Smooth Return to School

I’d not say Matthew hates school – or even really dislikes it – as once he’s there, he actually likes it, and often enjoys it. But for him, there is the part of it that’s unknown – every day he wants to know what he’s going to be doing, like any autistic child, and he dreads the fact he doesn’t know exactly what’s coming. He’s been like that since nursery. He had separation anxiety when he went to nursery (pre-diagnosis) and Jane had to stay with him for week. But he went. But when the transition to primary one came around, suddenly he didn’t want to get dressed in the morning, would drag his heels getting there and generally made it obvious he didn’t want to be there. It didn’t help that he had job share teachers who were very different people. The teacher he had Monday & Tuesday, he didn’t like and that made matters worse. Fortunately the other teacher was more understanding, and admitted she found it hard to cope with Matthew after he took a real slide after Christmas. But, he made it through the year.

The real dread of being there has diminished over the last 3 years, but he still is wary of going to school. What hasn’t helped the last 2 years has been the turnover in teachers he has had. After P1 (2 teachers), he had 3 in P2 and an astonishing SIX in P3. He had learned to expect his teacher wouldn’t be around long for him, and that made for a difficult year. Come the holidays (which he found difficult thanks to the lack of routine) even though they were difficult, he dreaded going back to school more.

Fortunately, the school admitted the amount of teachers he had was having a negative impact on him. They decided that Matthew’s P4 teacher would be the one he finished off P3 with. He had slowly learned to trust her in P3, and has a lot of respect for her. She admitted during a review meeting that she didn’t know much about pupils with autism, but said she looked upon it as a learning experience, and has made the effort to understand it. She knows how to handle Matthew a lot better now, how far to let him push boundaries, when he needs time out. She is really engaging him.

But last term, Matthew finally saw the SEN teacher at the school. He had sessions with her in P2, and loved it. She is a brilliant teacher, and Matthew really responds to her. He actually looks forward to sessions with her, and today Jane said his class teacher said how he is really progressing. Matthew also got to visit with the special needs room (the rainbow room) which was good, as it was his Thursday/Friday teacher from P1. She is a lovely lady who always takes the time to talk if we bump into her at the school, and I think she has a soft spot for Matthew. He likes her too, and now sees her on a Friday afternoon. He sees the SEN teacher on a Friday too, so its easily his favourite day of the week! He now goes to the rainbow room to have his lunch with the teacher there (Matthew doesn’t eat well at school.) He said today how much he enjoyed having his lunch with her. She is also having a positive impact.

What has enthused Matthew this term though is the class project. They’re looking at space (not literally!), a subject Matthew loves. At the end of our holiday, it transpired he was actually LOOKING FORWARD to going back to school. Yes, looking forward to it! He had a subject he enjoys, his sessions with the SEN teacher, and visits to the rainbow room. He is finally getting the support he really needs, and it is slowly paying off. If he looks forward to school, and can enjoy being there, he will engage and be sure he benefits as much as he can from the educational experience.

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Proud Pumpkins!

ASD Mummy with issues.

The boys may not have grown the biggest pumpkins but they are all their own work.
They have nurtured them and just stopped short of singing to them!
They are very proud of their green fingered ability!
I have bought them large orange one for carving for tomorrow, but for now they are planning and designing how they should look! I am sure I will end up scooping out flesh but for now they are just happy in their own worlds.
I just wished some one in the house liked pumpkin as it seems so wasteful to just compost the flesh!

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Missing Bear

Anyone who knows Matthew will know this regular companion – a small, red Aberdeen FC bear that goes by the name of Jimmy. Matthew loves him, confides in him, and is comforted by him. He’s gone missing in the house a few times, but after a bit of a search, turns up again. Well, while we were away last week (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/safe-haven/) the unthinkable happened – Jimmy went missing out doors.

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During the week, Matthew had left Jimmy in the lodge to keep him safe, but on the Thursday, Matthew wanted to take Jimmy when we went swimming. He’d stay with the clothes of course, but he’d be there for Matthew. As Matthew will often put Jimmy in his shirt, or in a bag to keep him safe, so when we didn’t see him in plain view, we weren’t too troubled. We exchanged all the tickets the boys had won for some toys and took them back to the car before going swimming. It wasn’t until we’d finished and gone back to the lodge that Jane asked if Jimmy was still in the car. I went to look, and no luck. We asked Matthew if he had him. Blank face. Now it was time to worry. Jane immediately took Matthew back to the entertainment centre to look for him.

