Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Success at the Hairdressers

Our youngest son had his hair washed at the hairdressers tonight which is an amazing step forward, as his hair has not been washed properly for months.  He will put the shampoo onto his hair at home, but then won’t let you wash it off.  It has been a battle of wills where hair washing is concerned and to date I have not won and just been soaked in the process!!
Tonight we visited our hairdresser at 6.30pm when the salon was quieter.  It was decided that it would be best to cut his hair first and then wash it so that any pieces of hair that had been cut and were on him could be washed away and he wouldn’t feel itchy.  Our son was engaged in the whole process and shown everything the hairdresser was going to use to cut his hair first.  He enjoyed having his nose tickled by the baby size clippers, so that he knew what to expect when she did his hair.  After his hair had been cut, we went upstairs to the ladies part of the salon.  He was covered in towels so that no water could reach his clothes and then placed on a huge booster cushion so that he could reach the basin and he gingerly put his head back to have his hair washed.  He grasped my hand tightly and looked up to the ceiling whilst a miniscule amount of water was put onto his head.  As he became reassured that the water was not going to touch his face, the hairdresser gradually wet more of his hair and then let him smell the shampoo she was going to use.  He enjoyed the sensory input of being able to smell the strong mint scent in advance of it being placed on his hair and the firm pressure of a mini head massage helped to reduce his anxiety.  When the time came for his hair to be towel dryed, we quickly reminded him to keep his eyes looking at the ceiling, so that the water didn’t trickle down his face and leave him with a lasting memory of getting wet.
He has come away feeling happy about the whole process and wants to have his hair washed again. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Halloween is not for everyone

We have spent the last few years during the evening of 31 October sitting in the dark with no tv on and not being allowed to make a noise as our two ASD children do not like the unknown quantity of Halloween.  Costumes can terrify them and many ASD children do not like dressing up themselves, then our children worry if the treats you give out are not seen as being good enough, a trick will be carried out.  Plus their lives are governed by rules and abiding by them.  One rule that all parents teach children is not to talk to strangers, therefore to explain to an ASD child who sees everything in black and white that it is ok to knock on the door of a stranger and ask for sweets goes against everything they have ever been taught.  Even as a parent, I am not happy with letting them do that, so I can only guess how confusing it must seem to them.  They also struggle to understand why you would open the door and speak to someone you do not know.
We are lucky that we do not live on a busy road and so there are generally only a handful of trick or treaters that knock at the door.  Our children have already said that the door is not to be opened on Halloween and we will respect that.
To help to prepare our children for the Halloween items that they will see hanging up in houses or in the shops, I have made a sensory bin that is full of stretchy skeletons, squishy eyeballs, pumpkin tinsel and spiders, mixed together with rice and lentils.   
Preparation is the key to everything when you have a child with ASD.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Strategy to be organised

In the summer holidays we stayed at Center Parcs and our daughter found the blackboard that they had up in the living area a great way to plan ahead for our day's activities, as she could list them out, rub them off at the end of the day, then start again.  I promised her that I would buy chalkboard paint for her bedroom and this weekend I have painted a big area on one of her walls as a blackboard.  She is over the moon and has already written her activities up for the week and our youngest son has drawn a picture of the two of them.  It is proving to be a big hit and both sons want me to paint an area in their bedrooms now.

My only word of caution if you do this in your own home is that it is a messy job - the paint is quite runny and it took 3 coats to get a blackboard effect.  It is meant to be magnetic, but that aspect of the paint doesn't seem to be working!!  The paint has a strong smell and so we turned this into an adventure by letting the children sleep in a tent in the living room for the weekend. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Battles of Hair Washing

