Archive | May, 2014

Stumble, Stanley and the Difficult Day

25 May

This is Stumble:

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I had a feeling M was in an anxious mood when she insisted Stumble was accompanying her to school on Friday. The anxiety was due to the impending visit to the dentist later that morning. Obviously I had given M and her brother as much information as I could, but as I’ve never had “fissure sealants” and had only heard of them a few weeks before when the appointment had been made, my information was fairly scanty. All I could promise her is that it wouldn’t hurt – I did at least know that.So Stumble went to school. Luckily school are used to soft toys of all sorts going in for the day so I knew it wouldn’t be an issue.

The dentist is a new one to our practice and extremely young and good-looking. The teen girls think he’s gorgeous – personally I don’t think he looks old enough to be out of school but the entire practice seems to think he’s God’s gift to dentistry so I’m not going to argue. Yet.

I did double-check with the receptionist that Mr Dentist (as I shall call him) had remembered about M being autistic and she assured me he had. Good I thought – he will realise that she will be highly anxious. Er, no. First thing he did was try and over-rule my insistence on coming into the room with her – his argument being that children misbehave with their parents present. I won. M’s anxiety goes off the scale if presented with an unfamiliar situation and I’m not there. Anyway, Mr Dentist is evidently unused to having his authority challenged so he took the very mature route of totally blanking me from then on in. He even went as far as to turn his back on me.

However, back to M. She climbed into the chair and clutched Stumble tightly. The dental assistant was lovely and tried to engage some conversation about Stumble, which elicited one word replies. 

The whole procedure doesn’t take very long. Each of the four back teeth gets “filled in” and then sealed; the idea is to help prevent decay by smoothing out the deep grooves in said teeth. The teeth are done one at a time, and there is a chance to rinse out the mouth after each part of the procedure.

However, Mr Dentist has clearly not had any sort of autism training, as he said “I’m just going to pop this Hoover in your mouth now”. Of course, as soon as he’d said it, it was too late for me to say anything, so I just watched as Stumble nearly got squeezed into two separate pieces, followed a few moments later by M nearly dropping him (presumably in sheer relief) as the Hoover in her mind didn’t appear, and the small sucky machine (as I think of it) cleaned up in her mouth.

When all four teeth were done, M leapt out of the chair and out the door like lightning. I checked she had headed back to B in the waiting area and had a very brief word with Mr Dentist about how he needs to listen to parents like me and if she had a meltdown later in the day it wouldn’t impact on him but it most certainly would on her, and on me. 

I was too angry to list everything he did wrong, but I am going to take some advice from the NAS and make sure the practice is brought sharply up to date with some autism training.

Now where does Stumble come into all this? She turned out to be very useful. I headed back home  with the children to feed them some lunch before taking them back to school for the afternoon session. When I dropped them back off I mentioned to M’s 1 to 1 that the dentist was possibly quite fresh in her mind as she seemed troubled but wouldn’t speak about it.

Then I collected M just over an hour later and headed straight for town with E, M’s oldest sister, as E was heading back to uni for a few days before finishing for the summer. M was already upset about this departure as she adores E and is never fully settled when E is away (believe me this has made for a particularly challenging nine months!). We got halfway and pulled over at a supermarket for E to race in and choose some snacks for the train journey. At this point the dam burst. 

I had heard M chatting away to Stumble in the back seat but as it’s usual for her to natter away non stop a lot of the time I hadn’t given it undue consideration. But she started to sob, huge tears pouring down her cheeks. I pulled her into the front seats and asked what was wrong. “I can’t, I just can’t go any further. Make it stop, make it stop” Those are words guaranteed to wrench at anyone’s heart but what could I do? We had a fairly tight deadline to catch E’s train, and obviously I couldn’t just turn the car around. E came back and tried with me to get M to tell us something that we could use but she kept howling. In the end E rummaged in her backpack and came up with:

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This is Stanley Bear – named after the Uncle who gave him to E over 18 years ago. He is very, very special to her. He has been the confidant for all her woes, and probably all her joys too, and he sits quietly on the shelf in her uni bedroom as he is basically a bit frail for everyday cuddles, and after all she is almost 19. She doesn’t lend him out or loan him, and he doesn’t travel unless he is safely at the bottom of her bag. Hand luggage only.

She gave him to M! There and then, in the car, as a promise that she will be back on Wednesday. I raised an eyebrow at her to say “are you sure?” but I knew she was. My girl has a heart as big as a planet.

We managed the remainder of the journey with M curled up as much as a car seat will allow, wrapped in pink cat and small bear. I even persuaded her to leave Stanley bear locked in the car as we sprinted through the station to wave E off (SB doesn’t venture out as I’ve said). 

