Friday, 25 July 2014

Day Trip to London

Venturing into London with our youngest son is something we have avoided due to his loathing of busy areas. Today I decided to bite the bullet and take all three kids to London. The eldest two have been on frequent visits and although our daughter can find it overwhelming, she copes with it in her own way - normally by holding my hand and talking/singing loudly!

Our youngest son went prepared for a day out in a busy area and wore a hat and sunglasses and took his silicone earplugs. These are all different ways he has learnt to cope with sensory distractions.

After a longer than normal train journey as there had been signal problems, we arrived at Kings Cross and met my mum. First port of call was the Harry Potter shop in the station and our youngest son used the power of his puppy dog brown eyes so that Nanny would buy him a mini Hedwig owl to add to his soft toy collection.  The puppy dog eyes never fail!!

Going into Kings Cross station isn't the best location to find things to do within walking distance but using the underground as well today would have been a step too far for our son.  Behind the station, a lot of building work is transforming the area and we found some outside fountains for the children to run in and cool down in this hot weather. We had a picnic by the canal and then the heavens opened and thunder and lightening struck.  We made a dash for the shops in St Pancras station and at our youngest son's request we saw a Eurostar train.  

It may not have been the most exciting of visits, but three hours in London was plenty of time for our six year old on his first trip to London.  He stood up most of the way home on the train out of choice, but I think he was enjoying the vestibular input from the rocking motion of the train.  On the journey the stress of the day began to show and he was screeching loudly, picking fights with his siblings and clicking his tongue, which is a sign of anxiety.  It was a packed train, although we had avoided rush hour and he didn't like the other passengers looking his way.  

Three hours after arriving home, he finally calmed down.  Toys had been thrown everywhere and he had made a den under the seat of the armchair to retreat to.

I'm looking upon it as a successful day out and the more trips we do like this, the easier it will get.  We need to take small steps so I may do another couple of trips like this before I build in a short journey on the underground.  It is important to prepare our ASD children for life and do normal days out like other families, we just have to be patient and do it in a stepping stone style so that our children adjust and develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with life around them.  We also ensure our eldest son has separate day trips to London with one of us, so that he can enjoy the things he wants to see without having to worry about the needs of his siblings.  

Thursday, 24 July 2014

40 Sleeps

Day one of the summer holidays and we are already on countdown to the start of the new school year.  

Our youngest son has struggled during the past couple of weeks once the realisation sunk in that he was leaving his class this week and moving up a year. At school he has a 1:1 but from September it will be a new person doing this role as well as a new teacher, 2 new TAs for his year group and a new dinner lady. It's a lot to take in and as a result he has spent many hours making animal sounds, screeching, displaying challenging behaviour and staying awake until late each day. 

Yesterday he woke up on the last day of term and told me he was starting Year 2 tomorrow. To help him understand the concept of time I've made him a countdown chart to show him the number of sleeps until he returns to school - 40 to go!!

We have pictures up of the new members of staff who will be working with him in September as well as a photo of his classroom to help him with the transition. 

To get through the holidays I am making him a visual timetable so that he knows what we are doing on a daily basis. There will be some days where the chart is left blank so that he gets used to the fact that we can have days to potter at home.  On these days I will give him his choosing board that gives him a selection of activities he can do at home to help him plan. It can be overwhelming for an ASD child if they have a blank canvas to work from - they need some choices, but not too many to help them to decide what to do.

Monday, 21 July 2014

West End Star

Our daughter performed in the West End last night with her drama group for the third year running at Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket. It is the highlight of her year and she shone on the stage. Each year her confidence grows and tears well up as I watch her with so much pride. She struggles with so many things in life due to her ASD and the social communication difficulties she has, but put her on stage and she transforms. It helps that she is looking out into a sea of blackness so she can't see the hundreds of people watching. As parents it's wonderful for us to see her enjoy her passion in life. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Sports Day

Some children like our neurotypical son thrive on activities such as sports day and love being able to take part.

Our youngest son struggled with his sports day last month as he didn’t like the fact that parents were watching their children.  He doesn’t like being the centre of attention and he refused to take part in his race or join in with anything else until he found a quiet area of the field where he felt no one was watching him.

Last night our daughter was sobbing her heart out as she didn’t want to take part in sports day.  At her middle school they operate a ‘house’ system and she was worrying that she would let her ‘house’ down, as in her eyes she is not very good at long jump, the event she had chosen to take part in, so she wouldn’t score any points.  We tried to reassure her that as long as she took part and did her best, no one could expect anymore from her.  Unfortunately, one of her traits of ASD is to be a perfectionist and unless she feels she is the best at what she does, she is not satisfied with the end result and will tell herself that she is rubbish.   It doesn’t matter how much we try to convince her otherwise, she will not listen to reason. 

