It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Easy peasy lemon squeezy – how difficult would it be to film a few videos and create an online course about how to help children with autism have a Happy Christmas too, eh? Famous last words.
Click here to find out more about The Udemy Online Video Course “How to Manage Autism Calmly over Christmas” and to get a 40% discount.
A few days beforehand, way back around the middle of November, I had asked on Facebook if anyone might be interested in coming to London for a workshop in December about the issues our children face over Christmas and how to manage them. It’s generally only Autism parents who know just how much our children can struggle at this time of year. Children with Autism often rely on rigid routines to make their world seem more secure, and they also often have difficulties with sensory processing issues, so any change in sounds, sights, smells and tastes can be particularly hard. Christmas is the one time of the year when routine goes out of the window, and everything looks, tastes, smells and sounds different too. So a workshop for parents to gain some new ideas and some workable strategies seemed like a fab idea.
However, the Facebook response to this idea really made me think. So many parents responded, and it became very clear that there were families everywhere who were dreading Christmas, because they knew from previous experience that their children really don’t cope well and they wanted to know what to do this year to make it better. The problem was that only a fraction of them lived anywhere near London. Now I love going to different parts of the country to talk or do workshops, but logistically, I couldn’t make it to Cheshire and Scotland, and Dublin and Belfast and Birmingham and dozens of other places too all before Christmas.
So the idea of the Online Video Course was born. With five short weeks to go before Christmas Day. Easy I thought. I must be bonkers.
Although I’ve made a few videos before they have been amateur in the extreme, and my track record with technology isn’t something I’m proud of. I was about to become an Udemy Instructor – professional polish was an absolute must. Ha ha ha ha ha. So before I started, I had to learn how. How did I learn? Udemy courses of course! I took about six of them and learnt the basics about film production, sound, lighting, presentation skills, autocues and editing. As I watched each one, I became increasingly daunted. But there was no going back – I’d already announced it on Facebook and the internet never fibs.
I wrote the scripts. I practiced with the autocue. Malcolm researched the techie gizmos for me like cameras, lighting, sound and editing software. No wonder I love that man. I even went to the hairdresser because the scarecrow look isn’t a good one on video.
Where could we film it? The dining room table got pushed just out of camera angle, as did piles of clutter. We are an autism family, which means that Toby has had years of practice in re-decorating our walls with marks from missiles thrown in the middle of meldowns.So I had to be strategically positioned in such a way against our best wall so that most of the worst marks were hidden behind me. Although if you look really carefully you can see a little dint near my elbow. Hey ho, let’s call it authenticity.
We started filming. One famous session I did 9 videos in one sitting across three hours, and then we discovered that the microphone hadn’t been plugged in. So we redid them immediately but I was not in the best of moods. Unfortunately, the camera never lies, and anyone watching those retakes would know immediately that I was almost barking the script bad-temperedly and with a really sad face. So they ended up in the bin too.
Some nights we were still filming at 3am. I lost count of how many nights I was still getting my head around editing when I realised that it was already daylight. There wasn’t any other way – Christmas was getting nearer by the day and I was getting increasingly panicked that it wouldn’t all come together in time. Sometimes we shot perfect takes, only for me to spend hours editing them before I discovered that they couldn’t be used because I’d looked away from the camera too quickly at the very end. So they had to be binned and redone. My unsophisticated editing skills meant that I had to learn to stare at the camera for three long seconds after I finished talking, and with a fixed grin on my face, to be absolutely sure it was usuable.
Eventually we did it. I uploaded them laboriously onto the Udemy website on the 1st of December and sat back to wait the two days it takes for a course to be approved.
Actually that’s a lie. There was no sitting back, it was more like pacing up and down waiting and hoping that this new baby of mine wouldn’t be rejected. I’d put my heart and soul into this project, I’d been in virtual hibernation for three weeks not taking calls or replying to emails and working my socks off. Meanwhile the lovely Udemy designers created an image to accompany my course that I absolutely loved and completely captured both Christmas and Autism – it’s at the top of the page, isn’t it gorgeous?
Eventually the email arrived. They were lovely about the course but. There is always a but, isn’t there? This one was entirely my fault though. I hadn’t read the small print, and the whole set of 25 videos had been recorded in the wrong format. So, back to the beginning and Malcolm and I did the whole thing all over again. In two days flat out. We got there. It went live just before midnight on the 5th of December, but if you look very carefully you’ll see the bags under my eyes, the bad hair day, and occasionally, the pleading desperation in my voice.
Silly old me, I thought that was the end of it. Oops no. Now it’s the marketing to let people know that this course is a thing. I thought filming was hard work last week, but it’s a piece of cake compared to online marketing! However, I’m loving it all really. And we’re getting there. 29 students have enrolled already and I’ve got 2 Five-Star review so far – all in three days. Not bad for a beginner.
And I can’t stop smiling either now, and I’m already planning my next Udemy course. Sssh, please don’t tell Malcolm……..
Are you on Facebook? If so, have you seen The Special Parent’s Handbook Page? It’s full of the best information, advice and support for families of special needs children.
WHIS Ambassador Learning Disability, Autism and Families
HSJ Top 50 Inspirational Women in Healthcare 2014
“The Special Parent’s Handbook” #1 Amazon Best Seller
To buy your copy of “The Special Parent’s Handbook please click on the link to the Amazon page below