Friday, 30 October 2015

Conversing about broken gingerbread men

We don't really do Halloween in our house.  If you've read 'Rocky reality: Autism and imagination' then you would understand at least one good reason why trick or treating is not a great idea. No, the closest I'll come is decapitating and chopping the legs off gingerbread men for David.

David is a very cunning little boy.  If you didn't know any better, you'd think that he didn't know very much at all.  After all, if you ask him to point to his head, he'll probably ignore you and continue playing with his cars.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't know what you are saying or know where his head is.

There are various reasons why any child, but particularly ones like David who have ASD, won't follow directions.  They may lack the skills to carry out certain tasks, have difficulty processing words or quite often in David's case, lack motivation.  As following instructions is fairly important in terms of functioning in society, being able to do as you are asked is considered a life skill. 

Getting a child with autism to learn this can be difficult.  Some people advocate Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programmes or methods for children with autism.  We have found that David responds well to motivation and in this case, gingerbread.

Truth is I'm not chopping up gingerbread men as some strange Halloween ritual but as a way of interacting with David.  It wasn't long after we had gingerbread men in the house that David learned he could use Makaton and his single syllable words to request a 'biscuit man'.  Using PECS have really helped David with sentence formation too.  A few days ago when I pulled out a broken one I offered him a pair of gingerbread legs and he signed 'I want' and pointed to his legs. 

Offer David any other broken biscuit and you are likely to get a crying child. The biscuit is not right. It's broken, it's just wrong. But this seems different.  And it's wonderful that David is able to recognise the parts of a gingerbread man. It means he's using his imagination.  

And it's always good to find another thing that David will communicate with us about. So mostly, I'm going to spend Halloween offering a few legs, arms, heads and possibly bellies to David in exchange for him signing which he wants. I might even munch a few myself. 

External Links included
The Makaton Charity Homepage - Makaton uses signs and symbols to help people communicate. 
Communication Matters - PECS (Picture Exchange Comunication System)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Our terribly truthful child


Are we the most fortunate parents in the world? Our eldest son is 7 years old and he has never told me a lie. Never.

This doesn't mean he has never done anything wrong. Anthony will freely admit when he has been naughty and understands about the 'naughty step'.  He will offer up his guilt upon the first request of 'what happened here' and will even explain if he did it on purpose or if the event was actually an accident. Anthony has been diagnosed with ASD since he was 4 years old. He has always been literal and taken what he is told and sees as fact, which has proved difficult at times such as interpreting what is real and what is fiction on the television for example.   

Initially we thought he may have difficulty with thinking forward to the consequences of him being truthful and so saw no point in deceit. But there was a short while when Anthony would claim he didn't want to tell me something because he thought I'd be disappointed in him so I know he can think ahead.  At the time I assured him that no matter what he thought, I always wanted him to tell me the truth and he seems to have stuck to this.

But it's not all cheery cheery.  Anthony has wonderfully mocked some of my cooking as 'not being as good as normal', regularly declares I'm not being very nice to him when I'm helping other siblings instead and has mentioned to several relatives that they will mostly likely die before he does.

Today is the first day of the half term holidays that the whole family will be able to do something together.  Anthony has been very excited about his father not going to work.  However, yesterday he also confirmed that the main reason for this is not because he will get to spend time with his dad.  Instead, Anthony is looking forward to spending time with his dad's phone.  The Marvel Champions game has not been downloaded onto any of our other devices because they are on different accounts so Anthony can only play it when his dad, and therefore his dad's phone is at home. 

I sigh and then smile. Lucky Anthony.  A short while ago he also confided that he totally loved his dad and that his dad was his best friend.  And that was a wonderful truth to hear. He'll get to spend a few days now playing The Marvel Champions game sitting next to his best mate.  And of course, I'm the most fortunate mother in the world.

Links
Our blog - A little bit of obsessions in action
Our blog - Anthony's first experience of guilt

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Issues when Anthony's always aloud

Some people are aware that individuals with autism can be sensitive to loud noises so might be confused by our son Anthony.  Although better at school, in most environments Anthony himself is extremely loud.  He seems to operate at maximum volume all the time, and whilst this might be a bit annoying, it also makes it difficult to tell when Anthony is distressed or needs help because when he shouts for it, he's not actually any louder than normal.

