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Proud Parents of Autistic Children
Member of Brit Mums
Last week I went across the road to our local park and took my camera with me. When I saw that the theme for the Gallery this week was ‘delicate’ I thought these photos would fit perfectly. Taking the camera really made me look at the park in a different way.
I’ve walked past or through that park nearly every day for the past 13 years. My children have played there, we’ve had picnics and walked with friends and their dogs. I’ve taken the odd snap shot of the children and their friends in the past, but never really looked any further than the grass and play equipment.
The original intention of doing this was to try and find something different for my Son and I to do together during the holidays without spending a heap of money. Unfortunately, so far B hasn’t really shown much interest. Anxiety levels are riding high after finishing school and he isn’t really interested in doing much more than playing the Wii and watching Top Gear. But I will continue to try.
So here are a couple of pictures of the beautiful flowers I saw.
To see what others have posted in The Galery you can visit the sticky fingers website.
So, my Son has left his primary school. There were the usual parties and end of year / leavers assemblies, which were all lovely. But they never quite capture all the memories for every person.
My little man did brilliantly at primary school, better than any of us could have imagined when he first, nervously, started at nursery school 8 years ago. He is not sporty, he wasn’t naughty and he wasn’t wildly funny or outgoing, so, inevitably he didn’t feature very highly in the montages of pictures and slides and sketches which were shown and performed at the leavers party and assembly.
So, to show how far he’s come and how proud we are of him I thought I’d create my own personal collection of memories and tributes for my fantastic young man.
In January 2003 he started nursery. At that time a diagnosis of aspergers syndrome was not anywhere on the radar. We knew he didn’t want to play with other children, but it was assumed that that reluctance was related to his visual impairment and that with strategies in place he would learn these skills at nursery.
I can remember the nursery teacher visiting us at home to find out about his interests and what he liked to do. At that time my boy loved buses, the moon and the colour red. He only wanted to wear red clothes (school uniform was blue), he would only write with a red crayon or pencil and would grab from other children if they dared to use the red pens. But he could count, he could sort, he could make patterns and recognise letters and numbers. He chatted away happily to the teachers and learned to play along-side other children, if not actually with them.
He took part in the sports days and they did a sponsored pedal push for childline. A photographer from the local paper came along and my little man was in the front of picture they printed. We still have a very faded copy stuck on our kitchen cupboard.
I can remember the very first nativity play, in which B proudly played the part of a ‘camel feeder’ for which the costume was brown clothing accessorised with a bucket from our toy cleaning set!
Luckily the transition to reception and proper full-time school was quite easy as this was a small primary school and B got a place in the reception class at the school where he’d been at nursery. He was very familiar with the classroom and teacher and with most of the children.
Reception was a mixed bag. B was desperate to learn to read. He knew all his letters. They had ‘key words’ to learn in sets. B went through them at pretty much one set per week, and had learnt to read all of them by Easter of his Reception year, the aim was that children should have learnt these key words by the end of Year 1. He was generally happy and beginning to mix more with the other children. He had made friends, we had children home for tea and B was going back to play with other children.
There was a second nativity play, where B graduated to the dizzy heights of playing a shepherd.
There was another pedal push
So we moved into year 1. Year one is really the start of the formal school curriculum, as such it was much more structured, there was more sitting at tables and formal learning, which suited B. He continued to do well with his school work and earned a certificate for playing in the Christmas Play ‘Tea Towels and Tinsel’. Year 1 was a year of several trips, to the National Gallery, ‘The White House’ (a small local museum) and, his favourite, The Look Out Discovery Centre in Berkshire. Year one was also one of the few years where B managed to get a 100% attendance certificate for one term. This is something that he always wanted to get, but usually missed out on because of regular hospital trips. If it hadn’t been for hospital appointments there would have been several more of these over the years.
