Welcome to the World of Aspie Mum

A mild-mannered copywriter by day, in my evenings I transform into amazing Aspie Mum.

Read on for tales of my DS (the 'Monkey') and plenty of Asperger Syndrome/ ASD news, link and more!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Trains, planes and automobiles and ASD

High demands for structure and predictability mean that children with ASD are not the most natural travellers. That said, I have nothing to blame for our travel woes today, bar damned tummy bugs! But, looking back, I can see our plans to head to London unravelling before we even started packing bags.  You see, I broke every one of my four rules for ASD-friendly travel.

1.)   Prepare, prepare, prepare

 This statement extends much further than choosing restaurants and finding ASD-appropriate activities. While I don't ever aim for too much travel build up as it can cause anxiety, I do prepare Monkey for the trip ahead.

By naturally weaving the subject into conversation over the week or two prior, it allows the child to feel 'prepared' for the trip ahead.  Knowledge is power and giving this vital information keeps him feeling in control.

What does this mean in practical terms? Think contingency plans!
  • setting the SkyPlus to fill up its hard drive within 24 hours of departure (Top Tip: Ban children from Spongebob series links)
  • researching kid-friendly experiences in our destination - normally climbing centres, kids restaurants and play centres
  • identifying any anxieties early on - Non-English speaking countries have been his biggest so far. By giving him this time, however, I managed to find language apps, dictionaries and the reassurances necessary to allay this fear.
2.) Go heavy on the hand luggage

Give me a 10kg hand luggage allowance and I will use it every time. Filled with Monkey's favourites, it keeps him contently occupied - no matter how long the journey! Typically, this bag will include:
  • 2 to 3 parent-friendly magazines about science, history or current events (often Monkey shares these)
  • 2 to 3 kids' magazines - normally Spongebob comics - chosen by Monkey the day before the trip
  • An iPod Touch loaded with videos - I buy at least one series on iTunes before trips involving more than 3 hours of travelling.
  • Nintendo DS with his current favourite game.
  • Drawing pad and pens (Young children? Try play-dough. It might be messy, but it's very tactile and calming).
  • Action figures (his choice!)
  • Selection of drinks and snacks - his choice.
  • Change of clothes
3.) Make time 

This is a rule we should all live by, so never forget it! Time is a luxury that is easy to overlook when you're planning a vacation. Whether your boss is allowing you five days or twenty, it's never quite enough. This mentality has been the cause of many a breakdown. So how do I make time?

  • Arrive at the airport/train station with plenty of time to spare.
  • Driving holiday? Allow for traffic jams and make sure there's enough for the kids to do if you get into a long queue.
  • Work plenty of breaks into your daily schedule which allow your child to get away from the crowds and newness of it all. This is easier said than done and it may mean foresaking some of your travel wishes. But it means you have a travelling companion who is calmer and feeling more in control.
4.) Never show fear

As your child's safe person, you need to demonstrate that you're in control of the situation. By showing fear you can spark this within your child - leading quite quickly to a meltdown. I'm a terrible actress, so I've developed a mantra over the years which is: no matter what, we'll get through this. And I back this up with worst case scenarios where we have managed to cope.  While I do my best to remain calm (ish) in every situation, I do my best to inspire his confidence in my abilities to pull us through those worst case scenarios which can quickly overpower his thoughts.

Four tips not enough for you? Check out Time magazines 6 tips for Travel with an Autistic Child or the Guardian's advice on Travelling with an autistic child now.

Flying in the US? This article from Autism Key about Travel Help for Autism Families is really interesting.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Time flies

It's been eighteen months since my last post and so much has happened. Highs, lows and those in betweens which often help to keep me sane. We've dealt with new schools, new pets, losing a grandparent, gaining new cousins... You name it, it's probably happened. And while it isn't always smooth sailing - Asperger's or not it never is! - we got through and lived to tell the tale.

There have been some real eye openers along the way... such as a having a son who excels in secondary despite floundering in primary. While he's grown up so much and developed self management techniques, we are incredibly lucky that his school provides the structure which the Monkey needs to prosper. After some so-so SATs, he's flying in most subjects. There are some issues still with writing, but fine motor skills have always been a bit of a problem.

