Thursday, 20 July 2017

What autism looks like at Superhero headquarters

Since we began on our autism journey I have had too many people say to me "but they don't look autistic!"

I'm always curious to find out what they think autism looks like. People tend to hear the word "autism" and think only in extremes. Quite often the only interaction or knowledge that people have of autism is either through watching the movie Rain Man or they have an idea of an individual sitting in a corner of a room, rocking and banging their head against a wall.

But the truth is that every individual on the spectrum is as unique in his or her functioning level and personality as the rest of the population. No two people on the spectrum are alike! Autism can look like many things.

Recently when I was sorting through photos of my little superheroes, I began to come up with a mental picture of a blog post of our autism life told through a series of photos. And this is what I cam up with!

This is what autism looks like in our house. Two little superheroes who love each other to bits. O is 8. She loves to read - one of her favourite texts to read is the complete works of Shakespeare which she began reading at the ripe old age of 5! O doesn't line objects up, she groups her toys and belongings. She loves all the female superheroes and anything to do with space. L is 5 and is obsessed with superheroes, you name one and he can tell you anything about them. L lines things up, which makes life interesting when he goes into Os room and rearranges everything! L is boisterous and constantly on the go.

O and L are my little superheroes, through and through. Time and time again they come up against obstacles and time and time again they overcome these obstacles with massive leaps and bounds.

Living life with autism has it's full share of challenges. Little things that other families take for granted are quite difficult for O and L. Simple outings like going to a restaurant for a meal poses issues with what my little superheroes will and won't eat. Doing the shopping can end in a meltdown as my little superheroes generally enter into sensory overload due to their surroundings.

Block out ear protectors are a must, they go everywhere with us. Both little superheroes have a set of these and they have saved many an outing from turning pear shape! We do get a fair number of side way glances but we take that as an opportunity to spread a little autism awareness!

Even simple outings like a yearly photo with Santa is a nightmare. However now that more and more shopping centres have come on board with the Sensory Santa concept, we've been able to visit Santa two years in a row without any meltdowns occurring!

Both of my little superheroes need regular sensory breaks at school - I always try to give them both some sensory input before school starts! Sensory breaks are something that they will always need - the trick is getting them both to recognise when they need a break. I know that both O and L will get to that point, it is just going to take time.

Wash day! L has more superhero costumes than you can poke a stick at. Wash day looks like the Avengers have off loaded all their washing into my laundry! On any given wash day, I can guarantee that there will be at least 3 different superhero outfits in the laundry!

This is what the tail end of a meltdown can look like. This is the side of autism that people don't like to share or talk about. This is what happens when a child is in the midst of a meltdown and has no control whatsoever over their actions. This is what happens when you stop a Ninja Turtle figurine with your head. And oh my gosh, this hurt on all sorts of levels.

The bruise and swelling itself was incredibly painful. Seeing the confusion on L's face the next day was emotionally draining. He had no recollection at all as to what he done the previous evening. Thankfully this type of injury only happens once in a blue moon and when it does occur, I cannot hold it against either of my little superheroes. Neither of them would intentionally hurt us or each other, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Trying to get L to bed, at times, can be likened to trying to get a cat to take a bath. It really is a pay per view worthy event. He just isn't tired, not even a little. L has melatonin every night without fail and this will cause him to become sleepy, however if he isn't tired, it will not keep him asleep. Period! This means we have countless nights of very little or no sleep at all.

The wild and the calm - autism at it's finest. I'm not here to tame the wild within my little superheroes, I am here to guide them back onto track when they veer off. There is a place in this world for the wild as there is a place for the calm. We need both to balance out life!

Through my little superheroes, I am able to see life from a different unique perspective on a very regular basis. O's observations about the world around her can absolutely profound! O really is an old soul!

Autism Heroes!

