My Daughter

This is a personal piece about what’s been happening at home to do with my daughter. It’s something I’ve asked if it’s okay to write about, and wanted to get off my chest. I’m not interested in doing an ‘oh you poor dear’ piece, it’s just a venting exercise, and maybe it might help someone else going through a similar time.


It’s been a bit of a difficult year in many respects, but the hardest stuff my family has had to go through is to do with my eldest daughter, Keira. She’s nearly 15 now, and has always been hyper intelligent, and aware of everything going on, but was never brilliant with social stuff.


It all came to a head at the beginning of the year. Keira’s anxiety issues started to result in panic attacks and dark thoughts on her part, and we sought out counselling for her.


It’s difficult to state just how horrendous that period of time was, and just how much I wanted to be able to make her happy, but she couldn’t get past it, couldn’t see anything but misery and pain. It was a difficult time for not just Keira, but her mum and me, and her two younger sisters.


Keira went to counselling about being angry all the time, about how she didn’t believe she was good enough, about how she was certain there was something wrong with her. She was getting stressed at school through the amount of pressure she was receiving about her progress in school.


You see, Keira was one of the top two kids in her years for her SAT scores in year 6. In fact her score was so high that she was predicted A and A*’s across the board for her GCSE result. Exams that she didn’t have to take for another 5 years. So for the last 3 years, every single time she’d taken home a report, because she hasn’t met that predicted grade, the school has been forced to mark her down as underachieving.


It’s been incredibly frustrating for her. She could be getting an A in tests at 12, but because she was predicted an A*, she’s considered underachieving. No matter how much the school have explained that these things are meaningless, 3 years of her having to put up with constantly being shown as underachieving when she’s one of the top children in the year, took a toll on her confidence and made her start to hate school.


Thankfully, we think she’s started to understand this. Her grades never suffered, her behaviour at school didn’t change, but she was constantly anxious and suffered from panic attacks during school time. It was difficult for her. Her mind works in logic, and she couldn’t figure out why her brain didn’t work the same as everyone else’s.


She started a counselling course 2 months ago that finished last week. The clinical psychologist in week 2, gave my wife and I, and Keira’s school forms to fill in because she’s convinced Keira has Asperger’s.

The change in Keira since hearing that is dramatic. There’s finally a reason. There’s finally a way forward for her. There are reasons why she’s so smart, but doesn’t understand social cues, and finds normal teenage behaviour to be almost alien to her. She doesn’t understand why people would anyone would say one thing and do something else. But now she understands why her brain thinks this way.


She’s happier. Happier than I’ve seen her in a while.


Asperger’s is harder to detect in girls as they’re so smart and can hide it from the world, but as Keira got older, and as she went through counselling, her ability to hide these things broke down the more comfortable she got with certain people.


It’ll be two years until Keira is assessed (at least), and there’s no guarantee that she’ll be formally diagnosed with Asperger’s, despite a clinical psychologist stating that she saw zero chance she didn’t have it. Despite going through the list of aspects of Asperger’s and ticking them off one at a time.


None of that really matters to her, because that diagnosis is in the future, and right now she has a way to move forward, and an understanding of why her brain works so differently to everyone else.


This year has been hard on Keira, on all of us because we didn’t know how to help her, how to make things better. There’s no magical cure for anxiety, and she still has it, she will possibly always have it, but having her be able to understand is a massive step forward, and I hope that one of many.


As a parent there’s little more terrifying than knowing that something to do with your child is out of your control, but seeing Keira deal with the problems that confronted her, and move through them has made me incredibly proud. She faces new challenges now, but she’s a much happier teenager for what she’s discovered this year, and right now that’s pretty much all I can ask for.






Posted on August 7, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Sheila Sullivan

    It’s one thing to like and respect an author, it’s a whole other deal to like and respect the person. I love your work, you are literally one of my favorite authors. One of two that I watch for release dates.
    That being said, I have all the respect in the world for you as a person too. I am going through this with my 9 year old daughter right now and I know how hard it is. No… it SUCKS to watch them go through this.
    Keep doing what you are doing, because you are clearly an amazing, thoughtful, parent.

