Sunday, 4 October 2015

Seamless Socks

After being able to cope with wearing socks inside out for the past couple of years to help with the irritation that they cause our youngest son, he developed an aversion to wearing socks when he went back to school this term.  The anxiety of getting used to new staff and workload in Year 3 has heightened his sensitivities. After trying a variety of socks, I bought seamless ones from Sensory Smart (  When they arrived I could see there is a noticeable difference in how they feel to a high street bought sock.  There are no ends inside the sock or seam along the toe line.  Unfortunately, they haven't been the overnight success I had hoped, but I think this is down to how anxious our son is about school and the sensory effects it is having on him, rather than the socks not working.

There has been an improvement in how long it takes our son to put his socks on each day.  This has now reduced from 30 minutes to 5 minutes and then they feel comfortable for him to wear.  To aid this process I have also invested in some small massage balls.  Each morning I now massage his feet for a couple of minutes and the spiky edges on the ball and deep pressure used, appears to be helping to desensitise his feet before he puts his socks on.  Another way to help this process is for him to jump up and down for a couple of minutes on some tactile mats/bubble wrap.

Monday, 14 September 2015

1 week down, 6 to go!!

The second week of the new school year has started and we’ve already had lots of tears and tantrums from our two ASD children.  At their request, we are counting down until half term and I am hoping that the next six weeks go as quickly as they did during the summer holidays.

Our youngest son’s life revolves around how many sleeps until the weekend/holidays and it’s the first question he asks when he wakes up each day.  It’s such a shame as he is constantly worrying about what’s ahead, rather than enjoying each day.  His eczema has flared up again and began a week before the start of term.  This is what happened last term when he had a new teacher and for three weeks, his arm looked raw and sore until his anxiety lessoned and then his arm recovered.  We are expecting a similar pattern this time as he has got to get used to the routine of having two new teachers each week, plus a TA teaching one afternoon every other week and other new TAs in the classroom.  One of the stims that always seems to resurface when he’s very stressed is him clicking his tongue.  He is not aware he does it and he does it whilst he’s asleep as well.  Our other children find it an annoying habit to listen to and it does keep my awake at night, but it is his coping mechanism and the more you draw attention to it, the more he will do it.  In time, he will feel happier about his new routines and not feel the need to click his tongue to keep calm.

Our daughter’s oppositional defiant disorder has been very evident, as she does not want to walk to school each day.  As she has now started Year 8 and will move to Upper School next September, we are trying to encourage her to be more independent.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t agree with us and has been doing all she can to avoid walking to school.  I offered an incentive for Friday that a friend could come round after school if she walked that morning and had hoped that would be enough motivation to get her walking to school.  How wrong could I be?  She refused to get out of bed until 8am, the time she needs to leave to walk to school and said she was not going to school, unless she got a lift.  With a lot of persuasive talking, I managed to get her out of the door by 8.30am to walk our youngest son to school.  This caused a lot of stress for our son, as it wasn't part of our normal routine, as his sister doesn't come into his playground.  After dropping him off, I then walked our daughter to her school, which meant she was late and something she hates to be.  I cancelled her friend coming round that day, as she didn’t walk to school on time that morning.  However, with her literal thinking, she argued that she had walked to school, so her friend should be allowed round.  I carried out the consequence for her actions, but I now need to rethink how I word things in the future, so that it can’t be interpreted in any other way.  Over the weekend we have compromised that she will walk to school two mornings a week until half term and then we will look to increase this and she  will walk home every day after school, unless she is there late for a club.

Fingers crossed it will be a calmer week for both of them, but as always a new school year brings lots of change and for our ASD children that means their anxiety levels rocket out of control until they know what to expect with their new routines. 

Friday, 4 September 2015

A Tale of Two Campsites

In the past, we have only been on week long holidays as our ASD children struggle to cope with being away from their normal routine for longer.  This year we decided to try a longer holiday and went camping for 10 days, came home for a couple of days, then went away for another 4 days of camping.

Our first trip was to a wonderful campsite called Crealy Meadows, near Exeter in Devon.  It has first class facilities and I couldn’t fault the toilet and shower blocks. which are always an important factor when camping.  Underfloor heating, huge walk in showers, with room to get changed without your clothes getting wet from the shower and I never queued once in 10 days.  The pitches were large and everyone had their own water tap.  Attached to the campsite, which was the main attraction for our kids was a small theme park, which we could access form a side gate and so avoid queing up with the public.  We were able to go everyday and if we went first thing, we escaped the long queues for the rides and could spend an hour or so in there and then have the day to visit the local seaside towns.  In the evening, the campsite opened up an indoor play area, which included drop slides and obstacle courses.  This was a ready made sensory circuit programme for our youngest son and it tended not to be too busy, as it was just people from the campsite who could visit at that time.  Live entertainment was also put on each night and although initially our kids were not interested, by night six they were asking to go and see ‘Crazy Cameron’ or ‘Cheeky Charlie’, who helped to run the entertainment programme.

