Do we need to be social???

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I don’t know about you but I am always worried that Jamie isn’t social enough and when I say enough she is NOT social at all.

She doesn’t seek anything social and when she is in social situations she is does not have a clue.  She doesn’t understand social situations and she doesn’t understand how to be social.  But people are always banging on about how we need to “socialise” our kids. But why?

I for one only socialise as and when I want to with people that I want to, so why am I arranging play dates for my child with children who have completely different interests and lives? She doesn’t want friends, she doesn’t need friends and she doesn’t feel bad for not having friends.  She just wants to be left to get on with the things she enjoys in life, like Sims, Little Big Planet, Minecraft & Pokemon. 10 year old girls don’t have the same interests, or if they do it is very rare or they are usually also on the spectrum and probably also do not want to socalise!! 

So I arranged said Play Date with some lovely girls who Jamie used to go to school with.  They came to our house so that she was in familiar surroundings.  The first thing I noticed was that these girls talk!! Now Jamie is verbal but she doesn’t “chat”, they talk about music and TV and what they’ve been doing.  So straight away it is uncomfortable.  For around 20 minutes they happily played on the Wii U, but then that was enough.  Jamie stuck her headphones on and sat on the other sofa with her IPad.  When one of the girls asked if they could sit next to her and watch her reply was “no thank you”.  So I make lunch and put the Disney channel on for the girls while Jamie continues to eat and read on the IPad.  I can tell she is anxious.  She agrees to play dolls upstairs after lunch, but when I follow her up she is actually reading stats on Pokemon cards.  5 minutes later she’s lying on the sofa in meltdown.  I have an hour to kill now before the girls go home and i’m feeling sorry for them and Jamie.  They don’t really understand why she doesn’t want to play with her, she doesn’t understand why they want to play.  So Jamie goes on Little Big Planet to calm herself while the girls walk our dog round the estate.  They ask if they can go to the shop??? Jamie never goes outside on her own let alone off the street we live on and I actually don’t know what to say.  What do 10 year old girls do, what are boundaries, where do they go? So I say I will take them to the shop on the way home.

We make the 30 minute journey to where the girls live and Jamie has her headphones on the whole way.  I stop at the garage to fuel up and the girls jump out and go into the shop – another thing I have not experienced.  Jamie didn’t even noticed we had stopped for fuel she was so far in her own world.  We passed the place where Jamie rides so the girls were asking her questions, she simply replied “no thank you” and put her headphones back on.  The girls ask to go to McDonalds, again I am shocked, Jamie never asks for anything.  They are literally worlds apart.  So we drop her friends off and I have to take her headphones off so she can say goodbye. Then we make the 30 minute journey home in silence …

So what has she gained from this socially? 

How has this affected her anxiety?

Was it worth it?

Will I do it again?

Well i’m sat here now mentally exhausted, so I can’t even begin to imagine how Jamie is feeling.  It was lovely to see her friends again and I really wanted it to be a nice day where she would realise that it’s something she should do more often.  But did it make her happy?  

What makes her happy is being in her own world, obsessing about her own interests, and being calm and routine.

Ask her who her best friend is she will tell you her dog.  Her dog makes her happy :)

 

Teachers Strike

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To be completely honest the Teachers Strike does not affect me.  I work from home and home educate one child so having the other one home doesn’t really matter, in fact it is quite nice.  Unfortunately for him he doesn’t get away with a day off, i’m working with Jamie anyway so he might as well join in.  Today we did a science experiment about dissolving sugar cubes.  It was fun and it meant he didn’t completely miss a day of education.

However, for some people the strikes are difficult.  Short notice to take time off from work, using a days leave which you’d much rather stick in a 2 week block, or loosing a days pay.  Then there are the special needs kids, those who have a routine and don’t like change. Those who expected to be going to school this morning that ended up in meltdown because it is clearly Wednesday and they can’t comprehend that this isn’t school today.  There are people who have 1 child in school and 1 child not in school, I can imagine this is difficult too.

I am in full support of the teachers (good gosh my mother and mother in law are teachers – i’d be lynched if I wasn’t).  But seriously it is not because of that, I support them because happier teachers mean a better environment for my child to learn.  Lets face it, they deserve better pay and pensions.

