Me and my girl and boy, raising awareness and acceptance of autism

There is a happy 9-year old girl settling tonight, she’s added a medal to her little collection.

Her brother, T, is so sporty both in his thinking and how he plays, that he has quite a collection of medals and trophies. D doesn’t say, but with her fascination for shiny and sparkling things, I’m sure there is a bit of coveting that goes on.

At last year’s sports day, D won a silver and a bronze so she definitely had an expectation, even though – of course – it’s the taking part that counts,

This morning’s individual activities went really well, as long as she could see me, she participated and enjoyed herself. I did have a prolonged insight into WW2 from a fellow classmate who is fascinated by anything connected with that and wanted to turn javelins/golf clubs and hockey sticks into weapons *gulp*.

Here’s some pictures from this morning:

A nervous but excited D going into school:

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Scoring a goal (T would have been proud):

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Hockey dribbling:

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The morning session ended with a inter-house tug-of-war, which had pupils, teachers (and me!) joining in. A tad competitive but very good fun!

Parents and carers weren’t allowed to be on-site at lunchtime so I left a clingy D for a while.

The afternoon’s events were running, egg and spoon and wheelchair racing. It’s always a bit humbling seeing the wheelchairs and the walking race for those with physical disabilities, there is always a fantastic atmosphere with music and lots of supporters.

D had a wobbly meltdown after her first race, when she came 4th. There were tears, shouting, bolting and a complete and utter refusal to take place in anything further. She came around eventually but definitely wasn’t the only disappointed child on the field.

Her next race was a relay and I’ve found with D that it’s best if I stand at the finish line and basically wave, jump around and shout encouragement in her eyeline so she has something to focus on and aim towards. It works! She absolutely powered down the track, passing over the baton and nearly bowling me over. Her team of 4 came second!

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One delighted D, two very proud parents and several relieved members of staff.

Yes, it’s all about taking part and I’m so glad she is able to (mainstream sports days were a no-no) but a medal is a very nice reminder for her.

T’s had a good day, he’s been very pleased for D that she got a medal and her good mood has been infectious, they’ve had some bouncing fun on the trampoline in between mine-crafting.

I think it’s a “normal” day for both of them tomorrow, after the excitement of the last couple of days, would be good to get back to a semblance of routine.

I hope everyone’s had a good day, comments/RTs/shares as ever welcomed, thanks for reading Jx 😘

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A very successful day, if I discount the squabbling due to the heat and tiredness on T and D’s part after school.

It was T’s sports day today and it was lovely, the weather was just right and it was very well-organised. The team spirit amongst the children was wonderful, cheers and claps for the fastest and the slowest, lots of children determined to finish even if they were quite a way behind those already past the finishing line. Some natural athletes, some not but all doing their best.

Here’s a couple of pictures of T, he carried on throughout, acknowledging his dad and I with a little shy smile:

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T’s “house” came third but it was very close, I think it was only 20-ish points separating first from fourth place.

A tired but happy T at the end.

D greeted me with another body-slam at home time, she’d watched the oldest children in school do their sports day and she’s fascinated by their star-shaped medals. I know that the children have been told and we’ve been saying it too: “it’s not the winning but the taking part”, but my girl would like a gold (she got a silver and bronze last year). No pressure then!

She’s been squeakily excited about it all evening tonight and no doubt will positively bounce into school tomorrow, there are sports activities in the morning and afternoon at school so it will be a long day but a fun one.

So grateful that she is in the right setting for her, with the gentle support and high staff:children ratios that she needs. Sports days in mainstream were full of excitement beforehand and then suddenly, her anxieties would take over and she’d bolt all over the field, parents commenting and muttering about her being “out of control” when they couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. Seems a lifetime (and no doubt a wrinkle or two) ago now.

I hope everyone’s day has gone well, comments/RTs/shares as ever welcomed, thanks for reading Jx 😘

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How much do you spend on laundry products a week? A month?

It’s not cheap is it. The tablets we use work out at £2 a week, they’ve recently jumped in price to £3.35 a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks and that’s £174.20 a year (excuse me whilst I fall off my chair!)

Factor in the sensitive skin issues that my family all have – a telltale itchy rash will appear very quickly if the incorrect laundry product is bought – the fact that the children’s sensory issues may mean that clothing can smell “wrong” and the chemicals released into the water during a cycle all mean that I was on the lookout for something new and cost-effective to try.

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I was delighted when ecoeggo.com agreed for us to give an ecoegg a trial.

