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#HAWMC DAY 18 – Inspiration

23 Apr

Stories can be used to establish social routines (using ‘fill in the blank’ procedures) and improve the ability to make social judgements. They may also be useful in helping others better to understand the child’s perception and responses.

 Children With Autism & Aspergers Syndrome: A Guide For Practitioners & Carers (By Patricia Howlin)

 The above statement is one made in one of many books I own that covers topics relating to the autism spectrum.“Children With Autism and Aspergers Syndrome – A Guide For Practitioners & Carers” was one of the very first books I acquired on the subject and I will still often refer to it from time to time. So, naturally when day 18 of the #HAWMC was set with the prompt “Pick a random statement from a book and write about it for 15 minutes” this was my first port of call. 

 There are hundreds upon hundreds of statements made within this particular book, so, why this one?

 I feel it’s important to highlight the above to other care givers, especially those with a newly diagnosed child. Yes, this is a life long condition that cannot be cured. Nonetheless, there are things that you can do to help your child develop better social interaction and communication skills, along with important life skills with the use of some commitment and good old-fashioned creativity.

 When my own son was first diagnosed, I didn’t really get sat down and given all the answers, if the truth be told no one really has them to give. Yes, I was sat on a chair amongst an entire room of professionals and all though I was asked that question… you know the one “Do you have any questions” I just didn’t know where to start, I just remember having plenty. I was therefore sent on my way with a folder of bits and pieces and a very jumbled mind. 

 It wasn’t in-till long after the little guy was diagnosed that I attend something called the “Early Bird Plus” designed for both caregivers and teaching professionals caring for or teaching a newly diagnosed child. Now although “Technically” Little man wasn’t exactly newly diagnosed, I still wanted to attend and have some of those unanswered questions answered! 

 It was during this course that I was first introduced to the simple yet effective idea of visual prompts and clues. With this I didn’t only discover ways to formulate routines, making them visible to Little man so he remained aware of what was happening when and where, but they also still play a big part in Little man’s daily bathroom routine enabling him to better do things in sequence (though sensory sensitivities remain a huge factor we are yet to improve)!

 There are many ways to use these visual aids (kinda like the visual symbols used for PECS). They are also very easy to create or if you don’t fancy that they can be found normally on a string of websites and are mainly free to download. 

 I designed and created a great visual aid for use in the bath room and that of the bedroom. Although he reacted in the way I expected when introducing the aids I soon discovered he was using that of the one in his bedroom to help him formulate his bedtime routine! Ok, he remains an extremely poor sleeper, though he does follow the chart removing the symbol cards that I attached to some Velcro dots, placing them in the pocket I attached to the bottom of the chart. He now uses a written reminder he keeps within on of his many organisers. Nonetheless, the bathroom system remains in place and although his very tactile defensive his got the sequence going and is trying much better than before.  It’s my view that any positive improvements within this area really need to be fused over with lots of praise being given to the child.

 So, how else can we use pictures and words as a visual clue and symbol to teach our children the basics in making the right social judgements as-well as good communication and interaction skills to formulate good friendships?

 Some may have heard of social stories which are a great way of getting a child on the spectrum prepared somewhat for an unfamiliar situation such as a trip to the dentist or even a fun day out at a theme park. 

 You can easily make up a pretty effective social story with no more than an exercise book and some pens! However using photos (if available) of the places that you plan to visit and those people you are visiting (of course with their given permission) can really help a child with autism or aspergers feel more prepared with the situation and therefore calmer on the day! Lets face it, who likes visiting the unknown? Those with autism have difficulty regulating their emotions and that of anxiety can trigger a number of undesirable reactions both during the lead up and that of the day. 

 Little man is growing up, his heading up to secondary school (lucky for us this is one that is attached to his current independent special school). People find it difficult to understand that many of Little Mans sudden outburst are caused by anxiety. I think this is not only because Aspergers is known to be the “hidden disability” but more the fact he can come across (at times) rather street wise, especially more so now. The truth is he is improving with the help of his school, his friend next door and some social modelling from others, but his still more than likely to say the wrong thing, something inappropriate, generally considered social unacceptable. But there are times I do wonder maybe they got it wrong then bang… something happens, a meltdown, over intense conversation on his special interest and the inability to shut off. Then there’s his all nighters and inability to switch off. That’s the thing, your child may have problems with social skills but as they grow they can often act a certain way for a chain of different social situations. I’m not stating Little man is socially correct all of the time but his learning. One thing I do try empathise & encourage is for Little man to be himself as he has at times totally moulded himself in a certain way to fit more comfortably into certain social groups and gatherings. He maybe a success but once home he off loads and he will normally have a hell of a lot of bottled up stress need releasing. It’s important that he knows how to behave for an array of situations but to reframe of hide who you are by either going into oneself coming across as a bit shy or maybe even a loner to avoid running into difficulties or act a way because it gets you liked by others, both something  Little man engaged in during mainstream, I can tell you from a parental perspective that this isn’t anything other than a disaster waiting to happen. 

 As many a parent of a child on the autism spectrum can probably vouch, we as parents are presented with that bit more reason to worry when it comes to our children growing up and therefore having to experience new things as they embark on their journey to adulthood. Something like visuals and good social modelling are of the up-most importance and will in time become a natural way of life and acquired parenting skills that we will find ourselves doing with little if any thought at all.

