Olobob Top.

Olobob Top was created by Leigh Hodgkinson and Steve Smith.  It is a programme currently shown on Cbeebies aimed at pre-schoolers.  I knew nothing about it until May this year when Oliver’s TA came out of school with him and told me about this “bigtop hill thing” programme he’d found on the computer.  It had apparently amused him no end so she was going to find the proper name and make a card so he could put it on his “working for” board.

Now I know that sounds nothing in itself, kids go through phases but let me expand.  From age 2 Oliver went to a private nursery.  He stayed there (3 sessions a week to help socialisation) until he started reception class.  He never brought me a picture home.  Never painted anything for me.  In almost 4 years I never got a painted picture, a drawing or even a scribble.  I asked school not to send home teacher made things like mother’s day cards unless he’d done it because what’s the point? That’s a personal choice, if others want them then that’s fine, what works for me doesn’t work for everyone.  It hurt a little especially as Popples was painting mad and my cupboards were full of her pictures, except a space I’d saved – just in case.  The day after Mrs D (TA) had told me about this thing he’d found on the computer I went to pick him up as usual and she came out smiling.  “Show mummy” she said to him and he presented me with this printout of a scene from Olobob Top (yes she found the right name) that he’d created himself.  He pointed to something and whispered “Tib” so I repeated it and praised his beautiful creation.  He looked quite pleased.  We showed it to Popples, I took a photo and sent it to his dad at work.  I found the blue tac and stuck it up.  He had made it!

The next day he came out again and he was smiling and Mrs D was practically bouncing. He handed me 2 sheets of paper and said “olobob top”.  I looked and almost cried- they were paintings!  not only paintings, but you could actually see 3 different figures and they were recognisable as Tib, Lalloo and Bobble.  This was the start of a new chapter for him.  Usually uncooperative at craft time, he painted, he crayoned, he drew on the conservatory walls (who cares it’ll wash) he made play doh models, he made characters out of stickle bricks and he verbally requested “computer”.  He often speaks in a whisper but some words were getting louder.

The biggest thing was reading.  I know I’ve talked about Julia Donaldson’s books allowing me to spend quiet times with him, but things changed when Mrs D gave him 2 books for his summer gift.  These were his books, they had his name in them.  One was a sticker book, and the other was a flap book.  He doesn’t like stickers.  I tried to show him the stickers go in the book to make scenes but I got screamed at “NO MUMMY! IT’S MINE!” ok fair enough.  He took his books upstairs out of my reach.  That night my husband put Max to bed and when he came down he told me that Oliver was currently sticking stickers all over his bedroom.  He didn’t know what to do because he doesn’t do stickers so I went up and said “what are you doing?” “Sticking” was the response – TO A QUESTION! “Sticking olobob top” he expanded while I stood looking at the stickers on the carpet, duvet, wall, pillows and chest of drawers.  “That is fabulous sticking! You are so clever. It’s beautiful. Well done!” The pride on his face nearly made me weep.  The I got invited onto the bed to look at the flap book.  I tried opening it but it got pulled away so I sat back and let him lead.  Eventually he moved it to within eyesight and pointed to the figures naming them.  He’d point, say the name then look me in the eye (we don’t demand eye contact in this house) and wait for me to repeat it. Then he’s nod and reconfirm.

Our next reading session was instigated by him.  He pointed to a pink bird on the cover and said “BIG” but I thought he said pink so I said “Pink”.  He shook his head, and I thought I was going to lose him, he doesn’t like it if I don’t get it straightaway.  He sat there and repeated it but we were having a miscommunication.  Eventually he took his finger and ‘drew’ the letter b on the bed, then I then g.  Light dawned “oh Big! big bird”. He then turned the book over, pointed to another bird and said “little” I repeated it then he pointed to another bird and said “small”.  I didn’t know he knew that word! We were having a conversation.  He was waiting for me to repeat, giving me eye contact and being in charge.  I didn’t touch the book.

Every day he was saying “upstairs, Olobob Top book” and we were reading the way he wanted to.  He was gaining in confidence and trusting me not to take over and let him lead me for a change.  One day he pointed to Tib and said “it’s Bobble” so I copied and said the same, he looked at me and burst out laughing and said “it’s not Bobble, it’s Tib” oh dear, silly mummy.  And that was the game that session, making mummy look a fool! But it paid off because the next day he finally opened the book and I got to see the inside, but just the first page. “Lalloo’s dress” so I added the word spotty. “Tib’s pants” so I added the word stripy.  Expanding his vocabulary with no pressure for him to say it back, just giving him a word he might not have but if he chooses not to use it at that time that’s fine.  He told me shapes, fish, trees, the other characters.  If we are making stuff he says “you could make it up” and gets stuck in.  He also has expanded his wardrobe thanks to Tib’s stripy pants, which is lucky as he ripped the bum out of his tartan ones swinging on his curtain pole, and all his other jammies were stripy.