Some people are just loud talkers. Bigger lungs, cultural and family circumstances are just a few reasons why some people speak loudly.  And that's no different to children with autism.  However, Anthony was and is constantly encouraged to express himself using language and maybe this effort comes out as quite a 'forced' sound. Often when he is reading, words he knows well come out more quietly than those he has to concentrate on.  

It's also common for children with autism not to understand social situations or the perspective of others. Anthony simply doesn't realise that others find him loud or that being excessively loud in certain places, like a church or a library, isn't helpful.  He also finds it difficult to concentrate on lots of things at once.  If he's coping with the new environment and all the questions he has about the visit to the library then I have almost no chance in helping him to remember to lower his voice.  Needless to say, we don't visit libraries.

Mostly, we accept being loud as part of being Anthony. Sometimes we try and help him lower his voice for particular events so it's a better experience for him. The biggest difficulty though is being able to determine when he actually is using a loud voice for a purpose and needs my help, because it just sounds loud like it always does.

Yesterday evening, Anthony and his little brother were playing chase (sort of, as two ASD brothers might) and it spilled into the garden.  I can see most of the garden from the kitchen so continued to empty the dishwasher etc.  I could hear Anthony and his loud voice saying 'no no' as David got close and he didn't want to be caught and giggles coming from David.  I heard the same thing again a few times, and then a slight pitch change.  Anthony was probably getting excited.  I looked over into the garden to see David, half way over the garden wall and Anthony holding onto his legs.  Anthony was still shouting 'no no' and David was still giggling. 

I ran over and rescued the situation.  Whilst trying not to laugh at what was really quite a humorous site, I managed to communicate to David that he should not climb over the wall.  I reminded Anthony to use the word 'Help' when he needed to and thanked my instincts for noticing a pitch change in his voice when he was beginning to panic. Truth is Most situations like this are approached with a sense of humour, it was quite a picture. 

Then I had the best part of my day playing chase with them in the garden until it turned into rough play on the trampoline.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Rocky reality: Autism and imagination

An adapted version of this story is featured on Embracing the Spectrum

We were so pleased when Anthony started using his imagination. It was something we absolutely encouraged. Suddenly Anthony was Tree Fu Tom, Ironman and then Anakin Skywalker.  We recently watched the new Star Wars trailer.  We watched and waited for the same questions, the questions we've taught Anthony ask so he is able to understand that the movie is not real.

Using your imagination often involves thinking about being something you are not and looking at things from the perspective of another.  This can be extremely difficult for some people and especially young children with autism.  Anthony needed help to use his imagination.  Put a sparkly pencil into Jane's hand and despite being two years old she becomes a fairy princess.  Anthony's first dressing up outfits, however, had to be exact - the right colours, items of clothing etc.  We now sometimes have the opposite difficulty. 

Anthony can now be anyone on the television. However, Anthony takes things very literally. To Anthony, there is no difference between watching the news and watching Harry Potter. He once asked for a wand like Harry Potter but I knew he'd be disappointed when he wouldn't actually be able to do a spell.  When it came to Star Wars, Anthony started having difficulty getting to sleep as he truly believed Darth Maul was coming to kill him.  We had to help Anthony understand what was real without dampening his imaginative spirit.

As Anthony's initial fears revolved around the 'villains' in films this is what we chose to challenge, and we started with Darth Maul. We talked about actors 'pretending' but this was difficult.  Anthony is a very visual learner, so we showed Anthony a photo of the actor who plays the villain. There he was, no red/black skin, no horns, no pointy teeth and so on.  This has been the key.  Following movies and trailers, Anthony asks us to see the different actors.  He sees who they 'really' are and understands their characters are not real.  It's even extended to asking who the 'voice' behind cartoon or CGI characters are. 

This has allowed Anthony to enjoy the films, continue his play and distinguish between the pretend and the real on the screen.  His favourite role-play how involve him being the villain.  And I can look forward to a half term full of magic wands and lightsaber fights.

