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Let Me Tell You About Matthew!

27 Jan

I only met Matthew a week or so ago, his not even really a friend of mine.

The story of how we met is an important, yet interesting one, that goes something like this!

So, it was late… Gone half past one in the morning. A friend was staying over at mine which meant she was able to watch the children while I dashed to the 24hr petrol garage at the end of my road. Now I don’t normally make a habit of taking late night trips to the garage, but there are times when a girl needs some chocolate and this was very much one of those times.

So… Moving on… Matthew who I was yet to meet, was being quite loud as he walked across the car park leading to the garage. I thought that maybe a couple of lads had likely drunk to much and were now on their way over! Well, I was wrong!

Matthew, around 20 years old, dressed in all the latest clobber (stylish trainers, jeans and a hoody) was walking with a middle aged man and a dog. By now I was busy trying to direct the woman on the other side of the glass window around the shop floor like some crazy lady as I demonstrated a string of erratic arm movements and silly actions in order for her to select the items that I wanted! (seriously, her face when I showed her 5 fingers indicating that I wanted 5 cream eggs was a picture.)

Matthew was now stood staring at me, admittedly, I did feel a little uncomfortable at first! Back at the glass window Matthew then started speaking to me. In all honesty, he wasn’t making much sense when he grabbed ahold of my arm while laying his head on my shoulder and requesting I take him home.

By now a reasonable length queue had formed. People were trying to keep their distance from Matthew who was now making his way down the queue asking those in it a string of strange &random questions mainly surrounding the topic of what car they were driving.

I looked at the guy with the dog, he smiled and shook his head saying… “I’ve just met the young lad can’t seem to shake him off” I nodded as I stroked his dog.

“How do you know his name?” I asked.

“He told me” he replied.

He then went on to state…

“Actually he wouldn’t stop talking about motoring, how certain vehicles are made, who makes them and so forth”

With that something clicked within my head…

“No…. surely not! No… I’m reading to much into it” I thought.

Now, I had paid for my items and should have been heading home. It was late after-all and I didn’t want my friend to worry but something inside me just stopped me from leaving.

Matthew was now stood by my side. He was telling me he was cold and asking for my coat. I explained that I was also cold and that my coat was designed for a woman and wouldn’t actually fit him.

At this point an extremely rowdy woman dressed in very little and so obviously a little worse for wear shouted “For Goodness Sake, he don’t want your coat his going to rob you, you silly cow”

Moving my eyes in her direction, my request for her was that she should simply shout up.

By this point I had decided that I’d probably been gone long enough for my friend to call out a search party so turned around and started to walk away.

The middle aged man and his dog were now ready to leave and I could hear him talking to the dog as he walked behind me. Suddenly I felt the sensation that someone was incredibly close to me. Before I knew it these hands just grabbed ahold of my shoulders. Throwing my whole body around I see Matthew!

“Oi Matthew, Get Off her” Cried the guy with the dog.

“What do you want?” I asked. Followed by the question… “Matthew.. Are you Ok?”

He was now crying, begging that I’ll walk him home. He then went on to tell me through muffled speech that the drunk lady had gone and told him to fuck off!

Something wasn’t right! Matthew may have looked the part, young fresh faced, nicely clothed with one or two cheeky one liners.

Matthew so clearly wasn’t drunk and if he was planning on robbing me I’m sure he would have done so by now!

As I took hold of his arms to move them from me (his grip had become tight and uncomfortable) His sleeve slightly shifted from his wrist and there it was… An ID bracelet. Taking his arm I held it into the light to get a closer look. “Matthew… Do you have autism” I asked as I looked up into his eyes only for him to quickly look away.

“Well, he can’t have!” said the guy with the dog who had come running to my rescue”

“He… He looks so normal” he said as he shook his head in disbelief. Yes, I guess he was displaying a certain amount of ignorance, though intentional this was not! Actually this man was one of the only people in that queue who actually didn’t misjudge him as a robbing thug.

I took out my phone from my pocket and punched in the numbers that were scripted on his bracelet. I then told him I’d be staying right there with him in till his mother had arrived to collect him.

Matthew seemed pleased with that idea and suddenly peace had been restored. We sat on the wall facing the car park, and as we were sat here Matthew went on to share with me his love in motoring. He was incredibly intelligent and had so obviously self taught himself well on the subject. In many ways he reminded me of my Little man.

Matthews mother was lovely. Turns out that Matthew was thought to have been in his room sleeping. She told me that Matthew had a diagnosis of HFA (high functioning autism) sadly he had never been given much support when in education and as a result his social skills were very poor. I then learnt that although Matthew Is capable of going out alone, at night he struggle as he becomes quite frighted. Regardless of this fact, he has such an interest in checking out the vehicles in the car park that he just goes on autopilot. Its only once he has indulged his interest that he realises how late it is and then starts requesting that strangers assist him home. His mother informs me that the bracelet is handy but he forgets his wearing it. It really was lucky I’d seen it as the last time this happened he had ended up spending the night be hide bars.

We walked up together. Turns out they live just off my road.

My friend looked relieved to see me alive and was just about to wake three sleeping kids to come look for me! Lucky for me she understood once I’d explained.

Let… This be a lesson to you all! You really shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Things are not always as they first seem… Matthew is proof of that!