 You know your child and will learn what works best for them and you as a family. As mentioned earlier within this post, Little man no longer uses visual symbols for within his room but now uses words, just as you or I may write our schedule of order of events in a personal diary or organiser , this works and if even he remains awake till 3am with school set to kick of a few hours later, his still able to do those important steps to prepare for bed from brushing his teeth to putting his clothes in the wash. As for preparation for a new situation, we don’t always get things right (those that read about our Butlins holiday at Christmas will more than agree that it didn’t go smoothly) yet at times things go much better than maybe they would have if the effort to prepare Little man wasn’t made. I did the social stories with pictures, but he sees things very black and white so its important to have visual reminders of “Real life” places, people, etc this helps him to formulate some kind of image and expectation. The only danger of this is to be careful not to overdo it as spotted difference or unexpected changes could make the hard work go to pot!

 Lately, I’ve tried to be more creative with how we do the above. I’m agree he knows he sees thinks differently and thinks and processes information a tad different from his age peers. I’m also aware that as his grown his not welcomed anything that causes him to stand out so I’ve tried to continue with the preparation while making it more fun, age appropriate and fun. Last week why searching the App store on my iPhone 4S for some type of daily planer and social story maker, I found Comic Book. As you do, I had great fun playing around with it and trying different things. I created the picture below of my toddler Harley, and sisters new baby Riley. It has a number of stickers with great phrases, themes, colours, fronts and more. After testing it with the toddlers pics, I felt assured that this would be a great fun addition to my social preparation tool kit and Little man agreed it was pretty cool. Maybe with the doctor’s permission  you could snap a few pics during the next appointment and use this for your comic strip! For me, this is an App that will provide more than just good fun. 

 Other ideas are that of video recordings of places you may visit, memory books of the places you have been to before or even use small visual cards, laminated and hole punched and added to a curly key chain key ring and attach to your child’s belt loop. This is perfect for non-verbal children as they can use the symbols as a way to communicate their basic needs such as using the toilet while at school instead of become frustrated or upset. Again all these are easily made and need not cost a fortune.

 I also mention in another of my recent #HAWMC post about the brilliance of Pinterest, I’ve created a great Autism and Sen board that’s packed full of ideas to help your child in the areas discussed and many more… Yes, total pin head here! 

Below are some ideas on creating and using visual aids. These are taken from the autism & Sen board on my Pinterest and original author also included with these pins

from the blog rockabyebutterfly.blogspot.com

from the blog carrotsareorange.com

from the blog etadventures.blogspot.com.au

 Visuals may not seem appropriate right now, you may feel your child doesn’t need them? Remember at some point in our life we all require the use of prompts and instructions as-well as organisation… a work timetable or organiser. When we experience anxiety concerning an upcoming situation or event we form a mental picture which isn’t always easy for a child like mine! Early intervention is the key so if your child could do with a little prompt or preparation, why no give visuals and social stories a try? 

7×7 My Favourite blog post’s

25 Feb

I was recently tagged by the lovely Jennifer, an awesome talented blogger, who blogs over at Jbmumofone to give you my 7×7 low down.

First I must share the seven top blog posts, I’ve read over the last week (please bear in mind this has sat unpublished a good week, due to careers brain)!

Next, I’m to share 7 things about me that you don’t know already (if that’s actually possible)!

Lastly, I’m to share the meme love and tag another blogger, who hopefully isn’t already tagged (if I’m lucky)!

Ok… here it goes… the seven blog post I’ve enjoyed this week!

1) Kate Vyktorian wrote about her amazing experience as an attendee at the Elle Style Awards 2012, over on her blog Snugglebubbly. Yes, this jammy blogger bagged herself a ticket to this celeb fest as a result of her recreation of a red carpet look, with the use of items from the Next directory… Lucky girl!

2) Lexy from Mammywoo in her emotional, yet inspiring post, ‘Forgiveness with extra cheese

3) Angela, a talented new mummy blogger wrote a beautiful post of love, dedicated to her 9-year-old son, in the post, ‘A letter to my loved one’s – Part one

4) Autism Mums & Dads is a brand new blog displaying some talented, inspiring words. I read the post, “Everything but the kitchen sink” and had to share!

5) From Fun to Mum, the funniest post I’ve read all yet, let alone week. If you haven’t read, “The Day That Shit Happened” I’d run off and read it now!

6) Bluecrisps, a fellow parent to a child with autism wrote the post, “Does this buggy cause offence” when speaking how our societies ignorance get going when she takes here daughter out and about in her special needs buggy. It’s a strong message from an empowering parent of a child with a hidden disability.

and finally…

7) “Missing my Grandad” a beautiful post written by “a mummy too” as her weekly gallery post. Filled with emotion and love, it’s a really lovely piece.

Next: Seven things you may not already know about me!

  1. I hate eggs, any type but the chocolate type
  2. As well as my love for writing, I spend time drawing and painting too.
  3. I own so many shoes, that they need their own wardrobe
  4. I did plastering and brick-laying at college and passed my first and only exams on the two subjects (no bloke tells me it’s a man’s job)!
  5. I laugh when Nervous
  6. I’m rubbish at icing fairy cakes
  7. I’ve been in a relationship for 15 years and I’m only 29 years old… Goodness me!
  8. Lastly, I tag

The lovely Kylie Hodges over at “Not even a bag of sugar” to list her 7×7

Guest Post: Children with autism have significantly different gut bacteria

24 Jan

Today, I’m passing my blogging pass over to the lovely ‘Soraya Janmohamed’ from OptiBac Probiotics (my sponsor for last years Mad blog awards)

 A study published earlier this month has found that autistic children have significantly different gut bacteria to children without autism.