Here’s some information from the website:

“I’m Kim Woodburn, celebrity Queen of Clean, best known for my time on channel four’s “How Clean is Your House” and ITV’s “I’m a celebrity”. Ecoegg specialise in manufacturing a range of eco-friendly cleaning products and I am proud to endorse them. Ecoegg are revolutionising the way people wash their clothes all over the world.

Ecoegg products are all:
• Kinder to your skin
• Kinder to the environment
• Kinder to your pocket

Change the way you wash your clothes, for less.
The ecoegg laundry egg is saving people so much money up and down the country!

The ecoegg laundry egg is the revolutionary new way to wash your clothes. It completely replaces washing powder or liquid and is just as effective but will save you so much money.

The ecoegg laundry egg lasts for up to 720 washes. For the average family that does 4 to 5 washes a week, it’ll last for 3 year’s worth of washing. Imagine never having to buy washing detergent for the next three years – think of all the money you’ll save!

– Saves you so much money – never buy washing detergent ever again
– Hypoallergenic – great for sensitive skin, supported by Allergy UK
– Eco-friendly – great for the environment, no harsh chemicals, far less pollution

Easy to use
Simply place the Ecoegg laundry egg on top of your laundry in the drum of your washing machine and wash as normal – no washing powder or liquid needed.

It’s not magic – it’s science
The Ecoegg laundry egg is packed with our unique scientifically forumlated, hypoallergenic cleaning pellets. These pellets naturally activate in the water to gently lift away dirt and grime, without using any harsh chemicals.

It works – it’s proven to remove dirt and grime
The ecoegg is scientifically proven in one of the UK’s leading product test laboratories to remove dirt, grime and stains.

Hypoallergenic – great for sensitive skin
The ecoegg is supported by both Allergy UK and the National Eczema Society.

Fragrances now available
The ecoegg is now available in either Soft Cotton or Spring Blossom fragrances, in addition to the original Fragrance Free option.”

The one (ever-so-slight!) problem I had is that I currently don’t have a working washing machine so we not only tested the ecoegg but also someone else’s washing machine!

So, how did we get on?

I tested the ecoegg on a 30degree fast wash. The egg is placed on top of the washing, inside the drum and the pellets inside the egg “naturally activate in the water to gently lift away dirt and grime”.

And they did! D has a habit of wiping her hands down her clothes when she’s eating (as does T), despite having wipes nearby and being requested to use them, I think it’s involuntary. Consequently, clothes get marked and of course, Mr Bluecrisps is a manual worker – painter – so his clothes get sweaty and dirty as a matter of course.

I wasn’t sure whether the combination of ecoegg, rapid wash and low temperature would produce results, but they did! Obviously for more soiled/heavier items, I’d use a higher temperature and longer wash cycle but I’m confident of success.

A big bonus for us is that we’ve had no sensitive skin reactions and the egg is fragrance-free so no sensory issues either.

The egg is refillable and the pellets are available from the original point of purchase (click here for stockists).

As a price guide, the ecoegg (54 washs) we were sent (which should last the average family for three months) is available from Argos at £9.99, with refills at £6.99, a vast improvement on price and environmental impact.

The eggs are also available in 210 wash and 720 wash sizes, with dryer eggs available too.

It’s the sort of product you wonder if it will work, then – due to environment and sensory issues – are so grateful it does.

The egg needs to be kept out of the reach of children, as with any laundry product, the twist-off refill mechanism being easy to operate.

Disclaimer:
We were sent a fragrance-free 54 wash pack ecoegg for the purpose of this review, my views are my own.

It was a double body-slam that greeted me this afternoon when I collected D, a full-on hello-Mumma-I’ve-missed-you-but-had-a-good-day-thwack, twice!

It was very welcomed, it had been a while.

She’s extremely excited about sports day on Wednesday, the school proms next week (singing performances) and she’s also going to the Kurling finals with school, her team got a silver medal in February so there is a mild expectation for more goodies!

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It’s amazing, when D was in mainstream, she couldn’t participate in any assemblies/plays/sports days or anything due to anxieties and the busy setting, she has progressed so far in the three years she’s been in her SN school, it’s wonderful.

Of course, there has been so much preparation behind the scenes, one of the songs they are singing next week has been practised since last October, there is no way she could walk into an unfamiliar setting and do something off the cuff, respect to all the staff at her school.

T’s excited about his sports day tomorrow too, his class have been working towards athletics badges (gold/silver/bronze) and they expect to receive them tomorrow – after them being delayed for weeks, which has vexed Mr T, with his requirement for routines and deadlines.

