24 Oct 2006

Annie and Clarabel arrive

Our friends arrived from London on Thursday. It was wonderful to see them, the girls whom I'll call Annie and Clarabel and their mum S. (It's OK S., I promise not to call you Bertie here). S. and I met at antenatal classes meaning Lady and Annie were born a few weeks apart. They've been friends since they were babies and have a real close sister-like bond. Clarabel is a 5 year old, cute little imp of a girl. I miss seeing them, as we used to spend a lot of time round their house and they in ours, and we were always available to mind each others children when necessary (though I was easily the main beneficiary of the free child-minding!)

The children clicked back to being together instantly and spent hours playing with dolls and dressing up and reading and watching films and drawing. Me and S. did OK too, we managed to find plenty to chat about, heh, no problems there!

My Dad drove over on Thursday and took Duncan off to stay with him for the day. He'd only been away for 20 minutes when he phoned me. I worried that something might be wrong, but no; he wanted to let me know some of the cute things Duncan had done on the journey. First he'd pointed at some cranes in the city (Belfast is laden with cranes right now) and said it was the harbour ('cause of Cranky the crane in the Thomas stories) then he pointed out the hospital where he'd been recently and told his Granda it was the dentist. Also, my Dad was singing to him and playing an opposite game. He said, 'do be do be do!', Duncan replied 'do be do be don't!'

So Duncan spent a few hours with Dad and G. in their apartment. They took a trip to the pet shop, and just had a lovely time. He was able to communicate all his needs perfectly, even when a tiny train picture I'd made earlier was binned by accident, Duncan let them know so it could be retrieved again. Oh, another first too; when he went to the loo, he said to Dad, 'Go away, no adults.' I didn't even know he knew that word! It's clear that spending time with his Granda is really good for him, and I know Granda and G. enjoyed it too!

At 6 o'clock, he gathered up all his toys, packing them into his bag, went to the door and announced 'I must go home.' So, he did.

While he was away, we had a trip into town and had a hoke round the shops. That night, the girls took ages to fall asleep, preferring to natter into the night. Eventually they dropped off, only to wake at 4.30 am, put the lights on and come ask me if it was morning! Well, nooo my darlings...

On Friday, we went to W5, obviously. It's our favourite place to go. Annie and Clarabel loved it. They had an exhibition of some of the sets from the Wallace and Grommit movie. The detail and humour in these sets is stunning. I made the mistake of looking at something Annie wanted to show me for, oh all of 15 secs and when I looked back to check on Duncan, he had gone. I asked the 2 women on the door of that room if they'd seen a small boy with curly hair whizz by; they had not, but that didn't mean much. I had them warn the person on the main exit to make sure he didn't go out (they all have walkie talkies) then ran down stairs to look for him in the cafe area and sweet shop where he usually goes. He wasn't there but I found him minutes later in another area. He'd only been out of sight for about 4 minutes. After that, I was kept very busy tailing the boy as he explored and investigated. All very nice for him but knackering for me!

At least the girls and Thomas all went off to sleep early that night. Duncan was still buzzing 'til after 10 though. Yawn!

On Saturday, my Dad came out to our house on the train and once more, he took Duncan off with him for the afternoon. They went to the park where Duncan spent all his time in the sand pit, barefoot (in Northern Ireland in October?) and happily digging and piling sand. Afterwards, they stopped at a shop for ice-cream. Duncan tried to get out of the car via the front door and G, my step-mum, had to hold him until Dad got back. He fought and shouted, and when he was settled again he apparently looked at my Dad and said about G, 'I don't like that woman!' Thankfully she wasn't offended! And she was able to buy her way into his affections again by being the one to hand over the ice-cream; good move!

This time, the rest of us went to the zoo. There were few other people there, which was a new experience for our London visitors. We all had a nice time and a good work out going up and down those hills. The highlights were the penguin who flirted with everyone through the viewing window into their pool, and the elephants.

Our guests went back home on Sunday morning leaving us all alone again. We'd had such a nice time together, especially Lady who I was delighted to see, gets on with her friend just as well as if they'd never been apart. They really do love each other like sisters, and I know they will always be close.

Gordon returned from his conference in Chicago on Monday afternoon, feeling utterly exhausted. I am too, and hope we can get things back to normal again soon. Having him away for so long is hard, though it wasn't so bad this time having friends here and so much help with Duncan. I have been a bit low though and need to get my routines in place again, and hope and pray the boy starts going off to sleep a bit more easily soon.

