Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for December 2011

Christmas Magic (at Hopeful Parents)

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This post was originally published at Hopeful Parents.  You can find it by clicking the link >here<

Hopeful Parents

Christmas is strange for me.  I never feel more homesick than at this time of year, nor do I feel more guilty.  I have an overwhelming desire to give my kids the same kind of Christmas that I experienced as a child, and I just can’t.

I’m not just talking about the winter wonderland that was a feature of the season in northern England, such a far cry from the heat of a South African Christmas, but the experience of being around family and friends.  Of having those ordinary moments that appear so extraordinary through a child’s eyes.  The magic of Christmas.

Life as a special needs child is tough.  When she role-plays, I’m at once elated that she is developing her pretend play skills, and dismayed that her doll is “going to therapy” day after day. Childhood should be about wonder and magic, not mundane, routine therapy.

So at this time of year, I find it even more important to put the wonder back into her life.

My previous efforts have been far from successful.  At the age of 2, she figured out Santa Daddy within seconds.  Last year she was sick all Christmas Day, and this year she has already discovered Santa’s stash of presents.

With no sensory Santa around these parts, I knew I’d have to work some real magic.  Yesterday we hosted a Christmas party at our house, and a member of our community here very graciously made a special appearance.

It was perfect.  Pudding was at ease in her own home with us around.  She was so excited (and only a tiny bit afraid) to meet Santa, who seemed to know lots about our little girl.  She was as comfortable as can be, content to sit in the chair next to him even after he’d delivered the goods.

It isn’t going to be a Christmas just like the ones I used to know, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be every bit as special.

Maybe the marvel of Christmas isn’t just for kids.  Maybe we parents crave the smile on their delighted faces every bit as much as they desire a Hello Kitty or Thomas The Train toy.  The good thing is that those are the presents that can be delivered throughout the year, though they never stop being magical.  You just have to believe.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm

J is for Jealousy

with 18 comments

I’ve mentioned before that for all the ways they can be different, my kids have an interestingly typical relationship.  They occasionally play together, in their own way.  They certainly seek each other out.  There are fights.  There is blaming each other for things they’ve done wrong.  There is teaming up as co-conspirators to wreak havoc.  There is a surprising amount of what you might call “normal” sibling behaviour.  And amongst all that, is jealousy.

Both of my kids like a lot of attention, and each becomes jealous of the other, particularly if I’m the only one around.  It is hard to handle, this push and pull, particularly when their needs can make it hard to be around each other.  Often I feel that if I’m not letting one down, I’m letting them both down.

And that push and pull goes a good way to describing my own jealousy.  I don’t feel jealous very often.  I like my life and the choices that I’ve made.  But I’m only human.  Once in a while, a feeling of jealousy will overwhelm me.  Like when I took the kids to the park.

Our local playground is renovating, so we went to the park near where Cubby plays football (soccer) which has a playground next to a cafe/restaurant.  A couple of times, we girls have gone there while the boys were at their game.  Pudding loves flitting between the playground and my table.  I’m free to relax over a pot of tea while keeping an eye on her play.  We both have a good time.

With Cubby there too, sitting at the restaurant is out of the question.  The push and pull takes me from one direction to another.  There is no relaxing and observing with the two of them.  I sit on a bench, knowing it won’t be for long, but I’m feeling unwell and could use the break.  Pudding pushes off, wanting to explore and take her dolly for a walk.  Cubby pulls in to me.  When we first arrive he is overwhelmed at first by the other children running around and making noise.  I gently encourage him to adjust to his new surroundings, and away from the safety of my proximity.

Pudding wanders too far.  I want to pull her back into a closer orbit.  I push Cubby to follow me closer to Pudding, but he isn’t ready yet, and refuses to move.  I watch her closely.  We’re not far, but she keeps going in the wrong direction.  She hasn’t turned back yet, and I wonder if she remembers where we are.  I call to her, but she doesn’t hear, or doesn’t respond.  The other kids playing, the other adults sitting and chatting make too much noise.

She turns around in a circle, but she still doesn’t see me.  I wave my arms like an air traffic controller, but it is too bright, and there are too many others running around her field of vision.  Now she is scared, and I hear her calling me.  Her face is a picture of anxiety.  I pick up the protesting Cubby and run to her relief.  All is well again.  I abandon the bench, and draw both of them back to the playground, warning Pudding that she needs to keep looking for me.  She doesn’t stray again.