  2. I am only the aunt of a little Aspie girl, this story is heart-achingly familiar, though her journey is just beginning. I, a complete stranger, am proud of the progress you’ve described here; I can’t imagine how proud you must be as a parent. You’re doing good. You’re a good example to the rest of us.

  3. Steve, What courage to share this story. I work with individuals with different forms of disabilities. I help them find and maintain employment through job coaching, finding accommodations and recognizing environments that will work with whatever impairment they have, whether, physical, mental or developmental. Please give your daughter my heartfelt encouragement, and if you ever want to visit with me about things to help her find her path, im happy to talk via email or whatever. My email is Im actually going to tag a story about a client of mine here.

  4. I’m so glad you chose to share this, it may help someone else that has a child experiencing the same thing. I didn’t realize how long it took to actually diagnose Asperger until recently, but at least y’all have a path to go down to tackle problems now. We have depression in our family, one family member received help when she was young, she is doing wonderfully now. Another family member refused help, did not do so well. So….I’m glad your family and your daughter are strong enough to ask for help, it’s always that first step that is the hardest. Plus is is good for your daughter to know she’s is not alone, even is she is wonderfully unique.
    Best wishes to you all.

    • Thank you. I’m glad your family member got help and is doing well. I hope the other one has gotten to a better place too. It’s hard with depression, I’ve been diagnosed myself. It can be an unpleasant path.

  5. Hi Steve,

    It sounds like your daughter is having an experience extraordinarily similar to mine at that age, for which I sympathise. In my case I ended up not having an assessment for Asperger Syndrome until I was 32, when I was told I definitely had it (by a private psychiatrist) and definitely didn’t (by an NHS one, because I was able to joke and talk comfortably in a one-on-one situation). Frankly, if she doesn’t get diagnosed, there’s nothing stopping her declaring herself as having it to her education providers and future employers, particularly given the protections when doing the latter.

    Since I have gone through this myself and also spent my late 20s and early 30s (I’m 35 soon) retraining as a psychologist, I would be very happy to speak to you personally if it would help you to speak to someone closer to your own age but who is able to strongly empathise – in a logical way, rather than an emotional one, given the Aspergers – with your daughter’s situation. Equally, I would be happy to speak to her, under full confidentiality and in line with my professional standards. Consider your books as having been the payment!

  6. I’m really pleased that she is in a better place and things are moving forward for you, albeit slowly. This is simultaneously one reason I hate being a teacher and love it: we don’t feel this progress measure is fair either but if people who only care about progress are left and the ones who hate this system quit the job then the kids will suffer more I think. Most schools and teachers do try to protect our kids from the ridiculous system we live under but it is increasingly difficult as homogenisation and tick boxes of progress become more valued in an increasingly business styled environment.

    We are failing our children with the pressure placed on them and the fact they feel they have to fit in certain boxes. We give them the impression that there is only one way to be successful, when in reality it is the beautiful variations of individuals that matter. I have a 10 year old who is terrified of SATs and he isn’t even there yet, and this is in a school where both his parents work and where we don’t focus on the outcomes beyond everything else. It breaks my heart.

    I am also grateful that you have found support that works for your child. The scariest moments I have had in my job are with pupils having breakdowns, meltdowns or panic attacks and not knowing how to deal with it but knowing that we no longer have access to anyone more qualified. The only time I have seriously thought about quitting was after 4 hours in a hall alone with a pupil having panic attacks where the school’s ‘Leadership’ decided to cover my lessons without any lesson plans rather than try to support the pupil I was with. To be fair she was probably better off with me but I was very aware that I was being left alone without a clue and a very vulnerable child.

