Monday, 19 November 2012

Aspergers and Puberty

At the moment Autism is consuming our lives. Hence the lack of blogging for a little while. Sometimes it does that.You can be going along hunky dory then wham bam , you suddenly hit an unexpected blip! Puberty has been like that. We thought we had it sorted and then suddenly out of nowhere we had agoraphobia, anxiety, lack of eating and now inability to sleep.Actually, that's not quite true. Over the past two weeks my son has fallen asleep at 5.00am and slept until about 4.00pm every day.

On the bright side,he is sleeping on the sofa so we get a better nights sleep, also as I'm home educating  then he doesn't have to go to school in the morning. Other than that there isn't a lot of bright side. I'm stuck at home most days unable to go anywhere and when I do go out there is a battle to wake him up and go out the door so there is little incentive to do so.Offers of bowling and the zoo have both been turned down this week and my son has managed to go out once after much cajoling.
We have decided in the short term to go with the flow. I'm obviously worried about him and that this will spiral due to lack of exercise and going out but I have little faith in those that are supposed to help us in the NHS. A friend with a child with similar sleep problems has just told me that the local CAMHS have no staff. They are ringing people on the waiting list to see if they still need help as many on the list  'have got better' since they were added to the list. At what expense to their mental well being I hate to think. We really are living in the dark ages as far as mental health goes in Cumbria!

Whilst the disgusting lack of appropriate services continue I choose to get my help and advice from local parents, specialist books and the internet. They are the real experts. It's easy to become overwhelmed when several problems hit at once so you have to create a list of priorities and   we have decided to concentrate on sleep.Having made enquiries and done research we have opted to buy  a weighted blanket from to see if it helps my son sleep. Some parents swear by them. They are not cheap at over £100 however as my son generally walks round swaddled in a smelly old duvet for comfort anyway there is the chance that it just might work.My mum re-read Luke Jacksons Freaks Geeks and Aspergers syndrome and suddenly the chapter on sleep made sense. Luke was unable to sleep until 5.00am and he had school the next day. My son is the same. It's as if he gets sleepy as soon as it begins to get light.

 I've also ordered an Indian head massage book. My son has always loved having his forehead rubbed and I thought it might help. The trouble is I'm not very patient so I'm having to slow down (it feels like I'm coming to a stop sometimes!)

Any way so that's how it is in our house at the moment! If anyone has any inspiration then please feel free to leave a comment. All suggestions welcome! Meanwhile for any of you in the same boat out there I found this link with several suggestions
to help your children sleep and this which suggests they might not. In which case I suggest our children learn as they get older to do their shopping at night and find themselves a night shift!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Insomnia and Aspergers

Last night was the best nights sleep in ages and I feel so guilty as I discovered ,when I awoke, that my son had been up all night because ‘he wasn’t tired’. This was his second night without sleep, the previous night he had finally fallen asleep at 5.00am and I was shattered.
Whilst many autistics are known for their insomnia we have never really had a problem with our son. Obviously home education has helped as there is no school bus to catch in the morning for him. I think if he had been at school we would have been scuppered at the first hurdle but broadly speaking, although he has always gone to bed late (normally around 11.00pm) and then read for about 2 hours it has been one of the times of day when he has actually learned loads!
For some reason though he has    suddenly been unable to sleep and we’re not sure why. He doesn’t seem worried or stressed   and he doesn’t seem to have an obsession so I’m not sure if this is a short  term thing or if were in it for the long haul. Puberty has certainly hit hard and we are dealing with a whole load of new problems.
In fact despite my guilt at being asleep whilst   my son whiled away the midnight hours  watching television, in fact he tells me that he watched a historical film called Letters to IWO JIMA and a National Geographic programme about France in addition to playing mine craft on the computer. He then proceeded to sleep until 4.00pm today after falling asleep at 8.00pm.
I’ve googled ‘insomnia and Aspergers’ and found various tips on My Aspergers Child website, like using weighted blankets, drinking chamomile tea before bed, having a lavender bath. It  seems lack of sleep  can be a problem for many children on the spectrum, For us it is simply a new problem to learn from and deal with. Lets just hope we come to grips with it before we all end up living a topsy turvey life style.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

My Daughter ate an Ant today!

Life is about experiencing new things and grabbing opportunities! Most days I ask my children what they learned today? It doesn't have to be an academic or a major life skill it can be as small as trying a new food or learning the name of a flower but it reinforces the message that learning isn't confined to school,neither does it need to be boring, it continues throughout life when you look for it!

I have made a point of writing a blog of three things I see each day:                     
It reminds me that there is  beauty in the smallest of things but so many people miss it each day in the 'busyness' of life. Learning is like that, you don't always realise that you are building up expertise in a subject when you learn sporadically, in bits and pieces.But like a jigsaw the pieces gradually fit together as you realise their relevance to one another!

This week has been half term and as I  look back over the week I can see the learning processes taking place. My daughter went to scout camp last weekend and, on her return, she said that she had discovered she liked eggy fried bread! She set to, under supervision, to make her own lunch in the frying pan and topped the bread with baked beans! Her culinary talents didn't stop there.She made apple crumble, simple toffee and chocolate covered apples for halloween. As I watched her cooking I realised how confident she was becoming and that she would soon be able to cook for herself because she was being allowed freedom of the kitchen.
My older son is already a proficient cook and  made hot dogs for his Rock band when they came round to practice this week, even washed up afterwards. All I need to teach him now is how to wash and iron his own clothes!

My autistic son meanwhile enjoyed the company of his siblings and surprised me by going out on several occasions during the week.Not to anywhere special  just to Morrisons cafe, Macdonalds and into town but for him with his sensory issues it was an enormous feat. He even managed to go round the village trick or treating on halloween. He put the lack of panic attacks down to the fact that he was supported by his sister or friend on each occasion. it was lovely to see how proud he was! One of our purchases in town was The Wimpy kid book 'The ugly Truth'. As with the horrible history set of books the layout and style appeals to his visual learning style and he has devoured the series as he has received it.

And as for the Ant, well that came at scouts the other evening- my daughter faced a forfeit! She ate an ant! The verdict- it tasted much better than the carrot as it was crispy and salted!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Learning as we go!

We  had a breakthrough this week. My son suffers panic attacks which have become more severe since he reached puberty. Trips out have become rarer and rarer.My son started to panic if i left the house to such an extent that I have to work my trips round my husband, Shopping trips to the supermarket with my son were abandoned months ago when he began to suffer meltdowns once in the supermarket.E ven getting out the house to go somewhere he wants to go can take ages just getting out the door he is so anxious.
Yesterday however he asked if he could come with us to Morrisons and eat in the cafe! Simply asking to come made me take a sharp intake of breath.I spoke to my daughter and pre-warned her that he might not make it and we planned a get out clause so he wouldn't feel a failure. I fully expected not to make it out the door but to my surprise  at the arranged time he bounced down the stairs fully dressed, donned his ear defenders and walked to the car never once looking up at the sky for noisy aeroplanes. Once in the car , off came the ear defenders, a sign that he felt O.K and he chatted animatedly with his sister about what he would eat.
We had purposefully chosen to go at 2.00pm on the assumption it would be quieter. Despite this there was a ten minute wait. My son opted to choose his meals from the menu outside the door then he and my daughter went to the far corner of the cafe where it was quietest to wait whilst I ordered.
They were chatting happily when I came to sit down and as my daughter disappeared to the ladies my son said that he felt far happier because his sister was there to support him.
He ate his meal with gusto and then asked the time . It was 2.30. His lip started to wobble and when I asked him what the problem was he said that we had planned to buy a halloween costume but he had to get home for three as he had arranged to play on-line with his friend.
To maintain his sense of success I  abandoned our trip for halloween outfits and said I would do that the next day. I suggested that he tried to calm himself by reading a book on the way home and that is just what he did! He was so pleased at his achievement and realisation dawned that he wants to do so many things that he feels unable to do and that my job is to teese life skills into him slowly and carefully .

