We went with my brother and his girlfriend to a Thai restaurant on Friday night and had a lovely meal and loads of crack too. On Saturday, we all accompanied the boys to a once-a-month club for children with disabilities, run by the Barnardo's charity. While I was talking to the project leader and watching Duncan settle in, one of the staff came up and asked if we had been to Fanad in Donegal during August. We had, and I remembered meeting her on the beach as she'd been out with her mum walking their dog. (Duncan had spotted their dog, and I had hastily gone to intervene if necessary. Duncan had been alternately running up to the dog, then squealing and running away. The dog was a bit spooked, she was quite a nervous animal. I had helped Duncan to calmly stoke her before he went off. I explained about Duncan's autism and the woman had said she works with autistic children, and she'd guessed he was.)
It transpires that this same woman is an occupational therapist trainee, and works in this play club. She recognised Duncan as soon as we came in. It's quite a coincidence, Fanad isn't exactly a bustling metropolis!
After the boys had settled in (Thomas was staying to play too) Gordon, Lady and me had an hour to spend together. I can't remember the last time we did this. Frequently each of the children spends time with either Gordon or myself, but not with both of us. I was reminded of the few times my mum and dad took me out for a meal on my own, when I was 14 or so, and how special I felt to have them to myself!
The boys had fun and made cakes of chocolate, marshmallow, biscuits and golden syrup. Duncan, obviously, enjoyed this activity a lot!
We didn't want to go home straight away, since we were having such a nice day. So we picked up some chips for lunch, then decided to take the train into Belfast. We dootered round the shops for a while, bought a few more sweets (have to keep the sugar levels up) and went home. Gordon and I were amazed at how well Duncan did. He held our hand, and enjoyed the trip out.
On Tuesday I took the children swimming, and like last time, it was a great success. Lady can already swim quite well, though she's never had any lessons. I will take her alone a few times to help her improve her style. Thomas was like an eel; jumping in and diving under. He managed to propel himself forward by a few metres. He has taken some big steps out into the world lately. He's definitely not the baby of the house any more.
Yesterday Gordon took a day off work and I convinced him that a family day out to the aquarium would be nice. It was too. The drive down along Strangford Lough is just so beautiful, especially on a sunny autumn day like yesterday. As expected the aquarium was very quiet, and Gordon spend a happy few hours discussing genetic diversity with Lady and a (not too interested) Thomas, while I took care of Duncan. The last time Gordon went there, the place was packed as the school were out, and it was all a bit stressful.
These trips out together are very important. Duncan is slowly becoming calmer and more manageable. He still sees things he wants to have, but we can now negotiate better about what is and isn't acceptable. He's continuing to develop, and we can really foresee how he will continue to do so as he gets older, just like all children, though on his own trajectory. It's also important to have the public get more used to seeing a non-typical child out with his family and having a good time.