He has shown a lovely moment of empathy though, his Asperger friend is expected to receive a bronze and T has said to him that he’ll give him one of his football medals if he does. Very considerate of him and T does not give his medals/trophies away lightly.

Neither have said that much about the rest of their days, they’re both too focused on the next couple of days. I just hope it doesn’t burble over into anxieties – it’s a very thin line – but I doubt it will.

Positivity is the mantra this week, it IS going to be a good one!

Hope everyone’s day has gone well, comments/RTs/shares as ever welcomed, thanks for reading Jx 😘

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I was chatting to another special needs parent this morning, comparing our daughters’ progress (he has a 14year old with Downs Syndrome) and our weekends – as you do.

I told him what my mum was currently going through (the medical miracle that she is) and he mentioned companies that offer full body scans which apparently can predict the likelihood of cancers, strokes and other nasties, based on genetics and advanced screening.

His reaction to these was “I wouldn’t want to know” but mine was different, I would want to know and here’s why:

As the Mumma to two autistic children, I want to be around for them for as long as possible. We are lucky, on both sides of the family there is a history of angina and more recently, strokes, but hearts are strong and healthy. No cancers either until recently.

Were someone to tell me that I had a tiny lump which was genetically disposed to turn nasty in ten years then I would have a choice of removal. Similarly strokes and diabetes: there are lifestyle changes that can be made.

It wouldn’t be for everyone though, I think you’d have to be strong emotionally and mentally.

I can think of a very good example in which this may have been useful:

We had a friend, a good friend who went through years of hormones and IVF without success. Practically as soon as they married 9 years ago.

She developed breast cancer 6 years ago and all fertility treatment was stopped, it had to be. She went into remission and they started discussing the process again and also considering adoption/fostering.

The cancer returned, in her brain. Completely unexpected as the doctors hasn’t scanned above her neck. She died five months later, nearly 2 years ago.

It has not been proven but there has been speculation that the intense fertility treatment may have advanced the tumours, no one will ever truly know but she went through years of treatment and failed hopes to no avail.

Maybe, advanced notice would have meant that her and her husband could have enjoyed the few years they had together more. I don’t know.

What I do know is, that once she knew her timescales, she planned, saw who she wanted to see, went (within reason) where she wanted to go and became very peaceful. The little things just simply didn’t matter.

Some people might think this is playing devil’s advocate but it’s certainly made me think today.

This morning started with a “lesson” on cows, D seems to have a renewed interest in them ever since she’s been placing them into her Minecraft world.

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We’ve tried to decide how the bull’s horns are trimmed and what breed of cows her various little plastic animals are. She does like her small animals, whether they be Playmobil or others, the smaller the better so that she can carry them around in her hand or a small bag.

This afternoon D’s embraced her girlie side, she loves dress-up apps on her I pad. Toca Tailor and Princess are big favourites, I guess because the results are instant and very visual. She may have only had her device a month but the photo stream is full of her little fashion creations.

We found another app this afternoon – Princess Salon – not only is there the dress-up element but there’s the preparation beforehand too, hair washing and face packs. She loved it, very ironically for someone who dislikes hair washing intensely due to her sensory issues. The mildly gruesome bit is that before the face creams etc, the princess has spots – great big pus-filled ones – which promoted a discussion about the advantages of face-washing, bonus!

I’m relieved in a way that D bypassed the “princess and tiara” phase, she wasn’t interested and her sensory issues meant the fabrics and fastenings weren’t an option. I guess the app we found today is the 21st century equivalent of a Girls World but with far less mess! (always wanted one of those when I was D’s age 😳).

Sunday afternoon unfortunately means homework, in D’s case it’s her News. Literally two sentences to be copied out but it does cause her a lot of issues, part of me wants to say “don’t worry about it” but the more sensible part knows that she needs to persevere, that people in the future will expect her to have some sort of writing standard, it’s difficult to see and hear (because she does protest) her struggling though.

Offset by some jolly good singing at bathtime though!

Mr T has had a good day, homework (of which there was loads) out of the way this morning and attending a football tournament this afternoon. He’s had a busy few days – in fact he worked out precisely how many hours he’d seen me in that period, answer: not many – but he’s coped very well. It’s taken his mind off the will-he-won’t-he have a session with Chelsea coaches next week quite nicely.

A new week looming for us, sports days etc, thankfully on different days in their different schools, it should be fun!

