Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for September 2011


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Just before Cubby started preschool, I mused about if we were ready for this next step.  Here is how it went…

The first day, he’d been as excited as can be.  He happily carried in his backpack, and ran to get to his class.  Pudding and I stayed with him for a few minutes as he discovered new toys.  Then he cried when we left.  And when I say, I mean CRY.  I could hear his screams as I put Pudding back in the car to get to her school. I collected him early, and he was still crying when I turned up.  He’d spent the whole morning in either the teacher’s or assistants’ arms. His dummy (pacifier) never left his mouth.  He didn’t speak to anyone.  He didn’t interact with anybody else.   He wouldn’t eat or drink.  He didn’t focus on a single thing apart from the gate, waiting for me to collect him. I felt awful.

On Tuesday, he woke up in a state.  He knew what was coming, and he didn’t want any part of it.  When we arrived at school, his teacher had to pry his arms away from around my neck.  I skulked away with the promise that I’d return in 2 hours.
The following day, he attached himself to a particular assistant.  As long as he was with her, he was okay.  He wasn’t crying as I collected him.
The day after, he cried as usual when we got to school, but he sobbed that he wanted his dummy and I left, still feeling guilty. When I collected him, he was happy.  He’d stayed by the assistant all day, and he’d made a racecar in baking.
Still crying on the fifth day, he entered the classroom and asked where his favourite assistant was.  I waited until noon to collect him.  It was circle time, and he was the only child not in the circle, sitting by himself on a bench.  He couldn’t wait to tell me about the book they’d read together.

Then came a busy weekend, complete with dislocated elbow, a friend’s birthday party at the fire station, and giant slide.

The next day was Monday again, and the tears were back.  But when I collected him he was playing in the ball pit near the other kids.

On Tuesday there were more tears.  But  when I collected him, he told me the name of the boy he was playing with.

Wednesday, there would have been no tears, but then I dropped his cup on his head as I got him out of the car, and it was just.too.much.  He needed the dummy and his assistant to get over it.  By the time I returned, he was eager to tell me about his painting.

Today.  No tears.  No dummy (though he did stash one in his pocket).  No guilt.  Just a preschooler going to preschool, and a Mummy finally convinced she is doing the right thing by her boy.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 29, 2011 at 10:13 am

Wordless Wednesday 28 Sep 11

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The giant slide.

Happy Wordless Wednesday!


Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 28, 2011 at 4:12 am


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Yesterday, I went to the gym.  Wait, that shouldn’t be a blog post.  That kind of inane comment is just what Facebook was made for!  But going to the gym is no ordinary matter for me, because this was the first time I went to the gym in 5 years.  With Cubby in preschool until noon, I’m now at liberty in the morning hours.  My mind was full with the overflow from a particularly hard week and I needed to work it out.  To the gym I went!

Although I was pregnant the last time I went to the gym, I was in much better condition back then.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks limping around with a herniated disc, but even before then I was out of shape.  Epic inter-continental moves with special needs children is not a lifestyle which lends itself well to regular workouts.  You know that wall that runners hit during their marathon?  I was hitting mine just getting started.

You know though, if you have spent the last few years of your life tending to little people round the clock, it gets a bit weird being without them.  Like having nobody holding my hand.  My arms were all dangling free.  I felt a little strange being by myself, which is odd considering most of the people there were alone too.  I decided to start on the indoor running track.

Ooh yes, my swanky gym has a climate controlled indoor running track with panoramic views of the city.  It is divided into three lanes: walk, run, pass.  Nothing to do but start walking, and I did.  The first lap went surprisingly well, so I set myself a challenge, I’d do 10 of them and I’d alternate walking and jogging.  I’m only talking 10 laps, this was no marathon.

It was a marathon.

After a couple of laps, I was ready to pass.  And I don’t mean run in the pass lane to overtake the other joggers.  There were no others on the track.  I mean take a pass on this whole exercise malarkey.  I was competing against myself, and losing fast.  Or slowly.  Losing anyway.  I hadn’t brought my inhaler.  My thighs used to have a lot more space between them.  I really could have used a drink of water.  I came up with a dozen excuses to stop.
But I didn’t.

I kept going.  My marathon.  At around lap 7 or 8, I noticed that there was a distinct temperature change as I moved around the track.  I hadn’t noticed at first, but as I passed through the sections with windows, the African sun burned through.  In the areas with no windows, the air conditioning was icy, way too much of a contrast for my stressed out body.  Just like how certain things don’t bother Pudding at all when she is feeling good, but when she gets upset, she is overwhelmed by the intensity of input she normally tolerates.  I didn’t feel like carrying on.

