Monday, 30 November 2015

Why sharing shortbread is truly amazing

Why sharing shortbread is truly amazing - sharing hands

Have you seen the episode of 'Friends' where Joey doesn't share food? Joey is going on a second dinner date with a pretty lady and orders an extra portion of fries 'for sharing'. He has adopted this as his strategy to avoid sharing his dinner with his date. If course it all goes wrong as it always does in sitcoms. Joey not only knocks his dinner on the floor, his system backfires when he wants to eat the dessert ordered by his date. Our son David has a strategy that's far less complicated. Try to take food away from David and he might attempt to scratch your cheeks off. That's why I nearly fell over when he handed a shortbread stick to his little sister the other day.

David was diagnosed with autism a bit earlier than his older brother. Possibly this is because we were familiar with some of the signs but looking back I had a gut feeling that David was going to be more affected than his older sibling. All kids find sharing difficult sometimes but just how do you explain sharing to a child who doesn't listen when you talk and has fundamental difficulties in seeing things from another persons point if view. Even more than that and as the Theory of Mind suggests, David may actually expect others to see things from his point if view.

This can be part of the reason children with autism see little point in communicating. David would just go and stand by the biscuit cupboard as he simply expected me to know he wanted a biscuit. After a while, if I didn't manage to guess that he wanted a biscuit then he'd start to get upset. This was particularly the case with things like biscuits or iPads. These are high value items for David. A high value item isn't dependent on financial cost but how much David wants them. These are also items he finds difficult to give up. The only real way to help him learn to cope with going without something is to practice giving it up. Start slowly by offering another high value item in exchange. Then move to switching for a lower value item, like switching a biscuit for an apple. Finally offer help giving up the high value item for nothing, we use a countdown strategy to give David time to deal with loosing what he wants.

We and the school have also recently been working with David in his ability to follow instructions. This has followed something similar to an ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) type activity where David has been rewarded immediately when he follows an instruction. Then he is rewarded after following two instructions, then five and then any given number so that he doesn't expect a reward after completing a specific number of requests. I think this work combined with David's greater ability to give up high value items came together when he decided to share his shortbread with his sister.

David had just asked for shortbread by combining the Makaton signs for biscuit and stick. Having retrieved the box of shortbread from the cupboard, Jane his younger sister declared she also wanted one. David had two shortbreads. I asked David to give one to Jane and used the sign for 'share'. I fully expecting him to either ignore me or understand what I was asking and therefore run away or cheat and give his sister a new one out of the box.

But he didn't. He shared his shortbread, straight away without fuss or tears. I could barely believe it. And I reminded myself that if I don't constantly help David to use the skills he learns he won't use them and I won't get the opportunity to be amazed when he does something like sharing shortbread.

Our blog - Theory of Mind, double rainbow and breakfast
Our blog - Conversing about broken gingerbread men (ABA)

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Favourite Fridays: Are my Children in Need of someone better?

There's no denying that being a parent is way more work than you think it's going to be. When the midwife came to see me the day after we took our first child Anthony home she found me still in my pyjamas despite it being nearly noon. Within minutes of her asking how I was I'd burst into tears. Being a mother is overwhelming. Nearly eight years later we now have two boys with autism and a little girl and I still get that same feeling. Sometimes it's during the simplest of circumstance. Read more..

We've introduced 'Favourite Fridays'. Each Friday Rainbowsaretoobeautiful will publish the most popular post from the previous week.  If you missed it, then here's your chance to catch up. 

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

How autism is like the new courtesy car

Having a car is essential for us. Despite living in a place with great public transport links, the reality of living with three very different autistic and neurotypical kids is that we can't operate without a car. We have three school drops and medical appointments to get to. And our son David finds travelling on a bus very stressful. We can't afford to be without the car and so we get it serviced and MOT'ed annually at the local dealership which provides us with a courtesy car. It's been the same courtesy car for years. But this year it was different.

"It's a Lupo instead of a Juke," the nice lady at the counter said. It's still a car I thought, and there's something nice about driving a shiny new car. I got the keys and went to switch the barrage of things from our car into this new bright orange Lupo. Except, the Lupo is a much smaller car than we are used to and smaller than the Juke we were expecting. My life didn't really seem to fit into it. For a start it's a four seater not a five seater like the Juke I usually get allocated. This meant every seat apart from the driver seat had a car seat in it. My hubby would not be getting a lift to the train staton, he'd have to walk while we had this car. I had to dismantle to buggy beyond all recognition to fit it in and there was no way to adjust the seat so I couldn't really see the front of the car like I could in the Juke. This meant I crawled around everywhere for fear of damaging the vehicle.

