Tuesday, 10 September 2019

You Are Your Childs Safe Place

To the Mama or Papa who needs to hear this ....

You are your child's safe place.

You heard me right. You. Are. Your. Child's. Safe. Place.

And it is all because of how much they know that you love them.

When your child is showing their most challenging behaviour to you, it is because you are their safe place and they have come to realise that, through the love and care that you shower them with. And this is a good thing.

At some stage in every child's life, regardless of whether they have an ASD diagnosis or not or any other diagnosis for that matter, they will exhibit some kind of challenging behaviour. And it will most likely be towards you.

Your child knows that when they are at home, there is no judgement from those who love them. They know that love at home is unconditional.

When you child is exhibiting challenging behaviour they are trying to tell you something in the only way that they know how at that moment in time. They could be screaming, yelling, throwing things, they may have shut down and are refusing to verbally tell what they need to tell you. At that particular point in time, they are using the only way that they know how, to tell you that they are having a rough time. They are trying to communicate with you.

Yes it is challenging as a parent when your children are yelling and screaming or have shut down. But if it is challenging for you, imagine how hard it must be for them? 

Your child could be having a rough time dealing with a sensory input or a lack of sensory input. They could be internalising built up anxiety from their day at school. They could be having a hard time communicating to you using verbal words, what their needs and wants are in that moment.

As parents we need to remember that when it feels like our children are giving us a hard time, our children are having an even rougher time.

What you need to do as a parent is to remain as calm as possible. A child who is in distress, needs calm. Don't get me wrong, it is incredibly difficult to remain calm and not respond to a child who is showing BIG emotions, with emotions. But the chances are that if you respond to a screaming child with yelling, the entire situation with escalate and become a lot more intense.

Take a deep breath, or two or three, before you respond. Ground yourself so that you can try to remain calm. Walk away if you must. Take a moment to remember what it was like when you were a child and struggled to articulate yourself when you were experiencing BIG emotions.

And then remind yourself that your child is not doing the behaviour on purpose, they are trying to communicate with you.

Remind yourself that you are their safe place.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Let's Talk About .... Key Word Signing

I have previously published a post on the various methods that L uses and has used to communicate with us. In that post I very briefly discussed Key Word Signing. In the last few months I have been brushing up on my Key Word Signing and O has been doing weekly videos on different signs so I wanted to dedicate a blog post purely to the subject. In this post I will mostly be referring to children when using Key Word Signing but keep in mind that many adults also use Key Word Signing to communicate.

So what is Key Word Signing?

Key Word Signing or Makaton (as it is also known) is one way in which people who have difficulties with spoken communication skills can develop their language skills and communicate their needs, thoughts and opinions with those around them. Key Word Signing can be used to encourage and support the verbal language development in children, and adults, who have communication difficulties as well as in those whose communication skills are still developing - babies and young children.

Key word signing or Makaton is a simplified version of Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and as the name suggests, the actual signs just represent a core vocabulary of specially selected words that have been deemed most appropriate for children who have verbal language difficulties to to learn and use.

Key Word Signing is considered a manual form of communication in that a child uses their hands and fingers to form the signs and natural gestures. Those who use and teach Key Word Signing in Australia gratefully acknowledges the Australian Deaf Community for the use of the Auslan signs. Key Word Signing is a form of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) as it is a communication method other than speech.

When signing the word, you also need to speak the word so that the child begins to make the connection between the two. Signs are used for the words in the message that holds the most important information, rather than signing the entire sentence. For example, if you were to ask a child to “wash their hands,” you would use the key word signs of “wash” and “hands.” When using Key Word Signing, you should also use other visual strategies such as body language and facial expressions to convey the message that you want.

Why use Key Word Signing?

Verbal speech is the most efficient and effective way for children to communicate but some children may not develop verbal speech due to many reasons. However they can still learn to express their needs, thoughts and opinions through the use of Key Word Signing.

Key Word Signing isn't intended to replace the need for speech, it is used to assist the development of speech. Key Word Signing can also supplement or support a child's speech if they are not able to articulate themselves clearly. For example, they may not be able to say the word “water,” but may be able to sign the gesture for “drink.”

Key Word Signing can alleviate a child's frustration at not being to express their needs, thoughts and opinions. It is important to remember that Key Word Signing alone may not be sufficient enough meet the communication needs of an individual. It may need to be used in conjunction with visual cues, visual communication boards and other communication devices.

L picked up key word signing from a very young age and it was truly wonderful to see his frustration at being unable to communicate ease a little. At first L picked up the signs for please, more, finished, eat and drink. He would never say the word but the signing action was very clear.

