Saturday, 29 December 2012

Saturday is Caption Day!!

OK, so I may be a little late, but in my defence youngest daughter hogged the computer for most of my free time today. 

But I am still just in time to post this pic from our Christmas and ask for your funny (or serious, if you must) captions... go on, give it a go!!

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Monday, 17 December 2012

What Tamsin would like to spend her pocket money on... #pktmnyparents

Today I'm joining up with the Britmums linky where they've asked us to divulge what our children say they would spend their pocket money on.

PKTMNY is a great new website aimed at parents who would like to help their children gain a bit more independence and understanding of money, by allowing them to earn and save through a system set by parents.

It's a difficult question at this time of year, as I suspect most children are waiting for Santa to hand them a bunch of presents on a plate (or more likely, in a sack, ho ho ho!!), but I thought I'd take the challenge and ask Tamsin what she would really like to spend her pocket money on.

Having managed somehow to bring up one very materialistic young girl (love shopping, moi?!), I didn't hold out much hope for a sensible answer. A meet and greet with One Direction maybe? An ipod Touch?

Well, wow. I have just been blown away by her answer. I am not kidding, this was her response:

'Well, there's two things mummy. First,' (she said, without missing a beat), 'I'd like to buy food for the poor.' 

It's not often I'm speechless. Anyone who knows Tamsin will realise that is not the first answer they would have expected, and I am definitely NOT that sort of mum who bangs on to my children about them having too much and others having nothing (although maybe I should be, it's not that I'm proud of that...).

So now I feel terribly guilty that I swayed towards thinking my own darling daughter would show signs of greed. The truth is I probably would have given a much more selfish answer myself. Funnily enough I did go through a period in my own life saying 'world peace' was what I wished for - until I was old enough to realise that was never going to happen of course.

'Second.... err.... err....' (lots more deliberating and forgetting what number two she'd intended to say) 'I'd pay for me to go to private school.'

Private school is a funny thing for someone so young to wish for I think. We did have a conversation about it a month or so ago, where Tamsin asked what 'private' school was, and my best answer was that the class sizes were smaller so less children and more teacher to go round. I'm not sure if that was the main appeal.... but I'd have to stick my neck out here and say that it's *possibly* because the older brother of her favourite boy in the class has just gone to a private school this year. Maybe she's twigged his brother will follow and so she wants to be there too. I haven't the heart to point out it's an all boys' school....

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Pimp A Post Sunday......

I kind of already did 'pimp' this post this week, by mentioning it in my last post, but in order that it can be added to a lovely linky, I'm doing it again.

S.A.M has started up PAPS - Pimp A Post Sunday, in order to celebrate good writing within the blogging community.

B's Dad writes over at Life With An Autistic Son about exactly that, and it is one of the blogs that I know I am always going to enjoy reading and generally leave a comment on. It describes their life with such honesty, but at the same time is written with such humour. It is, in some strange way, helpful to hear about his experiences, which are so often very similar to our own, written about in such a way. I'd love to share this to help people gain a better understanding..... please do click and read:

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas Nativity/Show/Play and Autism - do they mix??!

Just a little 'Christmassy' update tonight, following on from my post Autism-and-mainstream-schooling-do-they-mix?

Over the last week the Celebration Assembly post by B's Dad (who blogs over at Life With An Autistic Son) struck a chord with me. His writing always cheers me up, because it is honest, reflects quite a few of our own experiences, and is often side-splittingly (*see below) funny - which helps and is a good alternative to alcohol after a long day.....

Today was Sasha's first Christmas Show day. Well, I say first, but obviously they've been learning and rehearsing it constantly over the past few weeks now, so it was only 'first' in the sense that the parents would be coming to watch it.

I've truly loved every time our eldest daughter has had the chance to get on stage, or even just join in with the ensemble of a school show or assembly. Some of my happiest times were performing in plays as a child, so I guess I hope she's having fun too (see below pic, just to drag my old school mate Nickie from into this...) 

