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A Children’s Picture Book That Children With Aspergers Can Relate To

28 Mar

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I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of a fabulous new children’s picture book from Flashlight press, all the way in the US.

And how gratefully received this was! Its a picture book like non I’ve read before! One that highlights one of the common autism traits I know all to well… The ability to be that little bit too honest!

I actually found myself laughing out loud as I read the book “Being Frank” as there was one particular part that reminded me of an incident at little man’s school! Actually it was almost the exact same scenario. In the book Frank is a little too honest (as the title suggests) and on one occasion he tells the teacher that her breath smells funny and is therefore sent to the principal as a result of his honesty. Ok, little man didn’t inform the teacher of her funny smelling breath, he instead told the head teacher that his breath smelt like his grandmas dogs.

Anyone who parents a child on the autism spectrum can easily spot the trait in Franks honest manner. Franks motto is that “Honesty is the best policy” He tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! Only he soon begins to realise that its not always appreciated, especially by adults. Frank is only being honest when he tells his mother she has lots of wrinkles as a result of her glaring at him, and even worse, when his mother is stopped by the police for speeding and frank informs the policeman that his mother was aware she was speeding as he had already told her so.

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Frank learns with the help of his grandpa that yes it is important to be honest but its all about being tactful when you do.

Its all about a “Little more sugar and a bit less pepper!”

This is a real enjoyable and funny story with some lovely but all the same , hilarious illustrations. I think children with Aspergers in particular, will really be able to relate to frank. The book could well be used as a great social skills training tool and resource. Its one I’ll be recommending to families of children on the autism spectrum for sure.

Being Frank
Is written by Donna Earnhardt, and illustrated by Andrea Castellani

Being Frank was a runner up in the About.com readers choice awards

Sadly its not widely available here in the UK but its really worth getting one shipped over.

Check it out over at Flashlight Press

Little Man Puts All His Social Skills Training Into Practice When He Meets His Favourite Chelsea Players

12 Mar

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I can not begin to put into words what an amazing day, today has been.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you will already know how I won the opportunity to take little man to watch his team ‘Chelsea FC’ training today at Cobham, in preparation for their home game against West Ham this coming Sunday (17th March). What’s more, we are also invited to the match. As winners we have been handed VIP Platinum tickets to the game. This package offers the works, its the ultimate in VIP experience and with tickets costing between £700 – £800 each on the Chelsea official website, we are overwhelmed to have been given this amazing opportunity! One I never could have afforded otherwise.

Well, back to today… We woke up nice and early and set of to Cobham and Stoke with all our fingers crossed that little man would get to meet his football heroes. The PRs who contacted me over my win were made aware of little man’s aspergers Syndrome and they were great on the day. Little man did so well, given he was full of excitement and had very little sleep the previous night, he still managed to deal with it all really well.

Lucky for us it was decided that training would take place inside rather than outside. I say lucky because it was absolutely freezing with high speed winds playing complete havoc with my already wild untamed hair. This also meant we were even closer to the action with the players training just a few feet away from us.

Little man wasn’t at all star struck at this point. While there was some distance between himself and his footy heroes, I think it still felt a little dreamy.

Then it was the moment of truth! No one knew for sure if we would get to meet the players but we were told to bring Chelsea memorabilia for possible signing plus a camera as there may possibly be photo opportunities. You, see it was all a case of maybe and of course such uncertainty for a child on the autism spectrum is torture. We discovered we had won on the Friday and this was his first question. I did just consider saying it wasn’t an option as to lower his heightening suspense but even though it would have been my idea of being kind, he would have been most upset as the surprise may just have been to much. He wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as he should have due to the whole unexpectedness of it… He needs to be prepared for something as big as this, so I decided that if we didn’t get given the opportunity to meet the players then I’d much rather deal with his disappointment then that of his confusion and shock if we did.

Well, the photos say it all! He was a very lucky boy and I’ll never forget the look on his face as he saw Ashley Cole making his way over to say hello! Yes, I’ve honestly never seen such a look on his face… I guess this is what they call star struck! I was so proud of how he held his excitement together as he greeted the players. He was even starting conversations… Rehearsed I think, though brilliant all the same.

20130312-194314.jpgPosing with Ashley Cole

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Little man made sure he greeted each player and had them all sign his Chelsea football shirt which he was wearing.

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I even got a quick snap with the lovely Frank Lampard…

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It was wonderful seeing my Little Man so happy. He left the training ground on a real high and still can’t stop talking about this day.

Bring on Sundays Match, that’s all I can say!

Thanks so much to the guys at Lucozade and Chelsea FC for making Little man’s day a truly remarkable one! I really don’t think them boys in blue release how much joy they brought to a little guys face who over the years hasn’t found much to smile about.

THANK YOU FROM BOTH OF US.

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!

Little Man Has Turned Scottish

12 Nov

Have you ever heard about those with Aspergers being able to change their voice (the way in-which they talk)?

