Do you imagine Autism?

My son is disabled. When you hear those words your mind automatically conjures up an image of what that disability might look like. You may imagine a child with cerebral palsy, or in a wheelchair or maybe with a severe mental disability. But do you ever imagine a child with Autism? A child that looks perfectly normal, one that can talk well?

My son was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder with significant Pathological Demand Avoidance in January this year. At one time it was known as Atypical Autism. He has many of the common Autistic traits but he also has other traits not seen in typical Autism. It also means that, for him, the strategies commonly used for helping a person with Autism cope in everyday life, do not work for him.

He doesn’t cope with a rigid timetable, he needs life to be more flexible and he needs to feel that he is in control of that flexibility too. He needs to be able to choose, but too many different choices will overwhelm him causing him distress. If he feels pressured, or that a demand is being made it causes him to have an anxiety attack or a meltdown. These are often violent, aggressive and out of his control. When he is calm he knows hitting is a bad thing, but in that moment of anxiety, fight or flight takes over. When it is over he often feels guilt but struggles to express that, he finds it very difficult to apologise.

As I’ve learnt more about his condition and him, I’ve begun to understand him much better. He can be quite cruel with his words, like many people with Autism he has no filter. He will say what is on his mind. He doesn’t understand that what he says may hurt someone. For him pain is solely physical. If words have hurt him it’s because they were loud and hurt his ears, causing physical pain.

I once came home from a dog walk in tears, I had had an altercation with another dog walker that had upset me. My son asked if I was crying because the man had hit me. I explained that he had shouted at me and that I was upset. My son then asked me if it had hurt my ears, when I replied no it hadn’t he asked me “well, why are you crying then?”. It became clear he didn’t understand why I should be upset as I wasn’t in physical pain.

I am learning what makes him tick, how he thinks and feels. Knowing this helps me teach him how others think and feel. At times when he is calm I can have wonderful conversations with him. He is a very bright boy, and I’m sure that in time he will begin to understand that others think and feel differently from him. That the ways in which he interacts with others can cause them to think or feel differently to him. He will get there, but for now he needs extra help in understanding his peers and society. Be patient with him.

Pushing my comfort zone with Hotter

One thing I love to do is encourage my children to push themselves out of their comfort zones occasionally and try new and exciting things. Whether it be a new sport, group or just meeting new people. I also try to lead by example in all that I do and that means that I too have to step out of my comfort zone from time to time.

I was recently asked to try out the comfort of a new pair of Hotter shoes, whilst stepping out my comfort zone and off the top of a tower into thin air! Yes, I was asked to go on the Bournemouth Pier Zipline. In return though, I get a funky new pair of shoes. Sounds fair.

My gorgeous shoes

I chose the Shake shoes in cream floral. One thing I really love about Hotter shoes is their range of sizes. I’m a 6 and a half which can mean shoes often don’t fit well, but Hotter shoes do half sizes which is fab.

The tower

I was so nervous on the day of the Zip slide. I don’t mind heights too much but I don’t like jumping off them! We arrived and got all kitted out in harnesses and helmets, and headed up the big tower at the end of the pier.

All kitted out

The view from the top was amazing, the sun had come out and you could see right along the beach. For some reason I volunteered to go first. I was clipped onto the wire and the gate was opened. I lent back into for harness, took a deep breath and shuffled of the edge of the the tower. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life but I did it and after the first 2 seconds actually enjoyed it. I was not however, going to to go back for another try!

What a view

I had my harness removed and stood and watched all the others whizz by. Afterwards we did a quick interview on camera about our new fab Hotter Shoes, again not something I’m overly comfortable with. Once everyone had finished the lovely ladies at Hotter treated us to a meal in Aruba. We had fun chatting and eating together.

Weeeeee!!
Photo Credit Hotter Shoes

It was a wonderful evening and an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.

 

**I received a pair of Hotter Shoes for free in exchange for this review, all thoughts are my own **

 

A rare day of home educating at home!

It’s quite amusing that home education is so called as we are very rarely actually at home, and many others say the same. Monday we were at Moors Valley for a meet up, then went to Nanny’s house and R went swimming. Yesterday R was out for whole day at the Ancient Technology Centre with lots of home ed friends, whilst the rest of us went to our usual home ed group. So to have a whole day spent at home with no plans is quite novel.