    Your daughter has always sounded awesome from your posts and in time she will realise that I am sure. You and Vanessa will always be a supportive cheer squad in the background and her sisters are there to help her thrive and drive her insane in equal measure. May every step be in a forward direction, even when they are tiny ones.

  7. Hi Steve

    So I was reading this with a tear in my eye because two main reasons
    1. I know how much your heart is filled with love for your family and how proud a father you are.

    2. I do have a slight understanding about mental health and anxiety and it something that rips you to pieces time and time again thinking your not good enough at this or that feeling of failure is tough .

    I think your daughter is so brave and courageous as for her to open up would have been extremely hard and believe me it’s hard choice the other is easy . I do believe she’s took the right choice with counseling and it’s hard at every session to speak up and let sink in what counsellor is saying but as you say that hard work has paid off in that she’s feeling more positive about things. Then you have your reaction as a parent or as family now that’s something you may not know but it’s something that means the world to her I bet as the love and support my family showed was like a warm blanket wrapped around me and it also filled me with few things like hope and determination and strength! Aspergers is something I know very little about myself but hopefully that you have a kinda initial diagnosis it will let you and school implement things together to help aid and support Keira especially with school . I hope you guys can enjoy a little bit more family time and help forge some exciting adventures ongoing for Keira as well I have such admiration for you and Keira for posting this and sharing the journey and I would love to offer anything I can to help .

  8. Eduardo Arosemena

    Good Luck Steve, best wishes to Keira. Regards Eduardo

    Enviado desde mi iPhone

    El 08/07/2019, a la(s) 7:31 a. m., Steve McHugh escribió:

    > >

  9. I’m a Mum and a private tutor and stories like this make me angry! I spend a lot of time providing emotional support rather than educational because schools put kids in a box and say they can predict their achievements, then pile on the pressure. It can work both ways, with able kids being done down and others being told they aren’t doing enough. It’s hard enough being a teenager without being told you’re doing it wrong!

    I really hope that your daughter finds her way through the maze. I was lucky that both my children found a passion that made them stubborn enough to ignore what everyone said about their expectations and they have both done well but it was a rocky road at times. (panic attacks sound familiar) And yes, as a parent it’s hell.

    She is mostly lucky that she obviously has much love and support. Just tell her that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ – we’re all different and just as well or the world would be a mess and 90% of scientific advances would never have happened. Here’s a game – read bios of historically famous people and try to find the normal ones!

    Good luck to you all.

  10. Thank you for sharing. I understand. My daughter nearly died from an issue caused by anxiety, and I was clueless as to what was happening. It will never go away but can be managed, and I can sleep knowing she’s physically healthy. Hopefully someone reading your post will take a closer look at their children.

  11. Total respect for you my fri rend. What you, your family, and especially your eldest child are going thr6can be very challenging. One of my grandsons has dealt with anxiety and ADHD for several years now. So, although not quite the same thing, I can hear your heart. This summer though, with a change of meds, we have seen a marked difference in him. He seems happier and not as stressed. He’s a smart kid as well with a wry sense of humor. I do believe he’d enjoy your works but, I’ll let him age a bit more and then, introduce him to the worlds you’ve created. Hang in there buddy. She’ll be ok.

  12. Anthony Brooks

    Well done, it’s great article to raise awareness for these issues. I’m sure it help a lot of people. It’s Always to watch your children go through something you can not control or take away.

  13. It is such a stressful time for children in the build up to G,C,S,E’s, I really feel for you, my Daughter was diagnosed with aspergers before even starting high school and is now considering her future after the results come in.
    I really hope your daughter finds her self in better place, and continues to do well at this difficult time. It’s good you’ve been able to find some help in the form of counselling and hope this continues to help. It’s a horrible feeling, but all you can really do is carry on as you are giving the love and support she needs, if she’s communicating with you it’s a blessing as some further along the spectrum would struggle.
    SATs in my opinion are evil they serve no purpose to the student and as you and many others have discovered frequently do more harm than good!
    Good luck and best wishes to you and your Daughter for her future studies I hope she continues to grow beyond the aspergers and find her place in the world what ever that may be.

