I'm Claire Lamb and I am 43 years old, I have lived in sunny Essex all of my life and am lucky enough to have two incredible children who are and have been the centre of my world for the past 15 years, only 14 months apart, kept me a very busy mum and started me on my journey of learning in all kinds of ways; it is a journey I am thankful for and humbled in lots of ways, I had a lot to learn as a new mum and then having a child with down syndrome as well as cerebral palsy was a huge learning curve. She has lots of other complications as well as a result of those conditions, including: autism, ADHD, heart issues learning delay and medical problems. My youngest was also born with autism. I was a single mum when they were both babies and still am now, I have steered our lives away from the mainstream as it simply didn't work for us, but that took some time to figure out. I found that working was impossible where I was needed so much by both of them, making me unreliable and so after attempting some cleaning jobs, I eventually resigned to not working at all when the perfect job came up for me; it was working with parents of children with additional needs to help them get their child the support they needed in a school setting. I could work from home, visit families when I was able to and support them in meetings, helping them to understand the complex paperwork involved in the Educational, Health and Care plans. I loved it.
Unfortunately it became clear that my youngest was not coping at school well at all and was in fact suicidal at 8 years old, so at this point, I chose to home educate him and he also received a diagnosis of autism, social phobia and anxiety. He was home educated on and off for five years while we considered other schools and I secured him and Educational, Health and Care plan, because a placement at any school simply wouldn't have worked without it. It was during this time, I had to give up my job of helping parents and focus on my youngest; my eldest daughter was also having difficulties at her specialist school placement so it was back to home educating for her also. This was all a lengthy process, meetings, panels and lots of pushing to get her into the school she needed but that did take almost two years.
While I was home educating, I decided to start a group for families with children/ young people with down syndrome with a close friend of mine. This group ran for 3 and a half years and was a real success, we received a lot of funding, put on activities for the whole family who would often feel like they couldn't go to certain places for lack of understanding and feeling stared at, we provided support groups, learning libraries, sensory meet ups, musical therapy, termly events and best of all, created connections that will last forever. It was after 3 and a half years, I decided it was finally time to concentrate on what I have wanted to do all my life and write, so two more parents stepped forward to run the group and is still running today.
My first book was called The Secret Forest, this book is about a young boy with autism and the various ways that autism affects him during his secondary school years, the challenges he faces, the sensory input he struggles with and the small things that people can do to help make his life better; it is also about friendship, speaking out and celebrating people's differences. My son is a selective mute and can and has explained to me very eloquently how autism feels to him but he cannot do that with others and I wanted to tell the world for him to make it an easier place for him to live in. My son also created all the illustrations for the book.
My second book, The Perfect Mask was inspired by me looking back over the years of raising the children as a single mum, trying to juggle everything, understand special needs from both kids on totally different spectrums and my own mental health at that time. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing parents and carers over the years, working with them, supporting them and having friendships with them and their voice resonates within me when I write; all having different struggles that we may never understand or see and being able to have connections with people, friends that do not judge is so important and can be a real life saver for some. I wanted to reach people with this book to tell them that it is ok not to be ok all of the time, that you can ask for help, because sometimes it is the people who seem like they have it all figured out are the ones who need the help the most. The Perfect Mask came out in March and was selected by Sue Atkins the parenting expert to be in her book club in May which was very exciting for me.
My third book was inspired by the transgender community; for people who are assigned a gender at birth and feel it is wrong for them. This book is called Harry's New Wings and it is about a caterpillar who is born with the wrong wings and the confusion it creates for him, the sadness it brings him and takes away his will to fly or sing. Harry does eventually meet friends that understand, and a spider that weaves him beautiful new wings but he has a little journey first. This book is intended for young children who do not have the communication tools to express how they are feeling inside, it is a gentle conversation starter about gender identity, it is beautifully illustrated by Emmie Schofield and the designs are quite neutral. I am busy now writing the sequel to The Perfect Mask and have plans for another one after that.