The children were all awake between 7 and 8 and headed for their screen of choice to either play or watch something during breakfast. R spent the morning playing with online friends, listening to music and writing out song lyrics. The younger 3 played games and amused themselves which meant I was able to get on and do a bit of housework. The 2 littlest got out a maths set we were given yesterday and played with that for a while. At lunchtime a couple of my friends popped by for a cuppa and a chat.

After lunch we went to explore the field behind our house, the rape flowers are almost as tall as me. We took care to stay on the tractor tracks so as not to damage any plants, and a fab time. It was like a maze. The sun was shining and the children laughing.

After our walk we decided to do a little gardening, planting some foxgloves in the woodland and sowing some new seeds for the summer. The girls filled their own pots with compost and chose what seeds they wanted to sow from my seed box. By the time we had finished school had was over so the children wanted to play outside. We wandered up to the little park and played monsters/chase. S decided she wanted to do some more maths, and Little S helped me prepare dinner.

Once Daddy was home I went out for a nice quiet walk with Poppy and left the kiddies with him. Now it’s time for a cup of tea before crawling into bed. Tomorrow we are going Tomahawk throwing!

A family weekend in Cornwall

When you book a break in the UK you’re always taking a risk with the weather, thankfully we had amazing weather at our recent weekend on Cornwall. Every year we have a “family day”, getting together with my parents, brother, his wife and more recently his son too. This year we decided to do something a little different and spend a whole weekend together. We booked a lodge near Bodmin, Cornwall that was able to sleep all 11 of us.

Setting off at lunchtime on Friday after a full cooked breakfast we had 4 very excited little children. We stopped in Honiton for a drink and a cake, and to stretch our legs. The constant “are we there yet?” chides from the children kept going all through the afternoon. Eventually we arrived at Hengar Manor and found our lodge, number 14. The children raced in to explore and choose their beds. I put the kettle on for a much needed cuppa whilst we unpacked the bags.

Uncky C feeding the locals

We met the locals who were clearly fond of new visitors. Once settled we grabbed our cozzies and headed straight for the pool. E was happiest in the Jacuzzi, R was enjoying swimming the length of the pool and trying out the waterslide. The little two loved splashing in the water, alternating between the main pool and the baby pool. Our swim was unfortunately cut a little short when a little boy was sick in the Jacuzzi, and we were evacuated from the pool.

Back at the lodge we had dinner, played and fed the ducks. Granpa, Uncky C and Aunty A had to work so were to join us later. R took herself off to enjoy a relaxing bath in the big corner tub and I tucked the little ones into bed. E was clearly a little overwhelmed by the day and needed the weight of 3 duvets to help him drift of to sleep. I obviously need to invest in a weighted blanket for him. The others joined us late evening and we ate together, eventually headed for bed ourselves at around midnight.

Saturday morning started early with Aunty A coming down to get N some milk at half 5. S and Little S woke at about half 6 and charged upstairs to jump on Granpa! Once everyone was awake Granma realised that some vital components of our breakfast had been left behind in Dorset. So we sent Granpa and S off to the shops to get what we needed. After breakfast we went for a walk with Granpa and Granma whilst N went for his nap .

After popping to the tavern for a bite to eat in the afternoon we did our annual gift giving. The children were truly spoilt once again, receiving lots of new toys. We also enjoyed a party tea together and spent the afternoon playing. We took the children swimming again, this time taking Granpa, Aunty A, Uncky C and N along. Little S loved swimming with Granpa.

Sunday R cooked pancakes for breakfast for everyone, although needed help as the pan wasn’t non-stick. After breakfast Aunty A, Uncky C and N packed their bags and headed home. We went to the pool one last time, taking Granma and Granpa. R enjoyed showing off her impressive swimming skills to her grandparents. After swimming we had lunch and packed our bags up. We decided on a final stroll of the grounds, taking with us the rest of the bird food. We were able to hand feed the ducks which was quite tickly. We visited the park again and expelled some energy before the long drive home. After stopping for a cheeky McDonalds in Exeter, we arrived home just in time for bed.

Hand feeding the ducks

A very busy but fun filled weekend in Cornwall.

My Random Musings

Powerpuff Girls Story Makers, a review

Many children don’t get to do much imaginative play, trying to fit it in between school, homework and other activities. One of the many things I love about home education is that we have lots of time for imaginative play, creating stories and acting them out with toys. So when R was asked to review the Powerpuff Girls Dine&Dash Story Maker we jumped at the chance.