The hand gestures used in Key Word Signing often look like what they mean, for example the signs for eat and drink. Gestures often last longer in space and time than spoken words, so a child has more time to process the visual signs that they can see. The hand gestures used in Key Word Signing can also slow down and simplify the speech of the speaker, which again allows a longer processing time for the child. The use of Key Word Signing will also slow down the child's speech so spoken words may come out more easily and slowly.

The Key Word Signing gestures are often easier to produce than speech for a child whose verbal speech is still developing. The gestures used can aid a child in adding extra information to their speech attempts.

Who can Key word Signing be used for?

Key Word Signing can be used with and taught to anyone whose verbal communication skills are still developing. 
I have used Key Word Signing with children who have additional needs, children for whom English is their second language and for babies whose communication skills are very much still developing and have had great success with all groups. Key Word Signing is a very effective communication form and it really does alleviate a child's frustration at being unable to communicate.

It is super important to note that the use of Key Word Signing will not stop a child from talking, so long as you always talk at the same as you sign. And remember that Key Word Signing was initially developed to support the development of speech, not to replace the need for speech.

What are the important Principles when using and
learning Key Word Signing?

When using Key Word Signing there are some important principles that you, as the speaker and the teacher, need to remember....
  • First up, get the child's visual attention. You will need the child to be looking in your direction so that they can see what you are signing. Key Word Signing really does rely on the speaker and the listener to be at least looking in each others direction for it to be effective.
  • Always speak the words that you are signing so that the child begins to make the connection between the Key Word Signs and speech. And when you are speaking, ensure that you are speaking in grammatically correct sentences.
  • When a child is using Key Word Signing to communicate their needs, opinions and thoughts, acknowledge all of their attempts at the signs. Even if their attempt is not 100% correct, acknowledge their attempt. Communication can be tricky at the best of time so if the child makes an attempt to use a sign, acknowledge their attempt.
  • When you are using Key Word Signing, place your vocal emphasis on the key words that you want to convey. For example when asking a child to wash their hands, emphasis "L, wash your hands please."
  • When using Key Word Signing, use the normal facial expressions and body language that you would use when communicating verbally with a child whose verbal speech has developed. This will assist the child in developing an understanding of the non-verbal communication skills.
  • Children are most likely to learn the Key Word Signs that are meaningful or useful to them in their daily lives. They will most likely learn a key word sign a lot more quickly if they have repeated opportunities to see it being used and practice it themselves. As mentioned earlier, L picked up the key word signs for "finished, more, please, eat, drink, play, book" long before he learnt other key word signs. These were the signs that were used every day and as such were easier for him to learn.

What are the building blocks skills that are necessary
when learning Key Word Signing?

When teaching Key Word Signing to children, there are some building blocks that the child should first have, or be developing, in order to assist them in key word signing. If these skills are still developing in the child, then they may find it difficult to perform the signs. This doesn't mean that the child is unable to develop the ability to learn Key Word Sign, it may just take them a little longer to effectively communicate their needs, thoughts and opinions through key word signing. You may also need to work on these building block skills at the same time as teaching Key Word Signing.
  • Fine Motor Skills - All of the Key Word Signs are done through the use of finger and hand signs and gestures. If a child's fine motor skills and coordination are still developing they may struggle to correctly sign the signs. But as mentioned above, acknowledge their approximate attempts to use the signs. This is important in building up their confidence that they can do it and reassuring them that they are capable learners.
  • Imitation - At first a child may simply copy or imitate what someone else is signing in order to produce the signs themselves. This means that you as the teacher need to produce the signs correctly.
  • Receptive (understanding) language skills - If a child's receptive language skills are still developing, they may not fully grasp what you are asking them or talking to them about. As time goes on, a child will begin to develop and build on their receptive language skills through the use of Key Word Signing as they will need to comprehend what is being signed (and said) to them. One thing that you as the speaker can do, is remain calm. If the child is taking time to understand what you are asking, remember that it could be because they are still mentally processing what you are asking.
  • Expressive language skills - A child may struggle to express themselves through the use of Key Word Signing if their expressive language skills are still developing. This skill will develop as they practice the signs in real life experiences. Again it is important for you as the speaker to remain calm when engaging with the child.
  • Tactile sensitivities -  Initially a child may resist learning Key Word Signing especially if they have a tactile sensitivity. It can be helpful to assist a child to manipulate their fingers and hands to produce the signs. If they have tactile sensitivities, think sensory processing difficulties, they may resist you holding their hands.
  • Working Memory - A child may have difficulty in retaining Key Word Signs if their working memory is still developing. Working memory is the ability to retain and manipulate the information involved in language comprehension and learning new information, and the ability to update this information as changes occur.
  • Planning and sequencing - This is the ability to plan what signs the individual wants to use and to sequence the signs in the order needed. L struggled with this skill for a long time but the more we used Key Word Signing with him, the better he became at remembering what signs he wanted to use and in which order. Again, ensure that you acknowledge the child's attempts to use the signs.