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Get The Answers You Require From The Talk about Autism Family Support Live Q&A Session

18 Jan

As a parent who has a child on the Autism spectrum I know how frustrating it can be looking for answers. Thats why I’m really excited to share some excellent news with you… Ambitious about Autism the national charity dedicated to improving opportunities for people with autism, who run an online community called ‘Talk about autism‘ have come up with the Family Support Season of live online Q&A.

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The charity has come up with 4 discussion topics that parents with children on the autism spectrum voted upon late last year. The whole programme has been designed to offer both parents and carers professional advice from leading experts within the autism sector.

Each of the four sessions will take place live on the web over at the Talk about autism website. Finally parents will have the opportunity to get some of the answers they have been searching for whether its about challenging behaviour or socialising with peers the parent support season’s Q&A sessions will do its best to answer those questions.

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The first session has already taken place back on the 16th January. The session covered the topic… ‘Getting the right support at school’ Nonetheless you can still read the entire transcript on the evenings topic over on their website. The session covered areas such as access to education, statements of sen, exclusion and more. The transcript is packed full of great advice what with the specialist advisers being Jill Davies, Manager of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Helpline at Contact and Family, and Steve Broach of Doughty Street Chambers, who is an expert on the rights of ‘children in need’ and disabled adults. This was the first of four live sessions and a great success. Its my guess the remaining three will be just as valuable in the advise they offer.

The second live Q&A session is set to take place on the 30th January 2013 and the discussion topic is that of ‘Understanding & Managing Challenging Behaviour‘. The evenings professionals will be Dr Emma Douglas, a Senior Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Consultant from TreeHouse School, and Richard Hastings, Professor of Psychology at Bangor University in Wales. So, if you are currently experiencing problems with challenging behaviour and are looking for advice this seems like a pretty good place to start.

As a parent to a young man with Aspergers Syndrome we’ve experienced our fair share of meltdowns and aggressive behaviours. Little man is 12 now and I often worry he doesn’t know his own strength when hitting out at other. We have had some particularly bad mornings before school when little man has thrown punches in my direction. His violence scared me! With a frightening temper I had to sought help but it didn’t come easy. I just wish there was something like the live Q&A session available back when I needed it. This topic will sure to be a life line for parents all over the world.

The remaining two sessions after that will commence on the 13 February 2013 & the 27 February 2013.

These sessions will be as follows…

Puberty, sex and relationships (13th February 2013)
Experts for the session: Lesley Kerr-Edwards, Director of Image in Action, and Professor Jahoda, Professor of Learning Disabilities at the University of Glasgow.

Supporting your child to socialise and make friends (27 February 2013).
Experts for this session: Jennifer Cook O’Toole, education specialist and author of The Asperkids Book of Social Rules – the Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome, and Andrew Swartfigure, Senior Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Consultant at TreeHouse School.

Well, I’m definitely marking the 13th February 2013 in my diary. This is a topic that I myself have a number of questions in need of answering (googling can only provide so much)! My 12 year old is fast approaching puberty and don’t I know it! Puberty and the issue of sex is a hard enough topic for any parent to face but for those of children on the autism spectrum, it is an area of constant worry and struggle.

All sessions are live and will last one hour. Each live Q&A will commence at 8pm and finish at 9pm on the dates given.

To receive a reminder about any of the live support sessions visit the website and sign up for a reminder by email.

So, there you have it! Four great topics all live and interactive. How about popping along, maybe get a specific question answered or just follow the thread to see what others have to say. Don’t forget, all sessions will appear as transcripts following the live event allowing those of you who can’t make it on night, the opportunity to have a read. Who knows maybe you’ll still find the answer to that question you need answering.

Would love it if readers could share this on there chosen social networks. By reaching out we give parents the opportunity to gain the support they desperately need.

To find out how Live Q&A sessions work click Here

Disclaimer… This is a sponsored post for the autism charity Ambitious about autism. All words are my own.

Teaching Communication Skills To 3-5 Year Olds

29 Oct

I receive emails on a daily basis from worried parents of toddlers or young children.

Many of these emails stress the same concern… My child still isn’t speaking or is speaking little for their age compared to that of their peers.

For others its their child’s lack of understanding of language or how to use it that’s the concern.

Little man was a very early and advanced speaker, only he failed to use certain words in the correct contents, had poor social interaction and would normally dominate conversation. His listening and communication skills are improving all the time now that he has weekly speech and language therapy (SALT) at school. This just proves its never to late to start a programme though the earlier we are taught the skills we need the better, especially in those with autism or any other communication disorder.

Its natural for us parents to worry if our toddler isn’t using communication at the rate we expect especially if we have their siblings to compare them too. But despite the worry its important to note that its not always due to a medical or developmental problem… Some children just develop that bit slower than others, where some just require a bit of help along the way.

Whatever the reason I believe it is important for all parents to encourage communication from an early age… If you feel that development is slow progressing or even too advanced, early intervention is the key.

Those with experience will know just how long waiting lists are for Paediatricians or Speech Therapist… But there are things we can do as parents at home.

I was extremely impressed to hear about a new developmental tool called “chatting with children” I haven’t really seen anything of this kind before and feel its something that could make a whole lot of difference to parents everywhere.

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Chatting With Children is an activities pack designed to build the language development in children aged 3-5. Even better its been developed by Kate Freeman a qualified Speech and Language Therapist.