But I did.

I made my 10 laps.  I crossed the finishing line.  Nobody was there waving me on.  There won’t be a medal in it for me.  And I certainly didn’t break any records.  But this is my marathon, and I kept going.  I even moved on to the rest of the gym, spending over 2 hours there in the end.  I know that next time I try that track, I’ll find it easier.  The next time easier still.  In no time I’ll welcome the heat of the sun that reminds me how cool the a/c is.  I’ll find it easy, and wonder what I ever found so hard about putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m not who I was the last time I went to the gym.  My body has changed, but so have I.  I’m stronger now, at least on the inside.  With time and effort, that will reveal itself on the outside.  I’m aching, but I went back to the gym.  This time I was gentler with myself.  No track for me today, but I’ll be back.  Now that I’ve started my marathon, there is nothing to do but keep going.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 27, 2011 at 5:05 am

A is for Advocacy

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I have decided to begin an A to Z series of postings.  Because I’m the kind of person who just has to start at the beginning, here I am at the letter A.  A is for many things.  A is for Autism and Asperger’s, of course.  A is also for ADHD, another diagnosis for Pudding.  A is for anxiety, goodness knows I’ve written about that, and hardly covered how it impacts our life.  A is for auditory processing dysfunction.  I could keep going, but today I’m starting with advocacy.

Whenever power cuts and my lousy internet connection have permitted, I’ve been following the dialogue series between parent-advocates and self-advocates.  I’m glad I have, it has been illuminating, and I’m very glad TGPA provided this forum to air this most necessary discussion.   Are we as parent-advocates listening enough to what self-advocates are saying?  Can we really be doing so when organizations involving autism research and support don’t consult with adults with autism, effectively barring them from the conversation about them.  Who knows autism better?  Someone who lives with it, or someone who parents a child with the diagnosis?  Both the (ongoing) series of posts, and the many comments have left me with much food for thought.

We have to start listening to what adults on the spectrum are saying, and supporting them in their advocacy efforts, particularly when, especially when we as parents don’t like hearing what they have to say.  As was mentioned in the posts and comments, there is a difference between parental advocacy and public advocacy, and it is clear that adults on the spectrum will do a much better role at the centre of the latter.  I plan to embrace my role as supporter and ally, learning when to speak out for my child, and when to listen.

I can’t help but think of Pudding, and how she might feel as an adult if her opinions and advocacy efforts were dismissed in favour of mine.  It would be absurd, it would be wrong.  Yet this is the experience of many adults brave enough to advocate in a world that doesn’t welcome them or their opinions.  It is hard, for us as parents who have nurtured and protected our dependent children to relinquish that role as our children age.  I saw it in several families when I worked as a carer.  I’m certain that I’ll struggle with it too, as most parents do.  My job is to help Pudding become as independent as possible, even independent of me.

Pudding herself as an independent streak running through her.  If she is able to do something herself, she will do it, and refuse any assistance.  Our efforts as parents lie in encouraging and motivating her to do those things that she struggles with, many of which will be necessary for independent living.  Her current educational/therapeutic program features some intensive occupational therapy.  She makes a game effort, but sometimes the tasks are just too much for her.

One day last week I collected her from school, and her teacher informed me with a smile that Pudding had been “non-compliant” during a challenging activity.  Struggling to find the right words to tell her she needed a break, she told the teacher that she (Pudding) was naughty and needed a time out.  Her school has a calm room with a ball pit and swings, and her teacher directed her there for as long as she needed.  We’ve established goals for speech therapy to learn the phrases to say when she has had enough, and we continue in occupational therapy to find ways to help Pudding learn what helps her to regulate when her senses are overloaded.

My girl is fortunate enough to be in a place where she can assert herself, and she will be listened to and respected for it.  I only hope that I can say the same thing when she gets older.  As parents, we don’t have to wait to start listening, not when there are adults struggling to be heard right now.  It might be the greatest act of advocacy we can perform.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 26, 2011 at 8:19 am

Santa’s Little Helper

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She’s making her list, she’s checking it twice.  It doesn’t really matter if she’s naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town.  In Pudding’s world, we’re gearing up for Christmas.  Never mind that this is only September.  Never mind that we’re moving from Spring to Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere.  The last thing I feel is Christmassy.  But that matters not at all to our heroine.

