Wednesday 30 August 2017

Behaviour is not done on purpose. Behaviour is done for a Purpose.

Just recently I read a comment on a social media site that disturbed me on so many levels. The comment was:
"Do you know what I can't stand? Children who hit their parents. It's absolutely disgraceful. You are the parent, where is the respect."

Now I don't know the background to this comment or the family involved, but the person who made it is an Early Childhood Educator and this alone worries me.

It appears to me that the person who made this comment did not take the psychology and development of children into consideration before passing judgement on the child and family involved and that is very disconcerting.

They haven't examined the actions of the child from another angle prior to passing judgement.

All children, regardless of whether they have autism, another special need or none at all, ALL children are still learning to recognise and manage their BIG emotions.

BIG emotions that can be incredibly overwhelming at times.

BIG emotions that do cause children to lash out in frustration.

When a child lashes out, there could be an array of reasons and possibilities as to why they have lashed out and quite often it is not due to a lack of respect towards their parents.

Children lash out when they are tired, when they are feeling unwell, when they haven't yet grasped the concept of sharing and turn taking......

Lashing out at others, including their parents, isn't an excusable action but there is generally a reason behind the child's actions.

I am constantly reminding myself that a child's behaviour is not done on purpose, it is done for a purpose.

My role as a Mum and as an Educator is to work out what that purpose is and to provide and equip the child, be it my own children or the children in my care at work, with the skills that they need to be able to communicate their needs and wants. 

O and L often lash out at myself and Daddy Superhero and when they do it is not due to disrespect on their part, it's often due to their frustration at being unable to convey their feelings at that point in time. They lash out when they enter into sensory overload. They lash out when they enter into meltdown mode.

And when there is an underlying reason as to why they have lashed out, I show O and L compassion and understanding. I get to the bottom of why they have lashed out. I end up with much happier children when I do this. I can only imagine what would occur if I jumped to conclusions and condemned their behaviour.......

When others who were following the thread started commenting about children with autism and how they struggle to understand their own emotions and that they do lash out at times, others started chiming in with comments such as:

"Even children with additional needs should not hit their parents."

"Parents still need to set boundaries for children with autism."

"Children with autism need to learn from an early age that hitting is not okay."

When I read these comments, the only thing that I could say was WTF??? Plus a few other expletives that I will not repeat.

Really? So much judgement from education professionals who should know better.

Individuals with autism will often lash out when they are in sensory overload, when they are in meltdown mode and when they are unable to communicate their needs and wishes. They mean no maliciousness, they are simply communicating in the only manner that they know how.

I would love to know how these people would get through to a non-verbal child with autism that "hitting is not okay." How do you explain this to a child whose executive functioning is still developing?

How do you explain this to a child who does not understand or recognise their own emotions, let alone the emotions of others? How do you explain this to a child whose sense of interoception ** is still developing?

Yes individuals with autism do need to understand that violence is not okay but when an individual is in meltdown mode, all sensibilities really do go out of the window. An individual in meltdown mode is not aware of their actions.

I have felt the judgemental stares and have heard the judgemental comments from others when O and L have been in such an emotional state that they've lashed out at me.

These stares and comments are not helpful in any way shape or form.

And when the comments and stares are from education and medical professionals, they hurt much more deeply.

Over time O and L will come to understand that hurting others is not an acceptable behaviour but in the meantime I will keep reminding myself that -

Behaviour is not done on purpose. Behaviour is done for a purpose.

** The sense of Interoception is a relatively unheard internal part of the sensory system in which the internal physical and emotional states of the body are detected, recognised and responded to. Interoception skills are required for a range of basic and advanced functions - functions such as breathing, hunger, going to the toilet, being aware of your own emotions which includes being able to manage your emotions proactively. When children have not yet developed interoception skills they will struggle with their own emotions. They will struggle with being able to respond appropriately to their own and others emotions and in social interactions.

Sunday 27 August 2017

Happy First Blogiversary to me!

Exactly one year ago today on the 27th of August 2016, I made the decision to start a blog about our autism journey.