But striking, i’m not so sure of.  Firstly if they do strike, it is a day of industrial action and I feel that the teachers should therefore be picketing.  I have seen many a status update today, and in the past of teachers being on strike and having a days shopping, a pamper day, etc etc.  Now I understand they don’t get paid for the day but our children are missing out on a days education and I want it to count.  Just this week I received a letter saying that my son’s attendance was being monitored.  Apparently locally some parents have been taken to court for their child’s attendance being less than 85%.  Now my sons attendance is 90.1% but I know last time it was 87%.  I have never ever taken him out of school unless he has been ill.  So the warning letter came and then the next day a letter saying that the school will be on strike.  Lets just say that got my back up.  The letter went on to explain that if a child misses the morning register they will be marked as unauthorised for the whole morning.  Well luckily this doesn’t happen often but having another child who is on the spectrum and prone to meltdowns at any given moment we have had issues where she has refused to come and take her brother to school.  What can you do? Leave her – NO, take him – NO, force her in the car and get beaten up in the process and be late for registration – YES.  But enough about that.

There are certain groups who I don’t believe should go on strike.  The Police for example are not allowed to strike and could you imagine if they did!! I don’t think the Fire Brigade should be able to strike.  I am ex-army and I was involved in the Fire Strikes personally, I trust those guys with my life and they can turn their hand to anything, but soldiers are not Fire Fighters and to put that pressure onto them is unfair (in my opinion).  Council Workers – I myself have worked for the Council (Adult Social Services to be precise) and I have been involved in a potential strike.  Luckily that Strike didn’t go ahead because all I could think the elderly and disabled would be trying to contact us and who would be there to help? So Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Teachers, any front line service I believe should not strike.  But unfortunately I don’t know what they are supposed to do to get the discussions and the results they want :(

I have seen a lot of status’s today about, shall we fine the school £60 because they have gone on strike, it is unfair that we can’t take our kids out of school but they can close the school … It isn’t the school that fine you for taking your kids out of school, this goes beyond schools, they have no choice.  I know many teachers and they would agree that sometimes a holiday (at certain times of year) can be as good and as educational as being in school.  Especially towards the end of the school year.

 

Maybe if we did something we could help the teachers so that next time they don’t have to strike? Any teachers out there have any ideas?

Home Visit from the LEA

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We had our first home visit from the LEA last week, and I know there will be backlash from what I write because I have had people desperately trying to get me to avoid all contact with the LEA before and I know there will be people who totally disagree with everything I say.  That is your choice and I respect that, so please respect my choice.

So I agreed to have the LEA come to my home and see what we do with Jamie.  I didn’t want to fill out a form stating how we educate her as it’s not that simple.  Anyone who home educates a child on the spectrum knows you can’t simply complete a form that fulfills everything that the child needs to be doing.  Autistic children (along with lots of non autistic children) simply do not learn like that!! So I thought a face to face, see what we do and chat would be the best way forward.  

I am not stupid, I know it is a paper exercise for them, but I wanted their views on what I was doing and I wanted to discuss the future. So it was a win win situation.

We were visited on Thursday by the General Adviser for Home Education and the Statementing Officer, who were both lovely gentlemen.  Firstly they saw Jamie in her home environment, with her migraine and witnessed her being sick all over our new Sofa!!

They explained everything to us, asked informative questions, gave advise, gave us praise.  They commented on how well Jamie was doing and how well the environment suited her.  She is just so happy and anyone can see that.  That is why NO ONE is going to send her back to school where she can’t cope.  At home she is at the same level as any other child her age, if not above.  There are areas to work on like with any child.  She struggles with writing, so we need to make more effort getting her typing on the computer and she needs to get outside a little more often.  

We talked about the future and secondary education and it seems we all have the same concerns: will she go backwards, will it be too big, will she get lost, will it be too noisy, will she get stressed and lash out and therefore be excluded, will she be UNHAPPY :(

We went through her statement (which will be amended) and we were told that previous info we were given is wrong (we were told if she left a resourced placement for mainstream she would loose her statement) it turned out to be quite the opposite, they said that if Jamie did go to mainstream she would have a substantial package in place to help her! I’m not stupid, this may not happened as I know people do talk a good talk.  We can teach her ourselves like we are doing now, we could also get a tutor in for the core subjects. It is good to start having a plan, something I wouldn’t have thought about without this visit.

So all in all this visit was helpful to us as a family and Jamie enjoyed it, which is a bonus!! 

People avoid home visits for all sorts of reasons and each county is different and I know others will not have the same experience as me, but one thing that echo’s in my mind when I asked why so many people are anti LEA was this – People Home Educate for 3 main reasons:

1. Life style choice

2. Special Needs better met in home environment

3. People that have something to hide

You do not by law have to be visited by the LEA, I think the people who avoid these visits quite probably have had a bad experience with the education authority in the past.  This will not be the case for everyone and certainly wasn’t for us.