It operated differently to the Juke too. It had this strange auto/manual combo gear box. Flick it the wrong way without noticing and I'd be screeching along stuck in 2nd gear without noticing. There were no parking sensors, but a weird distance thing. So, despite being much smaller than the Juke I felt uncertain about backing out and so went to put the window down to ask one if the guys at the garage to guide me out. But, I couldn't get the window down. I spent a few minutes playing with a switch and eventually worked out I was adjusting the side mirrors. There was in fact a wind down handle right beside me that I hadn't even registered. Thankfully, I was only going to have the car for about four hours.

After I drove it home, I arranged to take my mum and daughter down to the supermarket. I had just about got used to the new gear box but was most relieved to find a parent and child parking space as the idea of parking this unfamiliar car filled me with dread.

Once we'd got a few bits at the shop we returned to carpark. It had got colder and had started to rain. I was glad I had remembered to get the keys out to open the door (the other car had a keyless entry). I popped the car into reverse relatively easily this time and was pleased to see that the back windscreen wiper came on automatically. That's nifty I thought.

An hour or so after we got back home I had a call from the garage to come and get my own car. This was handy as I'd be able to pick up our car before the afternoon school run. I was now fairly comfortable with general operations of the Lupo but driving through the school run and fighting for an on street parking space in the new car still made me nervous.

As I was driving back to the dealership I thought this courtesy car was quite cute really. Different to what I thought I was going to have but it had some nice features too. Even that odd colour choice of orange was growing on me.. a little. It occurred to me how in a sort of way this little courtesy car was not unlike the little boys we had who were diagnosed with autism.

Our lives and society in general was not set up for our beautiful new sons. They didn't fit into the standard or normal settings without (in some cases) big adjustments. All those parenting books were completely useless because our sons simply don't operate in the same way as neurotypical kids. What seems completely obvious to them is a mystery to me and sometimes vice-versa. I'm apprehensive about doing anything different or new with them. It's taken a while to get used to how they work but along the way I've found out that they are really special in ways I didn't expect.

In fact despite always being on edge and not being what I expected, I treasure their differences even though others think what they do is odd. Maybe next time I'll be faster to see the best things in a new courtesy car. Though I expect it'll still take a while to get used to.

See what happened a year later - when autism was still like a courtesy car, it'll make you smile. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Generalising dog - autism and language

My mum let our dog, Smithy, out into the garden yesterday. Anthony was the garden too. When it got dark, mum shouted for everyone to come in. Smithy was the last to come back into the house so mum yelled, "Come on dog," into the garden. This was immediately corrected by Anthony, "It's Smithy, not Dog." It reminded me of the difficulties Anthony faced with generalising his language. 

Difficulties with communication, speech and language is a basic symptom of autism. Anthony was diagnosed with autism around three years old, just like his younger brother David. For both our sons, it was the speech delay that first alerted us to their condition.

One of the things that was noticeable with Anthony was when he would use the wrong words for things or not use words that we knew he could say.  Sometimes this was due to difficulties with generalising his vocabulary. Over-generalising can be described as using a word too generally. For example using the same word 'tomato' when talking about a strawberry, a tomato, a pair of socks or maybe even a car because they are all red. Under-generalising is the opposite. This could mean learning that the term 'cup' only refers to one particular cup - perhaps the blue sippy cup a child has at home. If the child was unable to recognise that the other receptacle's with handles used for drinking are also cups too then they are being too specific with the term. The word 'cup' is not being used generally enough. 

Anthony had both of these issues, but the garden incident reminded me mostly of his over-generalising. Initially, all dogs were 'Smithys'. We seemed to manage to explain that Smithy was our dog's name but this seemed to make it worse. The term 'dog' suddenly referred to everything hairy with four legs. This included nearly all the animals at the pet store including rabbits, gerbils and hamsters; the cows and sheep we passed driving to my parents house in Scotland and the horses ridden by the police. Put a furry blanket on top of a table and it might also become a dog. There was something very strange about being told that a dog had chased a dog up a tree and a man on a dog was watching them?

