The Travel Bug!

When I was a little girl (around the age of nine) my homesick dad, my mum and my three sisters boarded a ship, which took six weeks to travel from New Zealand to the United Kingdom. 

We then spent a year moving around the UK, generally flitting between the relatives..... Dad's family in Bangor and my Mum's family in Birmingham and Bognor Regis!

I have vague memories of doing Correspondent School (NZ) in the caravan that sat in my Nain's (Welsh Gran) back garden in Maesgeirchen! But then again, who cares about school ~ my best memories are of the time spent with family and friends (and cringing when made to kiss my Uncle Peter and Uncle Dennis hello/goodbye ~ Hayley and Cathy, don't you dare tell!!!!).

My lovely Uncle Jack,
who reminds me so much of my Dad!

I do remember having the BEST year of my childhood!
and the Travel Bug bit me!

Why am I reminiscing about days gone by when this is a blog about 'living with autism'?

Because... I have a child with autism who can't travel!

I love travelling. I crave travelling and my dream is was to travel the world! We figured that after the kids had left home, we were going to do just that ~ pack up, travel, come home, pack up, travel.........

Big problem!!

The most debilitating issue of autism in our family is that we don't have the flexibility to be 'free'. We can't pack our togs and go to the beach, we can't go for a 'spur of the moment' casual supper with friends, we can't do this, we can't do that!..... I say this in a 'matter of fact' way ~ not in an 'oh, woe is me' way! :)

However, it is always possible to make a plan! We just need a little bit of extra time to come up with a plan!

Take travelling ~ for the last few years, every September school holiday (and it is a short one) we pack up our bags, wave goodbye to Nick and take off on an adventure! It is a bittersweet scenario ~ we are not a complete family without Nick, however, it is not possible to take him with us.  We also need a break from the monotony of autism and really relish our 'normal' time away. It is a tough one!

A few more sleeps
to go!
beyond excited!

AHA moment ~ planning is the key!

Hello, I thought that the following might be of interest to some of you! :)  

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am working on the relationship between myself and Nick. Having a 'connection' with my son is what gets me through the day. I can't just let him be to do his own thing ~ I would end up with a spaced out computer junkie who shows no interest in the people around him! I am also against forcing him to conform to whatever it is that society/Joe Public expects. 

"Utmost to me is the fact that I am not interested in 'changing' him, just developing his potential" (I pinched this from Kate because I really loved it!)

In this latest post I have included two video clips. Each clip shows us bouncing on the trampoline, however, there is a huge difference between each clip.
The first clip was an impromptu interaction and the second clip was planned.  You will find  further information and my reflections after each clip! 

Trampoline # 1

1. What was the objective and assignment?
 Pause and attention
2. What was the frame for this objective?
 Jumping on the trampoline!
3. What was the challenge?  The challenge was to jump together. I also wanted to spotlight my pause and see if Nick was able to maintain my pause and my gaze.
4. What did you spotlight?
This activity wasn’t planned, therefore, I hadn’t really thought of what to spotlight.
5. Tell me if the challenge and spotlight were successful, what did you observe?The interaction was not successful. My main objective was for Nick to be comfortable on the trampoline with me ~ I observed that because I didn’t really have a plan in mind of what to do with Nick, he was feeling anxious. Due to his anxiety he wasn't able to maintain gaze with me.... he did pause; however, I felt (and could see) that he was in flight mode!

6. Did anything surprise you?
I didn't realise that Nick would switch off so completely.  I also thought I would be able to wing it BUT it didn't work!
7. Site one or two (or more if you like!) time codes that you feel are important and state WHY  they are important:  At 0.24 Nick wanted to hold hands with me and I declined. At 0.28 I bounced and Nick got a fright! I didn't pick up that Nick really needed the extra scaffolding to feel safe and secure! At 0.33 Nick switched off..... this is when I should have ended the interaction! At 1.00 Nick 'complied' with the interaction and this is where I can see that for Nick it was all about the task, not the interaction.

I have watched the above video clip a number of times!  I can see where I am trying to add in pause and attention, however, my lack of planning, my uncertainty with what I was doing and Nick's anxiety did not make for a successful interaction. I know that I wanted Nick to be happy to jump on the trampoline with me, however, all I did was to increase his anxiety ~ I removed scaffolding when he needed it. I kept him on the trampoline for too long.  He switched off and really didn't want to be there with me ~ he stayed because he thought it was expected of him!!
I am not going to beat myself up over it, however, it certainly makes me more aware that I need to be more mindful of our interactions ~ I need to take the time to plan exactly what I want to do with Nick and ensure that I don't push him too far past his level of competence! I don't want our interactions to be about the task. I want to have the connection with him...... and this clip really showed the lack of connection! Sad

