Wednesday 29 November 2017

Perth - Our Home Town .... For now!

Perth .... this is our home .... for now. However in a little under two weeks we will be relocating back to Queensland.

We came to Perth in 2010 and after a few short weeks, it came to feel like home. It felt like we had been living in the glorious city for years.

One of the things that I really love about Perth is the amount of free and very low cost family activities that are available throughout the city, the Swan Valley and the surrounding suburbs. The little superheroes certainly have their favourite activities to do and places to visit so over the next two weeks, we've decided to try and visit as many of our favourite places as we're honestly not sure when we'll be back in Perth for a visit. O is a very sentimental child so she has been hinting about all the places that she would like to visit before we head back to Queensland.

Last week it was afternoon tea at our favourite chocolate factory. I have a feeling that one of the only reasons that the little superheroes like going to the chocolate factory is to find out the theme of the over sized chocolate display that is in their showroom. In fact the first thing that they both do when ever we go to the chocolate factory is race to the display and "ooo" and "ahh" over what they find. Last week it was an alien landscape!

On Saturday just gone, we decided on an impromptu outing into the city. O and L love wandering around, looking at all the sculptures and visiting one of their favourite city arcades, London Court.

There are numerous sculptures throughout the city, one of L's favourites are the kangaroos gathered around a watering hole on St George's Terrace so a visit there was a must! Visiting the sculptures throughout the city is also a small sensory break for both O and L. A chance to sit down and take some time out.

Out of the front of St Martins Centre there is a series of five sculptures commemorating the 175th Anniversary of Western Australia. L just had fun running around between the sculptures. O just had to shake hands, ask for directions and then tried to blend in with the sculptures!

We then ran into the big man in the red suit. O was suitably impressed, shook hands with him and then proceeded to tell him what she wanted for Christmas. This was a huge improvement from previous years when the only time we could get her even close to Santa to say hello was to go to a Sensory Santa session. Three smiling photos in three years, winning!

L on the other hand, he hid behind Daddy and then took off as fast as his legs could carry  him. L still isn't overly sure about saying hello to Santa. L would however sit on Santa's big red chair for a photo but only after telling us - "if you see him, you gotta tell me so I can run away!"

We then found an oversized Christmas bauble made entirely out of fairy lights. Apparently it was a light jail!

After that it was time to visit London Court and it just happens to be their 80th birthday this year. The court is wonderful at any time of the year - medieval style buildings, old English store fronts, castle style gates, you get the picture. 

Today there was also a convict doing free face painting, street performers, a town crier and a bobby, complete with bobby hat, doing some balloon tying.

And what is a city trip without a ride on the ferry across the Swan River to the South Perth shoreline for an ice cream! This is when the little superheroes just chilled out. The father of one of O's friends is a captain for the ferry company so they were quite disappointed to find that he wasn't the captain of our ferry! Never the less, they did enjoy the ride.

This outing was the first in a long time that L walked for the majority of the time - usually one of ends up carrying him so the fact that he wanted to walk was wonderful. By the end of the day I'm not sure who was more tired, us or the little superheroes.

But considering that both O and L were tearing around outside with our neighbours children at 10 o'clock at night while I was inside trying desperately to stay awake, I'm fairly certain that the little superheroes were NOT worn out! 

Sunday 26 November 2017

Autism Association of Western Australia Publications

**** Please note that I do not receive commissions of any kind in regards to the publications mentioned in this post. They are simply publications that we have found useful and informative. ****

We have a lot, and I mean a lot, to do with the Autism Association of Western Australia.

L has been attending Little Stars Early Intervention Centre, aka Tara's School, since February 2016. While there he has made some wonderful friends and has also made the most amazing progress.

We chose to go through the Autism Association for L's, and now O's, therapy as in our eyes they are the experts in the autism field in Western Australia.

Since 2016 we have purchased a number of the publications that have been produced by the Autism Association for our own reference but also to pass onto L and O's teachers and carers.

