Saturday 29 December 2018

My Favourite Autism Awareness Memes, 2018

This year I have gotten into the swing of creating memes for my blog and for our social media sites. I wanted to share a few of my favourite memes that I have created!

I am very big on spreading a little more Autism Acceptance and Awareness, so here are a few of the memes that I created throughout 2018 which are along this line!

Friday 21 December 2018

My Favourite Memes, 2018, Part Two!

This year I have gotten into the swing of creating memes for my blog and for our social media sites. I wanted to share a few of my favourite memes that I have created! 

The following are a little tongue in cheek, just for fun, and describe our crazy, fun filled autism journey.

First up, the 12 days of Christmas (an Autism version!)

Two for all of you who feel like Mumbie's and Dadbie's!

Monday 17 December 2018

Additional Needs versus Special Needs .... Which phrase do you prefer?

Additional Needs or Special Needs …. which phrase do you prefer?

Before we get into discussing the phrases, let's look at what these terms are defined as.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines special needs as "any of various difficulties (such as physical, emotional, behavioural or learning disability or impairment) that causes an individual to require additional or specialised services or accommodations (such as in education or recreation.)"

The term additional needs is often defined as an indicator that a child requires extra support and/or services to enable them to be able to fully participate in education settings.

I will often refer to O and L as having additional needs as opposed to being special needs children and there is a reason why.

I truly believe that all children have their own unique special needs, regardless of whether they have a diagnosis of any description. All children are special in some way and the things that make them special, make them unique.

Are my children special? Yes they certainly are to me, their Dad and to those who love them for who they are. Are they considered special by other members of the community? There's a fairly big chance that the answer is big fat no! To the majority of society my children's needs are not considered special.

Do my children have additional needs when compared to their peers at school? Yes they do and I have no doubt that while their needs may change as they grow older, they will always have additional needs throughout their schooling. They both require support while at school, often more support than what their peers require. 

L needs frequent sensory breaks so that he can keep on track of what is required of him. O requires support to manage her anxiety that frequently crops up while at school. L requires one-on-one support when it comes to independent work. Both O and L have sensory processing difficulties and as such their teachers need to be aware that at times, O and/or L may enter into sensory overload from the environment around them and that they may require support when in sensory overload or at least some level of understanding from their teachers. O is working at a much higher academic level than some of her peers and as such she needs to be extended in her learning to keep her engaged at school. 

O and L require these additional supports to enable them to be able to fully participate in their own education. If they did not have these supports in place, I can only imagine the larger struggles that they would both have while at school.

In the schooling community children with additional needs are referred to as special needs students. There are support units within education departments that are known as Special Needs or Special Education Units. And this is fine with me. I am fairly certain that this will always be the case.

The two terms are interchangeable but know that if you are speaking with me about my children, I will often use the term additional needs.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Sensory Santa 2018

This is our fourth year of visiting a Sensory Santa and three out of the four years both my little superheroes have been in the photo with Santa. Winning!!!

Essentially Sensory Santa, or Sensitive Santa as the sessions are occasionally known as, is held in selected shopping centres that host Santa each year leading up to Christmas. Santa's Kingdom is opened up to families whose children have additional needs prior to the normal shopping centre hours. Families book in advance so that there are no queues and as such no noisy crowds of people. The lights are kept low in the area, there is very little or no background music and very few staff within Santa's Kingdom itself.

All these factors often contribute to children who have additional needs struggling to participate in activities that families who do not have children with additional needs, often take for granted. Too much noise or bright lights and L just shuts down as there is far too much sensory input.

We first heard about Sensory Santa in 2015 when we were living in Perth. At that stage the only way that we could get either O or L to sit anywhere near Santa was to have Daddy Superhero and I in the photo as well. Cue an impromptu Christmas family photo.

In 2016, Santa was running quite a bit late - sleigh mechanical difficulties and he had to feed his reindeer - so by the time that Santa arrived, L was completely over the whole Santa thing. But we did get a wonderful, smiling photo of O and Santa.

Last year, we'd just moved to Queensland. We found a Sensory Santa not too far from where had moved to and both the little superheroes were keen to visit Santa - they were a little worried that Santa might not have realised that we'd moved. O was wonderful as always in assisting L to feel comfortable. She did all of the talking and kept a reassuring hand on L the entire time. The photo was lovely, O was sitting on the chair with Santa while L was sitting on the floor snuggled into O's leg. O is an amazing big sister.

This year, well the Santa that we visited recently was hands down, the best one yet! He either had a lot of experience in engaging with children who have additional needs, had done a sleigh load of training, is a natural or a combination of all three! Both little superheroes were keen as mustard to visit Santa but when we arrived, L shut down. He was able to make to the inside of Santa's Kingdom and then that was it, he parked himself on the floor and started grunting at us. O on the other hand, marched straight over and parked herself on the chair next to Santa!

Santa sensing that L was struggling, turned his back and essentially ignored L - which was the best thing that he could have done. Santa had a short conversation with O about what she would like for Christmas before getting up to go and talk to his elves.

At this point, L was intrigued by the bubbles that one of the elves was blowing into a fan, so up he hopped to go and sit next to the fan. When Santa saw that L was happy and comfortable playing with the bubbles, he snuck back into the area and sat on the far end of the chair next to O. By that stage L was obviously feeling comfortable enough to sit on the chair as up he hopped and snuggled into O and then Santa just went with the flow!