I want to rest.  I feel the first sting of jealousy as I look over at them.  Tables of mothers with their friends.  Worse, with their own mothers.  At that moment, I want nothing more in the world than to be sitting over tea with my mum.  I force myself to concentrate on the kids instead, so the emotion doesn’t take over.  Another child takes Pudding’s doll stroller without asking, and she lets her.  She just stands there, until I ask if she wants it back.  She does, and I coach her through asking the girl to return it.  And when the little brat refuses, I intervene myself, because her own parent who should be watching is at one of these tables, doing something other than paying attention to her child’s behaviour.

And the jealousy is throbbing now, because there is never a moment when I’m not paying attention to my kid’s behaviour.  This luxury of being able to ignore, to content yourself that your child will be fine is something all these mothers take for granted.  I can’t even sit on a bench when I feel sick.  I can’t even visit a doctor unless they’re in school.  I live on a different continent to all my relatives, and right at this moment I’m bitterly jealous of the carefree families relaxing in the sunshine.

I take the stroller and call Pudding and Cubby to join me on a climbing frame in the shape of a rocket.  My mood calms down as we play.  Cubby is driving us to the mall.  Pudding has her doll on her lap for the journey.  I’m pretending we can see planets and spaceships on our journey.  We have a few minutes of uninterrupted contentment.  Then we are disturbed.

A boy, probably eight or nine years old comes over to the rocket.  I get down so there is plenty of room for him to play as well, but hang close by.  He climbs up on top, over the area where my two are sitting.  Cubby moves away from the driver’s seat, and Pudding uses the space to lie down- she and Kelly doll are taking a nap.  A smile at the unexpected gift of pretend play.

The first time he does it, I think it was an accident.  He was trying to get down, and accidentally stood on her head as he looked for somewhere to place his feet.  That must have been it.  Even though there was plenty of other space around, he didn’t look before he started to climb down.  That had to be it.  She doesn’t react, though it must have hurt.  I look up at the boy, and he is looking down at Pudding.  But he isn’t climbing down.  And he raises his foot again, and stomps down harder on Pudding’s head.

This time I’m sure it is deliberate.  I’m too shocked to speak, and it is Cubby’s voice I hear telling me that the boy is kicking his sister.  He lifts his leg again, and before I know it, I’ve pulled myself up on the climbing frame, and we are face to face.  He freezes.  I don’t say anything, but the look on my face is enough.  He backs away and scampers off the rocket.  I go over to Pudding, still lying there, not even able to put her arms protectively around her head, but she is okay.

I’m not.  I’m not interested in the boy, but I’m poisoned with rage and I need to find this child’s parents.  He has already run out of sight.  I cast my eye over every table, but not one person is looking, or following in his direction.  Pudding wants to go home, so we do.

But even once we’re home, I can feel that jealousy like venom spreading through my body.  Because if my child attacks another, whether provoked or not, or under sensory assault, or just because they are plain mean; we have to answer it with more therapy.  With more hours spent helping our children learn to respond to the world in a socially appropriate way.  We don’t get to ignore it, and we don’t get to sit over a latte oblivious to the damage being done.  We can’t absolve ourselves of responsibility even for a moment.

There is an antidote, of course.  Those other parents don’t know what they’re missing out on, and they really are missing out on so much.  You can’t fully appreciate what you have when you’re not paying attention.  And not every parent of typically developing children is inattentive, not by a long shot.  But some are, and at times I’m just plain jealous of them, when perhaps it should be the other way round.

This post is part of my A-Z series.  You can find the previous ones by clicking >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Wordless Wednesday 14 Dec 11

with 9 comments

Problem-solving the Pudding way.

We used the spare bedroom to stash the Christmas presents before they were sent to Santa to deliver.  Naturally, the door was kept locked, but one day somebody forgot, and Pudding infiltrated the room.  Luckily the gifts were placed high in a wardrobe, and I found her before she figured out a way to get them.  From then on, the key was placed out of reach on a hook that only the grown-ups could reach.  Of course, that was just a precaution.  With her significant fine and gross motor delays, and difficulties with motor planning, those presents should be safe under lock and key.  The arrow shows the keys.

Day one- she comes up with a solution, but she still isn't tall enough to get the keys. I find her and we play outside so she can't try again.

Day two- she tries again, this time lifting a very heavy chair from my room. Success, in the time it took me to change her brother.

Aspie girl 1, Mummy 0.  I eventually found the keys, and moved Santa’s stash elsewhere, but something tells me it isn’t over yet.

I hope to never, ever, read a report that says she has poor problem-solving skills.  I have good evidence to the contrary.