Last year when we were on holidays in Queensland, we walked past a tattoo studio every morning when we went for a wander, and I began to get the idea of a tattoo that I wanted. Now the thought of needles causes me to become very queasy and it took me a good nine months to work up the courage to actually walk into a tattoo studio to book this baby in.

This tattoo, to me, sums up both my little superheroes perfectly.

L and O are my little superheroes, they are my autism heroes.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Wow, another Blogger Recognition Award!

Imagine my absolute surprise and delight when I opened up my emails and saw that Dr. Elise Cohen Ho from over Ask Dr. Ho had nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award. My second this year and my blog has not yet been around for twelve months.

I must admit that when I saw the email from Dr. Elise Cohen,I had to read the email several times to check that I was reading it right. The nomination made my heart sing! So thank you so much Elise, I really appreciate the nomination as it came completely out of the blue and made my day.

As I mentioned in my post for my first Blogger Recognition Award, I really am proud of how far my blog has come since August last year. I truly do feel blessed to be part of the blogging community. It is such a diverse community and the Blogger Recognition Award is a lovely gesture that shows appreciation to bloggers right round this wonderful world of ours.

There are a few rules that I do have to mention prior to accepting the award.
  • I have to thank the blogger who nominated me and provide a link to their blog. ✔
  • I have to write a post to show the award. ✔
  • I have to write a brief story of how my blog started. ✔
  • I have to give two pieces of advice to new bloggers. ✔
  • I have to select 15 other bloggers that I want to pass this award onto. ✔
  • I also have to comment on each of the 15 blogs to let them know that I have nominated them and provide them the link to this post. ✔

Why did I start my Blog?

I started my blog in August 2016 as a means of clearing my mind from all that we were experiencing on our Autism journey. At that stage we were 6 months into our official journey as we had received L's diagnosis in January 2016 and I had quite a lot on my mind. I wanted a little piece of the internet to clear my thoughts on and hence my blog was born.

As I have said in a previous post, writing for my blog acts like a soul cleansing - writing gets it all out there, there is nothing left for me to dwell on. I can mull it over while writing, analyse it while re-reading and editing the post, and then my mind is clear when I hit the publish button. Writing for my blog is like therapy!!

I have been asked why I chose the name "Raising My Little Superheroes" for my blog and the explanation is really quite simple - and there's absolutely nothing deep and meaningful to the explanation I am sad to say!

As a Mum I am raising both my children and in my eyes, they are both little superheroes. They have both been through so much in their short number of years. L's obsession is superheroes and O is also partial to watching superhero cartoons and television shows, so I figured that the name of my blog really explains what I do!

Being on an Autism journey can be quite a lonely experience. You truly do find out who your true friends are, those that understand and accept your children for who they are. I am sad to say that we have lost a few friends so far on this journey, but they are the ones who are missing out!

I truly hope that by sharing our experience, I am able to let other families know that they are not alone on this journey. An autism journey can be a positive experience, if you are willing to let it be. We have our fair share of rough days and I am happy to share these as well as the positive days - I want others to know that we understand and get what they are going through. I want others to know that support is there to those who want it.

Over the last 11 months I have come across many a blog that has been going for quite some number of years and I honestly hope that my blog will be one of those in years to come that inspire others to share their own story.

Looking forward my aim for my blog is raise awareness and acceptance of Autism and to educate others by sharing our families story. As I said in my first Blogger Recognition Award post I hope that my blog provides an insight into living life with two children on the Autism Spectrum as well as educates, inspires, and supports others who are also on this journey.

Advice for New Bloggers!

The first piece of advice that I have is to write with passion. When I first floated the idea of starting a blog to my husband, I was very clear in my mind about what I wanted to blog about - I wanted to share every facet of our autism journey. I have found that being passionate about your topic makes it incredibly easy to think of and write post ideas. I have come across many bloggers who write with passion, and it really shows in their writing. Passionate blogs are easy to read and they are the blogs that I constantly return to. They are the blogs that I want to keep up to date with. They are the blogs that I feel connected to!