She was very excited when a big parcel arrived for her to open full of new toys. She loves watching the Powerpuff girls on TV. The ultimate crime fighting sisters Bubbles, Buttercup and Blossom made of sugar, spice and everything nice, plus some chemical X! The Dine&Dash set comes with a Buttercup action figure plus movable crime figures than you can knock down by shooting a burger at them.  R also got Bubbles and Donny the Unicorn in a separate pack.

You can create any story you like, even adding to it with other story maker sets. There is endless fun to be made with the Dine&Dash set. We’ve enjoyed playing with the Powerpuff Girls set, Bubbles wins as the favourite character. We recommend the Powerpuff Girls story maker sets to any fan who wants to create the ultimate crime fighting tale.

100 Days of Home Education

This post is a little different from normal in that it forms part of a blog hop. We are celebrating the diversity that is home education. I am one of many home educators taking part in this blog hop, in which we share a little about how home education works in our families. Yesterdays post came from RioLife, so pop over and see how they do things.

For us home education is an intricate part of our lives. It isn’t a separate part like it was when they were in mainstream school. We had school and we had home. Now it is all one, learning and living go hand in hand. From the moment we get up in the morning, the children are responsible for their own breakfasts (with supervision or help if needed), taking charge of their dietary needs. Many days it is toast or cereal, some times they like croissants or pastries. The younger two girls love a big plate of fresh salad and mixed meats and cheeses, whilst the older two prefer eggs.

Most days begin with a little screen time, whether that be Minecraft, YouTube, Roblox or Netflix. Often the children choose “educational” videos or games, but even when it’s not obviously educational they’re still learning. R has learnt to touch type by chatting to online friends, someone commented to me just a couple of days ago about the speed in which she types. Her spelling is almost perfect and what is best is that she is not afraid to ask how to spell a word if she is unsure.

We often head out to see friends, family or attend a group or visit somewhere special. We enjoy hours and hours of fun, team building, play, socialisation and learning in the forest. Mastering skills from balance to wood craft, and learning about nature in all seasons. We meet with children of all ages, various nationalities and from different backgrounds. We take part in national and international celebrations such as World Book Day, Burns Night, National Pizza Day or Comic Relief at our weekly groups.

We’re always on the look out for new and exciting ways to explore the world around us. With visits to museums, libraries, and historical places amongst our favourites. We also enjoy quiet days at home like yesterday, where we bake, do gardening and grow our own veggies. Yesterday Little S made a carrot cake, S made loom band bracelets using a repetitive pattern (a little maths there), and the girls did Hama beads too (perfect for enhancing fine motor skills). R learnt about the human body on MWorld, taking a quiz on the skeleton.

E learnt about reflections and mirrors on YouTube, played a banking game on Roblox and did some reading practice with me. He’s not keen on writing but he did sign his name in a card for Nanny. The smallest girls took the dog for a walk with me and my friend kept an eye on the older two. Two of the girls friends came for the walk too so they had lots of fun playing. S chose sausage, potatoes and veggies for dinner tonight, as we all take turns choosing our favourite meals.

Unfortunately our original plans for a group woodland day today have been cancelled due to poor weather forecast (Storm Doris). Perhaps we’ll spend the days baking, painting and reading or maybe we’ll go and burn some energy at a soft play, I’m not sure yet we may even fit all of that in! But for now I go and have a cuppa. Be sure to read EnglishWeather’s post tomorrow for another view of home education.

 

Home educating when they’re sick

Sunday night I was rudely awoken by the sound of vomiting. Great! My poor little boy was then sick every hour or so for the rest of the night and into Monday morning. This meant that our plans to meet up with a home educating family, that we haven’t seen in ages, had to be cancelled. Not E’s fault but disappointing nonetheless.

Whilst he spent most of the day alternating between throwing up, sleeping and watching TV, I had to find alternative ways of occupying the girls. R is quite good and finding things to do, she likes to cook her own lunch, play with online friends or read a book. She’s also just signed up to MWorld, an educational app that helps them learn all about the world around them. With topics from animals to the human body, to space, early civilisations and more. We’re really looking forward to see all it has to offer and exploring new topics.

The younger two girls still need more of my time. We had a few deliveries recently from Amazon and Approved food, so we made a big box fort to play in. The guinea pigs have also been able to enjoy the fort, and lots of cuddles from the girls. We had a gingerbread train kit that we decorated before devouring. S has begun playing Minecraft and is learning lots from that. She’s such a sensitive soul though, and gets quite upset when she has to kill the animals.