I do appreciate that not every parent loves a Christmas play, and there are various understandable reasons why not all children love them or excel at them - nerves, forgetfulness, lack of interest maybe? For Sasha it's probably all of those reasons, but add loud music, audience clapping, itchy costume, changes in routine and the fact that someone is making her do something not of her choosing, and you can see why it's never going to be the highlight of her year. 

I've talked to the teachers about whether she should just be allowed to sit them out right from the beginning, but have been persuaded several times to give it a go. I've pointed out my worries that it all just adds to the stresses that Sasha obviously deals with every day, and that I'm not sure what she actually gains from it. I feel guilty that an assistant who has spent lots of time working with all the children in the class, putting lots of effort into this big Christmas production, may then have to sit it out in another room with Sasha. Thankfully, the school is very keen on inclusion and they do their best to work with Sasha and make it OK for her. If I'm totally honest though, there's a tiny part of me that doesn't really want to sit and watch all the other children perform beautifully when I'm never sure if Sasha will actually take part herself.

Today we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth. As I arrived back home after drop-off this morning I answered the phone to school, who were calling because Sasha was refusing to get changed - she didn't have her teddy bear (or in her case, Terry the Turtle) with her. Nobody had told me that it was needed for the play - of course all the other children had automatically known to tell their parents they should bring a teddy, but Sasha is not quite so good with her communication. So I dashed back into school, managed to coax Sasha into a quick change and then she was ready to go out and do the first rehearsal show for the Junior School children, albeit a little reluctantly but knowing I would stay to watch. She performed her song brilliantly with the others, but once off stage soon lost interest and an exaggerated loud whisper of 'I want to go now' could be heard. Thankfully a very switched on assistant realised that sitting at the front 'helping' a teacher would be the motivation Sasha needed to stay in the room, and calm was restored.

As I arrived back at school at lunchtime to help change Sasha for the afternoon performance for parents, I found her lying on a bench in the playground, almost crying and refusing to play with her classmates. It took some clever talking to distract her from the idea of going home immediately, and once again help with changing and gentle encouragement worked wonders. There was maybe a little more head down, feet dragging and nose-picking going on for the second 'show', but hey, she was there, actually in the room... for most of it.

I wish I could post the video to show you my cute dancing teddy bear on stage with her classmates (the Nativity theme was stretched somewhat this year...!) but sadly I can't show it because of the other children. So you'll just have to believe me that it was cute; she did the whole dance and song with actions. Twice. What a star. Here's to hoping that tomorrow's third and final performance (yippeee!) goes just as smoothly.........

*Just wanted to mention, as highlighted by the National Autistic Society, that yesterday was Plain English Day, which recognises the best and worst of written and spoken communications.
Here are a few examples, let me know if you can think of any more!!
 It’s raining cats and dogs
Let’s go out for a run in the car

I was rolling with laughter

That’s smashing!
Sayings like these are used in everyday situations but to some people with autism and Asperger syndrome they are taken literally and can cause confusion and, in some cases, fear and anxiety.
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Thursday, 29 November 2012

12 Days of Christmas Toy Reviews - Part 2.

Now, if you've been following closely, you'll know that yesterday I posted part one of my toy reviews for Christmas.

Today, guess what? Yep, you guessed it, time for part 2! Yippeeeee!

Two of the main toys we received were rather more 'boy' orientated (not that I'm sexist or anything, but Tamsin is most definitely a 'girlie' girl...!). So we found two willing helpers who jumped at the chance of trying them out for us, and here are their thoughts:

A) The Trash Pack Garbage Truck (retails for around £20, if you can get hold of it - seems to have been v popular for Christmas already!)

