Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Sharing our Experiences

The Early Years Support Team from our local area asked me a couple of months ago to do a talk to a group of newly diagnosed parents of children with ASD.  I attended a course like this 3 years ago and know how much I learnt from it, so was pleased to be able to have the chance to use our knowledge to help others. 

This morning I was apprehensive about doing my presentation but two hours later after giving my talk and being asked lots of questions, I came away beaming as felt I had given something back to a group of people who are just beginning their journey.

By no means do I have knowledge to be able to give the answers to all difficulties that families are facing, but I can share our experiences and point people in the right direction of where to seek further support. 

Most of the advice that we have been given of ideas of what may work for our Autistic children have come from other families who are in the same situation and we are still learning as a family.  As our children approach different milestones in their development, we come across new areas where we need support, so our journey with family life with ASD is a continual learning curve.  By sharing experiences we are helping others and in turn will learn new things from other families who are further ahead in their journey of living with ASD.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Dressing up is not for everyone

Our local schools asked children to dress up as superheroes or people who are their heroes for the day to celebrate Children in Need.

Thursday evening our house was full of stress as our youngest son is not a fan of dressing up, however as he has a Superman onesie I thought he would be happy to wear that.  I was wrong and we went through a number of different outfits until he decided that he would wear a rugby top and tracksuit bottoms and go to school as his brother, who is his hero.  He went to bed in his clothes to make life easier in the morning and I thought everything was fine.

He woke up Friday morning struggling to breathe.  He has asthma and after giving him his inhaler I thought he would be ok.  Instead he kept saying that it hurt when he was breathing and he sounded very wheezy.  I took him to the doctors as a precaution as he has been on a nebuliser this year and had to have strong medicine to help with flare ups of his asthma.  

His chest sounded clear at the doctors, but as soon as school was mentioned and dressing up, it was clear to see the anxiety levels rising inside him, which were affecting his breathing pattern.  

Dressing up is a treat for some children and they enjoy the experience, others like our son are not comfortable with the whole situation.  Although we had told him he could wear his school clothes or anything else he wanted to, he kept focussing on the main point he had heard at school about being a superhero for the day.  ASD children tend to focus on one thing, rather than looking at the whole picture. Therefore, in his eyes if he wasn't a superhero, he would be in trouble when he got to school.  He is very literal in his interpretation and sees life in black and white. He didn't feel comfortable going to school as a superhero as that isn't what he would normally wear to school.  As he gets older, he will hopefully find days like this easier to manage.  

Our daughter who also has ASD was happy to go to school as Wonder Woman. However, this is probably the first year and she is now Y7, where it has not taken her hours to decide what costume to wear and for her to not be worried about what she is wearing.

Please have some understanding for children who find days that are different from the normal school routine hard to deal with.  What may seem as fun for some children, can be the end of the world for others who live by structure and routine and find change hard to embrace.

Power of Flippers

During the sensory processing course I attended this week, someone suggested our youngest son would benefit from wearing flippers when he is swimming.  He has a tendency to let his legs slump in the pool, so that he is at a 90 degree angle and although he tries hard to get his legs pumping hard and does get across the pool, he uses up a lot of strength to swim that way.  He has an underactive proprioceptive system, which means he struggles to know the position of his body, therefore when he is in a mass of water like a swimming pool, he cannot feel his legs.  By wearing flippers, he would regain some awareness in his feet. 

At his lesson on Friday, he wore flippers for the first time and his instructor was stunned by the transformation as he powered across the pool throughout the whole lesson.  The more he practises like this, the sensations will filter into his proprioceptive system and in time he will be able to use his legs on their own to swim as he will know what it is meant to feel like.

Sunday, 9 November 2014


I have loved fireworks since childhood and always went to the annual display at our local park. I have never been able to share this experience with our kids as they aren't keen on the noise or volume of people in the crowd. 

Last night our daughter asked to go to see fireworks. We took a friend from school with us, which was fine as we had planned this.  When she saw someone else from her class at the display, this completely threw her, as she hadn't been prepared for this to happen.  It stopped her going over to a stall to buy candy floss as they were standing close by and she didn't want to make eye contact with them or speak to them.  