At the time, I found that I was struggling to clear my mind of everything that we were experiencing along the way. I wanted to be able to write my thoughts down and I figured that having my own little space on the Internet would be a great way to go about it. My initial goal for my blog was to clear my head and share our experiences.

When I started this blog, it was very clear in my mind about what I wanted to write about. I wanted to share the highs and lows of our autism journey. Everyone likes to share the highs that they experience but not many people like to share the lows. Sharing lows seems to be somewhat of a taboo subject.

Along our journey thus far I have found that it is refreshing to hear the lows of other families as you begin to realise that EVERYONE experiences the lows. You don't feel as alone when you hear about the trials and tribulations of other families. You gain a sense of relief that we're not alone on this journey.

When I began my blog I honestly didn't think that anyone, perhaps other than my family and friends, would read the ramblings of an Autism Mum! But wouldn't you know it, word got out and the page views gradually started climbing upwards! And even better, it wasn't just family and friends who were reading my blog. This was a huge boost to my confidence!

After publishing several pieces, I received some incredibly positive feedback about both my writing style and the content of my posts. It was then that I realised that I had the opportunity to raise a greater awareness and acceptance of autism through sharing our families experience.

No two autism journeys are the same, autism is a spectrum after all. But the more awareness that there is on how autism can present, the more acceptance there will be.

I truly hope that going forward, my blog provides an insight into what life is like with two children with Autism as well as educating, inspiring and supporting others who are also on this journey.

From the bottom of my heart thank you for reading my ramblings and for joining us on our journey.

Happy First Blogiversary to me!

Saturday 26 August 2017

Liebster Award

I am so very honoured to accept the Liebster Award nomination from Sarah over at Raising Human Beans. Thank you Sarah. Be sure to head over to her blog and have a read about the Bean Family - unschooling, recipes, printables, her blog has a great variety of lifestyle topics.

So what is the Liebster Award.....

I'd heard of the Liebster Award over the last 12 months of blogging and have always wondered what it was all about. When I did a search after receiving the nomination, I stumbled onto The Global Aussie site, which is the current home of the Liebster Award.

The Liebster Award is believed to have started back in 2011 and it is an online-only award that is given to bloggers by other bloggers. The award is a great way to be discovered within the blogging world and also to connect with others within the blogging community. It really is a wonderful idea.

The word "liebster" is German in origin and means dearest, beloved or favourite. Knowing the mean of the word, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that my little blog has been nominated. There's no actual or virtual presentation and no trophy to display - I just have the privilege of being able to display the Leibster Award badge on my blog. That in itself is a great prize!

Now there are a few rules involved if you have been nominated for the award, so let's get them out of the way.
  1. If you have been nominated for The Liebster award AND you choose to accept it, write a blog post about the award. ✔
  2. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog. ✔
  3. Display the Liebster Award badge on your blog. ✔
  4. Provide 10 random facts about yourself. 
  5. Nominate 5 to 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award - they should be newish blogs with less than 200 followers. 
  6. Provide your nominees with ten questions to answer. 
  7. List these rules in your post (I copied and pasted from The Global Aussie, which you're allowed to do!) 
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you want to nominate, that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide the link to your blog so that they can learn all about the Liebster Award. 
  9. Once you have completed the above steps, head on over to The Global Aussie and let Jack know that you've been nominated. Make sure to provide him with a link to your own post so that he can have a read of your nomination post! 
Sarah has given me 5 questions to answer so I will answer those before giving you some random facts about myself!

Question 1: Why did you start blogging?
I started my blog last year as a means of clearing my mind of everything that we were experiencing on our autism journey. At the time of starting to blog, we were very new to the world of autism and we hadn't yet established support networks, other than L's therapy team. So blogging was a way of getting everything off of my chest and out into the open. I find a lot of calm in writing for my blog and this has helped me immensely to be able to think logically about decisions that we have had to, and have to make in the future, on behalf of both L and O.

For the future I hope that my blog becomes a place where new families can gain the much needed support that we all need as well as gaining new information about various facets of autism. I would also like my blog to be one that is able to spread autism awareness and acceptance.

Question 2: What kind of blog do you have?
I blog about my families journey with autism - the highs and the lows. I hope that my blog provides an insight into life with autism as well as spreading a little awareness and acceptance of autism.

