Thursday, 19 October 2017

O is strong!

Most days I look at O in absolute amazement and I revel in just how mentally strong she is becoming at the tender age of 8 years.


O is in a constant battle with her anxiety. Anxiety that tells her on a daily basis that she is weak. But each and every day she puts one foot in front of another and strives to prove her anxiety wrong.

Each and every day O finds the strength to ignore her anxiety, she smiles and she tries her very best to be social with her friends at school.

O renews her strength each and every day as she refuses to allow her anxiety to control her every move and thought. 

My gorgeous girl shows just how strong she really is and she strives to be the best version of herself that she can be, despite her ever present anxiety.

Some people rarely venture outside of their comfort zones. I know of adults who will not venture out of the suburb that they live in because that would mean stepping outside of what they know and facing the unknown. O on the other hand, well, she ventures outside of her comfort zone every single day.

O is strong because she finds the courage to speak her mind and speak up for herself and her friends when they need her to. And when she does, she surprises herself, and others around her, with just how brave she really is.

Anxiety is debilitating, it can cause life to grind to a halt. But, as I constantly remind O, anxiety can also makes you stronger. 

Anxiety is causing O to become stronger as she never wants to give up.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Superhero Bucks! How we are teaching our children about money.


Both O and L struggle with the concept of money. 

Much like other children their age, the concept that toys and other items cost money and that Mummy and Daddy Superhero do NOT have a money tree growing in the backyard causes some confusion and many an argument.

L especially struggles to understand why he can't just have what we wants, when he wants it from the shops. Many a shopping trip has ended in tears because L has wanted a toy.

O understands the concept of money and will happily save up her hard earned cash for something that she wants to buy. She is very sweet and will always make sure that she has enough money to buy L something too.

Both O and L earn pocket money for helping around the house, but this in itself poses a problem.

L just likes to play with the money that he earns, and quite often he will end up losing his money, cue a meltdown when the money can not be found. He also doesn't understand that the larger the coin, the smaller the monetary value.


But and there is always a but....

We have a change fairy in our house, AKA little miss O, who when she spots spare change lying around, she will snaffle it and put it into her purse. 

So Daddy superhero and I have a theory that most of L's pocket money that he loses while he is playing with it, ends up in O's purse.

And then there is a issue of cards. Both O and L know that Mummy and Daddy use their money cards to pay for the shopping, but neither of them understand how the money gets onto the card.

Quite often if I tell O and L that I don't have any money for the item that they want, one or both of them will reply "just use your card!" If only it was that easy.

Mmmm what to do.

A while back one of my friends told me about an idea that she had spotted on Pinterest about creating Mummy Money to use with her own children.

So just recently after yet another meltdown from L about not being able to find his money, I decided to create something similar to see if I could teach O and L about saving money.

And so Superhero Bucks were born!

The idea is that when O and L complete their weekly chores, they will earn Superhero Bucks. If they complete all of their chores, they will be given 5 Superhero Bucks. If they only complete a few of their chores, which is invariably what happens, they will be given 2 Superhero Bucks.

So that there is no confusion as to which Superhero Bucks belong to which child - L's Superhero Bucks have male superheroes on them, O's have female superheroes on them.


Once they have their Superhero Bucks in their hot little hands, they can either spend them at Mummy and Daddy's Shop or they can save them up for a larger reward.

Mummy and Daddy's Shop is a plastic box with a variety of small toys and other reward vouchers in it - toy cars, Shopkins, Ooshies and other small items that O and L like as well as vouchers for to go to a movie or a coffee date with Mum or Dad. Each item in the box is worth a different value of Superhero Bucks.

The idea is that by using Superhero Bucks this will hopefully assist to teach O and L about saving for something that they want.

At the and of each week they can calculate how much Superhero Bucks they have earnt, how much they have saved and how much they need to save for whatever they want to buy.

Using the Superhero Bucks, we are teaching the little superheroes that to earn money, you have to do something - in this case chores around the house. They will be able to see their "money" building up over time but also disappearing if they choose to spend it at Mummy and Daddy's shop.

I am also hoping that they will both understand that to get something that they want, that they need to spend money.

Ultimately my goal with the Superhero Bucks is to teach O and L the basics of money and to start building positive money habits with them now so that in the future they will be confident in making good financial decisions.