Thankfully, we've come to understand these issues and try to head them off before they occur. Early on using Makaton signs helped us label different items effectively. We can point out the difference between items such as a car and a bus so they are registered as different terms. This is best explained immediately when a new word is introduced.  However, we aren't always there when this happens. Anthony learnt the word 'pathetic' from someone the other day. Without really understanding the meaning of the word, it has been immediately over-generalised so everyone is 'pathetic'. He might have some interesting conversations at school today! 

Our Blog - Anthony's always aloud

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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Comments from Steve Silberman on Neurotribes, our different 'autisms'

It's been a week since Mumsnet invited Steve Silberman to join them for a webchat on his book, 'Neurotribes: The legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently'.  His book examines the history of autism and looks at why there has been a recent rise in the number of diagnoses. It recently won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction and became a bestseller in England just over a week ago.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Potato handler and crumble creator - autism and interaction in the kitchen

Potatoes by a pan

We don't often do roast Sunday dinners in our house. We used to do them a lot but then there was a period of time when it just became too difficult. Not only were the kids not taking part in the dinner but they required constant assistance to stay off of one another, entertained or safe. There was almost a shift system and someone was always away from the table. Recently though whatever combination of child development stages led to this 'no Sunday roast zone' we had entered seemed to pass. And to my absolute delight our autistic five year old was actively interested in the return of our Sunday dinner preparations.

I don't think twice when Jane wants to 'help' me sweep the floor or do the vacuuming. My husband may not believe it but I do these jobs at least once most days. Jane has been 'helping out' for at least a year and she's only two and a half years old. It's because she is interested in interacting with me and her environment. She is not stressed by the noise of the vacuum cleaner or anything else on the house. We've been baking together for at least a year too. But it's not the same for David.

David has been diagnosed with ASD since he was three years old. Sometimes he cannot, and other times he may decide not to, interact with the world around him because he finds it too confusing or because it seems pointless. Let's face it; lots of people prefer to play on their IPads than engage in an actual conversation with someone. As David's verbal skills are very limited, I'm hardly surprised he is sat on the sofa while I'm peeling potatoes on the floor. One after the other the cleaned potatoes from the colander are peeled over a large bowl and then placed into a big pan to on the hob later.

 Jane has already asked what I'm doing a few times and after being satisfied that the game of flying to the moon she is playing is better than my activity, I'm left alone for a few minutes. Then David comes to sit opposite me. His first task is to investigate the potatoes. They are all emptied out of the colander and checked over before going back inside. David then looks at me for a bit before turning over and looking at me through his legs. This is one of the ways David likes to look at the world. Then as I'm finishing peeling a potato I use Makaton to sign 'potato'. He jumps up and hands me another one from the colander. "Thank you" I sign and say. But my grin is far more than a 'thank you' smile.

David returns to play with his IPad but spends the next 15 minutes guarding the colander from any would be thief and almost to the second, jumping up and handing me potatoes until they are all gone. Each time I am thrilled.

After I'd finished making the rest of the Sunday Roast, I started on pudding - rhubarb and pear crumble. David wonders into the kitchen and sees me measure out the ingredients for the crumble. I'm beginning to break up the butter and crumble it into the flour and sugar just like my mum taught me. Then David leaned up onto the counter and stuck his hand in the bowl to feel the texture and see what I was doing. Again I use Makaton to ask David if he wants to 'cook'. He seemed interested, so I immediately brought the bowl down onto the floor and David and I shared the bowl while he copied me pushing the butter through my fingers and into the flour and sugar.

This type of shared attention is so rare. It requires an interest in people, activities and a preparedness to share them with someone else. This is really difficult and new for David as it means seeing things from another person's point of view.

Honestly, if there had been nothing else to do I'd have peeled potatoes and made crumble all day. The crumble proved to be more fun than handing over potatoes and David was a bit disappointed when I finally needed to pour it over the fruit. And despite his valiant efforts, he didn't have roast potatoes or crumble for dinner as neither is yet in his acceptable food repertoire. But I saw a little boy excel himself. And I saw hope for independent living skills in my son. What a great Sunday roast I had this week.