A novel method of analysis called ‘PCR’ (Polymerase chain reaction – a technique where scientists copy and examine DNA) allowed researchers to detect high levels of members of the bacteria ‘Sutterrella’in many of the children with autism, and in none

of the children without. Sutterrella was found in 12 of 23 of the autistic children but in none of the 9 participants without autism who took part in the study as a control.

This is not the first study to demonstrate a link between autism and gut bacteria (or microbiota) and children with autism are often thought to anecdotally suffer with gastrointestinal problems such as food intolerances, diarrhoea or constipation.  The fact that this study shows a little-recognised bacterium to be present in more than half  the autism children with autism is a significant finding, and calls for further research in the area to be done.

For an in-depth look at previous findings in gut bacteria, autism, and the potential of probiotics (good bacteria), take a look at this article on probiotics and autism.
Isolated bacteria - Micrococcus luteus

Interestingly, a large survey released in the last few days has found autism to often go

hand in hand with other mental & behavioural conditions in children, such as anxiety, attention deficit disorder, or learning disabilities.  Anxiety and similar conditions were more common in the slightly older children with autism. 92, 000 parents of children under 17 years old with autism took part in the phone survey in the USA.  This could again be of significance, partly as  anxiety has been linked to gut bacteria in the past.

Reference:

http://mbio.asm.org/content/3/1/e00261-11

OptiBac Probiotic Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/optibacprobiotics

Understanding The Diagnostics Of Autism And Aspergers Syndrome

13 Jan

Today, when I thought about writing this post I had this strong urge to kick my own arse, as I asked myself the question… “Why haven’t I written this post already”

The Facebook page is now reaching numbers of 5,000 + and although that’s great, it still shows how many more children are being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, that or the high numbers of parents seeking a diagnosis and therefore seeking out advice on something they long to understand…. “The Diagnostics of autism”

Subject: Quinn, a boy with autism, and the lin...

Image via Wikipedia

This basically means the different tests and routes undertaken in-order to diagnosis a child as being on the autism spectrum, and it’s this I want to write about here today.

Firstly I should make it crystal clear that there is no set procedure, some places, areas and countries do it differently to another. However, the most important thing to remember before delving in any further is, “One child may be diagnosed in record time, another it may take longer, one child may only see two professionals whereas another…. they may meet hundreds!  

I’m situated in the United Kingdom and my son, now 11 years old, was formally diagnosed in early 2009 as having ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’

One of the common misconceptions made by parents (including myself) is when a child psychologist informs you that your child is indeed on the autism spectrum… you then understandably think you’re child was just diagnosed! Com-on, why the hell wouldn’t you, he just sat there and said it didn’t he? You’re child normally isn’t actually diagnosed and normally it will be a while till they actually are. I remember being told on my first visit, Little man was most likely on the autism spectrum with Aspergers Syndrome being the most appropriate title! Yes, he rambled on about coming back on this date to have this elevation & that observation done, but he said it… I bloody heard him! You’re child isn’t technically diagnosed till them words hit paper, that’s when it matters, that’s when it counts and means anything to schools and services in your local area! I learnt this the hard way, Little man’s mainstream school wrote it off completely, they proceeded to do sod all, that was in-till they saw it there in black & white some two years later! Remember it’s not always so long, actually it should never be this long! We had problems with certain doctors and the schools input didn’t help, we actually had to re-enter the waiting list when the person taking care of Little man’s notes was dismissed, meaning little man was missed completely. Anyhow… My point… when there is still testing to be done and you don’t yet have that paper with the title of any diagnosis, then the likelihood that you actually don’t have one yet… Is, well… quite certain!

Below I’ve posted some of the diagnostic tools you may come across if your child is being assessed for an autism spectrum condition or Aspergers Syndrome.

Aspergers Syndrome Diagnostic Scale (ASDS)

Diagnostic tool used on those between the ages of 5-18 years old as a diagnostic tool. 

Method: Parent/teacher questionnaire made up of 50 questions which are rated and therefore indicate the presence or absence of behaviour mostly associated with Aspergers. The scores give the tester an indication on the probability of a diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome. This is a diagnostic tool, though its rarely used alone when diagnosis a child with Aspergers The above test was one of the tools used for Little man’s diagnosis.

Autism spectrum

Image via Wikipedia

 

Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADIR)

This is a diagnostic tool used on children aged over 2.

 ADIR is a structured 90 minute interview consisting of 93 items spit into three functional domains. The responses given are then coded in 8 areas.

 The test is to look for the early developmental signs of autism spectrum conditions including a child’s Speech and language, the way they communicate and interact, repetitive and stereotyped behaviours and intense interests. (This is another test performed on little man).

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) 

This is a diagnostic tool usually used from the ages of 2+ (commonly used on adults as well as children) professional play based observation done on an interactive format (child/clinician) 

 The test is used to assess the child’s social communication & interaction skills, imaginative play or creativity, stereotyped behaviours and restricted interest. It was the ADOS that finally lead to Little man’s formal diagnosis.