The really big next milestone for B was Year 3, aged 7 – 8. He still didn’t really like play times. His teacher in year 3 encouraged him to join a group of children whom she was working with to lead playground games to give playtimes a bit of structure. B loved it. He joined in, it gave him a structure and something to enjoy. His confidence grew and he got to go out a few times to other schools to take part in special workshops with children from other schools. I was so pleased and proud of him for the progress he made by joining in with that group.
He also discovered music. None of us in our family are particularly musical. I love singing, but unfortunately my voice isn’t one that many people want to listen to The music teacher at school was so enthusiastic, she arranged for the whole class to learn the recorder in Year 2 and they learned the flute in year 3. B loved the recorder and wasn’t keen on the flute, but spent ages and ages asking and asking if he could learn the clarinet. I have to confess, I wasn’t convinced it was a good idea, but in the end we agreed to give it a try. I’m glad we did, B has really enjoyed it. He passed his grade 1 exam and now plays in the local training band on Saturdays.
In year 5 B began to shine as the class star mathematician. In years 3, 4, 5 and 6 he came 3rd every year in the class General Knowledge quiz. Unfortunately he didn’t ever make the school team because he didn’t come first or second, but he was one of the few who came in the top 3 each year and I think that deserves recognition and celebration.
In Year 5 B also became one of the school library helpers, which, again gave him a bit of structure at playtimes and a chance to start developing some responsibility. There were two particular highlights from year 5. Bread making, where they all had to choose a different type of bread to make. B chose Pain au chocolate. I love making bread and different types of baking so I went into school to help. It was great fun and the children made a variety of really interesting breads, which all tasted yummy. Year 5 was also the year they dressed up as Victorians and went to ‘the ragged school’. where they learned a bit about what it was like to be at school in the 19th Century. B had been told that anyone who was left-handed would have to write with their right hand or they would get caned. Luckily he seemed to think this would be quite amusing as he and his best friend are both left-handed. So they were quite disappointed when they came home and had been told they would be forgiven for writing with their left hands.
For B the highlight of primary school was the trip to Osmington Bay in Year 6 when they went away for 4 nights and took part in all sorts of activities.
Year 6 also saw him win the class certificate for best improvement in Literacy and he took part in a national Maths test for the most able Primary Maths students. Not only was he chosen as one of the few in his class to take part in this test, but he received a silver certificate. Which I think he should be very proud of.
So the end of the school year is traditionally celebrated by parents and children with a picnic on our school field after school finishes on the last day of term. Over the years this event has been enjoyed by children and parents alike. Whilst we bask in glorious sunshine eating and drinking the children run about and play. One of the biggest memories for B will always be the mulberry trees. The mulberries are usually ripe at that time in July and over the years the boys had developed the habit of throwing the berries at each other and generally making an incredible mess. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this mess, but after the first time I always made sure that on the last day of term B was wearing his oldest, most stained and grubby school polo shirt as it would be fit only for the bin by the end of the picnic.
So, it was, with a little disappointment, this year, not only that the picnic was cut short by the inevitable torrential downpour that has been an all too common feature of this summer, but that the general level of rain and lack of sunshine has meant that the mulberries were all still green, so no final mulberry throwing was to happen.
All in all, the last 8 years have been amazing. I would never have believed that the little boy who wouldn’t talk to other children when he started nursery at 3 years old, would turn into a happy, confident, clarinet playing maths champion who is about to start the local mainstream High School with his friends.
Well done B and thank you to school, to all the teachers and support staff who have helped you get where you are today.
My beautiful boy
Thank you for reading about my little man’s fab acheivements. What are your memories of your children’s time at school or nursery?
On Thursday B and I went out into London. We had a purpose, but more of that later!
Rather than just go into town for one reason alone we decided to make an afternoon of it and went on a walk through London. Here are some of the pictures we took:
We started off with a pinic lunch on the riverside in front of City Hall. It always feels very exciting when we get to see Tower Bridge being raised. When we arrived we had a feeling that it might happen because the Olympic rings were folded up. When they are suspended there isn’t enough room to raise the bridge, so they have a mechanism to raise them and rotate them to a horizontal postition under the gantry.
