30 Nov 2006

Counting down

I'm amazed that November is ending. We've several things to get ready for the Christmas season; gifts to buy, cards to make and send, Christmas cake to make. We'll be making a paper chain advent calendar this year again (tear a link off per day, the chain gets shorter as Christmas gets closer) and I want to make a Christmas pudding for the first time. I'm also counting down the days until Gordon and I head off to Barcelona next week for 2 days. It's his birthday (a big one) and I'm so excited. I've never been to Spain and I've heard and read so much about how wonderful Barcelona is.

Today, Duncan had one of those days when he just wanted to be around me all the time. He dictated another book, all about himself and his siblings.

Lady puts on her Jasmine top. Lady wears her Jasmine top.
(Duncan loves it when Lady wears this dressing up outfit, from Disney's Aladdin film. He likes to hug her warm, bare tummy, but she doesn't wear it often and has now hidden it from him.)

Duncan was good as new. Duncan was delighted today. He gets Daniel's Thomas the next time.

Thomas watched Harry Potter in Duncan's room.

I can remember getting all excited about Duncan using 5 words in a sentence for the first time, now he's dictating stories then reading them.

I also had to do several drawings; Buzz Lightyear, several trains, Rocket from the Fimbles, and lots of Chinese Dragons; and he is so particular, it took many tries before I was able to produce what he was describing. He'd seen one on the DK World Explorer CD Rom, a few days earlier with Lady.

Lady wants to do some badges for Brownies. She's starting with a care for animals badge, and has to write about looking after the guinea pigs and a few other things. She read through the book listing all the options, and has decided that she'll do the sports badge (jujitsu) and disability awareness badge next. She wants to inform people about her brother's autism, so we'll look at it together and see how that could be done.

They're all asleep now, poor Duncan fell asleep with his little hand stuck into a pot of frozen peas. He burned his finger tip by opening the printer, when some paper became stuck then he, as usual, tried to sort stuff out for himself.

28 Nov 2006

Lady swims, Duncan reads, Thomas multiplies

After all the drama and mood swing of the past few days, yesterday was delightfully calm and productive in comparison. Lady got stuck into her maths book, and worked really hard. Thomas mostly played PC games, especially The Polar Express and Timez Attack, a free downloadable game. He's played it so often now that he can answer many of the multiplication questions himself. He also read for me; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? We're going to make our own version of that book today. He might even decide to draw something other than a rainbow (the only thing he currently will draw) to illustrate it!

While the others were busy, Duncan and I remade his 'Trevor' book on the computer. We Googled images and he chose which ones to use. He also picked photos of me and himself, then instructed me on where to place everything on the page and what size to make them. We're very proud of our efforts, so I'm sticking it on here!

In the evening, I took Lady swimming. She went in and I watched from the side. I have never seen her swim before, she swam the width of the pool, and has never had a lesson, but splashed about lots with her friends at her summer scheme. I'll go in with her when my hands heal again (my intermittent eczema problem) and help her develop a better style. It was lovely going out alone with her though. She is such a great girl, so happy and positive. The town was lit up for Christmas, and she declared everything to be gorgeous! Then in the pool, she kept catching my eye and giving a little wave, before diving under the water!

And now, our book!

Duncan wants a new train. Duncan wants a Daniel’s Trevor train.

Mummy buys a Trevor train on Ebay.

The man in the train shop puts Trevor into the parcel.

Then the man brings the parcel to the Post Office.

The postman puts Duncan's parcel into his bag. He brings it to Duncan’s house.

Duncan opens the parcel.
Duncan takes out the new Daniel’s Trevor train.

Duncan is very happy!

27 Nov 2006

Good and bad

Over the past few days, I've listened to a lot of wailing, at high volume, produced by a small boy right next to my head. It's been awful at times. He has been upset about so many things. I have not coped at all well with this. I've been horrible sometimes, and have gotten so wound up by all the noise and aggravation, that its all escalated until we've ended up clinging to each other, both in tears. I need to buy some ear plugs. He hates to see me cry or be sad; he wipes my eyes and says 'no Mummy sad, Mummy just happy' which always does help me smile again.

