Autism, and other stories

I’ve never done anything like blogging before.  I am not very tech savvy but writing a book seems like a lot of hard work for someone who’s brain is often on many different tracks so this seemed like an easier option.

I have 4 children, 2 daughters and 2 sons.  The lads are on the Autistic spectrum.  My 23 year old is non verbal and at the severe end and my 4 year old is classed as moderate, for now.

One thing I remember from counselling is that she said talking about things often helps put things in perspective and as I can’t afford £50 a throw for counselling this is it!

So this will be my take on our family life, family life with ASD – the good, the bad and the ugly!IMG_1200

 

Poo!

Time to talk about poo.  We’ve had a few incidents recently from Olly, I had a lot from Max but he was younger so I thought Oliver may have bypassed this phase.

When Max was younger he used to smear at bedtime.  He would play in his poo- decorating the walls and floor.  Obviously I can’t watch them 24 hours a day, and I was told that we needed to get into a bedtime routine in the hopes that he would understand and sleep.  He didn’t.  He used to sleep 2 hours a night.  I would put him in babygrows as he couldn’t undo poppers.  When that didn’t work I put him in pyjamas with a vest over the top that fastened with poppers (press studs) the I tried buttons and zips.  He still found a way to get into his poo and paint which resulted in me stripping his room and leaving him with painted walls and tiles on the floor which were moppable.  Mattress cover, etc to make clean up easier.  I would go up and down the stairs to check every ten minutes.  With his language being limited after a few tries with various words we ended up with “dirty, don’t touch” and so now at 23 he still won’t wipe his bum and if you try to force the issue he says “dirty, don’t touch”.  We are working on this.

Oliver – well he has been fascinated by his bodily functions a while but his last episode was a while ago and that was doing a wee in various receptacles and emptying it in the toilet.  The only poo incident we had was where he slammed his door and couldn’t open it so by the time I had gone up to check on him he had used the volcano out of the dinosaur set as his toilet.  Genius!

Oliver has stopped sleeping in his room again- Christmas changes threw him so he has been camping at the top of the stairs.  The toilet is 3 paces away from where he lies and plays.  One evening his dad went to the bottom of the stairs to look and make sure he wasn’t paddling in the toilet (oh yes that’s fun) he said he could smell poo.  He goes up and I grab clothes and cleaner.  Upstairs he had re-enacted the episode where Bing stands in dog poo, only he had substituted his poo for dog poo and all of Bing’s friends had jumped in it too.  He tried to wipe his bum 2 nights later, couldn’t so wiped his hands on the wall of the landing.  Last night there was a poo at the top of the stairs.  He hadn’t even attempted the toilet.  When I asked what it was, Oliver shouted “Poo!” in a gleeful tone.  I said “where does poo go?” and he pointed to the toilet.  So it’s not like he doesn’t know.  I’ve been told it’s quite common for this to happen, although no one agrees why.  We keep it low key, reinforce the toilet, and just clean it up with no recrimination. We don’t want to make it something he gets lots of attention for.  I carried his pyjamas down to the washing machine last night, carefully I thought, but not carefully enough!

I know kids find poo funny- my 3 year old thinks poo head is the best insult ever!  I don’t find it quite so funny when I’m scrubbing the carpet.  Although thinking about the Bing thing he did- well it does raise a smile.

 

xx

A Party Invite!

Oliver got invited to a couple of party’s last year, early in the year before people knew he was autistic.  He got a couple of invites after people knew, and I will love those parents forever.  However this year has been very different, I’ve watched the invites going out, kids getting excited receiving them and talking about what will happen, what they’ll wear etc.  Now I know it’s fair enough, kids grow and get a circle of friends and my son isn’t in those groups, he has a couple of friends but is not popular in the same way.  Just before Christmas a little girl was handing out invites and came up to Oliver and said “mum where’s Oliver’s invitation?” The mother blushed, looked through the envelopes and said “oh we must have left it at home” the child said they remembered everyone else’s in the class which made the mother blush even more.  She said to me that she’d bring it tomorrow.  Surprise surprise no invite appeared.  Now it’s up to her who she invites but what annoyed me was the sham.  I know my son is not wanted at these things, he spins around and amuses himself and doesn’t understand the musical statues rules so just dances and dances.  I also understand not wanting someone potentially disruptive there, someone who is being left behind by the “normal” kids.  I understand that, and I understand that kids get excited and talk in front of him about their social events.  he doesn’t know yet that he’s not one of them, but I have to admit it hurts a little.