The second piece of advice that I have is seek out and make some networks within the blogging community. The blogging community is so diverse - you name the topic, there is probably someone in this wide world who is blogging about it! And if you ask for advice, take it on board. The blogging community is here to support you!

Now this is the part I am looking forward to. I love visiting other people's blogs. I've yet to come across a blog that I haven't enjoyed reading and there are so many amazing bloggers who write with passion. I am going to do something slightly different this time as I am going to include why I want to pass the Blogger Recognition Award onto them!

So without any further ado and in no particular order these are 15 of my favourite bloggers.
  • Tasha over at Meldrums on The Move - this is one lady who knows her stuff! Have a read of the post about assisting on a community project in Kenya!
  • Doris from over at Sugar, Spice and All Things Autism - I love this post about helping our ASD children to reach for the stars.
  • Kelly over at It's a Tink Thing - Kel's daughter Tink, also has autism so I can relate to everything that she blogs about.
  • Meghna over at Love, Life and the Little One - I love her post about Dad's who are Rocking Fatherhood!
  • Jessie over at Two Little Homeschoolers - she has a great no cook playdoh recipe on her blog!
  • Sara over at Travels with Tots - I love all her reasons why she takes her little guy with her on her travels.
  • Grandi over at My Aggrandized Life - Have a read of the post about lessons in grace and courtesy.
  • Marissa over at Diytified - Marissa has some great DIY projects on her blog, like this DIY Growth Chart!
  • Rachel over at A Life with A Little - I love Rachel's post on the 5 things that she learnt from a self-care weekend. A must read!
  • Emma over at Mummy's Munchkins - I love her Ode to her Kids as I can relate to a lot of what she has penned!
  • Shawna over at Mish Mash Mommy - she has a great post up of 26 books to include in your toddlers library!
  • Lisa from over at A Life Less Ordinary - I love Lisa's post on the 5 reasons that her son's autism diagnosis has made her a better person.
  • Joseph over at Insert Chaos Here - this is a man who writes with passion and humour. This post about an encounter with a bee made me laugh!
  • Brandon over at Right Brained Mom - I love the post on the rock race track!
  • Megan over at Restless Meg - Her open letter to herself is very honest and powerful.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A perfect winters day for a playground adventure!

If you have been following my blog, then you've probably gathered or heard by now that Tuesday is my day off of paid work. A typical Tuesday for me usually consists with running the little superheroes to and from school, therapy sessions and specialist or funding appointments. Tuesday is normally a very busy day with barely enough time to stop!

Well not the Tuesday just gone.

For a change there weren't any appointments or therapy sessions to attend and as it was still the school holidays, I wanted to do something fun with my little superheroes.

When we woke, it was the perfect winters day for a playground adventure - rain was forecast for the afternoon but the sun was shining, the wind was low and what is a little rain between friends anyway! When I mentioned to the little superheroes what I had in mind, they both leapt into action. I haven't seen them get ready that fast in a long time!

First up was a new playground, well new for us anyway, called Livvi's Place Playground in Whiteman Edge. It was established last year as a joint initiative between Stockland and the Touched by Olivia Foundation. The play area was designed as an all abilities play space with features especially designed for those children with special needs, in particular Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical, visual, hearing and mobility impairments. Although obviously it is open to any families wanting to enjoy the space. I'd been wanting to visit the play space for some time with my little superheroes and we'd just never got around to going.

When we first moved to Perth in 2010, I made a conscious effort to take O to a different playground in the Perth area each week. There are literally hundreds of play areas to visit, some small and some very large, but all are great fun. We've yet to find a playground that isn't fun. We've had many a playground adventure!

I'm a big believer in letting children play outside, either in the backyard or in a playground. There are so many benefits that can be gained from just playing.

Play really is a fundamental part of childhood and if you have ever read the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, you will know that it states that "it is a child's right to enjoy play and leisure!"

Aside from having fun, children learn so much through the simple act of play!