English: Subject: Quinn, an ~18 month old boy ...

Image via Wikipedia

 Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) 

A diagnostic tool for children over 2 years.

 The test consists of 15 items rated on a 7 point scale. These items are made up from parental input/questionnaire clinician observations, other related reports and input (educational reports etc)  A wide spectrum of behaviours are assessed including those above and more. The test will establish three possible outcomes… not autistic, mildly/moderately autistic or severely autistic.

Gilliam Autism Rating Scale-Second Edition (GARS-2)

 A diagnostic tool usually used in those between the ages of 3-22 years of age. It consists of 3 sub-scales based on observation of frequency of behaviours such as, stereotype behaviours, interaction and communication, of occurrence and parental interview

Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO)

A diagnostic tool used for diagnosing children/people of all ages. This is a semi-structured interview schedule lasting some 3 hours with parents, other care givers, which is mainly used in assisting the diagnosis of autism.

Guest post and Competition: A safe day out for a child with Aspergers

28 Nov

Days out with your children don’t have to be stressful and a safe day out for a child with Asperger’s doesn’t have to be stressful either.

A close relative of mine has four children. He has two girls and two boys. All of the kids are happy, loving and lots of fun. Both girls go to mainstream schools. They have no difficulties whatsoever, but they certainly understand that everybody is different and that we all have our own challenges in life. One of his sons is autistic and the other has Asperger’s syndrome. Tom who is autistic needs to be monitored pretty much most of the time and to look at him you know that he is autistic and the majority of people do make allowances for that. Steve on the other hand, is the older of the brothers, he has Asperser’s syndrome. To look at him you would not know he has it.

When the family go out for the day, all of them take turns to mind Tom as he does wonder off and no matter how many times that they tell him he still does it. Steve does not normally wonder off but becomes extremely engrossed in something and does not realise that everyone else has moved on. There have been numerous occasions that my cousin or his wife and even I have gone racing back to the last place we were only to see Steve looking very bewildered. Because of his condition he will not ask anyone for help as he finds interaction difficult. So he is for want of a better phrase ‘left stranded’.

To overcome this and to be able to have a safe day out for a child with Asperger’s my cousin now uses a child locator with Steve. The child locator is made up of two pieces. One for Steve and one for my cousin or his wife, if they move off without Steve there is a chirping sound and they realise that Steve is not moving on with them. All of the children carry a personal alarm for kids anyway so the child locator was not something that was a big deal for Steve.

One of the other things that can sometimes a bit of a challenge for my cousins’ family when they have a day out is that both boys tire quicker than the girls and they tire at different rates themselves. To minimise the impact this can have on the day out my cousin plans the day ahead of time. He schedules meal and break times. This gives the boys some R and R time and means the boys have enough energy to keep up with the girls.

A safe day out for a child with Asperger’s is as simple as a day out with any other child.

Post written by Andrea mother and owner of Safe girl http://www.safe-girl.co.uk

The teddy bear child locator is on sale reduced from £29.99 to just £19.99 till Christmas

WIN A CHILD TEDDY BEAR LOCATOR

The lovely Andrea is offering you all the chance to win one of this fantastic safety child locators.

If entering please leave a contact email or tweeter idea so I can contact you in the event you win.

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All I’m asking you to do is visit Safe-Girl website and tell me what Alarm or Locator you like best

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Update from Merlin’s Magic Wand & the NAS

24 Nov
An attempt at a discrimination graphic.

Image via Wikipedia

I thought given my recent post regarding the Merlin’s magical wand charity and the possible discrimination against children on the autism spectrum, I should share with you all the latest developments

Today Merlin’s Magic Wand Have made a statement on there facebook page. I visited the page only to discover that all comments have been removed and this has been left in there place.

In the light of recent conversations on this site and elsewhere we wanted to clarify the objective of Merlin’s Magic Wand – which is very simple. We know that there are many children facing difficulties of all kinds – illness, disability or social issues – who would benefit greatly from a day at one of our attractions, when they can just have fun with friends and family, and get away from everyday concerns. The aim of Merlin’s Magic Wand, through the provision of tickets and grants, is to offer this opportunity to families who might not otherwise be able to visit us.Unfortunately our resources are not unlimited. As more people have become aware of the work of Merlin’s Magic Wand, and the number of individual applications has grown, we need to explore new ways of managing these. We believe that in the future the best way to reach the maximum number of different children will be for us to increasingly work in tandem with specialist organisations – charities, support groups and educational and social services departments – who have direct access to those who would benefit most, and the communications channels to spread the word. More than this, given our aim must always be to give as many children as possible a magical day out, rather than the same children an annual outing – we also believe that working with partner organisations will better ensure this. Finally such partnerships will leave our small dedicated team more time to develop our activities into new areas – taking the magic out to those children who will never be well enough to come to us. We make no apologies for this. That said nothing will change until we have alternative arrangements in place and ALL eligible children should continue to apply through our websitewww.merlinsmagicwand.org, where full details are available.

We would therefore like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to anyone who was confused by some recent communications, or who interpreted them as in any way discriminating against children with autistic spectrum disorders. That was certainly not our intention. The National Autistic Society is undoubtedly one organisation with whom we are in discussions, but with the express aim of making these tickets more widely available and certainly NOT to limit access for those with autism or any other issue. We would also like to reassure anybody that might be concerned that if children are fortunate enough to be allocated tickets as part of the Merlin’s Magic Wand scheme there is, and never will be, any charge for these.