The pack from I Can (the children’s communication charity) is the third in its series following Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk (also created by Kate Freeman).

Chatting with Children is a stunning pack of 30 fun and interactive activity cards aimed at helping parents and practitioners develop young children’s communication skills. The pack also comes with a well written top tips activity guide that has been designed to help its user get the most from it.

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Inside this kit that resembles a hard back book, you will find 30 beautifully illustrated cards that make up a number of activities designed to encourage the language and communication of children aged 3-5 years. Each task is simple yet provides effective ways of enhancing speaking, listening and understanding skills. The kit has been Designed in association with Studio Conran and illustrator Owen Davey, who has designed each beautiful activity card to feature an activity designed to develop a different aspect of communication.

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What I like most about this pack is that this is a tool recommended to professionals such as therapist & practitioners yet its simple enough for a parent to use at home meaning we have the tools of the professionals at hand to work with at home whenever we want to.

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The fact that the pack has been created by Kate Freeman A Speech and Language Therapist who holds over 15 years experience, gives me even more confidence when using the pack and applying each individual activity.

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Each activity is so simplistic and easy to follow that there is not really any excuses for not being able to try it on a daily/weekly basis. Its not time consuming whatsoever as there is always little if no set up involved.

Toddler Talk and Chatting with Children are each available in paperback for £7.99 or hardback for £12.99 and its available over at the I Can website

In my opinion this is beyond reasonable, I expected it to cost a considerable amount more considering the market its targeted at. I normally find most tools designed with the aim of encouraging a child’s develop within any area, to be over priced and beyond most families reach. So I’m seriously impressed with what I Can are providing here for little money!

What’s more every last penny of the proceeds are put back into the registered Charity “I Can” so they can continue to provide help and resources to parents like you and I.

Any parent with a question or concern about their child’s communication can contact the I CAN Help Enquiry Service for a call or email from a speech and language therapist – visit www.ican.org.uk/help

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. I was sent a sample of Chatting with Children in order to share my honest opinion… I have decided that this will now be donated to a local Speech And Language Therapist in our area.

Why I’m not looking forward to my toddler starting school

8 Oct

Who said it was meant to be easy.

They stand in little groups chatting to one another about their wonderful children. They sound as though they are almost in competition, yet desperate to impress one another.

Do I wish I was stood there with them. One of the mums who gets invited around the chief mummy’s house for a cuppa and a biscuit… No, not even for one minute!

Its strange, we see these social gatherings happening when we were at school! Yet some 15 years on its almost the same. Even stranger still is the fact that half of these social gatherings consists of the exact same people only older. They are now mothers themselves yet still raise their snobby little noses just as they did when we where teenagers.

I can’t sit here and label all mothers in this way… After all I know I’m not. And I’ve seen others who give a friendly smile and a node as they walk on by. But on the whole they keep themselves to themselves.

I have nothing against the mother who easily befriends every other child’s mother in their child’s class! However I do have something against the ones who make the business of other mothers their own and everybody else’s for that matter. Worse still they never normally seem to get the gossip quite right, resulting in some top notch bull shit or another flying around the community you live in.

I once read in the paper about two mothers kicking off at the school gates with their children present and of course everyone else’s. One mother was so badly attacked she was hospitalised while the other was taken of to the cells for some cooling off time. Another horrendous story I saw splashed all over the national news was that of a father attacking another father during their children’s Christmas production. The guy actually bit of the other guys finger and spat it out like some sick animal. I only hope they got the children out of sight because that’s the stuff of nightmares.

I’m not worried about having my finger bite of or anything (though that wouldn’t be fun) I’m just expressing my point which is “School playgrounds can be hellish places, not just for the pupils but for that of their parents too!”

So… Why am I banging on about all this now?

It’s simple… I’m already fretting about the day that will come and see my youngest child take that giant leap into education. His now almost 3 years old, and the time so far has just flown by. Before I know it I’ll be there… And again i’ll be stood in the playground with a new group of mums.

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As regular readers will already know, When it comes to schools I seem to always have some kind of crappy issue. History is my proof.

I know that my eldest child being on the autism spectrum meant he didn’t fit in with his “Typical” peers and this therefore meant that I as his mother failed to fit in with their “Typical” mothers. Well, lets be honest here… I never overly tried! Friendships just happen and don’t need to be pushed (some need work but these are existing ones). If I don’t instantly click with someone then its 98% chance I never will.

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I remember when we’d be stood waiting in the infant playground for the bell to ring indicating the start of the school day. Up in-till that point, little man would be running around like a rabbit with headlights. He’d bump into everything and everyone. Some may think… “And what? Isn’t this what boys do?” And to a certain extent, yes it is! However, little man had no regard for boundaries. He’d just roar into another’s conversation… Speak his mind and therefore say the most inappropriate things (normally stuff I’d actually be thinking but never likely to say aloud). He’d run and grab footballs from the ground while others tried to play a game and many peers therefore saw him as a really big pain in the butt! Me, I’d be dashing about after him like a crazed headless chicken, failing miserably at any attempt to catch him let alone control him. Mothers would stare, some shaking their heads and tutting, others turning to their friends in disgust. Whenever Little man dared attempt to approach their child they’d quickly be dragged away and warned “Don’t play with that child, you hear me?”

