Thursday, 30 June 2016

We Survived the Month of June!

June is by far the most stressful month in our year with both our ASD children celebrating their birthdays and our youngest son’s annual statement review.

Our daughter said I ruined her birthday as I made her attend a transition visit to her upper school that day.  When she was told about the visit, two days before it took place, there were tears and a refusal to attend.  She expected me to tell school that she didn't have to go due to it being her birthday.  However, she went on the visit and although she says she didn’t enjoy it, we are proud she did the visit.  Retail therapy the following weekend in Oxford Street seemed to make up for the initial bad start to her 13th birthday.  In fairness to our daughter she has matured a lot during the past six months and although she may put up a fight about doing something she doesn’t want to do, she ends up doing it, rather than putting up a continual battle, which is a huge step forward.  She knows she has a difficult few months ahead of her, starting a new school with no friends and unfamiliar staff, but it is a choice she has made to help her cope with this next stage in her life.  Once the last day of term arrives on 22 July, middle school will be part of her history and she will want to swiftly move onto the next chapter.  Life is very black and white for her, but if it works, then it’s the best way forward.  She has made a brave choice and we are very proud of her and know she will succeed.  It will take time and there will be backward steps, but she will get there in the end.

In the middle of this month we attended our youngest son’s annual statement review.  A lot of changes were made to his statement to reflect the progress he has made from when it was first written three years ago when he was in Reception year.   He still requires the same level of support, but he’s now reached a different stage in his education as he makes his way through school life.  The upcoming year is going to be one to prepare him for the transition to middle school he will make next September.  It may be over a year away, but it takes time for our son to understand the changes that are ahead of him and he will need to be given more strategies to add to his ‘toolbox’ to help him cope with what lies ahead of him.   Hopefully, once he sees his sister adapting to her new school, he won’t be so frightened of moving somewhere bigger without a lot of his friends.  He is competitive like his sister and if she can do it, I know he will believe he can too.

This week, our youngest son turned 8.  He has been on countdown for the past three weeks since his sister’s birthday and made his opinion known very strongly that he didn’t want anyone at school to know it was his birthday on the day.  He hates the attention being on him and didn’t want to be asked lots of questions about what presents he had received etc.  Staff made sure no reference was made to it being his birthday and he came home very happy that no one had realised it was his birthday.   He is so different to our daughter who went to school with the biggest badge she could find so that the world knew she was 13 on her birthday.  What works for one child doesn’t always work for another and we are great believers in letting our children guide us with what makes them happy, so that we don’t add to the stress that their ASD presents them with on a daily basis.   Lots of people think it’s strange that we don’t wrap up presents for our youngest son, but he doesn’t like the element of surprise and we would rather he is happy and enjoys his birthday, than we conform to what is expected for a birthday celebration.

Will July turn out to be a quieter month?  Not looking likely at the moment as I’m back in hospital for the day tomorrow with another appointment later in the month and our daughter has two rollover days next week at her new school.  She also has her Prom, school trip to Thorpe Park and Leavers Assembly.  The most important job for July though is all three kids are going to work on their bucket lists for the summer holidays, so that we have lots of fun activities to look forward to during their six weeks off. 


Friday, 20 May 2016

Busy time ahead

It has been a few weeks since I last wrote my blog.  Recovering from being in hospital during the Easter holidays has taken longer than I expected.  In the last month I have had two more hospital appointments and I have another one on Monday and surgery is still a possibility.  There is so much coming up in the next month that I haven't got time to worry about what may happen to me.  

June always tends to be the busiest month in our year with both of our children who have ASD celebrating their birthdays.  Our daughter will become a teenager  in just over 2 weeks and our youngest son will turn 8 at the end of June.  Birthdays do not generally present a problem for our daughter as she plans it so much in advance. Her present list has been written since Christmas and she has an itinerary prepared for a day out shopping in Oxford Street the weekend after her birthday. She wants to buy up the contents of Primark and Lush!!  Unfortunately, her actual birthday will not go to plan, as I've just been made aware this week that her next transition visit to upper school will be on her birthday.  Two days before her birthday she will be made aware of this fact by her Head of Year and myself in a meeting at school.  I can already hear her reaction in my head and know it is not going to be a good one!!  It is not wise to tell her sooner, as it will have a negative impact on the half term holiday and she will have longer to come up with excuses as to why she is not attending.  Her Oppositional Defiant Disorder will kick in as soon as she is made aware of the visit, so school are currently coming up with a list of positive reasons of why she should attend and are doing all they can to ensure her favourite member of staff goes with her to soften the blow.  Whether it works, is another thing.  Watch this space!!

