Thursday 29 November 2018

What makes me qualified to discuss autism?

A question has been posed to me ....

"What makes you (ie: me) qualified to discuss all things autism?"

Where do I start? How about from the beginning? Just bare with me as it is a very convoluted story!!

My background is tertiary science. From about year ten onwards, my ambition in life was to become a Marine Biologist - I did two weeks work experience at our local natural history museum in the marine sciences section and loved it. I planned my year 11 and year 12 classes in high school so that I could gain entry into university to study in that field. Once I was accepted into university, I planned my subjects so that I could major in marine biology. However while I was studying at university, I fell into the role as an Education Officer for a CSIRO Science Education Centre. It was in that role that I realised that my goal in life was NOT to be a marine biologist but to work with children. Whilst working at CSIRO I did quite a bit of work with gifted students, who looking back on it now, I have no doubt would have been on the spectrum and with additional needs children, a number of whom were also on the spectrum.

Fast forward eighteen years (jeez now I am feeling old!) and I have worked in a lot of different careers since leaving the CSIRO. I've worked as an Education Officer for Life Education and I worked in the Early Childhood sector for a number of years before joining the Police Service. During the seven years that I was with the Police, one of the roles that I had was working with youth and their families in lots of different capacities. Among other roles I worked with at risk youth who were exhibiting very challenging behaviour and I was on a steering committee to establish a disability group in the area that I lived in. After resigning from the Police service I even tried my hand at administration - I thought that it was an area that I was interested in, but sitting behind a desk all day, every day, drove me slightly stir crazy! I've now come full circle and am back working in the Early Childhood sector and have been for a number of years.

Primarily throughout my career thus far I have worked with children in some capacity and many of those children have been additional needs children or children and young adults who exhibit challenging behaviour. Think education programs, inclusion support programs, programs for youth at risk, disability support and so on.

Whilst working in these fields, I didn't THINK that I was an expert in children with additional needs, be it additional needs or challenging behaviour, however I did THINK that I knew a fair bit about the subject.

And then .... I had my own children. Who just happened to be diagnosed with Autism.

Very quickly I came to the realisation that what I thought I knew, was only the tip of the ice berg! I had a lot to learn!

When you work with children with additional needs, you see one version of them. You see what they want you to see. They may not show you every side of themselves for fear of being judged or because they know that there may be consequences for exhibiting the perceived negative behaviour.

Working with children who had additional needs gave me a great head start when it came time to learn new skills and knowledge to assist my own children but I certainly did not know as much as I thought I knew.

Having two children of my own, both of whom are on the spectrum, I get to view and live their struggles 24/7.  We live autism, gifted and challenging behaviour day and night. 24/7.

Then throw in the fact that as a much wiser (well I hope so anyway) adult reflecting on myself as a child/teenager/young adult, I can see so much of my younger self in both of my children. Through speaking with my children's psychologist, we've come to the conclusion that if I was a child now (in 2018) I too would most likely be diagnosed with Autism. But I won't be chasing a diagnosis as I personally cannot see the benefit in gaining one for myself. I want to throw my efforts into assisting my little superheroes.

I can't tell you everything about Autism. What I can do is write about my children's Autism, with their input as they become more aware of their own thoughts and feelings. I can tell you about how I felt as a child and teenager struggling to understand myself and my peers.

I can give you advice on how to support children when they are exhibiting challenging behaviour. I can give you advice on how to support children and adults who suffer from anxiety as I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can recall. I can give you advice on how to turn everyday activities into therapy activities. I can give you advice on how to support individuals with sensory processing difficulties. However in saying this, what works with us, may not work for your family.

Why? Because our family lives and breathes Autism, anxiety, sensory processing difficulties, challenging behaviour, sleep issues ….. Every single day.

And the more that I learn, the more I realise that I really didn't know that much at all!

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Wesley the Werewolf!

**** Please note that I do not receive commissions of any kind for this review, it is simply a book that my children have enjoyed reading ****

If you haven't guessed by now, we love books at superhero headquarters. O is a very definite book worm and L is rapidly following in her footsteps. At their school there is a reading program with rewards for every hundred reading experiences that the students read. O has recently hit the 300 reading experiences for the year mark, although if we remembered to write down every book that she has read this year, she'd be well over 300. L has hit the 600 reading experiences for the year and he is super proud of his achievement and rightly so.

Recently I borrowed a book from my workplace - Wesley the Werewolf - as it looked like the kind of book that L would love. I had a quick read of the book while I was at work and loved the story line in the book.

When I arrived home, I gave the book to L and stood back to gauge his reaction. After leafing through the book he said "We read this at night time okay Mummy?" and took it into his bedroom to add to the ever growing pile of books to read that night!

That night before going to bed, we just had to read it twice and then L read it himself looking for his sight words from school. It is truly a wonderful sight watching L as he looks for words that he recognises and seeing him smile as he points the words out!

One of the skills that L is working on in his therapy is retelling a sequence of events so I thought that asking him questions about this book would be a great way for him to practice this skill and would be a sneaky review for the blog!

Me …. What happens in the story?
L …. The little werewolf, what his name Mummy?

Me …. His name is Wesley.
L …. Yeah Wesley, he was playing outside and gotted really dirty. Then he go home to his Mummy but there a bubble bath, yuk!

Me …. What happens then?
L …. He not want to have a bath.

Me …. Why didn't he want to have a bath?
L …. Cos he want to be tough and rough and keep dirty!

