Can you see alright? No…that’s why I wear glasses.

I think we’ve had a successful half term. Having Owen at home for a week can be a daunting and somewhat terrifying situation to find onself in but we did it. Ten points to Gryffindor.

 

Owen’s behaviour before half term was not fantastic. (Definitely not a trait inherited from his Mother – Miss ‘0 Detentions and a trophy for being a nice girl 1987’). Everyday when I picked him up, they told me he had been a ‘bit of a monkey’. As a former primary teacher, I know this is top secret code for ‘little shit’.

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This week however, he has been the perfect child. He’s eaten, slept well, played with his toys, his speech disorder has improved, he’s, played with his friends and we’ve even managed to get him completely out of nappies during the daytime. It took a fair amount of bribery and some ‘tough love’ but another ‘great success!’ I’m almost sad that’s it back to school tomorrow. Almost.

 

A huge relief for everybody this week has been his discharge from the eye clinic at the hospital; particularly me because his consultant (who resembles The Master from Doctor Who and is actually rather easy on the eye) is terrifying.

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Three years ago, Owen caught conjunctivitis. It wasn’t so concerning because to me, it was something that loads of children at school get. Easily solved with drops.

 

Owen’s resisted all of the antibiotics and suddenly looked like he had been punched. We raced him to the hospital and we’re told that we had got him there just in time. A few more hours and we could have been looking at meningitis, a stroke, blindness or death.

 

‘Orbital Cellulitis’ is when the nasties from the conjunctivitis get around the back of the eye and the danger is that it then gets to the brain. Fortunately a few nights on IV antibiotics sorted him out but nobody was sure if his eye had been damaged.

 

The good news is that no, it clearly hasn’t! Discharged and no need for glasses or a patch. Another appointment we don’t need to worry about.

 

I wish the same could be said for me. My eyesight gets worse every year (I’ve got my ‘Dame Edna’s on now) and as the big 3-0 approaches, I’m concerned that I’m going to end up with some very Eddie Hitler-esque ones soon…

 

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If it’s got Ben Affleck in it, I’m watching it.

This weekend was a bit of a washout, so my boyfriend and I decided to make the most of our Owen-free weekend (he’s with his Dad every other weekend) and do absolutely nothing but eat and watch films.

 

 

My attempts to get him to watch the latest instalment in the Bridget Jones series with me have been fruitless (so far) and so we stumbled across ‘The Accountant’.  I wasn’t overjoyed about watching another ‘boy film’ but seeing as it started the lovely Ben Affleck, I was willing to give it a try.

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It turns out, that the lead character of this film has (very high functioning) Autism. I normally actively avoid anything along these lines. The Undateables? Nope. Rain Man? No thanks.

 

 

I find them unsettling to watch. I know ‘The Undateables’ is meant to be a heart-warming program, promoting inclusiveness but it’s just not for me anymore. I appreciate that companies such as Channel 4 have done a heck of a lot of good as far as inclusiveness goes. So many people I know enjoyed the program ‘The A word’ as well.

 

‘The Undateables’ is, from what I’ve heard, brilliant for showing the reality of Autism.

 

 

It gets a bit frustrating because a lot of films and television programs portray Autism in a stereotypical way. Generally they go down the ‘genius’ route and everybody hates loud music and can’t have any food that isn’t beige.

 

He’s got Autism but he’s a millionaire because he can card count!

 

He’s got Autism but he managed to hack into the government’s computer files and change the password to ‘govesmells’.

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Oh come on Gove, we all know you stink

 

She’s got Autism but it’s ok! She draws crime scenes from her amazing memory.

 

 

Most of us who have children who have Autism, don’t have prodigies on our hands. We have children who also have issues such as ‘global delay’ and who will probably have to live at home with us forever.

 

 

I stuck with ‘The Accountant’. The flashback scenes to childhood were done very very well. The adult ‘present day’ stuff, despite going down the ‘maths genius’ route, were good too.

 

 

Stimming, echolalia, sensitivity to light and sound, monotonous voice, difficulty reading emotions, a need for routine and order, a need to finish everything and difficulty socialising were all covered. Well worth a watch!

 

 

‘Mercury Rising’ is another film that does a fairly good job of A realistic portrayal of having a child with Autism. Granted, it goes down the old ‘genius’ route again but it does make up for it in other areas.

 

 

Maybe I could make my fortune being an ‘Autism advisor’ to directors?