Trampoline # 2

1. What was the objective and assignment?
 Pause and attention
2. What was the frame for this objective?
To jump on the trampoline ~ using a simultaneous parallel pattern. Hold hands and jump together. My limit was to jump….pause….jump…pause….jump...
3. What was the challenge?
The challenge was to pause after each jump and see if Nick could maintain the pause and my gaze until he ‘saw/felt’ we were going to jump again.
4. What did you spotlight?
 I spotlighted the pause after each jump.... and then spotlighted (using a facial expression) just before we were to jump again!
5. Tell me if the challenge and spotlight were successful, what did you observe?
 I felt that both were successful.  We held attention nicely and generally Nick waited for me before jumping. He held gaze with me for long periods of time and we were both comfortable with it.
6. Did anything surprise you?
Yes, I wasn't expecting it to be so successful! Stick out tongue
7. Site one or two (or more if you like!) time codes that you feel are important and state WHY  they are important: 
You will see in the video footage that I went onto the trampoline first and I just waited (we got some lovely pause and attention gaze going).
At 0.04 I chanted "I'm bouncing".... this was my invitation to Nick to come and join me! After a bit of 'processing time' he came to me Big Smile.
At 0.42 you will see me withdraw my hands from Nick - this was because he was trying to pull me off the trampoline - the easiest thing to do was to just step back slightly out of reach!!
At 0.53 I gave Nick my hands.... this time I was very aware that I needed to give some scaffolding!
At 1.01 Beautiful pause and attention Smile
At 1.08 - 1.32  Nick trying to take a bit of control but I just ignored him!
At 1.33 Yay, bouncing together!
At 1.44  more nice pause and attention!
At 1.47 lovely co-regulatory swinging of our arms.... 
8. What did you do well in this frame? I was pleased to see that I waited for Nick to respond (i.e. waiting for Nick to come from the swing). I used some declarative language to state what I was doing ~ a subtle invitation for him to join me. At one stage Nick tried to take control but I didn’t really respond to his “distractions” and we eventually got back into sync. I was happy with my pauses, perhaps they could have been for longer but in this instance they were 'good enough'. I also like that I initiated a co-regulatory pattern of swinging our arms.... and I was thrilled that Nick went with the flow!
9. Is there anything you would change? Can you find ways to incorporate this objective into more routines?
At this stage I wouldn't change anything! I am always thinking of interactions where I can bring in pause and attention!!

I went into this interaction fully prepared. I decided to be the first person on the trampoline and to give Nick the choice to join me if he wished! When he tried to pull me off the trampoline I knew that I needed to step back. I wanted to remain the person in control.... but still let him make the final decision to join me.  I knew exactly how many times I wanted us to jump together.  I was also more aware of the scaffolding that was needed ~ therefore I gave my hands to Nick for him to hold, and that remained a constant. There is one spot in the video that Nick starts to jump first (1.27) and we are slightly out of sync, however, I just waited and then I jumped - which enabled Nick to jump at the same time!
I was really thrilled with the outcome of this interaction. For the most part, we had a lovely co-regulatory pattern going on. There was a lot of nice pause and attention. Nick was feeling competent so he felt very comfortable referencing my face for information. I was feeling competent because I knew what I wanted to achieve! My best moment was towards the end of the video ~ we are just about to get off the trampoline, we are looking at each other and I start swinging my arm...... which starts Nick swinging his arm in sync  with mine!

I think that you will agree ~ planning makes perfect sense!


P.S. Please excuse any errors! I tend to write my posts at night and then get too tired to check my spelling and punctuation!!!

Setting Limits..... (well, trying to!!)


Yes, I used to watch Al Bundy! :)

Puberty and a changing body bring all sorts of issues ~ and in my case ~ these issues are shared!!!  

Perhaps you don't want to know about this 'sensitive' stuff, however, this is part of life with a special needs child/nearly a teenager! My kid was cute when he was little and it was a lot easier to be 'seen in public' but what happens when he grows up? He is certainly not cute any more and he also attracts a lot more attention!

Nick is growing up and although the hormones are not raging, he is sprouting hair you know where and that little thing is not so little any more and it's going up and down like a bloody yo-yo!  Let's be frank here (and my apologies to any males that read this!) is it really necessary for guys to rearrange and scratch those bits all the time?!!!!!!!! Unfortunately for Nick, he doesn't have the social awareness of inappropriate behaviour.... also throw in some OCD and we have trouble on our hands!

Nick has this tendency (at the moment!) to slip his thumb inside the waist band of his shorts and touch whatever may be there, this is not so bad EXCEPT at times the waist band of his shorts gets pushed down a bit too far!!  Also the OCD kicks in and the boy needs to do it again and again and again........... 

It's a bit like the door story in our house ~ any door or drawer that is open needs to be closed and the handle needs to be in place. And the loo story ~ after flushing the loo, he has this compulsive need to go back and flush it again, then the light must be turned off and yes he goes back to double check that the door has been closed! If I stop to think about all of Nick's little 'patterns' my head would spin! He has definitely improved over the years ~ there was a time when he couldn't cope if he was interrupted during one of his 'patterns'. These days he is easily distracted and sometimes all I need to do is give him a look or make a comment and he will stop!

However, my 'looks', 'frowns' and 'comments' are not working with this latest 'man thing'......  all I seem to be getting are permanent lines! 

Take note N V V!! :)

I have also tried ignoring the kid.....but that didn't work!  I tapped him on the hand a couple of times (which caused him to look at me with big sad eyes and that made me feel bad!). I have been gentle, firm, loud, cross, irritable....... 

I am now trying to be firm and consistent
with a big fat

I so want to be like the mum in The Black Balloon!  No, not pregnant!! She was very chilled and took everything in her stride ~ 

Therefore, on that note, I do have to tell you............this man thing is a bit of a problem, BUT, I have decided not to take it too seriously and would rather have a good chuckle (please join me!) ...... and then those lines can be called 'laughter lines'!