Happy Wordless Wednesday everyone!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Safe House

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Once Pudding’s birthday is over and done with, I give December over to Christmas.  We pulled out our not-so-authentic tree and boxes of ornaments, and realized that we must have inadvertently sent a box of decorations to storage.  We can’t find our stocking holders here, and probably some other things that I haven’t yet noticed.  We waited until Cubby went down for a nap, then got to work, knowing that otherwise we’d have two sets of hands thwarting our efforts.

Pudding adored getting into the boxes.  She delighted in unwrapping our ornaments, recognizing them from Christmases gone by.  It always make me wonder just how far back she can remember.  For those of us who aren’t blessed with such a sturdy memory these days, I could look on the bottom of my ornaments to see where on our travels I’d collected each one.  I didn’t need to write on my Red Sox ornament to remind me of my day Defying Gravity in Boston.  The following day, we headed out to the craft market so that South Africa would be represented on our tree of travels.

And of course, there is our other collection.  A steady record of our kids’ special interests through the years.  Pudding loves these.  It reminds me I need to find a Hello Kitty ornament to out on our tree this year.

Having a tree up is a challenge.  There has already been casualties, including the beheading of Santa on my favourite ornament bought one snowy December in Germany.  The kids can’t help but touch, and it takes all the patience we can muster not to chastise them for something that can’t be helped.  Unless, of course, we were to skip the ritual for a year.

I find that as I get further away from my traditional expectations of Christmas, I cling harder to the rituals that we are able to keep in place.  It is summer here in

Shortly before he was beheaded

South Africa, and it feels very different from every Christmas I’ve ever known.  I feel very far from home.  It is tempting to skip, to ignore the time of year when it just feels so wrong.

But that is the thing about rituals- they’re the thing that make us feel safe.  We need them.  This won’t be our home until we’ve spent a Christmas here.  I’ll be homesick until here feels like home.  It may not be the kind of Christmas I’d choose, but this is the Christmas we have, and we’ll make it our own.

Earlier today I was going through old paperwork, and I found some language tests the Pudding’s teacher had carried out over the previous year.  One test was the question: Who keeps you safe?  Pudding had answered incorrectly all three times she’d been tested, including the last time, in May shortly before we left, when she’d answered “home.”

A telling mistake, she’d confused “who” with “what” or perhaps “where.”  But even though she was incorrect, I know how right she is.  I can’t help but be glad that she associates safe with home.  And every ritual, every memory we carve from this house, from any house, will add to that feeling of security.  So we’ll have our first Christmas here, and I might have to sacrifice some of my ornaments in the process, but we’ll make new memories in the process.  Safely at home, where Christmas is supposed to be.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

A Very Pudding Party

with 9 comments

I was so excited that our December baby was finally going to have a summer party.  Those four years in the Northern hemisphere meant Pudding’s parties were always victims of the weather.  From

The cake was amazing- so glad I didn't make my own this time.

heavy rains to snow, it had always been a problem. Pudding doesn’t like to be indoors.  She is cabin feverish at the best of times, but add a party with all those people and change of routines, with no escape, and it is sensory overload waiting to happen.  I know what you’re thinking- skip the party, but there lies the problem- Pudding likes parties.  I know that this may change as she gets older, but my girl has been talking about her party since August, so I was determined to make it special for her.

Baking cookies before the party

This year, instead of allowing dysfunction of the senses to rule the party, I decided to make the party sensational, and give my girl all the delicious input she needs to keep her senses on an even keel.

So I was glad to be here in South Africa; my winter-born baby could be the summer girl she is at heart.  I planned an outdoor sensory feast, with Pudding as the gourmet.  We’d set up the bouncy castle, put out the trampoline, steer kids over to the swings and sand table, and have a big tub of tactile goo to play in.  Imagine then, my dismay when I woke up and found the weather site predicted storms the whole day through.  Ever hopeful, I checked 5 more sites, and the news was no better.

I racked my brains to come up with indoor sensory-based activities instead.  We put the bouncy castle on the patio area where it would be protected from the elements.  I found some Hello Kitty dough for tactile and proprioceptive play, together with real dough so Pudding could help me to make cookies before we got started.  She declined her weighted compression vest as it covered up her new Hello Kitty dress.  Still, her senses were in check, and the hardest part for her was waiting for the party to get started.  I requested her help with setting up the tables, a task she delighted in.

I was waiting for the sky to turn ominously dark, but it never happened.  The weather disaster never took place, and all those meteorologists were

Pudding balked at the blindfold, of course.

wrong.  However, it being Pudding’s party, there had to be some kind of disaster.  This year it was poor Spectrummy Daddy, who was suddenly hit by a nasty stomach virus and was out for the rest of the day.  In spite of running around in a frenzy, I managed to check in with Pudding from time to time.  We had our first 20 minutes or so where Pudding did her best to hide, and guests did their best to interact with her.  I promised that she would warm up once she was left alone, and warm up she did.  She was amazing!

