Taking a little break...

September has rolled around yet again and it is time to pack our bags and head off on our yearly adventure. If you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that Nick doesn't *do* travelling.

I have been throwing around a few titles to describe how I feel about taking off and leaving my boy at home......

Damned if I do and damned if I don't

Am I an awful mother for leaving my child in the care of others? How could I fly off into the wild blue yonder and leave him behind? How can I leave him in a country where we have no relatives to come to his aid? (The nearest being Zimbabwe). Is it terribly appalling to take this leap every year and hope for the best? 

What about me, my hubs and our first born?..... We love travelling and to be deprived of this may cause resentment. Our first born also needs time with us and in all honesty he doesn't get as much attention as his younger brother. This is the one time that we can be together without the added responsibility of Nick. As much as we adore our Nick, we do need time out!

Putting myself first

If you know me personally, you will be aware that I spend a lot of time with Nick. It may not always be productive, however, I am there for him. The only break I get during the week is when he is at school and it is very rare for me not to be at that school gate to collect him at 12.30pm. I don't begrudge having my boy with me and I make good use of my mornings to ensure that I do get some *me* time! There are days when I start to feel a little antsy and I know that I need a block of time away from my day to day routine. Yes, I feel it is important to put myself first (occasionally!), after all I am going to be parenting Nick for a very long time, far longer than what I originally planned. 

If I had a bucket list (and my mission statement for Nick)

This could also be titled... so many countries, so little time!
I blame my parents for my love of travel. My Welsh Dad went to sea at the age of 15 and travelled the world. My English Mum immigrated to New Zealand when she was 21 ~ it was a toss up between NZ and Canada! Mum met Dad on the ship to NZ and after 5 weeks (5 weeks, people!) Dad proposed! To cut a long story short, they settled in NZ and had 4 daughters. Very sadly, my Dad passed away too young ~ the very last time I spoke to him was to tell him that I was getting married. I miss him. A lot.

Back to the bucket list. I haven't made one, although if I do, I would have to include the following;
* Take Nick on a 2 hour plane trip for a family weekend away.
* Take Nick to Zimbabwe (by plane) to visit family.
* Take Nick to New Zealand to visit family (gulp).
* Me and the hubs to take Nick to the USA, hire a camper van and do a bit of touring (double gulp).

Bye bye boy!

Each time we go away I leave behind a letter of wishes. It is horrible to put together, however, very necessary. It is certainly not a professional letter, more a quick note on what to do and who to contact if we don't make it home! This post is ringing bells for me..... I dare not look at last year's post just in case it reads exactly the same as this one. Anyway, the letter and Nick's passport are all organised and I have placed them in my junk drawer.

It goes without saying that I am so excited about our trip, although very sad that we have to leave Nick at home. I do feel comfort that he will be well looked after and in my heart of hearts I know that he is happiest at home.


“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” - Lao Tzu

RDI ~ changing my style of communication

I have been reflecting on my role as Nick's parent and how we have progressed over the years!

If I think back to six years ago I was very much the carer of my child. I fed him, bathed him, wiped his bum and tried to keep him happy. I drove him to school and placed him in the very capable hands of his teacher. I was the regular taxi mum and without fail took him to Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. I was a star. I did a *good job*.

Why did I try to keep him happy? 

My boy hated any form of change. He was extremely anxious. He couldn't cope with noise and/or unexpected noises. He needed his rigid little patterns. EVERYTHING had to be the same. He would get very stressed it we added a teeny tiny variation. We couldn't take him anywhere. Life for him was stressful. Life for me as his mother was exhausting. I seemed to be on a permanent merry-go-round and unable to get off. Life was fast, extremely busy and without reprieve. 

I found it far easier to let my boy be in control and to do as he pleased ~ rather than rock the boat and suffer the consequences!  I was a star. I did a *good job*..... or did I?

Roll in RDI (you knew I was going to say that, right?).

I did a lot of reading and learned a few titbits that I started to apply with Nick. (This was before we got involved with a consultant).

I stopped talking *at* him. I stopped telling him what to do. I stopped prompting him. In fact I shut up and became more non-verbal. I learned that eye contact was not something to be trained. It was more important (and meaningful) that Nick learned to reference my face and body language for information. I love that we have this in place. We can be at the supermarket and Nick will wander off, however, he is constantly checking to see where I am and also monitoring my reaction ~ am I okay that he is exploring, do I need him to come back, do I need help unloading the groceries...

I became mindful about the use of pausing and then waiting for Nick to react. His processing time was slow, therefore I waited.... and waited some more. Not 5 seconds, not 10 seconds BUT at least 45 seconds. I still use this concept and it works a treat. Nick is now much more capable of thinking for himself and his processing time has also increased dramatically. I could be waiting at the car, holding one half of a heavy bag of groceries and Nick will look to me, I shrug my shoulders and look at the bag. He will generally process this information and then come and hold the other half of the bag and we then carry it together...

I learned the value of cutting back on imperative language and placing more emphasis on being more declarative. Phew, this took ages to get used to. Let's face it, we are naturally imperative..... "What did you do at school today". "Pass the salt". "What colour is that?". However... and this is a big HOWEVER! Due to the fact that I have been using more experience sharing language and *inviting* a response, Nick has really come to the party. Again, he is thinking for himself, making his own decisions and responding if he wants to, not because he has to. This is a boy who was unable to do anything without a direct prompt. 

