Monday, 23 March 2015

The confidence of being on stage

It’s been an action packed week for our daughter.  She performed in a school concert last Wednesday singing with the choir and playing her pbone, otherwise known as a plastic trombone and took part in rehearsals at school for their summer show – We Will Rock You.  Then last night she took to the West End stage for the fourth year running with her drama group, Vision Theatre Arts.  This year they were at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, home of the musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Olivia came home excited that she had spent the day backstage in the dressing room of the ‘oompa loompas’!!

It was a long day as they caught the train at 9.20am yesterday and we didn’t return home until 12.30am this morning!!  Getting up for school was more of a battle than normal, but she got there on time and with any luck will be tired tonight and want an early night.  I can live in hope!!  

Her drama group performed songs from Les Miserables and were magnificent.  Olivia takes on a different persona when on stage and like many children with ASD, she flourishes from being able to hide behind a character.  It is amazing for us, as parents to see the transformation that she takes on and to see her ooze with confidence, especially for someone who struggles on a daily basis with social and communication issues.  Having a script or a song to sing makes all the difference, as she knows what she has to do.  It’s there in black and white for her.

Belonging to a drama group has done wonders for Olivia’s self esteem and confidence and she has found an interest that she is passionate about.  Whilst she is performing, whether it be at school or in the West End she is living her dream.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Special Needs Dog

This was how our 7 month old Irish Terrier puppy, Ludo, was described at the vets today.  This was one of many trips I have made in the past month, as we have discovered Ludo has digestive and allergy problems. 

A new hypoallergenic diet of duck and potato seems to be helping with his digestive system.   His allergies are a different matter and it’s anyone’s guess as to what he is allergic to, but grass and wheat appear to be likely factors.   We need to walk him on roads, rather than grassy areas, as he comes back scratching for the rest of the day and chewing his paws when we’ve walked him on our local common or fields.  It’s unlikely Ludo will be allowed off a lead in the near future as if he eats anything other than his new food, he becomes ill.  He is an inquisitive puppy and would eat everything if we let him.  Yesterday he managed to chew through our telephone wire within the space of a few seconds of me turning on my laptop!!

I’ve been told today that he can have a child’s dose of piriton to help combat his hayfever, as well as use our sons’ eczema cream to help with his skin allergies.  I’m now looking for coconut oil for dogs as this is meant to have amazing benefits for skin/allergy problems and he has a steroid spray to help the itching on his ears which is causing his fur to disappear. 

After spending the past couple of weeks going to meetings to work on drafts of SEN Support Plans for our two ASD children, I think I may need to develop a special needs plan for Ludo!!

If only I could write him a visual schedule for his crate that he would take notice of so that he refrained from barking at 5.30 am each day to go out for a walk.  He is definitely a creature of habit and routine.  Clearly living in such a structured home has rubbed off on him!!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Changing the Windows

This week our upstairs windows are being replaced which to most families is a slight inconvenience with the disruption it causes, but everyone can cope.  We have had to put a lot of preparation in place to ensure our two ASD children know what to expect and will not be alarmed when they come home from school today and find a mess in the house.  

As the style of window is changing slightly, I have prepared them with a picture of how it will look, so that they don’t get upset as it will look different.  We have had a similar problem before when we had our curtains replaced with blinds.  By the end of the first day of blinds being up, our youngest son had pulled down half of the vertical panels as it didn’t look the same as it had that morning.

Both of their bedroom windows are being replaced first so that after today, no one else needs to go in their bedrooms and we can get everything back to normal again in their rooms tonight.  I carefully moved all of our youngest son’s soft toys this morning from his room under his watchful eye as he didn’t want any of them to get dirty.  Our daughter spent most of yesterday tidying her bedroom so that there is a clear walkway from the door to the window and with any luck she will now decide to keep it that way.  Although this could be wishful thinking on my part!!

Thankfully, most of the drilling and banging should be finished before they get home from school, as from a sensory point of view, they would have both struggled with the level of noise and would not have enjoyed being confined indoors for the day.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Stage Performance

Our daughter performed in another show at the weekend with the drama group and dance school she attends. I was amazed by how much her confidence has grown in the past few months and was so proud watching her perform on stage. This is her passion and she spends every waking moment singing, acting out lines from films she's watched or practising her dance moves. I think she knows most lines from the Harry Potter movies as they are watched over and over again. She is now teaching our youngest son all the spells from the movies and I keep finding him appearing with a wand shouting out 'reparo, lumos, accio'.  

As is common with ASD children once they find a passion their life revolves around it until they find a new one to obsess about. This is a good one for our daughter to have as she can struggle with social interaction, but she can use her knowledge of dance, songs and films as a great conversation opener with her peer group. It gives her confidence in social situations and helps her to feel that she fits in. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

What a difference the sunshine makes

I’ve been quiet on the blog front for the past couple of week as I’m still recovering from a virus that I’ve had since Christmas and has totally wiped me out.  From talking to other people, I think half the population has succumbed to a virus of some description this winter.  Our youngest son came home from school last Wednesday screaming with earache and six days later, he is only just starting to be himself again.  Yesterday he slept for 14 hours, which is unheard of in our house, as he rarely needs more than 8 hours a night.  A sure sign that he is not 100%. 

Seeing the sunshine today though has lifted the pair of us.  It’s amazing how the weather affects everyone’s mood and hopefully now as it gradually stays lighter for longer each night, the gloom of winter will lift and we can enjoy spending more time outdoors.  Our son is certainly happiest when he’s outside burning off his ‘Duracell bunny’ energy.  I enjoy walking Ludo, our puppy far more when I don’t have to wrap up in lots of layers and can feel my fingers!!  Here's hoping today is the start of things to come and spring is on its way.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A happy morning for one son and a hard one for the other

Today has been a day where I have made our eldest son very happy, but at the same time our youngest son ended up sobbing his heart out.  

