Unplugging your kids, good luck……..

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I know we aren’t the only ones who have woke up first thing in the morning and thought S**t we forgot to plug the Kindle or Ipad in before we went to bed, hell is about to break out!!!

Having 3 children with roughly a 5 year age gap we have parented with & without technology.
Mobile phones had only just taken off when we had Harvey, the dark screen and the one game (snakes) was not appealing enough for me to hand the phone over to him when I needed him to be quiet, He did, however, like to use my brick of a phone as a teething soother!

Even years later Harvey never had any devices as a young child nor did Alfie when he came alone.
Harvey got his first console (ps2?) when he was about 8, think it was Gareths old one we certainly didn’t go out and buy him one at that age. We brought Harvey an iPod when he was about 10 as he broke his hand & arm just as we were about to fly out to Turkey (we still went)
We then brought Harvey an iPad for Christmas when he was 11, he never asked for one but all his friends had one & we knew the secretly wanted one.

Alfie got a kindle fire on his 8th birthday & got a PS4 on his last birthday, age 10.

Oh, how times have changed since the older two were young. Homework is now online, maths test are online everything is online now, mainly, as most households have internet access in their homes.

I got a kindle fire a few years ago for my birthday, Teddie was about 2. The minute I spotted a kids game with Mickey Mouse clubhouse in it I downloaded it and handed the kindle to Teddie, BIG MISTAKE!

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Our house is now filled with stressed out kids & parents arguing over where the bloody charger is!
The kindle charger is the same as the PS4 chargers, we have 2 kindles, 2 PS4 but only 1 bloody charger. 4 iPhones, 1 iPod (still going strong) 1 iPad but only 2 chargers, got loads of plugs but no leads!!

As a rule, I don’t set a time limit on devices but what I do do is monitor the children’s behaviour when they are on it.
I wrote before about the effects screen time has on children but even if I haven’t studied it the evidence shows itself.

When the boys (Harvey & Alfie) have been on their consoles for a few hours all I hear is banging on the floor, moaning and crying. To say it wines me up would be an understatement, it boils my blood and all I wanna do is shout and screen at them. It’s a bloody game for Christ sake but, it’s important to them so I do a little (sometimes a massive) inside scream to myself and give them a warning about their anger and frustration forwards the GAME!

Just after Christmas, we stopped Teddie having any electronic devices in the morning. Teddie was getting so distressed when I was telling him to pack away his Kindle as he had school, Teddie would just say

‘No school’

As much as devices can be a lifesaver they can also be the devil!! Teddie becomes easily wound up, screams ‘it’s not working’ especially when we are out as I cannot find a bloody wifi source, the game is lagging or worse still the battery goes!!!

Every night at bedtime we remind Teddie ‘No Kindle, No laptop, No iPad. Teddie only ever has the Kindle or laptop but if we didn’t cover all devices he’ll think he can have it as we haven’t said no to it-he’s not stupid!

When Teddie has his Kindle he goes off into his own world, he completely loses sight of what is going on around him. He doesn’t interact with any of us which really makes me sad. Once the Kindle runs out of battery that’s it for the day, you generally know when that happens as he throws it in the other direction!

Since we have stopped him going on devices morning, noon & night he plays more with his bricks & certainly bangs more often!

For us this works, it may not for everyone else, we are not the perfect parents, our children will have their devices when we r at a restaurant, in the car or on a long flight but we no longer allow them to have them all day.

FYI, the 101 ideas on how to unplug your child are crap!

 

Assessment & development……….

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Haven’t blogged for a while as didn’t want to jinx anything.

A few months back Teddie was given a verbal diagnosis of autism by his lovely paediatrician- but like most things, we had hurdles in our way.

As many of you are aware Teddie has waited over a year to be seen by the child assessment unit due to Virgin Care taking over in our area.

Teddie’s paediatrician felt it was best for him to be referred back to her for a clinical diagnosis. We were told Gareth and I would need to attend a multidisciplinary hearing in a few months time.

Of course, this isn’t what happened…..

To cut a long story short Teddie’s paediatrician could no longer offer a clinical diagnosis due to changes in her department that were out of her hands (wanted to bang my head against the nearest brick wall!) we would have to wait for a child assessment appointment.

But, I can now say,

After a home visit just after Christmas, assessments in the unit & a multidisciplinary hearing yesterday we finally have the autism diagnosis in black and white.

It’s been a very long process, a process that should not take that long.

I have the up-most respect for the lovely ladies at CADU, they are trying their best for the children and their families but their hands are tied. 

26982471_10159878054880607_1913298177_oAlthough we had waited what has felt like a lifetime for this appointment, I sat in the waiting room just staring at this door. 

The other side of this door represents so much to children & their families, how can Virgin care think this service is not needed?

