Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Such small achievements that no one else notices - Anthony Skiing


Anthony needs extra help to participate in a lot of activities. When he was diagnosed with autism aged 4, we started to understand why Anthony found some things difficult. Why he had to put the coloured pencils back on their box in the same place, why he didn't seem happy with surprises on his birthday and why he couldn't focus in a nursery full of other children, loud sounds and bright lights. But that has never meant he can't try something new.  And when we returned from Courchevel earlier this year, it sparked a new idea for him.


Anthony is helped all day in a mainstream school by a dedicated teaching assistant. He has learned to cope with being in a class with 29 other children. We did try him at some mainstream clubs, like an after school running club, but found that he didn't really want to participate in them.

 It's not that Anthony, didn't like running, just he found it difficult as part of a club. Often we've arranged for Anthony to have a one-to-one support or lesson for new things he'd like to try. This and our preparation has meant he can do things. He goes karting, is currently learning to swim and this week, had his second skiing lesson.

Look, Anthony, the seven year old with ASD and those hypermobile legs is going skiing at a local snow centre. But that's not the achievement I'm focused on. I know Anthony can slide down a learner slope with the occasional fall. What I'm proud of, no-one else noticed.

Our ski lesson was due to start at 1.30 and was going to be with the same disability guide that Anthony had for his first lesson, a guy called Rick. However, there was a last minute complication and due to this a replacement instructor came but due to the short notice was going to be late. Laura, the new instructor came at 1.50. She had not been able to contact us to say she was coming or late.

Anthony had not been prepared for any of this. Within minutes of arriving he was asking, "Where is Rick, where is he ?" I could hear the anxiety in his voice. "What time is it, I don't want it to be late."

Anthony struggles with change. Unpredictable things don't feel safe. I distracted Anthony by taking him to get his rental gear. We got him dressed and got his boots on. This was the systematic preparation he was expecting. During this time I reassured him that it was ok if the lesson did not start exactly at 1.30. He would still ski as he expected. Then Laura arrived instead of Rick.

She introduced herself to me and before she spoke directly to Anthony, I got down on my knees infront of him and held his hands. This gave him some focus and comforting pressure as I told him that Rick couldn't come and Laura would be helping him for the lesson - everything else would stay the same but someone else would be helping him on the slope.

No one noticed that Anthony calmly put on his ski gear. No one noticed as he looked at his feet and flicked his fingers while be coped with the change. No one noticed the pause as he processed a different person, and as he worked through all of what I was saying to him. No one realised the extra time he took to walk around in his boots or to answer questions was anything other than a child having fun or not listening to an adult. But I did.

As he did one last circle round the bench to 'make sure his boots' felt right. I knew he was making sure he felt alright. He told me Laura looked a bit like his swimming instructor, then took her hand to go out onto the slope.

6 comments:

  1. Lovely story and you are so right, it is the small achievements that matter and they are the ones others don't notice, but you as a parent see it all. You must be really proud!
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

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    1. It's a bit like being at a graduation ceremony every time he gets through something well. I feel privileged to witness it. Thanks for your comment xx

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  2. Oh he coped so well. That must have been such a moment for you. People don't realise do they just how much the smallest things to us, affect them in such a big way. My partner is on the spectrum and if something happens to our day plans it takes so much to help him adjust, even now as an adult. The other day at his job they made a big change and told him last minute and he just couldn't cope with his shift at all. He needs routine and advance warning and explantation of changes and then he's ok. Such a lovely story, I really hope he enjoyed skiing. It sounds like he has a brilliant mama. Thank you so much for linking to #whatevertheweather.x

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    1. It was such a relief when he could cope with a change if he got advance notice. Suddenly it was possible to get relatives to pick him up from school. Now we are even nearly at the point when I can tell him it's me OR a relative (specific one of course) and he can just about cope with that.

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    2. And yes he liked skiing though got quite tired even though it was a short lesson. We took him karting this morning - he loved that!!

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    3. That's great that he coped so well with such a big change, he must have been so proud of himself for continuing his skiing lesson and enjoying it despite the changes. Sometimes it's the little things that only us parents notice that's the important ones. I hope continues to thrive skiing, it's such a fun sport! Karting sounds great too.
      Thanks for linking to #Whatevertheweather :) x

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What is Autism?
It's so much I couldn't possibly try and explain. For us it's wonderful and heart-breaking. Joyous and truthful. But as far as diagnosis is concerned, why not have a look at the National Autistic Society for their definition of Autism.
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