Decorating cookies in the shape of cats and fives was a big hit.

The only time she dug her heels in was at the suggestion of wearing a blindfold for the game of stick the bow on Hello Kitty.  She wasn’t going to entertain such nonsense as even closing her eyes- how would she get the bow in the right place if she couldn’t see?!  She much preferred the cookie decorating activity, which was a hit with the other kids too. And who doesn’t enjoy eating their own handiwork?

In fact, the sensory elements to the party were by far the most enjoyed by all the kids taking part, and gave Pudding a chance to interact with others on her terms.  There was enough going on for her to wander from activity to activity without interruption.  So in the end, no storms, no meltdowns, just a happy little 5 year-old getting the party that she needs.

It was more than wonderful, it was sensational.  Just like our girl.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 8, 2011 at 10:58 am

Wordless Wednesday 07 Dec 11

with 7 comments

Photo Credit: mellychan

 

I often say that Pudding and I are two peas in a pod, from our looks to our mannerisms, and this photo taken right before she blew out the candles on her cake proves it!

Many thanks to my talented friend mellychan for taking this candid shot.  Next time I’ll wear make-up!

Happy Wordless Wednesday everyone!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

I is for Infatuation

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This morning it started at 4.07 am.  Pudding was awake, and, as usual, had been in our bed for most of the night.  Already buzzing with excitement, she couldn’t hold it in any longer.

“What’s the boy’s name?”

It isn’t yet 6 in the morning here, and already she has asked me 54 times what his name is.  This has been going on for weeks.  Pudding has a crush, an infatuation, a special interest in a boy at school, and boy do we know about him.  This boy is twice her age, and also on the autism spectrum.  He attends her school, but is not in the same class.  His name is Jimmy*, and Pudding knows this well, but it doesn’t stop her asking.

“Mummy!  What’s the boy’s name?”

I am tired.  And cranky.  I don’t feel like playing this game, but the rules are that she won’t stop until I answer appropriately.  I tell her his name, and that leaves her satisfied, for now.  It doesn’t last long.

Pudding gets a little obsessive-compulsive with regards to her infatuation.  I was initially hopeful that he might be oblivious to Pudding’s interest, but no such luck.  He knows.  Fortunately Pudding knows no embarrassment.  Or does she?

When she sees Jimmy, she covers her hands with her eyes.  In fact, just at the mention of his name, she covers her face.  Even though she was the one to raise the subject by asking his name.  Again, I don’t make the rules.

Jimmy is a nice enough kid, and he is very verbal.  I’ve spoken to him a few times, and I’ve had worse crushes, I can tell you.  I initially had some hope that she would be interested enough in him to facilitate a conversation, but no such luck.  When he tries to speak to her, she goes back to covering her eyes and repeating no.

All she really wants to do is ask his name.  I’ve tried (oh, I’ve tried!) to expand the conversation to other things about Jimmy, but this isn’t what she wants.  I’ve tried to joke around with hey by changing up the boy’s name, and she REALLY doesn’t want to do that!  Of course, Cubby thinks the boy’s name should be Cubby.  Pudding passionately, sometimes violently disagrees with this.  She doesn’t have the self-control to limit the time asking her question yet.  Our only hope is to submit, or to steer her interest to something else, and hope that she’ll grow out of it.  Like any crush.

This infatuation does have some uses though.  Pudding’s OT tells me that when he is in the gross motor room, she suddenly begins to perform to her audience.  With a developmental coordination disorder, and motor-planning challenges, gross motor is Pudding’s idea of hell.  If she struggles to do something, she has no interest in trying.  So it is nice to have an interest there to encourage her.

The teachers think Jimmy quite likes the attention, and what Aspie pre-teen couldn’t use an ego boost?  For right now, there is no harm, I just hope we can encourage her to actually speak to boys she likes.  Of course, when she is forty, and her Daddy has come to terms with his little girl having romantic feelings.

Jimmy does have another use too.  One day at school another boy tried to take Pudding’s strawberries from her lunch box.  He swooped in and rescued our damsel in distress.  Of course, Pudding isn’t the kind of girl who needs saving, but who doesn’t like somebody else to do their bidding?

Speaking of doing her bidding, she just asked me a question.

Jimmy, honey.  The boy’s name is Jimmy.**

*No, it isn’t.

**It still isn’t, but if I don’t use my own kids’ real names I shouldn’t use another child’s, right?

This is the letter I in my series of posts from A-Z.  You can find the others >here<.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

December 1, 2011 at 6:23 am