Archive | May, 2013

Nature is Confusing

31 May

“Mumma, I found some whitebells” Me, “Huh? Oh, um, yeah, well I know they are white, but they are actually called bluebells.” Cue very confused child.

To be fair, I think that this could confuse an NT child, especially a young one, but for a child with autism it is really doubly so. We have a profusion of the aforementioned flowers coming into bloom in the wooded area at the back of our garden (very late but then everything seems to be this year). M has been looking forward to the bluebells coming as she’s heard me talking about the variety of flowers we get – first snowdrops, then daffodils and now bluebells.

It really doesn’t help that we have three colours! Yep, we also get pink ones. When all of them are out there is a riot of colour which gladdens my heart whenever I look out, but I can imagine that M will always be niggled by them and their “stupid name”.

It got me thinking: monkey puzzle, wallflowers, pussy willow, dog roses. I’m no gardener but these names came to me as examples of just how strange the world of nature could possibly be to a child who takes things literally. But at least it has made me think ahead, so when she learns the name of another plant or flower I am ready to do my best to explain that a name is just that, and not an indicator of intent – think snapdragon!

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Really listening

30 May

I always like to think I listen to my children, but sometimes I know I am distracted, or busy, or just (if I’m honest) not in the mood. But I do try hard to listen, and so this afternoon when M came and snuggled up on my lap for a cuddle and told me she didn’t want to go to Beavers I was surprised (she adores Beavers) but I listened and I questioned her.

She had some “excuses” Drama made me tired. It was really good though. I had a great day. I think I’m tired. Can we go down the beach?

Today has been a wonderful day weather-wise and we had seen some village children headed down to the beach. If I hadn’t been listening to M properly I might have thought “oh well she just fancies running about the beach instead of an early tea and off in the car  to build a den in the woods” but I was paying proper attention. By that, I mean not just hearing her words but everything M was doing. She had come to me, and curled up on top of me, which is what she does when she is nearing her limit of “enough”. She also told me she was tired, twice. M doesn’t get tired, well not that we or she ever notices, and she needs melatonin nightly to switch off. I mean, I know she is only wee and her body must get tired but she was telling me something wasn’t “right”. 

So, I listened. We had a lovely cuddle and I texted the Beaver leader to tell him we weren’t coming. I did a couple of important chores and then took M and B down the beach. By the time we got there it was almost deserted, which was ideal. No other children to make socialising a necessity, and don’t get me wrong, M loves to chat with her friends, but today I don’t think she would have coped.

We paddled, we dug, we wondered about the tiny sea creatures B found in the moat he filled from the sea, and M ran back and forth from bucket to dry sand to rock to water unhampered and happy for over an hour. Over and over again she filled the bucket with powdery dry sand, then ran up and down filling it in stages with dribbles of sea water, then mixing it with her hands and moulding it, before tipping it all out and starting again. In between times she would run like a sprinter down the sand and straight into the sea, each time splashing her shorts higher than the time before. Cold water has always been a sensory tool for M. She got filthy, and soaking wet, and it was exactly what she needed. I am so glad I took the time to really listen.Image

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From a Boy to a Man

26 May

Well not quite but it’s been quite a momentous weekend for B, my 8 year old.

Late Friday afternoon I drove him the approx 45 miles to a camp site north of where we live, for his first ever Cub Camp. This is how he looked just before we set off:

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Luckily I knew the way as I have taken the older kids there several times. B and M couldn’t believe the stunning scenery or that there were deer grazing a stone’s throw from the road.

I was trying very hard to be cool about it all as B has never spent a night away from home. Not once, not one teeny sleepover in his whole life. He has plenty of friends but as they are all so local it had never occurred to us to arrange a sleepover, especially as we don’t have the room to reciprocate. With both sets of grandparents living hundreds of miles away too, this was indeed a Big Step. B was nervous, and very excited, but excitement seemed to be winning, so after making sure he had all his kit we said a fairly quick goodbye (I didn’t disgrace myself or embarrass him by clutching him to my bosom) we set off back home.

I was feeling less worried than I might have been due to the fact that M is a Beaver and was due to be visiting the camp the next day. However, M had her Highland Dancing exam in the morning and it couldn’t be moved so we had arranged to join the rest of the Beavers when we could. It was about half past midday when we finally arrived.

I didn’t even see B for ages – and when I did he was friendly and happy enough to see me, but really not in the slightest bit bothered that I was there. Which was good – I would have hated him to have been tearful or clingy – but I wouldn’t have minded him being a teensy bit more loving.

As it was I was greatly preoccupied with making sure that M didn’t get into mischief. She is extremely attracted to water, like so many children are, and especially children on the spectrum, so when they were all allowed down the beach area I had my eyes permanently on her (as well as everyone else) in case she wandered too far. She was mostly content to paddle up to her knees, and spent ages digging large holes in the sand. This is where we were:

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It was a happy and hot B we said goodbye to at the end of the day, and I was relaxed knowing that he had settled into the camp routine well and was coping brilliantly.

On my return this afternoon to pick him up he was noticeably sun-kissed. I know they had all been plastered in sun-cream but a stint on the loch this morning in canoes had obviously made an impact on his face, and he was very, very weary. I think they know what time to end these camps in order for small people to be physically able to go back to school the next day! This was B when I picked him up:

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And bless him, this was him 10 miles down the road! 

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Like all good Scouts he made sure (as I insisted) that his kit bag was emptied when he got home and everything tidied away, and then he had a bath. Oh boy did he have a bath! The disgusting wee brat had worn the same t-shirt, jumper and socks all weekend. Bleurgh. Mind you, I am just grateful he changed his undies and brushed his teeth – he is only 8 I suppose.

