Sunday, 13 April 2014

Easter Holidays so far

The familiar holiday question has been asked every morning as soon as our youngest son wakes up 'is it school today?' He has no concept of time.  We have given him a whiteboard which he writes the number of sleeps until he returns to school each day, but he doesn't seem to retain the information and so each day we go through the process several times.

The first week of the holidays has gone quickly and we've filled it with having friends over to play and Nanny has been to stay. We went to Wrest Park, a local English Heritage place to visit and met up with some friends. The kids had a lovely time running about in an open space, rolling down a slope and climbing trees. There is a huge tree in the grounds with branches that touch the grass. The kids can hide inside the branches and our youngest son found this to be the ideal place to overcome his selective mutism which flared up as he was out in public and he's never comfortable being around lots of unknown people. He was happy to chat to our friends in there as he couldn't see any of the adults on the outside. 

One of the favourite activities the kids have completed this week is to clean all the garden toys. The water and sand table has then been turned into dinosaur world by our youngest son. He has hatched a toy dinosaur from an egg and watched it grow in water. He has now built it a home with water, rocks and leaves as food. He assures us it is not a carnivore!! We are going to buy some sand for the other half of the table so that he can make dinosaur footprints and build it a cave. Dinosaurs are one of his passions and playing like this gives him lots of tactile sensory experiences and a way for him to explore his imagination.  This is not a skill that comes easy to someone with ASD.

Sometimes it is the simple things in life like playing with nature that offer our children the most amount of fun and it also helps with sensory processing difficulties, as these activities offer sensory input in many forms which can help to calm challenging behaviour that children with ASD are prone to present. In today's world of electrical devices, it is easy to forget the old fashioned fun that we enjoyed as kids and the benefits it can offer.  As a parent I notice all our children are calmer and more relaxed in the summer months when they can go outside and run off their energy, so we will make the most of the sunshine and be active.

Visit to the Dentist

This week, it was time for our biannual check up at the dentist.  Our dentist is very good and makes the appointment as pain free as possible. All three kids started the appointment by fighting over who would sit in the chair last!! Once this had been decided, everyone took their turns to sit in the chair until it came to our youngest son.  He refused to sit on his own and instead sat on me and asked me to tightly hug him which helps to keep him calm.  One thing I had forgotten is that he doesn't like the light above the dentist chair and he asked me to cover his eyes. I have written a reminder in my diary for October to bring his sunglasses next time to help shut out the glare of the light. The dentist also suggested that the goal for our next visit is for our youngest son to sit on the dentist chair by himself. To help him with this all three kids have been playing 'dentists' this week taking it in turns to sit in a chair whilst the others play the role of dentist and dental nurse.  We'll have to keep practising and hope it works when we next see the dentist in October. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

World Autism Awareness Day

Many of you may have seen posts on Facebook highlighting that today is World Autism Awareness Day. It seems to be a huge event in the USA but not as prominent in the UK. Hopefully this will improve in time, as from my experience of being a mum of two ASD children, I am coming into contact with more families that are affected by autism.

What would my 2 ASD children like you to know about autism?
My daughter wants to impress upon the world that it is not just boys who have autism, girls are affected too. After being diagnosed just over three years ago, she has only come across two other girls who have autism, but there may be many girls out there who go undiagnosed as they are able to mask the traits.

Although my youngest son who at the age of five is too young to know what autism means, he is aware that his 'brain gets cross'. He gets frustrated that people do not understand that things make him angry if they are not done in a certain manner or if he is feeling hyper/hypo to a particular sense, but unless he is at home, he's unable to convey to people what is wrong and so bottles up his frustrations when he is at school.

What would my 'neurotypical' son like the world to know?
Siblings of ASD children need support and although we are lucky to have a siblings group in our area that our eldest son attends each month, he would benefit from being able to spend more time with siblings in the same situation as him and understand what it is like to live with a sibling who has ASD.

What would I as a mum of ASD children like the world to know?
The child you see may be very different from the child we see at home. A lot of ASD children use coping strategies to get through the school day then explode when they are back in the comfort of their own home. It is frustrating as a parent to hear 'we can't believe ... has meltdowns at home as we only see a happy, smiley child'.

Remember that a child with autism is one child and each child that has autism may behave in a different way. It is a spectrum for the reason that difficulties can range from being mild to very severe. No two 'neurotypical' children are the same and no one would question that, so why do people think they can stereotype all ASD children as having the same traits. They are all individual and special in their own way. 