I want to teach my children how to save money, that they can choose to spend their money wisely and I want to show them that they can watch their money grow, just that it doesn't grow on trees!

It's never too early to start learning good money habits!

I'd love to hear about how you teach your children good money habits.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

My little superheroes photo shoot!


Several months ago, my little superheroes were chosen by an amazing local photographer to appear in an exhibition that she will be holding early next year. Thank you Janet!

The exhibition is called the Pet Project and Janet aims to raise money to support Lifeline WA, in particular the funds raised will help fund a 24 hour help line.

Janet is snapping photos of pets of all descriptions, shapes and sizes and in some cases their owners just happen to appear alongside them.

For our shoot, Janet wanted some little superheroes to appear in the photos with their pets and she needn't have looked any further!

So along we went to the photographers studio with our over sized lap dog.

I'm not sure who had the most fun - the little superheroes exploring every inch of the studio or our dog, who sniffed every inch of the floor. She also may have left her mark on some carpet! Oops!

Both O and L chose several costumes to take along to the shoot. O had two costume changes, L had three costume changes!

This weekend just gone we went and collected our prints from the shoot and oh my goodness, we were blown away by what we collected.



Both O and L loved having their photos taken - lots of superhero poses, lots of giggling and lots of fun was had. Janet made both O and L feel at ease throughout the entire process.

The bond that both O and L have with our over sized lap dog was visible throughout the shoot and in the photos that we collected. R was constantly on the look out for O and L, and wherever her little humans went, R followed right behind.



All of the photos that were taken captured who my little superheroes are. Janet really captured their personalities in the photos.


And just quietly, I personally think that my little superheroes are quite the photogenic type! But then again I am biased!

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Chaos that a Full Moon Brings.

What is it about a full moon that causes absolute mayhem and chaos?



The full moon was four nights ago and yet both of my little superheroes are still feeling the effects - it is very much a case of a delayed effect. And we can usually see and feel the effects for a good three or four days following a full moon.

On Saturday morning everything in the little superheroes world was wrong.

The TV show that L was watching was wrong for O. The water at swimming was too cold. The weather was too cold. The shirt was the wrong one for L. Lunch was wrong. They both wanted to sit in the same spot on the couch and neither was willing it give in. L's pants were wrong. There were too many knots in O's hair. And the list goes on.

Saturday was one long continuous meltdown with O and L alternating as to who was making the most noise. Nothing that we did was right, literally nothing. All we had to do was look side ways at either of the little superheroes and all hell broke loose.

The cause of the three day meltdowns, other than a possible delayed effect of the full moon, who knows for sure. But this is the pattern that normally happens after a full moon.

Both O and L struggle to communicate with us when they are like this. I imagine that their brains are in complete overload and as such they struggle to communicate their needs and wants with words. When they are like this, shouting, mumbled speech, using sounds and throwing their bodies around is the only way that they know how to communicate with us.

O becomes even more emotional than she usually is. L often reverts to using sounds and hand gestures to get his point across.


But as the days go on, they both become calmer and happier. By Sunday afternoon, they were both back to their generally happy selves - it probably helped that we received the little superheroes photos from their photo shoot a few months back. Seeing themselves certainly cheered them both up!

Usually following a full moon, both the little superheroes need a few quiet days to get back into the flow of life.

So what do we do?

The little superheroes do lots of stimming - lots of bouncing, lots of spinning, they use their block out ear protectors and they do lots of running around outside.

Daddy Superhero and myself, well we drink coffee. A lot of coffee! We also play detective and try to figure out what the causes may be behind the behaviour.

I've always felt the effects of a full moon in previous jobs - the world just seems to go bat poo crazy.

But since having children, the effects have been magnified somewhat.

Bring on the next full moon!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Autism and employment. What does the future hold?


A question was posed to me recently about individuals with autism and employment.

Before I can get onto the details of employment, let's look at some statistics. Some very worrying statistics!

In 2015 Professor Cheryl Dissanayake from La Trobe Uuniversity (i) was part of a research team who were tracking the long term progress of an employment program for autistic individuals. At that particular point in time, more than half of working age Australians who were on the autism spectrum were unemployed.