He was very proud of himself; he’d made some new friends, and learned some new techniques, and most importantly, broken his duck in the sleepover stakes. I am so proud of him too – next time there’s a camp I don’t think either of us will be nervous.

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Silent Sunday

26 May

Silent Sunday

Sensory hangover

20 May

We didn’t have a bad weekend, we just didn’t have a good one.

From the moment M exploded out the school doors on Friday afternoon I had a “feeling” As it was sunny I let her race around the school playing field with her brother and some of the other children for half an hour (we are allowed to use the pitch out of school hours which is very handy as there is a lovely bench right in the strongest sunlight) and then we headed home for some quiet time.

M could not settle to anything. She was more of my shadow than she normally is, to the point that it was unsettling me too. She wasn’t spoiling for a fight, or particularly jumpy but I could tell she was “not right.” It almost seemed as though any second she was likely to burst into tears. So I stuck her in the bath for an hour – all by herself – and it helped a bit. Although I realised when I told her to choose as many toys as she wanted and she just looked at me helplessly and said “but how many Mumma?” that I was right to be concerned.

The entire weekend continued much along the same lines. Uber-clingy, on the verge of meltdown but luckily never getting there, and totally unsettled. I gave out as many super-hugs as I could, but I think it was a relief to both of us when the evening came and the melatonin kicked in. As dd2 and I had finished the trampoline it was lovely to be able to send M outside for some welcome bouncing. She must get one heck of a feedback from bouncing, but I love it as it’s in the fresh air and it’s healthy.

Hubby and I discussed the issue and came to the same conclusion. We think that M has been suffering from a sensory hangover. She has expended too much effort in spending more time in the classroom, interacting with her peers, and socialising at breaks, without having enough of the compensating quiet times. We did think that maybe her eagerness to join in the group work for more than our suggested 10 – 15 minutes was too much too soon but it is very hard to say “no” when M was clearly happy to be more involved.

I wrote in her home-school diary and had a word with her PSA and the head teacher this afternoon. They are happy to be guided by me as to what we cut back on, so we decided that I would speak to M and try to explain, and then any group activities that have been started in the last week would continue but with a strict time limit of 15 minutes; M will then return to her separate desk outside the classroom. Maybe the short walk and the change of seating will be enough to reset her system that little bit it seems to need. 

The idea is that I will update the staff again next Monday and we’ll see how this week has gone. It’s such a fine line, and without M’s input it’s educated guesswork, but she is only six. She has no idea how things unsettle her, just that sometimes they do. 

It just goes to show after my positive posts last week just how fine the line is between getting it right and not quite managing, but hopefully we can tweak M’s situation to make this week a great one including the weekend.

Boi-i-i-ng!

18 May

Third attempt now to upload the same post – the broadband connection up here really sucks some days! Serves me right for not pressing the save button – we live and learn.

M had a great day yesterday at school. She loves PE, and Golden Time, so it’s usually a very happy little girl I leave at the school doors on a Friday morning. B was also more than happy as he was looking forward to his lunch-time football coaching.

I spent most of the day occupied with mundane housework tasks followed by some sorting and clearing of things to go to the charity shop, a task that always makes me feel so much better when I’ve done it. After picking up the wee ones and ensuring they had their after-school snack (seriously where do they put all the food they scoff?) I borrowed L, aka dd2, and we set about erecting the remainder of the new trampoline. Hubby had done the base last weekend but had to give up with the rest as it was a 2 person job,

What a workout we had! I felt like I burned about a zillion calories wrestling all the poles, clips and clamps, and then the net, but after about an hour and a half’s hard graft the whole thing was assembled. L had the inaugural bounce, and then I called the wee ones outside. They were absolutely delighted. M loves to bounce more than anything else, and our wee indoor trampoline has avoided many a meltdown, but this is so much bigger that hopefully she can get some time on it every day.

We find it helps her to calm down, regulate her system, and obviously it gives her plenty of exercise without even leaving home. It is hopefully going to be used by all the family (might even have a shot myself) and we can build turn-taking in as an exercise too, which is always a sticky issue for M. She really struggles at times to understand that it’s not all about her first.

Anyway, here are a couple of not terribly good photos (I’m blaming the poor light and the net) that show you just how much B and M enjoyed themselves yesterday evening.

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Getting it Right

15 May

Anyone who has read my posts tagged “autism” or “sensory issues” will know that my wee girl has been struggling to get settled back into school. Various agencies, speech and language, occupational therapy and autism outreach have all been instrumental in helping the school staff to develop strategies to help M deal with (especially) the sensory pressures she was feeling, and to try and eliminate them wherever possible.

Before M was diagnosed, her head teacher had mostly noticed M’s very poor social skills – she wandered the playground alone at break times, she didn’t know how to join in and play, and she seemed unhappy. Well, actually we were wrong. M did know how to play, she just had no resources available to do so after the immeasurable strain of coping with standard mainstream school life.

She has been eating her packed lunch in the classroom with an invited class mate each day (the canteen is still a step too far) and then they have gone off outside to play. The staff have also noted that after gently introducing some group activities like reading time into M’s schedule that she seems to enjoy working alongside her contemporaries (note I said alongside – she’s not ready for someone to be leading the way).

We are lucky enough to live on the seafront, and therefore I happened to be looking out the window this morning when the school were down on the beach for one of their nature lessons with Wild Things! (an environmental educational charity). I saw this and ran to capture the shot with my camera. It’s an appalling quality photo, shot through a salt-encrusted window and magnified a few times, but you can see M, in the purple jacket, holding the hand of a class mate. What you didn’t see, and I did, is that M initiated the contact and it was returned with a smile.

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I think my little girl is doing OK.

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