I hate it when parents act like my child is some sort of diseased being. They look at him like his some little demon child who could potentially convert their child into something similar. I used to let the ignorant stares upset me and remember that at one stage what others thought meant a big deal to me. But in all honesty you cannot spend each waking day like this. Yes you can advocate for your child but running after every parent who looks at you slightly funny probably means you’ll be spending most of your life running. Yes, I’d be a lot fitter but I don’t fancy it all the same.

So, there you have it! This is one of my many reasons I’m dreading the toddler starting school. I just wished he stay little forever.

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Teaching Social Skills Through Music

27 Jul

I get some interesting request and press releases in my inbox each morning. Some have no relevance to that of my family or readers, others have me sat up taking note excited about what I’m reading.

Recently I received a lovely email from Cathy Bollinger, a music therapist and children’s song writer. Cathy is from Charlottesville, Virginia so being in the UK I was yet to discover her work.

Cathy informed me in her email that my blog was recommended to her via her daughter in law who has recently moved from England to Virginia! I’m unsure who this was but want to slip in a quick thank you to them for spreading the word. About ‘A boy with Aspergers’. When your a parent to a child on the autism spectrum who uses her voice to try and create awareness through her writing using the platform of her blog, it really is encouraging to know that it is found and followed by many people all over the world. The web still amazes me, I can do so much from this South London living room of mine.

Cathy has developed 10 children’s CD’s, one of which was created in the hope of helping kids on the autism spectrum. It’s fair to say that lots of children on the spectrum have a special connection with music hence the reason music therapy is growing in popularity. Many special schools who educate children with autism and other social communication and interaction difficulties are now using such therapies as part of their learning programme. Little man loves music and is able to process and then store lyrics really quickly. Admittedly some of the music we hear today makes this a bit of a worrying prospect as well as a good one! Obviously Carol isn’t rapping her heart out about gangs, pimps or anything else remotely inappropriate. Cathy Bollinger is using the beauty of music to build social skills. However it should be noted that she hasn’t done this alone! Through the making of her latest CD (which Cathy kindly air mailed me) she found her future business partner Elly Tucker and her son Josh, who has Aspergers Syndrome. Cathy met with them once a week while creating the social skills CD and quotes “They honestly critiqued the songs as I wrote them, Josh even ended up singing on the CD with me”

To know the songs included on the CD which is titled “My turn your turn songs for building social skills” has been written with such inspiration, made me even more excited to discover more and actually listen to.

Cathy has a desire to create music that is positive, upbeat and fun while ensuring lyrics give a direct message, one that is non ambiguous and therefore provides a good, clear example of the different social skills appropriate in different social situations. Music allows children to absorb these social clues and learn from them .

My Turn Your Turn is one of a number of CDs from award winning singer/songwriter Cathy Bollinger. I found that all the tunes were very catchy and easy to sing along too (my toddler is proof of this). Each song manages to address the various social skills difficulties the child on the autism spectrum may experience with the use of social story like phrases while remaining upbeat and fun to listen to. Cathy has got it all covered and seems to have written each song based around some of the most challenging social situations for children on the autism spectrum.

There are 14 tracks in total covering everything from empathy, self regulating ones emotions, asking for help and more.

I especially liked the last track “Everyone has strengths to be proud of” oh how I wished I could have played this to little man a few years back when he had no self confidence and struggled to understand that everybody is different regardless of his diagnosis. He would of learnt much earlier on how not everybody is good at the things he is and vise versa.

I also like the track “Sometimes I feel angry” another that little man can really relate to and learn from.

Little man is now in a special school for children on the autism spectrum, social skills training is obviously a huge part of his education time table with a whole period given just for social skills training a number of times a week. Little man has said he will be taking the CD into school so the teacher can have a listen and use it in her lesson. I think thats a brilliant idea and thank Cathy for giving Little man and his fellow pupils here in the UK the opportunity to do so.

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You can learn more about this fabulous social skills training CD by visiting Rivanna Music on line. Here you can even play a sound clip of one of the tracks on the CD. Don’t forget there are many other Educational music CD that teach including titles such as Alphabet Jam, Toddlin Tunes, Singing words and many more.

Thanks Cathy for sending Little Man a couple of “Your Turn My Turn” we loved it and would happily recommend it to both parents and educators.

Disclaimer: This is a review post. I was not paid to write this but I did receive a sample of the CD (there was no obligation to write about it). I chose to share my honest views and opinions as I feel the CD is worth mentioning to my readers.

#Silent Sunday

1 Jul

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#HAWMC DAY 23 – Yes, Girls Have Aspergers Syndrome Too!

26 Apr

Of course girls get Autism & Aspergers, it’s just that we don’t hear about it all that much, well, not on the same magnitude as boys.

So, the statistics indicate that boys rather than girls, are more likely to be on the autism spectrum. The National Autistic Society states that although there is no way of knowing the exact ratio between the two sexes, studies combine together indicate a ratio of 2:1 in boys and 16:1 in girls!

Wow, that’s a huge difference in numbers, however, could this be due to how the traits of autism are displayed differently between the two sexes or maybe its societies stereotyped way of thinking making this much harder to spot in females. 