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Political Activist in the making!

Consultations have taken place to store Nuclear waste underground.
I've just got back from a photo shoot with our National Autistic society who are campaigning to improve services within the NHS locally for our  children. It started with a newspaper article in our regional paper. We read the story of an eighteen year old boy with Aspergers syndrome who had comitted suicide. Parents responded immediately to the news. It is common knowledge within the Autistic community that Mental Health services in this area are letting Autistic children and adults down. Many of us have experienced it and our hearts went out to the mother of this poor boy. Comments were posted thick and fast and our local newspaper got in touch as they wanted to do an article to raise awareness.

We are all mothers of autistic children. Many are already battling  for better educational provision, respite , NHS services- no mean feat when you are caring for a child with difficulties. Nevertheless we want the best for our children and felt strongly enough to have our say.
Since starting to home educate I've found myself  slowly becoming more involved with political issues. The government has threatened my right to Home educate, the rights of my son to Disability living allowance, even my right to decide whether my childrens' education would be enhanced by removing them from school during term time to explore our beautiful country. Issues like taking finger prints for lunch cards at school or deciding against vaccinations are queried by the authorities as though we have lost the capacity to think for ourselves.In a way I think we have,our education system actively encourages it. It's far easier when everyone submits.
 Prior to home educating I was lethargic. I did my bit and I voted, but then I left it to the politicians to do their job. The trouble is that my experience home educating showed me that their policies on education in particular were wrong. It exposed them as not knowing what they were doing and I started to query other issues. I do care about how our laws affect my family and community and I've realised that I can have an impact.
 Home educating in an autonomous way leads to research on things that impact on our lives.We researched Biomass plants when plans were unveiled to build a biomass plant near us . We reacted with horror at the news that consultations were taking place about storing  nuclear waste over the estuary less than a mile away We have discussed referendums to change the political system  and voted .Even my son at the age of 12 has expressed the view that too much money is spent on the defence budget.
 Home educated kids have more time to involve themselves in the real world. The government can't  pull the wool over their eyes.They have the time and inclination to ask questions and to campaign about what matters to them and to see that they can have an effect.In fact maybe in the future my son will follow in the footsteps of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln  or George Washington who were themselves home educated.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Crisis !What Crisis!

Relaxing on the Fells after a busy week
It's been a topsy turvey sort of week. It started off O.K, in fact we were quite relaxed as there was no drum lesson on Monday so far less rushing around in the car. Then on Tuesday we got the news that my husband's uncle had died, He was 80 and had had a good life but my husband had many happy memories of holidays in Scotland as a child with his uncle. We didn't  know at first when the funeral would be but were told it was likely to be on Friday a couple of hours away in Whitehaven.
Then the next day the car broke down on the school run. Fortunately it died on the drive and my husband got it started so we didn't miss the school bus ,but it wasn't really appreciated first thing in the morning!
On Wednesday my mum rang to say that my dad was spending the night in hospital for observation so a sleepless night awaiting news the next morning that he had been sent home and was feeling better.
The children were looking forward to Thursday. My eldest was kayaking on Coniston lake with his COPE class and the weather was fantastic. Meanwhile my daughter and I were taking part in a concert with our community choir and orchestra, she was singing and playing flute in Carnival of the animals  and I was singing with the choir. We had to be at the venue for 5.00pm. I set off to pick the children up from the school bus at 4.00pm and once again the car died. The next two hours were spent frantically arranging for the children to be picked up from the bus stop, ringing the AA, arranging for my daughter to get to her rehearsal with a neighbour and then I followed in hot pursuit when my car was mended.
When we have a bad week it's easy to think that very little is learned . In fact crises can offer some of the best lessons. For my Autistic son, routine is very important and weeks like these show that despite being uncomfortable he can survive the unexpected things that happen in life. For my eldest he experienced the pain of his first funeral and met up with relatives who he rarely sees, He also learned from the AA man the mechanical problems causing my car to break down. Something which he has already encountered  at college on his car mechanics course and which he will now work on with his dad. For me I had to take the bull by the horns and drive our other car. Not a big deal to most people but I always dread it at first. In fact imy fears were unfounded and it was far easier than my current car to drive. And my daughter still got to her concert and had to play like a true professional as though nothing at all had happened! Roll on a better week next week!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Aspergers and agoraphobia

Making the most of a good Day
When I started to home educate I had a picture in my mind of beach combing, walking in the Autumn woods and visiting museums.
For many that is how it is. Not that long ago we were able to have some fantastic weekends away visiting, London, Manchester, Halifax , Bristol  and  the wonderful countryside on our doorstep has enabled us to sail on Coniston water, climb Gummershow and jump over limestone pavements.
However over the last year, as puberty has hit my twelve year old son who has Asperger Syndrome  I have seen a decline in my son's willingness to go out. It came to a head on Friday when a suggested trip to our local shop resulted him holding a knife to his chest in fear at the thought! It is a terrible thing to see your twelve year old child so anxious about something as little as stepping out the door but to him it is enormous!
High anxiety and fear of the unknown is common in children with Aspergers and we are not alone ,but it is hugely stifling and needs to be addressed. I have learned that I am not the person to fight this battle. As the main educator and person in authority throughout the day my sons physical violence and anger is directed at me if he perceives any criticism. Living with him is like walking on eggshells and I have learned to pick my battles. In contrast my son will immediately do what his father asks of him.
This is not because I am unable to discipline - if I had bad parenting skills then my other two children would misbehave but they don't. This is down to the condition Oppositional defiant disorder. If I chose to discipline my son in the same way as his siblings in the normal day I would spend my life fighting with my son, Something which is draining and exhausting. I have learned to pick my battles and that means when it comes to having a bath, cleaning teeth or going out on non urgent trips I wait for my husband to be present I then know that my request will be carried out (eventually) and that violence will not be directed at either my other children or myself.
 I have struggled with  the fact that he can be disrespectful, swears at me and has the capability to be violent however I have learned that normal strategies are inappropriate. These behaviours result from severe anxiety and stress and my main role is to keep them under control so that Family life can function. Educating-Oppositional-Defiant-Children and The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children have been confirmation to me that my strategies are the right ones. Despite criticism from parents who have 'perfect children' and can't understand how any child could be badly behaved unless the parents lacked the correct parenting skills I have stood my ground. I know my child. Sadly requests for help dealing with anger and violence from our local CAMHS have been to no avail. I have learned that not only is there a lack of ressources but a lack of specialist knowledge in Autism too.Some of the advice I have received would have been downright harmful had I followed it. One locum pschyiatrist criticised my decision to home educate and suggested I put my child straight back into school to learn socialisation skills. Perhaps she is unaware of the terrible bullying that some Autistic children receive at school or that children like my son spend half their lives being excluded because mainstream schools can't cope, or that suitable specialist schools are not available in this area! My son is above average intelligence and our local special school is for severely learning disabled children!
My experience of this system shows that this is not the place to go for help with my sons agraphobia, at least not for now although we have a campaign locally for better services after an eighteen year old with Aspergers comitted suicide lately, having been diagnosed too late (at 15) and having had inadequate and appropriate help.
Instead for now I will be seeking help from parents who have been through this, and adults with Aspergers to see how they handle it. They after all are the experts! I will also be reading as much information as I can to equip myself with strategies to help my son.Hopefully in time our children will get the support and expertise to which they are entitled from our NHS.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