The campsite offered a half day ‘Own a Pony’ experience. Our youngest son had asked me to book this for him, but when the day arrived, he decided he wasn’t going to take part.  I encouraged him to at least go and see the ponies and we were lucky as it was only him taking part that day.  The animal keeper was very patient and experienced with ASD children and let him take his time to get used to being around his pony.  Within 20 minutes, he was captivated by being able to groom, walk and feed the pony.  At the end of the session, he asked if he could repeat the experience again.  Every day after that we visited the ponies, so that he could talk to them.

Buying food for our meals was made easier by having a huge Tescos located 5 minutes drive away from the campsite.  Although we like to try local butchers, delicatessens etc when we are in different areas, our ASD children are fussy eaters and so like to be able to buy what they would eat at home.   Being away from home and normal routine is not a moment to ask an ASD child to try new food, unless you want a meltdown to occur.

Weatherwise, our holiday started off well with bright sunshine, but by the middle of the break, the rain set in.  One morning we woke up to find a small lake in the living area of the tent with worms wriggling around.  This caused a meltdown for our daughter as she had not expected to wake up to this – the tent should look as it did when she went to sleep.  Instead of helping us to clear up the mess, she retreated to the car to read her book, which was her way of dealing with the situation.

In spite of the weather, none of the kids wanted to come home early, as they were enjoying themselves and so we managed to have 10 days away.

Exmouth Beach on one of our few sunny days!!

Our second camping trip was a totally different experience – a field in North Wales with basic toilet facilities and no other entertainment other than watching a steam train coming into the station behind the campsite and to watch the cows and sheep in the fields around us.  Pitches were not marked out and the toilets were a portacabin in the field.  Showers were across the road by the farmhouse.  They were all clean but lots of spiders were living in the portacabins, which unnerved the kids and you had to queue.  Three toilets for a field of 80 tents is not enough!!  Although the kids love running around in a field and playing games, they didn’t like tents being so close to one another.  The biggest problem we had to contend with was the location of a decent supermarket being 25 miles away.  Our ASD children struggled to find what they would normally eat in the local shops.  Although we take some food with us, as we camp non electric, there is a limit as to how much we can bring, so that it remains fresh.  

We had a great time visiting the area though and loved climbing the mountains and going on a horse drawn canal boat in Llangollen. 

Glyder Mountains

Both holidays were very different but enjoyable and we've all had the best of both worlds being able to explore the seaside and mountains during the summer holidays.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Summer Holiday Bucket Lists

On the last day of term all three children wrote their bucket lists for the summer holiday.  We are now nearly at the end of week three and we have achieved so many of their wishes already. 

Some are easier than others to do – our youngest son has the easiest choices with Mr Whippy ice cream as one of his and a small list of 8 things to achieve.  At the other end of the spectrum our daughter wrote a list of 25 things ranging from having her ears pierced, which she did during the first week to staying up to watch all the Harry Potter films back to back and transforming her dolls house into the Weasley home from Harry Potter.  This has yet to be started, but she has a lot of ideas on paper.  She has also set herself targets like she wants to do so much reading a day (half a book a day), be up and dressed by a certain time each day.  Anyone that knows her, knows she likes to lie in and is rarely out of bed before 7.30am on a school day and can be as late as 11am on a weekend, so to say she is going to be out of bed by 9am each day is a task in itself!  So far she has managed it each day, but I have also told her that she can stay in bed longer if we have nothing planned.  However, ASD children always push themselves to do their best and to achieve things, whether they are at school or enjoying their summer holiday.

All three children had written a day out in London on their lists and last Friday we did an open top sightseeing bus tour around London.  It was one of the best days out we have ever done.  They enjoyed learning the history of London and seeing the top tourist attractions.  For our youngest son it was the ideal way for him to see the sights as he didn’t have to walk in the crowds and we had the bus to ourselves for half the journey.

The first three weeks of the holidays seem to have flown by and as well as enjoying days out, the kids have been just as happy to play in the garden or go for a bike ride.  We have four more weeks to tick off everything that is on their bucket lists and fingers crossed we will do this.  At the end of each week, the kids are also writing down what they have enjoyed from that week and I’m sticking it onto a piece of card which I will laminate and we can keep to look back on as their memories for this holiday. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Anxiety of Rollover Day

Last Friday was rollover day and all 3 kids approached it with trepidation as none are happy with their choice of teachers for next year. In the case of our neurotypical son, he has just realised he's had a teacher who has had a gentle approach to teaching this year. His new teacher will push him to reach his ability and won't put up with any nonsense which as parents we are happy about. He's not as keen!! 