Me …. What happens next?
L …. His Mummy brushes his hair. And he got angry and sang that funny song!

Me …. It is a funny song, isn't it?

L …. Yeah.

Me …. Why do you think Wesley was angry and singing the funny song?
L …. Ummm, cos when his Mummy brushed his hair, it hurt!

Me …. Why did it hurt Wesley?
L …. Cos he had stuff in his hair! See he had bubble gum and a apple and a leaf and a stick and a snail. Lots of things.

Me … There were lots of things in his hair.
L …. Just like when you brush Sissy's hair! She yell and scream cos she got big knots in her hair. 

Me …. She does sometimes, doesn't she!
L …. But Sissy not have snails in her hair!

Me …. No buddy she doesn't have snails in her hair. What happens at the end of the book?
L …. The werewolf, his hair is soft and clean and he go play with his friends!

Me …. Do you think your friends would like to read this book?
L …. Yep! You read it again for me please?

Me …. Sure buddy. Thank you for answering my questions.
L …. That okay, but you read now please?

The author of this book is a local lady by the name of Lauren Earner. L was able to identify with the story as he could relate the story to me trying to brush his sister's hair! I didn't want to remind L that his reaction to having his hair brushed is much the same as O's reaction!!

It is a great little book and has fast become one of L's favourite books!

Sunday 25 November 2018

Supanova Comic Con and Gaming Expo, Brisbane 2018

A few weekends ago it was that time of year again. Supanova Comic Con and Gaming Expo, Brisbane.

If you haven't guessed by now, we're a wee bit superhero mad around here. Comic-Con and Supanova are two of our yearly outings. Both of my little superheroes, but particularly L, love their superheroes. L's obsession has always been, and probably always will be, superheroes.

At Supanova and Comic-Con, L is in his element. It is truly magical to watch his face light up as he is on the look out for his favourite superheroes. It is also the one day of the year that he willingly wants his photo taken, all day!!

L plans his costumes, yes we take multiple costumes for L, months in advance. A few days before hand, L will put his chosen costumes aside so that they don't get dirty! O is also very prepared - she usually decides a few months out what she is going to go dressed as so that I can make her costume. Although this year I cheated and brought her costume online! This year we also decided that the little superheroes could bring a friend along for the day. L took his best mate to Comic-Con earlier this year, so it was O's turn to bring a friend along and induct her into the Supanova experience!

So without any further ado, here are a few snaps of our Supanova outing!

Each expo we try to get a photo with a few of the guests. John Barrowman from Torchwood is one of mine and Daddy superheroes favourite actors so this photo was a must. John was absolutely brilliant with the little superheroes. And if you get the opportunity to meet John, be warned, he is prepared to do almost anything in the photos!

As was a photo with Superman, a.k.a. Dean Cain. Dean was the one person that L was desperate to meet. L was ready to meet Superman at about 5am in the morning! We had to keep reminding L that Dean wouldn't be dressed as Superman, he'd be dressed as Clark Kent - to keep his superhero identity a secret and all! L waltzed into the photo area to meet Dean, stoped dead in his tracks and pipes up with (very loudly) "You not Clark Kent!" No glasses in sight so how could he be Clark!!! Dean took it all in his stride, I'm quite sure he's used to those comments from children, and started interacting with my little superheroes. He made L's day! And it is the first expo that we've been to that L hasn't wanted to change costumes multiple times! He was staying as Superman! After this photo it was truly a wonderful sight to watch L - he was so animated about meeting Superman.

We also wanted to get a photo with Bonnie Wright, a.k.a. Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter movies. O was able to get Bonnie's autograph a few years ago and when she found out that Bonnie would be at Supanova, she wanted a photo to go with her autograph. One very happy little superhero!

L …. "Is he a real wizard? I not want to be turned into a frog!"

The girls were asked to look up at the ceiling in horror! 

The little superheroes were given the opportunity by Bethesda ANZ to dress as an Elf with various Cosplay props. L was convinced that the cloak had to go over his head. Completely. No matter how hard I attempted to convince him otherwise, he kept pulling the cloak back down over his eyes …. "I still see you Mummy!" Okay dude!

The details in a number of the Cosplay outfits were spectacular! This Warhammer Cosplayer was amazing! L was amazed by Warhammer when we saw him at Comic-Con and was equally amazed at Supanova.

L is fascinated by Deadpool and is desperate to watch the movies. He is well aware that a rating of MA on a movie means that he is not allowed to watch it but that doesn't mean that he has stopped asking to watch the Deadpool movies! Little dude, there is no way that you are watching these movies yet!
L …. "When I a teenager then?"
Nope, nope nopeity nope!

You're Welcome!

Sorry Batman, you were replaced by Superman today! Normally a photo, or two or three, with Batman is a must for L. If we'd spotted Batman prior to the photo with Dean Cain, I am certain that L would have been in it. Unfortunately for Batman, this was not the case! Batman could not even get a fist bump or high five out of L!

And lucky last, I just had to get a photo with the one and only Orc that was at Supanova. We'd literally run into the Orc a number of times throughout the day and not once did the little superheroes want a photo with him. As we were about to leave, we ran into him again. I love it when the Cosplayers get into the spirit of their chosen character!

If you ever get the opportunity to attend a Supanova, or Comic-Con for that matter, go! It is an event that everyone has to experience at least once. Both of my little superheroes are already planning their costumes for Supanova 2019!!