There's the hand-eye coordination, hand-foot coordination, the development of fine motor and gross motor skills. Children learn to problem solve and take calculated risks.

Then there is the social aspect of play - children learn the art of playing and socialising with other children, they can practise turn taking and sharing. This in turn assists in the development of their communication skills!

Mmm, play is beginning to sound like a therapy session, isn't it!

Without realising, both my little superheroes were participating in a spur of the moment unofficial therapy session. And they both had a ball! 

There was lots of climbing, spinning, sand play and sliding. Livvi's place really does have it all and the play equipment was accessible for children (and adults) of all ages and skill levels.

There was an abundance of sensory equipment as well which was fantastic to see. L spent a lot of time on the spinning equipment. This kid just does not get dizzy, ever!

The twirly slide was also very popular. Both O and L went DOWN and UP the slide numerous times! There was lots of "yee haaing" and "woo-hooing" to be heard!

After roughly an hour of play, they both tired of the area and wanted to go somewhere else. So it was onto one of our favourite play spaces, Woodbridge Riverside Park. Now considering that rain was forecast for the afternoon, I was hoping that the park would be relatively clear of other people. I was completely wrong.

Woodbridge Riverside Park, or the pirate park as my little superheroes know it as, is a fantastic play space. It has a flying fox, a sunken pirate ship, climbing equipment and a lot of natural play areas and it is a very popular play space for families.

Unfortunately for us, there were loads of people enjoying the area and the busyness of the area became too much for both O and L. We weren't there for long before they were both begging to go somewhere else.

While this wasn't a great thing to hear them asking to go somewhere else, it did mean that they were both recognising the signs of anxiety within themselves. This is a good thing!

One of the aspects of this park that I just love, apart from the fact that it has an on-site coffee shop, is that scattered throughout the park are keyword signs. It really is an inclusive play area. We are already familiar with these signs as we regularly use them with L when he struggles to verbally communicate with us. L's face really does light up when he sees the signs that he recognises and can use.

Before we left the Pirate Park, O and L were fortunate to spot and collect a painted rock. Throughout the month of April we participated in the #autismrocks project. The idea behind the project was that people would decorate small rocks with autism awareness messages and they would then leave these decorated rocks in public places for people to find.

The #autismrocks project was based on a similar idea, I just can not recall where the idea originated. Well since then, the idea of leaving painted rocks in public spaces has really taken off and it is now popping up all over the world. Here in Western Australia there are a huge number of people who participate and while we have left a lot of decorated rocks in play areas, we had yet to find a rock.

You should have seen my little superheroes faces when they realised what they had found. L guarded the rock with his life and I am sorry to say that their first rock is probably never going to be re-hidden! The idea is that when you find a decorated rock, you re-hide it for others to find. Not this little gem though! L has not let it out of his sight!

After finding their very first rock, both O and L were keen to find some more rocks, but at a different park!

So off we went -  a dual adventure, playground and rock hunting!

We located a new park that was completely devoid of other people, albeit it was a little wet at that stage. O and L had so much fun, there was lots of squeals of joy as they found rock after rock.

They both re-hid several rocks and I currently have two in my car to re-hide at another park at some stage. I had to bribe them back into the car with the promise of buying them lunch, chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers of course!!

O was stoked to find out the next day that some of the rocks had been painted and hidden by one of her school friends!

And that was my Tuesday, so much more fun than sitting in a car or at specialist and funding appointments. Although I'm not sure what is more tiring, a typical Tuesday or running around like a head less chook on a playground (and rock hunting) adventure.

I know which one I'd prefer to do on a regular basis! Bring on the next school holidays!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The wild and the calm.

I've had many, many people pass the comment to me that life with autism seems hard and wild and I have been thinking about this a lot. I've also been asked many times how do I remain so calm - that I have the patience of a saint as I am so calm but I'm not sure if that is true.