Our daughter has two form teachers next year and the whole class appear to dislike one of them as he has a reputation for shouting. As Friday isn't one of his teaching days he didn't attend rollover day which has not helped to calm our daughter's fears of what he will be like. For the past two years her form teacher has not taught any subjects and just taken the register and done form time so hopefully next year will be no different. It will be her last year at middle school before she enters a very different world in upper school. After being in a school with 550 pupils, she will leave in a year's time to begin Year 9 with each year group containing 300 children. It's a whole different ballgame and provision is already being put in place at her current school to help with this transition. We've told her to make the most of the upcoming year as it will only increase her confidence.  She has transformed in the last 3 years from a quiet little girl who refused support from anyone to a confident 12 year old who will seek out support. She's even taken on the role of being a big buddy next year to help the new Year 5 students. Something we wouldn't have dreamed she would have contemplated even a year ago. Slowly she is beginning to realise she is a talented girl who has a lot to offer to others and with the help of an amazing Inclusion Manager she has blossomed at school.

Our youngest son has the most changes to cope with as he approaches Year 3. He will have two teachers for his class with one teaching 3 days a week and another 2 days a week. It is not an option we would have selected for him but now we have to make sure it works for him. Not knowing what to expect with two teachers who will have different teaching styles is causing him a lot of anxiety already. On top of this he has three new TAs to get used to who will be working with the class and one will meet him in the playground each day and be a backup if his 1:1 is not in school one day. It is a lot of changes for any child to cope with, let alone someone who relies on consistency and routine. Photos have been provided for home of all new staff and a transition booklet will be given for the holidays, so that he knows what will stay the same in Year 3 with pictures of what his new classroom will look like and where his peg etc will be. 

September is probably going to be a stressful month in our house, but we are prepared for that and will be there to support all three children. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Birthday Anxiety

The build up to birthdays in our house seems to cause more anxiety these days than the actual day itself, which is an improvement. 

Our youngest son turned 7 on Sunday and had a wonderful day enjoying the rides at Wicksteed Park.  As the weather was not great when we arrived, not many people had decided to visit for the day and so there were no queues for the rides.  Not having his presents wrapped up, which people still find odd, but it makes him so much happier, helps to make the day run smoother. 

We ended up giving our main present to him last Friday to try and reduce some of the anxiety he suffered in the week before his birthday.  Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to stop the meltdowns that followed all day Friday and Saturday, but for the odd hour that he was calm on those days, he enjoyed going out on his new wiggle scooter.  It seems to be a terrific form of exercise and will help with his sensory processing difficulties.  I have yet to master the art of getting it to move forward, but he has already become a speed demon on it!

Our son has now started to ask about his 8th birthday – it will be the first time since he has been at school that it has fallen on a school day.  Up until now, he has been lucky that his birthday has been either a school training day or weekend.  Next year it will be on a Tuesday and he’s not sure how he will cope as he hates to be the centre of attention.  We have told him that we will think about this next June, but he is already asking how many sleeps until his birthday!! 

To us it seems a small thing that is a long while in the future, so we can put it to the back of our minds until nearer the time.  Our son struggles to do this and although he is using different coping strategies to deal with situations in life, learning to cope with anxiety is a difficult thing to master.  One way to describe his brain is that it is like an open filing cabinet and no file is ever closed.  Instead, he keeps the files open all the time and so the thoughts keep whirring round in his mind increasing his anxiety, rather than being able to close a file and return to it at a later date.  As he grows older, he will hopefully find a way that suits him to deal with anxiety.  In the meantime, we just need to be there to support him and if he asks the same question over and over again, it’s not because he’s forgotten the answer, but instead because he needs that constant reassurance and that is how he copes at the moment. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Busy Busy Busy!!!

It feels ages since I last sat down and wrote my blog.  I’ve come to the conclusion that June is the busiest month of the year for us as a family.  Both of our ASD children celebrate their birthdays this month.  Our daughter turned 12 last week and our youngest son turns 7 at the end of next week.  So much preparation is involved in making their birthdays a success and not a stressful day for them both. 

As they are both huge fans of Harry Potter, we are taking them to the Harry Potter Studios this weekend as a birthday treat.  Our daughter has been before with us and knows what to expect, but our youngest son has never wanted to go due to the crowds and queueing.  I have prepared him for the day with a social story and we will take a rucksack full of sensory toys/equipment to help him to feel less anxious.  There’s no guarantees it will work but it’s better to be prepared than just wing it on the day!!

On top of this, our youngest son had scarlet fever at the beginning of the month and was poorly for 10 days.  Then yesterday my husband and I attended his Statement Review meeting, which lasted 3 hours and was emotionally draining for us both.  I had already spent hours writing the parental contribution for the meeting and going through all the reports from the various professionals involved. 

I have also been involved with helping with our youngest son’s school PTA with their fete last Saturday and Fathers Day Sales this week.  Although I thrive on being busy, even I am beginning to feel the effects of such a busy month and need some downtime.  It’s not likely to come before July as we are now on countdown to how many sleeps until our youngest son’s birthday (another 11 to go!!) and in between that he has a Victorian dress up day at school which is causing anxiety as it’s not a normal day, then Sports Day and a school trip all to happen this month.  Roll on July.  The summer holidays will seem a breeze compared to this!!