We have taken very seriously all of the comments posted over the last couple of days relating to this subject, and we hope that this statement will reassure you all. If anyone still has concerns however please feel free to contact us direct offline on mmw.enquiries@merlinentertainments.biz.

Furthermore the National Autistic Society have also left this update on it’s facebook wall.

National Autistic Society

Hi all,

We’re aware some people have had questions about our involvement with the charity Merlin’s Magic Wand. We hope this will address those concerns.

Children with all disabilities, including those with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, can apply directly to Merlin’s Magic Wand for free tickets to Merlins’ 25 top UK family attractions.

The NAS is currently only exploring ways in which we can help Merlin’s Magic Wand reach more families who have children with autism.

The announcement by Merlin’s Magic Wand of our involvement was premature and once we have finalised precisely how the NAS will be involved we will let you know.

Both the NAS and Merlin’s Magic Wand want to reassure anybody who might be concerned that there never has been, nor will there be any charge for tickets allocated through the scheme.

Applications for tickets can be made through their websitehttp://www.merlinsmagicwand.org

Hope this helps clarify things and thanks for everyone’s patience.

National Autistic Society

Image via Wikipedia

So there you have it, Merlin’s should have thought twice before sending out such an email, they do not apologise and claim they did not mean to come across as acting in a discriminating way! Sadly they did and in my view, unless Merlin’s change the application process for all applications then they will be continuing to act to do so!

Watch this space!

The KRE-O Bumblebee construction set from Argos

6 Nov

As mentioned last week Argos have come on board and are now taking part in our, ‘Santa’s Little Helpers’ feature. Last time, I introduced you to the, ‘Fab 15’ (Argos top toys this Christmas) and with the help of Alice-Sara, my very willing 8-year-old daughter, we shared with you our review of the fabulous new baby Annabell.

This week it’s Little man who takes the rains when testing the ‘KREO Transformers Bumblebee’ construction set by Hasbro.

This construction set is a cross between LEGO & Transformers. It was launched a few months back and has already been hailed as one of the biggest boys toys this Christmas.

The set was delivered well boxed and contained some 300+ pieces, plus 3 Keron figures. The contents allow the child to build in two modes, giving them the chance to either build a robot (Transformer) or vehicle (Sports car).

Yes, there are lots of pieces to put together, but given to the right child this is an awesome toy. The instructions were not overly complication but maybe a tad advanced for a 7-year-old but also had lots of images to help your child along the way. Little man was really pleased with the ‘KRE-O Bumblebee’ his a big fan of LEGO and when I first told him he was being sent the KRE-O, he insisted he wouldn’t like it as it wasn’t “LEGO” How wrong he was, he honestly loves the set and a few more have been added to his Christmas Wish list.

What’s really fantastic about the Hasbro KREO Bumblebee construction set is the fact it’s prices are compatible with all your other major brands such as LEGO. They fit together perfectly and can be used together with ease.
On arrival of the KER-O Transformer bumblebee, Little man set about getting to work almost instantly having decided to construct the vehicle first. He enlisted the help of his father and in a few short hours they presented me with this…

That was it for one night. It was the following day the boys started up again and it wasn’t long till it was finished and here it is the end result…

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

The doors open and close which delights my Little man (it’s the little things that count isn’t it)! You can also take two of your three keron figures for a test drive!

Little man has refused to take this apart to make the transformer which is father is dying to do (boys & their toys)! He told me he hasn’t yet had enough fun with his sports car, which is fine, bless him! What I can tell you is that once in Robot mode the wings can be converted into gliders for your Keron figures to take a ride on.

Little man really loves this set and despite his difficulties with fine motor skills, he has no issues, even with the smaller pieces.
Little man gave it a high 5 awarding it the full ***** stars

Parental perspective

Yes, I’ve stepped on one or two pieces of KRE-O… Ouch… they resemble LEGO in every way, including the pain they provide to your foot when trod on. I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two, so would defiantly recommend to all LEGO lovers, you wont be disappointed!

The recommended age of 7+ seems about right, although I would advise that younger children may need a little help to follow the instructions as may those who are on the autism spectrum as did Little man.

Lots of small (I mean very small pieces) so make sure this is done away from toddlers.

Provides a great bonding experience. Little man and his father had hours of fun building the bumblebee car together.

Pieces are fully compatible with other leading brands, your child may not want to build the vehicle or the robot! KRE-O helps to enhance your child’s creativity offering a multitude of play scenarios.

Once desired mode is assembled (vehicle or robot) your child is left with a great toy with lots of playability

Only disadvantage for me was that fact it came with no plastic storage case! What with the amount of pieces, I would have really liked there to have been one. However if your child has many sets of this kind the chances that they will already have one is pretty high.

Recommend: Yes

**** 4 stars from mum

Price: £29.99 ON SALE FOR £22.49 25% OFF

You can get the ‘KREO Transformer Bumblebee’ construction set from Argos stores nationwide or online
Click Here for yours.

A step in the right direction for autism thanks to Anna Kennedy

21 Oct

I recently contacted Anna Kennedy as I read about a new dance DVD she had developed for children with autism and aspergers syndrome

 Anna’s DVD, ‘Step in the right direction’ has been produced in association with the world-famous, ‘Pineapple performing Arts school’ in London and a selection of children from the Hillingdon Manor school who each have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

 Anna was kind enough to send me a copy of the DVD to review with my Little man.