Daniel stayed with me, and he was worried. He told me, “Matthew won’t be Matthew without Jimmy.” He was concerned for Matthew. Ten minutes later, Jane & Matthew returned. As Matthew was calm when he got out of the car, I assumed he’d found Jimmy. But after a search, and asking staff in the entertainment centre, Jane had drawn a blank. Matthew’s calm façade quickly crumbled and he was in tears, repeating over and over that he’d never see Jimmy again. He was inconsolable. We had to stifle an urge to tell him this is what happens when he’s so careless (as he often is with Jimmy, despite how attached to him he is.) We said to Matthew that we’d search again, ask security, and ask the Fun Stars to make an announcement to ask if anyone found Jimmy if they could return him. A couple of tweets to Haven were retweeted by a handful of caring tweeps but we were drawing a blank. Then out of desperation, I went to the swimming pool, and asked the guy behind the front desk if a small red bear had been found there. Slowly, he reached behind the desk and lifted Jimmy onto the desktop. I was so relieved. I could only say thank you, but he’ll never know how grateful we were.

Matthew’s reaction was an emotional one. He realised how close he’d come to losing Jimmy that he was instantly in tears, clutching Jimmy. It was a close thing, as bears like Jimmy are VERY hard to get a hold of. We had been saved, and Matthew was overwhelmed. It really lifted the mood for the rest of the evening, and we could enjoy the Hallowe’en celebrations, then our takeaway and dvd back at the lodge.

You see, “normal” children will outgrow an attachment with a favourite bear, but Matthew’s autistic brain has formed a lasting attachment with Jimmy. The feel of Jimmy in Matthew’s hands is very much a sensory thing for him. Its his comforter. Jimmy absolutely helps keep Matthew calmer, and losing him would be an absolute disaster. It would be catastrophic and emotionally damaging for Matthew. Thankfully disaster was averted by Haven’s eagle-eyed staff, and Matthew & Jimmy live to fight another day.

Progessing Nicely

When Derek McInnes took over from Craig Brown towards the end of the season, fans were happy with the switch. McInnes said all the right things and binning the likes of Stephen Hughes & Rory Fallon were smart moves. But we’d seen it all before. A change in manager, a short uplift in performances before it was normal service resumed. This time, its different. McInnes made some astute signings in Willo Flood & Barry Robson, although the jury is very much out on Calvin Zola.

He’s got a great mix of experience & youth, and has developed a fantastic team spirit. Only 1 point from 6 after the glorious thrashing of Falkirk in the League Cup would have seen the wheels come off in recent seasons, but they were followed up with a terrific fighting performance against United and an exciting display at Hibs yesterday. The recovery from the Ross County game was completed with a flowing attacking display at Easter Road. We’ve got a completely different team from the one McInnes inherited. I don’t mean in terms of personnel, but in terms of attitude. There’s a fantastic amount of fight and energy in midfield, largely due to Willo Flood. He’s non-stop, and is a brilliant anchor man. He’s freeing up Ryan Jack – who himself would make a good anchor man – and letting Johnny Hayes push on. He’s also let Peter Pawlett express himself at last. I had the feeling the Pawlett was in danger of missing the boat regarding his potential. He seemed to be drifting out of the picture at Pittodrie, but has been in excellent form this season. His direct running is a huge threat for us. We’ve got great pace and skill wide now with Pawlett, Hayes, McGinn and Wylde.

What’s been most encouraging is how the team has coped when Flood and Robson were out injured. Cammy Smith continues to develop superbly. McInnes is handling him well, and his appearances were well spread out and he’s benefitting from that. Nicky Low is in the same boat. His fantastic energy could make a brilliant midfield three with Flood and Jack that would feed Hayes, Pawlett and McGinn. Zola remains a bit of an enigma. His height and physical presence should be adding something to the team, and a target man would be great for McGinn. Despite some flashes, he’s been a bit disappointing, and a long run for the resurgent Scott Vernon would be a smart move.

Vernon’s confidence was absolutely shattered by Craig Brown’s bizarre decision to play him in a central midfield role. But his hat-trick at Falkirk, and his goal (and assist) yesterday showed he’s definitely still got it as a striker for us. He’s shown interest in renewing his contract, and it would be a good move to go for that on our part. We could continue to gradually introduce Cammy Smith and Declan McManus to the team. With these young lads and the more experienced pros, we’ve now got a threatening team indeed. After a great performance and win yesterday, we’re not wanting to dwell on the game, but can’t wait til the Partick game. McInnes has got us into a good spot. Home games against Partick Thistle then Hearts could have us in a brilliant position for a trip to Celtic Park, where we really can judge our progress.