A few days before term ended a little boy was giving out invites and Christmas cards, he came running up to us and gave us envelopes which I put in my pocket for him to open when we got home.  We opened them at home and he had a Christmas card and an invite!  Not only that but Popples was invited too.  The kids have been in the same class for 2 years and you know how it is at pick up time, you get chatting to other parents and I’ve spoken to his dad regularly and his littlest used to run round with Popples last year whilst waiting for the boys to finish.  I collared his dad a couple of days later and thanked him for the invite for both of them and said they’d love to come if he was sure about the invite.  He said it’s just at a soft play area and there’ll be cakes and a few games “if he wants to join in. If he doesn’t he can just play”.  He knows Oliver is autistic, he’s heard the escape stories, he’s heard about the outbursts, he’s heard about “how hard Oliver tries, daddy.  He can’t even talk but he tries and tries and tries” and his son still wanted to invite him.  I don’t want Oliver to be anyones focus as it’s not his day, so after talking to his folks, I’m going to stay.  Not hovering.  I’ll take a book and sit by the door, in case of escape, and be on hand- just in case.  I’ll sit round the corner from the party so they won’t see me but I’ll be there – just in case.

Some kids are so thoughtful and generous and see past the barriers or don’t see the barriers.  I wonder when this changes or even if it changes for some people.  The world through a child’s eyes seems so simple – they are in my class, they must be like me, they might be my friend.  When does it change?  Do the differences get pointed out?  My 3 year old doesn’t even recognise her half siblings are brown.  When we were drawing them, the thing she pointed out was “I need a brown crayon to do Max’s eyes”  not his skin colour.  The little boy at school knows Oliver is different cos he can’t talk- but it doesn’t matter to him, or his other friends like Savannah, or Grace or Leon.  He’s still his friend.

Like I said, I’m not asking everyone to change to accommodate my son, it’s my issue to deal with- him being left behind, but I am hoping that he will keep a couple of friends through school.  Just a couple…….or even one.

 

xx

He’s not naughty! by Deborah Brownson

hes not naughty

I’ve been trying to find some help on how to explain to a 3 year old the complex world of autism.  She has 2 brothers on the spectrum and asks questions which I do try to deal with “why does Max wear ear things?” because noises hurt his ears so this makes them softer so he can listen without it hurting.  The questions keep coming and the word Autistic has been mentioned which resulted in the conversation taking a weird turn “stick? like stick man?  Is he going to get stolen by a dog and get lost?  I don’t want my brother to go”.

Anyway I came across this book “He’s not naughty” when I was doing some research.  A lot of the books I came across had scathing reviews and many of them were about aspergers where my boys are further up (or down?) the spectrum.  This book also mentions aspergers but is not focussed on it exclusively.  It’s about the issues that people on the spectrum face, the senses are broken down, strangers, behaviour, bullying, feelings etc.  and the trauma it causes them.  It is also beautifully illustrated so although the text may be a bit too much for my 3 year old, the pictures are good for starting discussion.  It’s easy reading and explains things simply, so is useful for anyone starting out on an autism journey, be that a family member, friends or teachers.

