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'I felt guilty' - Mum writes book about learning to live with her son's autism

PUBLISHED: 16:32 17 October 2019

Jennifer Sheppard wih her son Oscar  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jennifer Sheppard wih her son Oscar Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Over the years, mum-of-three Jennifer Sheppard has struggled with her son Oscar's condition - and now she has written a book she hopes will help other parents of autistic children.

Jennifer Sheppard has written a book about her son Oscar who has  severe autism, epilepsy and is completely non-verbal, to try and raise awareness about how it has impacted their life  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJennifer Sheppard has written a book about her son Oscar who has severe autism, epilepsy and is completely non-verbal, to try and raise awareness about how it has impacted their life Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Oscar Sheppard was diagnosed with autism at just two years old, and has been completely nonverbal ever since.

This means he has never said the words 'mummy' or 'daddy', he attends a special needs school and now - at the age of four - he functions at just eight months old.

His mother Jennifer, who has never written before, decided to put all her feelings down into a book which she has called 'Life on the wilder end of the spectrum' - hoping to raise awareness of autism and show other parents they are not alone and that it does get easier.

Jennifer, who is a nursery nurse in the A&E department at Ipswich Hospital, said Oscar's diagnosis was heartbreaking.

Jennifer Sheppard has written a book about her son Oscar, who has severe autism, epilepsy and is completely non-verbal, to try and raise awareness about how it has impacted their life  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJennifer Sheppard has written a book about her son Oscar, who has severe autism, epilepsy and is completely non-verbal, to try and raise awareness about how it has impacted their life Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

"I felt completely guilty and like I had done something wrong," said the 29-year-old, who grew up in Felixstowe and now lives in Trimley St Mary with her husband Luke and their three children.

Following Oscar's birth, Jennifer suffered from postnatal depression which she thinks may have been due to her son's lack of interest in her - and how socially he is "always in his own little world".

"Now when he does show me attention I treasure it, because it doesn't happen very often," admitted the mum-of-three, who has had to dock her work hours because of Oscar's disability.

"It has been really hard over the last few years and when we first found out I felt completely alone. I want my book to show other parents of severely autistic children that they are not on their own and it does get better," she added.

From left to right, brothers Ronnie, George and Oscar. Picture: JENNIFER SHEPPARDFrom left to right, brothers Ronnie, George and Oscar. Picture: JENNIFER SHEPPARD

In addition to being autistic, the five-year-old also suffers from epilepsy and an immune deficiency among other health problems.

Her book, which is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon, is broken down into different chapters, sharing details of Oscar's diagnosis, how to cope with his lack of communication, his sleeping issues and how his disability has impacted his siblings.

Oscar, who is celebrating his fifth birthday tomorrow, October 17, is the second of Jennifer's three boys - with his five-year-old brother Alfie and her youngest child Ronnie, who is just 16 months old.

Jennifer says it has been hard for Alfie especially, as the family has been unable to do normal things like going to a restaurant.

Jennifer Sheppard wih her son Oscar  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJennifer Sheppard wih her son Oscar Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

She said: "This may sound strange, but it has almost been like a grieving process for me as Oscar isn't the child I had expected. I'm kind of grieving the normal child I didn't have."

However, Jennifer says things have improved significantly, and she has learnt how to handle Oscar's aggressive behaviour and claims that putting her feelings down on paper has helped.

This summer she turned to respite care, where a nurse looked after Oscar for two hours a day, giving her the chance to give Alfie and Ronnie the experience of typical family life.

It has been hard for Jennifer to comprehend that Oscar will rely on her forever, but she says she is learning everyday and keeping positive.

Oscar Sheppard pictured with his dad Luke. Picture: JENNIFER SHEPPARDOscar Sheppard pictured with his dad Luke. Picture: JENNIFER SHEPPARD

"Things do get easier" she said. "And I'm hopeful that my book will show that."

Jennifer's book 'Life on the wilder end of the spectrum' is available in paperback now on Amazon and it will be live on Kindle from tomorrow - which will be Oscar's fifth birthday.

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