At one point both O and L had their feet tucked up on the chair, so that's exactly what Santa did!

When O and L were trying to catch the bubbles, Santa joined in! When L started dabbing, so did Santa. I would never have thought that we'd have difficulty in choosing which Santa photo we wanted!

It was such a positive experience for both O and L. And even better, L let Santa put the sparkly reindeer antlers that all his visitors received onto his head. This was a first, L won't even give Santa a high five or fist bump. To allow Santa to touch his head, wow!

It makes me so very happy to see more and more shopping centres becoming involved with the Sensory Santa sessions. Families who have never been able to get photos of their children, both the young and slightly older, are now being able to add this yearly tradition to the calendar. 

And touch wood, we've not had a screaming child in a photo in four years! The little superheroes have been all smiles!

STEM Tinker Crates by KiwiCo

**** Please note that I do not receive commissions of any kind for this review. It is simply a product that we have found useful. ****

Several months ago I stumbled across a company on a social media site which caught my attention and my inner science geek interest …. KiwiCo.

Both and O and L love science and doing extra curricular unschooling activities like making slime, researching topics of interest on the internet, digging for dinosaur bones and shark teeth and so on. So when I spotted the products that KiwiCo produce, I immediately thought that my little superheroes would love them.

KiwiCo are a company that makes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) activities accessible, engaging and fun for kids. The company produces a number of crates for children that are along the STEAM line of interest.

They offer monthly (or 3 monthly, 6 monthly or 12 monthly) subscriptions for various ages - Tadpole Crate is an Explore and Discover project for ages 0 to 36 months, Koala Crate is a play and learn project for ages 3 to 4, Kiwi Crate is a science and art project for ages 5 to 8, Atlas Crate is a Geography and Culture project for ages 6 to 11, Doodle Crate is an Art and Design project for ages 14 plus, Tinker Crate is a Science and Engineering project for ages 9 to 16 and the Eureka Crate is an Engineering and Design project for ages 14 to 104! You can opt out of the subscription at any stage.

I chose the Tinker Crate which is aimed at children between the ages of 9 to 16 years. Both of my little superheroes, but especially O, love their science. I also figured that the Tinker Crate would extend on O's knowledge of science. The Tinker Crate is a STEM project and each crate (read project box) contains the materials needed to create the STEM project, an amazing blueprint that has detailed step-by-step instructions on how to make the project, a Tinker Zine which is essentially a magazine with additional science activities and experiments based on the STEM project and access to video tutorials.

Initially I wasn't sure what to expect so when our first tinker crate arrived, I was a little apprehensive. Was the crate going to be worth the monthly fee? Would O and L enjoy the STEM project in the tinker crate? And the all important question, would I need to gather any extra resources?

I needn't have worried. O and L loved the crate. While the crate is aimed at O's age group, L thoroughly enjoyed helping to make the project. And the project stimulated and extended on O's interest in STEM activities. The crate contained everything that O and L needed for the project, except for a pair of scissors.

The first crate that we received was a Spin Art Project. O and L assembled a Spin Art machine, using science and engineering principles to create some amazing art projects. 

While t
he blueprints were quite easy for O to read and follow, it did challenge her understanding of how things worked. She also did an amazing job at explaining the steps on the blueprint to L.

Once the little superheroes had created their spin art machine, they then experimented with the placement of the resistors on the breadboard to increase and decrease the speed of their spin art machine. 

O was fascinated by the concept that simply by moving the resistors on the breadboard, they were able to change the speed of the motor - the path of least resistance caused the motor to spin fast. The path with the most resistance caused the motor to spin at a slower rate. L was fascinated by the patterns that they were creating. I loved that they were both so busy having fun, that they didn't realise that they were doing lots of learning!!

One of the best things about the spin art machine was that there was no mess - all of the paint was contained within the crate that the components came in! Once they had finished making and playing with their spin art machine, O asked "Can you get another crate please, that was fun!" Sure can kiddo, we just need to wait a month until the next crate arrives!!

We recently received our second Tinker Crate - a STEM project to create a mini planetarium. As soon as I read what the project was, I knew that O would love it as her main interest is anything to with space. She loves getting out into the backyard at night time to do a spot of star gazing!. This weekend just gone, O had her bestie G over for a sleepover and on Sunday afternoon they were looking for something "interesting" to do, so I brought the Tinker Crate out and they both got right into the project.

Once O and G had completed the planetarium, they took it into O's bedroom to test it out. We had a little readjusting of the inside of the planetarium as there were a few gaps in the panels but wow, for a planetarium made out of cardboard, the stars projected really well. The tricky part was finding that the stars could project onto!

The girls then decided that they wanted to take the planetarium to school the following day to show their teacher. Not only was their teacher impressed, but they also had the opportunity to take the planetarium up to show one of the school's deputy principals (and the school student leaders who just happened to be meeting with the deputy principal.) O and G were very chuffed after school when they were telling me all about how they received a Deputy Principal's award for the project!!

I would highly recommend the Tinker Crate to anyone who is wanting to extend on their child's interest in STEM principles. The Tinker Crate also me curious about the other products available from KiwiCo! Watch this space for future developments!