History of the first world war

Autumn walk
We watched War Horse last night. Long time overdue! I wanted to go and see it as soon as it came out as I'm a great Michael Morpurgo fan but sadly my son was against it! At last I got my way as it's out on DVD and my son is allowed a free DVD each week from the library. Yesterday I went on my own and selected it on his behalf  and so we spend a family night in round the television watching the film. As with all the books I've read by Morpurgo so far. it is based on fact. It covered the role of horses in the first world war and gave a glimpse into the conditions tolerated by the soldiers but in a way that most twelve year olds could handle. In fact my son who has Aspergers syndrome has watched far worse in documentaries about the war and can handle it because of a lack of emotional attachment due to his condition. His twin sister on the other hand couldn't. We all agreed that it was a film worth watching and are now looking forward to the release of Private Peaceful, a book which we have already read and which deals with the delicate issues of cowardice and desertion.
When it comes to home education the kindness of others never fails to amaze me. My son was given a bag of BBC wildlife magazines on Friday. They were bought by a couple from church for their Granddaughter but she wasn't interested. I often find that about so called 'educational books'. They are so often in pristine condition when we buy them in charity shops as children don't want to 'do education' after school- they are too tired having been bombarded with facts day by day. My son's encylopedias however are well thumbed. He dips into them as and when he feels like it and is always throwing unusual facts at us! We have been following the travels of a distant relative as they do a grand tour of Australia and an article about Dingos allowed us to add another piece of information to the jigsaw ! My son also received a heavy package yesterday - a book of all life on the planet which I'd swapped on Readitswapit it! A fantastic swap as the RRP was £20 and we got it for the price of a stamp. I will leave it in the car for him to pick up when we go out!

Friday, 5 October 2012

The time for school photos is long gone!

Watching as the bore comes in
Contemplation at Bardsea
My daughter came home with her class photo today. Now I know that my eye sight is getting worse but the fact that I couldn't even see my daughter didn't inspire me to pay the £10.50 requested  to boost school funds.
I've never really been a fan of school photos, in fact I can't see the point. They epitomise everything I don't like about school. There's the school uniform for starters. I could never work in a uniformed institution.  I hate the fact that everyone is made to look the same and feel that uniform stifles their true personalities. Not that I'm into pink hair and nose piercing ,but there is scope for arguing that you can look neat , tidy and respectable without a uniform. In fact my son's school has just reintroduced a shirt and tie , a retrograde step from my point of view, Firstly it involves an iron, and I hate housework, secondly if you have boys then you will understand when your son comes home covered from top to toe in mud having played rugby at break time (as mine did yesterday) that in fact polo shirts and fleeces are a great deal more practical if you need to throw them into the washing machine!
 Then there's the question of why anyone in this day and age would want a photo of their child , posing  for a portrait in their school uniform in front of a blank canvas when instead you can have a natural digital shot of your child with a backdrop of beautiful scenery. engrossed in imaginary games or  collecting shells on in beach and completely free. There is no contest in my book!
The whole palaver just reinforced for me the freedom of home education  gives to just be yourself - not fettered by false expectations to conform to a limited  idea about what 'education'  actually means!
Some things such as school photos are out of date. Schools need to move forward as advances in technology progress otherwise they will never catch up. They need to be creative, think of new money raising ideas and not just repeat the same old things year after year because that is what they have always done!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Bringing Education to Life!

Baking in the kitchen on a wet Sunday afternoon!
As I sit  here writing my blog my eldest son is building a Go cart at Explorer scouts for a competition. He has also been offered a Rover engine to strip down which awaits collection. Both involve important life skills- ingenuity and creativity!
Meanwhile my daughter has spent all evening curled up on the bed reading the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy- in the last year or so her interest in books has really taken off. Just by offering books which I thought would interest her and not panicking if she didn't want to read them she has not felt under pressure.
We have found two Japanese pen-pals too, one for her and one for me, Neither of us speaks Japanese but my Autistic son`expressed an interest in learning Japanese and I thought if we wrote to someone in Japan we could learn about the culture and language at the same time. So we are having to start from scratch. Luckily the Japanese learn English at school so at least we have some way of communicating! I have found an Usborne book on Readitswapit for starters with 1000 words and am hoping that will help us learn some basic words. Meanwhile I'm corresponding with a Japanese English teacher who lived for a while in England so I'm hoping she can guide me in the right direction!
My daughter has also been baking in the kitchen this weekend. She made Rock cakes whilst I baked a Victoria sponge. It was a horrible rainy day and nice to spend time together 'doing our thing'.
Whilst all of this has happened at home ,school came up trumps and offered the opportunity for her to dance with the Rambert Dance company last week. She is also off on a Geography Field Trip to St Bees on Wednesday. We see these 'perks' as  an extension of our Education at Home.
Meanwhile my Autistic son has been busy on his Minecraft, building a clock and a slot machine.He has discovered Redstone - basic circuitry and is teaching himself how to implement it. This mornings discussions involved Geothermal and solar energy- not bad for a computer game!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Dogs and Autistic children

Rusty's first day
Welcome to the newest addition to our family- a border terrier called Rusty
This year we welcomed this little fellow into our household. He is our second dog . We already have a black labrador so I really didn't know how it would work. We live in a small cottage and the thought of two dogs rushing around like whirling dervishes filled me with dread! But my husbands heart was set on getting a border terrier since he was introduced to his friend's ,It was interesting to see how they interacted together. Rusty was 4 1./2 months old when we got him and had lived all his life with his mother and sister so was used to other dogs being around. Benny on the other hand has been used to being Top dog in our family but has a gentle nature!They were introduced when my son and I went to view Rusty . Rusty having never met such a big dog was soon scampering around. Benny meanwhile was more interested in Rusty's toys!
I can't believe what a success two dogs have been, The children love them and it has been hilarious watching them together. Rufty tufty terrier v soft black Labrador playing in the front room. When Rusty gets too much Benny grabs his tail and pulls him along the floor or sits on him for a couple of minutes but they love one another and rush off down the drive when they hear someone on the public footpath which runs past the house! Having said 'hello' they then bounce back up the drive with smiles on their faces, tails wagging. Yes I have to say it, having animals has been great for the children . Not only are they  great company, my autistic son has had to learn to consider something other than himself. He is charged with feeding them and the occasional walk round the back field when I am in a rush and need help! Despite having bought a Labrador for its super temperament with children in fact Rusty is  easier for them to handle. He can be cuddled like a teddy bear when they are sad. Chased round the settee at one hundred miles an hour and can sit on their laps when they are watching t,v. (or in his favourite place - my laptop bag whilst I'm typing!)When Benny decided to copy him, he launched himself across the room and landed splat on my husband's knee with his paws on his shoulders, somewhat like Scooby Doo. We hooted at my husband's surprised expression as the two of them nearly fell backwards off his seat! Dogs have certainly helped my autistic son to show his love and concern for them and they are great company for him when his siblings are at school! All  have to do now is to stop them for asking for another one!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Battle of Britain revisited?