18 Oct 2006

Green Eggs and Ham

On Monday, I was in the charity shop dropping off a load of stuff and then in TK Maxx buying Lady a winter coat. Somehow I also ended up with a load of new CD Roms for the children.

One was Green Eggs and Ham (a bargain at £2) which I thought the boys might like. Well, Duncan just loves it and spent ages playing it yesterday, following the story, repeating the words. I had to draw the train (obviously). I've also had to cook many fried eggs (no yellow bit) for the boy, so more benefits there.
I never liked Dr Seuss as a child, but I know now it was because I never heard the books read aloud, I was trying to read them to myself quietly, and they just don't work that way.

Oh, I've seen the paper linking TV viewing to autism. It's a joke, it has to be a spoof. I'm hoping the authors will come out someday soon and say, 'see how easy it is to sucker you all with some dodgy theory.' Just stick in the word autism and the media opens up to you. Sorry, strike that, they'll ignore most stuff like studies on autistic cognition and studies flagging up the errors in the earlier 'measles in autistic guts' stuff, but come out with any hare brained idea of what the cause of autism is, and they're falling over themselves to give you column inches.

Gordon has gone to Chicago for the week. Yikes! Thankfully, we are having guests this week. Our much anticipated visit from some really good friends from London. Lady in particular is very excited; her best friend in the whole wide world is coming!

I must go help her now. She's a bit fed up with the boys and I just heard her say 'I think sisters are better than brothers.' Thomas answered 'I thinks sisters are pretty', which was very nice of him.

12 Oct 2006

You will...I won't

Lady and Thomas have been badgering me to get them a new baby brother or sister, in a similar way to how they'd ask for a new bicycle. Lady took Thomas to her room yesterday for some 'baby training'. They had the dolls out and were pretending to feed and change them, that way, they'd be able to help me when (their word) their new sibling arrives. Well, it's nice of them to make major life changing decisions for me isn't it!

Lady was also teaching Thomas about the solar system yesterday. We read part of a new book I found in the charity shop (great places those). It's called the Great Big Book of Knowledge and is full of facts. She loves it. She also did some French on the computer, and some writing. She did her maths and science -reproduction just happened to be the next topic on the CGP workbook we use, so that was very interesting!

Duncan played with trains, browsed BBC schools online, being very taken with this song especially, and he watched a few more Thomas films on YouTube. He enjoyed the film of Thomas set to Firestarter by The Prodigy, so that's music appreciation covered!

Duncan and I have a new game. He was quoting some Thomas the Tank lines one day, saying 'You will, I won't' which comes from a conversation between Edward and Thomas, or so he tells me! I joined in saying in a deep voice, 'You will', he laughed at me and answered, 'I won't!'
We repeated this a few times then I said, 'You can', he paused for a few seconds, then giggled and said, 'I can't'.
After a few more turns, I said, 'You do'....'I don't.'
'You are'...'I'm not.'

Last night Thomas woke up while we were all in bed and shouted out in fear from his bed. I hurried to comfort him, calling out as I went to reassure him. He told me that he was frightened of the spider on his bed. Earlier, there had been a big spider in Lady's room and I'd put it outside. I told him that it was definitely outside now so he wasn't to worry. He said 'OK, then I'll just go back to sleep' then lay right back down. It made me laugh how he went from terrified to fine so easily. Later though he called out again. This time he thought there was a lizard on his pillow! I said there were no lizards in our house and climbed up to hug him. I dusted some crumbs off the sheet and he said 'Oh, the crumbs must have been in the shape of a lizard then!' That's rationalisation Thomas style!

Just to note, while I was writing, Thomas came downstairs with his toothbrush and some 'adult' toothpaste. He wanted to use it to brush his teeth but wanted to know if it would make his nose go on fire (obviously Lady had warned him it had this side-effect!). I told him it was safe so he went off to brush. Duncan was at the time sitting beside me, but playing on the computer and apparently not listening at all. He turned to me, fixed me with that special look, thought hard and said, 'Thomas no fire on teeth, no fire on nose!'

So that's 2 autism myths busted right there! He's paying attention to his environment even when it appears he's not, and he empathises. You go my boy!

10 Oct 2006

Magic and big questions

What a great day we had yesterday!