So I thought that I would do a short post on the publications that we've found useful. Please bare in mind that the opinions in this post are mine and mine alone.

All of the publications can be purchased through the Autism Association of Western Australia website.

Autism and Sport - What every coach needs to know.

We only recently found this book and immediately knew that we needed to purchase a copy of it. Both O and L love playing team and individual sports but they struggle when it comes to participating in training and on game day. The book is aimed at coaches and includes some very brief information about Autism Spectrum Disorder. It also talks about why inclusion is important, the strengths of people with autism and it also lists the potential difficulties that people with autism may face when engaging in sport. The book also talks about how coaches may be able to assist people with autism while they are engaging in sport and twenty tips for coaching success. What really drew my attention to the book were the social stories at the rear of the book. L and O love social stories, so these will definitely come into handy. The other great thing about this book is that much of the general information about helping children in the book would be great for coaches to use for all children.

Let's Play! Facilitating interactive play skills in children with Autism.

I purchased this book for the sole purpose to use at work. The book talks about the development of play in children and lists strategies that can be used to promote the further development of children's play skills. Much of the book are resources on different play themes - beach, animals, camping, things that go and so on. For each theme there is a list of suggested toys and materials, suggested activities, suggested learning targets, a visual choice board for each theme and a photo social story. Again there are also various social stories that focus on sharing and recess time.

GOOD nights.

As the title suggest this publication is all about sleep. It is a manual aimed at parents and carers of children who have autism who experience difficulties with sleep. Both L and O have difficulties with falling to sleep and L has issues with staying asleep. We do use Melatonin on both the little superheroes as well as various essential oil blends. This publication was useful in assisting us to understand the difficulties that children with autism may have with going to sleep. The book goes through the process involved in developing a sleep intervention plan and again it has visual choice board pictures and social stories to use.

MAKING SENSE of the senses for children with Autism.

Both O and L have sensory difficulties and at times we have struggled to explain the difficulties that they both face to their teachers and carers. This book is aimed at those who work with children with autism. The book initially talks about the sensory issues that children with autism may face and how these may impact on their behaviour. The book then provides strategies that may be used in the classroom in regards to the impacts of various stimuli. The book also provides general teaching strategies that can be employed in the classroom to assist children with Autism. The great thing about this book is that all of the strategies can be used to assist students of all abilities.

AUTISM IN THE CLASSROOM - A Resource Kit for Teachers of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

As the cover of the book states, there are three parts to this book. Part one contains information pertaining to what is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - it goes into detailed information about ASD, communication difficulties in individuals who have ASD, social impairment difficulties, restricted and repetitive behaviours, obsessions, sensory issues, anxiety issues and so on. Part two is titled "Making it Work" and it is all about making the curriculum accessible for students with ASD. Part two goes through the various difficulties that students that may have and provides strategies on how teachers may assist their students in each of the areas of difficulties. Part three goes into detail on how teachers may prevent and manage difficult behaviour. This is a publication that I wish that I had discovered earlier into our Autism journey but I am sure that it will be very useful in the future.

Autism Spectrum Disorder in early Childhood Settings - Facilitating Participation and Inclusion.

I purchased this book about twelve months prior to us gaining L's ASD diagnosis when I began to suspect that L may have been on the spectrum. I purchased the book for the sole purpose that it has a section devoted to positive behaviour support strategies. At the time we were struggling with dealing with L's behaviour and we used some of the strategies mentioned in the book at home. The book also has a section devoted to supporting skill development in children with ASD. I have utilised this book many times both at home and at with my charges at work.

Is it Autism?

This is a smallish book that is more aimed to teachers, carers and parents wanting to know about the traits of autism prior to a diagnosis being gained. It is a very useful publication for early childhood centres to have in their resources.

Autism - Parents Handbook.