In 2016 survey results were released by the National Autistic Society in the UK (ii) in regards to individuals with autism and their employment prospects. Now keep in mind that these results are from the UK, but they are rather shocking nonetheless.

Less than 16% of the survey participants were engaged in full time paid employment and another 16% of participants were engaged in part time paid employment. Overall, less than a third of survey participants had any kind of paid employment.  And it wasn't through a lack of trying - 77% of survey participants who were unemployed wanted to work but simply could not gain employment.

Even more worrying was that the managers that participated in the survey stated that they did not know how to support autistic individuals, they were worried about giving incorrect support to autistic employees and they also did not know where to go to obtain advice.

All of these statistics combined shows a very bleak future for autistic individuals.



Adults who are on the autism spectrum often have difficulty obtaining and keeping a job and these difficulties are usually unrelated to their job skills. 

Individuals who are on the autism spectrum are often intelligent and highly skilled, but this can come at a cost to their ability to navigate social interactions - their people skills. Individuals with autism may not make it all the way through an interview process due to their lack of ability to read and understand social cues and others non-verbal body language.

Imagine walking into an interview, knowing that you already struggle with social interactions and deciphering body language in the back of your mind, to have three people who are essentially going to decide your employment future, fire questions at you. This would potentially invoke your anxiety into action, you may enter into sensory overload and yet you are still required to verbally demonstrate that you have the skills that your perspective employer requires. Mmmmm, the chances that you will successfully demonstrate your skills are probably quite low.

Then if you were the successful candidate and were able to put a foot into a work place, you then have to be able to navigate the hidden curriculum that is in a workplace. 

The hidden curriculum is a way of describing all of the unique cultures and unspoken rules that every workplace contain. If you are able to recognise and adhere to all of these nuances of a workplace, your success within the workplace is greatly enhanced. If you are unable to recognise or adhere to the nuances, your days may be numbered.

Many individuals with autism have social and cognitive challenges that prevent them from fully understanding social interactions and this impacts on their ability to gain and keep employment.

But this is 2017 and the future is starting to look a little brighter!



There are companies who currently have programs in place in which they are actively seeking individuals with autism to employ as they are realising the benefits of employing people who are on the spectrum.

Individuals on the spectrum often have strong analytical and mathematical skills, they often have very high attention to detail skills and they may excel in repetitive tasks! Individuals with autism often have out-of-the-box thinking skills and they will stick with an issue that they discover until they are able to resolve the issue - this is an innovation that companies often look for.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is one such company. In 2015, HP began actively recruiting autistic individuals with these skills for computer programming and testing software.

There are companies in the US that will only employ people with disabilities, autism included, due to their out-of-the-box-thinking and their attention to detail. These companies have realised the benefits, both for the company and for the individual, of employing people with conditions such as autism.

While autism is a life long condition, there appears to be less support for adults who are on the spectrum. Funding is thrust at young children via early intervention programs and other therapy services but once an individual finishes secondary school, the assistance seems to drop off.




So what does the future hold?

I am hoping that with the introduction and national roll out of the NDIS, that the employment opportunities for individuals with autism will increase as more and more adults will have access to resources, up-skilling programs and agencies that they may not have been able to access prior to being accepted into the NDIS.

Many autistic individuals have marketable skills and the only thing that stands in the way of them obtaining employment is the way that they are perceived by HR.

It is important for anyone, autism or not, that they be able to find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. Now that more and more companies are realising the potential benefits for themselves and individuals with autism, that people will be able to find work that taps into their strengths and talents. It is really is the start of a new frontier for autistic individuals.

One of the benefits of employing an autistic individual is that they probably aren't interested in the office politics or the office drama, they are simply there to do their job as, shock horror, that's what they enjoy doing. They just want to work. They are able to provide a new different perspective and a fresh outlook on what is important to the company that has employed them.

Now that companies are realising the overall benefits of employing people with disabilities, hopefully more supports will be put in place to assist managers to effectively support individuals within their company.

At times all it may take is for some reasonable accommodations to be made within the workplace to make the workplace feel a little less stressful for the autistic individual, and possibly for other employees as well. It is vital that these accommodations should be viewed as compromises rather than negatives - compromises such as a 5 minute break every hour so that the employee can get their mind back on track if needed or changing lights covers so that the sensory input is reduced. Changes such as these two would certainly benefit other employees.