I hope everyone’s day has gone well, comments/RTs/shares as ever welcomed, thanks for reading Jx 😘

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A while ago (apologies that it HAS been a while), I was asked by a lovely trainee teacher what advice I could give to her on teaching children within the spectrum.

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The spectrum is vast – as demonstrated by the above diagram – and although the aspergers diagnosis is disappearing (aspergers is now being referred to as high functioning autism), it’s an opportunity to remember that many different levels, traits and characteristics are contained with that one word.

I asked my followers what advice they would give and it was a resounding request for the following:

Treat every child as an individual. No two children are the same. Although there may be several children with autism in the class, each will have their own traits, anxieties and needs. Do not generalise.

However, many autistic children (and adults) respond better to positive reinforcement and a softly-softly approach when it comes to requests. Sudden noises and raised voices will cause them anxiety and may draw out a situation far longer (for example, an autistic child lashing out through fear) rather than a getting-down-to-their-level and gently finding out what has caused the anxiety.

With regard to positive reinforcement, consider using visual aids (ie a visual timetable), even if the child is verbal, there may be too much background activity for them to focus solely on verbal commands, visual aids will help with transition.

Don’t assume that just because a child is verbal, they necessarily understand. Many children use a form of “learnt script” or “echolalia”. This may mean that they appear to understand what someone else is saying but very often it’s a learnt response.

For example, ask D when her birthday is and she will say 20th May, which is correct. But ask her what the date is the day before her birthday or the day after, or what her birth year was and she is unable to tell you. This is because she’s learnt her birth date but can’t compute the other information.

There was a very good example of this mentioned by the National Autistic Society recently during their Push For Action campaign:

“Our conversation turns to the support some adults need, and a lady called Sally who took part in the Government’s trial assessments for PIP.

“When the assessor asked Sally if she can make her own meals, she said ‘yes’. But she can only make pasta with butter! Sally’s sister had taken more than six weeks to teach her this one meal and she still needs to be prompted and supervised. She’d obviously misinterpreted the question but ended up scoring no points –no wonder people with autism were so worried about those assessments!” The couple beside us turn around as Anna’s voice gets louder.”

Food is mentioned above and this is another point to mention, many individuals on the spectrum have sensory processing disorder and will stick to the food and drink they are familiar with. This does not mean they are “picky” and should not be classed as “difficult” or “fussy eaters”. Do not force them to try unfamiliar foods if it is causing them distress.
D has a fear of jelly, the sight, the texture, that funny squishy noise when a spoon goes in it. This was explained to staff but it did not stop them attempting to make her try some. She didn’t and couldn’t. They were surprised (but I wasn’t) when she then vomited due to anxiety.
The same would apply for new activities, in unfamiliar surroundings.

Take notice of anxiety soothers and calmers, they are carried for a reason. If the soother is not large, not constricting movement and helps the child/adult cope with the environment then it’s not an issue in my book. Better that than the fallout if they are purposefully separated.
For D, it’s Bunny, little Bunny who is either carried in her hand or under her arm if she’s writing/drawing. It used to be a play food asparagus when she was a baby, something easily grabbed and held.
For T, it was laminated Top Trumps cards or laminated football pictures, it’s now a book. Whenever we got out, even if there’s no likelihood of him reading it, it’s something for him to hold and focus on.
Every child is different but there are underlying traits.

Be aware of how lessons are taught, autistic children will take topics literally.

For example, D’s teacher last year ran an initiative on healthy eating and made great emphasis on “good” and “bad” foods. See my post on Lunchbox wars here. Her teacher at the time didn’t understand the consequences of her using “good” and “bad”, which D interpreted as she must not eat certain foods at all.

A home-school diary is a great idea, as long as it’s used. If a school commits to one, it should be completed. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages but parents like to (and need to) know what their child has been doing at school. The information can be used as a prompt to engage conversation, which if the child is anxious about their day/or has stilted speech or non-verbal is vital.

Of course, a diary works two ways, so read what a parent has written and acknowledge it, even if it’s just by an initial.

There can never be too much information when communicating about an SN child, never.


This is the one piece of feedback that came through time and time again:

Listen to the parents/carers. They know the child best of all. There will be times when they get emotional in meetings, in parents evenings, in class. That’s because they love their child very much, feel protective of them and want the best for them. They’re also probably running the gauntlet of emotions with the diagnostic process/the statementing process/the LEA/GP/CAMHS/OT – you name it – and they’re probably exhausted physically and emotionally.

Our autistic children are not just numbers and a budget figure on a spreadsheet, they are great individual children/young adults who with the right support and guidance will enjoy their school life. And they deserve to.

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