Question 3: Where is your favourite place in the world that you have been?
This is a tricky one to answer as my favourite place in the world is anywhere where my family is! It probably sounds corny but as long as I am with my superhero family, I am set!

Question 4: If you could go anywhere, where would you choose?
I would love to take my husband and little superheroes to a little island called Ternate, which is located in the northern part of the Maluku province of Indonesia. I was an exchange student in Indonesia on Ternate when I was 15 and I would love to take my family to Ternate to meet my Indonesian family.

Question 5: If money wasn't an issue, would you still blog?
The short answer is yes! I don't blog to earn a living. It would be nice to be earn a living from my blog, but that is not why I started my blog in the first place. I enjoy writing, so that is enough of a reason to keep blogging. If in the future I am paid to blog, then that is a huge bonus!

1. I detest flying cockroaches with a passion. Cockroaches cause me to either run far, far away or freeze on the spot. I am an absolute wimp when it comes to these insects! I don't know what it is about flying cockroaches, but they give me the heebie jeebies!

2. I didn't get my ears pierced until I was in my 30's. I am not a huge fan of needles so the thought of having my ears pierced made me very queasy. When I did get them pierced, I made my husband come along and get one of his ears pierced for moral support!

3. I played the Alto Saxophone from the age of 11 through to the age of 18. Music was my escape. I have loads of wonderful memories of being in various bands, performing at many concerts and other performances.

4. I had my left foot operated on when I was 10 as I had bone and cartilage growing where it should not have been growing. Very not normal!

5. I can count to 10 in Indonesian, Croatian, Vietnamese, Portuguese, German and Italian. This is thanks to the huge cultural diversity of children at my work. Give me a few months and I'll be able to add Hebrew, Sudanese, Zimbabwean, Hindi, Burmese and a few other Indian dialects to this!

6. I have an autism heroes tattoo on my left wrist in honour of my little superheroes.

7. I carried the Olympic flame in the torch relay leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. This was a huge honour and something that I am very proud of.

8. I was born with a tiny hole at the top of my right ear - called a preauricular sinus. Until very recently I had no idea what it was called! I now have a scar where it was due to constant infections in it.

9. I experienced a volcanic eruption when I lived in Indonesia as an exchange student. The volcanic eruption was an experience in itself - as a naive 15 year old I thought I was a goner for sure! 

10. I love Stitch from the Movie "Lilo and Stitch!" One of my friends recently returned from a holiday in the USA and brought me a little Stitch figurine - OMG, THE BEST PRESENT EVER!!! I was jumping for joy when she handed the present to me!!

Now for my nominees! I'm going to do something a little different and tell you why I have nominated these blogs!

So in particular order, my nominees are:

Toni from over at Raising Miss Bow and Co. Toni started her blog this year (2017) and is also a special needs mum. The first post of hers that I read is titled "Seven Facts of a Special Needs Mum" and I was moved by it as I could relate to a number of points in her post.

Shell from over at The Sun Mama. Shell also has a special need child (mmm, seeing a pattern here!) I loved her post about their family trip to the Queen Creek Olive Mill during which their tour guide took the time to engage with her son.

Nicole from over at Raising an Extraordinary Person. Nicole is another newbie to the blogging world and is also a special needs mum - autism in fact! She has a great post about autism facts.

Joseph and Ashlee over at Insert Chaos Here. Joseph and Ashlee are new to the world of blogging and they write about the chaos that is life.

Tina over at No You Need To Calm Down! I love her post about teaching empathy to children.

And my questions for my nominees are....
1. When you have writers block, what do you do to work it out?
2. If you could be any superhero, who would it be and why? (One from L!)
3. Would you rather explore a deep ocean or outer space?
4. What is your favourite book?
5. What is the one fall back food that your child/children will eat?
6. Why do you blog?
7. What is your favourite animal and why? (One from O!)
8. What is the most extreme thing that you have ever done?
9. What are the most afraid of?
10. Finish this sentence -  I am the best version of me when.......

I look forward to reading your responses and seeing who you pass the love onto! Happy blogging!

Tuesday 22 August 2017

What's in the bag?