External Links
NAS - Imagination in my special brother



Friday, 23 October 2015

Hyper-what else?

Anthony has been tip-toe walking for as long as I can remember.  Whether it's running, jumping, climbing or walking, and whether it's at school, home or in the garden, Anthony does it on his toes.  We buy the toughest school boots available.  He bends them all and goes through the ball of them by the end of each term.  Anthony is very sensory seeking and it's long been thought that he enjoys the feeling of pressure this puts on his feet.  In the summer we took him to a trial trampolining class and noticed he wasn't able to point his toes up when they were stretching - in fact it didn't look like he could do it at all.

We got in touch with Anthony's occupational therapist and he was referred to a physiotherapist.  Anthony has a diagnosis of ASD, with dyspraxia and sensory processing difficulties.  He is currently being assessed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and at physio appointment we found he also has 'hypermobility' in his knees. I believe only about 10-15% of people with autism have ASD as their only condition.  Most have a 'co-morbid' condition, one that co-occurs with ASD.  About half have sensory processing disorder (SPD), like Anthony, and about a third have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

We have heard of hypermobility before.  Anthony's younger brother, David, can bend himself into the most uncomfortable looking positions but there is no current reason to be concerned about his hypermobility impacting on his development.  People with hypermobility are particularly supple and able to move their limbs into positions others find impossible. There are different types of hypermobility and some people can find painful.  

Anthony's hypermobility in his knees are part of the reason he goes onto his tip toes.  This is a comfortable position for him as it allows him to stiffen or gently lock his knees to compensate for the extra movement he has there.  Quite clever really. However, as a result, the muscles around his heel and calf aren't being stretched and as he has grown they have either not kept up or possibly even tightened.  This explains why he can't pull his toes up very far.

We have exercises to do to increase Anthony's flexibility and strengthen his legs.  If it doesn't work we may have to help him with some special shoes.  So, we'll add another task to the daily routine.  And wonder if Anthony's handsome body is camouflaging any more hyper-whatever co-morbid conditions. 

External Links
Hypermobility Syndrome Association HMSA

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Complications when kids are ill

We are fortunate that our kids aren't often ill. Looking after little ones when they are a bit poorly is typical mother work and it's not that different when they are on the autistic spectrum, it's just sometimes a bit come complicated.  This post is by no means graphic but if you don't like reading this sort of stuff, better stop now.

David is a little poorly.  He's got a slight temperature and was ill in bed last night and this morning in bed and then in the car. David actually handles being ill quite well. His older brother Anthony, who is also on the spectrum really struggled with the whole understanding of being ill. Even just a few years ago it was like having a five year old sized toddler who was getting stressed because they didn't understand what was happening. He was frightened when he was just a little ill.  His receptive language wasn't great and when he was stressed, just like anyone, it was even harder for him to listen to us. We used very basic language to help him hear and understand what was happening and what to expect. And like every parent we tried to reassure him.

Being ill just happens to David.  There seems to be little fuss but it is a bit tricky.  David was first ill in his bed last night - and he has immediately established what happened here as a routine. This means so far today he has continued to go to his bed to be ill. 

He is nearly five years old, however most of his communication is still at the Requester, emerging into the Early Communicator stage of communication.  For David this means he mostly communicates to get what he wants, echoes some sounds, uses gestures and interacts with familiar people and in familiar situations. He is unable to tell us he is feeling like he's about to be ill. He's not poorly enough to be sofa stricken.  He is playing and moving around so we have to watch him carefully and try and direct to bathrooms etc as he drifts back towards his bed.  We can then confirm to David in basic words and signs that this is where he can go.  This of course has the added complication that we can't let him rest in his bed for the fear of what we might find there a while later.

On the other hand, Anthony did very well this morning. He realised and so declared "If David is ill, does that mean I will be dropped off at school first this morning?" As I smiled and confirmed Anthony's suspicion and I could see him processing this and what it meant for his trip to school.  Well done Anthony and good luck today David.