 Little man used to love to dance but as his grown older he does it less and less. I thought it would be great to try to encourage him to give it another go.

Little man is a child who requires a certain amount of Occupational therapy (OT) due to his difficulties with both his fine and gross motor skills, including varying areas off his co-ordination. 

 Once I had received the DVD I decided to watch it while little man was at school, just so I could get a taste for what it was all about before finally introducing it to the Little guy himself. 

 This DVD has been broken up into manageable pieces allowing you to skip between sections.

 Part 1

Introduction by Anna Kennedy

Anna Kennedy


 Anna Kennedy, founder of Hillingdon Manor school, kicks the off  the DVD with an introduction that sees here shop for pineapple dance wear for the children before heading off to the Pineapple performing arts school in London’s Covent  Garden.

 Part 2

Interviews

 Once here she introduces the viewers to some of the dance instructors at Pineapple including, ‘Maggie Paterson’ (Senior teacher) ‘Jade Flannagan’ (Senior teacher specialising in Street & Break-dance) as well as the schools founder, ‘Debbie Moore’ Anna interviews Maggie & Jade about working with the children and what their expectations were before meeting them.

 Anna, then goes on to interview Debbie who tells us about her incredible journey in fulfilling her dreams when opening what is now the world-famous school of performing arts, while taking us on a trip down memory lane.

Debbie Moore

Lastly all the children introduce themselves alongside Anna who then goes on to get them all warmed up in the third chapter of this dance DVD

 Part 3

Tutorials

This is where we get down to the business and following a great warm up section with Anna and the children, Jade steps in to show us some poppin’ lockin’ & tuttin’ (some really “cool” dance moves). Jade starts by teaching us at home the routine, he does this in easy to follow bite size pieces repeating each section a number of times before finally putting it all together and joining the children where they go on to perform the routine, incorporating some really cool freestyle dance moves, which for me was the highlight to this DVD. 

 It was great to see the children dancing, the enjoyment was clearly shown on each of their faces in the form of a massive smile! 

They are all clearly delighted to be taking part in the making of the DVD and should be extremely proud of themselves and one another for the fabulous routines they participated in and awesome freestyling they displayed. 

 The tutorials are finished off with a cool down with Maggie and the children.

 Section 4

Special features: Britain’s got talent finalist-James Hobley

Anna with James and his mum Sheila

Here Anna meets James and his mother, Sheila Hobley who tells Anna about what life is like for James (how he overcomes many off the difficulties children with autism experience, while fulfilling his ambition and dreams to dance). We learn about the barriers James has overcome and  difficulties he faced while participating in the ‘Britain’s got talent tour’ as-well as his hopes and dreams for the further.

 James goes on to show Anna some of his moves, to which she has a little difficulty keeping up with 🙂

We then get to see a delightful recording of James Hobley’s own routine.

 Lastly Andrew Stone (Star of sky 1 Pineapples dance studios with over 30 years of experience in dance, music and television) works with the children of Hillingdon Manor school on a small and final routine bringing the section to a close. 

 Section 5 &6

Useful Information & Additional Materials 

 In the last two sections 5 & 6 you can discover a little more about two of the sponsors behind the DVD, ‘MedicAlert’ (who Anna helped create the AK autism band) and ‘Childline’ (the UK charity backing Anna’s anti bullying campaign). 

We are then provided with the website address for “Anna Kennedy online” where we can read and download a number of fact sheets about the benefits of autism and dance.

These can be found at Anna Kennedy online.

Click HERE

Our Verdict

 Little man did have a go at the DVD and seemed to enjoy doing so. (He did however get a little upset when I tried to film him so we gave that a miss.) 

 His sister, ‘Alice’ who isn’t on the spectrum also enjoyed taking part, although she did spend half the time catching a glance of her self in the mirror. 

 In my opinion the routines are great! They have been put together in an easy to follow way and are not overly long, resulting in the children actively maintaining concentration throughout

 The music was fantastic, some really great tunes that made me want to shake my bootie too. 

 Anna engages the children in a great warmup routine that both myself and the Little man followed together.

 Jade Flannagan is the perfect choice for the main routine as his young and hip and the children really seem to relate to this guy.

Jade works with the kids really well and keeps them motivated with lots of positive praise and encouragement. One thing I did pick up on was there was no use of the word left and right within the choreography! Instead Jade used visual clues alongside instructions, like, placing a hand on his right arm along with the instruction on what to do, indicating that the children and viewers were to use the right arm. For me, I think this was a good idea, as the children did not become confused at the use of to many instructions at one time.

 The freestyle was the best part for me. I just loved seeing the children demonstrate their moves as their confidence was beaming throughout!

 I would highly recommend this DVD as an introduction into dance for children on the autism spectrum and even those without! I think it’s especially beneficial to those who seek lots of sensory stimulation. Children on the autism spectrum who discover an interest in dance, would benefit both physically and emotionally from such an activity. Such benefits could include, improved co-ordination skills and overall fitness and stamina, improved social interaction skills and the ability to follow more complex instructions, and importantly, development of their self-confidence which may be pretty low for those who have experienced incidents of bullying or isolation. Another excellent benefit that I found was, your child is more likely to sleep better if they follow the routines on the DVD in the evening. I know that Little man slept better on the evening we reviewed the DVD so this must be a great way to get rid off some of that excess energy our children on the spectrum always seem to have.

