Anyone who has children and lives in Stockholm will have undoubtedly heard of Jill Leckie of Littlebearabroad, and all the other projects she is behind. From The International Playgroup to MamaMötet, Jill is an absolute powerhouse of positivity and drive, and she has created THE essential guide for International families living in Stockholm.
Encouraging people to engage is tough. Building a community takes careful dedication. Forging a life for yourself and your family in a new country is challenging, but Jill makes everything look easy, and I admire her, and her work immensely. So, when she contacted me a few months back about doing her podcast – The Swede Life – I was honoured and if I’m honest, surprised. I’ve been working so hard for the last few years to push Little Echoes forward but felt I was getting nowhere.
After the initial excitement, my thought process went something like this:
Hurray! Someone has noticed!
Wait…someone has noticed!?
But… this means. …interview…questions… open to criticisms…
What if I get mixed up, say the wrong things? What if I offend?
Cue extreme anxiety and catastrophising every possible outcome; cue trying to talk myself out of it.
I know many of us to have self-esteem and anxiety problems which are horrible to cope with every day. However, I also have dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, and Irlen Syndrome, and I’m very likely autistic (STILL waiting for the assessment appointment for that, but that’s another story!) Every single thing I do is fraught with anxiety and my approach to tasks is shall we say, unconventional?
With these diagnoses come a plethora of issues such as difficulties with executive functioning, working memory, processing speed, eye contact, time management, coordination, social anxiety, sensory sensitivities, and constant fear of reading people wrong, and presenting inaccurate facts. If you’ve ever met me, you may have noticed that I often look away, or down, and I can sometimes take time to speak or answer you; this is all part of how I experience the world and how my diagnoses impact my daily life. My brain doesn’t work in a straight line, it works in squiggles and likes to take detours (thanks, brain), meaning word recall can take an age! I have spent years watching how others interact, copying, and masking because I never felt like I fit anywhere and as such, I found it difficult to maintain friendships when I was younger. I was in my early thirties before I got my diagnoses, and it was a strangely emotional process, but I’m eternally grateful to my lecturer who recognised the signs and sent me for testing. Until this point, I had grown up thinking that I was stupid, incapable, and unworthy. A diagnosis doesn’t necessarily change anything, but it can certainly help you to understand yourself, and figure out a way forward.
Why am I telling you this?
Simply put, I want to raise awareness. I want to start a conversation about the difficulties that I and many others face but are too afraid to talk about. I want to remind parents that your kids grow up and supporting them in the future is just as important as helping them now. Give them the tools they need to navigate this world and to accept themselves. Think about how you **treat** adults like me who perhaps do things differently, or who may struggle with everyday tasks. Agreeing to do the podcast shone a spotlight on all my diagnoses and the emotional toll they can take on my daily functioning. I’m no longer afraid to talk about that.
Anyway, when I mentioned (read: info dumped) all this to Jill, she was super understanding, and set about devising a plan to help me prepare for podcast day! **This is how you treat adults like me!**
Jill contacted me because she felt there was a missing voice for families like mine among the plentiful immigrant stories of life in Sweden, and she wanted to expose that. However, I was concerned that my experience of living in Sweden would not fit into the “Sweden is amazing” narrative, and I explained my concerns from the outset. Thankfully, Jill was encouraging and open and felt it was vital to have balance. There is (from our experience) a real issue of gaslighting experiences like ours, and to react with shock, or in some cases, denial. Often we’ve been made to feel like it is something we are doing wrong and not in fact, the consequences of a flawed system. The fight for transparent and consistent information is continuous, and the battle for the support the government says we’re entitled to is utterly relentless. The devastating situation is this; there is a lack of understanding, funding, and training across all sectors, and while politicians sit and pontificate about who is most worthy of support, our children are suffering. Not from their diagnoses but from ignorance and at times, a lack of compassion.
I ask you to think about these questions:
- Why is it ok for some of our most vulnerable and needy children to receive an unacceptable quality of care and education?
- Why is classroom support for our children denied?
- Why is my child not afforded the same access and chances as a nondisabled child?
- In what world of inclusion and equality is it right to segregate children, based purely on diagnosis and not on what is best for them?
- Does anyone actually understand the concept of “presuming competence”?
- Why do people not recognise the difference between equality and equity?
You see, I fight for my daughter and kiddos like her, to be accepted, and treated with respect. I push for her to be valued based on her humanity, and not because of her potential to be “a productive member of society”. I advocate for her because no child should grow up marginalised or with zero supports. I never want any child to experience the sense of isolation and self-hatred that I did. Our children deserve better.
You can listen to the podcast here
NB – I try to, wherever possible, use identity-first or person-centred language but even I, at times fail. Person-first is so etched within our psyche that it takes time to change that. Learn more about language here.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak, for giving me a platform, and for being so kind and accommodating. Thank you for all that you do for the international community here in Stockholm, you’re fabulous! x
For resources about dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia, check out understood.org