External Links

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Final straws on a pile of worries

Many kids with ASD have 'triggers' for major meltdowns. Or at least that's the way it seems.  It was long ago that I figured Anthony couldn't possibly have as many 'triggers' as it appeared.  Everyone has days where things seem to be stacked against them and we have a 'what else could possibly go wrong today' feeling.  At any moment we could come across the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.  For Anthony though, it's as if he never really gets rid of this load.  He wakes up with a pile of straw already bearing down on him so that just a few small issues are just too much, and...snap. 

Anthony's load only gets larger throughout the day.  The unexpected, sensory difficulties, feelings of not doing things right or well enough are all added to issues from yesterday, and the day before and so on.  We had such an example at the weekend. 

Anthony was attending a club that he goes to twice a week. The club has recently changed their sign in sheet by adding a 'surname' column.  To Anthony's credit he noted the change and proceeded to add his surname.  Unfortunately the box was a bit small and Anthony was unable to fit his name into it.   This small detail was Anthony's last straw.

As a parent facing this issue, I've got two approaches.  Lightening the load and avoiding the last straw.  It seems almost impossible to avoid every scenario that could present the last straw to Anthony. However, we get clues that his load his feeling heavy and when he is having a hard day.  He becomes very sensory seeking, lacks focus and is quick to become emotional. On these days we can try to maximise routine so he is presented with the expected and try to avoid anything to tasking.  Even with this we can't avoid everything and we don't want to.  So, we make efforts to help him keep him strong, his load light and where possibly discard some of it. 

Anthony can be very concerned about butterflies and moths because their movements are unpredictable and erratic.  Please let's no even talk about bees or wasps. We can't stay inside all spring and summer so instead we have to help Anthony manage and cope with how he feels about them.  He still needs help remembering the strategies we teach him but he copes more often than he used to and as a result has fewer meltdowns.  I grinned a few days ago when we found a moth near the bathroom window.  Anthony declared to his younger unaware sister, "Don't worry about the moth Jane.  They are like butterflies. They move very fast but they won't hurt you."  Well done, Anthony, that's one less straw today.

Final straw for the camel


Links
Our blog - Our mummification mishaps - autism and dressing up at school
Our blog - Nervous about nearly, as school restarts

External Links
Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me - Interview with an Aspie about diagnosis and meltdowns


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Tearful transition turns out ok

David has always struggled with transitions. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's difficult and sometimes it's a disaster. Whether David likes it or not, he is going to have to spend a good deal of his life moving from place or place and task to task so it is something we are helping him learn.

A transition is when there is a change in a situation.  This could be not going to school because it is half term, going to the park with Granddad when you expected Grandma or going from playing a game to getting ready for a bath.  It was this last transition that became particularly tearful last night.

We are fairly routine with 'early warnings' in our home.  This is not the kind of warning I got from my Gran when I was being a bit naughty but a pre-emptive announcement of a change in activity.  "It's nearly time for a bath", I holler to the eldest and youngest playing in the lounge.  I then repeat the notice and sign (we use Makaton) it for David, checking to see if he has understood.  He signs and grunts "Nah" for 'No' back to me so although he doesn't agree with my suggestion, I know it's been received.  I few minutes later we repeat the process.  

I let Anthony and David know it is nearly time for a bath and they will have to stop playing with their respective games and electronic devices soon and to go upstairs.  This is a way of setting expectations for the kids. David's response, however, is the same.  This time I confirm that 'yes' this is going to happen.  Finally it is time to get ready for a bath.  Anthony and Jane reluctantly, but happily head for the stairs.  David bursts into to tears and runs into the lounge.

One of the ways David calms himself is through a small routine with a set of toys, he will often then carry them through a transition if allowed i.e into the car, through to the dinner table etc.  I can see my small boy huddled in a corner with a small pile of toys that he is quickly flipping over in sequence.  Although gathering the toys is a way David has learned to cope with transitions it's not necessarily a long term solution and not one we have decided should extend to upstairs as it can create further problems in going to bed etc.  Instead, we encourage David to finish with the toys. 