But, even through all this, there have been some wonderful developments and experiences for all 3 children. Duncan has been reading a little booklet I made him, complete with pictures, showing how I'd bought him a train on Ebay, and describing how the man in the train shop would parcel and post it, then the postal worker would deliver it. He loves it! He keeps carrying it round with him and reading it over and over. I have to improve the little pictures a bit every so often too; he'll stare at one for a while, then ask me to, for example, draw in a wooden floor, complete with knots in the wood, or the bricks in the wall of the house picture, alternating bricks in brown and orange. It's so important to him to get it right, and he works so hard finding the words to communicate what's in his head.

His ability to read has taken a huge leap forward over the past few days too. I remember someone telling me that it seemed her child became more difficult to deal with when he had a surge in ability with some other skill; perhaps that's what is happening here. Anyway, he has been pointing to each word, reading it clearly, skipping the few words he doesn't know yet, and carrying on with the story. I have never seen him do this before, he never seemed to recognise that they were all individual words before. Gordon watched him with me on Friday, and was so proud of him (and a bit misty eyed too!)

The big news for Thomas, is he now wears glasses. He is slightly short sighted and really only needs to wear his new glasses for stuff like watching TV. Thomas is so proud of then though, that he wears them all the time. In fact, he's decided to start sleeping on the bottom of their bunk beds, so he can get into bed, pull his duvet over himself, and then finally, he removes the glasses, puts them carefully into their case and places it on his chest of drawers.

He walked around on Friday and Saturday, with a zig-zag scar drawn on his forehead, so he looks more like his hero, Harry Potter.

On Friday night, he and Lady both spent the night at their friends house. It was a sleep over for his 12th birthday, and there were, oh, about 20 or so children sleeping there. Thomas was so excited when I'd told him he would be staying, and immediately went to pack his bag. He had a great time, hanging out with his best little buddy, and apparently, he's a dab hand with these DS electronic games now too!

Lady loved it too. They watched a bunch of exciting movies, and she slept with the 2 big girls also staying over. The best bit, she told me, was when she and another girl, were on an exercise bike belonging to D (the very brave Mum hosting this whole gang). They both raved about chocolate birthday cake, pizza and pop, and were all fast asleep by 7.30 the following night. Thanks D!

(Update, the new 'Daniel's Trevor engine' has just arrived in the post, exactly as described in our story! Hurrah!)

21 Nov 2006

Our week out

Since there's been a man painting in our house for the past week, we've been spending every day out. It's been costly, stressful, tiring, enlightening and fun all mixed up.

On Thursday, we went to my Dad's apartment for the day. The children love it there. Lady and Thomas played snakes and ladders and 4-in-a-row, and Duncan checked their cupboards for sweet things/looked through the Argos catalogue/played with trains. My step-mum encouraged me to go out for a while, so I took the opportunity of meeting up with Gordon for lunch at a (quite upmarket) restaurant. It's clientele was mostly men in suits and elegant ladies, with hair that's 'done' once a week. We had a really nice meal, and when Gordon went back to work, I went off and spent some of his hard earned cash on some clothes for me. I got back to the children after a couple of hours away feeling like I'd been on holiday. This is certainly one of the benefits of living quite close to your parents!

On Friday, it was my mother-in-law's turn to put up with us for a while. I had to leave Duncan and Lady with her while I took Thomas to the optometrist for an eye test. He was so solemn sitting there during the test, and even when he couldn't make out the test letters, he always had a guess- he'd never admit to not knowing! So, he is a bit short-sighted (not surprising since Gordon and I both are) and we went off to choose some frames for him. He's delighted of course, bring him closer to his goal of looking like Harry Potter.