It’s written by a mum who lives with autism daily, not by a clinician and it’s very matter of fact.  It doesn’t gloss over anything, it just explains things from Jake’s point of view as told by his friend.  I don’t think my review has done it justice, it’s a beautiful book and I see my sons in the illustrations.  It takes a complex disorder and turns it into manageable chunks.  It’s listed as a children’s guide to autism, but I think it’s an all age guide to autism.  It’s overwhelming, and you get used to speaking in jargon and doctor-ese, this book has put me back on the track to explaining to all ages that He’s not naughty!

 

xx

Playing together

Oliver and Popples are 2 years apart, he’s in year 1 now and she’s in nursery.  I always worry that as she grows she will leave him behind and they will both have an element of loss and loneliness.  Yet as I watch them interact and I look back on videos (I’m old school I always call everything recorded “videos”) I worry less.  They have a bond.  They may not always understand what each other is trying to do but they try to get it.

Oliver got hold of my tablet and was watching the videos of him and her playing.  One game he invented was to shout “aaaahhh” at her and she did it back and they got louder and more giggly.  One of them was of Popples putting a happy meal box on his head and saying “burger head” amidst giggles whilst he chased her about with the box still on his head.  She watches him play and I can see in her eyes she doesn’t quite get his obsession with building towers, but then I see her face change, when she wants to play with him, and as young as she is I can see her figuring out how to insert herself into his world and be accepted.  Usually passing a brick, or counting or naming the colour and she’s in.  They have eye contact and a common goal and he jabbers, she talks back- leaves a space for him to answer- then answers for him if there’s no verbal response with a “yeah?” at the end.

He sometimes wants to play with her, he hangs back a bit more, obviously unsure of her more complex games but she notices and invites him in.  They like doing “shops and cooking” as he can name foods and can play tea parties, drinking pretend drinks and nomming pretend food.  He likes to chase, monsters is a popular game in our house accompanied with lots of screaming and bumping into each other.

In the bath last night they were blowing bubbles in the water, he took his turn then looked at her expectantly- being tired she missed the cue, but when prompted, joined in.  Then a bout of screaming at each other and splashing water all over the floor and it was hair washing time.   Laughing he used an octopus toy to rinse her hair, she laughed and then used a fish toy on his hair.  If I had done that there would have been tears, but it was their game and they played for an age- until there was hardly any water left in the bath!

He has confidence in a lot of situations that she lacks and she looks up to him to see if it’s safe.  She is wary of parties and changes at school, but he had his party Wednesday at school so when it came to hers on Thursday she was ok about it cos “my bruvver had one asterday”.  She helps him with his speech and making sure I know what he wants, she accepts him and loves him and looks up to him.  He’s her hero.  He helps her with her confidence and being brave and climbing.  She wrecked his game the other day and where 6 months ago he would have smacked her he shouted “Peppy.  Go away!”.  The fallout was short lived,  It’s much more fun being pals.

I wonder how much is instinct.  When something scary happened when they were playing upstairs he got her into the bathroom and shut the door- obviously the safest place upstairs.  Is that just what older siblings are “programmed” to do?  (obviously they weren’t alone long, certain footfalls a parent hears and knows that it’s not good).  Although they have rivalry over toys, time on knees etc I think their relationship is really good.  I love watching them play, especially when they don’t know I’m watching.  I think I need to worry less- that bond will only grow stronger, so I will just enjoy watching them and their relationship that is pretty much 50/50.

 

xx

How can people be so mean?

Max had a placement in a park that had a café.  It was, and is, intended for adults with disabilities to provide a safe place for them to learn skills.  Life skills, relationship skills and maintenance, serving in café, cooking etc.  Each programme is tailor made to each clients abilities and what they are wanting to achieve.  They help support more able clients back to work, helping with cv’s and work focussed activities too.

Max has been there just over a year.  It’s expensive as he needs 1-to-1 care but it seemed to be a blessing when we found it so we applied for funding and got 4 days a week at a £100 a day.  It used to be run by a lovely bloke who retired a few months ago.   Max was given a programme of shopping, doing basic gardening like weeding, cleaning café tables, groundskeeping and going to into town to get used to being in the community again.  He loved it, he was happy, so we were happy.