Friendships are still quite elusive, although looking more likely among other kids with ASDs. Monkey goes to a club for kids with Aspergers where he's nurturing some early friendships and having fun along the way. There are also some school groups which have allowed him a safe setting to forge away. We've even witnessed the first blooms of sexuality - a girl asked him to be her boyfriend. His response? "I'm very flattered, but I couldn't possibly." Wow is all I can say. We did have to have a long chat afterwards about how the girl in question received this response, but I'm pleased that he didn't feel like he had to give in to peer pressure to date. At his school it woudl seem that everyone starts early... often with life-changing results. Our town is known for its teen pregnancy problem - so I'm hoping we can steer clear of this!

I'lll endeavour to write more on here as it provides me a safe place to celebrate the highs and process the lows.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Aspergers Syndrome and Puberty

So Monkey's on the cusp of puberty and I have to admit it's been the time of his life that I've dreaded since he was first diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. I've been doing some research into this period of a kid's life and it's looking challenging - AS or not.

At the moment it feels - from time to time - as though I'm losing his attention. There's an increase in aggression that's been happening steadily. It's been so gradual it would be easy not to notice, but I do try to track all of these things so I can keep on top of behaviour. I think the most shocking discovery is that Sam's 'recovery' time after an episode is much, much shorter. Oh, and while he's had zero tolerance for his peers, often preferring younger kids to play with - he now has zero tolerance for 99 percent of kids.

What's a mum to do? Especially when the real challenges lay ahead of me. After all he'll be physically bigger very soon. From the growth charts it looks like that will be in a couple of years. I'm only 5 foot 5, and he's approximately 5 inches shorter than me at the moment... so it could be quicker than that! We currently share the same shoe size already (an 8!)

We're meeting with the consultant on Wednesday to discuss Monkey's transition to secondary school... so hopefully I'll come home with a bit more knowledge on how to handle this tricky stage in any kid's life.

Testing times...

Childbrain have launched a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) screener. It's in the beta stages, so it's findings are by no means gospel. But, nevertheless it's a noteworthy site in my opinion... if only to kill some time!

My personal preference is the ARC (Autism Research Centre) website. There you can find a host of important information and - importantly - take part in research studies which can help medical science better deal with this growing phenomenon.

To find out more about online tests for Aspergers, ASDs and PDDs, please check out this article.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The power of the Sponge

Monkey's started illustrating our lives with Spongebob anecdotes...with great result and plenty of bellyshakes from me!

Speaking of my split with his dad he said....

"Well you know that episode where Gary the Snail (Dad) leaves Spongebob (Me) for Patrick (Miss Pink)? Gary loved SpongeB, but Patrick had a trick in his pocket - a cookie and lured him away."

To me, it sounded quite close to the truth....

Speaking of his dad's split with Miss Pink, he said "I guess her cookie ran out mum or maybe it tasted bad."

Perhaps something's look mouthwatering and tasty, but in the long-run they just leave a bad taste in your mouth....

Monday, 16 April 2007

Fear and Loathing in Cornwall

We attempted a Scooby Doo dvd and it ended the same way it always does...in tears and nightmares. What is it about Scooby Doo that scares the Monkey so?

As with many kids, Monkey has his obsessions - his just go a bit further than others. As a toddler, it was cars - only hot wheels for play and out on the street, he could ID any car which came our way. He taught me more about cars than I'd honestly ever care to know - acceleration, brake horsepower, mpg - well, the lot.

Determined to broaden his horizons, I recently got Sky...yes, I hear you groan, it is a virtual babysitter, but my hope was that by watching cartoons it would give him the ability to communicate with his peers. Up until last year, all he ever watched was monster truck dvds or the now infamous 'Smashed' video which involved car collisions.

With Sky, I have seen a new obsession emerge - tv watching. Fairly Oddparents and Spongebob are constantly on my TV! However, this goes beyond TV to the books, video games and magazines dedicated to these seemingly innocent characters.

He's asked me for a room done out like Bikini Bottom, can quote whole episodes of Spongebob and wants to be a sponge when he grows up...at least he giggles when he says the last bit which says to me that it's doing him some good - laughter's the best medicine every time!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

The Wisdom of Innocence

Watching television last night, an advertisement came on for the lastest in the "Now That's What I Call Music" series. Monkey turned to me at the end of the ad and said "Now, mum, is that what you'd call music?" I paused and said "What do you think?" He replied, "Definitely not!" Something about Girls Aloud appears not to agree with him! Or me!