Monday, 1 September 2014

End of the Holidays

The summer holidays seem to have whizzed by far too quickly again and tomorrow the new school year begins.  It’s going to be a tough week in our household with changes for all three kids.

Our daughter begins Year 7 and their daily structure has changed with five one hour long lessons, rather than six 50 minute ones and break and lunch time are now later.  She also has to get used to the fact that one of her brothers is joining her at school.  Their paths shouldn’t cross too much apart from when I drop them off and pick them up each day, but it is an added stress for her to deal with.  She likes to keep home and school life very separate and when they were both at lower school, teachers remarked that you wouldn’t have known they were siblings, as our daughter avoided her brother with the widest berth possible!!

Our eldest son begins his journey in Middle School and although he comes across as the most confident of the three children, he is nervous about starting somewhere new.  He will soon find his feet though and he’s lucky to have two close friends with him in his new class that he has known since nursery school.

Our youngest son starts Year 2 tomorrow and has the hardest task as he has a new teacher, new 1:1, two new TAS who work in the classroom and a new dinner lady to get used to.  Plus he is upset that his brother will no longer be around at school – they used to play at lunch time and break and were often seen to give each other a hug or a beaming smile to one another.  It is such a contrast to the relationship our daughter has with our eldest son at school.

Hopefully, all three children will soon settle into their new routines.  If I expect the worst this week, it can only get better!!  Good luck to all of you out there who will go through similar experiences this week.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Simple Childhood Pleasures


I read an article today about how the most memorable childhood experiences are often the simple pleasures in life, like eating fish and chips at the seaside, fossil hunting, watching the stars at night etc.

We experienced this last week whilst camping for 5 days. We were only 10 miles from home but it felt as if we were in the depths of the countryside. The campsite was a huge field with a play area, a shop and showers. I won't go camping unless I can have a shower each day!! Our children were happy to fly a kite, kick a football, go on the playground, run up and down the skateboard ramp, toast marshmallows over the bbq each night, as well as a daily visit to the shop for some penny sweets. Our youngest son made a request one day to be wrapped up as a 'Mummy' in toilet roll.  He said it was something he had always wanted to do and I think he enjoyed being tightly wrapped up as it helped with his sensory processing as he likes to be hugged tightly.




Sometimes we all think our children need lots of toys and electrical devices like iPads, DS, computer games etc to be happy, but then a trip away like we had last week reminds us that it is just as important for children to have free play to enjoy the environment around them and they will find ways to have fun without having a whole toy cupboard to choose from.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Helping to control a child's anger

When children have ASD, you may notice that they fly into a rage more often than your ‘neurotypical’ child and it can take longer to calm them down.  Over the past few years, our children have learnt different ways to deal with their anger – they don’t always work and some take longer than others to take effect.  I’m always reading articles or tips from other parents to see if I can find other ways to help them.  I came across the following article on the internet:


I found it to be an interesting read and my youngest son has now made his own angry basket, which has various tools inside it to help him keep calm.  These include bubble wrap for him to either jump up and down on or to squeeze, cloud dough (the squeezing motion helps to release his anger), loom bands (he finds these relaxing to do), a sensory waterbead bottle I’ve made at home, which he likes to shake and watch and a paper boat.  You may ask what is a paper boat for?  When I read the article, one suggestion to help your child to regulate their breathing pattern when they become angry is for them to lie down and place a paper boat on their stomach.  They are asked to imagine that their stomach is the ocean and as they breathe deeply, they make the boat bob up and down on the water.  Our son has adapted this story and likes to watch the boat rising up and down on him and concentrate so that the boat doesn’t capsize and fall off of him.  It’s amazing how something so simple can calm him down. 




The angry basket is close at hand in our living room and our son knows he needs to take it to a beanbag that he has designated as his quiet area and use the tools inside to make him feel calm again.  So far it is having a positive impact on him.  It won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a go if your child struggles with controlling their anger and by involving them in what goes inside the basket, you are letting them take charge of how to help themselves.

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.