Thursday, 29 November 2018

My Child Has Autism

Hi everyone!

My autism adventures continue over on my brand new website at...

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Mental Rumination and Grounding Technique

Today I want to talk about a technique called “grounding” and why it is incredibly useful when dealing with negative thoughts, anxiety and even some types of meltdown.

Lately we have been increasingly dealing with negative ruminations. Imagine a stuck record that keeps playing the same piece over and over. Autistic people can replay events or snippets of conversation over and over in their heads, creating a negative feedback loop. Our job is to break the loop before it leads to obsessive or dangerous behaviour.

The grounding technique is the best method that I’ve found for breaking this pattern. The best thing is  that the technique is very easy to do and can be done anywhere. It can also be used in a variety of anxiety-based situations.

The aim of grounding is to return the person to the “real world” using things around them to get them to focus on something other than their obsessions.

The technique is as simple as 5...4...3...2..1


Name 5 things you can see.
Name 4 things you can touch.
Name 3 things you can hear.
Name 2 things you can smell.
Name 1 thing you can taste.

Give it a try. This method really does work and it is easy. I hope it helps someone reading this.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Visiting Disney World With an Autistic Child: Part One

OK so this is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a couple of months since we got back from our amazing trip to Disney World. Before we went, I did a lot of research about visiting Disney with an autistic child and now I am passing on my wisdom in the hope that it will help someone.

We know all autistic kids are not the same, so it’s hard to say whether Disney would be a dream trip or a nightmare for an autistic family. It really depends on how autism affects your child. You should bear in mind that the parks are busy, crowded places and that the weather is very hot. There is also a lot of sensory overload: bright colours, loud noises and intense rides. That being said, if you go to Disney prepared, there are things you can do to offset these problems. PREPARATION IS KEY.

Doing your research

There are so many great resources out there for doing research. Try to get some maps of the parks to familiarise yourself with the layout and the attractions. YouTube is a brilliant resource for looking up individual attractions, as many videos provide a POV of individual rides and experiences so you can see what to expect before you ride. Does the ride have dark sections? Flashing lights? Animatronics? Some of the rides are quite intense so parents would need to be aware of what they are letting themselves in for and also how their child is likely to react.

A good example would be the Mission Space ride at Epcot. This is one of the most intense rides at Disney and involves being shut in an enclosed space for the entirety of the ride and experiencing various forces. I’d really recommend researching rides like this to see what the experience actually involves. My autistic son actually loved it, but I know some people would feel uncomfortable.

Disability Pass

One of the best things about Disney is the fact that the staff are very kind and caring and want you to have the best experience possible. The parks provide a disability assistance pass to help visitors with additional needs (information correct at time of writing October 2018).

To get the pass, just go to guest services, usually located near the entrance, and tell the assistant why you need a pass for your family. Staff are not allowed to ask for proof of disability, but I think it is good manners to take it in anyway, especially if it details the particular problems that your child may experience in relation to a theme park visit. Staff may want to know why your child needs a pass and you could explain that they find crowds/waiting difficult or have sensory processing issues.

The pass will include all members of the family and will be linked to your tickets or wearable bands.

The pass works as a virtual queueing system. It may not get you on a ride immediately.

For example, say that the queue to splash mountain is one hour. You go to the entrance (standby queue) and tell the staff that you want a return time. They will scan your band or ticket and tell you to come back in one hour, at which point you can enter the fast pass line straight away. During that hour you cannot use the disability pass for any other rides, but you could use the time to take a rest, visit a cafe or check out the shops.

Staff also recommend using the disability pass in conjunction with the fast pass system to maximise the amount of rides you can visit. Each visitor is allowed three fast passes a day, which allow them to access a ride via the quicker fast pass queue. By choosing fast passes carefully and “layering” them with the disability passes, you can go from ride to ride in a more efficient manner.

I should also point out that when staff give you a return time, that time is good for a whole hour. For example, say they told you to come back to ride splash mountain at 2:00 pm but you end up going to meet a character and you overrun your time. Don’t worry! You can still come back as late as 3:00 pm and still use the pass. Staff understand that you are likely to get sidetracked by other things during your visit.

You only need to register for the pass once and it is good for the whole trip and valid in all of the parks except for the water parks. It is also not valid for the character meet and greets.

If you have any questions or if there is something I haven’t covered about the passes, please let me know. I’ll be writing more about the parks soon so if anyone has any suggestions of topics they’d like me to cover, please drop a comment in the comment section. Thanks.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Worry Eater Toy

As in my previous post, I want to point out that this is a product that I bought with my own money and this post is not sponsored in any way. I'm just reviewing a toy that might help some of you out there with anxious kids.

My son has been having problems with ruminating (playing the same thoughts on a loop in his head) and general anxieties. He finds that it does help to write his feelings down, as the physical act of writing forces him to slow down and think deeply, which has a calming effect.

I was shopping online and saw these toys and thought they were a great idea to take that concept a little further. The toys are called Worry Eaters and are little plush characters with a zip mouth.