Life with autism is wild but within the wild there is always calm. The wild and the calm balance each other out.

L is my incredible, uncontrollable ball of never ending energy. He constantly buzzes around superhero headquarters, jumping on, over and climbing under furniture. He fills our lives with constant laughter, noise, lots of WTF moments and the occasional trip to the Accident and Emergency Department of our local Children's hospital.

His world, and our world, really is where the wild things are. We don't need to read the book, we live it. Every. Single. Day.

L is very much a Mama's boy. My boy. L is my wild hearted child.

But the truth is that sometimes the wild in L's heart makes me emotionally, mentally and physically tired. Completely and utterly exhausted.

There are the days, weeks even, where it feels as though L and I are constantly clashing. That nothing that I say or do is right. Life, at times, feels as though we are playing a constant game of tug of war. I set boundaries for L and he is constantly testing them and then jumping clear over the boundaries.

L is a child that likes, nay loves, and needs to be in control. He always has been. And at times I feel as though he has joined the Rebellion. L tests my patience on a daily basis.

My patience is the frayed rope that is desperately trying to reign him in and he's on a swing on the other end, going higher and faster. I do worry about what may happen if my last bit of patience is ever used up. Will the rope break? What will happen to L? Where will he end up?

But then I look at photos of my little superhero and I no longer worry. I have lots of photos of him, mostly taken using my phone when he isn't aware - he isn't a huge fan of the camera! I am always drawn back to photos of a spur of the moment visit to the beach.

The last time we took the little superheroes to the beach, they were both having a fabulous time frolicking in the waves without a care in the world. In the photos that I took that day, I can see his, and O's, fiery little souls captured and beginning to calm as they played.

Watching them play in the waves was an epiphany to me about our life with autism and two wild hearted children!

To me, ocean waves are both beautiful and wild. Ocean waves dance and crash and roar onto a beach and from a distance it seems like absolute chaos. I have always felt a connection to the ocean and have found peace in sitting and watching the waves play with the shore. I feel calm and at ease when I can sit and watch waves play.

But behind the chaos of the waves, there is calm. If you think about it, behind the waves there is a quiet force at work. A gentle giant that is constantly pulling, fighting and guiding the ocean to attempt to create order and calm amongst the waves.

The moon and ocean - both at odds with each other but also both working together.

Myself and L - constantly at odds with each other, but also working together to navigate through the minefield of life with autism.

My epiphany was that my role is not to be at odds with L (and O,) my role is to simply be there. To be there to try to guide them on this roller coaster ride.

I am the calm and consistent. L is the wild. I am not there to calm L's wild, I am there to quietly pull him back into order, to keep him on track.

Life needs wild. There is a place for calm as there is a place for the wild in this world.

I now let L be wild. And while he is being wild, I simply sit back and appreciate the incredible beauty and sheer hearted stubbornness that exists, and will always exist, within the heart of my wild child.

L is the wild, I am the calm.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

What anxiety means to me and why my old brain is to blame!

Did you know that globally, 1 in 13 people suffer from an anxiety related illness? That is a ginormous proportion of the world's population.

Anxiety is going to mean different things to different people and it is also going to present differently from individual to individual. As with ASD, no two people with anxiety are alike.

My anxiety, well it can look and feel like a number of things.....

At times, anxiety causes me to be utterly exhausted and totally bewildered by what is happening around me. I'm unable to make sense of what is occurring or how I should be responding.

At times I appear to be calm but under the surface I am a bundle of whirling anxious thoughts. My feelings and emotions will snowball until they become bigger and more difficult to manage. It feels like I am tangled in a very intricate spider web and the more I move around to find a way out, the more I become tangled.

My anxiety is not rational in any way shape or form. And at times I can sense that I'm not thinking rationally but I just can not seem to make my way out of the anxiety fog.