At the weekend she declared: “It’s Christmastime.”  And that is all is takes.  For once I’m glad that our belongings haven’t arrived from the US yet, because if she found the decorations, no doubt our house would resemble a grotto within minutes.  Last year I got the tree up the week before Christmas, and that was plenty for me.

The thing is, Pudding is right about making these preparations.  We now rely on Pouch mail services, which is sporadic at the best of times, and a nightmare leading up to the holiday season.  A couple of weeks ago we were sent an email telling us that we should make sure we order everything in the next couple of weeks to be certain we’ll have it in time for Christmas.  Oh dear, not going to happen.

At least Pudding is prepared.  She has a very long list that she wants Santa to know about.  I think she sensed our unease, and looked for other ways to reach the man in Lapland.  She found it, in her grandparents.  Pudding opens up Skype on the computer, and calls her grandparents, not minding such things as time zones.  Here is a typical conversation:

Pudding: Hello, hello, hello?  Hello….

Grandparent: Hi Pudding, is that you?  Where’s your Mummy? [It is about 5 am here, lucky we love you]

Pudding:Hello….Hellooooo  [Pudding will ignore any interruptions to her carefully planned monologue, these people are amateurs!]

Grandparent: Yes, hello to  you too Pudding.  [There you go, much better.]

Pudding: What’s Santa gonna buy for you? [A little pronoun reversal between family. Not to be interpreted as an interest in your Christmas wishes, oh no.]

Grandparent: Well, I don’t know, Pudding!  Tell me, what is Santa going to bring for you? [Good, Grandparent, you’re playing properly!]

Pudding: A toy Hello Kitty.  A toy Abby Cadabby. Some clothes for Kelly doll. A buggy for Kelly doll. A high chair for Kelly doll. A pink castle. A Hello Kitty nightgown. A wand. A pinkalicious dress…..

In the same order, every time.  It doesn’t matter which set of grandparents, she has determined that they have an ‘in’ with the jolly old fellow, and she is going to make the most of it.  You may have noted that Santa buys presents, according to Pudding.  She is unimpressed by my talk of elves and workshops.  She wants nice new shiny things from toy shops.  Preferably wrapped in pink.

Never one to miss a chance to exploit my girl’s wishes, I came up with a plan to help us suffer through this eternal Christmas countdown.  We’re going to make a big list, and bedazzle the heck out of it with winter stickers (ooh, fine motor delights) and glitter glue and all kinds of things.  When she earns a reward, she can add to her list.  But here is the thing- she must add to it.  She can use those infuriating kiddy scissors and paste a picture, or she can learn to write the new words, but that list will be her own work.

This year, Santa is managing car repairs and medical bills galore, he is going to make sure she earns everything on her list.  He is going to have his work cut out getting all the way down here on his sleigh.  Even if he does have a couple of sets of elves suckered in on either side of the Atlantic.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

Wordless Wednesday 21 Sep 11

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What, your bathroom isn't like this?

Housing abroad is frequently quirky.  Our current home is the quirkiest I’ve yet seen though.  Take our downstairs bathroom.  Here we have a small enclosed tree with the branches cut off.  The top is secured- a perfect  place for keeping your pet monkey.  Because who wouldn’t want to shower with their pet monkey watching them?

I’m scratching my head as to what to make of this area if you don’t have a pet monkey.  A friend suggested keeping the troublesome twosome out there during Time Out.  Perfect.  You see, if they got dirty playing the plants, they could shower off as they came back indoors….

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September 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids

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Look, a book!  Forty of the best special needs bloggers have contributed to this collection of stories about parenting our amazing kids.  I’m honoured to have taken part in this collective, which will make you laugh, cry, and realize that you’re never alone.  All the stories have never been published before.  Click here to find out more.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 20, 2011 at 3:06 am

Ready or Not (at Hopeful Parents)

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Hopeful Parents

This was originally published at Hopeful Parents.  You can read the post here.

I was out of sight during a game of hide-and-seek, and Cubby couldn’t find me.  Just a few months ago, this entire scenario would have been impossible.  Before we started Early Intervention, I couldn’t leave Cubby.  Ever.  I couldn’t go into another room.  He could only sleep next to me.  I couldn’t use the bathroom alone or take a shower.  His occupational therapist began introducing games of hide-and-seek for the three of us at the local playground, and slowly, slowly, he got better.  He learned to trust her, and eventually learned to trust that I would come back.

Mummy, where are you?  I miss you!

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t marvel at this boy’s language skills.  His ease at expressing himself and his emotions, so strikingly different from his older sister.  I let myself exhale a little.  It won’t be so hard for this one.  He can communicate, he can tell someone else what is wrong.  He doesn’t rely on me to decode every situation, every adverse sensory reaction.

