Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Strewth!

What a week this has been!


Father's day was hijacked by my relatives visiting from Australia. I spent the entire day baking tarts, scones, sponges and making sandwiches for afternoon tea. 





A is at high school for three full days this week and so far is having a blast. I've had another meeting with the school and went to a social evening where I got to meet parents who had kids both in the mainstream and in the inclusion resource for ASD kids. I feeling a bit more reassured about the schools capabilities and hope that both the transition and first year will go as well as I imagine it will.

While he is busy with this I've been finalising the details for his party and making lists! Everything is coming along nicely with no major hiccups.

As well as wrapping up his time at Primary School, his activities are coming to a head. This just adds to how proud we are of him and really reinforcing how quickly he is blooming and growing up. He is also preparing to move up a belt in Judo and has been doing really well. The Judo company, Jidel Judo also run classes for ASD kids and the instructors are amazing!



I just found out that there will be a leavers school prom next week, so new togs need to be bought! Cue his protestations over wearing a shirt!

He is going to his last rehearsal for drama tonight and will be starring in two plays this week. One for the parents of the theater group and his group have been very lucky as they have been offered the chance to perform their production twice, and the tickets are on sale to the general public! Everyday is and has been for a while now, extremely busy and I'm quite looking forward to the school holidays!


It has taken a fair amount of blagging and promising but his party is finally coming together.

We have managed to get hold of an amazing venue in the centre of Edinburgh called Bristo Hall. The hall is run by the same people who have the amazing Forest Cafe. The Forest Cafe is an incredibly bohemian hang-out for aspiring musicians, poets, artists and performers. When I first took A into the cafe (we had attended a percussion workshop in the hall) I thought he would find it overwhelming, it is quite dark and the inhabitants are definitely of the alternative scene in Edinburgh. I was surprised to find that he loved the place. He finds people fascinating and the regulars do not mind him asking questions about their appearenence, about the books they're reading. Next door to the cafe is an art gallery and the hall houses a darkroom, studio and screen printing facilities for anyone to work in. The collective spirit of the place is admirable.





An offshoot of the cafe is the Pavilion in the Meadows where you can take you ger kids and lounge about on upcycled deckchairs while the kiddies run around. Next door to the hall is the Sip n' Snip salon here one can sip vodkas while having your hair styled.


It really is a magical place. However this place is under threat.

From the website:

Due to the bankruptcy of our landlords, the building that the Forest currently occupies was put up for sale in October 2010, and our lease terminated as of August 31st 2011. We do not want to see this listed historic building sold to developers and transformed into yet another generic coffee shop or sports pub. The Forest is a vital resource for Edinburgh - a unique, free and freely-accessible multi-arts venue - and we want to be able to keep doing what we do best. Our campaign is to raise enough money and public support to keep operating in this home.. Given the extensive public support we have seen to date, we are confident that this is achievable.

A has pledged some of his birthday money to go to the Save the Forest Fund. Well done!


As entertainment we hired a DJ to play A's favourite funk tracks as well as chart nonsense for all of the teeny boppers to dance along to. The guys have promised to keep the kids thoroughly entertained. As this is such a huge event we thought we'd really push the boat out and make it something to remember.

I used the bboy forums to contact a local famous (or famous locally?) breakdancing crew and have managed to hire them for a minimal fee (and the promise of food) to come and perform a freestyle dance show. We were attending a big breakdancing competition two weeks ago where he witnessed the guys in action. Major Mummy points! Although the venue will be quite dark, I've recruited the services of a fantastically talented art student called Aaron Sinclair who is doing a giant graffiti mural to decorate the hall with.


It will be a fantastic memento for A to keep. Aaron was recently commissioned by Edinburgh Council to decorate a new skatepark that was erected in the Western part of the city.