We could do with scoring a few more, although 14 from 11 games isn’t too bad. Defensively we’re excellent. The divisive figure of Jamie Langfield and a settled back four have only conceded 8 goals this season, 6 of those coming in our first 4 games. Two conceded in our last 7 is superb work. I think most are agreed our strongest back four is Shaughnessy, Considine, Hector & Reynolds. Signing Hector up for at least the rest of the season would be good work. Reynolds though has been our most consistent performer at the back. Getting such an experience SPL defender signed up for 4 years was superbly done. His pace can get him out of a few tight spots and he should be first on the team sheet. Russell Anderson has been decent, but his lack of pace really has caught up with him, and his first team appearances need to be reduced. Get our best back four on the pitch with Flood shielding them will not only make us stronger defensively, but will give our attacking players much more freedom. Get the back 4/5 to keep their shape and let the front 5 switch positions, we should be able to keep possession better, and create good chances for McGinn/Vernon/Zola.

This season has the potential to be an exciting one for us for a change. Maybe this time we’ll actually deliver.

Explosive Aspie

School holidays have always been a bit of a problem for our boys. They enjoy the structure, routine & focus that school provides. They love their time off too of course – they were so desperate to get away on our little break at Haven Haggerston Castle ( http://www.haven.com/parks/northumberland/haggerston-castle/)last week (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/safe-haven/) – but holidays and their lack of routine have always been troublesome for both of the boys. Their two-week October break has proved no different.

Matthew has actually coped relatively well, despite a late (but welcome) change to a luxury lodge instead of the anticipated caravan. He had his moments of course, and was withdrawn at the Seaside Squad shows & the Go Live! show in the evening. But thankfully there were few outburst from him. Daniel however was completely different. The slightest incident – such as not getting to the top in Doodle Jump (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lima.doodlejump&hl=en_GB) or being told he couldn’t have one more 10p to play a game. He would absolutely explode. These were mini-meltdowns as far as I could see (https://theworldofneil.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/autism-meltdown-or-tantrum/) – he was out of control and unreachable. He was ready to run off, and we had to play the fine line of letting him calm down on his own, and keeping him safe.

Fortunately the entertainment centre only has one way in/out, so as long as we kept an eye on the way out, we could keep him relatively safe. That’s not to say he didn’t manage to escape at all. Thankfully, he just sat down on the ground at the entertainment centre entrance. But we were walking on egg shells at times. It didn’t just happen once or twice. It was happening a dozen times or more every day. He was really hard work at times. But, like all his little meltdowns, he would suddenly snap out of them and be the sweet little boy he is the majority of the time.

The worst thing about his latest behavioural change is the increasingly violent threats he makes. Matthew, Jane & I alike have all been threatened with being struck with whatever is in his hand. And then there’s threats to destroy anything and everything in the house. He’s not aware of what he’s saying though. If he does actually break something of his, he will be devastated when he snaps out of the meltdown, so we’re mindful of getting precious things out of his hands.

Its hard to pin down the reason for the change. The change to his routine, and the his jealousy of Matthew’s birthday this week (Matthew had a low-key birthday when we were away and a family event at home yesterday) hasn’t helped. But usually his outbursts are just a case of verbal aggression. All we can do is help him through the meltdowns, keep him safe, and get him to the other side of them. Time will tell if this is a more permanent change in his aspie-led behaviour, or if its just a phase in his behaviour.

Our little aspie is a little powder keg at the moment, that’s for sure. School starts off again tomorrow, so hopefully that will get Daniel back on the right track again.

A Very Merry Unbirthday.

ASD Mummy with issues.

Do you remember the song from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland?      A very Merry unbirthday to you.      when I was little I used to think this was a really nasty song, as I miss heard the lyrics and the wrong ones stayed with me until I was probably in my 20’s when the penny dropped!       You see, I had heard the lyrics as A very unmerry birthday.     I therefore thought the Madder Hatter was being horrible.   The film is therefore one of my least favourite Disney movies as a direct result of it!

Anyway, yesterday was M’s Unbirthday.     We had said to him that because we were away for his real birthday, then we would have a family day on the Saturday after we got home to open presents and have a birthday tea.    He was quite understanding about this, and in fact quite excited about getting two days that were about…

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Big Day on Monday.

ASD Mummy with issues.

I am really excited about Monday.   It is a day I have waited for, for a long time.

No, I am not that bad a mother to be overly excited about the boys going back to school after their two weeks off, but that is quite a plus point for it!

My excitement comes from it being dentist day.       I know I am strange to be excited to be going to the dentist but I am because I have been having a lot of treatment this year, and Monday should finally mark an end to it all.

I have terrible teeth.    I always have had.     They are crumbly and therefore break quite easily.   When I was young my parents gave me fluoride tablets to help strengthen them, and I don’t know if that has actually made them worse.

Because of always having had teeth problems, going to the dentist has…

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