  • Dante was very excited to receive the toy and had already seen and heard of Trashies from TV advertising;
  • The box included a rubbish truck and two Trashie characters in their own trash bins;
  • Initially, Dante was unsure how to open the top compartment of the truck - when he finally managed, his reaction was, "Cooooool". He opened and closed the clasp several times after - it was a bit tricky but he didn't get frustrated. The truck opens out into a large area for your Trashie bins and characters to be stored in. From here you can access the driving cab, where characters can be placed to 'ride' in the cab - Dante did this for a little while;
  • Dante loved the 'shooting' feature, whereby you place a Trashie character on the wheelie bin and flip it, to shoot your character at a pile of bins. At first he wanted to see how far he could shoot the 'rubbish creatures'. He found this easy to use and this, I assume this is one of the compelling reasons they would continue to play with it and want to collect more of the Trashies to knock over. One minor, but annoying point was that one of the two trash bins included kept popping open - which means you can't balance another bin on top;
  • Dante also liked the fact that you can place a Trashie in the wheelie bin and then empty the bin into the back of the truck;
  • Dante (and Lola) immediately started talking about buying more bins and creatures (ie, collecting them - and spending Lola's pocket money on them!). They wanted to look on the internet to see how much they cost. We found some packs for £2.97 (for 5 characters) which we thought was reasonable;
  • After a short time, Dante realised that all over the truck, there are several (what I can only describe as) 'knobs' which allow you to attach the Trashie characters to the truck.
Overall it's quite a fun toy and after receiving the extra Trashie characters, it became more fun to use as there were more bins to knock over! 

B) Doctor Who QLA app gear device (again, retails for around £20 but you'll have to be quick!)

The toy is a large blaster gun, which uses the camera from an iPhone or iPod Touch as its viewfinder. You download an app which overlays a game on the camera's view of your real surroundings and you connect a lead from the gun to the camera's headphone socket. The game involves blasting away (using the gun's trigger) at Doctor Who's enemies who appear onscreen, in your real environment, with sound effects, lights and voices.  In a nutshell it's virtual reality Daleks in the kitchen.

You can choose to move through 5 difficulty levels or play each level separately. You meet lots of Doctor Who's famous enemies along the way, including the Daleks, Cybermen, and Weeping Angels. 

It was fairly easy to set up - once we found the app. The website link given in the instructions didn't work so it took a bit of searching. Thankfully the cradle which holds the phone or iPod in position was well-designed and secure! It proved very popular in our house. The only downside for me was giving up my iPhone, resulting in some major negotiation to get it back. So might be best suited to children who have their own iPod Touch!

Feedback from Elliott (8):
"It's a very cool toy. Great that the enemies don't move with the screen, they stay in one place in the room so it feels like they are really there. My favourites were the Weeping Angels as this level was more challenging".

Our final review is of the wonderful ScatterBrainz.

 These are described as seriously sticky deranged darts, and I'd say that was a pretty good description!! 
They are little hand held darts, with a sticky end which looks like brains, and pictures of characters underneath. Ours are things like a vampire, werewolf, axeman and bodybuilder, although I think there may be different ones to collect. Tamsin was thrilled with these, and after a little bit of practise was able to throw them quite well at the target included. This pack retails at around £9.99 and would make a great stocking filler or birthday party gift item.

We were also sent a Ben 10 Lego pack, a Science Rocket and a Bananas in Pyjamas soft toy:

We have passed these on to other friends to be reviewed, so do watch out for more info on those in the following weeks.

The final item which I really can't wait to try with my eldest daughter, as I'm sure she'll love it, is a myStyle Deluxe Charm Bracelets pack (RRP £19.99).

With this you can actually design your own beads with the clay, foil and glitter provided, and after a little bit of baking they are home-made and professional looking! The kit, which is aimed at ages 8+, includes two bracelets and charms, and enough materials for 40 beads. We've just not had enough quiet time around here for this activity lately, so I'm saving it for a special time. Having had a couple of these packs before, I know it is going to be a hit, and I'd definitely recommend it as a Christmas or party gift!

So I hope I've given you some ideas of what's 'cool' out there for Christmas this year - go forth and purchase at your own discretion!!

We were sent the above toys for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.
read more "12 Days of Christmas Toy Reviews - Part 2."

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

12 Days of Christmas Toy Reviews - Part 1.

Wow. It was like our Christmas had come early a couple of weeks ago when we were sent some top toys to review - all under the title '12 Days of Christmas'! Actually we got an extra one for good luck - so 13 surprise products, all sent in one big package, for us to have a play with and give feedback on.