In terms of food, the hall lacks any kind if kitchen facilities so I had to think outside the box. Being at that weird age of 12, I thought that they would all appreciate some junk good as a treat. I've managed to get a fantastic deal on take away pizzas from Alfie's favourite Pizza shop on the Grassmarket, Mamma's pizzeria. One dozen sixteen inch pizzas will be delivered half way through th event after the breakdance show. There is a little bar area in the corner here. I will be plying the kids with fizzy pop and keeping them hydrated. I'm erecting a photo booth in the corner with cameras so that kids can dip in and out to take daft snaps of themselves!

I've also managed to bag the most amazing party favours in the form of penny sweet mixtures from a fabulous retro sweetie shop, Sweet in Bruntsfield.

I think it will be a Party to remember!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Moving on.


Is your Autistic Child going to High School? Mine is. 


For many parents out there this is a transition that can bring a fair bit of stress with it. Many of us remember our own experiences at high school and it can fill you with dread. I remember that the place was huge in comparison to my primary school, it was very busy and even after my transition visits I still wasn't sure of how the whole thing worked. It was full of giant children, all very cool and independent. While I remember this experience clearly it wasn't long before I settled into the routine and those first day jitters dissipated. I also recall that the prospect of going into the unknown was vaguely exciting, that a new phase in my life was about to begin, that I was growing up. I can imagine that reading this quite a few of you out there can relate to this adventure. This transition, however, can be incredibly daunting for a child with ASD in ways that we cannot comprehend. A pretty comprehensive article on transitions by the Scottish Government can be found HERE


Many parents will notice a change in behaviour around periods of transition in their childs' life, whether it is moving house, changing schools or going to a new residential home. The difficulty with imagination that people with an ASD have will make it difficult for them to imagine what a new situation or environment is going to be like and so that much scarier. Many people will try and reduce their anxieties about a new place by trying to imagine it as much as possible, something that my son finds very difficult to do. He has reverted to organising toys on his bedroom floor. Something he used to do in his previous school when the day became too stressful. 

To counteract this we have had more visits to the high school that the other kids. We have had tours after school hours to investigate all of the different departments. It is important that we provide him with a realistic picture of what his new school is going to be like. 


If you are finding yourself in a similar situation or are thinking about this for the years ahead, I have a few tips to share. 


Start by asking the new school if you can do a visit, either before the school year ends, or over the summer holidays. See if they can provide your child with a map of the school, with the classrooms that they will need, toilets, dinner hall, etc all clearly marked. Ask if they can have a timetable as soon as possible so that they can plan their routes between rooms for each day.
Over the summer holidays you may like to make a scrapbook of his new school with photographs of his school, classroom and the key staff that he will come into contact with such as his class teacher or teaching assistant.
It is also important to run through their new route to school. If it is a walk, go through the route a couple of times over the holidays; do the same if you will be going in the car. However, if it is possible that you might need to take a different route to school, because of traffic, etc it is important to build some variation into the route so they do not become upset if there is a change in route. If they need to get the bus, you might want to take the bus route with them a few times, making sure they knows where to wait for the bus, the timetable, where to get off, how much it will cost and so on.
Many children with an ASD can benefit from having a buddy, especially in the first couple of days. This can help with tricky social situations such as noisy buses, teasing, etc. It is also important that the new school is aware of any successful strategies that were in place at their old school that they should implement. This will help to keep the transition as smooth as possible. 
If you have already been through this transition and have any words of wisdom to share then please do. Similarly the Centre of High Functioning Autism at GOSH is asking for parents to share their experiences for a collective study. This can be found HERE

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Are there advantages in being autistic?

We love our son and are thankful for him. We are proud of everything that he achieves and does. Our pride runs just that little bit deeper than a parent with a neurotypical child because we know that everything is so hard for him. Our relationship with autism is a complex one. While A was diagnosed at an early age and we have lived with this diagnosis for almost 9 years in an official capacity, it hasn't been easy to live with. Being on the less severe end of the spectrum A blends into normal society for about 40% of his day but the other 60% being perplexing, frustrating and alienating.