Whenever we head off to school, outside school hours care, a park, basically anywhere with the little superheroes, we always look like we are going on an extended stay!

There are the two school bags, an extra snack bag, because, well neither O or L will rarely eat anything that is offered to them for morning, lunch or afternoon tea unless it is from our fridge or pantry, and then there is the Spider-man bag.

L's Spider-man bag is essentially an over sized sensory kit.

The Spider-man bag contains most of the sensory tools that L needs to make it through a day without ending up in meltdown mode. We don't take the bag because we want to be laden down with belongings, we take it out of necessity.

Now keep in mind that a bag that contains almost all of his sensory tools, well, it needs to be large.

We tried a calico bag. The first bag didn't last long as the contents were too heavy and the bottom fell out of the bag. The second calico bag, the handles broke away.

After the second bag bit the dust L decided that he needed a Spider-man bag and Mummy just had to make it! Seeing as though the bag was going to be taken everywhere, L chose the fabric and it just had to be Spider-man!

Now L doesn't necessarily need to use all of the contents that are in the bag every day but I can guarantee that if we didn't take it, that would be the day that he needs it.

Most people just give us an odd side way glance when they see us coming, some stare and point and most children just come right out and ask "what's in the bag?"

Children are naturally curious and want to know why L takes the bag everywhere.

I take the question as an opportunity to spread a little more Autism awareness and acceptance!

So what is in the Spider-Man bag that goes everywhere?

The bulkiest item in the bag is L's weighted blanket. If there is one sensory item that you want to buy for your little superhero, buy a weighted blanket. They come in all sizes, full size bed blankets or lap size. L's is a lap sized blanket.

As I have mentioned in a previous post about making a weighted blanket - it essentially provides L with both deep tissue pressure and sensory input when he is in sensory overload but also when he requires some sensory input. For L, the weighted blanket has a calming and soothing effect. We will often find L curled up underneath the blanket at home, just chilling out.

Another of L's most used items is his Sensory Body Sock. Again this is another item that I made for L. Weighted blankets and Sensory Body Socks can be quite expensive - add the word "disability" to anything and the price magically increases ten-fold.

The Body sock is another item that provides sensory input for L when he needs to have a sensory break or needs to calm down.

When L gets inside the body sock he disappears and can escape from the happenings around him. He can push and stretch the fabric to his content and he calms immediately.

Block out Ear Protectors - a staple of any ASD household around the world. These are a must and if we are not able to take the entire contents of L's sensory bag with us, the ear protectors go instead, as do O's.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with L's hearing at all - he can hear a pin drop in the next room. The downside to L's hearing is that noise can become incredibly painful, very very quickly. Imagine if you could hear every sound around you simultaneously, imagine how distracting that would be. For L, and O, this means that paying attention to the task at hand becomes almost impossible.

The idea behind the block ear protectors is that they block out the background noise so that L or O can concentrate on the task at hand. The great thing about the block out ear protectors, when they are being used correctly, is that L can carry on a conversation with others around him without being bothered by the background noise.

The block out ear protectors have saved many an outing from ending in a meltdown. And the great thing about the ear protectors that L and O use, is that they cost less than $10 from our local hardware store. Bargain!!

There is also a sensory chair band which is placed around the front two legs of L's school chair. The idea is that instead of moving around and fidgeting on his chair, L can put his feet and legs on the band and stretch the band to his hearts content. Again by stretching the band, L can feel the resistance and receive much needed sensory input, without actually leaving the chair. That's the theory anyway, L just loves to stretch the band and wrap himself up in it! 

O also uses a sensory chair band in class, correctly I might add, and it has assisted in increasing her attention span dramatically.

There is a marble maze - as the name suggests, it is a maze with a marble in it. The maze is sewn onto a fabric bag and a marble is sewn into the bag. This is designed to be used during mat sessions or other times when L should be concentrating on what his teachers are saying. The idea is that if L's hands can be kept busy manipulating the marble through the maze, he can concentrate on his teacher. This is another item that is in O's mini sensory kit that she keeps with her in class.