 

Or maybe I should just teach Owen how to count cards and head for Vegas…

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Or we could just watch ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’, Mr Davies? 😁

#sorrynotsorry

In the summer, I ventured into the, frankly bizarre, world of Tinder. After a lot of swiping left (apparently I’m rather fussy) and finding matches but not having any conversations evolve from them, I managed to find a couple of people and even a few dates. 

One thing I made sure of was that my profile page stated that I am a Mum. I wasn’t interested in speaking to anybody who had issue with that. (For the record, I completely understand that a Mum is not everybody’s idea of a catch!).

Then came the next part. After chatting for a while, I’d ‘announce’ that my little boy has Autism. I found myself almost wincing as hit the ‘send’ button and awaiting the response. 

I’m so sorry, he has Autism

Often, there would be no response – again, it’s understandable. I did find a few people who didn’t have an issue with it and I’m fortunate enough to have found a lovely man who didn’t  run off when I told him and who is getting to know Owen for who he is, Autism or no Autism.

But it made me think. Why was I so concerned about announcing that Owen has Autism? Why do I apologise? It’s not anything I’m sorry about. He’s Owen and he’s brilliant.

It’s sometimes essential to tell people that Owen has Autism. If he ignores them when they speak to him or is having a bit of a moment, it can be helpful to explain and I always welcome questions. It’s usually met with a ‘well my son/daughter/grandson/etc has Autism too’. 

But from now on, it’ll be a statement, not an apology.

Maybe an apology in the style of Father Jack.

Le singe est dans l’arbre…

I try not to focus on the things that Owen can’t do but in comparison to your ‘neuro-typical’ five year old, there’s quite a list!

Dwelling on it won’t help anybody, least of all Owen himself! So, we had to find out what his strengths are.

One of Owen’s most useful strengths is his memory. It’s exceptional. I think of myself as being somebody with a good memory…it’s how I managed to scrape through my A-Levels and my degree. Now I mainly use it for storing Rik Mayall quotes and Rolling Stones lyrics and for answering bizarre questions in pub quizzes.

Owen’s memory, however, is out of this world. He copies everything he sees and remembers how to do it. He’s a ‘visual’ learner so I’ve taken this strength of his and we’ve run with it.

In two weeks he has learnt how to read 18 high frequency words, just by memorising what they look like. It goes against every single second I spent learning how to teach a child to read. No, we haven’t done many letter sounds or sound buttons etc (S-O-D  TH-A-T) but why not make him feel brilliant about reading? All he wants to do is ‘Words mummy! Words!’ and his face is an absolute picture when he gets them all right.

There’s work to do. I’m writing the 18 words in shaving foam in the bath for him to read so he sees them in different contexts. He’s still a little hesitant if he sees them in his reading books from school (I don’t think I’m ever going to escape Biff, Chip and Kipper am I?). But we’re getting there.

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Who names their child ‘Kipper’?!

Studies show that the reason behind a lot of people with Autism having these incredible visual memories is just because their brains are ‘wired up ‘ slightly differently, allowing them to focus more brain power into their visual learning. Although it does mean less ‘brain power’ in the part of the brain that tells them it’s probably not socially acceptable to walk up to someone and tell them that their hair looks like a massive dog shit

It’s helping him become more independent. He’s learnt how to set the washing machine by watching me. (Although I’m sure I’ve never emptied an entire box of washing powder into the drawer). He mimics everything he sees. And hears. (I’m waiting for him to give another driver the V’s up and exclaim ‘you could fit a bus through there!)

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So glad I got 15% extra free…

It’s like Albert Einstein said – if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life thinking that it’s stupid. (If it’s on the Internet, it must be true).

Fortunately though, my son is a monkey through and through.

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Sending him back to Monkey World

The ‘C’ word

Owen has started using the C word – no…not ‘see you next Tuesday…..Christmas! He’s currently sporting his Christmas jumper (you try denying a grumpy 5 year old his jumper of choice on a Friday afternoon) and we’ve written a letter to Father Christmas (strike while the iron is hot!).

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It’s the first year that Owen has really understood anything at all about Christmas. It’s one of those things that I had thought would never happen. I’m a big fan of Christmas and one of the things I couldn’t wait to do when I had children was to recreate the magical Christmas days that my brother and I had. That amazing feeling when you open the door to see that ‘he’ has been…and he’s eaten the sausage rolls (no mince pies here thanks), drunk the cider and put chocolates on the tree!

 

 

Owen probably won’t quite ‘get’ it still, but he’s talking about Father Christmas coming and leaving presents under the tree. He keeps telling me that he’s going to put stars on the tree.