 The interviews were fantastic but are mainly aimed at the parent, though many children wanting to get into dance could really find themselves inspired by watching Anna’s interview with the fabulous talented James Hobley.

 Thank you Anna Kennedy for providing us with this great DVD.

We loved it!  

You can get a copy of this excellent DVD from Amazon priced at a reasonable £7.99.

Just Click HERE

Win with Santa’s little helpers

20 Oct

As part of our Santa’s Little helpers feature we have been running some awesome competitions.

This time it’s the turn of the fabulous Wooden toy shop who have allowed me to pick a lovely prize from their online store for you lucky lot to try to get your mitts on.

 This was such a hard task, there are so many beautiful toys on display and a great load more has been added for Christmas coursing me excitement and confusion all at once.

 After a long time browsing, I finally decided on a toy with a purpose, one that will suit every child but will be extremely beneficial to a child with autism and their family as a whole!

 So… Here’s what you can win:

 Melissa & Doug wooden magnetic responsibility chart

 Catch children in the act of behaving well, reward them, and watch those appropriate behaviours multiply. Open the fabric hinged boards to reveal a behaviour chart on one board, while the other board keeps all the magnets close at hand. A sturdy cord is attached for hanging. Dry-erase white board and 90 magnets including responsibilities, positive behaviours and rewards.

 I love Melissa and Doug and this kind of product is the reason why. All kids do great with visual stimulate and prompts and that’s why I think this is a toy that appeals to everyone.

 HOW TO WIN.

 To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize you must…

COMPULSORY ACTIONS

 Like the wooden toy shop on Facebook leaving the following comment.

“I want to win with A boy with Aspergers and the wooden toy shop”

Then to validate your entry, leave me a comment to tell me you have done it leaving a twitter id, email or other means of contact

 ADDITIONAL EXTRA ENTRIES 

You are welcome to engage in as many additional entries as you wish but you must still carry out the compulsory above the action above.

You must leave an additional comment for every action taken or entries will be void!

 Follow the blog via Network blogs

 Follow me on twitter

 Rate this post by using the stars above

  Tweet, “I want to win with @clairelouise82 & @woodentoyshopuk adding the url to this post

 Comment on another review post or competition

Subscribe to my blog via email by using the subscribe button at the top right of this post.

 Use the facebook share button on this post to share this competition

 Click the Like button in this post to like the competition

 Follow the wooden toy shop on twitter.

 Do not forget to leave an additional comment for each action you have taken in order to validate your entries. You must also leave a contact whether it’s an email address, twitter id or other. 

The competition will run in-till the 11th November closing at midnight. The winner will be contacted by myself to obtain a postal address, which will then be passed over to the lovely people at the wooden toy shop in-order to dispatch your prize. 

This competition is only open to UK residents and the winner will have 5 days to contact me following the official notification post that will go live shortly after the competition winner is drawn at random.

The day my boy got his smile back.

12 Oct

I sat in the school hall watching the school nativity all the children in each year combine to create one marvellous Christmas spectacle! So, why was I sat with a tear in my eye? My daughter looked so beautiful up there, and god I was proud, off course I was! Though this wasn’t a tear of joy, something was still missing and that something was my son! As I watched his sister and the rest of the schools over excited children take part in a glowing performance,my eldest child, ‘Little man’ was sat at home, restricted from all participation! Why? Well, he hadn’t injured himself, he wasn’t hit by a sudden dose of stage fright, he was told No! Why? Because his school thought of him as a liability not a child, not a child with feelings, not a child at all!

There were lots of why’s! Some coming from myself directed at a head teacher and a SENCO who quite honestly didn’t give a shit! The why’s from Little man directed at myself, a mother without the heart to be truthful! Yet deep down he knew, I know he did!

You may have the word why running through your mind right now as you read this! You maybe asking, “Why I’m even writing this?”

Yes, the above situation wasn’t yesterday, it was just one of many crawl blows thrown at my child at the end of last year. The example above took place in December 2010.

Now, I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past, and I’m not (well, not really). It’s hard to forget and I doubt we ever will, though the reason it was actually brought to the front of my mind was for reasons of happiness and excitement, not sadness.

Yes, now in 2011 and finally in a school that understands him, I finally got to see my little man take part in a whole school activity.

This time as I entered my son’s school there was no stares or whispers. I spoke with fellow parents unworried about their response when they would discover who my child was. This is a feeling I’ve waited and waited for, now I finally have it!

It was the celebration of the harvest festival and parents were invited into school for a special assembly. Gosh I was excited, despite the fact I had literally had not a wink of sleep. With this in mind I headed off upstairs to chill for a bit. Little H was with his father so that left me a bit of mummy time. Running the hot water into the bath tube the air was filled with the scent of Radox relaxing bath salts, “This is the life” I thought as I slowly lowered a leg in the tub!

Ring… ring… ring… “Bloody typical” I shouted to myself aloud as I almost slipped and broke my neck as I frantically dashed for my mobile located on my bedside table.