Our youngest son does not cope well with birthdays and we have learnt from experience to go with what he wants to do on the day and not to wrap up his presents, as he will not open them.  He would quite happily leave them unopened for a couple of days, as this has happened in the past.  He does not like surprises and likes to be able to see what he is getting.   A dilemma he has this year is whether he wants anyone to know on the day it is his birthday, as it will be the first time it has fallen on a school day.  He has been lucky up until now that his birthday has either been on a school training day or a weekend.  He doesn't like attention on him, so is unsure whether or not he wants his peers to know it is his birthday and will probably not decide until the day.  He has already asked me to work out when he will next have a birthday on a weekend and unfortunately it is not until he is in Year 7.  It seems a lifetime away to him, as he's only in Year 3 now.

In between both of these birthdays, we have the statement review for our youngest son.  The meeting itself is emotionally draining and the preparation beforehand seems never-ending.  I have already spent hours drafting our parental contribution. It is such an important document and meeting to ensure our son gets the support that he needs for the forthcoming year.

In the midst of this I have been helping our eldest son get ready for a camping trip to the Isle of Wight next week with school.  He will have a fabulous time away, but it will have a knock on effect at home, as our youngest son does not like his routine being changed and so won't like his brother not being here and will probably sleep in his room as he will miss him.  At the same time, he won't accept his brother coming back home again next Friday night, as he will have just got used to the routine of him not being here.  From past experience,  it is likely he may not speak to his brother for a couple of days until he adjusts to him being back home again.  It will be fun and games here in a week's time!!

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Life Changing Experience

13 days ago I wrote a blog just before I had to leave home for day surgery but didn’t have time to post it so thought, I would do it the next day.  Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as I had planned and I was rushed back into hospital the next night by ambulance and then spent 8 days in hospital. 

A friend wrote the following quote as a facebook post last weekend after visiting me in hospital and it sums up how the last 13 days have been:

Scary how in the blink of an eye your whole life can change.. Love and appreciate what you have and if you don’t, then do something about it.  Life is short and very fragile…

I have only got through the past couple of weeks with support from family and friends.  Being told that all operations were being cancelled, so that I could go down to theatre is probably the most frightening experience in my life and I keep reliving that moment over and over again in my head.  However, as the quote above suggests, I need to move on from that and enjoy what I have in life, as the past couple of weeks has shown me how precious life is.  I’m very lucky to have such wonderful family and friends who have rallied round us as a family and offered ongoing support for us.  At the moment I have 8 weeks expected recovery time, but I also have an appointment with a consultant in 4 weeks time to see if I need further surgery.  Currently, just getting up and having a shower is wiping me out.  I’m also not allowed to lift anything for 8 weeks and for anyone who knows me will realise I’m going to find it hard to restrict what I do for that length of time as I’m an active person by nature and rarely sit down and do nothing!!  The day before my original day surgery I clocked up 17,000 steps and I think I’ll be lucky if I manage that in the next month or so.  

There have been some positives to come out of this experience – I’ve lost 8lbs in weight as was nil by mouth for the majority of my stay in hospital!  After dreaming of my Easter Egg that was at home waiting for me, I’ve yet to touch it, as I’m not overly hungry, but I’m sure that will change in time.  The best thing to happen though is how our three kids have risen to the challenge that has been thrown at them.  It is hard for our two ASD children to have their routine changed without warning, but they have coped in their own ways - being hooked to the iPad watching the same cartoons or hibernating in their room.  They have also learnt that Daddy is able to help them like Mummy can and they can now go to both of us for support, rather than relying on me, as I'm generally the one at home whilst Daddy is at work.  Our daughter who rarely shows any empathy sent me so many text messages to say how much she missed me and wanted me to be back home, as well as making me lots of get well cards.  She found it hard to visit me in hospital, as did our youngest son, as it wasn’t the most pleasant environment for them.  For five days I was on a ward for hip replacement patients, as the it was only ward that had a spare bed and I was the youngest by 30 years.  It was total sensory overload for our youngest son, as a hospital ward is not an environment he has ever had to come up against before and with all the machinery, noises, patients calling out etc, it was too much for him to cope with.  Our eldest son has showered my in hugs and kisses and has become my protector.  To keep them occupied they have all learnt new skills and are helping out at home.  Our two eldest children both know how to use the washing machine and dishwasher and all three of them are willing to do extra chores and pull together as a family.  As I can’t bend down at the moment, our youngest son is picking up everything in sight with a grabber tool and it’s become his new toy. I’m so proud of the three of them and although I wouldn’t want them to have gone through this experience, I think it has made us stronger as a family.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Joy of DLA Form