This is the first Sunday during this rugby season that I have watched our eldest son play.  I only went for the last half hour, but it was all I could manage as our youngest son attached himself to the staircase so that we couldn’t go out.  He may be little, but he is strong and very stubborn and if he doesn’t want to do something, he will dig his heels in.  We had agreed this week that we would go for the last part of the session and our youngest son had seemed ok with this arrangement.  Once it dawned on him today that we were really going, he started to cry and said he couldn’t cope with being around lots of people.  Then he clung onto the staircase screaming.  I ended up resorting to promising him a trip to Poundland after rugby for a treat and carried him to the car.

Our eldest son was looking out for me as I parked the car and had a huge smile on his face and gave me a hug.  With his Dad being one of the coaches, I know our son would like us to be on the side of the pitch more often, as his Dad can't always watch him, if he's coaching the other team.  It was wonderful to watch our son play the game he loves and I wish I could do it more often.   

Rugby lasts two hours each Sunday and so we only saw a small portion of today’s play, but this was too much for our youngest son.  He was wrapped up in lots of layers, but was crying from the cold and wanted me to pick him up a lot of the time as he doesn’t like standing on the mud.  He wouldn’t let me venture near to any of the other parents, as he doesn’t like being around large groups of people.  After half an hour, tears were streaming down his face and we made our way to the car and my promised trip to Poundland.  

Although I wasn’t able to please both of them, it is important for our eldest son that I share his passion of rugby, even if it is only for short periods of time at the moment. He has already told me today how much it meant to him for me to watch him play.  Our youngest son needs to get used to being around people, as this is something he will often face in life as he gets older and so by doing short trips like this, he will hopefully find it easier in time.  It's not easy for either of our sons or our ASD daughter, as they all have their own individual needs, but by compromising as a family, we will hopefully manage to find a way to please all three of them.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Decluttering our lives

Decluttering is something I love to do and with the beginning of a new year there are articles everywhere about decluttering our lives.  My husband hates it, as he is a hoarder, whereas I will throw something out if we don’t need it or haven’t used it in awhile.  What’s the point of things sitting in a box if you haven’t got room to display them, it’s broken or if it no longer fits you? 

When windowsills are full of clutter, you don’t get as much sunlight into a room, which will affect your mood.  I’ve read lots of posts on facebook this month about living as a minimalist as it helps to make you happier.  We don’t need all the possessions we surround ourselves with – don’t get me wrong I love photos up of our kids, have various things I’ve collected from places I have visited and I keep some of our children’s artwork and prized possessions but do we need to keep everything?  I often recycle artwork into birthday cards for people and will keep a select few pieces of artwork each year.  In the loft I keep a plastic box for each child with their school work and my intention is that they will all have just one box for their whole school life.  If I kept everything there would be no room in the loft for everything else!

I heard an idea on television this week about how everyone should keep a suitcase full of their favourite things and once this is full, if you have something else to add, then you need to remove something else first that you no longer need.  It’s a good idea to adopt especially when we live in an age where space can be premium.  Some of the favourite things I have are memories of places I went as a child or family trips we have done with our children and so don’t take up a physical space.  Children do not always need toys – a treat to visit a zoo, the seaside etc can offer so many good memories.

Most children I know, including our own have a wealth of toys – many are rarely played with, as there is too much choice.  They also find it hard to keep their rooms tidy, as there are too many things to find a home for.  When you have a tidy bedroom, you tend to sleep better, as the room is clear, which will help to keep your mind clear, rather than focusing on the things that need to be put away.  This works for children and adults and is something I try to encourage our children to do, especially our ASD children who can struggle to sleep. 

Our youngest son has an Ikea storage system and everything is put away in a drawer each night, so that he can’t see it.  Apart from his soft toys at the end of his bed, which he likes for comfort and his lego models that he has out on display, he can’t see much when he’s in bed to distract him.  Unfortunately, our daughter is not the same and would live in a pigsty if I let her.  She likes to leave clothes where they fall and scatter the floor with every book and craft item she owns.  She also seems to collect everything going, whether it is snow shakers from places we visit, keyrings or a sweet wrapper that has a special memory attached to it.  A typical child you could say, but to help her to go to sleep and wake up in a calmer environment, I am encouraging her to take responsibility for her bedroom and tidy it up as she goes, rather than reaching Friday and wondering why there is no clear floor space in her bedroom.  It is a work in progress and I do not expect miracles overnight, but by breaking the job into smaller pieces, she is gradually tidying up each area of her room.  Clothes, books and craft items are the easy things to deal with, it is the scraps of paper, sweet wrappers, ornaments from places we have visited that are proving harder to do.  We have bought some pretty boxes to store things in, so at least the room is tidy and then in a few months time she can go back to them and see if she still has the same attachment to them.

Our neurotypical son is the easiest of the lot, as he knows he won’t get his pocket money each week if he doesn’t keep his room tidy, so he is motivated each week to put his clothes away and keep his room in a reasonable state.  Unfortunately, our daughter is not motivated in this way.  With her Oppositional Defiant Disorder, she would rather forgo the pocket money then clean her room.  

Obviously at the ages of 6, 10 and 11, we don’t expect our children to keep spotless rooms, but it is a good habit to get into, to keep their rooms in some sort of order.

I’m far from perfect either as our dining room table can be used as my craft table or desk for my volunteer work, but I’m trying hard to get into the habit of putting things away as I use them.  I can't imagine having no mess, as I think that is impossible with three children and a puppy, who seems to have accumulated a basketful of toys already in the 3 months he has been with us.  However, we can reduce the amount of things we have and by working together as a team, we are decluttering our home and making it a happier place to live in.