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Donna’s story

Donna attended our 12-week Nurturing Anchors workshops, which aim to empower parents of neurodivergent children within the naval community.

Donna shares her experiences learning about herself and making friends through the workshops.

Meet Donna

My name is Donna, I have lived in service accommodation with my little family for over ten years. My son is 12 years old and is currently in the process of being assessed for Autism and ADHD. He has always done things a little bit differently to other kids his age, but this hasn’t stopped him becoming a strong, kind young man. He is struggling with school attendance at the moment and is still recovering from burnout.

The last few years have been difficult for the whole family. Not knowing how to help your child when they are struggling with everyday life is soul crushing. It leaves you feeling lost and alone. You feel like you are failing them, and no matter how many times people say that you are doing a fabulous job, there’s still that voice in your head that says you’re a terrible parent. It’s a horrible way to feel, especially when you do so much for your whole family. It’s true when they say your worst critic is yourself.

Our boy is very much like me. I see so much of myself in him that I am most likely somewhere on the spectrum myself. If this is the case then it explains a lot about me, and it’s no wonder I struggle so much with busy places, formal situations, and social gatherings. I am usually the one who walks around with her head down to avoid eye contact, just in case someone tries to start a conversation with me.

Meeting people with shared experiences

Taking the step to register for the Nurturing Anchors workshops was so very unlike me. I didn’t do groups and I didn’t like anyone knowing my business. I was sceptical at first and I very nearly backed out of the first online meeting, but I pushed myself to at least log on and see how it goes. I told myself that I didn’t need to speak, I could just listen. I knew I needed some support but didn’t know where to start.

What I found was a friendly understanding group of people who knew how I felt. Each person had their own stories to tell, and those stories were relatable to myself and the other members. I thought, “Oh my goodness that’s like our house.” We had things in common that we laughed and cried about.

“It was such a relief to be able to be myself.” 

What I’ve learned through the workshops

The workshops gave me an hour a week to stop and think about my needs. For years I had been so busy looking after everyone else that I forgot about me. I realised I needed to look after myself too, whether by getting a brand new bubble bath or by going for a walk around the local town. The hardest part was not feeling guilty about doing those things for myself.

I discovered that I have a lot of lived experience that I can pass on to other families out there. A neurodivergent lifestyle is hard. It’s challenging and definitely overwhelming, as everyone is different and has their own way of doing things. Every family has their struggles, but to be able to stop and think about all the amazing things you have is so rewarding.

Donna and her son are taking a selfie while making funny faces

Donna and her son are taking a selfie on the couch

A selfie of Donna. She has reddish hair and is wearing eyeliner

About Nurturing Anchors

The Nurturing Anchors course is designed to empower parent carers of neurodivergent children within the naval community.

This service is run in partnership with the RNRMC and the AFCFT.