In both sensory kits there are a variety of other fidget tools - fidget cubes, squishy spiky plastic balls, fidget rings and so on. All of these items are small inconspicuous items that can be held in one hand. O and L can squash, squeeze or manipulate these items to distract them from any anxiety that may be building inside them, to gain sensory input or to assist them to focus on anything other than the sensory overload that may be pulsing through their little bodies.

One of the daily tasks that L really struggles with during the summer months is putting sunscreen on. He has always struggled with the idea of putting sunscreen on for as long as I remember. At times as I am putting sunscreen on L, he resembles an octopus trying to escape from a small space - he's a slippery little sucker and he always manages to escape now matter how tight a grip I THINK I have on him!

It wasn't that he just didn't want sunscreen on, it was the texture of the sunscreen that he detested. For a child with sensory processing difficulties, sunscreen really is a nightmare.

One of the very first visuals that L's key therapist made for L was the steps involved in putting sunscreen on and a sunscreen social story. L loves following rules - the visuals are his rules for sunscreen, the why and the how of sunscreen.

Now all we have to do is show L the sunscreen visuals and he will either sit patiently while we put the sunscreen on, or he will attempt to apply it himself. Rules are rules after all!

There is also a "what I need in the afternoon before I go home" visual. L was constantly leaving his belongings at school which would result in an almighty meltdown when we arrived home. The "what I need" visual is fantastic as it shows L exactly what he needs to collect from around his classroom before he leaves.

Have I told you that we love visuals??? Well, we do.

The final object in his sensory bag is a tiny blue vinyl case that contains 3 little vials of essential oils. These are a life saver and they smell divine. These are our Jeddy's Blend Oils. These are the last line of defence for L if all of his other sensory options are not working. Depending on what mood he is in, depends on which vial is used. And when the oil is rolled onto his neck, he immediately calms and is able to focus on the task at hand.

We have another bulky sensory box that sits in our living room, but that is another post!

I would honestly recommend that all families who are on an autism journey put together a sensory kit for their child.

The kit doesn't need to be as large as what we have for L or contain all the tools that we use. The tools in both O and L's sensory kits are simply what we have found to work for them. There are too many sensory tools to be mentioned, it is simply a case of working out what works best for your child.

And then you too can be asked the question "what's in the bag?"

Saturday 19 August 2017

A reason. Not an excuse.

Too many times I have heard the phrase "but I can't do that because I have autism (or insert other diagnosis or disability)" being uttered.

In some cases, this statement is true.

In many cases, this statement is not true. A diagnosis just means that the individual has to work harder to reach their end goal.

O has said it a few time this year and we keep reminding her that no, her autism is not going to stop her from achieving her dreams, we just have to find another way to get there. L has begun to realise that he is not yet capable of doing things that his class mates are able to do due to his autism, we keep on encouraging him to work his hardest.

Autism is the reason why my little superheroes struggle at times, but it does not excuse their behaviour if they are doing the wrong thing.

In L and O's case. I never want them to use their autism as an excuse for not being able to do something or for getting out of an activity.

But there is a very fine line between being an enabler of an individual believing that they are not capable and being an encourager of that same individual to achieve to the best of their ability.

There are simply some every day activities that O and L struggle with, and probably will continue to struggle with, for some time.

The difficulty lies in being able to distinguish between what they generally cannot do or understand without assistance and when they are trying to get out of doing an activity. My role as a parent is knowing when they are using their autism as an excuse.

Another difficulty that we face on a daily basis is convincing others that O and L genuinely cannot do or understand a particular concept because of their autism. That they do need some concessions that other students do not necessarily need due to the way in which they learn and pick up new skills.

I can encourage my little superheroes until I am blue in the face, but there are some aspects of autism that may never get easier.

For instance.....

Rough Play

L just does not understand or comprehend that he can be too rough at times. He isn't being malicious when he is engaging in rough play as he is genuinely not aware of how rough he is being towards others.

And it all has to do with the concept of sensory proprioception. L's sensory input is so out of whack that he is simply not aware of how much force to use when hitting an object, giving someone a cuddle, or when he engages in rough play. Over time, L will come to understand about using appropriate force at the present moment, he is not yet at that stage of understanding.