I wouldn't change anything about my children - all I would like to change is the way that others perceive them. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

Quality Time with our 'Neurotypical' Son

On Saturday I enjoyed the opportunity to share our eldest son's passion of rugby. My husband and I took him to Wembley to watch Saracens vs. Harlequins. He went as part of his rugby team and they paraded on the pitch with their club before the game begun. I have never been to Wembley before and soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the entertainment on the pitch before the game, as well as seeing my son's face light up whilst he watched the game and tried his best to share the laws of the game with me. I'm not sure I've remembered them but to see him relaxed, continuously smiling and so happy was the biggest reward of the day for me. 

He is a happy boy by nature, caring and extremely sensitive to his siblings needs and understands that at home sometimes their demands, meltdowns etc can take over a situation. However, a day out like we had on Saturday gives us all the chance to have some much needed quality time together away from the pressures of family life with ASD. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

How a small change can upset a routine

This week our youngest son's swimming instructor called to inform us that she wanted to introduce another child to his lesson. He has already progressed to swimming with armbands and a woggle to being able to swim a short distance with no armbands. The natural progression is for him to learn to swim with another pupil. He was not happy when we started to prepare him with this change at home this week but seemed to accept this was what was going to happen. 

When we arrived at the swimming lesson on Friday he refused to get changed and was crying that he needed to swim on his own. We explained that the new pupil had never swam before and was hoping our son could show her what to do as he's now the expert! He wasn't going to fall for that and was stamping his feet and refused to come out of the changing room. The swimming teacher spoke with him and encouraged him to show his swimming skills. In the end we carried him out to the pool and took off his t-shirt and trousers as he already had his swimming trucks on underneath and passed him to the teacher who was already in the pool. The expression on his face reflected his angry mood and his selective mutism was apparent as he was reluctant to talk to his teacher with someone else in the pool and their parent watching. Our son does not like attention on him. 

His biggest fear was that the other child would splash him and as soon as he registered their legs were kicking he closed his eyes. During the lesson we gradually saw him relax in the water as he enjoys swimming and after 30 minutes there was a small smile on his face. 

Although it may seem harsh that we made him get into the pool, It was important that we did not allow our son to control the situation. We will persevere and have a joint swimming lesson again next week and hope that each week it will get easier and he will become happy to swim alongside another pupil.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Party girl

Our daughter went to a disco last night for a friend's birthday party. As she struggles with friendships due to her ASD, it's not often that she receives invitations for parties so she was both excited and nervous about the prospect of going. Fortunately it started an hour after her 3 hour theatre arts group she attends each Saturday, so she had very little time to worry about it. 

When we arrived at the party she was a little hesitant about going into the disco as she couldn't see a familiar face. She looked like a frightened rabbit staring back at you in your headlights. I felt guilty about leaving her on her own but but she was brave and went in. 

She was happy when she came home and said she had entered a talent competition at the party doing a dance show and they came second. Participating in an activity that she loves and is able to hide behind, boosts her confidence and self esteem. 

Sometimes it is necessary to put our ASD children in situations that they may find stressful so that they can come out the other side and realise they can face their fears and succeed. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

World Book Day Anxiety

Every year we face the same dilemma - what to wear on World Book Day?  

Today our daughter chose to go as Gangsta Granny, a character from a David Walliams book. She made her own mask and loot bag and seemed fine last night. Today she wasn't so sure and didn't want to get out of the car when we got to school. She doesn't enjoy attention and finds social chit chat hard to deal with, so didn't want to enter Into conversation about who she had come as. Plus the structure of the school day was different as everything was focused on literacy rather than following the normal timetable - changes to normal routine like this are unsettling to people with ASD. In the end, the day was more enjoyable than she had expected and she came home happier, but was relieved to get changed back into her normal clothes ready for her street dance class.

Our eldest son enjoyed the chance to wear normal clothes and opted for an easy choice of Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

Onesies and character pyjamas have revolutionised clothes for our youngest son and he would choose to live in them all day if he could. It's a shame they don't make a school uniform onesie as mornings would run so much smoother!! He wore his Mike Wazowski pyjamas and was happy with his choice.  As we walked to school, he already had his hood up to shield himself from sensory distractions, but upon entering the playground he cowered behind me. He's used to walking in there each day but I think he found the sight of children in costumes with props like broomsticks and swords all too much as it was so far removed from a normal day especially when all the teachers came out in their costumes. When I picked him up from school he was quieter than normal and agitated. In the car he started kicking the dashboard and his feet narrowly missed the windscreen. Once we arrived home the kicking and screaming built up to the extent that I had to hold him tightly in a bear hug to stop him breaking things.  He likes firm pressure so finds this relaxing. Calm is now restored and he is fast asleep but it's taken a few hours to reach this point. 

Something as simple as dressing up for a day can turn a child's life upside down when they have ASD. Roll on tomorrow and normality will reign once more until the next little trigger upsets the world of our children.