In the evening M came round and made slime with the girls using PVA glue, eyewash, paint and bicarbonate of soda. I’m not sure of the exact measurements but it kept them busy for quite a while.  The only problem is I now have tubs of various coloured slime all over the house. Today has been another quiet day whilst E recovers. We have done some colouring and making shapes out of paper. We’ve read books and played, and the house has been tidied.

Hopefully the girls will avoid getting the sick bug and we can get back to normal.

A day in the city

Some times I wonder why I do it. Why do I go to busy places on my own with 4 small children, 1 of whom has diagnosed Autism and 1 who has extra needs. Why do I give myself the added stress? Today was one of those days. I took the children to city.

I was nervous before we left the house about going into the city, and to a museum no less, with all the children. E struggles with museums, they are noisy, busy, claustrophobic and not often very child friendly. Today there was an activity planned for the children to help make a giant Lego art picture. I thought it could be fun.

We went on the park and ride bus as the children love a bus ride. We walked the short distance to the museum, so far so good. As soon as we stepped inside it all started to go wrong. I hadn’t even got my purse out of my bag before E ran out of the museum. I retrieved him and struggled trying to hold him whilst handing over our tickets. Maybe he’ll be fine once we get to the Lego I thought.

R loved the Lego and is looking forward to seeing the finished piece displayed in the local library.  Little S had a go with the Lego but wasn’t able to complete a square for the picture. S decided she would rather just play quietly in the gardens with some of the other children. E threw Lego everywhere, kicked me, tipped over chairs, shouted, tried to run, and hid under the hood of his jacket.

Maybe I should go home? No, I can’t let a meltdown ruin the day for everyone. We walked past a traditional sweetshop and decided to pop in for a look. The children marvelled at all the sweets. We all chose something small and went in search of some lunch. After lunch we went to find our bus and go back to the car.

We had a few minutes wait for the bus, another challenging time for E. I’m on high alert for the next meltdown, as well as watching the 3 girls next to a busy city road. By the time the bus arrived I had to carry E on, and find us a seat.

It must be time to go home right? No, now we must brave the perils of Tesco as the cupboards at home are bare. I have to put Little S in the trolley otherwise she will run around, she is tired now and over stimulated. We’ve barely been inside 2 minutes when E drops his lolly pop from the sweet shop, it shatters all over the floor. He runs to find a hiding place. I spot him curled up in a ball at the end of an aisle, he’s sobbing. I can’t get too close or he’ll run away. I find some shopping items I need on a shelf nearby and pretend he’s not there. I carry on with my shopping, keeping him in my eyeline. I want to go and comfort my crying child but I can’t.

The girls are great, R and S go to nearby aisles for bits we need. Eventually E has calmed and he is ready to talk. I explain that I was able to collect the lolly and wrap it up. It’s safely in my bag so we can wash it when we get home if he would still like it. I know he probably won’t want it, but if I tell him it’s gone forever then he will fall into another meltdown.

We try to complete our shopping as quickly as possible but now E is well and truly ready to go home. I don’t have time to check my list, I just call out items I think we need and the girls grab them and throw them in the trolley. Little S has a pint of milk that she’s clutching in her little hands. She accidentally drops it and it sprays everywhere. Uncontrollable crying ensues. R goes to find a member of staff to help with the spillage and S goes to get another pint of milk for her sister. My two older girls are so helpful and grown up at only 9 and 5.

We finally finish and pay as quickly as possible. The girl behind the checkout is lovely and lets Little S scan some of the shopping. I am completely frazzled. We go home and the kids settled down to watch a film. I put the shopping away and have a much needed cup of tea.

Some days out with my children are amazing, some are well……

My Random Musings

Time to explore

Apologies for the quiet spell, I’ve had a few blog problems and have also been busy with the kiddies.  The cold, grey and often wet weather is somewhat stunting our ability to spend much time outside. Although we do take the opportunity to explore whenever possible, even if only for an hour or two.

Over the past few weeks we have been to Moors Valley, Upton Country Park, and Knowlton Church. The children do love to explore the outdoors, make dens and see friends. Poppy dog also enjoys or outside days when she is able to join us.

We have also enjoyed going to a café for breakfast after an early start dropping our car at the garage. We’ve spent time with Grandparents and baked cakes. We dissected our old and broken vacuum cleaner, to see what was inside. Our Dyson challenge cards came out one day and we tried a few experiments. Yesterday our National Trust membership card arrived so we will have many more places to explore this coming year.