But in saying that he is not yet aware of the force that he can and/or shouldn't use in particular situations, L needs to learn what is and isn't appropriate. L has to learn that if he is too rough and the end result is that someone gets hurt, he has to show some empathy, he has to say sorry. L has to learnt hat there are consequences when you hurt someone, deliberate or not.

Autism is the reason L can be too rough, but it doesn't excuse his behaviour.

Sensory Breaks

I need regular sensory breaks and I don't have an official diagnosis.

Sensory breaks are how L and O get through every single school day. Some days they can get by with only a few brain breaks. Other days, especially L, they need regular breaks throughout the day.

O has begun to recognise when she needs a break and most of the time she is able to verbally express to her teachers that she needs a break.

L is yet to recognise the internal feelings that tell him when he needs a sensory break but we are hoping that over time, he will be able to recognise the feelings that are building inside of him.

Sensory breaks are one aspect of their autism that I am sure that both O and L will need in the future. This is not something that I can change. They may not need to physically escape from the classroom to have a break, they may just need to use their sensory tools. But I certain that sensory breaks will be here for good.

Being able to focus

This frustrates me no end when people comment that O and/or L just need to focus on the task at hand. "They need to stop fidgeting and just focus, put their mind to it."

Sure, I can make my children who regularly enter into sensory overload, ignore said sensory overload and focus on the task in front of them. Said no ASD parent ever!

Ever heard of a sensory break or brain break? No?

Well you've got buckley's chances of getting them to "just focus" because, shock horror, they are in sensory overload.

Again being able to focus goes back to needing sensory breaks. If a child is not able to focus on the task at hand, chances are that they need a sensory break. Learn the cues people!!

Self Calming Mechanisms or Stimming

We all have a stim of some description, diagnosis or not. Do you regularly tap your fingers, tap your foot, fiddle with pens when at work? That's a stim.

Some stims are appropriate, others may not be. When a child is exhibiting a stim that is inappropriate they are not being malicious, they are just doing it out of a habit.

Stimming is a form of self calming or is used as a means to self regulate an individuals emotions. L and O both have various stims that they use. Each of their stims, when you get to know O and L, are used for different emotional states that they enter into. O and L's stims tell us when they are frustrated, excited, nervous, happy, scared and so on.

An individual should not be stopped from stimming, as it is how they are calming themselves. If the individual is not hurting themselves or others why should they be stopped?

But if the stim is inappropriate then what we can do is replace it with another more appropriate action. Replace the perceived negative stim with a positive stim. And when you are attempting to replace the negative stim, you need to explain to the individual why the previous stim was inappropriate.


There is a huge distinct difference between a meltdown and a tantrum. First and foremost, if you are not sure of the difference, please read up on them. The knowledge that you gain, will be of an immense help in the long run.

Children are smart and they will play on us. They know exactly which buttons to push to get a reaction.

Something to remember is that behaviour is not done on purpose, behaviour is done to serve a purpose. We need to work out what that purpose is.

"My child is having a meltdown because they have autism."

Yes they are in meltdown mode but what is causing the meltdown? Are they in sensory overload? Are they uncomfortable? Are they sick? Have their routines changed?

Or is it that they are throwing a tantrum because they are not getting their own way or you are not giving them what they want (a toy/lolly etc.)

When you learn to distinguish between the two, life becomes a whole lot easier.

Visual Supports

Both O and L are visual learners. They always will be. They will always benefit from accessing a range of visual supports.

Taking these supports away will not help them in any way shape or form. Taking visual supports away will in fact hinder their ability to take new information on board.

I am hopeful that in future, we will not need to have as many visual supports and social stories around superhero headquarters, but for the present moment, they certainly make home and school life a little more peaceful.

There are many other "reasons" that I could add to this list, the list really is never ending.

What I hope that you take from this, is the next time you have a child who doesn't seem to be trying hard enough for your liking, please take a good look at their surroundings. Is there something that you are missing? Are you communicating with the child in a way that they understand?

At times, Autism IS the reason why a child isn't taking in information as quickly as other children. They are not learning the wrong way, we are simply teaching them in the wrong way.

Sunday 13 August 2017

Getting our Inner Science Geek on!!