2 more books were released (and bought), although I’ve not proved myself worthy enough to be able to read Norbert’s shop yet I live in hope 🙂 We were talking about Christmas with Popples and he came over and said “Olobob top toys, yes, Christmas” so I had to tell him there were no toys which we confirmed by googling, so he asked for “dvd yes” and again I had to show him there wasn’t any. He did his sad face but quickly rallied and asked for Go jetters instead.  They have a laptop where he goes on and plays games, makes characters and scenes etc.  He asks for it “computer cbeebies” or whatever he is after that day.  He chooses to read with me, he does crafts, he has taken a passion of his and instead of it being confined to one repetitive game or action, he has brought it into more aspects of his life.  He hums when he is doing things now, he talks quietly to himself (still a lot of jabber but some words) when playing, he seeks me out to do things instead of me having to instigate it, he knows his choices are important now.  They always were but I don’t think he knew that.  Now he knows if he wants to talk about the size of birds for half an hour, then mummy will stay and have as much enthusiasm at the end as at the start.  I know there is a long, long way to go.  I know that I may never have a conversation with him that runs along more conventional lines.  I know his language is still miles behind.  I know the sound of his voice, I know his laughter, I know he can joke, I know he is clever, I know that what he gives is the best he can and I know that’s enough. He’s calmer, he’s more patient and he’s more willing to try new things.

I got a painting off my son.  He was 6 and I got his first painting.  That was enough, everything else that has happened is a bonus.  We were lucky he found something he felt so strongly about that he wanted to share.  I know that Leigh Hodgkinson, Steve Smith and the Olobob’s don’t realise the world they’ve opened to my son has helped him, and us, so much.  Thank you

xx

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

These guys have my eternal gratitude.  I am a big reader as is my husband and my girls.  They always loved snuggling and reading and discussing pictures.  When I was teaching Max to read I bought the Biff and Chip books that Emily was reading in school.  It worked to a degree, he could read the words but it was mechanical.  We discovered The Gruffalo by accident- I was just looking for something different, bright and options for voices and discussions.  Now he has what used to be termed “classic autism” so to get him reading was an achievement for him but he did do the voice for the owl.  Very proud day when he did the Twit-two.

Oliver, however was totally disengaged.  No interest in any books.  I still did reading at bed time.  I tried the lift the flap Spot books, Peppa books, Little library book sets but he wouldn’t sit with me.  Then my aunt bought him the Gruffalo sound book and things changed.  Being a button presser meant he couldn’t resist the book.  He got fixated on certain noises which was fine, he pressed and I copied the noise gaining smiles and eye contact.  Then we got to the stage where I could read a couple of pages with him pressing the buttons.  It made me so happy that I could sit with him and actually engage in a mutual joyous activity.

We found a dvd set of the Gruffalo, Gruffalo’s child and Room on the broom.  So we bought it and let him watch it.  He was engrossed from start to finish and that night we got through the whole book.  I had to do voices, and roars but does it matter if you sound like an idiot?  No.  It really doesn’t.

On Popple’s birthday she got the witch from Room on the Broom as a gift which Oliver immediately took too (we ordered another one on next day delivery) and the shops had 2 for £6 on a lot of books which meant they could have their own copies of the books instead of me having to sneak them out of Max’s room and sneak them back before he took his nightly inventory.  Room on the Broom was a massive hit!  The squealing when the dragon was coming was music to my ears-anticipation and appropriate reaction.  I started leaving gaps when I was reading familiar stories and he sometimes filled in the missing word or I’d say the wrong word and his outrage would make him correct me vehemently.

Stick man was on over Christmas and we taped it and showed him and it seems that once he’s seen it he is much more amenable to reading the book.  Although he does “read” a lot more books now even if he hasn’t seen them but watching them seems to improve his joining in and language.  We also got given some audio cd’s (they need replacing now they are worn out and skip) that we listen to in the car, after the story there is a song that we all join in with.  The Book People do a lot of discounted books and we got ten paperback Julia Donaldson books for a tenner which we gave him for Christmas, came in a very handy carry bag too.  He opened them first and sat with his room on the broom book and his witch reading it a nd “ziggity zoom”-ing.  He now has all the charcters from Broom which we re-enact the story with.  He has a Gruffalo and the mouse but the mouse often ignores the Gruffalo and wants to eat “Oliver crumble” giggles and tickles aplenty.

Popples bought him a stickman for his birthday.  He lives in his bed and is not to be touched by us mere mortals.  The Gruffalo’s child is an opportunity for squeals and lots of AHA! OHO! He likes pointing to things in Snail and the Whale, Squash and a Squeeze gives us animal noise chances.

So my son who would not read or look at books now insists on his bedtime story and snuggles and points and says some words.  Occasionally the witch gets “whooshed” across the room but it’s all joining in.  His witch is his best friend, but she deserves a page of her own.

So I will be forever grateful to the two named above for their books.  The repetitive language is not boring (as is it in a lot of books), they are bright, they engage all my children and it’s given me an opportunity to do something with my ASD sons that makes me feel close to them which is often difficult with a child with autism.  Thank you Julia and Axel, I hope they know how much they change lives, it may only be a small thing to some people but having a child snuggle on my knee and share a book is a huge thing for me.