The idea is that the child (or teen or even adult!) can write down their worries, bad thoughts or nightmares on a piece of paper and then zip it inside the toy, who then "eats" the worry and makes it disappear.

The toys come in all different sizes or even key rings. Ours is called Enno. There are lots of colours and styles to choose from and they are nice and soft and sensory. The zip has large plastic teeth so is not likely to get caught.

The design is simple enough that something similar could probably be made at home quite easily, or adapted to suit a particular need.

Anyway, I'm going to see how things go with our Worry Eater and report back in a few weeks so watch this space...

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Cooling Gel Pad

Please note this is NOT a sponsored post. It is just my review of my experience with a product that I bought with my own money. Readers may find it useful.

It is so hot here at the moment and our autistic kids do seem to suffer and wilt in the heat, don't they?
Sleeping can be difficult and they can get stressed because of the sensory overload from the hot weather.

A friend of mine, who is also an autism parent, suggested buying a gel pad. I'd never heard of them before and was intrigued to find out more.

They pads are actually designed for pets. The idea is that dogs and cats get hot in the summer but the pad cools down their body temperature. The pad is filled with a special gel that wicks heat away from the body. They do not need to be refrigerated and do not use electricity. The secret is in the special cooling gel inside. They can be useful for pets with arthritis and other medical conditions.

The pads are perfect for autistic children for a number of reasons. Firstly, the gel makes them quite weighty, like a weighted blanket, which may be calming. The gel also feels quite squishy and sensory.

As you apply pressure to the pad, it starts to feel cool, so it's perfect for putting on a bed or chair. It feels really good.

My kids and cat have tried the pad and everyone loves it. You can get different sized ones, but the one I got was a small one from B and M. It cost me £5, which I thought was great value. The brand was "Chilli Paws."

I hope this information helps someone. And remember- try and stay cool!

Monday, 16 July 2018

Dining Out With an Autistic Child

We went out for a meal yesterday, a farewell meal for some dear friends who are moving away.

It's lovely to be invited to things like this, but obviously a bit of planning is involved for it to be a success. A lot involves anticipating what difficulties your child may have and how these may be overcome.

I think the main problem for autistic people when eating out is the sensory overload, which is coming from all directions. The restaurant may be unfamiliar and there are likely to be lots of noises from people talking and from the kitchens. Visually, think about the impact that decor and lighting may have on a sensitive child. Thirdly, consider the food options and whether there will be an option that the child feels comfortable with.

Parents also need to consider waiting times, as food needs to be cooked and service isn't always very fast. If a child is hungry, their immediate needs could be overwhelming them.

So by anticipating these potential issues, we can come in with solutions to counter them.

It can be a good idea to find images of the restaurant on the internet, so that the child can see what the layout and decor is like before they go. Maybe you could find out when the restaurant is quiet or busy and schedule a visit at a quieter time. You could also do a "dry run" by going to see the restaurant before the actual visit so that they know what to expect.

If the child is sensitive to noise, then parents could utilise tools like ear defenders or maybe some headphones and familiar music which should hopefully have a calming effect and serve as a distraction. Again, it may help to sit in a quieter part of the restaurant that may not have as much footfall.

Most places have a menu that is accessible online so you can look at food options and discuss with your child what they may want to eat before they go. In our case, we were at an Indian restaurant but our son eats very plain food so we ordered him a plain omelette and chips, which he loved. Sometimes restaurants will cook things that are not on the menu if you ask nicely and explain the issues involved.

For long waiting times we use distraction techniques like a puzzle book, handheld console or colouring pad. This helps the time to go quicker when waiting for food.

It may be appropriate to mention your child's issues to restaurant staff so that they are understanding. Also have an action plan in mind for how you will deal with potential meltdowns. Is there a quiet room that you can take the child if they have a meltdown? Consider how you will deal with it if the worst case scenario happens.

If your child is on medication, make sure they have taken it before they go!

Our son behaved really well last night and I'm so proud of him.

If anyone has any tips or can think of anything I haven't t covered please feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Support Network

One of the really important things for parents of autistic children to think about is finding a support network. Never underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with people who understand your situation and care about you. Isolation is one of the worst things that an autism parent can experience.

But how can you go about creating a support network? The key is to find others who are in a similar situation to yourself and to reach out.

If your child goes to a special school, you could try and get chatting with the other parents at the school gate, or during coffee mornings or "get togethers" at the school. Hopefully these people live locally and you may be able to arrange to meet up and socialise outside of school hours.

The internet is also a great source of support, with many groups and chatrooms dedicated to parents of autistic children.

There may also be specialist groups in your local area, so it is well worth finding out what is available.

Real friendships can be made, with bonds that last a lifetime. And it is lovely to know that there is someone who understands the difficulties you face and can share the highs and the lows, giving encouragement when needed and a shoulder to cry on.

So what are you waiting for? Don't isolate yourself! Get networking! And if there isn't a group where you live, why not create one?