Our blog - Racing Clouds - David's Delight

External Links - Communicating and Interacting

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Favourite Friday: Anthony's two minute silence 11 Nov 2015

If you've read 'Anthony's always aloud' you'll know that our seven year old son with ASD is always on maximum volume. His whole being is set up to move about and make noise. He is constantly balancing his sensory system and moves about so much he's currently also being assessed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  This is also in recognition that he has difficulty focussing, listening to instructions and remaining on task. But on Remembrance Sunday he stunned his whole family by coming back from his club with a reward for being the quietest and most respectful during the two minute silence. Read more...

We've introduced 'Favourite Fridays'. Each Friday Rainbowsaretoobeautiful will publish the most popular post from the previous week.  If you missed it, then here's your chance to catch up. 

Too much in your inbox?  You can get Favourite Fridays instead of our daily posts.  Fill in the subscribe box here (Opens in a new window and only works on our full version site). 

Please note this post has been amended to include notes on how to help children on the autistic spectrum cope with world event's following the Paris attacks last week.

Our mummification mishaps - autism and dressing up at school

Anthony's school topic of this term has been the Ancient Egyptians. Anthony's class have been busy writing about pyramids, discussing Pharaohs and making paper mâché mummies. The highlight was a dress as an Egyptian day and workshop yesterday. Or at least, I think it was.

Anthony is seven years old so has got used to the idea of going to school sometimes in either his 'normal clothes' or something else. As a child with autism we initially took a lot of time to prepare him for a change in his routine like coming to school in different clothes. Now we can give Anthony a days notice that it's a 'special' day at school when he can wear 'normal clothes' or a costume. Anymore than a days notice and Anthony can end up focussed on this change to his routine instead of the activities of the day.  It's probably a bit like the distraction that can be caused by knowing you have a test coming up. 

We used to ask Anthony what he'd like to dress up as.  We've come to realise that this often adds pressure to the day. Anthony finds making decisions very difficult so we'll make suggestions. This relieves some of the pressure and unpredictability in the outcome for him.  More often than not Anthony would be glad of the suggestion and this is what I had expected for Ancient Egyptian day.

During the explanation of Egyptian Day on the way home from school the night before, Anthony suddenly declared he'd like to go as mummy. I was delighted that he had expressed an opinion. However, it meant I'd have a come up with a mummy costume. Usually we'd try out Anthony's costume to give him time to adjust and know what to expect. So, I got out clothes I thought I could adapt and showed them to Anthony and let him know I'd add bandages to them for the morning. I spent a good chunk of the night sewing white ribbons onto clothes. 

In the morning everything went as normal until it was time for Anthony to get dressed. His face dropped, he looked hot and his eyes became all glazed. "There aren't enough bandages on the trousers mum," he said. 

The morning routine is fairly regimented. The routine is consistent and avoids down time distractions so there isn't a lot of time for things like fixing fancy dress costumes. As I looked at Anthony I could see the panic on his face. His costume was not what he expected. It's not the same as Jane being disappointed that her snack is a banana instead of an apple like she'd wanted.  It's a completely different level. It's like a fear of things not being right. Sometimes we can help Anthony deal with this fear but looking at him I could tell this wasn't the best course of action. As part of his routine, Anthony gets dressed before breakfast so has to have his breakfast fully clothed on school days.  Given this, I told Anthony I'd fix his trousers after he'd eaten. As Anthony made his way to the breakfast table he calmed down "Thanks mum, 10 bandages would be enough."

Time was of the essence.  Obviously I'd run out if white ribbon, and the actual bandages from the medicine box were useless. As I began just trawling through washing for a clue I remembered we'd recently torn up an old white work shirt for cleaning cloths. Three safety pins later and Anthony was back on course again.  He was very excited and extremely bouncy.  It would have been easy to assume that this indicated he was all set for the day but I know different.  His excitement and bounciness could indeed be part joy at the fun that was lined up for the day.  However, I suspect he was also coping with the nerves and anxiety at the differences it would mean. 

We are really delighted that Anthony can take part in these activities at school.  Every time he copes with something new or a change to his routine is a chance for him to develop and use strategies to cope with it.  This type of skill could really help him when he gets older and allow him to be independent. Anthony seemed thrilled after school. He wanted to keep his costume on all evening and we had to get changed back into it even after his swimming lesson.