Anxiety can and has deeply affected my self confidence - I've always been shy and had a tonne load of self confidence issues. I have always, until very recently, found compliments incredibly difficult to take on board. I've always been quite critical of myself and I tend to over analyse almost everything. I have always had to force myself to step outside of my comfort zone.

The other thing about my anxiety is that it is a never ending continuous loop - I want to escape from what is making me anxious. But thinking about escaping makes me anxious so then I become anxious about being anxious. It is rather ridiculous when you start thinking about it and then wouldn't you know, the anxiety races again!

My anxiety has been and can be a very lonely and very private experience.

I've come to realise that for as long as I can remember, anxiety has been in my bones and these days I blame my old brain for my seemingly constant anxious state.

And I can now hear you thinking, what the hell is she on about? Old brain, you are cuckoo!!

I read somewhere but unfortunately I just can't remember where, that we all have an "old brain" and a "new brain." The old brain is the hindbrain and the new brain is the neocortex. There is also a midbrain that connects the old and the new. Now all three sections perform very different functions, they are independent of each other but they do pass information back and forth to try, and I emphasise TRY, to cooperate with and support each other.

Now the thing about the old brain is that it is incredibly stubborn and will only pass information to the new brain when it is unable to make a decision on its own. The old brain wants to make all the decisions as it is able to process information at a very quick rate. It takes in information that is drawn from all of our senses and when it perceives that danger is present, the old brain stimulates an extremely old part of the brain called the amygdala.

Now the amygdala is an almond shaped section of nervous tissue and is thought that it is part of the limbic system which is responsible for our emotions, our survival instincts and our memory! The amygdala activates the stress response which releases stress hormones which then causes our flight, fight or freeze response to jump into action.

The new brain on the other hand is the rational sllowww thinking brain. The new brain is the conscious part of the brain that can rationally evaluate situations and it is the part of the brain that can make the better decisions. Unfortunately, in my case, it is at a never ending tug of war with the old brain who wants to protect me from the perceived danger!

My anxiety isn't provoked into action by anything that is particularly fear inducing, well not to the non-anxious new brain anyway. To the old "I-jump-to-conclusions-too-quickly" brain almost any situation can be a minefield waiting to explode. And in the past my old brain just has not wanted to let the my new brain in!

Now a days, well it's a different story.

Several years ago, my GP suggested that it may be beneficial for me to take happy pills, aka, a low dose antidepressant.

Initially I was quite embarrassed and felt weak, but now I have embraced this side of me. I have come to the realisation that I need my happy pills to help me think logically and rationally. I need my happy pills for my new brain to take charge of my old brain.

Sure, at times, my old brain breaks through and causes me to become anxious but not nearly as often I used to. And there are times that I have to consciously remind myself to breathe, relax and think logically. I have to consciously allow my new brain to take over!

I have also come to realise that medication doesn't equate to weakness.

I am able to recognise that I need assistance in the form of my happy pills so therefore this makes me strong.

But if you ever come across me when I am in an anxious state, there are a number of things that you can do to assist me. You can take charge, tell me that I need to take a break to escape from the environment that is causing me to become anxious. You can try to remain as calm as possible, this will assist me to come back down to a calm state. You can just be there, be that reassuring person that everything is going to be okay.

But whatever you do, please do not tell me to stay calm, it isn't going to help in the slightest!

Just a few random facts to finish with!!

Apparently the old brain developed the watching for danger skill millions of years ago when we were walking around with a club looking for food! Back then it was a case of needing to be on the constant look out for danger! While we have obviously evolved, our old brain finds old habits hard to break so it still tries to apply the same "watching for danger" skills to modern day life!

Have you ever wondered why a smell can trigger anxiety? Well it all has to do with the fact that the amygdala evolved from our olfactory bulb. The amygdala which triggers anxiety is intertwined with our olfactory processing system. The olfactory system also has direct access to the hippocampus which is responsible for associated learning! So as amygdala which triggers anxiety is intertwined with our sense of smell receptors and our sense of smell receptors are intertwined with the hippocampus which is thought to be responsible for memory, when you initially smell something that makes you anxious, your little old brain remembers!!