On another note they were shocked that the mainstream school Jamie attended first were so bad with her as the school is the most inclusive in our area and best equipped – apparently.

 

Scared S***less of XBox Live!!!

This week my blog has nothing to do with Autism but every parents fear … The Internet!!

I know I have a good boy, I have witnessed it many times.  A good example is when he had friends over and they were swearing in his room and he refused because he knew it was wrong (I was listening outside the door).  Listening outside the door has become a daily thing for me :( I am petrified of XBox Live and the Internet!

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This is me hiding outside my 8 year old sons bedroom door.  I do this regularly not because I think he is up to anything but because I don’t trust the some of the people he is playing online with.  Most of his friends we know but there is the odd one who are friends of friends or he met through gaming.  I often hear him telling someone “I can’t tell you where In live”, “I can’t tell you that” etc etc, and I check – and yes these are kids generally asking where he lives but it scares me.  Tonight someone was calling him a fat gay, his reply was “stop calling me G.A.Y” poor fella even spelled it out.  

This week I read a story of a boy who met someone online who controlled him and killed him http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/familys-tribute-to-breck-bednar-an-intelligent-and-thoughtful-boy-stabbed-to-death-by-internet-friend-9141054.html 

That poor boy met someone who he thought was his friend and he could trust enough to lie to his mother and sneak out to meet.  

I like to think that my kids can talk to me and I can listen to them, but who knows what is going on inside their headsets?

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So engrossed he didn’t even notice that I took this picture (sitting outside his room is pretty easy to get away with).  I would love to remove XBox Live, I would love to limit his friends, I would love to limit his games, but I’m not sure that would help anyway.  He doesn’t want to be the one who isn’t “allowed” and I don’t want him to be the one who isn’t “allowed” I was that kid and it’s not nice.  I want to trust him and I want him to trust me.  But gosh it is so scary.  He regularly asks when he walk to school alone, go to the shop alone …

I don’t know if i’m worse at this because my first born is Autistic and has never asked any of these questions and the only online game she plays is Autcraft which I know I can trust.  She talks to literally no one outside this house.  How we would love her to interact more but also it’s nice to know she’s protected.

So what now? Well for me i’m back off upstairs to listen in on his online gaming and then at 9pm when he comes off I will ask him questions about what I have heard (he really thinks I have eyes in the back of my head – something I want to keep going for a few more years yet!!)

Leaving Children Alone

I read a blog this week by The Reluctant House Dad which really made me think.  Here is the link to the blog, http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2014/02/16/child-snatchers-are-not-the-norm-leaving-children/

It made me think about all the comments, how people would never leave their child for a moment and they would always take their children into the shop, it’s easier to get them out of the car and take them with them etc etc.  Where this is true for most children, it is not always the best option.  My Joe is 8 and NT and can happily follow me along anywhere I go, Jamie 10 with Autism will not do this. Would you pick up a sleeping baby at the petrol station to pay for fuel or lock the car and nip in? What if you had twins, triplets or more?

Obviously in the above blog the man left his child in the pub, I’d like to say I would not do this but that depends on how well they knew the member of staff who he had told.  You can’t judge someones decision without knowing the full facts.

Everyday I take Joe to school in the car (we could walk but Jamie wouldn’t) she stays in the car on her IPad while I walk him in the door and say goodbye.  I do the exact same when I pick him up, she sits in the car with her IPad while i go and wait at the door and bring Joe to the car.  If I had to get her out of the car and into school (incidentally this was her first school which she absolutely hates) it could be the start of World War 3, the best option for all of us is that Jamie gets to stay in the car (her choice) while I quickly nip him in and out of school.

When I run out of certain foods that we can only get from certain shops, Jamie will again stay in the car.  For example, she has to have a Nesquick yogurt with her Melatonin and they only sell those in Morrison’s, she also only likes stay fresh brown bread which we get from Morrisons.  So when we run out and are desperate I park as close to the shop as possible, nip in for the yogurts and bread (grabbing a few cans of energy drinks for me while i’m there) straight through the self service tills and back out to the car.  This takes around 5 minutes but if I had to get her out of the car, into the shop and through the tills it would be a nightmare.  If we do a big shop she comes in, it is a nightmare but needs must.  On a little nip in trip I don’t see why I should stress her out for no reason.

I live on a new build estate which is a cul de sac.  If I need to walk the dog and Jamie refuses to come with me, I leave her on the sofa while I walk around the estate.  This isn’t a long walk for the dog but when needs must at least she is getting fresh air.  If the weather is ok we go out for a good walk and Jamie comes, but if it’s cold or raining she will not come so sometimes it’s a couple of times around the estate while Jamie sits on her IPad comfy in the house.