A forty page document arrived in this post this week – our youngest son’s renewal form for his Disability Living Allowance (DLA).  It is three years since I filled in the last application and even though this will be the third time I’ve completed it for him, it doesn’t get any easier.  Each time, the form changes and requires several hours of work to fill it in.  I won’t start it this week with it being half term, as I need peace and quiet so I can work my way through it.  It is going to be a bumper size envelope that I return with copies of his Statement, SEND Support Plan, reports from his OT and Autism Advisory Teacher etc.  It will be a relief once the form has been filled in and sent off and something else to tick off my huge to do list!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

New Year Goals

As the end of the first week approaches of the New Year, our children have made their wish lists for the year of places they want to visit and things they want to achieve.  They are long lists, but we have already been able to tick one place off the list with a visit to Woburn Safari Park that we did on New Year’s Day, so we are off to a good start. We’ve even booked two holidays for the summer so we all have something to look forward to.

The biggest thing that our two oldest children are working towards is a saving plan so that by the end of the year they will have £137.80 to spend.  Our daughter will be in ‘Zoella Heaven’ in December if she has that much money to use on her beauty products!!

Everywhere on facebook over the past week or so, I’ve seen different saving charts so that if you save a penny a day and then add an extra penny the next etc, you will have £667 by the end of the year.  These are great for adults, but too much for our kids to aspire to when they get £2 pocket money a week.  So I found a plan that was geared towards children and our daughter and eldest son are determined to reach the end of year target.  They won’t be able to save it all by just using their pocket money, so currently they are keen to do extra jobs round the house to earn some money, they are looking to see if they have anything they can sell and I’m sure they will be able to use their puppy dog eyes to win over family members at different points in the year!!

It will be a competitive thing between the pair of them as once our daughter has set herself a goal, she will go all out to achieve it and I guarantee she will want to reach the target before her brother does.  Although he will rise to the challenge and I think the competitive nature of the pair of them will ensure that they do reach their end goal.

If your kids are interested in following the same savings plan, this is what they need to save each month.

January        £1
February      £2.60
March          £5.50
April            £6.20
May             £7.80
June            £12
July             £11.40
August        £16.50
September  £15
October      £16.60
November  £23
December  £20.20

Total £137.80



Monday, 21 December 2015

Four Sleeps until Christmas

This is a stressful time in our ASD household.  Christmas brings so much change to normal daily routine with a Christmas tree being put up, Christmas activities at school, presents, family and friends coming to visit over Christmas, sensory overload caused by bright lights, music on high volume when out shopping etc.

Our youngest son’s life revolves around how many sleeps until the weekend, holidays, particular event etc.  This year is the first year he has associated a chocolate advent calendar with the countdown to Christmas and it has confused him, as the doors are opened according to the date it is in December, rather than how many sleeps like the countdown charts we use at home.  Next year, we will have to open up the doors in reverse order, so that we can arrive at number 1 on Christmas Eve and not 24.

December is always a busy month for our daughter and in the space of five days she performed twice in the school panto, sang in London with the school choir and performed at the Indigo Theatre at the O2 with her drama group.  She is driven by her goals and last week seemed a bit flat in comparison to the highs she experienced performing the previous week.  To compensate it, she has now written herself a bucket list for the Christmas holidays to ensure she reaches some new goals.