It all boils down to us in a variety of ways, have you ever heard the health visitor refer to your son as the “Typical boy” or daughter as “Shy” as many girls are labelled to be? But I thought that everyone was meant to be different regardless of their sex!

Now, I’m no expert, not by a long shot, but I do remember some girls in secondary school who were so detached from their peers that they were ridiculed as being loaners or geeks. Some of these girls went through primary and secondary school never having friends and the ones that did try to socialise normally just ended up bullied by those she thought were her friends. I’m in no way indicating they were on the spectrum (who am I to make that judgement) but I know that teachers didn’t bother to find out why these children were so sad or withdrawn from those around them. As long as they produced the work expected of them it was all that mattered! 

As girls we express emotion in an all together different way then boys (well this is what we are made to believe). Boys are seen to display more challenging behaviour and as a result they are more likely pulled up as having an issue or underlying condition that needs addressing (that or the teachers just can’t handle it so ship them of to the child mental health team). I believe this to be why my own son received a late diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome as despite him having reasonably challenging behaviour within the home from quite early on, this wasn’t displayed at school, just suppressed making him explosive on his return at 3.30 pm Monday to Friday. Nonetheless, once this behaviour could no longer be contained, what with his senses becoming more heightened making him more likely to tip over the edge, the school were all for statementing and special school!

Girls will always be seen as better communicators than boys and many feel that girls on the spectrum are better able to disguise symptoms whether deliberately or not. I guess this fact would make a condition such as Aspergers far harder to spot as this wont normally involve any delayed language skills.  

As well as that of the above, girls are also seen to be “Just shy” or “Over sensitive” We are thought to over dramatise and cry at the drop of a hat. Us girls are seen to be more likely to have low self-esteem or a poor self image, especially during our teen years, hence the reason girls are far less likely to be referred for any type of investigations, especially if they are bright and advanced within certain areas of they’re learning.

Another theory is that girls inherit an X chromosome from their fathers which protects them from the development of autism, though if this was the case I’m sure the science of today could do a much better job of proving it!

When reading an article on the NAS site, some excellent points were made such as, girls on the spectrum tend to have similar interest to those girls not on the spectrum, example being animals or horses, soaps or celebrities. These interests are therefore not seen as usual. However once in their own safe space interest tend to be much more obsessional than that of a “Typical girl”

So, the question is “Are boys more likely to have autism and aspergers than that of girls or is it simply because the criteria used to diagnose autism and aspergers is one built purely on the characteristics of male behaviour?”

Here’s a few videos by two different girls with a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome, these videos and more can be found on my channel under my subscriptions. 

23/30 in the Wego Health #HAWMC (today’s challenge was a free choice topic). 

Anna Kennedy & Pineapple Performing Arts School Presents… Autism’s Got Talent

14 Mar

Anna Kennedy is an inspirational woman and those who don’t believe me can ask those at the Daily Mail what with her being awarded with the Daily Mail’s most inspirational woman award presented by Samantha Cameron. Anna is the mother of two boys both affected by autism and as well as being the founder of a number of schools, charities and centres for those on the autism spectrum (including the school that my own son attends) she’s also busy working on a number of campaigns, Act Now and the Anti Bullying campaign to name but a few!

So, it’s amazing how this busy mum can possibly fit anything else in!

Well, she has!

On Saturday 12th May at the Mermaid Theatre, London, Anna will be presenting with the help of Pineapple Studios Autism’s Got Talent’.
Anna is bringing together a diverse group of talented people all on the Autistic Spectrum, with the aim of showing the public just how talented they are!
Anna state on her site “All too often many people in society make the mistake of thinking that anyone with a disability is capable of very little……HOLD THE PRESS…….on this evening we will be showing everyone just what all these great people really are capable of and just how good they are at it!”

The night which has been rumoured as a red carpet event, with some well know faces planed to make an appearance , will showcase talent in many forms, ranging from performers with instruments to singers and dancers. Stars will be performing not only as soloists but some will also be coming together to perform in a group (something that many people on the autism spectrum are noted to have difficulty achieving).

Anna has also said that because talent stretches way beyond the field of performance, the night will also celebrate those fantastic people who have done other amazing things, showing great skills in areas such as writing, art and even extreme physical endurance.
Anna hopes it will be a night that will open the eyes of those who previously didn’t realise just what someone on the Autistic Spectrum is capable of.

 On the night of the performance, audience members will be able to to view a number of informative dipslays including some of the art work and creative writing done by some of the guest appearing during the course of the evening.

Doors to the event will be opening at 6pm so it is encouraged that people come along at that time as to take advantage of the displays in plenty of time before the grand performance starts.
Tickets are being sold for the low price of £10 and everyone is welcome.

Note: A theatre/audience situation is not suited to all on the spectrum but this will be a very understanding and Autism Aware Audience so we don’t want anyone to feel that they can’t come or that a parent should automatically think they can’t bring a child with them. It is hoped that this will be an audience that is mixed of those on the spectrum and those that aren’t.
Tickets are available now and can be purchased now by calling 01895 619734 or enquiries to lisa.robins@thevines.org.uk

The 2012 London Toy Fair Brings Great Toys For Children On The Autism Spectrum

3 Feb

In a post a few days back I shared with you, some of my favourite discoveries from the 2012 toy fair hosted at London’s Olympia’s Grand Hall. As promised, I will now share with you all, some of the up and coming toys, that I feel will be a huge hit with those children with autism and other additional needs. These conclusions have been made by reflecting on the areas of play that interest my own child (aka Little man, a boy with Aspergers) as well the conclusions drawn from speaking and meeting with other families of children with autism or other additional needs.

