Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Frock It... but beware of the comment link is all I'm saying...

OK, so just because I've been asked very nicely, here is my entry for this week's Frock It, a lovely linky run by a lovely lady who writes the lovely blog This Mid 30s Life.

The idea is to find a really good or really bad outfit from the week, celebrity or not. The wedding dresses this week were simply amazing! My choice may actually have been from longer ago than that, but I'm hoping I don't get linky barred....
Emma Watson is, in my opinion, so stylish, and ultra feminine even with her short hair. I loved this frock mostly because it's the sort of thing my husband would hate - not that there's any danger of me wearing something like this (with my legs? and bingo wings? and and and...!!). To me it looks stunning - but she could probably wear a bin liner and look good, to be fair.

So that's my entry in the linky - feel free to sniff out your own favourite frock pic and join in!!
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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'Holidays' Day 2..... definitely improved from day 1, but then that wasn't difficult ;)

So Day 2 of the holidays has passed relatively smoothly, which is just as well as I seem to have caught the traditional summer cold from my girls. Looking after 2 children full time with a thick head is never much fun and I can't wait to go to bed early myself tonight!

Day 1 was... interesting. I had signed both my girls up for a drama course, 2 and a half hours every morning for this first week of holidays. I did this after a great deal of thought - Tamsin attended the summer drama course last year and loved it, so there was no question about her going back, but I was unsure if Sasha would take part. However I did my homework; spoke to the drama course owner about Sasha and took Sasha along to a trial session during the term so she could meet the people. She did amazingly join in a little bit in that session. I also knew that a girl from Sasha's nursery would also be attending the summer course and I hoped that would help Sasha get involved. So I threw caution to the wind and put her name down, feeling grateful that the drama company were actually going to attempt being 'inclusive'!

For some reason I turned up very optimistically on the first morning, thinking I would be able to stay and settle her for just 10 minutes then leave. Well not quite. Sasha was very overwhelmed by the 'newness' of it all - huge secondary school hall to run around, along with a small inflatable castle (i.e. for decoration, not use, although that didn't stop Sasha from trying...), and around 30 children and new faces for teachers. She went into hyperdrive and just ran; it took a while for me to persuade her to sit on my knee, long after all the other children had sat down in a big circle and were introducing themselves. Things didn't improve much as there was a lot of 'circle' time - i.e. sitting listening to others and learning words and actions for a song. Never going to be a winner for Sasha. However I had discovered there was going to be a craft session, and as Sasha loves a bit of 'cutting and sticking', I used that as the carrot for staying and resisted the temptation to take her home every time she requested it. We went outside for her to explore, and then we sat (well, with a bit more running) together at the back of the room just watching all the other children be very compliant.

That probably amazes me the most these days; that other young children really are so compliant! Of course you get the chatty ones, and the cheeky ones, and the daydreamers, but they do all generally sit and follow instructions. Not Sasha. Her non-compliance is really driven by a lack of understanding and awareness - she just doesn't 'get' the fact that if all the other children are sitting down being quiet, she should too. Why should she? A very good question really.

So the craft session started late (typical, when you're desperately waiting for something...) but very quickly Sasha felt at home, despite having been led with the others to another room to do this. She specifically asked me to leave at this point, and my heart leapt, tinged with a little bit of fear... what would happen if she refused to come back to the big room with them and had a huge meltdown; how would they handle it?! There was only 20 minutes left of the session at this point anyway, so I hung around out of sight, and she came back with the others, looking for me as she did. They then played some musical statue type games. Now, whilst she is of course no good being a statue, she did want to join in and have fun, which was lovely to see.

In the afternoon I had to take Sasha for her hearing test, and I actually had tears in my eyes as Sasha sat obediently and listened for the sounds, popping a block in the box when she heard them. So different from our first experience there, where she refused to do anything at all. It showed that she is improving, and understanding is half the battle for her. Then I took both girls for feet measuring in the shoe shop (another sensory nightmare), and again, whilst there was a bit of the usual running up and down, taking shoes off shelves and even throwing the price markers on the floor (!), generally the behaviour was manageable. After that we went to the library for Tamsin to get some books out, and there was a lot more running up and down, and even some wrapping herself in a rug on the floor, but she stayed in relatively good humour and so it was much easier to deal with. Day 1 definitely improved as it went along! Until I got home and realised that the DVD I had rented for Sasha needed to be unlocked back at the library... grrrrr.