Will someone please tell the M.O.D. that my son doesn't like low flying planes? At the moment his dad is on a course and we are nearing the end of the second week. As the days have progressed my son's anxiety levels have increased and his tolerance to noise has decreased, resulting in 'autistic behaviours - wringing of hands, unable to speak, head banging and other repetitive behaviours that home education has largely eradicated.

Therefore having to spend an evening last night with my son shaking, wrapped in a duvet with his ear defenders on, was not what I had planned and I would have appreciated advanced notice that planes would be continuously flying overhead for an hour or so,

We are not unused to military exercise  They happen occasionally in this area. On one occasion I had to throw myself onto the ground at the top of the garden, so great was the noise as a jet appeared without notice from the skies. In fact I believe that something like this happened to my son in the first place to cause his fear of planes. I remember him running into the house like a frightened rabbit some months ago asking 'what that noise was'. I hadn't heard it myself but assumed it was a plane. In fact I probably wouldn't have noticed the aeroplanes last night although my son certainly wasn't the only one, reports were coming in thick and fast to our local newspaper!

Since the day my son was frightened he refuses to be left in the house by himself,hates going outside and constantly looks at the sky like Chicken Licken as though it is about to fall in and it has taken months to get anywhere near normality again.

So Mr Minister of Defence will you please take note that whilst we appreciate the need for your Air Force to train it would be courteous to let us know! Meanwhile in our efforts to lessen the fear we have read your website to educate ourselves about your arguments for low level flying over our beautiful countryside.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Growing up Fast!

I find myself in the position that I advised against only a few months ago. Suddenly without warning my children have at least one after school club a day, sometimes two - not a good position to be in. I suspect that we will be exhausted at the end of the term. We obviously had a choice- we could have taken on less but I was very aware that my autistic son can sometimes hold the others back with his reluctance to go out. He creates whenever we have an after school pick up and it is hard.
I decided however to use the situation to our advantage. If my children are to flourish despite the shortcomings of their brother then they will need to become independent earlier than most children. My eldest is already catching buses, meeting friends in town and generally very able but because we live in the country I invariably have to drive him somewhere because of lack of public transport.
My daughter on the other hand is only 12 and wanted to do netball and dance at school. The logistics were complicated. I would have to leave my autistic son at home to collect her. Problem, whilst he doesn't want to go out neither does he want to be left in alone so you can't win. Which ever you do you have a fight on your hands with the inevitable swearing and bad language.
I discovered by accident that the children could buy a pass which meant that any journey they made throughout the county was £1. Furthermore there was a bus which left the village where my children go to school after clubs ended and which took them to a much more accessible town.(Their school is in the middle of the Lakes district and involves dark, windey roads in winter) Bingo! We discussed the logistics, visited the bus stops at both ends of the journey and discussed our back up plan if they missed the bus. Then we had to put the plan in place. Although we are lucky to have good neighbours who are willing to offer lifts it is sometimes nice to be independent and not rely on people.I can't always commit to offering lifts because my son may make it difficult for me to pick up so I would rather that we do our own thing sometimes.
Anyway my daughter coped admirably with her first bus journey alone. She bounced off the bus with a huge smile on her face and I knew then that she was old enough to do it! She has her independence and can go to after school clubs if she wants. Lets just hope that next term is a quieter one!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Learning when you are having fun!

It's quite a while since I posted. I didn't intend to leave it this long but the Summer holidays got in the way and it's only now the Autumn days are here that I'm beginng to get back into some sort of routine again. That's not to say learning didn't take place. I love having all the kids at home because without the constraints of school we have the opportunity to do things together and gain new experiences. That was certainly the case this summer which  seems to have been full to the brim of new learning opportunities for all of the children.
My eldest son who is now 15 set off with a small contingent of Explorer scouts on a round Britain tour in this jubilee year. From England to Southern Ireland up to Belfast where he was present for the Orange Parade ( a true lifetime experience) then back across the sea to Glasgow, then Edinburgh before travelling back home. They stayed in Scout huts ,budgeting and cooking for themselves and had a whale of a time! Then there was his Duke of Edinburgh Silver expedition where they were stranded in a barn in torrential rain, having been blown down the hillside in unseasonal weather. Two thirds of the way through and they decided it was time to bring in the troops before hypothermia set in. Another experience where they showed their maturity and ability to cope with harsh conditions. We were proud of them all, better luck next time!
An opportunity for a photo shoot at Great Tower Scout camp offered the chance to try sailing for the first time together with kayaking, abseiling and archery.My son is so lucky to have these experiences but he grabs the opportunities offered to him with open arms! It reminds me of a bench we saw today which bore a plaque in memory of someone's husband. The plaque said 'He lived till he died'.Isn't that just how it should be?
Meanwhile, my daughter spent the summer with scouts kayaking across Coniston Lake to Wild cat island where they filmed Swallows and Amazons, She also tried body boarding on the Isle of Anglesey and quad biking and spent a week helping lead a holiday bible club in the village.
Even my autistic son was able to attempt  new experiences. Having his siblings around seems to encourage him and he is more motivated to go out. He started a shooting club, went quad biking, tried archery and had a lovely time in Madeira swimming, playing table tennis and crazy golf.
Anyway the summer holidays are over now, two children are back at school and my son has returned to learning at home without his siblings. I wonder what this school year has in store for us all?

Friday, 29 June 2012

When going to the Hair dressers is Hair -raising!

Getting autistic children to have their hair cut can be a night- mare. We have been let off lightly. Over the years we have generally got away with bribery and lately with a very gentle hair dresser who lives in the village who has been able to occupy my son with her three dogs and a trampoline in the garden which have acted as some form of enticement. At eleven however it has become harder. Last time I strode through the village with my son skulking along behind in his pyjamas and slippers. He thought if he kept them on he wouldn't have to have a hair cut!

As a result I was  dreading the hair cut yesterday. My son had been mumbling about it for weeks and said he would refuse to go. I was not prepared to get into yet another argument with him and said it was his decision whether to come with me to a lovely lady in the village or whether  dad took him at the weekend him to a mens'  hairdressers which he hates!

My son's response  was that I was torturing him. Having his hair cut hurt and it was like asking him to 'cut his throat'. Certainly knows how to make  you feel like a great mum as he sits there with tears pouring down his face!

Anyway we discussed what hurt and one of the benefits of being eleven is that he could tell me it was the thinning scissors that tugged, so we talked about the trimmers which my son has seen a long time ago. We agreed if he would try them and they were OK I would buy a pair so he never again had to go to the hairdressers.

I was feeling very smug ,then ten minutes before our appointment the heavens opened and we had thunder and lightening. My son had a panic attack and couldn't go out and wouldn't let me go either!

I rang the hairdresser who is great. She offered me the trimmers so I literally paddled through the village (it was like a river in the centre two or three inches deep!) and collected them. It took ten minutes and whilst the hairstyle represented something from Edward Scissorhands my son  was fine and his hair is shorter. My husband  has ordered so trimmers today!

It seems that we may have discovered another new strategy for my son!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Faddy Eaters or is it just my cooking?

