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

 

Summer Holidays- week 5 of 6

20170820_132358808_iOS

 

Yes we have made it week 5 relatively unscathed.  Uniforms all bought and nearly all labelled just need a pump bag for Popples and I’m done.

To be honest I was dreading the big summer break, 3 kids at home apart from her three sessions at nursery and at first it did not look like it would go well.  The boys are usually out at school or placement so Miss P usually has me to herself during the day.  “You’re my mummy!” has been heard regularly for the first two weeks and I’ve had to explain that I’m everyone’s mummy even Emily’s even though she doesn’t live with us anymore.  For a just turned 3 year old this concept has been hard to grasp but we have persevered and there’s no more griping, as everyone gets mummy time and everyone gets daddy time as well as all time together.  The sharing of toys has also been tricky with many arguments turning into fisticuffs.  For a tiny person, Popples can certainly hold her own.  “That’s not nice.  Let’s share. No fighting. There’s enough for everyone”- honestly got sick of the sound of my own voice!  When it comes to sharing food, no one has a problem everything is distributed fairly with no complaining or hogging.

I also decided this summer to give everyone a break from hard learning.  The speech therapist, Vicki, has discussed with me how Oliver takes time to process things and should be given time when the pressure is off to just kind of make sense of things. So we went back to mainly play based learning, taking turns, colours, numbers letters- etc. Still learning but not at a desk with a pencil and work sheets.  I can not believe the progress they have made.  My non verbal Oliver has not shut up!  We bought Sing! for them and Secret life of pets a while ago and these have been great for both of them.  Oliver made a stage and microphone out of stickle bricks and was singing proper words to proper songs  When he wants to watch it he comes up to me and says “shake it off  shake it off” which is what the pigs sing “piggy power”.  His negatives have improved but Vicki said that’s usual as he is more motivated to declare his objection to something “no more bed time” “no more car” “leave me alone”  but he has also started verbally requesting things “more juice. Want crisps. breakfast now” and telling me just things “bumped head. it’s raining”.  Now for a child who had 20 words at best before the summer, well I’m impressed.  But what made me really proud was yesterday and him voluntarily sharing.  They have a set of secret life of pets figures each, just little ones that were about 2 quid a set from ebay and they love them.  Usually they still fight over them but Oliver split them into two piles and then came over to Popples and said “Peppy’s” (he has always called her Peppy) and then when he found another 2 Gidgets in his set he brought her one.  Obviously I then text and told everyone I knew what he’d done- I was so proud!

I think the turning point in their relationship was when it was raining hard the other week. The weather is not great in the summer holidays- it’s like the universe wants to see who’ll go crazy first.  They’d had enough of staying in so I ran them a bath and opened the back door. There was a huge muddy puddle in the border I hadn’t finished planting in and they both dived in running up and down, screaming and laughing, in the pouring rain, getting wet through and muddy head to toe. I’d done the bath so when they came in they were warmed straight away and into warm clothes- last thing we need is poorly!  Now Oliver joins in when we play chasing, obstacle course, racing, and everything.  He was the monster yesterday so put his Gruffalo gloves on (they are like claws) and chased “Peppy” round the garden shouting “Raaaaaahhh!” and attempting to tickle when he caught her.

We have a week and a bit to go before Oliver goes back to school and I’m worried he may lose his speech?  It’s busy at school and he doesn’t have much confidence in his voice yet- he’s only just found it.  But I’m going to put that aside and enjoy what I have right now.  I’ve heard her helping him with his words and I’ve seen him helping her with her confidence in climbing.  Maybe it’s the start of a beautiful relationship, best friends.

20170809_162954083_iOS

xx

Max

Max is my eldest son, second oldest overall.  Him and his sister Emily have a different dad to the younger two.  The dad wasn’t really interested in us until he had a heart scare a couple years ago then he started to take an interest- that’s led to problems between Em and her dad but they are both grown up they can sort it out between them.