The boys came for a snuggle in my bed and Thomas and I played a game of sakes and ladders on my laptop. Straight after breakfast they gather round the computer to play the 'troll in the dungeon' game aka Timez Attack. Well, Lady played it and the boys looked on. It's good fun, and you have to answer multiplication sums to defeat the troll, so it's educational too. Honest, it is.

Later my friend D rang to say she could come over. Thomas and Lady overheard and were all excited; they love to have visitors. I told them that we'd be meeting the French boy who is staying with D's family for 6 months. Thomas immediately decided that he should be Lady's boyfriend. So they came over so we had a great gang of kids running round. We had a nice lunch together and it was a pleasure to meet the new arrival.

D had a tiny Mrs Incredible toy thingy attached to her mobile phone, which she'd placed on the high window sill in our kitchen. Obviously Duncan caught sight of this and went to have a closer look. He just calls Mrs Incredible 'woman'. D kindly gave him the tiny character; she knew it was just the kind of fiddly detailed thing he loves. He was delighted with it and played with 'woman' all day; singing to her and having her dance, making her run fast, then go slow, putting her inside trains and carriages, and just looking and looking, holding her right up to his right eye with his left eye closed.

Unfortunately, 'woman' wasn't designed for so much handling and by 7 o'clock, she'd been decapitated. Duncan brought her to me and asked me to 'fix it'. He looked at me intently, the way he does when he's trying to figure out how to communicate something new to him. He said 'woman's...' then paused, touched my neck, then said 'fix woman's...' so I filled in the gap, 'Fix the woman's neck'. 'Yes, fix woman's neck. Fix a head. Poor woman, poor head, poor neck. Woman go a hospital.'


He said all that!!! Yes, he sure did.

We had another visitor yesterday too. A woman just finishing her teacher training has come out to play with Duncan, via the NAS befriender scheme. She's been coming for a few weeks now and is making great friends with all the children. She plays chase and tickles with Duncan, chats with Lady and plays snakes and ladders with Thomas. Yesterday, Thomas showed off his (rather fine) trampoline moves, and she got on for a bounce with him. When she was leaving, Thomas begged her to stay for one more game. I told Thomas that M. had to meet her mother in town, 'and we don't want her Mummy left waiting for her.' Thomas saw the logic in that, 'Oh yes, 'cause her Mummy might be worried that she's been eaten by a monster!' I picked Duncan up to say goodbye to M too, he asked to kiss her! I told her she was highly privileged, I don't think he's ever asked to kiss anyone before, except immediate family. But then M is very attractive!

It's early, but so far today has been magical too. Duncan came into my bed at 7.30 and lay chatting to himself, 'summer, no summer, yes summer' then he asked about the 'woman' and the state of her neck, then he talked about Daddy. 'Daddy not go away, Daddy come back.' I assured him that Daddy would be back from England soon. Thomas joined us and started talking about feeding babies and why they drink mummy-milk and asked again how they're made. I told him about how they grow in the mummy's uterus. He asked how it gets started, yip he really did. I told him that there's a special sort of seed, a sperm, which joins the mummy's tiny egg and a baby starts to grow. He asked if we had any sperm in our house, I told him only Daddies have sperm, so he decided that after breakfast Daddy should give me some so we could get a baby. Oh lord. Sadly, Daddy's away right now!
Lady came in to join the throng, before we all got up for breakfast. It's a good job no-one's at school. I love our chilled mornings.

Right, time to get on with some stuff.

8 Oct 2006

What really matters

I have been feeling really pissed off this evening. I got involved in a local forum, where I felt duty bound to challenge a autism = horrible disease to be cured view, also charlatans like DAN practitioners were being heavily promoted. (Some USA residents have joined up now to tell all these Irish mums that their children are mercury poisoned, never mind that we never had mercury in any vaccines here...)I haven't done this personally much before and I found the experience of trying to converse with people denigrating the opinions of autistic people and twisting my words to make me appear to prescribe doing nothing to help children in need, wearying and depressing. I should be stronger and stand up to it, but I've had enough. I just want the warm embrace that comes from conversing with people who are on the same level as you, who can talk about people in a respectful and appreciative way, who can share my delight in all my children for their unique talents and personalities. I'm grateful for all the blogging Mums and Dads who also have one or more children who aren't standard issue, and who always talk of them with love and respect. I'm grateful for the Posautive YouTube group. It did my heart good to watch a few of those films tonight.

Also, I'm thinking about my children and how wonderful they are, and my husband who is like no-one else I know; cleverer, kinder, a bit eccentric, insightful, talented. He's gone away to a conference for a few nights so I'm a bit lonely too.

