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Prior to my son’s birth I was a university researcher and lecturer, teaching on master’s degree courses in Education and with a wide range of teaching experience, including Special Education. My son is very severely autistic with severe/profound learning disability and a whole range of health problems, some potentially quite serious. I tried for three years to get him settled in an autistic class but he could not cope and went downhill very badly, both psychologically and physically. I gave up all hope of ever working again to teach him at home, which I did all day every day and still do. We were entitled to government funding to assist this but in the course of trying to obtain this I was regularly treated like dirt on the grounds that I was ‘just a mother’. I had a letter from his school to say he could not cope there and loads of assessments which all evidenced how well my son was doing at home but the pressure and harrassment I experienced to give up the battle for his funding was unreal. It is possible to be intimidated and harrassed even when your own home is your workplace. Despite all my qualifications ( or perhaps because of them ) I was constantly dismissed and denigrated solely on the grounds of being his mum, with all the stereotyping that went with it…that I was clingy, over-protective, too attached to my child etc…..

This came to a head one day when a male National Educational Psychological Service psychologist told me unpleasantly that my son should be returned to school because ‘It has to be better than being at home all day with Mammy.’ When I put in a formal complaint it was dismissed and so I placed a further complaint with the Secretary General’s office, to which I never received a reply. When I accessed my son’s files under the Freedom of Information Act I found all manner of derogatory comments had been made about me. My specialist research area was Gender so I can’t say I was surprised at this treatment……the denigration of mothers and mother-blaming is one of the cornerstones of a patriarchal social order.


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