 

And who who do I have to thank for Owen’s new found festive enthusiasm?

 

Peppa bloody pig.

 

I *think* there must be a Christmas episode. I’m not usually fully tuned into what’s happening because it’s normally 5am when Peppa is on.

 

Peppa Pig, apparently, has a lot to answer for. I’ve just seen a post on Facebook about some hoaxed American study showing that Peppa Pig ’causes’ Autism. You really couldn’t make that up.  Well, somebody managed to! Someone clearly has more time on their hands than even me.

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Peppa Pig, destroyer of marriages, sanity and causer of Autism

 

But some people actually believe that Peppa Pig has caused their child to have Autism! There are hundreds and hundreds of theories about what causes Autism. It interests me slightly but I don’t worry about it too much – in my view, he has Autism, there isn’t anything I can do about that so I’m just going to help him achieve to his full potential. I don’t think it’s caused by the MMR and I certainly don’t believe it’s because I’m a ‘cold’ mother. Autistic children were once taken away from their ‘cold’ mothers. Horrific!

 

So although I get sick of listening to the same episodes of Peppa Pig over and over again (does baby Alexander ever stop crying?!) and being called ‘Mummy Pig’ isn’t the most flattering of nicknames, I do have them to thank for Owen having a good idea of what’s going on this year (and the occasional bit of peace and quiet) which is a lovely bit of normality for us and will make for a more magical Christmas.

 

Oh shit. He’s asked for drums.

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You could be a gloater! We’re upto our ears in gloaters!

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Can I come in for a gloat?

 

Today’s post is somewhat celebratory. A stealth boast. Lord Percy might even label me as a ‘gloater’. For those of us with children who have additional needs, it’s so important to find positivity in every little brilliant thing they do.

 

As one of my friends might be celebrating their five year old getting a swimming certificate, I’m over the moon that my five year old  managed to tell me he’s thirsty.

The change in Owen since he started at his new school has been incredible. His speech has come on in leaps and bounds.

 

We even managed a day trip to Poole last week and I can’t believe what a good boy Owen was. I am a very proud Mummy.

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Catching some sun in Branksome

 

This week, Owen has been:

1)… dressing himself every single morning without prompting and one morning he even managed to tell me that he had forgotten to put his socks on.

He’s also:

2)  Replied ‘Your keys are there Mummy, can you see them?’ when I wondered aloud where they were.

 

3) Asked if I had finished my dinner and took the plates out to put in the dishwasher.

 

4) Sat down at school and actually done some work.

 

5) Asked to read his school reading book every single night.

 

6) Stayed in his own bed, every single night.

 

7) Run into school every morning with a huge smile on his face.

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I don’t even get a kiss goodbye anymore!

 

It’s only Thursday and already it has been a great success.

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However we still have a birthday party, haircut, a trip to Tesco and a day out on Sunday to get through yet. I may yet have to prepare the guest bedroom for Mr.Cockup.

 

A slap up grill for two…

Big day today! Owen is staying at school until 2:30pm rather than 11:45am.

 

I’m currently sat watching ‘This Morning’ with my feet up; a very rare activity but I am most pleased with the appearance of Dr.Ranj on this program and I feel I may become a regular viewer..

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Owen is staying at school for lunch today. He is having a ‘hot dinner’ with the other children. I have no idea at all what is on the menu.

Food can be a very difficult topic when it comes to children with special needs. There tends to be a whole host of dietary problems (Owen is dairy and soya intolerant) and I can only imagine the range of different requirements (from allergies to plate colours and food colours) that the lunch staff are having to sort through at Owen’s school.

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One assumption that is often made about children with Autism is that they only eat food that is beige and that they have to have it set out on the plate in a certain way, with nothing touching.

 

Owen is the complete opposite. He has to have his food all mixed together in a bowl and loves Chillis, stews, roast dinner, fish etc.

 

I really really hope he eats something. If he doesn’t, he’ll get hangry.

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You wouldn’t like him when he’s hangry.

 

I have a ‘fournager’

One and a half weeks. Seven days of school and suddenly my dear little blue-eyed baby who resembles Boris Johnson when his hair is too long has grown up. No longer does he want to cuddle up with his Mummy…now if he creeps into bed with me during the night, he has his own side and does not share pillows. He wipes my kisses off with a look of disgust. Kisses from Mum are, apparently, for babies.

 

Along with this heartbreaking tragedy (I think Shakespeare would even struggle to better it), comes fantastic change. Every cloud has a silver lining….separation = every other weekend to myself,  weight gain = wrinkles look less obvious etc.