People with autism are driven by routine and being comfortable.  Having to stop preferred, comfortable activities in exchange for something like going for a bath is really difficult. We have been helping him with this via an ABA type approach. We can now help David put the toys away, by setting an example and singing a song about putting the toys in the box.  As I approached with the box and starting to sing, David knows what's coming.  He is crying loudly with tears streaming down his face.  David finishes a cycle of his routine and waits as I slowly wave goodbye to the toys and one by one gently move them into the box singing the same song.  David is holding on tight to the last toy.  I very carefully pull his hand and move his clenched fist over the box.  He drops that last toy in. I look over at him and give him a big smile, and his tears give way to giggles of relief. 

Well done David, you put the last toy back.  Maybe it was because he was finally ready to.  I put the box away and David takes my hand as we head towards the stairs. Sometimes he needs help, sometimes he copes.  It's slowly becoming less of the first and more of the second.

External Links
Makaton Charity
NAS - Transitions through education and life

Monday, 19 October 2015

Identifying normal repetitive play

toy tea set

I have been watching Jane repeat the same play sequence whenever she is presented with a tea set.  Jane has two older brothers with autism so she is more likely to be on the autistic spectrum than another little girl who has no autism in the family.  I'm watching to see if this play might indicate that she has a lack of social imagination. 

Difficulty with social imagination is one of the 'triad' of impairments that leads to an autism diagnosis. Our social imagination lets us understand and predict what other people are going to do or how an unfamiliar situation may turn out. Some children with autism find imaginative play very difficult and others can use their imagination but because they find guessing the next step in a social situation difficult, they prefer to act out the same scenes each time.  

However, children also learn through repetition. Practising new words and skills is part of being a toddler and should be typical as Jane is nearly two and a half years old.

Jane has been repeating a game we have shown her about making a cup of tea.  Pouring the tea from a teapot into a cup and bringing it to an adult. She then asks them to drink it, asks if they are finished and then takes the cup away.  Here are some things I've noticed and engaged in that indicates to me this might be normal play.

Jane's routine is usually functional, which means things can be used for what they are.  However, Jane can also use substitution in this routine.  This means if presented with a tea set without a teapot and presented with another object, for example a jug or bowl, Jane is happy to pretend this is the teapot.  If there are no substitutions, Jane can also pretend she is holding a teapot, and this is using her imagination too.  Beyond, this Jane was quite happy to bring me a coffee instead and when I said I was hungry, she offered me a piece of cake. This shows she can cope with, think about and engage in changes to the play sequence. To my delight this was cooked in an imaginary microwave in the bookcase.  And as I'm handed my cake, it's obvious that Jane is having fun. A few minutes later she's left the activity and come to watch the television.

However, I could be concerned if Jane appeared anxious or extremely focused during the tea routine.  I would note if she was upset by changing it or unable to have intervention in the play. I'd also be concerned if Jane was unable to finish her routine without getting upset or persisted in only playing with this set, whether she was enjoying it or not.  I can also look for a specific type of repetitive behaviour called 'stimming' which tends to be a sensory adjustment.

Repetitive behaviours, obsessions and routines can limit a child's participation in other activities, cause stress or anxiety.  However they can also lead to enjoying special interests or help someone stay calm or cope with a situation like David does. I'm likely to continue to monitor Jane's progress with watchful eyes.  For now, it looks like I'll be enjoying imaginary cake.

External links
Ambitious About Autism - Repetitive behaviours and stimming
NAS - About autism





Friday, 16 October 2015

Talking to other mums - dinosaur and kitten chat

It can be difficult to talk to other mums about your kids when your kids have additional needs and theirs don't.  It's not that I have difficulty talking about my kids.  It's just almost impossible to talk about my boys without mentioning that they are on the autistic spectrum.   Conversations just fizzle out or become difficult because the other parent and I have very different experiences and we struggle to find common ground.  It's like they are bringing up kittens and I have dinosaurs.

Take for example this week at a playgroup.  Now that my boys are both at school I've been trying to enjoy quality time with Jane at regular playgroups.  We couldn't attend 'normal' playgroups with my boys as it was too stressful for me, the boys, other kids and the other mums.  Now it's just Jane and I during the day, I've been back in the playgroup rota.  Sadly a study early this year found that nearly a quarter of new mothers felt isolated.  Playgroups are great.  Along with other things, they provide a way to get out and meet other mums.  I'm not with my dinosaurs today, so surely I'll get some regular kitten conversations?

