Archive | March, 2015

The Eclipse

20 Mar

I guess lots of people will be sharing their stories, so here is ours.

The weather at 7.30 this morning looked very promising  with sunshine and blue skies; however it’s not the best time to encourage me outside when I’m frantically trying to wake myself up with a cup of tea and get two sleepy children to get ready for school. By the time I dropped them off at five to nine the temperature had plummeted and the wind and rain were beating against the car windscreen. I had warned M exactly what an eclipse could be like in case it got very dark and she was scared, but she seemed content so I didn’t say too much. With an autistic child, it’s difficult to know just how to pitch some conversations but I thought she would be OK. Some daft notion made me slip their special eclipse glasses into their school bags “just in case.”

I came home and grabbed a coffee, then noticed that the sun was trying to break through again. I took my lenses and headed outside. The weather was indeed perking up.


I managed to pry L from her bed (poor girl is still totally exhausted and unwell) but she was less than impressed with the view through the glasses, unlike me who was thrilled that the sun was now a sliver of orange. Even though it was freezing I kept going back outside to have another look.


Obviously I didn’t try and capture the sun with my rubbish phone camera but I did take a few shots as the sky went some weird colours, although it doesn’t really look like it here.

Then I had the idea to ring the school and let them know that B and M had the special glasses in case it was possible to let them share. Turns out the Head Teacher was delighted and marshalled the kids outside two at a time for a glimpse. My two got instant popularity status for enabling this, although I suspect the PE teacher will have been less than impressed to have her class so rudely interrupted! This is my two who made their way into the weekly newsletter (photo shamelessly nicked from that)


I was quite underwhelmed with how dark it didn’t get, as I remember in 1999 and some time back when I was in primary school myself, it had been a lot more impressive. But then again, both those times I didn’t have funky specs so I could stare directly at the sun. In fact, having called my mum to check my memory wasn’t defective, she was able to tell me that my primary school had sent every child home with a piece of smoked glass (can you imagine the outcry if a school did that now?) and a note detailing how to watch the eclipse.

I carried on nipping out to check the progress of the moon across the sun, and lent my specs to a couple of passers-by who were astounded how different it looked through them. By then I was more interested in the beach and how it looked in the strange light – with the noise of the waves crashing on the shore I hadn’t noticed that all the birds had stopped singing (which apparently they had) but I love this picture.


Cue two happy excited children when they burst out of school at three o’clock today and according to the head, lots of other happy children who thought the whole thing was “amazing.” I’ve just been speaking on twitter to someone who said the head at their school had insisted all the blinds were to be closed and no-one would be watching due to health and safety. They didn’t even get to watch on TV like ours did. That made me very sad; education is not just about bums on seats and book learning, it should be about grabbing opportunities and making the most of the unexpected when it falls into your lap. This is one of those days when I am fervently grateful that even with little money and relatively few facilities, this tiny village school once again has shown me that it is the right place for my children.


Silent Sunday

15 Mar


Anxiety Overload

9 Mar

Morning. I’d say “good” but that would be a lie.

M is in school, and she was, or at least she seemed fine when I left her in the care of her temporary TA at 9 o’clock. Whether the day goes well or not is too early to say.

We knew last week that the estimable Mrs T would not be in today, and plans were made to ensure M had a 1 to 1 that would be there for her today. She really can’t manage the school day without some emotional support; so the school arranged an unknown person to come, as all regular temp staff were unavailable. This appears to have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The weekend started with howling and crying on Friday evening as she discovered her timetable for Monday in her school bag, along with Tuesday’s one (Mrs T is super-organised). And then the entire weekend has been punctuated with sobbing fits, crying, wandering about attached to various comforters like her fleece blanket and her favourite pink cat, or alternatively screaming at her brother, or me, or her dad, in an attempt to control something in her confusing life, be it her toast or the socks she was wearing.

I can’t bear her behaviour when she’s like this, it’s desperately wearing on all of us, but my heart breaks for her – being so anxious about something that in all likelihood will be fine must be exhausting and frightening for her. It’s times like this that if anyone were brave enough to tell me that “autism is a gift not a curse” I might truly be tempted to punch them. Try telling my eight year old her autism is a gift! She was up more in the night than she was asleep, roaming the house with a belly ache and unable to settle, or even to process what was wrong. I knew, and yet I could offer nothing but reassurance in the form of cuddles and encouragement to curl up in the blankets and try to rest.

I know there are times when her breathtaking memory for details or her total recall over song lyrics is wonderful, but for now, today, autism can do one.

Mental Health and Making Choices

5 Mar

Today M had a CAMHS appointment. CAMHS for anyone who doesn’t know, stands for Children and Adolescents Mental Health Services. There is a lot of debate about how much use a lot of the professionals involved in this service are, especially to young people with autism, but so far we’ve been rather lucky.

M suffers very badly with anxiety which colours most of her days, and often intrudes on her sleep too. The mental health worker at CAMHS is working with M through play, to try and unpick the worst triggers for this anxiety, and then to help M recognise and deal with it. As you can imagine it’s not a fast process. Even worse is that poor M gets anxious about the appointments and then has trouble winding down afterwards, which I’ve learned to my cost can be problematic when I’m racing back to collect her brother from school.

However, today was also the morning for my once a month visit to the city’s autism centre where they have what they call the Drop In, two hours of meeting up with parents in the same situation, coffee and biscuits, and more often than not a guest speaker. I’ve met some wonderful people there and I really need those two hours.

I can’t physically get from the autism centre to collect M and then to her appointment so I braced myself to tell the school that I would be removing her for the entire day in order for me to have my allotted time to decompress and relax with my friends. M is welcome there – all children are – and it’s quiet and secure (always good to know with a runner). School were on my side and had no issue with this arrangement. How forward thinking is that? An establishment that realises and acknowledges that if the parent falls apart from lack of support that the family will suffer. It’s rare I can tell you.

So, M was delighted at her day off school until I insisted she take a bag of things to occupy her. She resisted, I insisted again. I won. She plugged herself into her ear defenders and sulked for most of the journey.

We arrived, she found a table in the far corner of the room, collected a biscuit, raided the play room area for pencils and paper and settled down. Her bag of toys was emptied and lined up, and she was absolutely beautifully behaved for the whole two hours. There was plenty of space for her to spin, and boy did she spin a lot today, but the great part is no-one there bats an eyelid, it’s just a regular occurrence to see stims of this kind, and M knows it’s an autism centre, so she can be herself. She even made a new friend:-



Contrast this happy picture with her poor little face forty minutes later while she was waiting for the CAMHS appointment – the anxiety was really building by this point:-




When she’s in the room she generally participates but if there are questions she can’t or won’t answer she makes like she’s deaf. It’s amazing just how she can ignore a question so well; I sit there squirming and she has no guilt whatsoever.

After this session I took her to a garden centre which has a superb cafe and treated her to an ice cream followed by a run about outside where there is a huge slide and a swing. She spent half an hour regulating her system by swinging and then was happy to sit in the car on the journey home. I didn’t even try to suggest homework as I felt it might be a flash-point, so she got to watch some TV and then had a shot on the computer; all the treats tonight.

I was lucky not to have to rush home today as someone else could pick up the wee man, and having the school validate my decision to take the whole day was something I really appreciate. It wasn’t an easy decision, choosing to reduce M’s school time even further, but I think I did the right thing for both of us. And if another CAMHS appointment falls on the same day as the Drop In, I will do it again.

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