This publication is not listed on the Autism Association of Western Australia website but it is an incredibly useful book. We were given this book soon after we received L's diagnosis and it includes everything and anything that parents and care givers need to know about autism providers, support services and advocates in Western Australia. If you have already embarked on your own autism journey, you'll know first hand that it is a minefield when it comes to locating information and support services. Having all of this information handy in one book is wonderful.

There are many more publications listed on the Autism Association of Western Australia website and my aim was to purchase a copy of each publication but alas we are moving to Queensland in a few weeks time!

I would love to hear of any autism specific publications that you have found useful. And remember to leave a link so that I can check them out!

Thursday 23 November 2017

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: the story of Dr. Temple Grandin

**** Please note that I do not receive commissions of any sort for the book that is mentioned in this post. It is simply a book that I have found useful. ****

Several months ago I ordered a book titled "The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: the story of Dr. Temple Grandin." A good friend tagged me in a post on a social media site that was advertising the book and I was immediately drawn to it.

O knows that she is different from her peers at school but still struggles at times in understanding that different is good. So I thought that this book would be brilliant for O.

The book is written by Julia Finley Mosca and it is the first book in a new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists around the world. I couldn't think of a more inspirational person to write a children's book about.

The story of Dr. Temple Grandin is fascinating and her story has been retold in books and on the big screen but all of these media types are aimed at older teens and adults. There are many children who would benefit from reading about her life thus far and now there is beautifully illustrated book.

When the book arrived and I opened the front cover, I was met with the lines ....

"If you've ever felt different, if you've ever been low,
if you don't quite fit in, there's a name you should know..."

I immediately knew that O would enjoy reading the book and that she would want to do a book review on it! But due to school and other commitments, we've only just got around to doing the review this afternoon. So over to O!

Q. What is the book about?
It's about a lady named Temple Grandin who is a doctor of science and she thinks in pictures. She also has great ideas on how to make farms a better place for animals so that the animals are happier. It's also about if you try your hardest, you can achieve your dreams. And the book says that Temple has autism! That's really cool.

Q. What is your favourite part of the book?
It's when Temple has such a hard childhood but she goes to college and she gets her degree. She has such great ideas. I like the page with the staircase on it because it basically says that being different from other people is a good thing. And I like the note from Temple in the back of the book.

Q. Why do you like this book?
I like it because it shows what people can do if they have autism. The book also tells people that if you have autism, it isn't bad because you can have great ideas and change the world.

Q. Would you recommend this book to other children? Why?
Yes! Some people bully people that have autism because they think that having autism means that you can't do great things. Temple shows that having autism doesn't stop you from having great ideas. Nothing should stop you from having great ideas - anyone can change the world, we just need people with great ideas. The book also shows that being different is okay, it isn't bad. It would be good for kids to read so that they can understand that if other kids are different from them, then that is okay. If we all thought the same, then life would be very boring and there would be no new ideas.

Q. Out of 5 stars, what would you rate this book?
5 BIG stars! It's a really great book, I really liked it.

I couldn't have put it better. At times O really is an old soul!

The book may be about Dr. Temple Grandin, who just happens to have autism, but the book itself is not about autism, if that makes sense.

To me the book is more about believing in ourselves, regardless of what others may think of us, and that being different is a great thing, rather than a being a book about an autistic individual.

The tale in the book really does remind the reader to believe in themselves, follow their dreams and that no matter what obstacles they come up against, that they can overcome the obstacles to achieve great things!

It really is a great book for children and I cannot wait to read the next instalment in the series.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Our first Kidslfix event.

This weekend just gone, we had the privilege of being able to attend a Kidsflix event that was conducted by the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Foundation of Western Australia.

The Kidsflix event was a free morning of entertainment for children with disabilities and their families. The event was held at our local cinema prior to normal operating hours. 

I had heard of these events prior to the weekend but had no idea of what to expect other than some entertainment for the little superheroes and that we were going to watch an advance screening of Paddington 2.