What can you do to help a child in learning key word signing?

Looking at the building block skills mentioned above that are needed to effectively use Key Word Signing, there are many, many activities that you can do with the child to build upon the skills that they already have.

During play we would use Key word Signs that were related to the game or activity that L was engaged in. We would also use Key Word Signs and encourage L to use them too, during every day daily routines. The more we used the signs, the more receptive L was to using them. We would incorporate fine motor activities in L's play so we could assist him in developing his fine motor control. We also used visual timetables and visual communication boards with L at home. If we were unsure at what he was signing, we would use one of these visual cues to assist us and L in understanding what it was that he was attempting to communicate. We encouraged L's carers to also use Key Word Signing with him as the more practice he had in using the signs, the less frustrated he became at communicating his needs, opinions and thoughts.

When reading books, we used to sign the key concepts that were in the story. We would ask questions using Key Word Signing about the illustrations in books in regards to "where" particular objects were in the pictures. This not only assisted L in learning these signs but also assisted in developing his receptive and expressive communication skills. We would sing songs and nursery rhymes using Key Word Signing. One of L's favourite nursery rhymes was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

And lastly, as I have mentioned several times in this post, remain calm. Communication can be incredibly difficult when you are struggling to put your thoughts together as to what you want to say, let alone if you have difficulty verbally articulating yourself. Acknowledge all attempts that your child makes in using Key Word Signing as this will boost their confidence.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Who is the family behind Raising My Little Superheroes?

It's been a while since we've done this and we've just hit 5000 likers on one of our social media sites! So who is the family behind Raising My Little Superheroes?

My name is Jenni and I'm a mum of two gorgeous little superheroes. Well, we think they're gorgeous, but then again we are biased. O is now 10 and L is now 7. My husband is Scott. But at times I do wonder if I have two or three children!

O is thriving at school and loving life in general. Over the last three years, she has become more and more articulate in describing how she feels, thinks and views the world. O's intense interest is still anything and everything to do with space and she has added science to her interests as well. This year, she was accepted into the Australian Girls Choir and she absolutely loves it. O is very creative and loves to express herself through song, so the Australian Girls Choir is perfect for her.

L is also thriving at school, he's still not a fan of going to school but he is thriving. In 18 months L has worked his way from below average academically to on average with his peers. We've always said to both O and L, that their grades at school really do not worry us. As long as they both put as much effort as they can into school, that is all that matters. And boy, have both O and L put in a lot of effort at school. L is still into all things superheroes, and probably always will be. 

It has been over three years since we started on this Autism journey. But our journey really started when L was born. From the moment that L arrived on earth side, we knew that he was a different baby. He was completely different from O and also from other babies that we met at our local playgroup. Scott and I knew that he was different, but didn't exactly know what the difference was. We did question many professionals in the medical and education field as to whether he could be Autistic and was told that no, "he's just a naughty boy, he's being a typical boy, it was our parenting style, he's just slow because he has an older sister who does everything for him ...." and many other reasons. None of which made us as parents feel good about ourselves.

L was non verbal until the age of three. At three, he spoke a grand total of roughly 20 words. At three years of age, I took him back to our GP and was in tears because L was having a meltdown and I couldn't help him. L was having a meltdown over not being allowed to play on the busy road outside the surgery. Our GP agreed that L was different than other children his age and immediately referred us to our pediatrician. Much to our relief our pediatrician agreed that L was different and gave a provisional ASD diagnosis. We received his official diagnosis of a DSM V level 2 ASD in 2016, L was three and a half.

Thus began our Autism journey.

While going through L's ASD assessment, Scott recognized a lot of L's traits in himself so off he went to be assessed and low and behold, Scott was given an ADHD diagnosis in 2017.

O at this stage was 7. As a baby, O reached all her developmental milestones early. We knew that she was academically gifted but we didn't suspect that she was on the spectrum. She was, and still is, a very anxious child. After L's diagnosis, we began to see some ASD traits in O and each time we questioned as to whether O was also on the spectrum, we were told that she couldn't possibly be because she's very social and makes eye contact.

We were however referred to a child psychologist for her anxiety because we were struggling to help her manage her anxiety. During her second session, her psychologist said "you need to get O assessed, she's definitely on the spectrum."