Toy fair 2012 brought with it a whole host of amazing toys from some top named toy brands to one or two smaller brands that are yet to make a huge mark on the market.

Doctor Who

Who doesn’t love Doctor Who? It seems to be a huge hit for both child and adult alike and the child with autism is not exempt from the list. Children with autism, especially those with Aspergers, seem to take their interest to a whole other level, making them “Special Interest” and Dr Who seems to be a “Special interest” for many! Ok, not Little man (his more a construction boy with a fond love of transport) but for many others it is. So, I’m guessing many will love the new 3ft inflatable Dalek, that has been specially designed by Grossman Ltd, to retail at under £20.00 therefore bound to make a great impression on parents too. Another awesome Doctor who discovery this time by a company called “Zeon Tech” is the innovative Doctor Who TARDIS Smartsafe! I really find it difficult to call this a toy as its more of a “Must Have” gadget if anything! This is a replica of that iconic blue travelling phone booth made into an awesome innovative safe that is only opened with the use of an iPhone or Android dedicated app instead of the traditional combination lock… How cool is that!

Collectables

Anyone who has a child with autism or even knows a child with autism will know how many of these children love a toy that holds that collecting aspect. Collectables and Asperger’s seem to go hand in hand for my Little man and I’m sure some of these would appeal to him!

Moshi Mosters: Moshi monsters are great for kids on the spectrum as the brand offer so many collectable pocket-money toys, some of which we have already featured here on the blog. Some of the newer collectables from this range that are set to launch this year, included Fizz pods from Grossman Ltd (also available in Disney princess). Where, Re:creation are bringing us Moshi Monsters Zippers, a variety of 3D Moshlings attached to a child friendly clasp which can be hooked to any zip, so, perfect for accessorising & customising clothing and school backpacks & pencil cases while doubling up as the perfect fidget for the sensory seeker. The range also includes Moshi Monsters charmling bands (with each pack containing a wrist band and two charms).

NUKO Cards: Nukotoys bring us these collectable innovative trading cards combining physical and digital play as never seen before! NUKO Cards contain characters and items that magically spring into action when tapped onto the screen of an iPad, iPod touch, iPhone or an Andriod device. Kids will be able to play with mythical creatures such as cyclops, griffons and phoenix or exotic animals such as the water buffaloes, tigers and elephants without leaving the comfort of home. This innovative collectable trading mastermind will be brought to us by flair and are due to launch this year.

Pokemon: This is a brand known all to well amongst many children on the autism spectrum, mainly due to the collectables aspect that the name holds. This time BANDAI are launching the all new series of Pokemon Black & White toy range consisting of collectable figures, poke ball and twister figures with battle stage and the digital great ball so trainers can exchange their Pokemon.

Construction:

I think its been made clear on this blog over the past few months Little man’s love of construction toys especially “LEGO” and judging by the comments obtained on the “Boy with Aspergers Facebook page consisting of some almost 5,000 members, its clear that this love of construction goes way further than just the Little man. Toy Fair 2012 wasn’t short on construction toys and I’m quite excited at this years new launches.

LEGO: Lego had lots of exciting new products on show and I could easily go on about the benefits of LEGO all night. LEGO DINO’S was one new launch that took hold of me quickly, what with many children on the spectrum having a fondness for dinosaurs these new construction kits seem ideal as it combines the two interest together. The range has already made it onto the mayor retailers shelves as of this January 2012, so you can head out and buy them today if desired.

Another awesome LEGO product, was the new additions to the LEGO Friends collection, including some fabulous unique construction sets aimed at girls. Check out the set above, which combines both classic construction with girls doll play! Again the range has launched already and did so on the 26th December 2011! So, if your little one love’s LEGO, keep your eyes peeled for these new beauties.

Laser Pegs: This was by far one of my most exciting discoveries at the 2012 toy fair! I knew instantly that my son and many other children just like him, would go crazy for the New laser pegs stackables, fresh to the UK all the way from the US where it is already a massive hit! Even the American “Autism society” are singing its praises! Laser Pegs are the first patented lighted construction set in the world, offering an innovative new way to enjoy a construction kit! Not only are the pieces able to illuminate with the use of brightly coloured LED lights once constructed and connected to a power source, (battery-powered operated unit or AC socket adapter) but they are also compatible with all mayor big named construction brands interlocking perfectly using construction boards or pieces (Yes, we have personally put it to the test, so look out for the pending review). You can also buy the illuminating model kits that allow you to construct a host of different models before adding the magic of illumination. This brings together construction and sensory play for the child with autism and once constructed the model kits would be a welcomed addition to any sensory room (I predict these will be huge). Laser pegs are brought to us by F4K (Fun4kids) and you can check out this awesome brand by visiting www.laserpegs.co.uk.