We weren’t sure what they are going to use the rings on the barge for. When we went up to that part of the river last Friday that barge and those rings weren’t there.
We walked along the South Bank past HMS Belfast until we got to London Bridge. As well as the statue of Mandeville, the official mascot for the Paralympic Games and the lovely fountain, there are many other interesting sculptures along this stretch of the river and we enjoyed looking at the pointed motifes on the pavement representing the Olympic Sports.
We crossed the river at London Bridge and spent the next part of the walk walking along the river for short stretches in between having to cut back around the streets before re-joining the river. I love the veiws of the different sights you see along the river and it was a beautiful day.
This part of the river is quite quiet and we enjoyed walking along looking at the flags and the shadows they made on the pavement.
We also spotted this in the Pavement. Apparently there are 99 of them around London. This was number 2. They give instructions about little games you play. It’s quite a simple and nice little idea and I’ve never seen them before. In fact I’ve just looked up to find out more and its a new project for this Summer called 99 Tiny Games . Click on the link to find out more.
As we rounded the bend in the river the London Eye came into view. I love this picture. You can just about see the sun glinting on the pods as they turn.
Our walk then took us along Victoria Embankment where the infamous ‘Olympic Lanes’ are in operation. B enjoyed spotting all the official olympic cars and buses etc. There was also lots of evidence of people putting out temporary tourist information signs and numerous gamesmakers were strolling the streets. The one thing we haden’t realised was that where the Olympic Lanes are in operation they have also restricted the points at which pedestrians can cross the roads.
The next spot on our growing list of sights were the Sphinx and Cleopatra’s Needle.
This nearly bought us to the end of our walk, well it should have done, but I didn’t manage to turn off the Embankment at the right point, so we ended up walking all the way up to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Which, although received a little moan from B, wasn’t really a problem, it was just another sight to add to our collection for the day. I don’t have a picture though, as the angle was all wrong and there were too many people, so we took a detour up Whitehall, past Trafalgar Square, where I took the last sightseeing picture.
This took us up to about 4.pm, so we had a lovely afternoon strolling round London spotting the sights, all for the cost of a bought sandwich from M&S, and if I’d been more organised we could have made the sandwiches and taken our own picnic.
However, the cheap day out wasn’t to last as the reason we went into London was to visit Covent Garden to make a much longed for purchase:
After spending a little bit more of our hard earned cash on fruit products we set off home, only to score our final sight of the day. We just happened to be at Trafalgar Square as the Olympic flame went by, so I got my second glimpse. B saw it for the first time as he had been at his Grandma’s when it passed through our area on Monday. We didn’t manage any pics this time as it was so crowded, but it was a nice end to a lovely day.
B is now very busy whilst I play the part of the sulky child stamping my feet because ‘I want a go’.
If anyone has any recommendations for fun cheap apps then do share. Thanks for reading
Do you remember your first day at school?
I have to admit to having no memory of it at all. I think as parents we build it up and worry about it much more than the children do sometimes. I also think that whether they are starting in Primary School, changing school or starting High School many of the issues and things we can do to help will be very similar.
Anyway, my Son is going to start High School in September, so I’m thinking about some of the things we might do in order to prepare him (and us) for the change. I imagine that many of the things I am thinking of doing will also be relevant to people whose little ones are starting reception for the first time.
The other thing to mention, for those who might be here for the first time is that my Son has an autistic spectrum condition, which means that planning is essential for us, but, again, I’m sure that many of my ideas and things that are likely to help ease my Son’s anxiety might also be useful for other children. So without further ado, these are a few of my ideas:
1. Buy uniform now or as soon as possible. - Go out and buy the uniform, don’t leave it until the last-minute and everyone is stressed. Many shops have currently got multi-buy deals on and if you leave it too late you might find the shops have run out of some of the sizes. Once the uniform is bought you can get on with the next steps.