We are not, well I am not, one of these people who embraces her childs disability easily. I have let the reactions and the words of others get to me. I am not embarrassed by him or his disability but frustrated by the limits it puts on his life, his friendships and his development. I feel it too because I absorb the majority of the negative aspects of autism for him. I'm the one who deals with his lack of tact, apologising to children and adults alike for his frequent faux pas, his outbursts, his lack of awareness of others. The minute I suspect that someone is forming the opinion that A is a bit of a dick head, I intervene explaining away any slight that A may have caused that person, followed by an explanation of autism and its effect on him and why it causes him to appear to be inconsiderate. In order to make his experience of being an autist a positive one, I have hidden all of the negative for him which has made my experience of autism, largely a negative one. He tries not to let it bother him, he embraces his differences and relishes in the fact that he is not like everyone else. He doesn't feel peer pressure to dress in a certain way and doesn't let the thoughts and words of others get to him. I've been dipping my toes in the pool of ASD forums that there are out there in the wonderfully wide web and I'm trying to let it change how I view autism. I've found an amazingly inspirational movement called neurodiversity, of which I'll blog about in a while. In short, it is a type of thinking that embraces the differences that ASD brings and tries to foster an attitude of accepting that everyone is different, whether you are neurotypical or autistic.

Following the example of a few others out there, I'm trying to see the positive in autism. But it is hard, it is really bloody hard.Admittedly, all bar one of these posts that I read were written by someone with Aspergers or a parent of a person with this so there was very little information there to relate to or to derive some sort of guidance or comfort so far.

People who assume high functioning autism is like Aspergers misread the situation we are in. Aspergers is so completely different to autism. Aspergers often comes with high intelligence, overly rational thought, intense focus and despite its debilitating social aspects is much easier, in my opinion to view in a positive light. It is easy to celebrate something that once you have come to terms with your differences, enhances your mental capacity and facilities while having a devastating effect on your social skills. The variant that A has impairs his intelligence, makes him unable to focus and follow complex or lengthy instruction. It is a constant fight and I often fail to see the positives in this. So much of our experience and the therapies used to treat it are designed to make him fit in with normal society. Perhaps this is why we struggle to find the positive. The path ahead is a long one as we try to adjust our thinking about ASD.



How do you find the positive in your ASD diagnosis?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Women are never disarmed by compliments; men always are ~Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, 1899

In the run up to Father's Day, I've been thinking a lot about Oh Daddy's relationship with both of the kids.



If you have read my About Me section you'll know that only Miss B is his biological child. We have been together now for nearly eight years and during that time I've watching him grow to love A over the years, despite it being hard for him to understand him sometimes. OD expected A to behave like a normal little boy and found it hard to comprehend why he didn't as we all did at times. When A was younger he was so focused on his latest obsessions that he wouldn't branch out to experience other activities. All attempts at playing football, building things failed as A sat for hours and lined up his green plastic toy soldiers. Even now as the pressure of the end of term, a PROM!!, and high school looming, A is starting repeat these behaviours, wiping the dust off of his old wresting figures and spending hour after hour lining them up. It's hard to parent a child who spends a large part of the day in his own world. He has done exceptionally well though. They share a special bond and as individuals they are both quite black and white thinkers so they gel well. Not always but often.


OD joined our family after coming out of the army and despite his former training and lifestyle copes well with our disorganisation and chaos (most by smoking in the back garden!). With B he is different and I never really expected this not to happen. OD is pretty old school and shows A affection is very manly ways; a pat on the back, a punch on the arm, a knowing nod. While he loves them both equally he is more demonstrative with his little girl, chasing her for cuddles, stealing kisses and being more at ease physically with her. A is nearing that awkward teen stage where they shrug off the attention of their parents, develop shockingly poor posture and grow their fringes long so they can skulk around. It's funny to watch the both of the kids in their development as B becomes more affectionate and A becomes less. I often walk past the playroom and catch glimpses of A giving B squeezy cuddles, as we call them. Our family is quirky and we work together. Personally I opt out of me time for us time as I enjoy it more. I don't feel the need to break away, nor do I need breathing space. We have crafted our family and there is nothing more precious nor as exciting out there in comparison.