Recently Max has been having a really hard time, his sound sensitivity has got worse and although we have him in a lovely placement now I suppose it’s hard for him to forget his college and last couple of years at school.  He now works in a park that has a café and a “learning room” where he can (allegedly) learn to use a washing machine, learn to wash up, sweep and other household skills.  He didn’t really take to that as he is a lazy little sod at times but as he loves being outdoors he does ground work- weeding and such like, cleans in the café, shops for stuff, gets to drink mugs of tea and has done sanding and paint stripping.  He goes 4 days a week, five hours a day and has a 1-to-1 to support him.  It was going well but I didn’t think about the summer holidays where there would be more children using the facilities, he doesn’t like squeaky children.  A couple of week ago I had to go collect him at lunch as he had hit his head so hard during a meltdown he had made himself bleed.  I picked him up and brought him home, made him a cup of tea and got a jigsaw out. He can’t talk except to make the odd request and every method of communication I’ve tried with him has failed as school and college never listened and never used it so there was no consistency.  Starting from scratch now using PECS and Makaton but it will be a slow process.  I called “work” and told him he was having a week off.  The doctor had previously prescribed some anti anxiety meds (I hate giving out meds ) so I started him on a small dose of it, and ordered him some ear defenders.

He seems much calmer now and he has more control having the ear defenders and I have noticed he sits with the family a bit more- even when Popples is around (she is very squeaky).  Anyway I’m writing this because I was talking to my husband about him the other day and I said that Max is one of the bravest people I know.  He has no language and very limited ways of communicating but he will get up each morning and try to make the best of the day, even though the world is busy, which scares him; it’s noisy, which scares him and I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in a world that makes no sense with no way of making yourself understood – I’m supposedly neuro typical and I find it difficult to navigate the world so how hard is it for him?  He never refuses to try something (except food) and even though it’s hard for him to be around youngsters I remember all the times when Oliver or Popples have been babies or asleep on the sofa poorly and he has sat with them and protected them when I left the room.  I would love to be in his for a few hours so I could know how best to help him, so I could see the boy I used to know, who was a joker and a daredevil and had a wicked sense of humour- mainly slapstick but still.

He gave me away at my wedding.  I know mum expected me to ask my dad but who else except my gorgeous 22 year old son could have done it?  It wasn’t a traditional walk down the aisle- we lurched and stopped for a flap half way down but who cares?  He looked so smart in his 3 piece suit, all eyes on him but I had hold of him and he did so well.  He smiled for some pictures, scowled in others, and I asked the photographer for every picture, I didn’t want them choosing what represented my family.  People said to me that day “You must be so proud of him”  and I replied “I’m always proud of him” because it’s true.  Having a child with autism is hard going, but along with all the cack stuff I have been taught patience, acceptance, unconditional love and that sometimes you may have to dig a lot deeper to find a person but when you take the time and effort to do the digging you find such a beautiful soul that it makes it all so worthwhile.

xx

Stay at home mum

That is my title  I am a stay at home mum.  People try to dress it up like “homemaker” or whatever but I’m a mum.  My husband works full time and we make do with his wage and the pittance I bring in for being a carer.  We’ve looked at the numbers and to be able to pay for childcare and care for Max while I worked – well I couldn’t get a job that pays enough.  It costs us over £80 a week for 15 hours of nursery care for Popples, mainly to socialise her.  Having 2 non verbal brothers we thought it was important to have time to play with her peers and not just be reliant on mummy for company.  She still lacks confidence a little but she has fun with her friends and is ready for Nursery School (FS1) in September.  She is going full time, and a couple of children from her nursery are going too so she’ll have familiar faces.