Sensory play:

Pebeo: Little man is a child that has a lot of sensory sensitivities but also a child who needs a certain amount of sensory input. His tactile defensive and hates the texture and feel of a host of different materials. One thing he does enjoy though is a good bit of messy play, and Pebeo offer just that. All children will love the Pebeo’s creative art products especially kids on the spectrum & those with sensory processing difficulties. Pebeo are now introducing a new range of awesome 3D Tactile Paint, in some super cool colours. This funky paint can be applied to any creative project and within just a few short hours the paint would have dried giving it that awesome 3D effect. We love the range and are busy putting the Tactile 3D paint through its paces, so… stay tuned for our pending review.

Yummy Dough

Image via Wikipedia

Yummy Dough: Another product I got to play with over at the Toy Fair, was “Yummy Dough” from Maps, This stuff was everywhere come Christmas and it looks as though it will continue to be a success, sailing through 2012. What’s great about Yummy Dough is the fact it lets a child unleash their creative flair, with art normally being a strong point for the child with autism, this also offers the sensory seeker a whole new aspect to creative play! What’s more children can bake it and then eat it! What’s not to love!

Happy Hopperz: These guys just have to get a mention in my “Must haves” They were featured in the NAS communications publication when Little man went toy test with a group of other children on the autism spectrum. This was actually one of the toys that was voted in the top five toys for children with autism. Happy Hopperz are a huge collection of brightly coloured inflatable toys that resemble something of the “Space hoppers” of the 1970s. These have been created with ears and horns for small hands to grip onto as well as feet to steady the bounce. This is the ideal toy for the child who is said to be a “Sensory Seeker” the child who continually seeks stimulation through movement. Other benefits include those of strengthening of core muscles, increased balance control, the development of improved co-ordination skills all while helping to expand a child’s imaginative play while helping promote physical exercise and overall confidence. New designs launched in December and more are constantly being added so get your eyes peeled.

Games & Educational Play:

Little man has recently started playing lots of games, which I feel to be important, as it helps him to learn how to interact with others and play a competitive game in a non aggressive manner (he used to be a very sore loser and at times still can be)! Toy Fair 2012, had plenty to share when it came to games and educational play and here are some of my favourites.

Orchard Toys: These guys are brilliant, not only do they offer a host of awesome educational games but are also sponsoring this very blog in order for me to attend the fabulous Britmums live conference this June 2012. On discovering that my sponsor were setting up at the Toy fair, I considered it my perfect opportunity to check out some of their new “2012” releases. Thankfully, I attended the fair on the last day so it was a lot less busy, as it had been on previous days. I met with a very nice representative of the brand who done an awesome job of showing me around the stand and one by one talking me through the New games. All the games & puzzles sold by Orchard Toys are 100% educational with many of the games being perfect for the child with autism and those with special educational needs. New games include rhyme robber, Dinosaur Race, Rocket Game, Teddy Bear Game, Animal Four In A Box and my favourite Football Game, where players race to score the winning goal. We have recently donated a few the Orchard Games that we were sent to review, to Little man’s special school for children with Aspergers and autism and we will be sharing the feedback with you all soon.

Traditional Garden Games: This was a brand with some very interesting and large games on show! We reviewed the Giant Jenga during the run up to Christmas 2011 (note this was from a different brand)! Traditional garden games had a great version of the game on display called “Jamanga” which consisted of huge soft colourful pieces, making the game more child friendly as well as visually stimulating. Little man loves Jenga and I could see him loving this colourful version, what with its giant foam dice the game is much more inviting for all children with or without autism. A game of Jamange will help the development of social interaction, logical thinking, while improving a child’s fine and gross motor skills.

Phonics Puzzles: These good quality wooden puzzles are great for any child, but could be a god send for the child with special educational needs. Phonics Puzzle 1 & 2 are the perfect introduction to reading and goes hand in hand with the recommendations given by the Department of Education itself. The Puzzles have been tested by parents and their children as well as schools throughout the early years and primary sector and the feedback given to the brand responsible “desi doll” has been nothing less than positive. Phonics teaches children how to recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes as-well as how to identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make, such as “Sh” or “oo” then finally blending these sounds together to make a word. Children can therefore take this knowledge using it to de-code new words that they see, a proven first important step in learning how to read. Phonics puzzles are learning made fun and are a worthy purchase at around £19 retail price.

Rubiks: Children with Aspergers love a mind challenge and many tend to be great at using the part of their brains that helps them to problem solve when it comes to mathematical challenges or the de-coding of puzzles. This is why Rubik’s are great for children like my Little man and John Adams have given Rubik’s a new face for 2012. Players will require logical thinking when trying to guess the masters code hidden pattern of nine hidden colours. This is a two player game and it launched last month January 2012, so is already out there for the taking. If this doesn’t take your fancy you could try the New Rubik’s 2×2 cube.

Kurio: One that I’m eagerly awaiting is the launch of the new “Kurio” by the tablet maker “Inspiration works”. This smart new device is hoping to please both child and adult a like and with more and more children with autism finding it easier to interact & work with touch screen computers, this is likely to be a massive hit in the world of autism and special needs. The Kurio will be powered by Android 4.0 and will be Google approved (so easy access to apps via the Android Market) it will come in a range of sizes (3 in fact) and will each offer a 4GB internal storage with an SD card slot allow it to be taken up to a 32GB. The device will be HDMI compatible and will offer a USB port socket for connection to external devices. Each will feature cameras of different megapixels as well as video recording & playback features. With the product expected to launch by July 2012, I’m pretty excited and so are my children Little man and his sister (who are both already demanding one)!