2. Name all the uniform. This takes me ages, and I find it soooo boring, but it’s so useful to have name tapes in clothes. I have done the quick option of simply writing on the labels, but over the years I have found the success rate of getting mislaid uniform returned is far higher with the items where they have name tapes than those where I just wrote on the label. - This is another reason for getting the uniform early as it gives you more time to name everything.
3. Purchase any equipment, lunch boxes, bags, stationary, calculators etc. as soon as possible. Again, this gives you plenty of time to name them all and then put them away until its time for school in September.
4. Managing children’s anxiety. For me this is the hardest one. My Son gets quite anxious about new situations. I’m sure most children do and they all have different ways of showing it. Again, for us the idea of buying all the equipment and uniform etc early has the advantage of getting it done. Once it is in my Son’s wardrobe or cupboards etc. and put away we can get on with enjoying the holidays and not having the constant looming worry of buying stuff for school as well as actually starting school.
5. Managing the comments and discussion. One of the things I remember from when B started primary school and what is beginning to happen again is that people will ask ‘is he excited?’ – I don’t know any parent who can honestly say that their child is excited without any sense of trepidation. This question does irritate me slightly. My boy is quite nervous, he’s not totally dreading the new school and has accepted it is going to happen. He is even quite happy that he knows the school, several of his friends are going, but I think the question about ‘excitement’ and an expectation that he is looking forward to it can be quite daunting. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who feels this way and that my Son is not unique in his views of changing / starting a new school.
So how to deal with these comments? I just play them down, I point out politely that it’s a hard thing to be excited about and that B is naturally a bit nervous, but has visited the school and seemed quite happy.
6. Preparing your child. Now it is the summer holidays most children will have visited their new schools before the holidays, they will have met the teachers etc, so the next step apart from gathering all the equipment, is to actually turn up on the first day. I do not engage in excessive conversation with my Son over the summer about his new school, new routines etc. He’s had those talks. Now is the time for the holiday. He needs a bit of time to try to switch off, to enjoy himself and to relax. I will answer any questions he has and will discuss school with him if he wants to, but I won’t go out of my way to raise the subject. Everyone’s child is different, but this is what works for us.
The only slight exception to this with my Son would be if I notice a marked change in his behaviour. With aspergers syndrome my Son has difficulty in expressing his emotions verbally and I can often tell that he is anxious or upset if his behaviour becomes more aggressive and angry or if he becomes withdrawn and ‘unwell’. In these situations I would try to calm him and talk to him about what is worrying him. If he is unable to tell me I might offer prompting questions, which this summer might be to ask how he feels about starting a new school.
7. New journeys. For us this isn’t an issue, but many children will be having to make their own way to school for the first time when they start secondary school. If this is the case then my suggestion would be to practice the route 2 or 3 times now or next week, then leave it and enjoy the summer and go back and do a quick recap with your Son or Daughter the weekend before school starts. If they have the confidence that they can do it now it may be one less thing they have to worry about over the summer.
8. If you know anyone who has already started at that school try to get some tips in the next week or so, there are always some things that would be useful to know that aren’t on the parents induction list. An example for us would be that my nephew started at the school where my Son is going last year. In his first week he came home and they were told that all their excercise books had to be covered with sticky backed plastic. This hadn’t been mentioned in any of the literature, so my Sister-in-Law had to dash out and find sticky back plastic.
9. Plan something nice to do at the end of the holiday. We are going on our anual holiday in the last 2 weeks because we felt it would give us something to look forward to during the summer and thought it might be a distraction from spending those last couple of weeks thinking about the looming change. If you can’t go away, or have already planned your holiday then may be plan another treat. A day out to somewhere special, have a friend over for a sleep-over or a arrange a little party or meal out. Just something to give a focus to plan other than school.
10. I couldn’t think of any more, but as lists usually go up to ten I thought you could add the last one!
These are the things I will be trying to do to help my Son. Do you have any other ideas for helping manage the starting school process? or are you a ‘go with the flow’ type? I’d love to hear your views.
Thanks for reading