Anyhow, Day 2 was much more successful. I'm pleased as it appears my persistence paid off. Staying for the whole session was incredibly boring (and also slightly upsetting, watching all the other 'normal' children not having any problems), but although it seemed Sasha wasn't really interested, I think she was actually taking it all in. When we arrived this morning, she went happily over to the large circle, sat down with Tamsin and then told me to 'go away mummy'! So I hid in the kitchen, chatting to the owner for an hour, just to make sure her enthusiasm didn't wane. Although she wasn't exactly participating fully, and there was a fair bit of wandering round the outskirts, she joined in enough to make it fun for her. I left and had a much needed hour at home to get the washing on and tidy the usual rubbish away, and on my return I was told she'd had a tantrum about not having a Tshirt on. They dealt with it though, and she had joined in again, so fingers crossed for another good day tomorrow! Am not holding my breath for her to actually star in the show they put on at the end of the week, but you never know, she may well surprise me!

Meanwhile Tamsin has been enjoying it immensely and I was very proud of her volunteering as the first to do 'show and tell', in a big loud voice, something that doesn't come naturally to her. I was slightly amused today when she told me that she had turned down the part of Belle because she didn't want to be the one to go into the castle (??!!!) so instead she is playing 'Bimbette number 2'. I refrained from laughing, and I'm sure she'll say her 2 words with much energy.   Smiley Roll on Friday!
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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Supermarket sweep.... well OK, meltdown actually...

Yesterday I read 2 posts from other mums which were so brilliantly written I would like to share them.

First, Scottish Mum talks about what it is like to suffer the 'fall-out' from her ASD child please read her post by clicking here
Second, Apples and Autobots talks about a supermarket trip with her ASD child please read here

These were both very moving for me to read, largely because they hit home. Those with ASD children will just 'get' it; I hope those without (with 'NT'/neurotypical children) will take the time to read as they explain so very well what the difference is between being naughty and having an ASD related meltdown.

My husband took our 2 girls out to McDonald's as a treat yesterday afternoon, and then popped into the supermarket with them to pick up just 7 or 8 items we needed. Our supermarket is one of the largest ones this chain has in our country - great for choice, but not great when all you need is a quick shop. Anyhow things started going downhill with Sasha very quickly. She wanted to run off up and down the aisles, or play with the trolley, or in the trolley, and it was becoming quite difficult for Chris to shop and keep her under control. As he made his way towards the checkouts, she started asking to go home and then became very particular about which checkout she wanted to go to - one which wasn't open (i.e. had no checkout assistant).

Chris did his best to manage this and try to keep her calm whilst scanning and paying for the shopping at another checkout, but it soon got to the point where Sasha was in full meltdown mode, and in his words 'everyone in the shop was quiet and staring'. not a lot of help was offered, but then to be fair, there's not much anyone can do in this situation, except maybe help pack the bags to be able to get out of there quicker! Certainly no point trying to talk to or hold Sasha - a stranger doing that would just make her worse.

A supermarket is a terrible nightmare for any child with sensory issues. Lots of people talking, walking in different directions, kids shouting and crying and running, neon lights buzzing, strong smells from fish and cheese counters etc etc. Chris is brave; I can't remember the last time I took Sasha with me to do a food shop. She doesn't need that kind of overload on the senses, and I don't need the added stress of not knowing if I'll make it to the checkout!!

My eldest daughter, Tamsin, witnessed her younger sister's meltdown yesterday, and was very patient and well behaved for Daddy despite having been hysterical about something silly herself only moments before; it's amazing how sobering a meltdown can be. As I thanked her at bedtime for being good, she commented to me that she wished she had what Sasha has, as it means Sasha can have fun doing the things she wants to. Whilst we have tried to explain in not too much detail to her how Sasha is (we say autism means Sasha was born with a brain which is different, which can't understand and learn everything that Tamsin's does), obviously this is a very difficult issue for her to understand. It brought a tear to my eye as I tried to gently explain to Tamsin that I really didn't think she would actually like to have what Sasha's got. The impact of ASD on Sasha's life to come is going to be huge, and I can only hope that Tamsin grows up to be one of the understanding ones. It would be nice if she can help her sister in some way, but at the same time I hope she lives her own life to the full.
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Friday, 1 July 2011

Peppa Pig World - Top Marks, oink oink!