A few weeks ago, things started to change.  It doesn’t sound much but the staff weren’t there to meet the clients on time, often rolling up, up to 15 minutes late.  Last week I had an appointment with Oliver and I went to drop Max off first.  No one to meet him so someone went down to the meeting room to get his stand in 1-to-1 as his usual one was off sick.  He came back with the message “he’s busy his mum’ll have to wait with him- he’ll come when he’s ready”  so I said I couldn’t wait as I had an appointment, and a lady member of staff sat with him when I left.  I didn’t feel very comfortable about the attitude but had to rush off.  It was only later telling the story to the husband that I started thinking about the changes I had noticed.  The clients had started waiting outside, in the rain at times rather than in the café.  Nothing was as clean as it used to be.  The table Max had been allocated after his meltdown so he could eat in peace away from the noise was still reserved and when I asked I was told he still went there for his morning brew and his lunch- it’s winter in the north west of England!

His usual 1-to-1 got in touch with me and said she wasn’t coming back.  And then proceeded to tell me why.  Horror story after horror story came out and I felt sick to my stomach hearing about the way these vulnerable people were being treated and spoken to.  Max had been shouted at by a staff member, they had taken the piss out of him and the noises he makes (he is non verbal), he’d been isolated from the group, everytime he found something he liked doing they took it away from him, his shopping visits and community visits had stopped and he was not allowed to be helped in his work focussed chores.  We had made it clear from the start he wasn’t ever going to be work focussed hence his programme of skills being designed for him.  Other clients were referred to in derogatory ways depending on their disblilites, swear words used and tasks set that they could never complete.  I asked for evidence and she sent me a text she’d received from Max’s new 1-to-1 complaining about his high pitched noises and saying she had to come back cos he couldn’t cope with him.  I felt so sick- he only makes high pitched noises when distressed so what the hell were they doing to him?  He can’t tell me.

I asked why she hadn’t said anything to me and she said she’d tried to deal with it internally but management weren’t bothered.   We decided to withdraw him .  I don’t want him somewhere he is going to be treated like a burden.  We’ve spent the last 2 days on the phone going through the proper channels to have him withdrawn and all payments stopped.  Now he has no support in place but at least he’s safe, at home with me.  What I don’t understand is how sick do you have to be to treat vulnerable people like this?  Why work at a place if you don’t like the people you’re working for?  We, and the other clients, pay these peoples wages.

My son has now lost a placement where he was happy for a year due to sick bullies.  I don’t know what’s going to happen next for us or for the centre.  I don’t know if social services will keep us informed, I know his personal budget that had just been approved is now no good.  But I know he is safe.  I know it will be hard work for me, but I know he is safe.

I have cried so much over this, how can people pick on my boy like this?  And how can they keep getting away with it?  I am sad for Max mostly, he’s lost more independence and he didn’t have much to start with.  Why can no one see that he is funny, loveable and so eager to please? Why do they have to ruin the little he has?

He has his family who love him, I hope somewhere he knows that and that now he feels safe.

 

xx

 

Bonfire night

We didn’t have a bonfire- it’s too risky with the little ones and the rain has been so fierce all our wood was wet anyway.  We got a small box of fireworks and some sparklers and some traditional fayre.  Mum brought black peas (eugh!) and parkin, Leon made jacket potatoes and sausages and we sat as a family and ate before the excitement began.  Max loves fireworks now, as long as they aren’t too bangy.  Popples does not like fireworks “they make noise that hurts my ears and tummy” so she had asked me if we could watch from the conservatory.  Oliver had screamed last year and shut himself in the living room until it was all over.  So we were expecting to be doing them primarily for Max.