Bah, feck it. I know what matters, and it's not those folk.

5 Oct 2006

Duncan's assessment

Gordon and I took Duncan along for a one-off speech and occupational therapy assessment session yesterday.

I'd been asked by the clinical psychologist I saw with him last March if I wanted this assessment. Again, I thought there would be little to gain by going, but I wanted to be able to write on his DLA application that we were waiting for the assessment. You need to have input from the professionals to get the benefits, and the money would all go into savings for him to use when he's older. (Although, we still haven't had a decision on the claim we made in June due to some cock-up in the benefit's office.)

So, the others were again sent off with a grandparent (Gordon's mum this time) and we set off. I'd drawn a little cartoon book for Duncan, showing that we were going to the 'nice hospital' (where you can play with all the toys) as opposed to the 'nasty hospital' (where they pull your teeth out ;-0).

The occupational therapist (OT) had set up a marble run and Duncan sat down and started playing with her right away while we talked to the speech therapist (ST). I had nothing but positives to report. They had a copy of his file from the OT and ST at his old school, and it's clear that he is much more capable than he was described on those old reports. I explained my methods of working and playing with him, using his interests (that'd be trains to anyone not in the know!) as a way of making all sorts of connections and discoveries. I told about his ability to type the train names on Google to find pictures, and how he'll get a book to copy the names he doesn't yet know how to spell. I told how he knows that even when he's looking for pictures of 'James', he needs to type 'James Thomas Tank' to narrow the search criteria. He did a few picture puzzles, and named the objects. he picked up all the marbles and puzzle pieces when requested to and packed them away. He drew pictures of me and his dad, giving Gordon a nice head of curly hair! He was focused and happy. They had him do a game in which he lay on a skateboard on his tummy, went down a small ramp, them got off the board, picked up a picture of some clothing (i.e. 'red hat') from a selection spread out and put it on a picture of a boy. I couldn't see the point of the exercise, and neither could Duncan. He enjoyed rolling down the ramp though, letting Brio Percy freewheel in front of him! He did the picture things though, so he could go back for another go down the slope.

In all, it was clear to them that he was thriving, they couldn't really think of anything else to recommend. Gordon was impressed with me. He saw that this is what I do. There is a point to all this reading about autism. It helps me know better how Duncan is thinking, what his motivations are, what the potential pitfalls are and gives me ideas and strategies to adopt.

We still have problems to tackle, it's far from being all rosy round here. There are the tantrums, the shouting and crying when he wants something that I can't or won't give him. But I can re-direct him much more often now. It's tiring some times; when he's at his most challenging and the very noise he's making is grinding me down, then I have to be at my most imaginative and (when appropriate) playful.

The Voyage is ongoing, but now we have much better charts, and the crew are gaining more experience as time passes too.

Totally Thomas

This boy is so cute.
He has been interested in writing letters to people lately; his cousins, aunts and uncles and our friends who came to stay from England a few weeks ago. Right now he's writing one to our friend Debs! These missives consist of his name written in capital letters (always capitals!) on one side of a folded piece of paper, then the proposed recipient's name spelt phonetically by himself and written with reference to an alphabet book. He asks for my help for those difficult 'letters' he can't find in the book, like GR and SH! Running out of space isn't a problem either, one merely continues writing the remaining letters above the earlier ones.

He's still a big fan of snakes and ladders and engages all our visitors in a quick game. He also enjoys 'pludo' (more commonly known as Ludo). He does his 'computer work' every day, which involves playing a Thomas the Tank CD-ROM or his favourite, Jojo in Numberland. This is aimed at children older than him but he can do the whole thing. He loves counting and sorting. He'll spend ages looking at a number square or tape measure. It's amazing seeing how much he just learns in that 'soaking it up from the atmosphere' way!

Gordon was watching TV the other night and after an ad for Tesco came on, with voice-over provided by Ronnie Corbett, he remarked on how Thomas is a bit like Mr Corbett. And he is! He tells funny stories with a totally straight face, earlier he told me about a dream he had in which he, Lady and their little cousin were in their Granda's car when they fell into some lava. Another day, he told me about his dream that he was at the South Pole and a penguin kissed him.

On Sunday, my youngest brother, his girlfriend and their delightful daughter (also 4) were round with Daddy and my step mum. We all had a nice time and it's so good to see them as we live so far apart.