Parent to three children with autism and a partner with a neurological condition, Jodie Isitt certainly has her fair share of life challenges, not to mention her own health problems to cope with.
After a brainwave one evening where Jodie was thinking about ways she could start her own business and make a difference to other families, she was struck by inspiration to write…and that’s how it all started.
Read Jodie’s inspiring story:
I’m Jodie, fiancé of Kenny and mum of three to Stanley (12) Lola (10) and Connie-Mai (7). Kenny and we are due to get married in June next year in Rhodes Greece and we are all mega excited.
Parenting children with autism
All three of my children are Autistic.
Stanley and Lola are diagnosed with ADHD too and Lola is medicated for this which helps her tremendously due to her learning disability and the type of Autism she has been diagnosed with; she has Pathological Demand Avoidance, which is an anxiety driven condition with the need to be in control.
We have had to adopt a completely different parenting technique for Lola as traditional parenting and typical Autism strategies do not help at all. We maintain a zero-demand low arousal parenting type which helps her anxiety immensely. She is also on anxiety medication and has a personal assistant to help her with her morning routine. Connie Mai has severe separation anxiety and her school are fantastic in supporting her and I in managing this.
Being a full-time carer
Prior to having children, I worked in catering, then I became a stay at home mum, which quickly led to me becoming not just a mother to Lola, but also a full time carer, as her needs were extremely high and demanding. She needs constant care and supervision and until she was at school, I was fully focused on making things as easy as possible for her.
Kenny is also disabled as he has a neurological condition which affects his legs and he is unable to do much caring for the children at all, hence why we also have a personal assistant in the morning.
I then became a bookkeeping manager for our family building business which I then had to give up because of the family life demand.
I soon realised how I could work around caring for the children by doing something I had always dreamed of and would be able to manage around my parenting and caring responsibilities. It also linked to my role as advocate and carer and I incorporated everything I learned into writing children’s stories based on my daughter journey through mainstream school.
An exciting idea
Being a parent/carer for so many years after previously being so career driven left me feeling inadequate and unfulfilled.
I have always wanted to be successful and have something of my own. I am quite a lone ranger so when I was feeling quite down one night, and my brain was overthinking I decided I wanted to do something to help the next generation understand children like my Lola better and end the stigma around disabilities.
Weirdly an idea entered my head and actually formulated fully right there and then. I had written my first children’s story based on Lola through mainstream school in my head at 1am in the morning and instantly got up to write it in my notes on my phone. I was so excited when I woke up and told Kenny what I was planning. He was so fully supportive right from the very beginning and has not since stopped encouraging and supporting me.
Lola had a difficult few years in mainstream primary where she was perceived as naughty. I wanted to do two things – Teach children how to understand, be kind and help without ever compromising their own mental well-being, and I wanted inadvertently teach teachers that every behaviour is communication. Disability or not. So I enlisted the help of an occupational therapist and a speech pathologist and they’ve created an expert advice section at the back of each book to further the understanding of teachers, parents and carers and give them ideas on how to successfully deliver the books to achieve the end goal of understanding.
Equal opportunities for all children
It’s important to me that autistic children grow up having the same opportunities and experiences of life that everyone else has. For so long SEN children have been far too much of a burden for the real world that we are in a deep mental health crisis.
I want to start teaching from the bottom up that disabilities are not scary, they’re not alien, and they don’t need covering up. We need to teach the next generation that kindness and inclusion does exist, and they can play a massive part in bringing the understanding and acceptance of disabilities to the forefront of the world’s priorities. Let’s create a brighter, happier, calmer future where we stand together as one and support those most in need of support.
Supporting each other through difficult times
My partner was diagnosed with a neurological condition called X-Linked adrenoleukodystrophy and then the following year my dad suddenly passed away from an acute aortic aneurysm, we had some really hard times.
Those were the darkest days of my life and thanks to my family and a few key friends, including some I have never met but speak to every day on Facebook, I pulled through it and as a family we become the strongest unit we could ever have imagined. Now we fully support each other’s dreams, look after each other and pick each other up when were down, and most importantly we just live each day at a time. We never take anything for granted and that works for us.
Getting my books launched
I had a little wobble around the launch date…“what happens if the books don’t sell?”, but then when I sent out the pre-orders and the reviews came in, I literally haven’t had a moment to think about the what ifs.
It’s going well and I am so pleased to finally be doing something that I not only LOVE but that is helping other people’s children understand themselves and become more comfortable in the neurology they were born with.
Launching my three products has been by far the best experience of my life (apart from giving birth to three beautiful children of course). Taking delivery of my books and plush rabbit, which I developed and trademarked all by myself has been so rewarding. Sending them products to customers who have returned for extra products and seeing their heartwarming and wonderful reviews is extraordinary.
Flexible, but busy!
At the moment it’s all still very flexible but busy. I have to still take time off when there are appointments and illnesses in the family as I work alone doing everything from keeping my FB page running, ordering supplies, developing new products and shipping them to the customers.
It’s an extremely busy but amazing time in my life and I am determined to make a success of it. I have so many plans, another character turning into a plush toy and three more books written is certainly going to keep me busy for the next couple of years. My other daughter also wants to feature in the books and so I am also in development of writing her a series based on anxiety as a unicorn. She is super excited.
Coping with stress and overwhelm
If I feel stressed or overwhelmed, it’s simple for me – I take time out.
I have fibromyalgia and thyroid disease and so stress normally makes these conditions relapse. If this happens, I have to allow my body time to recover.
My family are extremely supportive, and my mum has helped me quality check all of my products.
Although my business doesn’t stress me out – I love what I do, and I am proud to say that I love to learn. If I can’t do something I won’t give up. I will research and read until I know exactly what I need to do.
The medical side of things however is extremely stressful especially when referrals are refused, or schools aren’t making reasonable adjustments and my child’s mental health deteriorates. Those are the most stressful things in my life, and it makes so sad that my children and partner are subjected to a lifetime of budget cuts and inappropriate treatment options.
I am extremely laid back and my mum says that if I were any more laid back, I’d be horizontal. If things happen and I have no way of changing them or making them better then I don’t dwell on those things, it would be a time waster as I don’t have time to waste on things I cannot change.
Advice for entrepreneurs struggling with stress
Please take time out for yourself.
In the beginning I never thought I had time to rest but after spending 3-4 days out of every month unable to do anything because of carer burnout, I soon learned I could counter it if I just listened to the niggles and rested and recuperated before it got to the point where I had that burnout. Now it’s not as frequent which I’m so pleased to say, and although it does still happen, it’s nowhere near as intense because I can catch it before it spirals.
— Anxiety Free Entrepreneurs (@calmpreneur) October 30, 2019
One last little tip…
Research, research, research. There’s a few things that I should have done prior to releasing a book but I did things in a haphazard order. Now that I have experience and have learned by my mistakes, I can plan better for the next publish date.
Connect with Jodie
Author, Jodie Isitt, is passionate about creating gentle and inspiring stories for young children. She hopes that through storytelling, she can help develop children’s understanding of what it is like to live with autism and anxiety. Through using cute woodland animals, Jodie takes children on an educational journey embracing differences and kindness. The stories also provide children with learning resources and give them knowledge that is desperately needed.