I'd have loved to write up 13 individual posts, but time has sadly not allowed for that, so I'm going to cunningly rename my efforts 'The 2 Days Of Christmas' and post today and tomorrow in a couple of big hits!

First one I'm going to rave about (geddit?! see manufacturer's name) is our favourite. The Ravensburger 3D puzzle of Big Ben (random fact: that's just the name of the bell inside!).

Both girls went straight for this - very clear and appealing packaging. Inside there are 216 pieces, and some of these bend very cleverly to form the corner pieces. The pieces are all numbered on the back so it's not as difficult as you might think, and you end up with a very impressive looking tower for the mantelpiece!

I would definitely recommend this as a Christmas present and I know the girls would be delighted with one of the other models to work on next - there's also Tower Bridge, The Eiffel Tower and The Empire State Building in the range. £19.99 RRP but there are offers out there.... available from all good toy retailers.

Next on the list was a Gelarti Activity Kit by Flair. I hadn't heard of these before, but from the packaging and description I could tell that it was something my two girls would love. Gel pens and stickers? What a great combination!

The pack included 8 sticker sheets, 5 coloured gel squeezy pens, a marbling tool, and 2 bag tags and a card for putting the stickers on. The idea is that you squeeze the gel onto the pictures, create 'fun' effects with the tool (a plastic stick with bobble on the end!), leave them to dry overnight and then you have stickers which are your own design and reusable. Tamsin really enjoyed decorating these.
I was worried Sasha may find the pens too difficult to squeeze, but they were fine and she loved mixing the colours. I'd say this is a perfect gift for ages 5-10 - it certainly provided a couple of hours fun for mine! RRP for this set is £14.99 - again available at all good toy stores.

Last product in today's review group was this Mini Cooper Freestyle car.

My first ever car was a Mini (back in 1989, so it wasn't quite as sporty as this one!!). There's a definite nostalgia aspect for me, even though it's now all modern. This model has a pop up top (when you press the bonnet) and a British Bulldog pops up and barks. Love it, but I'd have to be honest and say the girls were expecting it to do a little more than that - it doesn't go of its own accord and isn't even a pull-back model, so I think they found it a little boring after the first few hundred times of popping the bonnet....! Probably a great choice for car or Mini enthusiasts.

Due to the variety of products, some were not really suitable or applicable for my girls, so for these I found new homes. A Schleich Dinosaur and a Giant Hornet Technokit by Interplay were the first to be passed on (the Hornet was aged 9+ so went to a slightly older boy). Lovely items I'm sure, but no place for them in this house. There's also a gorgeous baby toy from HABA which I still need to rehome.....

Watch out for the Day 2 update tomorrow!!

We were sent the above toys for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.

read more "12 Days of Christmas Toy Reviews - Part 1."

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Chance to win one of those cute little fruity things for Xmas? Yes please iMums!

Sorry, but I couldn't help it. Chance to win a new ipad mini? Yes please! Click below.....

I'm probably doing this all wrong and will get penalised in the world of blogging, but I wanted to share the chance with everyone who has helped us by reading my blog. 
Thank you and hope you win!!
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Monday, 26 November 2012

HABA Colour Squares Pegging Game Review

A box containing the HABA Colour Squares Pegging Game found its way to our house recently, and we were only too happy to open it up and take a look.

HABA toys are always gorgeous quality items to treasure, and this one is no different. It consists of a chunky board made of beech wood, with 16 round holes in, and 16 'pegs'. These are actually rounded squares on top with the peg bit on the bottom to fit in the holes.

It basically is what it says on the box! A pegging game, aimed at 2-6 year olds. As the pegs each have two diagonal colours on them, a variety of patterns can be made. they are nice and chunky, so easy to get hold of, and no sharp edges. Sasha loved this toy and does go back to it, although I'd say it'd be more suited to the younger end of the age range generally.

Available January 2013 from Do take a look at their great range for Christmas ideas now though - my particular favourite is the soft banana!!

We were sent the above toy for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.
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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Saturday is Caption Day - my first ever!

Apparently, Saturday is Caption Day. 