What I did not know is that Kidsflix events are held Australia wide. The program is designed to enable children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, as well as children with other disabilities, to have an "out of the ordinary day" with their families. All of the Kidsflix events are supported by local businesses so that the families who attend do not have to pay a cent.

When we arrived at the cinema the band of volunteers were bustling about ensuring that everything was ready for the sea of children that were about to descend upon the cinema.

There were face painters, balloon artists, a colouring in station, a Bricks 4 Kidz Lego station as well as numerous Cosplayers wandering around dressed as characters from Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland and one of O's favourite movies, Guardians of the Galaxy!

Once the event started it was wonderful to see children of all ages and abilities enjoying themselves. They mingled and played together, swapped stories on why they there and just generally had fun.

For some of the children, I have no doubt that the event was a way of distracting them from the tough times that they were enduring.

O had a ball, L went into overload almost immediately and just wanted to stim. The great thing about the event and L stimming was that no one looked twice at him. He was accepted for who he was. There was no judgement what so ever from anyone at the event.

There were many parents who looked like us - tired, very tired, but happy to watch their children being able to have fun without a care in the world. The children were able to forget their worries and just be kids for a few hours.

I am grateful to the organisers for the opportunity to attend the event - it was great morning out for us as a family.

If you ask L, the highlight of the event was seeing his friend R from school and being able to sit next to R in the cinema - not that they did a lot of sitting still!

O, well she was in her element. New children to meet and play with, babies and toddlers to look after and she was able to make a pretty cool aeroplane out of Lego.

And the movie? Well it was fantastic. It is definitely one to go and see when it officially opens in December!

Thursday 16 November 2017

Welcome to the family!

Over the last two years L has come out of his shell and has made the most wonderful bonds with people that he has met at school and at the Early Intervention centre that he attends.

Over the next three weeks, L now needs to say goodbye to various people, both children and adults, who have made a huge impact on his life as we prepare to relocate to Queensland.

One person who L has made an incredible bond with over the last eight months is Zaim, our amazing support worker who came into our lives in March of this year. When we were told by the NDIS that they had allocated support worker funding to L, we were reduced to tears of happiness. We were also truly thankful.

I don't think people realised just what a big deal it was to us to have someone come into our house once a week to support L. Having a support worker meant that we could take O to her activities without having to take L.

It sounds dreadful saying it like that - without taking L. But when we are out as a family one of us always has to be on the lookout for L just in case he runs off, which happens on a fairly regular basis.

Having a support worker at home caring for L, meant that when we took O to cubs, we could devote out time and attention to O. O has been very understanding that L has needs that we have to look after but she does miss out on going to activities or events as it is easier on everyone if we don't go. A support worker meant that O could have one on one time with us.

Having a support worker meant that we had yet another person to assist L with meeting his therapy goals and this in itself gave us some relief.

Having a support worker meant that when Scott was away for work, I was able to take some time out once a week.

I will admit that we were a little hesitant to begin with.

We'd never met Zaim prior his first session with L. We had to trust that the service provider we'd engaged to provide our support worker would match Zaim to L's needs. We had to place our complete trust and faith in Zaim to come into our house and look after L while we weren't at home.

We had to trust that Zaim would be capable of caring for L and would ensure that L was kept safe at all times.

And oh my gosh, we are incredibly thankful that Zaim became part of our "family!'

L took to Zaim immediately and this in itself is a rare occurrence. After L's first session with Zaim we found L in the toy room playing with a toy drum kit. When we asked what he was doing, L said "I be just like Zaim! I play the drums." Zaim just happened to tell L that he played the drums during his first visit!

Every Wednesday afternoon from then onwards L would eagerly await Zaim's arrival. He'd quite often be waiting at the front door with his shoes and hat on and as soon as he spotted Zaim getting out of his car, L would start yelling "Zaim, we go park?"

Zaim was instrumental in assisting L to practice the new skills that he was learning at the EI centre. L was able to work towards his therapy goals and his NDIS goals - being safe in the community, making new friends ....