Today is the start of National Science Week here in Australia. National Science Week is an annual celebration held in Australia to acknowledge and highlight the contributions of Australian scientists. Everyone and anyone can be involved, there are events held throughout Australia. One of the aims of National Science Week is to encourage younger people to become interested and fascinated with the world of science.

Have I mentioned before that I love all things science? No? Well, I love all things science!

For as long as I can remember I have always been interested in science. In primary school I can recall that I did an experiment on training the common backyard mini beast, the Slater!!

All though high school, science was one of my favourite subjects - it was when I was able to escape into a world that I understood. When I was in Year 11, I did a week of work experience at our local Natural History Museum in the marine science department and I fell in love with the idea of becoming a Marine Biologist. This also started my love of scuba diving.

After finishing Year 12, I studied science at university and accidentally fell into the role of a Science Education Officer for the Northern Territory Branch of the CSIRO Science Education Officer.

I found my calling - developing and presenting a range of hands-on science sessions for school age children. I travelled throughout the Northern Territory and the Kimberley Region of Western Australia presenting a range of science programs to children of all ages.

Through my work for the CSIRO I was nominated and became a finalist twice in the Young Australian of the Year awards. I also received a Queens Trust Award for my work with the CSIRO.

My aim for my love of science was to spread the love of science to children. I was always of the belief, and still am, that before we can have all these amazing Australian Scientists, we need to have children who have an interest and fascination with science.

Through our Autism journey and O and L's diagnosis process, I have come to realise that my fascination with science as a child could have been considered an obsession. Science and Music were two topics that could keep me entertained for hours on end.

Now that I have my own children, I want to impart my love of science onto them. Luckily for me, O is VERY interested in science. In fact, she loves the topic!

This morning we made the spur of the moment decision to head into the National Science Week Festival to get our inner science geek on. And I am glad that we did.

Both O and L had a ball (and just quietly so did I!)

They were both fascinated by the virtual hatching turtles that they were able to view through an iPad - don't you love how far technology has come!

They are both drawn to animals, so a visit to the reptiles and the cuddly animals was a must! L becomes so relaxed around animals. It was quite noisy at the festival and while in with the cuddly animals, I could see that L had completely zoned out and was not bothered in the slightest by the noise around him.

Both O and L are fascinated with the idea that Mummy used to Scuba dive and L is desperate to be able to give Scuba diving a go. Well today, he was able to. Albeit through a virtual reality mask. He loved it. They both waited patiently for their turn and when they finally put the virtual reality mask on, their were enthralled.

L was a little lost to start off with as the gentleman was explaining what L was seeing in terms that were way over L's head. As soon as I mentioned that L had autism, the gentleman completely changed the way that he was engaging with L. Someone has had some Autism Awareness training!

L loved the mask. He was spinning in his chair to see everything that the gentleman was explaining - the virtual tour was one of the dive trips that the team from the AIMS had done. From getting ready on the boat, to jumping into the water, swimming down to the sea floor and viewing all the animals. There was also a wreck that the divers were exploring but L was more interested in the sea animals. He was getting lots of giggles as he was spinning in the chair and reaching out to the sea creatures saying "get back here!!"

They both loved exploring the variety of sea sponges and kelp that were on display. A great sensory display!

O was in her element when creating simple circuits - another cub badge that we can get signed off! She did a great job at assisting L to create a circuit too.

Unfortunately for my little superheroes the Festival was incredibly busy - this in its itself was wonderful to see. There were loads of young families enjoying the displays. This just made the hall very loud and very busy, so we needed to leave before my little superheroes entered into sensory overload.

And the verdict from O and L - "That was fun Mummy! Can we go again!"

They both just see a trip like this as fun and play. I see the education and therapy potential. And I get to whip out my inner science geek!!

Friday 11 August 2017

The Autism that You DON'T see.........

"Oh, L is fine at school!"

"We don't see any of that, O is the model student!"

"Really, O/L is like that at home?"

These questions, these statements, can make interactions with teachers, educators and medical professionals quite uncomfortable. In a blink of an eye, questions and statements like these can turn a conversation from a pleasant one into, well ........... hackles become raised, voices become emotional ......... you get the picture.