In regards to my little superheroes? Well they are only 8 and 5 years of age but my hope for future employment is that they will find a job that makes them happy.

And that is all that matters!



i. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-03/people-with-autism-given-job-opportunities-with-hewlett-packard/6999510

ii. https://www.theguardian.com/tmi/2016/oct/27/11-shocking-statistics-about-autism-and-employment

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Do children need to be resilient?


Very recently an article on a social media site got me thinking about resilience and what the term resilience means. Actually it was a comment in the article that went along the lines of .... "children need to be taught how to be resilient" .... and it was said in the context of being able to deal with being bullied.

In effect the comment suggested that we need to teach our children how to be resilient so that they are able to "put up with" and "shrug off" bullying.

I won't repeat what went through my brain as I read the article as it was not particularly polite. My heart went out to the family in the article and in particular to their teenage daughter.

Yes, children do need to be taught how to be resilient.

No, children should not have to be taught how to be resilient so that they can handle being bullied.

To say that a child needs to be taught how to be resilient so that they can deal with the bullying is a cop out. Those are words from someone who wants to take the easy way out and not deal with the issue.

What example is that going to teach to our children that they have to be resilient to deal with bullying? 

That being a bully is okay? That being bullied is okay? That being bullied is their fault because they aren't resilient enough?

Oh hell no.



There is no place for bullying anywhere. In any environment. Schools. Work places. Social situations. No where is okay.

But why is bullying becoming more and more prevalent? I am not able to give a definitive answer to that question. If I was, I'd probably have a lot more money in my bank account!

I do have some theories though.

It could be due to a lack of discipline from parents. It could be that parents are too worried about being too hard on their children - they want to be their child's best friend first, rather than being the parent first. It could be that schools are not able to deal with bullying due to the red tape that they have to abide by.

I think a lot of the bullying issue comes back to the perception that words don't hurt. And this perception needs to change.

I've already posted a piece on just how damaging words can be, but I will say it again.

Words hurt. 

Words cut deeply and leave wounds that you can not see. Words hurt in places that are incredibly difficult to heal. Words don't go away.

Words eat away at you and your mind will replay the words over and over until you start to believe them.

Words, at times, leave deeper wounds than those that are left when you are physically bullied. Words can have long term very serious repercussions.



So why do children need to be resilient?

Children DO need to learn how to be resilient so that they can navigate through the day to day challenges that life throws at us. Children need to have the ability to be able to bounce back after experiencing a tough or difficult time and get back to feeling just as good about themselves as they did before the experience.

The day to day challenges that children need to get through could be things such as making mistakes at school, getting into trouble in class, having an argument with their friends, starting at a new school, not coming first in a sports race and so on. At times these challenges may be a little more serious such as a death in the family.

Children do NOT need to learn how to be resilient to "put up with" or "shrug off" bullying. 

Children DO need to be able to stand strong if they are being bullied - they need to be able to stand strong to defend themselves, they need to stand strong to recognise their sense of self and they need to stand strong to inform a teacher or their parent as to the nature of the bullying.

When we, children and adults, are resilient we learn from the difficult or challenging experiences that we face and we grow stronger from the experience. Being resilient means that an individual can be realistic and think rationally about the challenging situation that they find themselves in.

Do you know what some of our personal attributes are that are great building blocks for building our own resilience? Self respect, empathy, respect for others, self respect, kindness, fairness, honesty .... did I mention self respect?

To have great self respect means that an individual believes that they matter and that they should be treated respectfully by others. A strong sense of self respect will also help an individual to feel less vulnerable when they come up against the challenges that life throws at them.

But here is the catch, when you are subjected to bullying, your sense of self respect rapidly diminishes. So as parents, we need to be constantly building our children's sense of self. We need to remind our children that they are worth it.

Instead of telling a child to "shrug off the words" if they are being bullied, use the experience to build up their sense of self. 

Use positive self talk to encourage your child to see their own sense of self. Talk with your child and name the emotions that they are experiencing - let them express their feelings so that they are not hiding away from these BIG emotions. This will also enable your child to recognise and respond appropriately to these emotions that they are experiencing.