For us, all the waiting is finally over. we knew & had accepted Teddie was autistic a long time ago. I made it clear to the doctor we would continue to support Teddie regardless of what the outcome was after his assessments. This is not the same for all families, they struggle to come to terms with their child’s diagnosis.

Teddie didn’t need a diagnosis of ASD he already had one for complex needs but for him and his future he needed it, he deserved it.

We want Teddie to embrace who he is he’s not ‘different’ he’s autistic and we could not be prouder of him.

The child assessment unit is under review again in April, I cannot stress enough the importance of these units, for the children and their parents. The ladies are doing a fantastic job but are bearing the weight of those who feel the unit isn’t needed.

The staff at CADU are the ones receiving the frustrated phones calls from parents (normally from myself) when appointments are changed or cancelled. The situation really is out of their hands.

From a parent who has waited 15 months for an appointment that should have been within 4 months, my advice to Virgin care would be not to cancel any assessment units or services until you have a replacement service in its place. You are failing the children, their parents, their schools and their community!

For us, we want Teddie to have access to the appropriate support & resources for him to further his education in whatever setting (ideally a specialist school).

We have a referral in place for Emotional and wellbeing mental health service in the hope they can help Teddie with his severe anxieties. We also have a private referral for an SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) diagnosis.

Although this chapter has finally closed Teddie has a long road ahead of him and more hurdles to jump.

I thank Teddie’s school every day for their help and support, we truly have the most amazing support system who are all on team Teddie! 

We are extremely proud of Teddie, he brought tears to my eyes during his assessment, he really is such a kind warm hearted bear!

We love our Bear and wouldn’t have him any other way!

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Reflection

How has 2017 come to an end already, where has this year gone?

The support we have had from family, friends and strangers who now we class as friends have been overwhelming.

I started writing Life with a Bear mainly because I felt like I was going insane with the behaviours I was experiencing from Teddie, I needed to vent my frustrations through writing. I never expected to get such a good response just from being honest with how I was feeling with Teddie’s journey. 

This year has brought ups & downs from having appointments cancelled left, right and centre, Overcoming one hurdle only to be faced with another, leaving preschool and starting school.

The kindness and support Teddie has received from the staff at preschool and now at school are truly amazing. Teaching is a job but caring the amount these lovely ladies do about Teddie’s well-being goes above and beyond their job role.

In the beginning of our, journey I don’t actually think autism was something I even considered, I just thought what Teddie was experiencing was a speech delay.

It wasn’t until I started researching speech delays in children I stumbled across an article on non-verbal autism, as I read through the article it was like someone was reading about Teddie, I knew in that moment Teddie was autistic. 

I’m often asked how I feel about Teddie’s disabilities, I understand why people would ask that question, I would probably ask the same thing. For me, it’s never been an issue, would I prefer Teddie not to have autism? I’m really not sure. 

Don’t get me wrong at times (most of the time lately) I HATE autism;

  • I hate the waves of distress it brings Teddie.
  • I hate the anxieties that haunt’s Teddie daily.
  • I hate the fear & sadness it brings him.
  • I hate that Teddie cannot express love or emotion like we do.
  • Most of all, I hate there’s no cure!.

As much as I have hate for autism, autism has made Teddie who he is. The love we have for our Bear takes over and will always outweigh the hate.

From the minute Teddie was born I knew in my heart he was gonna be our special Bear. I couldn’t take my eye’s off him and haven’t really since.

Teddies personality is infectious, he is so confident (considering) he lights up a room when he enters it we honestly couldn’t be prouder of him.

Parents often count down the years till their children grow up and are off their hands, I know we certainly have with Harvey (I’ve got my eye on his room). As much as I wanna push Teddie into the wide world we have to realise that maybe something that doesn’t or cannot happen.

For now, my everything is solely learning, researching and help educate people on what life can be like for families affected by autism.

We wish everyone who follows us a very Happy New year!

All about the emotions……..

feeling

 

For months we have been trying to find a way to help with Teddie’s anxieties. While we have been looking for ways to help we have overlooked the emotions that come with these issues. Unlocking his emotions may well be the key to supporting him with his current anxieties.

There are a trillion different techniques for learning and discovering feelings online & in books but implementing them is no way as easy as its mentioned.

Emotions are traditionally fractionated into six ‘basic’ emotions;

  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Afraid
  • Disgusted
  • Surprised

Helping Teddie express his emotions when needing to use unfamiliar toilets we may have a better understanding of how he’s feeling.

We do not understand why using certain toilets affect him the way they do, he has the fear on his face whenever I even whisper the word toilet. We want Teddie to be in control of his feelings & have the ability to tell us when he’s scared, sad or happy!

We are aiming to focus on the main 4 emotions first, Happy, sad, angry & afraid I have also added “poorly”. Teddie knows when someone else is unwell but are very reluctant to brand himself whenever he is poorly.

