Being Bettina’s Dad – Be More Bettina

Steve Raw, Managing Director of Dosh, shares how autism can have a positive impact on your life in celebration of World Autism Awareness Week.

This evening as we were sat around the dinner table chatting, Bettina has excused herself as she has completed a task (her meal) and is now on to the next ‘task’ and we recognised about how we need ‘to be more Bettina.’

Do you know someone who has changed your life? Someone who makes you look at life differently and makes you feel and see so many things clearer and better?

A relationship that you have nurtured and benefited from that makes you feel so grateful and proud?

Over the last 33 years I cannot think of a time when a family decision has been made without considering what would be in Bettina’s best interests. This could be about my first and second careers, our house move, holidays – even where we eat! Bettina (and her big sister) are the centre of our universe and we are happy and content because of that.

Bettina is a person who has a learning disability and autism. Bettina is not an autistic person. Autism does not define her. Bettina does, however, define us as a family.

As a child, Bettina accepted her characteristics with autism:

  • Poor eye contact and lack of facial expressions
  • Delayed or absence of speech (apraxia)
  • Does not understand questions and directions
  • Repeats phrases or words
  • Resists cuddling and holding

Patterns of behaviour included:

  • Repetitive movements like hand shaking, spinning, or rocking
  • Sensitive to light, sound, or touch
  • Self-harming activities such as head-banging

Bettina overcame these characteristics through her inherent courage. This is a related story about Bettina’s courage

Be more Bettina –Five things to emulate:

  1. Bettina never lies – this is a concept she does not understand. She will always give you an honest answer. So, if Bettina tells you are pretty, or you are wonderful – take it as read you are! Not even white lies cross Bettina’s lips!
  2. Bettina lives in the moment and this how she has transformed my life with her mindfulness
  3. Bettina does not judge others. ‘B’ takes you on your own terms. She does prefer to be around positive and confident people, but always accepts a person for who or what they are.
  4. Bettina is a passionate person; she is loving and caring. It took years of being surrounded by unconditional love from her family and those who were significant in her life and now she is the very best of role models.
  5. Bettina is Not tied to Social or Societal Norms. Bettina does not follow fashion (if anything she is a trend setter – you should see the handbags she has chosen). Having autism means that Bettina does not feel it necessary to have latest clothes, join a club, gang, or group, play the latest music. Bettina enjoys Disney films as an adult (we like them too, have you seen Raya and the Lost Dragon yet?). Bettina likes what she likes and does not worry about what others may think of her choices.

Be more Bettina – Five things that are important to ‘B’

  1. Being Together
  2. Kindness
  3. Not having to keep up with others
  4. Not worrying about what others think about you (except for her family)
  5. Not concerned about prestige or status

We want to be more Bettina, so this is important to us too. 

Five cool things about having someone with Autism in your family 

  1. You start repeating and using Bettina’s phrases which make sense when you use them even if no one else understands your secret language.
  2. Watching a favourite scene from a film twice or six times repetitively seems perfectly normal
  3. Bettina will direct your attention to things you would normally not see or notice
  4. Feeling very special and soaking up an enormous amount of wellness when you spend time in her company – Bettina is serene.
  5. Being blown away as we often are as a family when Bettina manages to retrieve verbal language you had not heard from her before and it is in context. What will she say next to surprise and (often) amuse her family?

Plus, a bonus When walking down our High Street and being approached by a member of the public “Hello you must be Bettina’s Dad” and feeling very proud to say yes.

To be a parent for Bettina is to feel blessed. Her impact on our perceptions, beliefs, and expectations are immeasurable. The world is a better place because of Bettina, and I am going to ‘be more Bettina’ today.

Written by Steve Raw, Managing Director for Dosh

Read more of Steve’s blogs