As for decision making, we are still working on that.  We have an appointment next week with some professionals to help Anthony with strategies to make decisions himself.  Despite his apparent keenness on his mummy costume, Anthony collapsed this morning because he changed his mind saying he wished he gone into school as a Pharaoh and not a mummy.  As he was still coping with yesterday, it's just as well we have that regimented morning routine to keep him focused.

Our Blog - Disastrous at decision-making

External Links
NAS - Routines and  change

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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Racing clouds - David's delight

Today is a bright and blustery day.  But, generally it's been particularly stormy over the last few days.  There's been a lot of grey skies, and at night there have been some high winds. As I'm stood waiting to collect David from his school yesterday, I'm sheltering between a wall and a large minivan. It's not too cold but the sudden gusts seem pretty chill some. My squeaking son gets brought to the gate and while I'm huddled up and face down, he's bright eyed.  As I pick him up, he is extremely happy. We always encourage him to say goodbye to his teachers.  As I go to encourage his eye-contact with the teachers I see he's loving the weather. In fact for a few moments its almost impossible to stop him looking at the clouds.

In 'Sporting red plastic belt accessories for the holidays' I wrote about how both our autistic boys, Anthony aged seven years and his younger brother David aged five, are sensory seeking with relation to the sense of touch. They are hypo-sensitive or under sensitive to touch and so seek it out as a way of balancing their sensory system.  They are also both hypo-sensitive with their sense of sight. This means they seek visual stimulus. For example Anthony might wiggle his fingers near his eyes and David likes to look at objects from odd angles. It makes their visual experience more interesting. Some people with autism use this as a way of calming and balancing their system.  Some trains of thought also believe the intensity of the stimulation is  enjoyable.

We can all imagine something we 'like' to look at. The pleasure of a beautiful painting maybe, baby animals, autumnal trees?  But if you are one of the people that loves to watch as the leaves are blown off the trees to the point of not being able to look away, then you might get the idea.  Possibly you enjoy looking at beautiful flowers?  The best part of a bunch of flowers for me is the smell.  I could stand and breath in beautiful smelling flowers for at least a minute.  And that's probably the closest I come to this feeling of sensory satisfaction.

David was intensely watching the clouds.  It was only as I looked up at them that I saw how lovely they really were.  They were a variety of shades spanning  everything between periwinkle and ash blonde.  And I became aware of how fast they were moving.  It was like watching the people who walk on the travellators in airports. And I thought, how beautiful. David literally squealed with delight.  And then with a little more encouragement he looked back, waved goodbye to his teachers and skipped away with me.  

Once I'd retrieved the rest of the children it occurred to me that of the 1400 children and adults that were at the school at that moment, my son and I could have been the only two people to have enjoyed the sky right then.  In that moment, there was nothing that David found more enjoyable than to breadth in the sky. In some ways I wish I'd had more time to look at them with him.  My son may see the world differently to other kids but what he sees is amazing.

External Links
NAS - Sensory

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Life Unexpected  Sons, Sand & Sauvignon

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why my chatterbox goes to Makaton classes

Jane signs "Reindeer"

Jane is only two and a half years old.  She's doing great.  Coming back from her new nursery, where the teacher described her as Little Miss Independent, Jane can tell me about her day and what she wants for lunch.  She started talking earlier than her older siblings.  In fact, she started talking a lot earlier than her siblings.  That's why after we've had whatever compromise we came to for lunch, Jane and I are going to a pre-school singing and signing class. 

I've been going to Singing Hands classes and Me Too & Co singing sessions for years, well before we had our beautiful little daughter. We started going when Anthony's speech seemed delayed. As is often the case with siblings, when his younger brother David was born he also came along for the ride. At this point we had no idea that by the time David was five years old, Makaton sign language would be his primary means of communication. 

Initially the only noises David made sounded more like bird calls than any kind of speech sounds at all. Following various sessions at the speech therapist we started two forms of AAC. Alternative and Augmented Communication either replaces (alternative) or works alongside (augmented) speech. Makaton signing supports speech. It's not like British Sign Language where people can communicate in audible silence; Makaton is only used along side words. And this is how David uses it.

Jane though can't stop talking. Most of the time she uses a good sentence structure too. I don't know whether going to Singing Hands and joining in with Singing and Signing at Me Too & Co helped her talk early. Or maybe it's because she got a lot of second hand therapy as she spent a lot of time with David and I before David started full time school this September. She definitely enjoys the classes though and I think it was quite good at expanding her vocabulary.