“Hello” I spouted in a somewhat breathless tone (which couldn’t of sounded great) especially on discovering it was in-fact Little mans school who thankfully put me at ease instantly by stated “Don’t worry, there is nothing to worry about” Turns out the Little man has actually left his lunch at home, well, that or in his transport (the taxi he takes to school of a morning) His school don’t currently serve school dinners. This is mainly due to how new the school is and the fact there really is little point employing staff and serving food for under 20 kids (not like the little man will agree to eat it any how).

This only meant one thing! Mum would have to deliver that lunch asap! First I had to unearth it, I couldn’t actually recall seeing it since he left at 8.30 am that morning. I searched the house like a mad woman and at 11.50 and the school being some distance away (one train and a bus kind of distance) I began to worry when I still couldn’t find it! It wasn’t a case of just throw together another one, believe it or not I buy the stuff fresh each morning in some kind of hope he will eat it, so in-order to do so I’d need a shop!

As I darted out the door, on the mission for lunch something caught my eye! Surely not? Hang on…. No,… It only bloody is! There sat his Chelsea FC lunch box on top of the wheely bin. Well, I agree it’s not the most pleasant place to keep your lunch but with the clock ticking, I came to the conclusion, “It wasn’t actually in the bin! Would he actually need to know?” I guess not!

I finally made it to the school, red-faced and paranoid that I didn’t smell like the aroma of Radox bath salts, and more like a sweating scum-bag but given the fact no one smiled and moved away, I came to the conclusion it was my lack of sleep making me think this way (after all, it’s not like I hadn’t washed or something)!

The assembly wouldn’t start till 1.30 and it was half past midday and without a car and feeling like I was in the middle off nowhere I went outside sat on what was quite a pleasant little bench, indulged in my nasty but pleasurable habit of puffing a cigarette while scrolling trough my twitter timeline, engaging in far to many conversations to remain sane before going back inside to find my little man waiting for me in the reception-area.

“Mum, I’m not having a great day” he told me! Apparently no one was! The teacher described it as one of those days where the children all seem to be experiencing some kind of upset. Let’s not forget these children all have an autism spectrum condition, all face a range of difficulties and the smallest things can cause problems. Chatting with my little man it would seem he was excited yet a little nervous about his piece that he had offered to read in the assembly. My little man wanted to do the reading and was adamant. We read it together and he read it perfect! Confidence was the issue here something that had become smashed over the years.

As Little man went off to get ready I got to say hello to the very lovely Anna Kennedy. For those of you who don’t know who Ann is, I’ll enlighten you!

Anna isn’t only the founder of little mans independent special school for children with autism and aspergers, she’s also a parent of two children on the spectrum who felt her only option left to get her boys into a school was to open one herself. This wasn’t little man’s current school but another called ‘Hillingdon Manor’ in Middlesex and this all happened back in the nineties. Baston house (Little man’s school) is a school that Anna has open more recently. Anna has since established a bit of a name for herself as an inspirational advocate for autism and is also now a very successful business woman. I for one agree that Anna is inspirational, actually she’s a breath of fresh air to the autism community and I couldn’t be happier to have my child in a school that has been made possible by this very woman. My guess is many parents feel this gratefulness that I am currently feeling as I write this down.

Having spoken to Anna for some time (way before little man started school) on networks such as twitter and facebook (Little man also appeared on a news report on bullying that Anna organised) it was lovely to finally meet her in person.

As I sat In the hall waiting for the children’s performance I felt proud that my son was a part of it all. He ran around and his anxiety was a tad increased, plus the fact I was there meant he become a little bit of a terror, but so did a few of the children. What was magical was the fact no one made an issue about it, if the children ran from their chairs or dashed off behind the stage curtains they were encouraged to come back to their seats in a clam and unthreatening manner. Not one teacher raised their voice, not one!

The vicar from the local church came to speak about the occassion in which the children were celebrating. The table was covered in food that the children had donated. I had to laugh when the vicar stated, “Look at all this lovely food you all brought” only for one young man to shout out, “Actually, I brought in most of it” What a classic!

The vicar told a story to symbolise what the true meaning was of the Harvest festival and the children did shout out some pretty random things (little man more than anyone else, I think) Any other school he would have been reprimanded for such behaviour! They all put up their hands but just could not retain the urge to state what it was they wanted to say, this however was fine!

When it came to the reading Little man and a few others gathered at the stage. All giggled and in turn each took the microphone and read aloud (beautifully I must add)! Little man was last and as he took the mic he said one word and then froze. He turned to his TA and stated “I can’t do it, please do it” I knew he could read it, after all I heard him not half an hour before when we practised. My son hadn’t ever been given such a chance till now and his confidence just wasn’t there! Then something beautiful happened! Two of the staff, including his teaching assistant (who he is most keen on) and the other boys who had previously read came together with little man and read the poem with him. There was no laughing at him, no nasty remarks and no huff from the teacher, just pure encouragement!

I didn’t only write this post to express my delight at the situation we are now in, and although I wanted to share such delight with you all, I have another more important reason!

“When life seems like it cannot get much worse and you’re in the height of your long fought out battle to get your child what they did! When you think there really is no light at the end of that very long tunnel, please don’t give up, just remember this post!”

Those of you that take your child to school everyday and collect them without a hiccup, you should never take such straightforwardness for granted… You really don’t know how lucky you are!

Thank you to everyone at Baston house for giving me hope and giving my child back his smile, the greatest gift of all.

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