There are other times I will leave her and her brother, if I nip into the chemist for a prescription or into the surgery to request a repeat prescription, at the petrol station, local shops if I need milk etc, they will sit happily in the car.

Some might say i’m giving into her and she should be made to go into the supermarket or walk the dog, those people obviously have no experience of Autism.  She has to do things that she doesn’t want to do a lot of the time already, I am not going to upset her and stress her out and cause a sensory overload if I don’t need to.

Here is a video that might help you understand what it feels like for a person with Autism in a supermarket.  http://blog.theautismsite.com/sensory-overload-simulation/

Did you watch it? If so you might think twice about forcing an Autistic child to do things that can cause this when there is a better option.

Home Education & the kindness of strangers

We hit an obstacle with Times Tables that we couldn’t go any further on Education City without knowing them.  So we decided we would do some intensive Times Tables.

We found a few good resources one of them being a game called Moon Maths from Primary Resources http://www.primaryresources.co.uk/online/moonmaths.swf  You choose which tables you want to do and it’s an interactive game where aliens pop up out of the moon.  It is a fast game so good for keeping Jamie on her toes.  I will also be using this with Joe on the weekends too as he needs to keep working on his tables.

We also started using a website called Classroom Secrets http://www.classroomsecrets.co.uk/ you can download lots of resources, some for free but if you want access to everything a subscription will cost £15 a year.  £15 well spent I say.  This an example of what we used to learn the 4 times tables.  We spread the cards out on the table and Jamie matched them up.  Now she knows her 4′s!!

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We have also been using the Topic resources on Classroom Secrets too.  Being How to Train your Dragon obsessed the Viking Topic work is very cool.  Her favourite activity so far was creating viking sword names.  I can’t wait to do more of the topic work with her.  Using this site is not only fun but for someone like Jamie who is Dyspraxic there are so many activities that don’t involve writing.  Last week we did Perimeters, again like the times tables it’s a matching game, I also did that one with Joe when he was off school poorly.  So if you have more than one child the value is even better!!

We have ordered a couple of maths games from Argos a Times Table Lotto & Brain Box Maths.  Can’t wait to start playing :) Who knew maths could be fun???

Now onto the kindness of strangers.  This week we have had 2 deliveries.  The first one came from our friends over at Toys Aucross America https://www.facebook.com/ToysAUcrossAmerica?fref=ts, here is their FB page they ship toys across America to kids on the Spectrum.  One day no doubt Michael and his son will conquer the world and that is their plan, to ship to kids all over the world.  So shipping to Jamie was a little experiment.  She was so chuffed when the parcel arrived all the way from America.

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We changed the address for a bit of fun (Adams Family Fans will get it) but I didn’t mean to Photoshop the picture into a rude finger gesture.  Jamie wanted a compact mirror to look at her teeth, so Toy Aucross America sent her a Compact Mirror Speaker, it is so cool, she can listen to her music and look at her teeth at the same time!!

The second parcel we got was from a lady I had met through the Gumigem page.  She has a page called Crayon Box https://www.facebook.com/crayonbox13?fref=ts it is well worth a look as she has some fab products.  We got Russian Dolls (me and Jamie both love Russian Dolls) but Joe is desperate for the Lego Crayons so I will be ordering some for him soon.

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Sibling Tantrums :(

Oh dear, today I was the lady in Tesco’s with the child having a meltdown and everyone was staring, the old folk were tutting and I was a bad mother and I should discipline my child, but then if I had smacked his bum (which I don’t do BTW) I would have had different stares and different tuts.  I can handle this normally as it happens on every trip to the shops, however today Jamie “the autistic one” was a little angel.  She helped me to get the shopping and put it in the trolley and she even did some maths along the way.  It was Joe “the NT one” that had the meltdown from hell and I really didn’t know how to deal with this one.  

When Jamie is having a meltdown and people stare I have this almighty strength to stare back or say something or simply explain, but with Joe I just wanted the whole world to swallow me up.  Nothing I said or did could calm or stop him and it was like having an out of body experience.  He pushed the trolley into people, he push me, he pushed his sister, he ran off and hid from me and I am almost sure that everyone in that shop was staring at  me thinking I was an unfit mother.  

At the till he climbed up onto the windowsill and sobbed his heart out and told me how sorry he was.  

So now I am home and I am having a large hot chocolate to calm myself and Joe … he is on an X Box ban!

Please tell me I am not the only one that has a sibling who thinks it is ok to use learned behaviour? 

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