This Wednesday just gone was our final session with Zaim and it really was a bittersweet moment. The bond that L shares with Zaim is wonderful and we are really going to miss Zaim and the support and friendship that he provides to L.

We'd brought a small present for Zaim and yesterday afternoon I asked L if he wanted to write in the thank you card.

L's reply was "Yep! Zaim go wait in my bedroom!"

I couldn't help myself and let out a little giggle to which L looked at me and said "Well he has to wait somewhere!"

L then "helped" Zaim to unpack the bag of gifts that he'd chosen!

So from the bottom of our hearts thank you Zaim for everything that you have done for L (and us) over the last eight months. We are truly thankful. You rose to the occasion, took all of our advice on board and took care of L as though he was part of your own family. You have become part of our superhero family and we know that L especially is going to miss you once we've moved to Queensland.

And to Zaim's family, thank you for letting him become part of our family!

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Sunset at Fremantle, done!

We've been in Western Australia for almost eight years. Coming from Queensland, one of the things that we immediately said that we wanted to do when we arrived in WA was watch a sunset at the beach.

It's one of those nightly events that everyone generally takes for granted but coming from Queensland, a sunset over a beach is an event that just does not happen. Geographically it is impossible!

Do you think that in the past seven and a half years of living in Western Australia we've watched a sunset at the beach? Of course not, life just got in the way.

So with the upcoming relocation of our superhero family back to Queensland, which is scarily only 4 and a bit weeks away, on the weekend just gone we made a snap decision to head to the beach to watch a sunset. To finally tick another item off of our family bucket list.

We arrived a few hours early as we thought that it would be a bit rough on the little superheroes if we went to the beach and they weren't able to play.

It ended up being a lovely afternoon/evening.

O and L had an absolute ball building sandcastles, collecting shells, chasing waves and the odd seagull.

Myself and Scott, apart from just relaxing watching the little superheroes play, we were able to do some self reflection on our time in Western Australia.

Making the decision to move back to Queensland wasn't an easy one to make. We honestly had to weigh up the pros and cons of both states and the effect that a move back to Queensland would have on the little superheroes. Many an evening was spent talking to and fro about what we wanted to do.

We've made many new friends here in WA. L is making the most amazing progress at the Early Intervention centre that he attends and O has just started with her therapy program. But the lack of family support over here is draining. The job market is also on a downward slide in Scott's field of work.

But in the end, the need to be closer to family support won out. We're incredibly fortunate in that both of the little superheroes funding transfers over to Queensland so they can both continue with similar therapy programs next year.

It was devastating to tell our friends here in WA that we are relocating back to Queensland. We were planning to eventually move back, but not quite as quickly as we anticipated.

As we keep reminding ourselves, Scott being made redundant really was a blessing in disguise.

Informing the staff at the Autism Association was the hardest conversation that we've had thus far. The staff have become like family and as I was telling them, I could feel myself becoming very emotional. L especially is going to miss the staff and children at the centre dreadfully.

Both O and L now know that we are moving back to Queensland but I don't think that it has quite sunk in yet.

L is very excitedly telling his teachers at school "I going to Queensland. I never going to see you again!" To which his teachers feel like crying! It will hit L once we are in Queensland and he wants to come "home" because he's had enough of being "on holidays!" Mmm not particularly looking forward to that conversation.

O hasn't said much but has become very sentimental about missing her friends and teachers. She has also become very attached to her collections of paper, her bedroom will be one of the last to pack!

But back to the sunset, it didn't disappoint and I'm glad that we finally made it to watch one. The little superheroes weren't impressed by the sunset, they were just excited about being at the beach. Oh and about the humongous shipping container boat that was coming in to dock at the near by wharf.

And if you ask them, I'm sure that they will say that having fresh fish and chips for dinner would be the highlight!

But you'll have to excuse me, I have a house to pack!