Visual has always been everything for Teddie, we have made PECS cards for all six emotions, the school are focusing purely on the main 4 while we will cover the 6 at home. I have made cartoon PEC’s cards & family PEC’s cards showing the different emotions.

If we make learning the emotion fun enough Teddie will know them by the end of the week, Teddie learns things at a ridiculous rate.

I will start with a word bingo game followed by saying an emotion and get Teddie to pick the corresponding card. These learning techniques have proven well in the past. Teddie loves to play word & number bingo, I’m confident he’ll love this game just as much. 

Once Teddie understands his emotions we will create the Emotions Wall, Teddie can use it when he is experiencing an emotion that he is struggling to express.

Last week we met with Teddie’s teacher, senco, specialist teacher and his EP (educational psychologist) to complete another one plan.

The specialist teacher will be in discussion with the class teacher and see him every term, the EP will use puppets to help communicate Teddie worries and fears. With these professionals helping we may have enough to apply for an EHCP next term, fingers crossed.

We love our Bear and wouldn’t have him any other way

All things Christmas……

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Since I can remember Christmas has always been MASSIVE in our house, as a child, my dad would cover the ceiling with decorations while my mum perfected the tree.

I remember my parents getting farepak hampers, the excitement from my sisters and I as we unpacked some manky tinned ham, jars of pickles, chutney’s & all Christmas related foods (how times have changed) this excitement was all part of the lead up to the big day.

Now I have my own herd, We love Christmas just as much as I did when I was young, we put our tree and dec’s up super early as we just cannot wait until December- well I can’t.

Alfie is super excited about Christmas, he’s done his list, although not really asked for much (thank god). Harvey’s 14, we’ll leave that one there, then there’s our Bear.

Teddie doesn’t have a traditional Christmas gift wish list as he can’t and never asks for anything, of course, we wrote a letter to Santa on his behalf, but…….

…..what would he and other children diagnosed with special needs ask for Christmas?  The list might be much simpler than you think:

  • Toys, of course, every child would like toys even if they cannot ask for them.
  • A day without feeling lost when the slightest change to routine occurs.
  • The ability to use the toilet without fear and anxiety.
  • A day out without name calling or strange looks.
  • The ability to play with other children without being prompted.
  • A day being treated the same as the “normal” kid

All the above are completely achievable if we all put our mind to making equality happen for people with special needs.

It saddens me that Teddie doesn’t get Christmas like the others do whenever he sees anything Christmas related he says

“Christmas”

It could be anything from a Christmas tree to lights, a red bow or a polar bear,  it’s all Christmas to him but it appears he’s not sure of the purpose or concept. If he woke up and everything was packed away he wouldn’t feel disappointed.

The quote from A Christmas carol sums it up perfectly: 

You keep Christmas in your own way and let me keep it in mine. (in a good way though)

As long as Teddie is happy over the holidays, who are we to judge how he interprets it.

 

We went to our local winter wonderland with my Alfie, Teddie, my parents, sisters and their children, we had been looking forward to it for weeks, it never crossed my mind Teddie wouldn’t like it.

Teddie’s patients for waiting is around 5 minutes tops so when the shop worker told us where we were in the queue for the Santa train was at the 1 hour 20 minutes mark, we very quickly left the queue- didn’t wanna see Santa anyway.

As we walked around seeing all the lovely lights, dancing stuffed animals (not real ones) Teddie seemed to be in his own world. He was slightly distracted by a small trolley and a carousel ride but once the five-second ride finished and he was over the trolley I could tell he was hating every second of it! 

Alfie, Teddie and I ended up drifting away from the large group we were in so we could walk around at our own leisure without waiting for the family to decide on their purchases.

Teddie kept saying

bome time” (home time)

It was so busy there, kids were excited & running around everywhere it was manic for me let alone him! As much as I wanted to really enjoy the day I couldn’t as I could see how distressed Teddie was becoming. Gareth was working so it was all for me to keep the calm for Teddie but have the enjoyment for Alfie. It was becoming harder for me to manage the situation on my own so I decided we would pay for the crap we brought and sit in the car until everyone had finished looking around & enjoying their day.

Days like Saturday are days where I feel I have failed Teddie, I should have known he wouldn’t have liked it, in all honesty, it never crossed my mind, I got swept up with all the Christmas joy and hoped Teddie would love it as much as we did- tried to.

This week I’m aiming to is call every large department store, zoo & garden centre in our area to see if they are offering a quiet period where children with any disability can come and enjoy the festivities they have to offer without the queues and large crowds, If they don’t offer such thing I’ll suggest it for next year.

We love our Bear and wouldn’t have him any other way!

Guess what, I’m not a super mum!

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Thank God for good makeup, otherwise, I’d look how I feel!