Our daughter found the waiting around for the fireworks to start, difficult to do and she wasn't keen on how close people stand to get a good view. To overcome this she spent the whole time talking loudly during the display.  The noise of the fireworks didn't bother her and she wants to go back next year, as she enjoyed the visual attraction of the fireworks.  Maybe next year I'll be able to encourage one of our sons to go as well.

No TV Allowed

The kids were not happy with this decision but due to bad behaviour the day before, TV was not allowed on after school on Friday. This, initially, was met with a lot of protests but when the kids got home they did their homework straightaway then played a variety of board games. They devised an assault course in the living room and spent time chatting with one another, rather than arguing about what they wanted to watch on TV. You can guarantee that normally they want to watch 3 different programmes which causes a dispute in itself.

Instead calm reigned in our house and it was wonderful to see the 3 children working together as a team and finding something to do that they all enjoy and rediscovering toys they had forgotten about. 

I'm guilty of using the convenience of the TV or a DVD for the kids to watch so that I can get on with something else, but after our experience on Friday, I would be happy to go with a TV free zone after school every night.  I think this might be met with some resistance, however, I'm hoping that Friday has shown the kids that there is so much more to do with their time and they can have fun at the same time. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Ludo's First Week

3am wake up calls, worms and howling have not been the highlights of the past week, but definitely formed a big part of it!!  Fingers crossed we have made a breakthrough with Ludo’s sleeping pattern as he has slept the past two nights from 11pm until 6am and the howling when we put him in his crate at night has reduced from ten minutes to a couple of minutes.  We are making progress.

Worms are not a pleasant sight but something that all puppies have and if you happen to see long spaghetti strands in your puppy’s poo, you have had an unlucky but pretty normal experience.  Fortunately this only lasted a couple of days for Ludo and he is fighting fit again.  

Our daughter, who is a perfectionist is miffed that she has not accomplished her training programme of Ludo learning to sit, stay and roll over in week one, but he has learnt the sit command and went to his first puppy training session tonight. Ludo was the smallest dog there, as most were 6 months or older, but he held his own and even managed the agility course.  Now that he has done this, our daughter has planned a doggy dance routine for Ludo to learn.  She is reading a book about Pudsey the dog that won Britain’s Got Talent, so Ludo has a lot to live up to!!  

Our youngest son has found a fantastic use for clicking his tongue, which is a habit he does regularly when anxious.  Ludo is a reluctant walker at the moment, as he gets used to the big wide world, but if our youngest son clicks his tongue, Ludo comes trotting along, rather than sitting down and refusing to budge.  Ludo is becoming a fabulous tool to help our youngest son - he has read his school book to him this week, which is something he hates to do at home and he sat and stroked him tonight to calm himself down from the brink of a meltdown. It is early days but so far it is looking good.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Sensory Play Workshop

Last night I attended a sensory play workshop hosted by The Avenue (www.theavenuesupport.co.uk) with Wendy Usher from The Play Doctors (www.theplaydoctors.co.uk) running the training.  Wendy has a fabulous job creating sensory play ideas for children, parents, teaching staff etc to use at home and in school.  It is clear to see how much she loves what she does and her training session was motivating to listen to.  I have come away with an array of ideas to try and my mind is buzzing with projects I want to explore over the half term holiday.  Although this could prove to be difficult with our puppy Ludo, currently trying to chew everything within his reach!

Who would have thought that by putting chocolate cellophane wrappers inside a clear cellophane bag like you use to put handmade cards in, would offer different experiences for a child.  As well as being visually attractive and could be hung on a child’s window, so that the light reflecting through it can change the colours, it is very tactile and makes a lovely rustling sound.  I’m definitely going to make one and it’s a good excuse to buy and eat a tub of Christmas chocolates that are currently stocked in the supermarkets!

If you place different materials inside a balloon e.g. rice/waterbeads/small stretchy toy, you can have a game of catch and listen to the various noises that each object makes.  They can be used as musical instruments or a way to get your child’s attention, as they will respond to the sound they make.  We all did last night when Wendy used a variety of homemade noise makers to alert us, that it was time to move onto the next item.

Wendy has thousands of ideas that are easy to replicate at home and can be used with objects you generally already have or they are not expensive to buy.  The message that we took away from last night's workshop was that the most important aspect of sensory play is that you are having fun with your child and they are leading the play.  If the end result is not what you had planned it doesn’t matter, as the experience you have shared together is what counts.  

Go and have some sensory fun during the half term break.