Bettina and her big sister Jennifer together on holiday. picture courtesy of Jennifer Raw

“We did it We did it” Bettina announces as she dives on to her bed, immediately upon arrival at our hotel in Whitby for an annual week’s holiday with her family. Bettina had captured all emotions we had probably bottled up over the last 6 months. We had done it, not just for ourselves but especially for Bettina. I must admit this had been a huge worry for her parents and her big sister Jennifer, especially after our holiday in June had to be cancelled due to ‘lockdown’.

Related: ‘My Happy Place

Even after living with Bettina for over 32 years, a woman who copes with autism and a learning disability, we are still understanding how she perceives her world. We knew she enjoyed her holiday in Devon each year, however, until this year we had not appreciated just how much. Bettina was visibly upset when she realised she was not going in June. Afterall, Bettina had entered it on her calendar. Joyce, her mum and ‘Bettina’s whisperer’, did her best to explain.

Related: ‘Bettina’s Whisperer

Just to emphasize what her annual visit to the North East coast meant to her, Bettina picked up a cushion with a Whitby scene printed on it and kissed it whilst giving me eye contact “Whitby August You Promise”. What on earth would I say if we couldn’t go? I would feel I had let her down again.

The sense of relief was immense as we drove across the North Yorkshire moors and Whitby Abbey came into view. We did it!

The Raw family rocking the face coverings look – Picture courtesy of Jennifer Raw, Masks hand made by Joyce Raw

Bettina’s lessons in resilience that continue to help her:

  1. ‘Always having the end in mind’ – where Bettina wants to get to. Bettina made a statement by writing the dates of her holiday on her calendar in her bedroom. ‘B’ has already bought a new calendar for 2021!
  2. Bettina looks for opportunities which boost her self-esteem, this helps her recover from setbacks such has her June Holiday being cancelled (she sat down and immediately completed 6 jigsaws!)
  3. There is a generalisation that people with autism can’t cope with any change. While routine is important, and some things are important which don’t change (such as the week she has in Whitby) there are small changes Bettina can cope with, providing we put in place the appropriate support and preparation. This is something her family work on as a team.
  4. Bettina has had a lifetime of: ‘Adapting and Overcoming’ which we believe helps her resilience.
  5. Knowing that no matter whatever happens, Bettina knows she is loved.

Five ways we have supported Bettina coming out of lockdown:

  1. Bettina has several notices on her bedroom wall which lists all the places she likes to go and the activities she is involved in. At the beginning of lockdown, they were all ‘closed’. Since early July, Joyce has changed these to ‘open’ so that Bettina sees progress and can see she is slowly getting her life back. The Garden Centre she works has just ‘opened’.
  2. ‘Patience’ is the watch word of coming out of lockdown. Joyce patiently works with Bettina and her PA (Donna) so that we take safe risks when it is right for Bettina.
  3. Finding new opportunities for Bettina’s week. Covid19 can be an opportunity to do something different.
  4. Ensuring Bettina feels she is part of our ‘team’ because as a family we are all dependant on each other. Bettina brings so much to our family dynamic and it is important to us she knows this as we plan our way out of lockdown
  5. Having fun, irrespective of the situation or crisis.

Five ways we will go on keeping Bettina safe:

  1. Managing Expectations – Bettina is super keen to go on a steam train on her holiday. We didn’t think it was probably safe to do so this year, but ‘B’ knows she will be doing this in 2021 (she has already reminded me several times)
  2. Adhering to rules when others don’t – it is about maintaining our standards. The Raw family have been wearing face masks from the outset of Covid19 – we like to think it is about being ahead of the game.
  3. Risk Assess – Our hotel is wonderful, it must be as we have been going there for the last 17 years, but this year I checked into their Trip Adviser pages as well as Instagram to see what measures they had in place. I was extremely pleased to find they were more than Covid19 ready since reopening.
  4. Staying Healthy and Fit. Throughout my Covid19 series of blog posts about Bettina, I have highlighted our support to Bettina to maintain her fitness and her health. We have always focused on this but now more than ever as we can see the benefits both physically and mentally.
  5. Normality. At the end of our holiday I was told we brought normality to everyone at our hotel – what a compliment.
    We have been going to Whitby for 17 years, the same week, the same hotel and often seeing the same guests, but after Covid19 this year, I think is the best holiday we have had so far.

As I type this post, I hear Bettina giggling in the next room, she is still buzzing from her holiday experiences. Here are some Instagram pictures Bettina’s holiday:

So, as we come out of lockdown together as a family, we just want to say to you, Bettina ‘You did it’. We are so proud of you.

This blog post is dedicated to:

Who have made so many sacrifices and faced so many challenges for the people you love during Covid19