Well I picked up the book "Can't Eat , Won't Eat" by Brenda Legge, from the library yesterday and already I'm hooked. She is describing my son to a tee. Eats KFC happily once a week but has gone off chips at home. Loves roast dinner but will only eat it on Sundays with a sausage on the side. Otherwise he doesn't like sausages or peas the rest of the week. Eats chicken burgers for lunch every day for a month and then has "never ever liked them", In fact I'm told "I 'forced him to eat them'. Neither does he like Walkers crisps,won't eat a large bag of popcorn because there is too much in the packet. The list just goes on and on
I thought I was going mad.Panic would set in at the thought of making tea. We had a freezer full of food but on past experience it was unlikely my son would like anything.
Initially the ritual of getting up from the tea table and walking out in disgust only happened when my husband wasn't there. I looked at it as a sign of defiance. It wound me up and I had to keep tight lipped so that the rest of us could enjoy a peaceful teatime without anger and aggression.
Latterly my sons 'pickiness' for want of a better word has worsened and has been witnessed by my husband and my parents. In a way I'm glad it isn't just me! You wonder if you are doing something wrong and can be made to feel  like an ineffective parent with an undisciplined child.
He eats chocolates, crisps, some biscuits, cornettos but refuses point blank the offer of a healthy jacket potato or a sandwich. I thought of banning sweets until he ate properly. It doesn't work and Brenda's book is testimony to that, your child just eats even less.
Today we went into a supermarket. Immediately my son walked out because it was too loud and he said he didn't like sandwiches. We've had this before.He doesn't mean sandwiches I learned today in Asperger speak it means " I don't generally like cold food for lunch. I prefer hot and would like a cheeseburger and chips with Fanta please" I got it right and he was happy!
Then one day the weather was so lovely we decided to have a barbeque in the garden. I watched as my husband got out the sausages and beefburgers. "He won't eat them " I thought as my son has refused both for weeks. Tea time came and he promptly tucked into a beefburger and two sausages!
Aspergers takes a lot of understanding and I don't think that I will ever fully get there but I'm trying my best and would love to hear from any of you out there who have similar  experiences!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Diet and Autistic children,

What children need is not new and better curriculm but access to more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them." John Holt

Until quite recently my son has happily eaten most of the foods I put before him. Granted,like most children he has a penchant for chocolate and fizzy drinks when given half a chance but he will gobble down an indian curry, a roast dinner or a cajun chicken wrap without much persuasion.
I remember as a toddler he would often go for hours without a drink and it would be necessary to remind him to drink a glass of milk or water if he became too absorbed in his activities. Even now he will often forget he is hungry when absorbed with his X box or computer. However I have noticed that suddenly he 'has gone off' most of the foods he would eat until quite recently. He doesn't like, the beefburgers we have always bought.The sausages taste   'strange'. Even pizza isn't the same as the one we usually get.
I have become quite used to the grimaces of distaste as I place a lovingly prepared meal in front of him ands he rises up silently and walks out the room as though in some way I've offended him. I have tried to ignore it, it's nothing personal and he will get something when he is really hungry and to a certain extent it has worked. However yesterday, having spent a lovely afternoon at the cinema we came home and I offered him a bacon sandwich. The day before his grandma had come round and he had tucked in to two bacon sandwiches and professed the bacon to be 'much better that mums'. There was some bacon left and he accepted the offer but when placed in front of him he turned up his nose and said he didn't like it like that! I bit my tongue and said I would eat it for my own lunch instead. An hour later I was about to pick up his siblings from school when he said he was very hungry. I explained wearily he would have to find something as I had to go out and he went over to a bag of mars bars and took one, I suggested that it might be better to choose something more healthy and then found myself at the end of my sons fist as he screamed and swore that I hadn't offered anything to him to eat! *He was very sorry afterwards that he hadn't been able to control his anger and it is an issue which we need to address as a priority as it is the most debilitating part of my sons autism and will only become harder to manage as he becomes older, but the matter of his eating habits is also of concern as no matter how hard I try his food is 'wrong'. I am considering a nutritionist with experise in Autism, have been to the supermarket today and bought several ready made curries as a back up when we are eating lasagne or chilli and other meals he professes not to like. I have spoken to other parents and learned that it seems to be a common problem with teenage Autistics and I can only researcgh and experiment and find out more about it. My son has learned to make a milk shake today and we have bought a variety pack of cereals for him to eat whenever he is hungry as hunger is no doubt contributing to his bad temper and anger. I will share my experience as we learn together how to keep him fit and healthy and how we cope with his anger issues which to date have not been addressed by the professionals supposedly in charge of my son's mental health due to lack of ressources and inappropriate expertise in our locality. One of the books recommended is Can't eat , won't eat by Brenda Legge so I'll maybe do some reading and see what I can learn!

* I have decided to include reference to my son's anger as it is a common problem with many Autistic children which is not being adequately addressed in many area of Britain and often leads to exclusion from schools'

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Home educating Autistic children

The most important degree for a parent of learning disabled children is not an M.A but a MAMA as we advocate as no one else can for our special needs children.

Joyce Herzog  Author of "Learning in spite of labels"

Today I thought I would share a list of blogs which cover Home Education and Autistic children. Recently more and more parents with whom I am in contact are asking about home education as they come across difficulties with mainstream education in England. Some children are reluctant to go to school, some are being bullied,many have mental health problems and have even attempted suicide and many are being excluded because of their aggression.All because the teachers are unable to cope and the children have insufficient support. A recent report showed that whilst by and large inclusion has worked for many children with physical disabilities for Autistic children it has not. The enviroment is often inappropriate, the schools too large and the support inappropriate or too little, All the blogs are the opinions and experiences of the parents involved and may or may not endorse my own ideas, But all Autistic children are different and each needs to be taught in the most appropriate way for their needs so hopefully you will find a blog that helps your child and your family.HAPPY LEARNING!

Computer programming books! My son's latest interest!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Home is the base for Education.

Our school
Although I have opted to home educate only one of my children home education  is far from being my second choice. For me home education has become a liberating experience and  has freed me up from an obsession with good grades at school and not being able to procure a job without them. The major reason my other two children go to school is that they need time away from their Autistic brother, time when they can be themselves rather than carers and time when they can form their own friendships and interests away from home. For a short while I had two children at home,it was an easy choice and one which I would have no trouble making again if necessary. My eldest son was unhappy at school, there were signs of underlying bullying which were not being dealt with and my son was frequently being sent home from school due to being 'unwell'. For a son who has a 100% attendance record things didn't ring true so we opted to remove him from school for a year.Only the other day I asked him what he had learned from the experience. He was able to spend lots of time practicing his drums each day and he is now an accomplished player. He matured and experienced 'real life' and he was given load of opportunity to make new friends both through scouts and Young Carers which introduced him to climbing, indian cookery, kite surfing, camping skills and all manner of activities which he was unlikely to have much access to at school.
Home education gave us a breathing space to establish the right learning enviroment for my son. It became clear however that his brother required so much one to one that my eldest was having to place second fiddle and we considered ways in which he could 'learn' other than at home with me. One of the options was to use a tutor. We certainly went and talked to one but personality played an important part in our son's learning . We wanted vibrant , enthusiastic tutors, un fettered by the 'system' and we found instead disillusioned teachers who had removed themselves from the system in order to 'teach' in what we felt was a typically 'schooley' way. Our second opportunity was a small secondary school in the lakes with just over 200 pupils. My son was offered the chance to spend a fortnight there to see how he like it. He was not committed to stay but he agreed that a fortnight would give him time to get a feel  for the place. Within days it was obvious that he felt at home, the number of children suited him and the ability to offer the children opportunities as individuals was soon evident . He went from an unhappy lad in a huge main stream school to one with a huge social circle of like minded friends, to a school where outings were frequent and where extra curricular courses such as out door pursuits centres , planting trees for the Diamond Jubilee and catering at a local school were available. The school was still subject to the constraints of the national curriculum but my son is happy and knows its limitations. He is also fully aware that he has what it takes to succeed and has become confident in his abilities and opinions regardless of peer pressure. His grades don't matter, the fact that he tries his best does. This year he has opted to go to college one day a week to study Motor engineering and he has identified the type of learning environment that suits him best. Not for him sixth form college with its A levels and academic subjects, vocational courses are more relevant and motivational to him. He has got his own car which he is working on at home and a trials bike and reads everything mechanical in his spare time, his catering skills far outstrip those of his peers, he will be perfectly able to fend for himself when he leaves home! Our home is where he is 'educated', school is the campus where he is educated 'off site".