E has had many appointments since the beginning of the year. He does find them very challenging but he does so well. We finally have an official diagnosis of Autism for him, and are hoping that this may provide us with some much needed support.

 

Identifying signs of stress in your child (and helping them cope with it)

Today I have a  guest post from Zara Lewis, a designer, freelance writer, contributing blogger for High Style Life and full time mummy of two little ones. I hope your enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Identifying signs of stress in your child (and helping them cope with it)

According to the data provided by the American Psychology Association, there are a lot of factors that influence children’s well-being and unfortunately – different stress triggers go unnoticed by most of the parents. We are used to associating stress with adulthood but the truth is – kids have their own personal reasons for worrying. They usually fear not being good enough or failing in school, or they struggle with motivation to study, which may be one of the reasons why there is an increase of 62% in the last decade regarding parents who choose homeschooling. Other worries include maintaining relationships with their siblings, handling peer pressure, and parents’ financial state. Here’s how you can help your child cope with stress.

Learn to recognize a cry for help

sad

Too often we perceive everything from our own adult perspective. While objectively, we may think there’s really no reason for our children to worry about anything, it is wrong to disregard their feelings. Your child might approach you and complain about feeling sick or worried and you should never try to solve this situation simply by saying – you’re fine. You need to encourage your child to express their feelings, and formulate what exactly is the thing that’s bothering them. By learning this, your child will set a cornerstone for developing emotional intelligence which is extremely important for mental health. Initiate a conversation, validate their feelings, and make sure you’re not pushing too hard.

Embrace the benefits of art therapy

rainbow

There is a beautiful quote by the famous painter Pablo Picasso: Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life. Kids are naturally artistic and creative and surely – many find communicating via words exhausting or hard. Expressing thoughts and feelings is a lot easier with a white canvas to start with and the possibilities hidden behind highlighters, crayons, watercolors or ink. Art therapy is very efficient for children on the autism spectrum as they usually have different ways of interacting with people, in comparison to neurotypical persons. Children with autism have a specific sensor system which makes it hard to cope with the overwhelming sensations from the outer world. This can be rather stressful both for the child and the parent, but art has proven to be a great, gentle way for handling sensory processing issues and encouraging creative thinking.

A good night’s sleep is crucial

baby

Sleep is extremely important for your child’s physical and mental health. Stress can often disrupt sleep and you need to address this issue as quickly as possible. Insomnia is nerve-wracking and it makes every problem seem larger than it truly is. To ensure a good night’s sleep, try establishing a bedtime routine that will help your child unwind. Always provide clean and fresh sheets: use soothing scents such as vanilla or lavender to induce sleep. Air quality is also important: vent the room regularly to regulate humidity and temperature. A warm bath right before bed will calm your child and prepare their body for sleep. If insomnia stays persistent, your child might be struggling with melatonin deficiency and, therefore maybe needs supplements, but prior to taking any further steps on your own you should contact pediatrician, who might suggest some natural healing methods.

Try different ways of relaxation

nature-people-girl-forest-12165

Leisure time and light physical activity can help your child reach much-needed balance. Engage in a conversation with your little one in order to find a type of exercise that he will actually enjoy. It’s important to gradually build a healthy attitude towards these habits so that your child doesn’t perceive it as a boring duty. For example, cycling has multiple benefits and kids usually love it as a fun way to get to know the neighborhood or relax in nature. It triggers a healthy thirst for an adventure and helps with getting rid of any fears from the outer world. Also, encourage your child to enjoy quiet time and daydream. In this fast-paced world, we forget the importance of slowing down and just relaxing by doing nothing. Playtime is crucial for child’s healthy well-being as it helps kids develop their interests, discover new parts of their identities, build social skills, and handle emotions. It’s an irreplaceable source of happiness: humans are hardwired to enjoy playtime and it has proven to be a great way to reduce anxiety.

Encourage your child to find their own pace

children

From the earliest age, children are prone to comparing themselves to others. This may trigger anxiety, feelings of falling behind or not fitting in. Make sure your child understands the beauty of the diversity and that the only right tempo to follow in life is their own. Lead by the desire to belong to a certain group, your child might suppress their own identity that started forming, but it’s all part of growing up. Most children learn to value authenticity later in life.

Children are sensitive and they are like little sponges, soaking in everything around them and processing it in a very complex way. Support them in any way you can, as they have it harder than we may think.