What I do know is that there's a much greater chance of her being able to communicate with her brother if she picks up Makaton too. Going to the classes sometimes means we don't go to the playground in a sunny afternoon or that we'll have to put off baking a cake.  But as they've just started the Christmas songs, I don't think she minds.

One thing's for sure though. The first time I see Jane and David communicating in a way that's not just a game of rough and tumble tag, I'll have a massive smile on my face. 


External Links

Monday, 16 November 2015

Are my Children in Need of someone better?

Sorry, 'Are my Children in Need of someone better?' autism and parenting post has moved. 
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Thank you.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Favourite Fridays: Freezing during Frozen - Makaton in action 3 Nov 2015

It might be starting to get cold outside by that's not why I'm freezing.  Nor am I upset by a scratched disc acting up or poor streaming of what must be the favourite song collection of many young girls. I'm not upset at all.  I'm having fun whilst repeatedly freezing my body during a Disney's Frozen song because it's making my son talk. Read the full post ...

We've introduced 'Favourite Fridays'. Each Friday Rainbowsaretoobeautiful will publish the most popular post from the previous week.  If you missed it, then here's your chance to catch up. 

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Thursday, 12 November 2015

Disastrous at decision making

boy trying to climb

A report released today by the Kings Fund reports that mental health patients are at risk due to budget cuts. I've been listening to Radio 5 Live about it. It occurs to me that many people may not know that quite a few mental health conditions are comorbid with autism - that is that they are common occurring conditions.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Anthony's two minute silence

If you've read 'Anthony's always aloud' you'll know that our seven year old son with ASD is always on maximum volume. But on Remembrance Sunday he stunned his whole family by coming back from his club with a reward for being the quietest and most respectful during the two minute silence.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The hope I see in the kind acts of children

Performance has always been difficult for Anthony.  The pressure of a spectacle, the potential of failure and the large number of people are a lot to cope with.  We've always been very proud of Anthony's effort to participate in his class performances but I've noted that it's not only his increased ability to cope with summer concerts and Christmas plays that gives me hope for his future.  It's the actions of the other children too.

Read the updated version and rest of this post here.

External Links
NAS - Routines and resistance to change
NAS - The sensory world of autism

Monday, 9 November 2015

Understanding autistic siblings - it's starting with sleep

Many kids with autism have sleeping difficulties.  We've been dealing with them for many years.  In '5 tips to get more sleep when you have autistic kids', it seemed that one of the hardest things to deal with when you have autism in the family is exhaustion. There are many suggestions for helping kids with autism sleep. Sensory aids such as weighted blankets, routine changes or in some cases melatonin supplements.  

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Preparing for fireworks with our autistic kids

Loud noises, bright contrasts, sudden changes of direction and usually lots and lots of people.  While being in an unfamiliar place, open to the elements and in the dark.  None of this bodes well for our family with autism as we approach Fireworks night. Here are our do and don't ideas for coping.

Do set the scene - let's make sure the kids know what we are doing. We can use Makaton or visual pictures of fireworks and point and label them when we see or hear them in other places.  Go to a 'late' display, one that's towards the end of the week. This gives opportunities to see and hear fireworks just days before the actual event.  Our eldest is also helped by knowing what day and time when he can expect to see them. If it's possible visit the site of the display a few evenings before.  It won't look the same but at least the route/place may be more familiar. Doing this prior to the night gives our family the chance to process what fireworks are before experiencing them on the night.

Do prepare for coping with sensory overloads - Every child is different, and every child with autism is different. Loud noises can be reduced by ear defenders and you can get some good ones for kids.  Other children may prefer a 'blocking out' noise.  Headphones playing favourite songs might help.  Our younger with ASD, David, will hold the IPad to his ear.  This blocks out the noise of not only the fireworks but all the babbling people. Anthony's comment that inspired this blog's title "Rainbows are too beautiful. I just can't look at them." relates to visual overload.  Individuals with autism often experience senses differently.  Anthony could wear a skipped hat, so he could easily block out some of the fireworks sights if it becomes too much for him.  You don't have to be close to enjoy the fireworks - we watch from a distance.

Do prepare for stress - Take with you whatever relieves stress for your child, a chew toy, a fiddle toy or a large variety of snacks.  Make the experience as comfortable and stress free as possible.