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Don't judge a book by its cover! OR All is not as it seems!

Measuring the hen enclosure
I came home from ferrying the children around today and to my consternation realised that my autistic son who has Aspergers syndrome had spent virtually the whole day on the X box with his friend playing their new Minecraft game. He was so engrossed he had missed his lunch and forgotten to drink the drink his sister had given him.
Having extricated him from his game I suggested he leave screens for a while and we ate tea as a family and spent the evening together. At bath time I was talking to my son about his brother who had walked 36 miles in a sponsored walk that day. Although he had just fallen short of the full forty miles it was his personal best. His previous longest walk being 16 miles for his Duke of Edinburgh."Oh" said my son. "He did more than half again then". I asked how he knew and he explained he had been doing maths all day in calculating the amount of bricks he needed to build his Mansion on Minecraft.It transpired that he had been practising his number bonds to help him calculate more quickly and discovering that his building looked more ascetically pleasing when it was symmetrical which meant using even numbers rather than odd!
My son has always felt that maths is his weak point and he commented that "he supposed everyone else his age would already have worked their bonds out". I pointed out that whilst they would have been taught to memorise them at school a lot earlier than him they would not have fathomed out for themselves how to achieve the answer they needed and that the whole point of home education was to learn for yourself how to do things when you needed them,
We then discussed John Steinbeck and the book that his elder brother is doing for GCSE. I explained that this was an example of something the government insisted children be taught although it may not be relevant to them in later life. I explained that I had been looking into the historical context of the book which was set in California in the 1930's.My son immediately told me about The Depression, the fact that it was the run up to World war 2 and that Roosevelt was the president. We also discussed the effects of the industrial revolution on the farm workers. It seemed that my son already knew more than his elder brother about the impact life in the 1930's had on the author without him opening a revision book or writing an essay.Yet again his general knowledge dumbfounded me! What could have been regarded as a wasted day at first glance had borne much fruit!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Why bother teaching anything when they can teach themselves?

Cooking counts as maths too!
This morning my son was explaining how you could ascertain the direction with a watch and the sun.He had been reading a library book on survival skills on the way to the supermarket. I tried to show him how to do it last year in the garden but he switched off and refused to listen because it was maths! The legacy of school is that the word 'maths' builds up an insurmountable problem in my son's mind and when at school he would hide under the desk or pull the plugs from the computers out of their sockets!
My son then went on to explain that the compass is split up into angles the main pointers being 90 degrees,180 degrees,270 degrees and 360 degrees with the angles also being marked every 45 degrees. He has talked about angles before when teaching himself to skateboard so I've experienced  his way of learning maths and it never fails to surprise me that in many ways formal maths lessons are redundant. I jumped at the unexpected opportunity to explain that the angles inside a triangle added up to 180 and that the angles inside a square added up to to 360 degrees. All this he took it between a burger and a pepsi , as he tucked into his wicked zinger meal at KFC!
Maths is a subjects which at the very least would have caused his face to glaze over or at worst would have caused a meltdown if I'd broached it but because the subject interested him he had fathomed the details for himself.
Once  in the car I glanced over to find him reading about map reading skills and contour lines and once again I found that my growing faith in autonomous learning was being reinforced. The book he is reading is written for the Royal Marines and designed for adults but the content appeals to him so he's reading it!
Every day conversations are an opportunity to learn too. Only this morning my son turned to me as he was watching t.v. One of the characters in an American tv show referred to a 'test monkey'. "Oh he means a guinea pig, mum", said my son showing me he'd taken in the new idiom he had learned yesterday. Words are fascinating and we are always discussing their meaning.Seeing a lad on a mono cycle one day  resulted in a discussion  of what 'mono' meant and a competition to see how many words we could find beginning with mono. We did the same with the word 'sub' when my son asked the meaning of  subversive.
If you are teaching an oppositional child you have to 'find' the right way.It may not be conventional but your child has the benefit of one to one and you have the luxury of as much time as you need and the flexibilty to change tack if your method isn't working! Don't give up!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Rigidity of Mind and how to overcome it!

Following interests can overcome inflexible attitudes!
One of the biggest disabilities for autistic children is overcoming an unexpected situation.It's as though their brains come across a brick wall which they are unable to climb over or get round  and they become 'stuck' unable to move forwards.
Only this morning my son woke up very excited as the long awaited Xbox version of Minecraft was being launched. I could tell something was wrong as soon as he walked in the room, his face was grumpy, he wouldn't speak and I knew I was in for a long day.
When he finally told me that the game wasn't available yet, I suggested that we go ,as planned, to the shop to buy his Microsoft points so as soon as the game came out he could buy it. I received a tirade of abuse because he wasn't going to 'waste' his money until he knew how many points he needed.
Now I have two other lovely, polite well mannered children and it's really hard to stand there being sworn at but I've learned over the years that non reaction is the best way to deal with his oppositional behaviour. Despite the inappropriate swear words, they are his way of expressing anger and frustration and a better way of dealing with it than physical aggression so instead I held my tongue and will deduct a pound from his pocket money next week as agreed with him several months ago. Taking money away from my son hasn't stopped him swearing  but it is the most effective punishment as he loves buying things.Furthermore he accepts it as a consequence to swearing!
I asked him in which country the game was being launched and he decided that it might be America  so  I suggested they were several hours behind us. He immediately relaxed again and went to view the update.When he came back he'd discovered  he needed 1600 points.
I again broached the subject of going out to buy them and was yet again arraigned for 'not listening'. Instead of a reply I received a lecture on 'not listening' and still didn't know whether I was going shopping or not! After much prodding on my part and a lot of shouting on his part we finally understood each other. He knew how many points he needed and I was taking him to buy them!
We drove to Asda, bought the points and, as I'd pre-prepared him for a stop at the store so I could buy coffee that was al-right too! As I went into the store I asked him to consider if he wanted to stop at Macdonalds for an ice cream.No reply to that, but he did ask if I would buy him a drink. I came out the store with a drink and a chocolate biscuit. He took the drink and said " thank you". He put the biscuit on the back seat. He hadn't asked for that!
Had he been several years younger we'd have prepared a picture schedule to show him where we were going. He's too old for that now but I do have to stick rigidly to where I've said we are going. Macdonalds wasn't in the plan so although most kids would have jumped at the chance it was outside my son's comfort zone today. Whilst I can't deviate from the plan I've learned that  at least  it enables me to go out. That gives me more freedom than I had when he refused to go anywhere . I've also discovered that  a bi-product  of time spent in the car is  productive reading of  library books or listening to audio tapes something which my oppositional son would refuse to do if asked!
Rigidity of mind can be frustrating but with creative thinking there are things you can do to minimise the impact on your family.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Interest led learning and Teenage Boys