Our youngest son hates being bathed, let alone having his hair washed.  Now at the age of 5 he will sit in a shallow bath of lukewarm water, as he doesn't like the water temperature to be warm and has recently accepted us using 'Incredible Hulk' body wash on him.  I am forever looking for Superhero branded products to encourage him that he needs to be clean like Iron Man or Batman etc. 
Washing his hair is a totally different ball game as he will not let you get his hair wet.  The other day I suggested we use 'Incredible Hulk' body wash on his hair to clean it and before I knew it, he had squeezed a large amount of green body wash onto his hands and put it straight onto his head.  I already knew what was going to happen - series of screaming and tantrums when I had to wash it out.  He protested that I couldn't wash it off and instead wanted me to hold him whilst he laid back in the bath and got his hair wet.  I gave it a go, but once a millimetre of his hair touched the water, he sat bolt upright and was screaming he had to get out the bath as his hair was wet!  It ended up with me getting soaking wet whilst I held onto him and gently poured lukewarm water over the back of head to get as much of the body wash out of his hair as possible.  I've tried using a flannel or a towel against his face so that he can cover it and ensure nothing is splashed on him, but he doesn't like not being able to see and so not knowing when the water is going to touch his head.  He will not tolerate going under the shower and will not lean his head against a basin so that his hair can be washed that way. 
Today I went to see our hairdresser who has built up a lovely rapport with our son.  She often cuts hair for ASD children and has a family member herself with ASD, so has a good understanding of autism.  She has suggested to me that on the evening that she works late each week I bring our youngest son in and she will have a go at washing it there.  It may not work, but it's worth a try. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

New Support Group

Yesterday I went to a new support group in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire called The Avenue @TheAvenueASD which has opened for families of children with ASD.  It is held twice a month at the Pentecostal Church, Crab Lane – the first Friday of every month from 9.30 – 11.30am and the third Tuesday of every month from 12.30 – 2.30pm. 
It is a group with a difference as children are welcome and if a session falls within a school holiday, it will still be open.  I know as a family we will appreciate this facility as it is often during the holidays that you need extra support.  ASD children can struggle being at home out of their normal routine and so the level of meltdowns can increase and parents need to be able to talk to others that understand.  Plus it will give children the chance to socialise with others, which is a skill they can struggle with and siblings of ASD children will be able to meet other siblings.  There was lots of information available and a small selection of sensory/communication aids to purchase.
Check out their website to get a list of dates the support group is open and other useful information

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Words of Kindness

I’m already on a high today from managing to half jog/half walk 2.4 mile loop with a friend this morning after dropping the kids to school.  It’s quite an accomplishment for me.  On my way home, I passed some neighbours who we see from time to time and they told me what a wonderful job I’m doing with our children.  It has made my day, as some days can be a real struggle when you have children with ASD.
They have seen me at my worst in years gone by with our daughter screaming as a toddler and having massive tantrums outside their house as she didn’t want to go to nursery.  On one occasion it took 30 minutes for me to convince her with the help of our neighbour who very kindly gave her a soft toy as a distraction.  Since then, they have seen me with our youngest son climbing out of his pushchair as a toddler then having to carry him as he refused to walk, as well as push the pushchair and get my other two children to school.  They’ve seen him when he’s suffering with hypersensitivity to clothes and he’s pulling off his clothes as fast as I’m trying to keep them on him.  They’ve never said anything other than to offer their help.
Today they remarked how grown up the children seem to be getting and although I may look like a pack horse carrying all their things to school each morning, it looks a lot less stressful than a couple of years ago, before I had all the knowledge that I now have of ASD and the support network around me.
Those few words have really lifted me and sometimes it is just a small act of kindness like that, which will transform your day and make you realise you are doing a good job after all.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Proud Mummy Moment

In the summer holidays, I wrote about the difficulty our daughter has with understanding that her bed needs to be changed regularly and when I do it, a meltdown normally follows which can last hours.  Something that should be a simple task becomes a huge drama.  Generally, this is because in her eyes the cushions and soft toys are not placed back on the bed to the exact millimetre. 
We have had a breakthrough this week and she changed her bed while I was out walking with a friend.  She was so excited to show me when I returned home that she had put on a new sheet, quilt cover and pillow case on her bed all by herself.  I was so proud of her and gave her 2 wows for her wow chart, as this is a big accomplishment for her.
It may seem such a small thing, but after months of tears and tantrums about doing this weekly chore, it is a huge step forward.  It shows that the need for routine, structure, persistence and determination that a parent of a child with ASD must have, has finally paid off.  It may only work for this task at the moment, but it is a start and perhaps at the age of 10, our daughter is beginning to realise that by using her energy for taking responsibility for things like this will give her more time for doing fun activities.  It also means I do not have to wait for the explosion that I know will follow when she returns from school and discovers I have changed her bed.  Fingers crossed this will now become a regular occurrence and our home will be less noisier once a week - although now she has started to learn the pbone (plastic trombone) at school, I don't think we will ever have a quiet home again!!