Within minutes the question arises, "Is Jane your only child".  I reply that I also have two boys at school.  "Oh really, that must be a handful(!), which schools?"  And that's it; the answer means the conversation is about the boys and their ASD. Then despite me asking about their kids the conversation stops.  Sometimes it feels like I should just wear a badge "I also have autistic kids - there, now let's talk about something else".  

It turns out that talking with others isn't just something that my autistic sons have difficulty with.  I recently went mad on a SEN chat forum as a way of connecting with others who understood. But the good news is that I do get to have adult conversations, often it's with the volunteers running the playgroups and, you've guessed it, other mums of kids with additional needs that are there too.  There are also SEN parent activities and most of all with our loving family and friends. These guys are all comfortable with my dinosaur/kitten chat and are happy to roar and purr with me appropriately.


External links
AXA PPP Healthcare and Netmums report - new mums feel lonely and isolated

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Theory of mind - double rainbow and breakfast

Understanding why your child does something is important for all kids. Why did you pull her hair, not do your homework or even why are you so tired today? For neuro-typical kids I'm often told straight away - she took my toy, I don't like my teacher or I'm feeling a bit ill.  Often in children with autism all you have is clues.  This may be because like around 25% of individuals with autism your child is non verbal but it can also be because they don't understand they need to tell you.

'Theory of mind' is being able to attribute 'mental states' such as beliefs, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own.  My eldest son for example has a unique application of empathy in this post because he finds this difficult.


To help me through the day I often have to understand that it's not just that my sons see the world differently - it's often that they assume I see it like they do, with all their knowledge, emotions, intentions etc too.


This morning, like most mornings, David stood by the bed and clearly signed 'breakfast'. This is great.  It used to be that when David was hungry he would sit down at the kitchen table or by a snack cupboard and wait.  This was not David's way of communicating with me - he didn't understand he needed to tell me he was hungry.  He knew he was hungry so as far as David was concerned everyone knew.  Eventually he would become frustrated and now, just like this morning, David communicates mostly in sign to tell us when he wants something to eat such as meals, food items or drinks.


I think David has developed a basic level of the Theory of Mind which helps him function better in these situations.  He has learned to communicate his needs, but this doesn't necessarily mean he understands the Theory of Mind.  My older son, Anthony, communicates quite well but that doesn't change what he perceives. 


This morning Anthony informed me (again) that he had seen a double rainbow on the way to swimming yesterday.  His father was taking him to his 1:1 swimming lesson while I was at home caring for the other kids. Due to the way Anthony processes light he tends not to look at rainbows (follow by blog to see a post on sensory processing soon) so asked me about what it looked like.  Naturally I had little to offer as I was at home.  Anthony found this confusing.  He knew there had been a rainbow so why didn't I?  Even when I explained that I was in our house and couldn't see the sky, Anthony suggested I should have looked outside to see it.  He was still assuming that l had the same knowledge as he so I had known it was there.

Despite explaining that no one had told me about the rainbow so I didn't see it the conversation fizzled and we moved on.  Fortunately I didn't need to guess my way through any other confusing situations or conversations.  Anthony put on his coat, David finished his breakfast and along with Jane and I, we got into the car to set off for school.







Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Autism and misunderstandings of empathy


My son often appears unsympathetic. He has difficulty recognising his own feelings. But on Monday he astounded staff at school with his excessive empathy.

Today is Wednesday and I was, until the school drop off this morning, fairly unaware of what an eventful day Tuesday had been. Anthony is seven years old and attends a mainstream (regular) school but is supported in his class and throughout the school day by a Teaching Assistant (TA), or Learning Supping Assistant (LSA) full time.

Like many children, Anthony is not very good at telling his parents what he did at school on any day. Even if he does discuss activities, I often find his discussion disjointed and difficult to understand. This week he had mentioned that he had become angry at school but he wasn't angry anymore. This is not unusual for Anthony; he can become angry over very small issues, particularly if he is over stimulated. It turns out he was talking about one of the 'Tuesday events', two of which I'd like to briefly share as Anthony's wonderful way of empathising.