It has been a bank holiday weekend and by and large we have had a beautiful weekend. As I watched my eldest son as he serviced his car with his dad, replaced the windscreen wiper having bought it himself, and obtained a discount ,  I wondered why I had been nagging him to revise for a Religious Studies exam for which he has had no instruction as his class clashes with his day at Kendal college where he studies Motor engineering. He has absolutely no interest in the subject and will drop it like a hot- cake next year but the government say it is compulsory. I suppose that I worry about the effect to his self esteem if he 'fails' (or should I say the Education system 'fails' him yet again). I have to say he doesn't seem to be bothered. He went off to Explorer Scouts last night to make wooden planters for the Town council, a valuable lesson in woodwork and no doubt this voluntary work will help towards his silver Duke of Edinburgh award. He's also taking part in the 40 mile Keswick to Barrow walk on Saturday to raise money for scouts, an endurance test to say the least but a super achievement if he does it! He's has spent the weekend with his friends at the pictures then finding their way back by train to his friends house, a Heavy Horses riding centre in the beautiful Whicham Valley where he saw the horses and they sat in the barn with guitars singing before finishing the evening with pizza and cider! It is things like this that memories are made of! Sunday was spent with more friends playing football in the all weather pitch at the local leisure centre and then at the local park. Fresh air and sunshine and not an X box in sight! As I see my son growing and maturing I continue to marvel at his social skills and empathy for everyone he meets and I'm aware that whatever academic qualifications he ends up with, it will be his social skills which make him a success!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Learning Autonomously!

Present from Australia.
I'm not a teacher.When I first started home schooling I worried I might not have the necessary qualifications. I read all the books I could about Home education including  John Holts How Children Learn, Dumbing us Down  by John Taylor Gatto, in fact every book I could get my hands on. I'd been thinking about it a while before an incident at school suddenly forced our decision to pull our son out of school so I had some idea of what Home education was about but nothing was prepared. New to the idea of self learning I initially thought I'd have to teach lessons. I bought a guide for each of the main subjects for KS2 and planned what we would do each day. I hadn't planned for oppositional defiant was a disaster. No wonder school didn't work. My son refused to write, went ballistic if you mentioned the word "sums" and it took half an hours argument to achieve five minutes work. I noticed in contrast that when watching a documentary about history or natural history my son would happily sit for an hour absorbing the information and would then tell his daddy all about it when he came home at tea time. It was a time of observation and learning. At the hardest times when I gave up trying, stopped worrying about my Local authority and took my son to the park I noticed him asking about the things he saw. We found ourselves talking about, politics, history, in fact anything we happened to come across. He didn't know he was learning and he was happy.
I began to discuss the post we received, the postal voting forms, the referendum, the census. We campaigned on local issues to our local MP and we started correspondence with a relative in Australia and another young lad with Aspergers in Bedfordshire. It was an eye opener.My son would ask questions about subjects we didn't think he knew anything about. He would tell us that he had read about it in a book we'd borrowed from the library or seen it on "The Simpsons". We often looked at one another in disbelief. Only the other day my husband told me that the computer programming my son is currently learning was stuff he himself learnt at university. My son is only eleven. He's not a genius, he has a "spiky profile" which means he's very strong on some subjects,less so on others but as with many Autistic children he has very specialised interests which can set him in good stead for the future and home education allows him to follow these interests. Here is an article I found today about autonomous education or unschooling ,as they call it in America. It's well worth reading!

The Innovative Educator: Why an innovative educator cares about homeschooling / unschooling and why you might too

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Let your Autistic child lead the way!

I hoovered round my son today. That may not sound like very much but to a mother of an Autistic child it's quite a feat. For many years my son has vacated the room at the sound of the hoover. Today he was wearing his new ear defenders to see if they worked. They did and he was thrilled!
Next week he has asked to try them out in Morrisons and I'll report back. I wonder if we should have tried them earlier. When he was five years old he used to complain that the playground was "too noisy" but we didn't know he was Autistic then and didn't know what he meant. It is only in the past few months that his sensitivity to noise seems to have increased and with it a greater tendency to crave routine and hate unexpected situations. I thought Peltor ear defenders might help him.
Blogs and websites can be a great resource when finding out about Aspergers. I've recent joined the Face book page of Autism UK and found that the help and advice of adults with Aspergers has been invaluable. The explanation of the sounds and sensations in supermarkets has made me think again about encouraging him to go into supermarkets. If it really is that bad why make life hell for him when in reality he can order his shopping online if he wishes later on. It's really not a matter of life and death if he never sets foot in a supermarket .Too often we are encouraged by the Health professionals to    'force' our children into uncomfortable situations to 'integrate' them into society. School is a case in point with many children being forced day after day into a school enviroment until they reach the point of school refusal. There is a view among many Home educating parents that forcing children to 'fit in' is not the right way. If we listen to and support our children they may one day ask to try something which previously they would have struggled to try. Many parents have seen their children mature and ask to do things, albeit later than their peers, when they feel they are ready rather than forcing them to do it because the charts say they should be 'reading' or 'speaking' at a certain age!
The real 'professionals' are the adults with Aspergers who have been there before us, Those who were bullied and tormented in school, who were labeled 'disruptive' because they were misunderstood but who have now succesfully made a life for themselves despite the setbacks. We need to listen too, to those who lost all their self esteem or became depressed or ended up in prison because of the lack of knowledge and support so that we can do something about it. That's why support groups are so vital.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Getting out and about with your Autistic Child!

For many the idea of Home education can conjure up pictures of summer days on the beach, trips to museums and concerts and out of term time holidays.
In realitity to the parent of an Autistic child this can be far from the truth. For parents of very small or severely autistic children getting out just to go to the shops can be a nightmare. There are issues of safety if your child doesn't appreciate danger, sensory issues of light and noise in public places leading to meltdowns and the problems of protecting younger siblings when your full attention is focused on your Autistic child.In fact life can be very isolated without the stimulation of day to day conversation.
Despite the drawbacks however, one of the benefits of Home education is that your child is in fact sheltered from the barrage of noises and smells which would overstimulate them in a school enviroment and prevent them from learning whilst you are in the position to offer them opportuniries to learn at their 'teachable moments'.
In our case, my son who has Aspergers has until recently been perfectly able to go to museums, parks outings etc but at the age of eleven and with the onset of puberty I have recently found him increasingly reluctant to go out.There always has to be a definate purpose, it has to be something he wants to do and more and more there needs to be a routine. Consequently it has become harder to act spontaneously when the sun is shining , and emergency appointments such as a trip to the dentist or to pick his siblings up from school for example have become a nightmare.
Only yesterday we agreed to have lunch in Morrison's cafe. There was to be no shopping afterwards (which he hates) simply a hot meal and go somewhere fun afterwards  (non specific) BIG MISTAKE . He got to Morrisons quite happily, walked into the cafe, turned round and walked out! Despite wanting to be there he couldn't stand the noises, the lights and the stimuli. We sat in the car and I suggested that I collect some food from Morrisons and have a picnic in the car.He screamed at me that I wasn't listening , he didn't like sandwiches. What I established later was that he was telling me he didn't want a picnic because he had a set idea in his head that he was eating in Morrisons and his brain wasn't flexible enough to look at alternatives when his plan didn't work out.
It took over an hour before he had calmed himself down enough to decide he would go to Macdonalds instead and even then he imposed a rule that he couldn't visit KFC the next day as he normally does because he would have eaten fast food twice in one week!
It can be very difficult to decipher the signals given off by your Autistic child but the advice of older Aspies can be a revelation and support groups on Facebook or the internet can be great when trying to understand your child's actions.
I learned that supermarkets can bombard the senses,overloading you so that you can't hear what people are saying and you go mute with panic. This is what happened to my son. We have ordered a pair of ear defenders to see if that will help him deal with the situation and I have decided to shop when my husband comes home in the evening so that my son can remain at home.I forsee that happening for some time to come however flexibility and adaptation are one of the greatest strengths of home education! I will keep you posted on the ear defenders!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

In a bit of a Spot!