So this post if to celebrate the man in my life in lieu of Father's Day. A time for me to reflect on and share some of his little quirks, habits and his big face.


#1: Oh Daddy believes that everything can be healed with Germolene. Just like Gus Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding puts Windex (glass cleaner!) on everything he wanders around with a tube of Germolene. If I complain that I have a spot or the kids gets a graze, he's there to administer the magical cream. If I fail to take up an offer of being Germolene-ed, then I am repeatedly told that I "should have put some Germolene on it!"


#2: Oh Daddy picks his toenails and as a consequence has very tiny toenails. An utterly disgusting habit that I have to hoover up constantly. A has since picked up this habit and gets shouted at (by Oh Daddy) for doing this. This is a bad habit that he brought from his army days where he tells me he used to pick his toenails with a knife (I think I'm supposed to think he's a badass because of this). 


#3: Oh Daddy likes to cuddle. Despite his knife totting nail picking habits he does have a softer side to him. He likes nothing more than to cuddle up at night when the kids are in bed and tell me about his day or to watch a movie together as part of our us time. His favourite position and the position that I fall asleep most evenings in, is sitting up with my head in his lap. Oh Daddy also likes to squeeze out a fart or two whilst my head is in his lap. They do not escape, they are squeezed. His apologies are of little comfort. 


#4: Oh Daddy is super organised. He is so anally retentive and I am not, nor is A and it drives him a little bit mad. I have systems and hate to see clutter and he piles things up everywhere which to him is his version of being tidy. I throw things back in the cupboard and don't really care where it goes as long as it's hidden. I often put CDs back in the wrong box which induces a tutting fit from him afterwards as he struggles to find the appropriate box. It really winds him up ad so I have on occasion did this to wind him up as he scuttles behind me making things all nice and neat. Saying this it never actually occurs to him to clean after he has tidied things away...



So here's to our Oh Daddy!

We love him so much. xx

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Strange Town Summer Drama Projects 2011.

Calling all Burgh parents! There are still spaces on the amazing Strange Town Summer Workshops, based at the Drill Hall in Dalmeny Street, Leith. My son has been attending the classes for over a year now and has taken part in a few workshops and loves it. I blogged a while ago about how great the classes are. The kids get to put on a play at the end of the five days and I have to say, we've always enjoyed these massively and are very proud of our son. For further information, click on the flyer or the link or contact Ruth at info@strangetown.org.uk for a booking form.



Strange Town is a theatre company which aims to enable young people to fulfil their creative potential.  Strange Town seeks to fill a gap in quality theatre provision for 5-25 year olds in Edinburgh.

We believe that everyone has creative and artistic abilities, and through encouragement, participation and example, we hope to enable young people to recognize and develop these.

We aim to create work of the highest quality, that is daring, exciting and entertaining.

Strange Town’s directors and leaders offer their skills and experience as a resource to local communities and schools.

Strange Town encourages theatre going and theatre making.

Strange Town works with a wide range of artists; actors, designers, directors, writers, musicians and dancers, to explore creative possibilities and to offer links to the profession for young people, should this be the route they want to follow. 

A's Last Primary School Sports Day.

It was a happy and a sad occasion. A huge crowd of parents gathered as we watched our kids last sports' day of primary school yesterday. I have absolutely no idea how a high school sports day works or even if they have them at all. The emphasis at primary school (or at least the one that he attends) is on team work. No individuals take part in a race and all points go towards their house which runs from Primary 1 to Primary 7. I would imagine that things will be more competitive, more serious, more well...athletic at high school. A did well working in a team and managed to contain his shouting at his other team mates! A new addition to the round of activities they did was indoor swimming which involved the kids swimming the length of the gym hall with skateboards strapped to their stomachs. It was a roasting hot day and the rain managed to stay away.










REVIEW: Chilli Papa's Curry Mixes.