I have no idea why I've been so blissfully unaware of this until now, but better late than never is my motto of the day (ha! see what I did there?!), here goes:

Just leave me a comment about what Sasha, or Terry, her Turtle (it's a SHE though, remember?!) might be saying.

Now pop on over to the original linky at Mammasaurus to find some more photos ready and waiting for your quick wit......

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Speech and Chatting With Children by I CAN

Sasha's speech is still developing. Her lack of speech clarity is probably the greatest indicator of her autism, and most likely the reason we got a relatively quick diagnosis.

It has developed immensely over the last 3 years despite the distinct lack of Speech Therapy and she can mostly make herself understood now. We are in a 'funny' situation where she needs help with her speech sounds, but 'they' reckon this can only be improved from age 7. The SALT (Speech and Language Therapist) who visits Sasha at school (but from what I can gather just observes, doesn't actually do any work with her), tried to suggest to me that Sasha gets signed off now so I can re-refer when she is 7. Ho ho ho, very funny indeed. I'm sure you can imagine what my reply to that was.

Apart from the sounds issues Sasha also has what I like to call 'an unusual turn of phrase'. More specifically, she uses set phrases which she has picked up from various DVDs, CBeebies or YouTube clips. Phrases such as 'How could you!' (lifted directly from Donald Duck I believe and said with hands on hips to her older sister when she won't do what Sasha wants her to), or 'there's no moment to lose', or 'busy busy busy, you know me mum, always busy, lots to do', or 'hey, what's the big idea?!'. None of these are what you would 'normally' hear coming out of the mouth of a 5 year old whose speech is delayed.....

Anyhow, I was extremely lucky recently to be sent a communication activity pack for testing. The pack was launched by the children's communication charity, I CAN, and was designed in association with Studio Conran and illustrator Owen Davey.

Chatting with Children is a beautiful pack of 30 fun and interactive activity cards. It also contains a top tips activity guide which offers simple and effective ways of enhancing speaking, listening and understanding skills.

There are 4 main areas to work with:
Understanding what is said
Learning and using new words
Speaking in sentences
Talking socially

Each card gives you a game to play and suggests different ways to do it - including ways to make the game more difficult, or easier for a less confident speaker. Shown above is 'Things you like'. Another example of a game is 'How would you feel?', whereby it suggests you look at a favourite book and talk about how the people may be feeling. This can be made simple by giving the child choices 'are they happy, or sad?', or could also be expanded with more complex words such as proud, annoyed, anxious etc. It's great to have this kind of prompt to look at and follow - with such busy lives we all lead nowadays, it's easy to forget how to take time out to cover the basics.

Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Advisor and experienced paediatric speech and language therapist gives the following Top Tips for Chatting with Children aged 3-5 years old:

Be quiet Take time to talk to each other in a quiet room. Turn off the TV and radio, and shut the door to block out any other background noises. Children have to learn to block out background noises, so they need a quiet environment to focus on the sounds they hear.

Be face-to-face Help young children to see your face – make sure you’re at the same level as them. Sit or crouch opposite them as they play, or sit them on your lap. Sit opposite the child so you’re face-to-face with them. Being face-to-face means that the child can see you and your facial expressions. Also, you can see them and their responses and reactions to the games you play together or the conversations you are having.

Don’t rush – take plenty of time Young children take longer than adults to process what they hear – sometimes up to 12 seconds. They need plenty of time to respond to you.

Be patient Young children can easily lose interest in what you’re doing – this is perfectly normal, especially for 3-year-olds. Don’t worry – just stop the game that you’re playing together and try again another time.

Be prepared for anything Follow the child’s lead and adapt the game or conversation to fit in with what they’re doing. This can help maintain attention on particular games.

Ditch the dummy A dummy gets in the way of attempts to talk during conversations and games. Children of 3 and over don’t need to use a dummy.

Use the language you naturally use at home It’s important that you speak naturally to young children; this helps develop their language skills.

Enjoy it This is a special time together, so have fun playing, chatting and learning about each other.

Chatting with Children, a new activity pack for adults to help develop communication skills in children aged 3-5 is available from I CAN

Any parent with a question or concern about their child's communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist - visit
We were sent the above pack for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are my own.
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