This week I’ve come to the conclusion I cannot do it all, I’m not the super mum people have claimed me to be in the past so I’ll let you in on a little secret…….

I just don’t care. The boys possibly wear the same pair of socks twice in a row maybe longer, mainly because I hate socks, I hate looking for them, I hate pairing them up, I.HATE.SOCKS.

Homework. I used to do the Harvey & Alfies (mainly Alfie) homework for them, I’d sit and glue a million cocktail sticks to a cardboard box to make a miniature Big Ben even though the homework instructions said to draw it. Them days have well and truly gone, If Alfie’s homework isn’t done it’s his issue, not mine I’m over sitting up the table while he’s on his PS4 chatting with God knows who online.

Saturdays. We very rarely get dressed and hardly ever leave the house. Harvey & Alfie sit on their PS4/Xbox most of the day playing games that are possibly unsuitable for their age but its two fewer children hanging around my feet annoying me!!

Earphones. I brought Teddie some earphones because I cannot cope with the constant noise coming from his Kindle, I cannot describe the sound other then horrendous if I hear it for much longer I may start headbutting the wall to ease the pain!!!!!!

Washing up. I go to bed sometimes and leave the dinner plates by the sink or I throw the dishes into the sink to “soak” but really my thinking behind the “soak” is it will be easier for Gareth to wash them up in the morning!

Sofa. Once my bum hits the sofa at night it never ends well, within 10 minutes I’m out for the count, If Gareth brings the duvet down I’ll be asleep within seconds! I very rarely watch TV at night, Thank God for catch up!!

Pj’s. I am in my PJ’s before all the boys most night, sometimes I put my PJ’s back on after the morning school run if I’m working on the laptop all day. Alfie has slept in his school shorts a few times this week, I would like to say he has put clean ones on the next morning but I’m not overly confident he has! Teddie keeps his uniform on until he literally climbs into bed as if we put PJ’s on any earlier he’ll have a shit fit as he’ll think he’s going to bed that second. Harvey, he’s 14 enough said!

 

The reasons:

Half the reason for all the above is probably my anxiety medication, it certainly suppresses feelings of not caring about things that have bothered me before I took the tablets. Although the tablets have helped my obsession with not caring about the littlest things I still have the sense of danger in the pit of my stomach that at times can take over and stop me from doing things I want to do. I have now taken the steps and self referred to Health in mind, I have had a pre-assessment with the aim to receive some CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) which I laugh about as it’s the area I’m doing my degree in. 

For anyone who needs help, please don’t suffer in silence, tell someone how your feeling or write it down as it honestly feels like a weight, although only slightly has been lifted. Contact health in mind!

The A word………

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A question I am always asked is whether Teddie is aware he’s any different from his peers, my answer has always been the same,

“No”

Teddies confidence has always been refreshing, without it I think he would be a completely different boy.

Teddie is unfamiliar with unkind words and name calling, I doubt he has any concept of them if a child said something to him as he’s never been around that environment. Unless there was physical contact, ie pushing Teddie would continue to play around them. There will, of course, be a time when Teddie is exposed to this bully like behaviour, I only hope this never hinders his confidence.

Teddie will happily approach new children and always tries to join in on their game, especially if its chase.
The difference between Teddie and the other children is Teddie has no concept whether the children want him to play with them, most of the time Teddie isn’t playing with the new children, he’s actually playing alongside them. If the children ran off without him he would happily run with them thinking he is joining in.

This week Gareth and I caught up on the TV series The A word. The story follows members of the Hughes family, who seem to lead a normal existence until they receive some unexpected news. Communication problems with 5-year-old son Joe Hughes lead to a diagnosis of autism.

While watching The A word I noticed a lot of similarities to our journey, we went through the motions of saying

“he’ll get there”

Although there are many similarities we have never hidden behind Teddie having special needs, in that respect, we are complete opposites.

last weeks programme, Alison Joe’s mum forgot to charge his iPod which he listens to all the time, Joe’s iPod runs out of battery in the car on the way to his new specialist school. This completely changes the dynamics of Joe’s morning resulting in a difficult transition into his new school for Joe and his mum. I sympathized with her as the slightest change to routine can make or break Teddie,

I love the series but what annoyed me was how quick Joe got a placement into a specialist school, most families I know have had to go through legal proceedings to get a placement.
I know it’s only a programme but I would have liked the series to have shown the struggles us families have to go through in order to get what our children are entitled too.

I have made more PECs cards this weekend, Teddie is still showing signs of being unsettled, even at home. I have placed social stories on our routines and the school transition around the house so he knows whats happening. I have also printed a plan & completed board for Teddies 1:1 to try, if the day can be planned ahead Teddie will feel less anxious if he can see whats going to happen (hopefully)

Life with a Bear has its up’s and down’s but as always we wouldn’t have him any other way!

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