Questions and statements like these can make the child's behaviour seem as though the parent is at fault and this in turn can cause us to question every little decision that we make and have made on our child's behalf.

Questions and statements like these cause a parent to shut down and not want to bring up issues with those who should be supporting them, instead of questioning them, for fear of the underlying judgement from others.

Questions and statements like these really highlight the autism that you don't see unless you are in the immediate family unit.

It really is a case of the autism that you DON'T see.

You see a child who is so rigid and seemingly unwilling to compromise on anything that their behaviour becomes annoying to you. The child who is acting like a spoilt brat.

I see a child who wants his world to stay the way that it is because then his world is predictable. I see a child who doesn't want to stray from her predictable world because the minute that her world becomes unpredictable, her anxiety is provoked into action and she becomes glued to one spot unwilling and unable to make any moves. I see child whose anxiety is like a tightly knotted rope and until that knot is loosened, she is physically unable to move or speak or participate in her much loved activities, including school work. A child who is not yet sure how to loosen the knot of anxiety. I see a child who is desperately trying their hardest NOT to enter into meltdown mode. 

I see a child who has strict and often very complicated routines and rituals for simple every day activities. And these routines and rituals have to be done the same way. Every. Single. Time. The tiniest deviation from these routines and rituals can result in an explosion of a huge magnitude.

You see a child is happy, who is chatty and gets along well with others but who can be very shy at times.

I see a child who knows that to stand out is a bad thing so she is compliant all day. I see a child who badly wants to fit in with others around her and yet she is unable to because she just does not understand the social interactions of others. I see a child who then struggles to keep it together all day that the minute she arrives home and walks through the front door, her pent up frustration and anger explodes. I see a child who knows that we are understanding and will remain calm so she feels safe to show this other side to us. I see a child who breaks down in tears because he knows that he is different and doesn't yet understand that different is good.

You see a child who is unable to focus on their work and is becoming disruptive as they move around the classroom or as they start to vibrate in their chair. You see a child is unwilling to do their school work unless they are removed from their classroom.

I see a child who is in sensory overload by their surroundings and is physically and mentally unable to focus until they have had a sensory break. I see a child who needs regular sensory breaks to assist them to focus. I see a child who is beginning to understand they need to have a sensory break but is not yet able to find the words to communicate his needs. I see a child who views being removed from their classroom as a punishment not as an opportunity to complete their school work.

You see a child who is rude or ignorant because they are refusing to speak or interact with those around them.

I see a child who is in sensory overload by all that is going on around them and the only way for them to cope is to shutdown and to retreat into their inner self.

You see a child who is a fussy eater and who you believe should be made to eat the food that is put in front of them.

I see a child with sensory processing difficulties. A child who has to wear the same clothes day in day out. Not for style, purely for comfort. I see a child whose skin feels as though it is literally crawling when particular textures are felt or eaten. A child who needs a lot of time and effort put in my others to try to increase the foods on their list of acceptable foods. I see a child who knows when we change a brand of food, they don't have to see the change in food label, they just know.

You see a child who is obsessed with a particular toy or subject and who you believe is spoilt as they seem to always have the latest toy, gadget or clothing item or costume.

I see a child who is in his comfort zone. A child who while wearing a superhero outfit is willing to venture out from his shell to interact with others. A child who is trying desperately to establish some common ground with others. A child who is willing to verbally communicate as he joins in on a conversation about his obsession.

You see a child having a tantrum.

I see a child who is in meltdown mode. A child who entered into sensory overload as a result of their surroundings. A child whose anxiety has become so crippling that the only way that they know how to cope is to let loose with screaming and yelling and throwing random objects. A child who desperately wants to escape their surroundings but they physically cannot find the words to voice their needs. I see a child who needs space and a parent who is calm with a seemingly unending patience level. I see a child who at that point in time is only able to communicate their needs through an angry outburst. I see a child who is not aware of their actions or words while they are in meltdown mode and yet is remorseful in the aftermath even though they have no recollection of the event.

What you are seeing is a mask, a front. 

Remember looks can be deceiving, not everything is as it seems to be.

The mask is the autism that you DON'T see.