One of the things that we are constantly doing on a daily basis in superhero headquarters is attempting to create a positive family environment - this alone will assist to build resilience in all family members.

We are constantly reminding both O and L, that everyone at some point in time experiences difficult or unhappy times and this is perfectly normal. What is important to remember is that things usually get better, it might take a while sometimes, but they do get better.

We also remind O and L that they need to talk about their feelings, big or small, so that their feelings don't hijack their bodies. If they talk about what is worrying or upsetting them, that will assist them to feel better. We talk with O and L about ways in which they can calm themselves down in high stress situations.

We encourage O and L to view experiences from a positive or funny angle as this action induces positive emotions which in turn causes them to think about the possibilities of the experience and they in turn become more flexible in their critical thinking skills. By doing this, their perspective on the experience tends to shift slightly and the negative focus starts to diminish. 

We remind O and L that no one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of life and that as long as they learn from the mistake, that is all that is important. There are some things that they can do better than their friends and visa versa. And this is okay.



We also talk constantly with O and L that bullying in any way, shape or form is NOT okay. And that if they feel that they are being bullied, that they need to tell us so that we can do something about it.

Building resilience can be done from a very early age and that is what we are doing with the little superheroes.

I want both of my little superheroes to be resilient but I don't want either of my little superheroes to think that "it is okay to be bullied."

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Conversations can be and are heartbreaking!


Night time conversations with L can be absolutely heart breaking.

Late at night, or when L is meant to be going off to sleep, seems to be the time when he replays events, conversations and things that he observes throughout the day over and over in his mind.

Questions from L like .....

"Mummy, why can't I write words?"

"Mummy, why can't I write letters like my friends at school can?"

Questions such as these bring tears to my eyes on a much too regular basis.

Several nights ago L and I had a conversation that wasn't any easier than previous conversations. It started like this .....

"Mummy, why can't I read like sissy and H and R? I just wanna read a book a self!"

Oh my darling boy, my heart breaks every time that you ask me a question like this.


L is desperate to be able to read by "a self" as he so eloquently puts it. He loves learning. He loves books. He has a stash of his favourite books in his bedroom that he often hides on his bed. At least once or twice a day L will bring a book to O or one of us and request that we read it to him, over and over again!

He loves just watching me read when he should be going to sleep, although he becomes quite puzzled when he realises that the books that I read don't have pictures.

"That crazy Mummy! No pictures? No way!"

We usually try to turn conversations like these around and highlight the skills that L CAN do exceptionally well. Skills like swimming, running really fast, knowing all of the superheroes and so on.

We'll explain that he can swim incredibly well, but some of his friends don't find swimming easy to do. We explain that while L finds swimming an easy skill to learn, other people need to do lots of practice to be able to swim well.

And that while some people, like O, find reading very easy to do, he needs to practice to be able to read.

We've recently installed an app on our iPad that "reads" to L as he turns the page of the book within the app. He can not get enough of the app and will happily sit on the couch reading a book on the iPad. Most of the time while the app is running he is looking at the picture on the iPad but every now and then, we can see that his eyes are trying to follow the words of the book. Money well spent!

We also remind L that one day he will be able to read books just like his big sister and his school friends.

Phrases like "you will" and "one day you" and "you'll get there" are said many times every week in our house. Phrases like these seem to lift his spirits and spur L on to keeping trying and reaching new heights.

But we never focus on the things that L can't do yet, as we don't want the word "can't" to become a permanent fixture in his vocabulary.

We also never tell him that the reason that he is not yet able to read or write sentences is due to his autism. I'm not saying that L would, but I don't want him to use autism as an excuse to get out of something. I don't want L to become despondent that his autism, which he will have for life, may prevent him from picking up new skills at the same rate as his friends will learn the skills.

In saying this, L does know that he is autistic and we are instilling in him that autism is a different ability and that different is a great thing.

But it is at times like when we have these conversations that the reality of how hard life is with autism for L hits me like a tonne of bricks. It hits home hard.

I know that L will get there in his own time, just at the moment he just needs to work a little harder than O and his school friends.

I just wish that I could make life easier for him. I don't want to take the autism away as it is a part of who he is, I just wish that life was easier for him.