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In just ten days, Owen’s speech has improved beyond anything I was hoping for. Before, if he wanted to go on the iPad, he would say:

Do you want iPad?

Now, he says:

Mummy…can I have the iPad please?

He’s even got the slightly ‘oh my god how many more times am I going to hear ‘Mummy’ today’ tone down to a fine art. Naturally, because I am so bowled over by this speech that is coming from him, he is pretty much getting anything he asks for at the moment. Terrible terrible parenting. I’m going to end up with some sort of Kevin Patterson on my hands if I don’t nip that one in the bud.

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Although as longs as he still chooses flowers for me in the supermarket and says ‘Mummy princess’, he can do whatever he likes.

Oh Neil! Neil! Orange Peel!

Owen has recently become something of a ‘People’s Poet’. He must have been really bored over the summer holidays. Thank goodness he’s at school now!

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He absolutely loves rhyming. I’ll say something to him along the lines of:

Owen. We are twenty minutes late. We need to go!

In response I’ll get:

Go! Show! Snow!

If he can’t think of an actual word to rhyme, he’ll make one up! (Bit risky if he’s trying to rhyme ‘duck’ or ‘punt’).

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LUCK! Sounds almost exactly like…

I spent an evening this weekend at a Batmam themed ball, dressed as Harley Quinn. The souvenirs made by the champagne sponsors of the ball (naturally I only attend parties which have official champagne sponsors) were tiny little torches that shine the Batman logo and Owen has been playing with the one I brought home for him.

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Of course, what does one sing when shining a Batman torch? Na na na na na na Batman! Except Owen has been running around singing:

 

Na na na na BATMAN! Na na na na NISSAN! Na na na na PAN! 

 

I’ve had a Google-up to see if I can throw any light on this rhyming thing (and found some really odd websites about Autism ‘cures’ but that’s a rant for another day) but nothing much has come up.

 

Perhaps it’s a sensory thing? There’s an amazing American professor called Temple Grandin who has Autism. I remember her saying that she used to ask her mother the same question over and over again because she loved the way it sounded.

 

This makes sense – I know lots of ‘normal’ people who enjoy using particular words because of the way they sound. I recently told a friend of mine that she has the best surname I’ve ever come across because of the way it sounds and (thankfully) she told me that I’m not the first person to say that.

 

So it would appear to be a combination of two things: sensory, enjoying the way the words rhyme and go together and his fantastic memory. I think he has a little bank of ‘words that rhyme’ in one of the filing cabinets in his brain.

 

So, we’ll enjoy it for what it is and I’ll only worry when his Christmas list reads:

Bongos

Black turtle-neck

Sunglasses

 

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The sun’ll come out tomorrow…

Tomorrow is the BIG day! The end of the longest summer holiday in the history of summer holidays is in sight. Owen has his first morning at his new school! It has taken me an entire rainforest’s worth of paperwork to get him a place at his school but I’m sure it’ll be absolutely worth it. There will be the obligitory ‘in front of the door’ first day photograph on my Facebook page in the morning. (I’ve heard rumours of death penalties if this is not done and I don’t fancy taking any chances.)

 

Everything is labelled, ironed…(any excuse for a picture of Rik Mayall)

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and ready for this morning. Well almost everything….guess which Mum forgot to buy a book bag, water bottle and PE t-shirt?

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Yep, that’s right. Me. The one who is actually a teacher. Slow clap, well done.

 

Five years ago I never imagined I would be here. Five years ago I was married, very pregnant and attempting to teach children whilst trying not to give birth at work. I had plans. Big plans. My baby was going to go to Aldingbourne school…the same school I had been to and I was going back to teaching ASAP!

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I missed out on the ‘blooming’ stage of pregnancy and went straight for the ‘beached whale’ part.

 

Except…Owen threw us all a bit of a curve ball by having Autism (sneaky little bugger).

I didn’t think I’d spend the next five years doing therapy after therapy, learning Makaton and filling out endless questionaires. It’s been hard work but I’m hoping it’ll be entirely worth it. I have a feeling he will flourish in his new environment.

Five years ago I never could have imagined that I would be going out on Friday night and then attending a ball on Saturday, dressed as a Batman character.

I didn’t think I would be sat here, writing a blog about having a child with Autism, whilst he spends some time at his Daddy’s house, the night before he starts at his ‘special’ school.

 

But you know what?

I didn’t think we’d be so happy either.

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