After that, my MIL had to go out, so to use up some more time, I took all the children to the transport museum. I asked Lady to stay with Thomas and make sure he was OK so I could stay with Duncan. At first, Duncan was 'stuck' in the cafe, crying for cakes or chocolate bars, but I knew he wasn't hungry as he'd just eaten before we arrived. He also had a hard time getting past the big display case of with the model railway and a Percy and Thomas train in there too. He kept trying to open the glass door, while I tried to distract him with something else, and threatened to take him home. After a bit of noise, he started to run off to look at some other things. A group of men were setting up some model railways for a one day exhibit the following day. I was right beside Duncan, with my hand on his shoulder, making sure he didn't cause any harm to the intricate, lovingly arranged sets. He did reach out and touch one signal post, even though I was whispering to him to 'just look, not touch.' One of the men setting up snapped at me, 'don't let him touch anything.' Duncan was struggling to get away from me again, and I thought 'grumpy ould f.' and called Lady to tell her we'd have to leave right away. Duncan cried and said he wanted to go on the big engine, so I relented and took him to climb into the cab of one of the steam trains. And that was the turning point, from then on he was great and we all had a lovely time. About 20 minutes later, the man who'd spoken to me earlier came past. I avoided eye contact, feeling very offended and all, but he came up and apologised for snapping at me earlier. Wow, I wasn't expecting that! I did appreciate it though. I told him that I did have to stay close to Duncan who's autistic and loves trains, but could inadvertently cause damage. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Duncan joins their group in 10 years time!

The rest of that day was spent having lunch in the McD place, running about in the forest park (we all patted a beautiful Great Dane) and watching part of a DVD in the car while it rained.

Yesterday we went to the local indoor play area. We arrived at 11.15 but couldn't go in as they only can let preschool aged children in before 12. So we had an early lunch, more junk food at the drive through, then went back for 12 on the dot. The children had the place entirely to themselves and made the most of it. Thomas was brave enough to go down the huge, high, inflatable slide with Lady, and Duncan went on a bouncy castle for the first time. He spent more time in the ball pool though.

We then drove back to my Dad's apartment for the afternoon and Duncan did some reading practise using the Argos catalogue; he can now read all sorts of important words like 'busy time Thomas' and Grrr, Roar, Ding and Toot.

14 Nov 2006

That's a wrap!

On Sunday, the whole family went for a walk down to the beach, then we drove to the drive through at you-know-where. There were happy faces all round.

We're having our hallway and kitchen painted this week, using a washable paint. So, we're getting out during the day so the man doing the decorating can get on with it, without lots of little helping hands. Yesterday Gordon took time off work and we went to W5. Lady and Thomas stayed with Gordon while I looked after Duncan. We managed to run around every square metre of that 5 floor building. Who needs a gym? I don't!

In between all the running (and chasing) lots of things captured his interest for long enough to warrant a pause for further investigation. My favourite bit, was when we played with some plastic dinosaurs and and made some frame-by-frame animation films of them bashing into each other - as you do! Suddenly Duncan decided to move on to something else, so he ran off, and as I went after him, I heard him say, 'that's it, that's a wrap!' I have no idea where he heard that before, or how he was able to say it in such an appropriate setting.

He uses lots of expressions from the Green Eggs and Ham book now too. It's great for expressing a disinclination to acquiesce, like, 'I do not like it here or there' or 'I would not, could not'. When I turn off his light at night, he says 'Not in the dark!' And he sometimes follows up with the rest of the line, 'not in a tree, not in a car, you let me be!'

I think it's magical, seeing how he adapts all these scripts in his head, chops and sorts them and uses them in such a logical way!

Today we spent the day with some friends. (I had warned my friend D to 'brace herself' for our arrival!) We all had a great time and us mums had a good natter.

Lady and Thomas have become very interested in a boy band from a children's TV show set in Belfast. It's called Bel's Boys, and I keep hearing snippets of their songs, mostly sung by Thomas when he's sitting on the floor building a puzzle or whatever. He wants a guitar for Christmas (so does Lady). She also told me that when they were at W5, a teenager said Thomas was cute and he responded with 'I'm not cute, I'm a singer and I do rock!'
So there!

10 Nov 2006

Some outright boasting

These were taken in W5, when our friends were over with us a few weeks ago. Don't I have some fine children! (See, who's playing with toy trains in behind Lady!)
Then there's Thomas looking oh so grown up!

Last Sunday, Duncan finally persuaded me to make this cardboard Percy train. He'd seen a photo of something similar (only much more professional looking!) when he'd been Googling his beloved engines, and kept asking me to get 'cardboard, green paint, red paint, yellow paint, black paint.'

I pulled them all out of my seldom used art box and we all went to work, with Duncan directing proceedings 'yellow number six, that size (and he shows us with his hands) goes there.' He loved it when it was finished.

Gordon has been away since Tuesday and will return on Saturday; another conference, this time in Prague. Nice work eh!