However, when Leon brought out the boxes, Oliver went and grabbed his coat, hat and shoes.  Max was already ready, and Popples put her coat on and agreed to come outside with me.  That didn’t last long.  As soon as the first fountain had finished, we were in the conservatory.  We could see them and talked about how sparkly they were and she seemed ok with this arrangement.  Under big sisters supervision, Oliver got a sparkler and waved it around with a big smile on his face.  He “ooh”-ed at the roman candles and fountains, jumped and laughed at the rockets and signed for another sparkler, which he got.  The boys thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a huge surprise after Oliver’s behaviour last year and his dad was made up.  Leon has had a few hard weeks, seems like the anger has given way to sadness, but seeing the boys laughing and taking part really perked him up. He said I’d missed out being inside but I didn’t miss out at all.  I got to see my son’s loving the experience, and I got to see the rest of the family enjoying my sons enjoyment.  We get to see so many struggles so for everyone to see this joy was amazing.  Who knew a few fireworks would bring so much positivity to the family.  Although it may have been that, for the first time ever, our Catherine wheel actually worked!

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xx

 

 

Genetics Counselling- Stage 1

After we saw the psychiatrist with Max a few months ago and he took a detailed history, he asked if we would like to be referred to genetics.  With every professional we’ve seen over the last year making some comment about my X chromosome we decided to be referred.  We had the appointment a couple of weeks ago with a lovely woman who drew a family tree, took a very detailed history and then explained the options available to us.  I told her about the boys births and how they weren’t textbook which appeared to make no difference really to what she was saying, although her specialty is genetics so why would it?  It seems that it IS my chromosome that has affected the kids, and may have caused miscarriage etc etc but it’s not conclusive………yet!

As a parent I feel guilty anyway, I think it’s part of being  parent anyway but now I feel really crap.  I know logically there’s nothing I could have done differently, no one had mentioned the X factor and I was told there was little risk as I was with a new partner.  But I still feel it’s my fault.  So I had a bit of a wallow for a bit, but then that doesn’t help anyone so what will help?  Well they took a blood sample off Max to run DNA and to check for 66 X chromosome abnormalities- technology has advanced, although they have discounted fragile X.  He was really good giving blood but then I was waving a Mars bar at him for when he was finished.  The geneticist also asked if we wanted to take part in the 100,000 genome study which maps as much as they can at the moment and then more as technology gets better.  It shows like cancer markers and stuff, so we will have to have a session of counselling before signing for that.  They will also compare it to Max’s for now to see if there are any blatant defects.  I’m not explaining it very well am I but there was a lot of information and I’m not remotely scientific.

I know there’s no cure or nothing I can do for my family in the immediate future and the tests may come back with a definitive “yeah, you broke your kids!” which I will have to deal with but it may help other families.  It may help my daughters make informed decisions when it comes to them having children.  So after thinking about it, we’ve decided that if they want us on the study they can have us.  I don’t really like the idea of people having my DNA, I obviously read too many books where people have been set up by the cops, but I feel I should do it.  I am not one for eradication and making perfect humans (eugenics?) but I am for education and informed decisions.  Maybe we can narrow down some diseases and syndromes and find better ways to educate and understand those affected.  I don’t think we should try to eradicate people who are different- where would the world be without those who think differently?  It would be nice though to make life easier for those who are different.

As I get older I realise I don’t know anything.  I have my core values and morals but I find I fluctuate about other stuff so much.  There’s no black or white in so much of life, it’s all shades of grey.  I find that my feelings come second to what I believe is best for my family.  I think, honestly, that if it was up to me I wouldn’t go down the family genetic route but I have to think about everyone.  I love my boys, but it’s hard and personally I wouldn’t not have them in my life (oh that’s bad writing).  If I’d known, I would have had them anyway, because there is so much good too, so much love and you get to share a different world, but it is bloody hard work- not least educating people who have no clue how to treat someone different.  If my daughters don’t want to take the chance of living this life again with their own kids then that is up to them and I fully support them.  Maybe we will get some answers, maybe we won’t but I will always try to make my children’s lives better- all four of them.  Information is never a bad thing, is it?

 

xx