Don't forget safety - Some kids may be able to take in a simple safety briefing. We can use simple PECS cards with crosses on them about what not to do.  If we were to take David outside, it would have to be in a buggy as we couldn't risk him running away in the dark or in a crowd of people.

Don't create pressure - We never worry about leaving somewhere if it's not working for us. Despite the time and thought gone into preparing and getting to the fireworks display, there is no pressure for the kids to have to deal with it or wait it out.

What does this mean for us? A few things.  For the last few nights I've been pointing out fireworks when we've been near displays or heard them outside the home.  I've talked to David about the fireworks display picture he made at school. We've let Anthony know we can go to a fireworks display tomorrow.  We have decided to try to go to a display Anthony has seen before. We will be taking Anthony's ear defenders, and at least one if not two full charged IPads for David. We will aim to get there a little early. We will have a large box of flapjacks in the car.  Did I mention the car? We will most likely be watching from a parked car.  When we bought our car, little did we realise how useful the panoramic glass roof would be for watching Fireworks.

And after all the planning if we don't get there, we leave after a while or stay till the end of the display, we know we've given the kids the opportunity to see the Fireworks if they would like to.  We can always go home and watch fireworks or something else on the television instead. 

External Links
NAS - The Sensory world of Autism
Makaton - Fireworks symbols and signs
Communication Matters - PECS

Taking an 'Are you on the Autism Spectrum?' test

word autism

Every now and again, there is a test published to help the reader see if they might be on the autism spectrum.  Often they coincide with an article on the subject.  Last year published research showed that parents of autistic kids often have autistic traits too.  Most times that I see a test like the one in The Telegraph online yesterday, I can't help but fill it out or at least peruse the questions.

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 his Dad and I returned from Courchevel earlier this year, it sparked a new idea for him.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Freezing during Frozen songs

It might be starting to get cold outside by that's not why I'm freezing.  Nor am I upset by a scratched disc acting up or poor streaming of what must be the favourite song collection of many young girls. I'm not upset at all.  I'm having fun whilst repeatedly freezing my body during a Disney's Frozen song because it's making my son talk.

As you may know, David was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2013. He is now five years old and has made good progress. He communicates using a mix of verbal sounds, PECS and Makaton. We have found that Makaton allows us to communicate in different environments or in new things where we might not have our PECS set up. 'Gap filling' is one of the classic ways to help kids with speech delay talk. 'Twinkle twinkle little.......' and then hopefully your child fills in the gap/blank and says 'star'.

Before David started school we used to attend Singing Hands classes. The organisation uses Makaton as a communication aid for young children. David often found it difficult to focus during the session but afterwards we found he would be very interested in the same rhymes and songs and we now use Makaton sign language everyday. His attention has improved and he can now watch some full length movies including Disney's Frozen. He loves the songs, but I was pretty sure he was just enjoying the music. I'm not allowed to sing along as I think it's too distracting for him.

But, yesterday when we'd finished with the television I started singing one of the song's 'Love is an open door'.  My Makaton is not bad, and when I saw David's interest I was able to sign my way through most of the song.  David stood watching.  We came to the chorus and I stopped just before the word 'door', and David spoke.  It wasn't clear, it was more a 'du' than 'door'.  But it was definitely an effort. And then he did the biggest grin.

Honestly, nearly every time there is this type of connection I get the same joy as when his younger sister, Jane, said 'mummy' for the first time. I'm still not allowed to sing when we have Frozen on the television, but I'm allowed to sign and I hope that it might be giving him more understanding and a greater connection with it and therefore the world around him.

External Links
See the sign for door - Singing Hands sign Wheels on the Bus on YouTube

Monday, 2 November 2015

Being a couple while being parents to our autistic + kids

I spend a lot of time talking about the autism in the family via the kids and mostly via our two boys who have a diagnosis with ASD along with a few co-morbid conditions.  Truth is as much as I love my kids, their condition often affects the whole family.  Having kids with additional needs can have significant impacts on some relationships. 

Have a look at our most recent posts:

@rainbowsaretoo Ann H on Google + rainbowsaretoo pinterest rainbowsaretoobeautiful bloglovin Instagram rainbowsaretoobeautiful
TOTS100 - UK Parent Blogs