Our Christmas tree went up when the kids packed up school.  So far so good and it is still standing upright.  It will come down soon after Christmas, as our youngest son will not tolerate it being up in the living room for too long.  At the other extreme, our daughter has had a tree up in her room since the end of November and if this year is anything to go by, it is not likely to come down before Easter.  She finds it to be a useful deterrent to keep her youngest brother out of her bedroom as he doesn’t like looking at it.

We continue to not wrap up presents for our youngest son, as if we do, it causes him too much anxiety.  He likes to be able to see what he is receiving, rather than getting a surprise.  If it means he is happier and more likely to play with his toys, then it’s the best thing to do for him.  We do the same on his birthday as well and makes the day run a lot smoother than it used to.  We also spread presents over a few days, as otherwise our youngest son is overwhelmed.  Our other children are quite happy with this arrangement as it means the magic of Christmas goes on for longer.

To cope with sensory overload caused by the change that Christmas brings, our youngest son has been engaging in lots of sensory activities and watching the same DVDs over and over again.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard him sing Hakuna Matata from Lion King in the past couple of weeks and how many times he has watched Curious George.  He always returns to old favourites when he’s anxious and has been spending some of his time acting out being a monkey or lion with the relevant sound effects. 

The next few days will remain quiet in our house, so that our youngest son can cope with Christmas.  To ensure our eldest son gets some time to release his energy, as he wants to be out and about, he is doing a two day rugby training course at Saracens from tomorrow.   Our daughter is working through her bucket list, so she is happy as well.

Christmas is probably a quieter event in our household compared to most, but as long as all three of our kids are happy, then we are happy.   We don’t conform to what is expected of Christmas, instead we do what works for us as a family.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Saying Goodbye

In her own words, our daughter is doing one of the hardest things she’s had to do in her life today and that is to say goodbye to a lady at school who has been her support network since she started Middle School in September 2012. 

Children with ASD often latch onto one person in the school environment, who they are comfortable to confide in and share their anxieties and concerns with, about things going on at school.  For our daughter, this lady has been that person and although we always knew it was going to be hard when she said goodbye in July next year when she moves up to Upper School, having that day brought forward has been an emotional rollercoaster for our daughter which won’t stop today.   When she walks into school on Monday and realises that this lady is no longer there if she needs to speak to her, reality will set in and we are expecting a difficult few weeks whilst our daughter adjusts to this change.  Fortunately, school are being very supportive and have made 3 Learning Support Assistants available so that our daughter can go and chat to them when she’s struggling with something at school.  Fingers crossed she will do that and not bottle up her frustrations instead.

The positive side of today is that I’ve never seen our daughter up and dressed so early for school!!  She was ready by 6.30am and met her friends outside school at 8.15am as they had permission to decorate this lady’s office.  Sometime this morning, our daughter will have been allowed to leave part of a lesson so that she can say her goodbyes.  School have realised how important this is to her, as she needs to close this chapter in her life, so that she can move onto the next one.  It’s how her ASD brain copes with change.

I’m emotional just thinking about what our daughter is going through today.  She went prepared as wrapped a box of tissues as one of the leaving presents for this lady, as they both know there will be plenty of tears today.  Our daughter will never forget the support this lady has given her and the journey they have gone through.  Back in Year 5, our daughter refused to talk to her and during our first meeting, she sat with a coat over her head, as she was not going to listen to anything she was told.  By Year 6, they had built up a rapport and our daughter would go and ask for help, if something was bothering her at school.  This has continued to develop and our daughter has blossomed in confidence at school with the support she has been given. 

When I read the thank you card and the inside of a personalised notebook our daughter has made for this lady, tears sprung to my eyes, as our daughter rarely shows emotion like this.  We see plenty of tantrums, but not heartfelt emotion and it shows how much of an impact this lady has had on our daughter’s life.  Our daughter has also ensured that this lady never forgets her, as she has turned one of her sweatshirts into a cushion with a beautiful message on the front and she has left the arms in place with the chewed cuffs as a reminder that this lady always knew when she was anxious, as she would take one look at our daughter chewing or unthreading the cuffs and ask what is wrong.

I am hoping that our daughter will realise in time that although this lady has played an important part in her life, she has also given her the stepping stones to success and with all the guidance she has given our daughter, she will be able to get through the remaining months of Year 8 and make the transition to Upper School.  It’s not going to be easy, but I’m confident she will get through it, as once she puts her mind to it, she can conquer anything.