Now when I decided to review products on this site, I said to myself that I would only accept products that I would actually use myself and that there had to be a great deal of integrity to the review. I get bored of reading blogs that review any old tat that gets sent to them as freebies and generally these are incredibly dull to read, knowing that Mrs X has sold her soul for a weaning set. "Why this feeding spoon has revolutionised our meals times..." Has it really? What were you using to feed the child before you were sent this freebie, a fish slice?

So I contacted a few companies and accepted a few offers but I refused quite a few too, only accepting products that I would use in real life. My first review of the Axil Coolfan is one such product. I love it. It makes my mealtimes easier as while I'm dishing up the adult portions and adjusting the seasoning according, this little guy is making sure that B's portion is ready to go by the time we sit down to eat together as a family.

Onto my next review. This product is actually part of a theme of reviews that I'm doing here, Scottish products. Promoting local and national producers is something that I really believe in and so far have not seen a blog who does such a job. I'm a proud Scot and I do go out of my way to buy local products and produce over imported substitutes.

The product is Chilli Papa's spice mixes. A product thought up by Darren Mollan after struggling to find the time to make curries around that hectic time that is Christmas. Even though the company has only been running since February, Darren has set up on line shop through his Facebook sitean Ebay shop and is now stocked online at Old English Shop. The mixes are also available iDavid Sands in the following stores: Linburn Road, Kinross, Crossford and Auchtermuchty!

Darren tells the story of the mix's conception:


December 30th 2010, I was rushing around after four kids and trying to decide what was for dinner. My sister-in-law came round and wanted to cook a curry for friends on New Year’s Day. Well, being busy that day, Lynn suggested blending the spices and including cooking instructions.The curry was a resounding success and Chilli Papas was born.


Originally I was sceptical of the product. This was nothing to do with Darren's product but at using a ready made mix. I always blend my own but as Darren noticed, it takes time. I don't use ready made jars as they are full of oil and well, taste rubbish compared to making your own from scratch. I researched the company and was very impressed by the story of the conception of the product and the fact that the mixes are oil free, allowing you to control the fat content of your meal. We all love curry in the house, even Miss B from the minute she was eating proper meals (9 months +).  The amount of time it takes to blend the spices means that we rarely eat curry midweek and it requires constant tasting and adjusting and if this product lived up to its hype, then it really would make things easier.

I got to try two mixes from a range of three, Papa's Yellow Curry and Papa's 2 in 1 Tikka Mix, a mix that could be used for marinading as kebabs or as a the base for a curry mix.

Test 1: Papa's Yellow Curry.

A blend of ground coriander, tumeric, parika and cinnamon. Serves 4. 

On the back of the mix is a useful list of the ingredients you will need, to think about while you shop in preparation:

  • 350-400g meat or meat substitute, fish or vegetables
  • One Onion
  • Garlic and ginger (can be fresh or ready chopped
  • One stick cube
  • 400ml coconut milk

Inside lists a detailed recipe for Papa's Yellow Curry. The instructions are brief and very simple, reassuring the novice that cooking a curry with the help of these delicious mixes is simple.


  • Chop one medium onion
  • Chop 300-600g of meat, meat substitute, fish or vegetables



  • Add one teaspoon of ready chopped ginger or 1x2cm of fresh ginger.
  • Add one teaspoon of ready chopped garlic or 2 cloves of fresh garlic.


  • Crumble one stock cube.
  • Add supplied kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass
  • Add 400ml of coconut milk
  • Add Papa's Yellow Curry Mix
  • Add salt and pepper to season





  • Add all of the above ingredients in a pan, cook on a low heat stirring occasionally until meat is cooked thoroughly, remove kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass before serving. 







 Simple! It really is that simple. Although I opted to cook the onion and chicken breast before adding the rest of the ingredients the end result was the same. 


I served the Yellow Curry with homemade bhaji's, masala dhal, naan bread and some raita, relish and mango chutney. 



 

The curry was amazing! the addition of kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass is in my opinion, genius. The troops wolfed it down and would definitely eat it again. 