I have, you see, I’ve been living with a child who has suddenly gone from English to Scottish basically over night.

His obsession with WWE and TNA wrestling is the cause. His favourite wrestler is Drew Mclntyre and he happens to be from Scotland.

The Little man started out by just copying his entrance walk into the ring, he then started to paint his face the Scottish flag and now his mastered the accent.

Now, I have nothing against the Scottish people of the world, I have many Scottish friends. However, the little man is not Scottish and although the accent is mastered down to a T, he is actually driving me loony speaking this way.

Yes, of course in the beginning it was a little bit funny (after all he sounds just like him)! But you really can only tolerate so much of it. His even using the voice when it comes to him requesting things etc. I don’t think his doing it at school… Well, I can only hope he isn’t that is!

Over the years Little man has spoken in a number of tones and voices, ones that he hears and then copies. For many years he would switch from his everyday tone of voice to that of a monotone one, as if he was a talking computer. His also had a strong interest in transport and would recreate the train and bus announcements… He always got it spot on. Now with his ever evolving interest in wrestling I was convinced it was just going to be the mimicking of the entrance and the actual matches… But this, this is just bonkers!

However, this type of behaviour isn’t one that is completely unknown with those on the autism spectrum. I decided to look into this more and had a look on google to see what I could find. I actually came across a conversation trend on “Wrong Planet” that was started by a 16 year old British girl with High Functioning Autism. She states that she is a naturally quiet person but when she does speak she speaks with a strong Irish or Scottish accent despite her naturally having a British accent. She states she chooses to speak this way and people now know her to do so.

There is also a section in a book wrote by Tony Attwood on this very subject. I took this quote from the Tony Attwood website … “My mother tells me I was very good at capturing the essence and persona of people. At times I literally copied someone’s looks and their actions. I was uncanny in my ability to copy accents, vocal inflections, facial expressions, hand movements, gaits and tiny gestures. It was as if I became the person I was emulating (p.22).

Being Driven Crackers

24 Oct

Wow… Little man is driving me crackers. This evening his done nothing but talk about wrestling to the point I’m almost smacking my own head against the wall!

His overly obsessed now, I truly never thought anything could come as close as his transport obsession! Obviously I was wrong.

The worst part is how his interest in wrestling is keeping him awake at night again. His back using the melatonin but as usual its not providing much relief. Worse still school inform me that his acting very out of character. It’s been reported that his been saying pretty bizarre stuff like “He would be more popular if he went to prison” this was said as he was asked why he was misbehaving… Another one of his answers was “He gets more respect and makes more friends this way!”

School enquired if it was his medication that could be causing such behaviours… I didn’t think so, but now I’m sat writing this I’ve come to realise that he does actually have more unsettled school days following a night on melatonin.

Anyhow… Back to the obsession that is wresting.

Recently little man discovered a competition on the Internet that is centred around his interest in wrestling. The good think is that the competition doesn’t only relate to his interest but also in that of literacy… Something he is actually reluctant to engage in.

In order to win his dream prize of meeting his favourite wrestler and watching a live show, he will need to complete a number of literacy and wrestling related tasks.This is great as it will encourage him to do literacy but he refuses to let me share it with his teacher. Yet, his literally talked about this competition non stop and has been demanding that we get started right away.

Last night I was in bed sleeping when I was suddenly rudely awaken at the crazy hour of 3.55 am by the little man. His reason for this was to ask me a question, one that apparently couldn’t wait until a sensible hour! The question was “Mum, How many people do you think will enter the competition and how much percentage does this give me off winning?” I swear if looks could kill… I was livid, not that the little man could tell because he just keep asking… On and on and on…

Its not only the competition that’s kind of grating within my slowing brain, its also the non stop noise that comes with having a wrestling mad 12 year old son. Sometimes I could swear we’re experiencing an earthquake (regardless of the fact we live in the UK). The banging and crashing about is just unbearable. I find myself screaming at the top of my lungs for him to cut it out but 99.9% of the time he cannot hear me above his own noise pollution.

I have heard the same tune, the same cheers, and the same sodding intro that all accompany his favourite wrestler into the ring a million times. If its not blasting through the TV speakers its being played full whack on youtube and if its none of the above you can bet your life on it that his mimicking every word therefore commentating the whole intro from memory.

I can look little man dead in the eye and tell him “Sorry son but I couldn’t give a monkeys backside about whatever his name is” yet he will take no notice, continue feeding me with not so fascinating facts on his favourite wrestler! I try to show an interest, I really do but actually it scares me to try as once I’ve started I’m quickly wishing I hadn’t as hours later I’m still trying to break free.

I dunno… Maybe as he ages these obsessional interests will be more self controlled. I hate the thought of him being a young man who totally dominates an entire conversation based around his own interests. Its just not healthy… He could lose out on friendships and relationships.

Nonetheless, with his great ability to learn combined with his social skills training provided by school, I’m hopeful that all will come good in the end.

Check out Little Mans wrestler inspired face paint…

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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.

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