He made other kids of progress too under Early Intervention.  He strengthened his muscles, both fine and gross.  He can hold a crayon correctly, he can jump from one place to another.  He learned to tolerate being touched, and ask what was making the noise.

But there were some goals we didn’t achieve before we moved.  He still struggles with waiting and turn-taking.  He is still an anxious little boy whose attention span is very short.  Most of all, though, he is still a child that can’t always play well with others.  He gets too overwhelmed.  He prefers to sit on the sidelines, observing.  For all the great strides he has made, I still worry.  Of course I worry- I’m his mother, and he will always be my baby.

As his mother I can do so much for him.  I can give him a sensory diet, to lessen his need to spin himself in circles.  I can distract him when he repeats things over and over- echoing his sister’s echolalia.  I can explain things, prepare him, help him understand this at times confusing world.  But I can only do so much.  What I can’t do is be a typically developing peer and playmate.

So today he starts preschool.  He is excited.  He is ready, but I’m not.  I’m afraid that this sensitive little soul will become overwhelmed and will withdraw just as Pudding did when she started school.  Recently we’ve spent a lot of time together, just the two of us.  Over a cup or two of rooibos tea, we’ve talked about school, and how Mummy can’t stay, and the teacher and new friends will be there to play, until I collect him before lunch.  Every day he asks to go to school.  He is ready.  I can’t hide from it, not when he is seeking something more.

So I stepped out of my hiding place.

I miss you too!

I gave him a hug, and he giggled.  Ready or not, here we come.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 19, 2011 at 10:52 am


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Cubby’s school required a physical before admission, so I found a pediatrician and made an appointment for both kids.  Pudding has always been my robust, healthy child, so I wasn’t too concerned about her.  As the days got closer to the appointment, though, her allergies seemed suddenly worse, and she developed diarrhea.  When we finally met with the doctor, she looked pasty and had dark circles under her eyes.

The doctor asked if iron deficiency might be a problem.  Honestly, Pudding has a better diet than most preschoolers, and is in no way as picky as her brother when it comes to food.  I asked him what the symptoms were: headaches (she wouldn’t be able to tell me), weakness (erm..), irritability (well…), attention problems (sure…), and pica (yes).  We’d have to do a blood test, and lucky for us, there was a laboratory right there in the hospital.

Unlucky for us, I was by myself with both kids, no social story preparation for Pudding, and yet more paperwork to complete while we waited.  Somehow we got through it,and waited a few days for the results.  When I got the phone call from the doctor, he told me had more questions than answers, and I’d need to come back in urgently for more blood samples.  I heard “anemia”, “abnormal results” and “white blood cells” before I started to panic.

We returned for another blood draw, but then the laboratory botched the results, so we are waiting again.  The doctor has assured us that it probably isn’t anything too serious, and we are treating her anemia while we try and find out more.  There are many things it could be, so we just have to wait and see what happens.

As I’m sure you all know by now, patience isn’t my virtue, which is why I’m convinced I’m constantly sent trials like these.  I’m sure whoever is in charge of the Ever-After keeps looking up my chart and deciding I’m still not worthy- retest.

So here we are, with more questions than answers.  More worries than peace of mind.  Treating symptoms when we don’t know the cause.  As always, the unknown being a scary place for a parent.  I’m hoping Pudding makes a rapid recovery from this mystery illness.  I’m just glad the doctor picked up on this before it became more serious.  The symptoms had completely eluded me.  I just wish we knew what was causing these problems, and I wish I knew for sure she wasn’t in pain.  The longer we wait, the more uncomfortable I become.

One thing I am comfortable about, is that this particular doctor will find out what is making Pudding ill.  It turns out he diagnosed the first ever case of Asperger’s Syndrome in this country.  The young man was 14, and had been shunted from one doctor to another all his life, until our doctor finally saw what everybody else was missing.  I’m just hoping he can find the missing piece of the puzzle for our girl.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 16, 2011 at 6:19 am

Wordless Wednesday 14 Sep 11

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She doesn't get this from me

When I was Pudding’s age, I had a pretend iron and ironing board, and would blissfully play for hours on end.  The domestic conditioning didn’t stick though.  I never iron, nor would I ever buy Pudding such toys, but it seems girls will be girls no matter what.  Don’t worry- the iron wasn’t plugged in.  My feminist side isn’t happy, but yay for more pretend play!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 14, 2011 at 3:19 am