Friday, 30 June 2017

There's sick and then there is autism sick!

L's health has always been up and down. He always has a cough, no matter what time of year it is or what the weather is like. We usually put the cough down to his asthma - there is no point going to the doctor as our GP will just say "put him on a three day course of Redipred and keep using Ventolin and Seretide. Come back if he gets worse." There is honestly not much that can be done, we've just had to accept that L is, at times, not a well child.

On a Wednesday night two weeks ago L had a particularly rough night with his breathing and neither he, Daddy superhero or I got a lot of sleep. The air quality on that Wednesday where we live was not the best, there was a thick smoke that hung around for pretty much the entire day, so the rough night was put down to his asthma.

The following morning L didn't want to eat breakfast and was happy to just sit on the couch and watch TV. This rarely happens and when it does, we know that he is really sick. This time it wasn't just his asthma.

Cue a trip to our GP.

Now normally when we have to take L to any doctor or specialist surgery, we just cannot keep him still. That particular morning however he just wanted to sit on the floor and sort all the oversized building blocks. Mmmm this is a worry. Even one of the receptionist's commented on L's lack of energy.

When L was called into the GP's office, he went and curled up on a chair. Cue one very worried look from the good doctor. Normally L is climbing over and under the chairs, he starts to investigate all the medical equipment, he'll open and close cupboard doors and literally bounce off the walls. Curled up on a chair is unheard of for L.

And wouldn't you know  it, L had an infection in his right lung and both his ears were badly infected.

When the good doctor asked L if his ears hurt, L very adamantly said "No!"

As the doctor said "how L isn't in pain and doesn't have a high temperature astounds me, his ear drums are bulging from the infection."

Oh man ..........

And then I felt like a heel for sending L to school on the Wednesday. It just goes to show that he is a resilient little superhero. He pushed through feeling a little off and lasted the whole day at school!

This kid just does not feel pain.

It simply doesn't occur to L that he should tell us when he isn't feeling well or when his ears or throat hurts. My theory is that due to how often he was sick as a baby and toddler, L just thinks that feeling unwell is normal. He doesn't complain, ever.

When L had his tonsils removed, he was eating greasy chicken nuggets within an hour of coming out of surgery. O on the other hand, who had had her tonsils removed at the same time, was struggling to eat the jelly!

The first that we know that L is sick is when he has a raging temperature of 39 or 40oC. Or when he starts power vomiting everywhere. Or when he voluntarily lies on the couch during the day. Or when he refuses to eat, no matter what is on offer. This is what autism sick looks like in our place.

Like most children, autism sick is unpredictable and can arrive with only a split seconds notice. There is none of this "he's looking unwell and has been going down hill for the last few days." L just becomes unwell at the drop of a hat. L rarely stops moving but when he does we know that something is up.

L could teach us adults a thing or two about getting on with life no matter how we are feeling. Thankfully the antibiotics kicked in, he finished his three day course of Redipred and he started looking and sounding a lot better. Although in saying that, he did a develop another ear infection just this week gone.

And this is the part where I am going to sound like a very selfish mum! On one hand I am hoping that he won't get another ear infection as I do not want L to be in pain. But on the other hand I do want him to develop another infection so that we can be referred back to the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist for a second set of grommets!

But in the meantime we'll continue to monitor L and play it by ear. No pun intended!!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Little Monkey, Calm Down!

**** Please note that I do not receive any commissions of any sort for the books that are mentioned in this post. They are simply books that I have found useful. ****

I've been asked numerous times "how do I get my 4 year old to calm down?" and "how do I teach my child some anger management skills?"
Well ..... I'm no child psychologist but what I do have is years of experience in assisting my own children and other children to learn how to manage their anger.

I currently work in an early childhood learning centre and work predominantly with the 3 to 5 year old age group. Just recently I have been trialling various positive behaviour strategies.