I found that chanting helped Nick transition and distract him from a stressful situation. This is another beauty. As mentioned previously, Nick couldn't cope with change of any sort. Heaven forbid that I wanted him to get out of the car when we got to the supermarket! The screaming, the crying and the pinching.... extreme distress. What I used to do was hold his hand and gently start swinging our hands in a nice calm regular pattern.... and I would chant at the same time, "walking, walking, walking". I still use chanting at times as it helps Nick to focus on what we are doing. I love how this helps him. (*Please note that getting Nick back out into the community was a very slow and gentle process!)

Self talk: I like this concept because I am highlighting my thoughts about what I am doing and what is happening. Nick is learning about *my* thinking process. I am now so good at this that I find myself talking aloud in the middle of the supermarket ~ not so cool when I am by myself!   

The above are just a few concepts that come to mind. It is all common sense really.... it is the putting into practice that makes a difference. We have the following picture at school... it is a great reminder for us all to be mindful about how we interact and engage with the children.

Oops, have just seen the time.... gotta go collect Nick from school. Have a great weekend. x

Rolling with it........

Today was going to be a me and Nick kind of day. The other two members of my family had a school function which involved hitting little balls with very long sticks. Their day actually fitted in quite nicely with this post because for my next RDI planning engagement I had decided to work with little balls and very long sticks, namely, whatever balls the dog hadn't chewed to bits and two brooms. *note to self.... Make sure the dog is not in the same room when we are trying out my crazy plan!

I have been a bit slack with my boy this past week. Life happens, right? Therefore, for the sake of today and to make me feel better about my role as Nick's mum, I was going to make a conscious effort to involve him in whatever I was doing in and around the house.

Okay, the morning went for a bit of a ball (pun intended!). I received a lovely phone call from my Mum in New Zealand. Don't ask me how long she talked for.. but let me tell you that Nick took full advantage of the fact that I was otherwise engaged. On went that computer and out came his books. At one point he collected up all of his books and went to lie on my bed. He had turned the volume up on the computer and was listening to the disc from afar! My Mum did have a bit of a whinge about the weather (it always rains where she lives!). Anyhow, I thought I would be a nice daughter and provide her with a quick pic of our weather. I can't resist winding her up!

Throughout the course of the day we did manage to have a few interactions. It may look like Nick is brushing his teeth but what the photo doesn't show is that we are taking turns. The same goes for stacking the dishwasher, I placed an item and then he placed an item and so on. We used a simultaneous pattern to cut his apple ~ Nick is battling to co-ordinate his actions with my actions so I need to spend some time on this. We also popped to the shop for some bread and milk. Again, we took turns in carrying the items etc. 

I try to be mindful and include Nick in what I am doing. Of course it would be easier to just do my own thing, however, I think that it is important and also a good opportunity to work on and experience engagement with my boy. Unfortunately, Nick was a bit flat today and wasn't really interested or motivated to interact with me. Our chores felt like..... chores! :)

We did have our planned engagement with two brooms and two balls, however, the least said the better on that one. I need to re-think my framework and try again tomorrow!

By 4pm I had cabin fever and was feeling VERY irritated. The best thing to do was load the kid and dog into the car and hit the beach. The dog had a blast, as he is wont to do. It took Nick a good 15 minutes to shake off his sombre mood and thereafter he had a great time. There was one little embarrassing moment.... Nick started to point vigorously at a young woman's chest and I was apologising profusely until I realised that she had a picture of a cat on her t-shirt and Nick was pointing and making the sign for 'cat'.... blush! We had a fantastic walk and stayed out far longer than I had planned. Nick's dinner ended up being later than normal, but so what!

Well, my little... go with the flow, *RDI on the fly* plan didn't go so well today. 
Such is life......



It's a new month and spring is in the air.  The year has just zipped by and I am shaking my head in disbelief that I am getting closer to 50. I don't feel old enough to have two teenagers. I am too young to have such noticeable grey hair, although I admit I can only see those wiry strands if I put my glasses on! Age gives me a reminder each time I try to apply eyeliner, time to invest in a magnifying mirror, me thinks! For the fun of it I googled grey hair and wrinkles. Look who appeared on the top line! :-)

I have removed the yummy picture of George Clooney!! :)

Age has also given me a deeper understanding of parenting, especially the parenting of a child with severe autism. In reality I shouldn't say that my son is severe and I really dislike the label 'low functioning' as it immediately lowers expectations. I need to change my mindset and start using the word *classic*.

I have discovered over the last couple of years that it is important for me to become more involved in guiding my boy. Yes, RDI has a huge hand in this and I am thankful that I have chosen this path. Each week brings about a special moment (or more) that is cause for celebration. The severity of my son's autism is decreasing.

For sure, it goes without saying that my son has many challengers. After all he attends a special needs school and has regular Speech Therapy, O.T and Physio? One of his favourite TV programs is Bananas in Pyjamas (yes, I know all the words of the song and I can sing it in an Aussie accent!). We still play chase down the corridor at bed time and he keeps asking for more. Not really appropriate for a boy of 13, but so what!

This year has been a learning experience for me in many ways. I like to think that I have become a better person. A person who has become more open minded and flexible in my approach to people and their beliefs. Even though I keep up to date with what is happing out there in the wider autism community, I chose not to involve myself in heavy duty autism discussions on the net. It is not worth the grief. My mantra is do not judge....

My boy continues to progress slowly but surely. He is an absolute delight and I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have such a gentle soul for a son. 

My latest facebook status comes to mind.... "I am outside the gate at Kids First (they don't know I am here). I can hear lots of laughter. Nick has a water blaster and is chasing the gang around the garden..... love it. :)". It is moments like these that make life worthwhile.