29 Jun 2008

All in a row

Have I mentioned before that Duncan likes Thomas trains? Oh I must have. Here are a few examples. I even took part in an NAS survey about autism and Thomas trains and was quoted in their report.

Duncan's interest in the trains comes and goes and is strong again right now. Yesterday I took a few photos of the boy's bedroom after he'd been playing contently for a while.

He has customised most of the trains in some way. He has stuck on bits of modelling clay or dubbed on paint, aiming to make the engines look more like what he wants of them.

Sometimes, the old games are the most fun.

25 Jun 2008

Another birthday

It's my birthday today. I'm another year older. I wonder when I'll start feeling a year wiser?

I've not felt like writing recently, though much has happened.

Lady and Thomas both earned new belts in Ju Jitsu, a great achievement. My brother's wife had a baby girl, they're all doing fantastically well and baby E. is (of course) utterly beautiful and privileged to be joining such a great family.

Then there has been the arrival of Pippi, our Miniature Schnauzer puppy. She's named after the world's strongest girl, a most excellent role model, Lady and I believe. The (not very good) photo was taken on her arrival in our house. She is possibly the cutest puppy on earth. We're making good progress with house training and she happily uses her crate both as bed and training aid.

Duncan has a new special interest, the red Renault Clio car parked in the drive 4 houses up from ours. He wants me to buy it, or steal it, or just acquire it by any means necessary(!) and get rid of our blue Vauxhall. He keeps going up to stand just outside their drive looking at it. He's drawn it, and even downloaded a photo of a red Clio and changed its number plate on Paint to that of our neighbour's car.

I'll keep this short in the hope that writing something, anything will get me out of this fug. I think I'm stomping around the dungeons of my mind too much...must cheer the heck up!

13 Jun 2008

Duncan's birthday

Duncan just turned 8. He chose to go to the toy shop to pick his present (another train!). He prefers to get exactly what he wants rather than a possibly unwanted surprise. We each bought an ice-cream and then he was happy to sit looking at the Mad Mouse roller coaster which has been erected in town with the rest of the summer fun fair, but not yet opened. The fellas building it must be getting used to my lot hanging around. Duncan noticed the construction on the very first day as we drove past and we had to go and watch them work for while, even though it was raining!

Last year Duncan objected to people saying he was 7. He prefers to think of himself as number 6, because he is the Percy train in his family engine allocation. Yes, I got in wrong on my blog! This year I explained how Lady is number 2 like James (her engine) but she is 9 years old, Thomas is number 1 like Thomas (yeah, I got one right) but he is 6 years old. So Duncan can be number 6 like Percy the engine, but he is 8 years old. He thought that was acceptable.

Back at home, we asked all the children who happened to be around the street, most of whom have somehow materialised in the past few sunny weeks to join Lady and Thomas as they scoot about on their bicycles, to come join us for some of Duncan's chocolate birthday cake. He blew out the '8' birthday candle, and everyone just said happy birthday! Earlier I'd asked him if he wanted us to sing the birthday song or just say the words and he'd made his choice, which I passed on to the children.
He enjoyed his fairly low key celebration and giggled every time I made a fuss of him for being the birthday boy.

I just want to record his latest achievement, he and his dad cycled to town to see the roller coaster at the weekend, a distance of about 5 km each way. Since then he has gone on a few evening bike rides with us down to the beach and back. He's made massive progress in his bike handling in such a short time.

5 Jun 2008

Too Green to Know Better

The amount of trash that is written about autism just never fails to astonish me. Can people really still be filling column inches in the Telegraph a supposedly serious newspaper, with junk articles like MMR: The debate that won't go away?

Thankfully, the bloggers are on to them, as Dr Aust tears this one apart.

My old pal, Phil Doherty, whose breathtakingly credulous article on the MMR/autism supposed connection I wrote about here and here, has been at it again. I know he writes for a small, irrelevant and parochial publication, but I feel, given our correspondence, that we have a special sort of bond, much as a terrier has to the rat. Recently Doherty repeated the bogus claim that:
Research has shown that up to 38 per cent of autistic kids have a DNA defect which can be triggered by jabs, compared with 0.2pc in the general population.
No it ain't.

In the same article he reported on Bernadine Healy's journey to the dark side, and the preposterous autistic monkey study carried out by an associate of Andy "Maverick" Wakefield.
Doherty followed this up with a glowing story on ex-travel writer David Kirby's trip to London to promote his book and his ever changing theories of autism causation.
He said it was an honour to be asked to speak to Parliament on the controversial health topic.
Titter! A fringe meeting in a back room with a vaccine obsessed peer and a selection of woo-tastic MPs and their mates, isn't exactly "speaking to parliament"!