One of the strategies that I am employing is our Happy Pebbles.

After reading the book "A Handful of Quiet," I decided to take elements of idea that the book promotes and incorporate it into our Kindy Room program. However I figured that I may have had quite a bit of trouble trying to get 20 odd children to sit quietly contemplating their navels so I came up with a slightly different idea incorporating pretty stones.

After reading A Handful of Quiet, I went to my local hardware store and purchased a bag of lovely looking ornamental stones. These were to become our Happy Pebbles.

I also found a book, online of course, called "Little Monkey Calms Down," written by Michael S. Dahl. It is part of the hello genius series and the blurb for this book states that "this book promotes manners, speaking skills and animal recognition."

While reading Little Monkey Calm Down to L, he was able to recognise his own feelings of anger. During the story, he copied the actions that the little monkey was doing to calm down and I thought, aha I am onto something.

One of my personal goals for O and L is to introduce them to the concept of breathing exercises to assist them to calm down. O is doing incredibly well, even though she will not admit it, however L hasn't quite grasped the concept. I have a feeling that the current book that we are using at home is beyond his comprehension level at this present moment.

One of the pages in Little Monkey Calms Down, talks about Little Monkey taking a deep breath so I thought that perhaps this page could help L and my charges at work to understand breathing exercises.

This past week at work I have begun to introduce the book and the Happy Pebbles to my Kindy children. To begin with, I simply read the book to them as a group and asked them how they thought the Little Monkey was feeling. They all did very well at identifying the emotions of sad and angry. So I then asked them what type of things made them feel sad or angry and they came up with ideas such as their friends not sharing, falling over and hurting themselves and losing their teddy bears. Oh, the innocence!

We then continued with the book and copied the actions of little monkey throughout the story. The story is quite a short story but I found it incredibly effective in explaining what we can do if we're feeling sad, mad or angry.

At the completion of the book, I gave each of my charges a Happy Pebble to hold in their hands and I explained that the pebbles that they were holding would help to make them happy, just like Little Monkey, but first we had to do a few things with the pebbles.

I asked them to rub their pebbles on the middle of their chest over their heart so that pebble had lots of love in it, then we rubbed it on their heads to fill the pebble with some happy thoughts and then we gave the pebbles a kiss for good measure!

You should have seen their little faces, their smiles said it all.

I then explained that we had to put the pebbles in our pockets to keep them safe and that each time that they were feeling sad, they could take their pebbles out and rub it on their hearts and on their heads and then give it a kiss to get some more happy thoughts and love.

It sounds like a very-off-with-the-fairies concept but you know what, it actually worked. It took some of the children a few times to get the idea but most of the children got it first go. I could see them getting their pebbles out when they were becoming frustrated and going through the actions to calm down. And whenever myself or the other educators noticed a child becoming agitated we would gently remind them what they might like to do with their Happy Pebble.

It wasn't specifically teaching them breathing exercises but by going through the motion of rubbing the pebble on their chest, their head and then giving it a kiss, those actions were giving them time to breathe and to have a break from what was going on around them.

The following day as soon as I started on the floor at work, I had all these Kindy children asking for their pebbles! Wow what a change!

I had children very excitedly telling me "Jenni, my stone make me happy again!"
I had children becoming distressed when they had misplaced their stones, which resulted in a Happy Pebble hunt around our outside play area until we found the missing pebbles!
I had children reminding each other to rub their pebbles on their hearts and heads to get more happy thoughts, and "don't forget a kiss, it needs a kiss too!"
I had children asking to take their Happy Pebbles home, and then very excitedly showing me the Happy Pebble the next day and saying "see I no forget it!"

It is going to take time for my charges to be able to do breathing exercises without a pebble to focus on, but it was truly wonderful to see them beginning to understand how they can take charge of their emotions.

Now I need to go and purchase some more Happy Pebbles to restock my magic bag!!