Anyway, I am getting off topic.  Being a stay at home mum is often thought of as being a soft option, I don’t have the pressures of commutes, deadlines etc etc but on the other side of that I don’t get holidays, time off sick or paid!  My day starts when one of the adorable children I have wakes.  Currently that is Oliver……at 3.30 am……. every morning!  The research suggests that 80% of children with autism have “sleeping difficulties” and how I hoped we were in the 20% this time that didn’t. We aren’t.  So he gets up and has to be wrestled back to bed, often holding me in a death grip in case I think about leaving to get some sleep in my own bed.  Then Popples wakes around half six and immediately starts jabbering on about what we’re going to do today or to ask if I “had a good sleep mummy?” or to talk about yesterday or last week or……you get the picture. Breakfast then getting the little ones dressed.  Oliver is allergic to clothes at the moment which is fun on a school morning where you have to try to get him dressed whilst he is trying to get undressed at the same time and get him into the car (whilst he is writhing in my arms ) and remember book bags etc.  After various drop offs I get a chance for a quick coffee and tidy up before pick up from nursery.  Then its a couple of hours working with Popples until Olivers pick up and Max gets dropped off.  Then, on a good day I get to make 2 lots of dinner, Max is extremely fussy, Oliver is mainly into Italian and Popples will eat almost anything so she’ll either eat what one of the boys is having or what me and daddy are having.  In between all this there’s washing up, washing, drying, folding, appointments, making/changing beds, decorating our ramshackle house, walking the dog, speech therapy programmes, education programmes to follow and general playing with the kids.  After dinner it’s supposed to be free play where I get ten minutes to look at the accounts or sort out the schedule for the next week but I inevitably get dragged into dolls house (everyone just poos and sleeps) or doctors (I’m the patient who is too hot and needs a blue plaster?!) or saving the olive tree which Oliver has never seemed to like and attacks at every opportunity.  If daddy is home on time he helps with the baths- his commute is awful so often I take this on and he joins us if he’s home on time.  Apparently the best game to play in the bath is shouting “Hoppity Voosh” as loud as you can whilst throwing water everywhere.  If all jug type implements are removed then hands work just as well splashing fiercely. Bed time reading then the “I need a wee” “can we do this tomorrow”  “I can’t find my cat/duck/witch” and Popples is asleep.  Oliver as has been stated is not sleeping so he stays up a bit longer while one of us does dinner and the other tidies up- do you know how far stickle bricks can get?

Max is in bed by 10, lights off at 11.  Oliver is having a hard time so it can be anything up til midnight before he sleeps, and cannot be left unattended at the moment due to his exuberant death defying activities.  So I don’t get much time with my husband at the moment, or time to do much at all.  Don’t get me wrong Leon takes on a lot after a full day at work helping out where he can but I don’t like him doing the nightshift then having to work all day and travel in commuter traffic on the motorway so I try to do as much as I can because my job is to look after them while he earns money to look after us so I can look after them.  At the moment it feels like we never see each other, we are both working flat out trying to do the best we can for our family and we are losing ourselves and each other.  It’s a few weeks away yet but I’ve arranged my mum and eldest to look after the other 3 while I take him away for our first wedding anniversary.  Just to have 2 nights together, a meal we can talk to each other through and just have some peace and together time.  I know it’s not a long term solution but it’s something.

I’m not moaning really, I know I am lucky to get to raise my kids and be there for them all the time.  I’m just saying it’s not easy.  I got to sleep in til half past nine this morning!  That’s how I know Leon still loves me “you look like crap, I’ll get up with them tomorrow” were his actual words but I know he loves me really. I think what prompted me to write this was a few things people have said to me.  They seem to think I sit at home watching day time tv and eating bon bons.  “some of us work and have children too” yes and I admire that but some of us also get time off or get to watch a film once the kids are asleep or get to share a meal with their family.  And no, my kids are not spoilt brats.  You can’t discipline the autism out of a person.  I discipline my kids of course I do, they have boundaries but there are somethings you just have to roll with because nothing you can do, at this moment in time, will change anything.  Things will change, but at this moment this is our family. And we’ll cope because we have to.  Everyone’s family works differently, some a little more differently than others.

Getting a bit rambly now due to lack of sleep, and I know theres a chocolate cake with my name on it downstairs- it’s a “hooray we survived the first week of the holidays” cake.

xx