This morning she refused to go to school.  I was firm and said that if she didn’t go to school she would miss her dance lesson tonight and this helped to change her mind.   I also told her that she needed to speak to someone and explain how she felt.  I didn’t hold out much hope that she would do this and emailed the learning support staff so that they would look out for her and have a chat. 

To my amazement, I received an email this morning to tell me that our daughter had marched straight up to a member of staff when she arrived at school and told them she wouldn’t be taking part in long jump today.  They have allowed her to just sit and watch as they could see her high levels of anxiety rising as she spoke to them, but have also explained to her that she must believe in herself and that her best at whatever activity she is participating in is all that anyone expects from her.  The goal for Year 7 now is for her to understand this message and then on sports day next year she will feel able to take part without putting on any additional pressure on herself to be the best.

I’m feeling very proud of her though for speaking out and explaining how she felt to someone at school, as this is something she struggles to do.  She hates to ask for help and tries to do everything herself, which is why we have nights like last night when she finally explodes as she can no longer keep her worries to herself.  Hopefully, this is a step forward in her realising that asking for help can be a positive thing to do.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Birthday Celebrations Part 2 for June!

Both of our ASD children celebrate their birthdays in June and this weekend has seen our youngest son turn six.  His birthday celebrations have been drip fed over the past couple of weeks to help reduce his anxiety. We have had a countdown chart for how many sleeps until his birthday party and another one showing how many sleeps until his birthday. He has had a present every couple of days to spread them out as he gets overwhelmed with everything on the actual day. 

Last wednesday he had six friends back from school for a party which had been carefully planned with a visual schedule to show him the order of events with two party games his choice. Towards the end of the party the stress was starting to show and he spent a good hour after everyone had gone home chilling in a quiet place. Then four hours attempting to build the new Lego creations he had been given as presents before he succumbed to sleep.  He had fun though and was the calmest we've seen him at his birthday party, so we are making progress.  The more preparation we do for him, the easier it gets.

We have been lucky that his birthday coincided with a school training day and we took advantage of this and went away for  the weekend to Drayton Manor Theme Park. Our youngest son was very excited at seeing the different trains on each floor of the hotel, but his anxiety surfaced once we were in the restaurant and foyer area of the hotel and he used his own calming methods of clicking his tongue, crawling around like an animal and hiding out of the view of other guests. The park itself proved to be overwhelming with the level of noise and volume of people but he enjoyed seeing Thomas the Tank Engine and going on Percy for a train ride. Once he's tall enough I think he will love the scary upside rides like our other two children as he is a daredevil at heart.  At the moment it is frustrating for him, as he can't do all the rides and so there is a fair amount of waiting time for him whilst his siblings go on rides, which is hard for any child.

The downside of theme parks these days is the number of funfair stalls they have where you can win a soft toy if you get two balls in a tub. With our youngest son's obsession of soft toys this was always going to be a difficult attraction to escape!! He set his heart on a Minion and soft toy 'Thomas' and do you think we could win one?!! We must have spent over £20 trying and his frustration at not understanding why you didn't get a toy after every two throws mounted.  We even asked if we could buy one but was told no, so we resorted to a trip to the toy shop in the theme park and came home with another couple of toys to add to his growing collection!!  

Now the question that all parents dread but our son is already asking 'how many sleeps until christmas?'!!  Only 177 days to go, but I'll be avoiding the countdown chart for that right now.  Instead we will be working towards the school holidays and the anxiety that it can cause with a change to normal daily routine.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Cheerleading Triumph

We spent last Thursday being surrounded by pom poms and children being thrown in the air and doing the splits. It's a skill I can only dream of having but I'm a proud mum as our daughter has came home with two medals from a school cheerleading competition. One gold and one silver which have boosted her self esteem no end. She can no longer say she is no good at anything as she has two medals to prove otherwise.  I'm hoping this will enhance the CBT work we are doing with her and help her to realise that she is a girl of many talents. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

100 Days of Happiness Challenge

As part of the CBT work we are doing with our daughter, we have undertaken a 100 Days of Happiness Challenge as a family.  You will probably have seen this on facebook this year where people post a photo every day to show what has made them happy for the day.  Instead of taking photos, we are writing down one happy event each day on a chart and the whole family is taking part.

It is a good way to look back on the simple pleasures in life and is a useful tool to show our ASD children that there are daily positive things to focus on, rather than them homing in on the negative points in life.

We have completed the first week of the challenge and it’s good to see what makes our children happy.  Our eldest son seems to be focussing on his sporting activities, our daughter is happiest when she is doing drama, cheerleading, making loom bands or singing and our youngest son loves being outdoors and active.  My days of happiness so far are centred on being productive and ticking things off my huge to do list (!!) and hearing my kids laugh when they are playing together.  I already realise I need to focus on the latter and appreciate what is already around me, rather than worry about my to do list.

Another 93 days to go with the challenge and I’m hoping it will make us all appreciate the little things in life and make us happier as a family.