Empathy can be broken down into understanding what others are thinking or feeling, sometimes known as 'cognitive empathy', and 'affective empathy', being able to respond to that with an appropriate emotion. According to some studies, individuals on the autism spectrum may experience one or both of these areas, not being able to figure out what people are feeling or what to do about it.

Children with additional needs are sadly at higher risk of bullying. This can be for many reasons and you can follow my blog as I will undoubtedly cover this topic in the future. On Tuesday two boys who were three years older than Anthony started to bully him in the playground. As it should be, this was noticed by staff, some of whom were quite emotional due to the nature of the bulling. But what happened next surprised them all. Anthony didn't want to tell any more staff at the school because he didn't want the bullies to be in trouble and he didn't want them to become sad.

Anthony has been picked on before. Often this is due to him not understanding what's happening in play. One day a spitting game with boys became a spitting at Anthony game. These few incidents have always been dealt with very well and quickly. Anthony has understood that the children were not being nice anymore and were being naughty. But on Tuesday Anthony was far more concerned with the feelings of others than himself. He was concerned that the bullies would be sad because they were in trouble, that their parents would be disappointed in them, or that they might get sent to the Headmasters office. What a wonderful example of caring for others above yourself.

On the same day, a child in Anthony's class was telling a friend that a boy had hurt his arm falling off a swing. Anthony misunderstood the conversation and thought the boy had broken his classmates arm. Anthony immediately got very angry and had to be taken out of the class and the classmate had to come and explain that their arm was OK. The little boy that had hurt his arm was OK. The little boy had fallen off a swing - no one had hurt anyone. However, Anthony had jumped to the defence of his classmate with such conviction it took a while before he could be sure all was OK. He was so over whelmed that it took time before he could even 'hear' what was being said to him. Anthony may not have got either of the 'parts' of empathy right here.

We talk to our son about bullying and about helping himself to calm down when he gets angry. But, despite his odd behaviour in both situations, I was very proud of his actions.

External Links
Bullying UK -Advice if your child is bullied because is disability or special needs http://ht.ly/SktcQ 

Monday, 12 October 2015

A ray of sunshine - autism at the playground


It was a pretty day in the playground.  The family had a higher adult to child ratio than normal and so I was able to give all my attention to David.  Then something amazing happened - for about a minute he didn't need me there.  

Now for a child with autism this is nothing unusual.  David can happily play on an iPad without looking up or needing actual attention for an hour and can in fact refuse assistance on a regular basis.  But this time it was different. He didn't need me to interact with him because he'd started to interact with another child.

The word 'interaction' comes from Latin 'inter', meaning between or among, and 'ago' meaning to do or to act––any “action between” is considered an interaction.  That's back and forth. 

For David this is difficult.  He is 4.5 years and like 25% (www.autismspeaks.org) or so of people with autism he is non verbal for the most part. His verbal skills are limited to single sounds, most of his communication is through a loose version of Makaton sign language that we have learned.  Throw in that he doesn't understand, or in most cases care, about what others are doing or saying and it makes 'interaction' quite difficult. Nevertheless, today sunshine illuminating his face he did it.

David stood and then took turns, first spinning another little girl and then when offered the seat was spun in a teacup. I was mesmerized. The rest of the playground were completely oblivious to the excitement I was containing. Most mums, just like the one of the little girl, can take their kids to the playground and expect them to play with other kids without help or often without any parental awareness.  But this was a first for David and me.  My eldest, who is also on the autistic spectrum, still needs assistance with social interactions.  In this case, I was soon needed as an interpreter but that didn't matter - I was interpreting an interaction with another child of similar age. 

The lovely little girl was perceptive "why doesn't David talk", "I want to show you, why aren't you looking at me David?" 

A quick chat later and the she declared, "Well, David finds talking difficult but he is very good at climbing and I find climbing very difficult". 

They played until the little girl had to go home. And David, the rest of the troop and I walked back to the car in the sunshine.

Share your joyful moments of interaction with me, I'd love to hear about them. 



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Diary of an Imperfect Mum: Family Fun Linky
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