We've been getting along fine, We had friends over yesterday. Thomas was delighted to hang out for ages with his bestest buddy and Duncan loves the Crazy Frog music toy we were so kindly given. Lady and the boys were playing some macabre game that involved at one stage, leaving some of the bits of Gordon's plastic teaching skeleton (the one we store in the closet) in a corner of the garden, sprinkled with strawberry milkshake mix ('it's supposed to be blood'). They had a load of fun, and I had, as always, a really nice chat with my friend.

Today, they boys took turns on the PC. Thomas played his Jojo in Numberland game all the way through (showing some pretty advanced maths skills) and then Duncan took over. He called me over to help him, and I looked at the screen. He had typed 'fiorence magic roundabout' into Google. He learned how to write 'Magic Roundabout' by himself yesterday, and I had written the word 'Florence' down for him a few days ago. He was obviously typing it from memory, just mixing up the i and l keys. What a guy!

7 Nov 2006

Do reward systems help?

Yesterday, the whole family enjoyed a walk in the country park, with the low sun coming through autumn trees. Lady walked alongside Thomas, and I smiled to see her arm protectively on his shoulder when were on the narrow path along the road. Duncan rode on my back until we reached the forest and he dashed off along the beech leaf strewn path. It really was beautiful. We passed under the viaduct, just missing a passing train, and carried on to the waterfall. Duncan was in front all along, and I was running after him calling for him to stop or slow down. He didn't want to go home, and wanted me to carry him again when we were back on the road. Gordon and I tried to get him to walk; I walked on ahead and he sat on the ground crying. Soon, he ran up to me and I gave in (as usual) and picked him up again. We will be getting a buggy for him soon, so perhaps this particular issue will hopefully be sorted out, but...

This is a recurring thing round here, Duncan cries long and loud enough, and I cave in. It's not right. There are some things that are causing problems, that have built up over time, and I can see now that I have set up these situations Oh, it's not all the time, I can distract him most of the time, and I don't even mind the low level whining for things that he does when we're at home. What is the biggest issue of all, and what I would most like to change right now, is the problems we have about going out. Everywhere we go, he knows where there are sweets and cakes available. And worse still, are the trains, oh god the trains!! Every time we are driving home, having gone out anywhere in the car, he starts shouting and crying asking for whatever train is next on his wish list and saying 'No go home!' I used to buy one every week when I took Lady to drama, and had to wait around in the town for an hour. That wasn't too tricky as they were cheap and easily available. But now, he's looking for engines which aren't available anywhere except via the internet. I've bought a few, to give him as presents when (for example) Gordon returns from a conference, but sometimes he's just had them from the postman as they are delivered too.

Oh dear, this is very boring to explain. But if anyone is still reading at this point, how can I get us all out of this. I don't want to punish him when he starts shouting. He's not doing it to be naughty; he's learned that there's a good chance that he'll get what he wants from that kind of behaviour.

I don't usually use reward type systems with the children, but perhaps this is what is required now. Gordon and I were talking about some sort of way to let him build up credits to earn the toy he wants, so he knows that they would still be available, just not because he's shouted at me. I would not punish him for doing the wrong thing, he takes really badly to being told off, so if I was to remove stickers (or something), he'd be freaked out.

I need to go off and analyse my behaviour now ;-)

2 Nov 2006

Quit the pity

A few days ago, when we were coming back from a walk, a woman was walking past our gate when she stopped and gestured to me to come over. She told me that she had been driving past the house a few days ago when my little boy was out on the road, waving and standing in front of her car when she was driving. I was surprised, as I couldn't even think when that might have happened and explained that he's autistic. She told me she already knew, she'd spoken to his Granda previously (my Dad knows my neighbours better than I do!). She said that she saw him run back to the house, so I suppose she felt it was safe enough to leave him then and not inform me at the time.

As she was talking, Duncan came out again in his bare feet. I asked him to go get some shoes, and he pointed at her and said 'Go away!' Lady was around and she said, 'he's saying that to Mummy because he wants her to get him something.' She was obviously trying to prevent the woman from feeling bad, but Duncan came right up to us, looked straight at the woman and told her 'Go away woman', so there was no mistaking his meaning. I apologised in a sort of general way, and she looked pityingly at me and said that it must be very hard on me. I was well flustered by then (thinking about what might have happened to Duncan that day, wondering how it happened etc.) that I was only able to mumble something about him being a great boy, but one with limited understanding at times.