So, back to Stumble. I moved M’s car seat into the front for the journey home for a wee treat (slow down safely nerds – we don’t have airbags so there is no hidden danger of getting badly hurt in a bump) and Stumble started to tell me all about the dentist. M was translating obviously, I’m not delusional. Well no more than usual. Apparently Stumble didn’t like the lights at the dentists (no surprise there) and she did like the pink water for rinsing. But Stumble was “very frightened” when Mr Dentist said he was putting a Hoover in her mouth, she thought all her teeth were going to be sucked out. Stumble thought the dentist was a “very silly man” for frightening her like that, and not telling the truth, and wasn’t frightened the next and subsequent times he said it as it wasn’t a Hoover. I asked what Stumble thought of the taste and it wasn’t very nice but he (dentist) had said it wouldn’t last very long. (Which is better than he said to B when he said specifically two days!!) 

So, bless Stumble for being able to tell me what M couldn’t, And bless Stanley Bear for being there to remind M her sister will be back in a couple of days. And clever clever M for finding a way to tell me why she is hurting.

She still won’t talk about the dentist. But I think for now we can move on. Before her next check up in 6 months I shall ensure that someone has spoken to Mr Dentist very clearly about what he should and should not say to a person with autism. And we will move on.

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Silent Sunday

25 May

Silent Sunday

A Bad Week and A Great Weekend

11 May

There is nothing that prepares an autism parent for the dark days when nothing you can say or do makes a difference to your upset child. M had three bad days out of four this week at school – thank goodness it was a short week! – and it was heartbreaking to see her actually come out in tears one day. There was a series of very small events that triggered the upsets, and one case of what the school call teasing and I call bullying, but Wednesday and Thursday especially were pretty awful. Suffice to say I really don’t even want to go into details, but I used up a lot of energy on keeping her cuddled and stopping her bolting and/or taking out her anger and hurt in violence. Thankfully on Friday afternoon she came out in good spirits.

So I was a little concerned that a birthday party nearly 50 miles away at a stables might not be the best way to start the weekend. M was missing her dancing class for this, something which only ever happens in times of illness (so rarely) and both M and B were invited. Part of me was concerned that although she wanted to go to the party that the change in routine would upset here. All I knew was they weren’t to wear party clothes (a given I would have thought considering it was a stables) and that all the children were guaranteed a ride. I duly packed a lunch for B after ringing to check the available food, standard party fare which he can’t eat due to his severe food intolerances, and we headed off.

The party was from 11 am till 2 pm and not a second was wasted. After the party girl introduced her friends to each other and they were kitted out with hats (and boots if necessary; seriously people why would you send your kid to a stables with nice white trainers? I sent mine in wellies) they were led off to meet and greet the ponies. It is a very hands-on stable, and all the children are encouraged to get in there with petting and grooming straight away. M is highly anxious about anything new but we do holiday on a farm with a lot of horses so I know she likes them, and more importantly wouldn’t have a problem with the sensory side i.e. the strong aroma! Both got stuck in with curry combs and brushes. The very gentle and patient pony was gleaming!

Then they were led into a paddock and helped to mount their ponies for a half hour hack. B needed some help as he was on a larger pony but M was on almost before I could help her up. It must be instinctive as she has only been around the field on a friend’s Shetland pony and that was about three years ago. B went on a donkey ride as a wee toddler and screamed the whole time so I was more than a little nervous about what he would think when his pony started moving. 

Well! I needn’t have been. I went along on the hack as a walker and I really didn’t need to apart from being able to take some nice shots. Both children did acknowledge me, but they were so calm and happy it was just wonderful. More than half of the dozen children at the party have an autism spectrum condition but it was really difficult right then to pinpoint who they might have been – all the kids were enjoying themselves. Personally I’ve always thought horses are magical animals and this bore out my theory.

The rest of the party was some free play, decorating and plaiting the ponies (yes you read that right, you can decorate a pony – with sponges and special glitter paint), a lovely meal upstairs in a sort of barn, which was beautifully managed and catered by staff, then the option of more free play in the wee play park or face painting and nail varnishing before the lighting of the candles and singing to the birthday girl. 

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I found out that the cost of this per child was £25, which sounds a lot when you invite a lot of children but for three whole hours and including a half hour hack I thought was extremely good value. It is a long way to go but we don’t have stables nearby so I am already thinking about taking all the kids for a return visit in the summer holidays.

Both children had an amazing time and there was only once that M needed some quiet time away from other people, and then she just wandered off to the quiet end of the yard. We popped into a supermarket on the way home to pick up a few items and then they were happy to sit exhausted until I got them home and into a big foamy bath to soak away the grime.

M has asked twice so far to see my photos, and she is aware than the ponies made her feel happy and relaxed, so I predict more horsey adventures in the future.

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