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July 8, 2021
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July 8, 2021

I am

By Dr Debra Bartholomew

I am the mother of two adolescent boys. My older son, diagnosed on the autistic spectrum at the age of three, and his neurotypical brother, now attend mainstream secondary schools. It’s been an arduous journey, and yet, in the past few months I’ve had to contemplate my role and my worth as a mother. Was I really superfluous? Was I overreaching? Out of touch even? As I read the document in front of me, the words, “she was not required to be present with him (my autistic son) at school on a daily basis, as she stated” not only stood out, they stung.

I became angry.

I’ve been to every single meeting, game, concert, recital and I have met every single teacher, principal, librarian and custodian of every single school of both my sons. I have also volunteered teaching at every single one too.

But I am the parent that I am, because of the parents that I have had. My mom and dad were never far away, always supportive, always guiding and mentoring, even to this day.

It was at adoration one Sunday, whilst praying the rosary, that these words “Turn then, Most Gracious Advocate….” made me freeze. I immediately became overwhelmed. Mary, our Precious Mother, is the ultimate Advocate. I thought to myself, “But I have been called my child’s advocate. Have I truly embodied this role? Am I really the person who stands in the breach, who protects, who watches over and who fights for her child? Is that the role that I personify? Am I my sons’ champion?”

I sat there for some time, tears streaming down my face. Before then, I had never connected with this prayer in that way. I’d never before felt myself imbued with its words. Words meant to uplift and bring healing. Words now that brought me strength and conviction. Words now that made me resolute in the role that I was called to play.


I look back to the words before me now. And I respond…

I am Mother.

Single parent.








Pillar of support.




I look over to the table now where my son had been doing his mock exam in Communication Studies for the past few hours. His teacher, a nurturing, impassioned guide and educator who takes him through the process and who is the consummate cheerleader. Every positive step, she claps and cheers. I sit on the sidelines, there, if he needs me.

During the short break, I teach him how to massage his fingers when they hurt. The lack of access to therapy and decreased opportunity to write due to virtual school have created the ‘right’ environment for muscles to grow lazy and forgetful. I rummage through the kitchen looking for a weight as I sense his growing unease. I place a bag of cornflour on his legs to help calm him. He’s flustered, and asks for a fidget. I break out the tools of relaxation. But they’re not enough. I search for a heavy blanket. And then it hits me.

I am the perfect blanket.