebook from Amazon and Waterstones and released on April 4.

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