I soon figured that it must have happened the day the cavity wall insulation and loft insulation were installed. The men kept coming and going and leaving the front door open. I kept Duncan engaged with stories and as many little 3d pictures of trains as he wanted. But I had to go upstairs for a moment, and Lady came up to tell me that Duncan had gone outside and was climbing up the ladder. I ran down and brought him back inside straight away, but the road incident must have happened just before that.

Thankfully we live on a very quiet road; only vehicles going to the houses on the street need come down it.

As I've thought about this several times in the days since, I get a shiver of fear for what might have been. Aren't children great at doing that to you? I also can't help thinking that if I'd been in her position, and I saw a young child I knew was autistic (and therefore developmentally delayed) out on the road, I'd get out of the car and make sure he got home and tell his parent about it at the same time. Perhaps I'm trying to offload some of my own guilt onto her though.

But I just can't forget the pity thing either. I know it's harder raising a child like Duncan than children like Lady and Thomas. But I don't know if people realise when they say that, how it upsets me to see him singled out as a source of pity for his mother. He is my son, and brings me more joy than I can express. What's to pity?

1 Nov 2006

Halloween and all that

So where are we; halloween, family parties, children learning stuff and making mess, ah life as usual.

Last Friday, Gordon's Mum came over to mind the children for a few hours in the evening and Gordon and I went out for a meal. It was the first time we'd been out together for ages, and it was lovely. Then on Saturday night I was gallivanting again. This time Gordon stayed at home and I went to the home town with Dad and G for my cousin's engagement party. I always have such great crack when I get together with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. The bonus was, I was asked by yet another cousin to help pick the fancy dress winners in the party he had organised downstairs from our party; the power, the POWER!! (For the record, the grim reaper won, with 2nd and 3rd places going to the naughty policewoman (she must a' been foundered) and the gangster.)

I stayed the night in my Dad's place, and had a long lie in the next morning. It was bliss.

On Monday, we started the day with a walk to the beach. I should really have prepared for the wet trousers and socks that ensued, but I hadn't, so Thomas had a cold, wet walk home. Duncan had removed his trousers, socks and wellies and strode into the sea with his two skinny pale legs sticking out from his big winter coat. He insisted on being carried most of the way home which was knackering. I'm hoping to get a Major buggy for him soon. The occupational therapist has ordered one. Then when he's feeling overloaded or tired, he can just sit down and hide behind a Thomas book or something, instead of wanting to be carried.

For the rest of that day, we all worked really hard, with everyone concentrating mainly on reading skills. Lady took one of those reading tests and although she had a score which was just the same as her chronological age, it was clear that she simply guessed lots of the words, when I knew that she would be able to 'sound them out'. So we did a bit of the 'Toe by Toe' phonics reading book we used when she was younger then she read some of her 'Pippi' story aloud.

She really loves the Dorling Kinderly 'explorer' CD Roms we have. Both she and Duncan played the World Explorer one quite a bit recently. Duncan particularly likes the bit about the Pacific Ocean; he recites chunks of it now!

We took Duncan over to spend some more time with his Granda, and the rest of us went to the folk museum where there were special events for Halloween. Lady had dressed up as a witch; I had painted a (crude!) web and spider on her green face, and she wore some deep red lipstick. It looked good actually. Thomas wore his Harry Potter quidditch costume, not really scary but he liked it! They both had small toy brooms, and Thomas sat on his and rode the whole way rounds the museum. Lady began to feel self-conscious as she was the only child with her face painted and she started to get grumpy and negative about the whole thing. Everything was starting to wind down by the time we arrived too, even though there were 2 hours to go before closing time. It was cold and windy so got back in the car to go get Duncan. We decided that we'd buy a spooky DVD, go home, cook the burgers I'd bought earlier and have a home movie night.

The film we choose was 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and we all snuggled on the sofa to watch it. (The film was OK, funny in parts but far too long; the kids liked it though, especially the ghoulish bits which would have freaked the bejesuz out of me and my equally wimpy siblings when we were their age.)

So now I'm all caught up again!