  14. First of all, Love your books. So looking forward to Nate coming back, yet it’s not the reason I’m writing. Like you I also have a child with Asperger’s. He’s almost 22 now and like your daughter, very smart but lacking in social cues. He’s attended some classes thru our local Regional Center to help with such things. It sort of helps but it also allows him to meet others that are like him. For some reason the “Official Diagnosis” of Asperger’s is no longer being used and instead just “Autistic” or “On the Spectrum”. I understand the reason, apparently too many people hear “Asperger’s” and since they’re typically considered “High Functioning Autism” they’re ignored. Sounds like you’ve got a good relationship with your daughter and still enjoy a good two way communication. That’s very important in helping her with learning the various coping mechanisms.

  15. Thank you for sharing. As a parent it is heartbreaking to watch your child struggle. I believe sharing can help many identify and seek help as well.

  16. The difference in the ways Asperger’s presents in girls / women is slowly but surely becoming more recognized.
    Your daughter is very lucky to have your support. I am hopeful that your creativity as an author will allow you & your family to discover the coping mechanisms needed for all of you to feel successful & safe.
    I realize you are from the U.K., however, I would urge you to look at the various resources gathered by ASAN.
    The welcome publication is quite good & the resources (multiple books) can be trusted.
    & generally:

    I spent years as an admin on various Facebook groups for Adults on the Spectrum & I have a very Neurodiverse family. I am currently on a break from moderating.
    It’s possible that you have had books thrown at you left & right.
    I realize how weird & annoying that can be, but I’m going to do it anyway.
    I would like to offer more forward thinking information & suggestions that are pro-acceptance.
    Tony Attwood’s book is well done.
    Another recent publication that may be of interest to you is Neurotribes.
    And lastly, the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.
    Best wishes & Be well,
    X. Black

  17. I’ve just read this. I can’t begin to imagine what you’re going through, but this piece you’ve written is great – also as a potential cue to others who may be experiencing similar issues either with themselves or their families/friends.

    As a parent myself I know how the instinct to try and help and make everything perfect for your children almost seems to shout louder than reason at times, but it sounds like there’s a definite light at the end of the tunnel.

    I also have to say massive respect to your daughter for talking with people and dealing with her issues – it shows immense maturity to be able to accept help – especially at this age where the demons on your shoulders always seem to be saying “no one else can possibly understand, no one else will be able to help”.

  18. I got as far as the second paragraph and thought “She has ASD”. My daughter is 16 and has just received her diagnosis (it arrived the final week of her GCSEs!). We’re lucky that she’s at an awesome school who put special measures in place without the formal diagnosis as part of her difficulties is noise sensitivity. It also helped that my son (22) had already been diagnosed, so we recognised some of the signs. It is hard, confusing and you get no help, but I truly believe aspie/asd kids are special. Like Keira, my Lauren is smart and artistic and was predicted A/A* because she was top set in maths, even though she still found some subjects hard. We took a pragmatic approach to GCSEs, she knew what she wanted to do at A Level and she knew what she needed to get there, so we told her not to worry about the subjects she had no interest in taking further and concentrate on the important ones. After a few dramas along the way, she is now settled studying maths, biology and forensic science in sixth form. Stay calm, be gentle with her (as I am sure you already are!) and remember ASD children tend to take things literally. As long as she has you fighting her corner, she will be fine!

    P.S. have just finished the whole series for the second time and can’t wait for Sorcery Reborn; I love Nate and my daughter thinks Mordred is awesome, so can’t wait to see what they get up to next – 4 days after my birthday!

    • Thanks very much, I’m glad your daughter is doing well. It’s not always the easiest thing to deal with her, but we’re all figuring it out together.
      I’m glad you’re enjoying the books. And that your daughter likes Mordred.

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