I wish I could be there when Kirby is doing book signs tomorrow in Kensington - pesky sea getting in the way.

I'd want to know when he'll be writing a new, updated edition without all those old, discarded notions, I'd ask, "remember how in the old days you used to say all autism is mercury poisoning and caused by vaccines but these days, you're blaming mercury, general toxic nasties and other pollution in the atmosphere and food? You've taken up the mitochondria disorder cause and now you are promoting that link and your own numbers suggest, only 1% of autism could possibly be vaccine-associated." (Even though there is no evidence of harm for that proportion of children either, but that's another story.)

Actually, I'd much rather go to the swimming pool with my children, so perhaps I can be glad of that watery barrier.

Away over a much bigger puddle, I also missed out on what was billed as a thrilling day out in the company of celebrities like Jim Carey and Jenny McCarthy. (Who she? Oh, some American who wouldn't be out of place on Celebrity Big Brother and who has gone into the autism anecdote business in a big way.)

They had a rally in Washington DC yesterday to supposedly, "give everyone who loves a child with Autism a day for their voices to be heard."

No they did not. I love a child with autism, many people I know love children with autism, and none of us concur with Jim'n'Jenny and their marching mercury moms. They were calling it "Green our Vaccines." What is that even supposed to mean?!

TACA, a totally barmy group are involved and say,
Jenny and Jim are working hard to eliminate all toxins from our children's vaccines and have our national health agencies reassess the mandatory vaccine schedule, as our children are receiving TOO MANY, TOO SOON. While Jenny and Jim support the vaccine program, like many, they feel vaccines are too toxic.
Oh goody, Jim'n'Jenny are onto it! With all their training and expertise in medicine and immunology, we'll be sure to have all the answers any day soon. Pull up a bench Jim, and dust down your white coat Jenny, lab work has its rewards, but it'll be a big change from what you're used to. I'm not too sure just what toxins you'll be able to eliminate from the vaccines without rendering them totally ineffective in their designed purpose at providing immunisation against infectious disease. But hey, I trust you guys, after all you're famous (well, Jim is, Jenny, not so much.)

Perhaps they mean well, but they are just wrong here. They are wrong about autism and wrong about science. I feel it is important to make it explicit that many people who have autistic children, do not buy into their nonsense. I will trust those in the know. My children's father is a doctor and scientist. Like you Jenny, he has looked at the evidence and made a decision based on his findings, but he and I have come to the opposite conclusion about what is best for our children. Why do you think that is?

4 Jun 2008

Words and meaning

We had a new carpet fitted on the stairs. The old one, sort of sand coloured, was irreparably stained with poster paint, oxtail soup, hot chocolate, yogurt and who knows what else. There was a fair bit of banging and bashing during the fitting process. Duncan renamed his "rocket" cupboard under the stairs the "safe place" and spend most of the time in there, popping out every so often to monitor progress.

He has enjoyed riding his fancy, new bike outside our house. As I was watching him yesterday, he tumbled over while he was turning. He had been just walking and pushing the bike so he didn't hurt himself, but I helped him get the bike straight again, and he said, "It was embarrassing." Then as he pushed off again, he called out, "OK, lets's go again!" Wow, when did he learn about embarrassment!

I noted before that he has been repeating what we say. I only just realised that it's what is referred to in the autism books as echolalia. When I first read about it as one of the common traits of autism, my thoughts were "if only my child would say anything!" Duncan was then what is described as non-verbal. Today I looked at some NAS information on echolalia:
Echolalia ("parroting")
This is when a child repeats what they have heard rather than giving an appropriate response to what has been said to them. For example:

Mother: "Hello Tommy"
Tommy: "Hello Tommy"

When a child is using echolalia they are copying speech alone and showing no understanding of what has been said to them. Therefore it is most likely that the echolalia is not being used to show communicative intent.

I don't think this is the case with Duncan. When he repeats what we say, I think he is engaging, and communicating that he is part of the conversation. He is also, I think, trying to improve his vocabulary and pronunciation.

He is also now commonly reversing his pronouns, like asking me to "put your shoes on" when he needs help with his trainers. Again, I'm delighted that he has progressed to being able to communicate so well and am confident that he, like his siblings, will eventually figure out this difficult aspect of grammar.

One thing he does communicate frequently these days, in perfect English, and to my delight, is an emotion I had been told he would never be able to express without x,y or z expensive therapy. Every day, many times, he is unknowingly breaking down stereotypes when he tells me "I love you Mummy." I don't think I'm breaking any stereotypes, but I always answer with a huge grin, "I love you too Duncan."