Last weekend we were lucky to have the Friday off school (repayment for Royal Wedding Day, complicated...!) and so I had decided it would be a great day to visit Peppa Pig World. June = good weather (ever hopeful) and school day = less crowds, so I thought we should grab the opportunity.

Peppa Pig World is a new part of Paultons Park, a small theme park down near Southampton. see details here. It is beautifully designed and very well thought out, with 7 Peppa themed rides, plus an outdoor splash area, indoor soft play and outdoor playground.

We had shown both girls the web page, so they both knew where we were going and were excited. The trip started off well, with both happily watching DVDs in the back of the car. An hour into the hour and a half journey though, it began to go wrong. Sasha played with the little ash tray in the arm of the back door and then became very frustrated when she couldn't get it to close again. Cue near hysterics because neither Chris nor I could reach it, and Sasha screaming that she wanted to go home. We ended up having to pull off the motorway and find somewhere to stop to calm her down. (Parents, take note, this is the main reason for us not making the 4-5 hour journey home very often, it's really not because we don't like you ;) ). The only way we could persuade her to carry on with the journey was to move Tamsin into the front seat, and for me to sit in the back right next to Sasha, holding her hand tightly. Not the most comfortable trip! She had recovered slightly by the time we arrived thankfully, and in we went. Car park was packed (so much for school days being quiet!) but there was hardly any queue for entering, and that was perfect for us.

We found our way quickly to Peppa Land, along with most of the other park visitors. We let the day run mostly to Sasha's agenda, to avoid upsets. Thankfully Tamsin was having so much fun I don't think she really noticed that - and if she did she was very good about it! The niggles crept back in as the day went on and Sasha became more tired, and these culminated in a huge meltdown by the SkySwinger ride. This is a ride where you sit as if on a swing, and you are then spun round high up in the air. Both girls have been on and loved similar versions previously, but none quite as high or fast as this! For that reason there was an age and height limit, and children at the smaller end had to sit in a special joined double seat next to the adult. Well, this was something Sasha had not seen before, and as we walked towards the ride she expected to be able to sit in her own seat, just like Tamsin. When I tried explaining she would have to sit next to me, all hell broke loose and she simply wouldn't, as she obviously didn't understand why that was necessary. This meant I had to remove her from the ride and pass her kicking and screaming to Chris (who can't stomach 'twirly' rides!!), whilst running back to secure Tamsin in her seat and get on myself. At the very last minute Sasha realised the ride would start without her and so she sobbed that she did want to sit in the seat next to mummy after all (not in so many words!), so I ran back to grab her and sit her on. Of course once on and up, she loved it, and we then repeated the ride several times! After effect; one shaky and stressed mummy but happy girls as usual!

I was then very glad we had booked an overnight hotel through Paultons Park breaks - that meant we got 2 days in the park for the price of one. We had originally intended to spend our second day at the beach, but the weather was overcast, and as the girls had had so much fun we thought we may as well make the most of it! A lot of thought has gone into the planning of the new Peppa Pig World - there were plenty of separate things to climb on/up/under/over in the playground, and the huge indoors area with softplay, which means all children don't have to take turns for very long... plus Peppa's house to visit, and the school rooms; photo opportunities not to be missed!

Our day(s) there were made so much more enjoyable by the Queue Assist Scheme which Paultons Park runs. This is similar to some run by other major parks/attractions, and it means that those registered disabled, or who have social interaction problems or limited understanding, can go to the exit gate of each ride and be admitted in order to not have to wait in a queue. It can only be used once for each ride, which I think is a fair way of doing it. We did feel bad and awkward when using this though, as it meant that other families who had already queued for some time had to wait just that bit longer as we jumped into the next carriage available. So we 'queue-jumped' with slightly heavy hearts and heads down, not looking anyone in the eye, and wished people could understand. As Sasha's disability is hidden, and she acts most of the time like a perfectly able little girl, I'm sure some were 'miffed' to put it politely. For those reading who don't have Special Needs children, all I can say is that I would gladly swap Sasha's disability and have her be 'normal' and therefore be able to make her understand how to wait in a queue.....

Next stressful trip to plan enjoyable day out is Legoland... watch this space!
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