What's so funny?
The other day I found myself in our local library with a bared footed son who decided to curl up on the settee and declare that "he wished he were dead" to anyone who wanted to listen.
We're having a bit of an autistic day today I whispered to the librarian as I proceeded to try and lift him from his seat and guide him towards the car.
Only a couple of years ago I would have cringed with embarrasment at the stares and disapproving looks we were likely to attract in similar circumstances.I still have my moments but I've hardened over the years.
I can now find it funny that my son chose one night to sleep in a laundry basket, or that he used to sleep in a tent in the bedroom, that he wears his wellies almost constantly or changes his mind on an almost daily basis about what he likes to eat. In a funny sort of way it's almost normal. Particularly as I surround myself with like minded people who spend their days with children who scream for hours, spin round constantly or deal with anger, aggression or oppositional behaviour on a daily basis.
It has changed my outlook on life for the better.I'm more tolerant,tend to see the funny side of things and have made some great friends
Disability brings out the best and worst in people. There are those who don't believe my son has a disability, he looks perfectly normal, is articulate and funny and when he swears and shouts they blame me as his mother for lack of discipline.
Then there are the gems, who listen and support. Like my mother who calls daily to see that I'm O.K, offers to look after my son to give me a break and laughs at the funny comments my son comes out with., or my friend who tells me her son was just the same and that we are welcome at any time. Funnily enough when my son is accepted he is relaxed and happy and we rarely see the stress he reveals when he's confronted, or shouted at or judged by people who are frightened he will hurt their children or swear. They don't want to acknowledge that it is they that often cause the behaviour by the things they do and say!
Autism is a funny thing, you can't describe it, you have to live with it and what one family will experience will be completely different from another. It's difficult to explain that it's not that your son doesn't like black shoes ,he just refuses to wear them, or that he won't get into the car to go out or that he refuses to do his maths.It's not just a simple matter of 'making' him do it as many parents believe. The brain is inflexible, it's unable to move from it's mindset,or choose between the sweets on offer or accept that 'going to town' doesn't mean shopping in the supermarket but actually spending the afternoon at the toy shop. It's a narrow and limiting world, a frightening world where routine makes you feel safe , secure and loved. So next time you see a child who appears to be misbehaving in the supermarket or at the shops, take a minuteand think - it may not be bad behaviour it may be autism!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A Square peg in a round Hole.

Making a den
As we sat round the dining table last night we began to discuss the narrowness of the national curriculum. My Autistic son who is home educated asked what I meant by 'narrow curriculum' and I explained that pupils throughout the country in mainstream schools were required to learn the same subjects regardless of interest or inclination on the basis that the Governments underlying belief that it increased standards in schools.
It was only when I began to home educate that I realised this. By buying various text books suitable for my son's age I quickly noted how they all covered the same topics.
I expressed the view to my son that it leads to dumbed down pupils who instead of being able to learn and investigate for themselves are spoon fed information which the government deems it appropriate to learn. My son who is home educated because he 'didn't fit the mould' when at school wondered how what he learned was different from children at school and I explained that we learned as things cropped up and became relevant and  that most of his peers probably wouldn't know the president of France for example, although there are ongoing elections in France. He looked surprised and I suggested he ask his twin sister. His sister ummed and aahed and said that she thought it was written in her French book somewhere. I then suggested he asked his older brother who is fifteen. His brother couldn't answer either. On a roll my youngest son then asked them for the president of Russia.That drew a blank too.Finally he asked about the president of the USA and his sister came up trumps. My son turned round to me and said 'I thought everybody watched the news mum?'
' I don't think it's been introduced into the National Curriculum yet '.I answered with a smile!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Insight of an Eleven year old Autistic boy!

Home educating a special needs child can be exhausting.Autism in particular can be difficult to fathom out at times. Thankfully however home education offers the opportunity to observe and understand your child's difficulties and help them with life skills in a far more practical way as and when they happen.
Take today for instance, my son has had a very difficult couple of days.Today however he was far more cheerful and I was able to ask him why his body seemed to shut down when he was placed in a stressful situation such as a busy place or noisy supermarket. I pointed out that he often appeared to become deaf, was unable to speak and began to walk although he had a limp. My son was surprised. He wasn't aware that that happened.
He told me that he didn't like talking to people he didn't know as it made him feel uncomfortable. I suggested that he could explain to them (without getting angry) that he had Aspergers and that if they didn't mind he didn't like talking to people. That . he said , made them  talk to him as though he couldn't understand him which he found very condescending. I admitted that it was and laughed as he academically  far cleverer than most of the people I know. I then asked him what it was about using a wheelchair in the garden centres and supermarkets we go to that relaxes him? Precisely that people didn't speak to him because they thought he had a learning disability, he answered. Instead they looked over his head as though he weren't there and spoke to me instead! My son has learned a valuable lesson about disability discrimination and  has turned it around and used it to his advantage! I too have learned that he is gradually finding strategies to cope with his hidden disability. All to often in the past he has experienced the prejudices suffered by those who have an invisible disability which can put you at a huge disadvantage. He has so often been judged by people, professional or otherwise  who have misunderstand his actions and straightforward talking for rudeness. Wheelchairs have for him given him 'a cloak of invisability' so that he can get on with his life in his own particular way! That's my boy.....

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I Spy with my little Eye!

My unknown plant
I took a photo of a small blue speckled egg which I found on the road as I walked home with the dog yesterday. In fact I'm always taking photos. It helps me to remember the small details I see as the seasons change from day to day. It started as a way to remember our home education lessons and gradually became a habit. In our small hamlet with no more than 70 houses you would imagine there would be little to record.In fact you would be wrong. I am always comming across small details which would flash by in the blink of an eye if you were in the car. There was the day I found a mole trying to bury into the sunbaked earth on my way back from taking my daughter to school. I picked it up and took it home and my son and I spent the next hour watching how it burrowed with its spade like hands into a big bucket of earth before we took some photos and let it go. Or  the time we found a slow worm basking on the pavement as I waited to pick up my eldest son from the bus stop, or the pheasants nest in the garden, the deer grazing on the lawn and the heron rising up from the beck. The other day I spotted a green spike like flower in the grass verge. I didn't know it's name so I took a photo to remind myself to look it up when I got home. I have read about Shaggy ink cap toadstools, blackbirds being able to mimick other birds and the fact that it takes a lamb a day to bond with it's mother as if it is separated too early she will reject it. There is a lot going on around us each and every day if we take the time to look!
Lambs in the back field!