For Miss B's portion, I fried the chicken and onion, added the dry spices and added a little apple juice and coconut milk to make the sauce rather than the stock cube. 


Test 2: Papa's 2 in 1 Tikka. 


A blend of cumin, beetroot powder, garam masala, ground coriander, tumeric, and chili powder. Serves 4 - 6.

I was so looking forward to trying this out based on our first experience of the Yellow Curry but then I was struck down with a bug and there was no way that I was cooking it for the troops without being able to taste it myself! This mix can be utilised to either make a marinade for kebabs, or a tikka masala curry. I made the tikka kebabs for us and the masala for Miss B.

Again, there is a basic list on the back to assist you with prepping for the meal.

  • 350g - 600g meat, meat substitute, fish or vegetables. 
  • One onion
  • Garlic and ginger
  • 500ml of yoghurt for tikka kebabs
  • or 150ml for tikka masala
  • One stock cube for tikka masala
  • One tablespoon of tomato puree for tikka masala

For the Tikka Kebabs:

  • Chop one medium onion
  • Chop meat, meat substitute, fish or vegetabes into inch cubes
  • Add 500ml of fat free natural yoghurt
  • Add one teaspoon of ready chopped ginger or 1x2cm of fresh ginger
  • Add one teaspoon of fresh chopped garlic or 2 cloves of fresh garlic. 
  • Add the juice of one lemon or bottled equivilent
  • Add mix
  • Add Salt and Pepper to taste




Add all of the ingredients in a pan/pot and stir until you have an even colour. The beetroot powder gives it a vibrant red colour. Marinade for 1 -2 hours and preheat grill to highest level for 15 minutes. 


Seperate marinaded meat from the marinade and place under grill. Grill until cooked and turning crispy, turn once or twice depending on taste. 


Again, it really is that simple. Once the cutlets were placed under the grill the house was filled with the most wonderful aromas. I served the meat with toasted pitta breads, raita (yoghurt dip), carrot and cumin salad, lettuce and tomato relish. I will post my own recipes of the accompaniments later. 





Another great thing about the mixes is that they come with additional recipes showing the care that Chilli Papa's has taken over making your meal great. The 2 in 1 Tikka mix comes with two recipes and an additional recipe for raita. The Yellow Curry comes with a recipe for Papa's perfect rice. If you want these recipes, then you will just have to buy the mixes. I will be ordering the full set the minute I've finished this reviews and think that at £1.99 for two mixes (enough to feed 12!) they are great value too.

You can be a Chilli Mamma or Papa too. Get your mixes either through the Facebook site, an Ebay shop or online at Old English Shop. The mixes are also available iDavid Sands in the following stores: Linburn Road, Kinross, Crossford and Auchtermuchty!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Making trouble for myself...

Do you remember my previous post on the horrors of children's parties? Well this year I've really outdone myself. A has been feeling blue lately as the last few weeks of primary school draw near. He has found out that of his core group of 12 friends, 6 of them will not be going to the same high school. Their parents opted, bursaries willing to send their kids to independants schools (a perculiar phenomenon that bugs the hell out of me so I'll save that for another post) and has taken the news quite hard. The 6 that are left are not the ones who I can envisage him being friends with past S1. So to cushion this blow I've only gone and let him invite his entire year to a party! All 54 of them. Oh shit...

I've been quiet lately as the impending move to high school is really stressing me out and I need to write a few posts to gather opinions. About three weeks ago I was convinced that we were making a giant mistake and should possibly keep him back a year until he catches up with his peers. The LEA have gone white every time I mention deferring his high school place and in my meetings with the high school they have promised him the world. I have many meetimgs this week to try and make a decision and figure out what is best. I've tried putting it down to nerves or the unknown terrors of high school. Had I been happier with the support that he has received from the LEA I would feel better about sending him.

To top it off, his Dad's beer was lying on the table tonight while we cleared away tonights dishes and he decided he would take a drink. We caught him in the act and he stormed off to his room.

Trouble is I barely have five minutes to think about this all!