Science4you: Lastly I thought I would share Science4you a brand trying to get its products played with in the UK. All ready a huge hit within a string of European countries Science4you brings the UK educational affordable kits. What I love about the product and sure the children on the autism spectrum will too, is the fact that each kit doesn’t only come with a detailed instruction guild, but a booklet covering some need to know interesting facts! For example, if you were to choose the “Geology – Volcano” kit then not only would you be able to create your own “geyser” but also learn all the interesting facts, such as the components & structure of the world of volcanoes, plus the composition of the worlds planet surface. I really did like the many kits on display and know my son would especially enjoy the one I have just described. To discover Science4you visit www.science4youtoys.com

10 positives to parenting a child with Aspergers Syndrome

5 Jan

Having posted a post full of doom and gloom a few days back (Questioning your coping mechanisms) I wanted to post something a tad more upbeat and cheery today.

So… with this in mine, I have created a list of the top ten best things that come with parenting a child with Aspergers Syndrome. Yes, its full of them quirky little traits I love and the reasons while I just couldn’t live without them.

(1) HONESTY: Now don’t believe everything you read, a child with Aspergers can tell the odd porky pie, why? Because they are intelligent and learn how to do such a thing! However, 99% of the time you will find that your child, friend or family relative on the autism spectrum is indeed extremely honest! Little man speaks his mind and although this may have gotton him into the odd spot of bother (example… telling the head teacher at his old school that his breath smelt similar to that of a dog) it’s also a credit to him. When little man tells you something that sounds like it is the stuff of make believe, you’ll likely be surprised to find that… yes it’s actually true!

(2) SPECIAL INTEREST: When your child has a diagnosis such as Aspergers, you’ll find that

Wikipedia: Image of London Bus Child Ticket

Image via Wikipedia

with that title comes that of the ‘Special interest’ and if like little man, that special interest happens to be London Transport… you’ll never miss a train or a bus again!

(3) EYE FOR A BARGIN: When out food shopping with the Little man, there is a high prospect that the breakout of a meltdown may occur (what with the crowds and the tendency to become over stimulated). I try my best to keep the Little man calm and focused by getting him to help me with the shopping list! Here’s the great thing… I never end up out of pocket due to purchasing offers that secretly are not really offers at all! Little man has the tendency to act like a human calculator. I remember going to buy a bottle of coke that had so much free and at what I considered to be a good price! That was in-till my Little Man informed me that actually by buying the two smaller bottles I’d end up with more litres for less money… Clever lad!

(4) RULE BOUND: When Little man recently took a trip with a friend to the little row of shops around the corner from our house he went knowing the golden rule, “Cross at the traffic lights and only at the traffic lights!” When his friend tried to persuade him to cross the main road without the safety of the lights, little man refused and came back home! That’s my boy!

English: A Led Traffic lights

Image via Wikipedia

(5) YOUNG & BUSINESS MINDED: Many children at eleven are not sat for hours, days, weeks or years even, planing their business empire! Well, Little man is… ambition: To be the next Richard Branson (not a bad ambition for an 11-year-old kid, is it)? My little man already has a name for his brand and plans how he will take the world by force on a daily basis… Watch this space!

Image representing Richard Branson as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

(6) TAKES A SHINE TO YOUR VAX: No… Not Fax, though I’m sure if I had one he would love it! I mean, ‘VAX’ a brand of vacuum cleaner. Oh… Yes, I can just see all them parents of children on the autism spectrum nodding their heads at speed because yes, the child with Aspergers Syndrome does have a tendency to like household gadgets or items considered odd by peers of the same age! Why is this a good thing? Well, what other 11-year-old do you know who offers to hover the living room and stairs for you on a daily basis? What a great job he makes of it too!

(7) HAVING A LAY IN: OK, OK my son isn’t the best at going to bed and falling a sleep of a night, he often struggles till 3am or later even with the use of Melatonin (natural sleeping medication) however when his head hits the pillow he refuses to move it and after a late one making sure he gets of to sleep, I deserve a lay-in! (NOT GREAT ON SCHOOL DAY, JUST WEEKENDS)!

(8) PERFECTIONIST: Not always a good thing, especially when it means they refuse to do school work as they feel they just can’t do a good job of the task at hand so outrightly refuse to try at all. Nonetheless when the child is passionate about something, they do a mighty good job of it, making the parent a very proud one (I have some amazing pictures of little man’s LEGO creations).

(9) MANNERS: Little man has huge problems with his use of swearing and at times I’m dead embarrassed when out and about a meltdown breaks out which often starts with some really offensive obscenities. Yet, when the Little man is polite and his engaged in a conversation of interest or sat talking to the elderly lady on the bus, his manners are outstanding and many comment how proud I must be 🙂 Put it this way… My son has never got of a bus without thanking the driver, always holds doors open for little old ladies and once offered FOR ME to carry someone’s shopping to their car at Tesco!

(10) AMAZING MEMORY: Little man may not have the best short-term memory especially when asking him to fetch his dirty washing or find his shoes, but when something interests him he gathers the facts surrounding the topic and stores them away safely. It is truly amazing that Little man can tell you where almost every bus in London is destining for just by giving him its number!

A fMRI scan showing regions of activation in o...

Image via Wikipedia

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