So off we went on the assessment path again. Low and behold, six months later O was given a DSM V level 2 ASD diagnosis! We were expecting the diagnosis as all the way through her assessment, the speech therapist and psychologist told us that yes O is on the spectrum. Her DSM V level floored us as we'd missed all her traits. O was and still is a master at masking her ASD traits.

During O's ASD assessment I realized that I could have been answering the questions about myself. O is my mini-me. I broached the subject several times with the professionals who were doing her assessment and was told "I can spot an Aspie a mile away!"

As well as ASD, both O and L have sensory processing difficulties, anxiety (O was recently diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder,) and a myriad of other health conditions.

I haven't pursued a diagnosis for myself because other than getting a piece of paper that would explain my childhood and how I felt as an outsider up until quite recently, it really wouldn't benefit me. I'd prefer to put my efforts into assisting my little superheroes on their journey. Also three out of four in our family have a diagnosis!!

I started my blog on the 28th of August 2016 (yep, we're also celebrating our third blogiversary!) as a means of clearing my thoughts, writing for me is my therapy, but also to spread a little Autism awareness and acceptance. We struggled to find support when we first began on this journey and I wanted to let other families and individuals know that support is out there. 

I don't want to see children, or adults, being left behind because they're different or quirky or don't fit into the mould that they're expected to fit into.

If you've read this far, thank you for joining us on our journey. It can be crazy, fun filled, coffee injected ride, but it's our life and I wouldn't change anything for the world.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Apps that we find useful - Review

**** Please note that we do not receive commissions of any kind for this post. These are simply Apps that we have found useful. ****

Over the past few years, a number of Apps have been recommended to us by both O and L's various therapists to assist in developing different skills and also to assist in providing strategies to manage O's anxiety. Just recently I have been asked by numerous people what Apps I would recommend for other families to download to assist their children so I thought that I would dedicate a blog post to discussing these Apps.

The majority of the Apps mentioned in this post are incredibly useful and a few of the Apps are just for fun Apps! In writing this post, I spoke with both O and L to get their input and asked them to rate the Apps that they used out of 5 stars. With any App that we download onto either the phone or other electronic device, we will always test the App first, just to make sure that there isn't anything untoward in the App. So all of the Apps aimed at children mentioned in this post have been used by myself or Daddy Superhero prior to O and L being allowed to use them.

Please keep in mind that a number of these Apps are useful in providing strategies that can be used for anxiety and other medical issues. The following Apps are not meant to treat any illness or replace the need for professional medical care or professional therapy services. If you feel that you or your child could benefit from medical treatment or therapy for any condition, please speak to a trusted medical professional.

Strong Minds

Recently O was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and was started on an Anxiety medication. We wanted an App in which we could assist O to track her thoughts and feelings each day. Strong Minds is an App that was recommended to us by one of O's therapists so that O could start to track how her anxiety was making her feel each day. Strong Minds is a free App in Google Play which provides the user with mental health tools through the use of interactive stories, visuals and guided meditations.

One of the great things that we love about this App, is that there is a section in which O can record her daily thoughts and feelings. Within the "history" section of the App, O is able to record how she has been feeling, the strategies that she used throughout the day and any other information that she wants to record down. This has been great for O to be see just how much happier and calmer she is feeling each day.

Other sections of the App include a stories area in which the user can learn how thoughts, feelings and actions are connected through reading several illustrated stories. Find your feeling assists the user to identify what emotion they are feeling through the use of facial expressions. This section also has explanations of different emotions and possible strategies that the user could use. There is a section with meditation audios for the user to listen as well.

Out of 5 stars .... O gives this App  stars!

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame is an App that one of L's Occupational Therapists recommended several years ago when we were working with L on his emotional regulation skills. This is another free App that is available in both Google Play and the Apple Store.

This particular App is aimed at children between the ages of two years to five years of age and uses Sesame Street characters throughout the App. The App itself teaches children skills such as problem solving, self control, planning and persistence. The App is part of Sesame Street's Little Children, Big Challenges initiative which aims to provide children with tools to help them build resilience and overcome the every day challenges that they may face.

As the user progresses through this App, they will help a Sesame Street monster friend calm down and solve everyday challenges similar to challenges that the child may face such as not being able to dress themselves, first day of school, becoming frustrated while playing and so on. The App is interactive in that user needs to tap the screen to progress through the sections of the App - tapping the Monsters tummy, tapping the monsters thought bubbles and then helping the monster to chose which plan to use to solve the problem that the monster is facing in the App. The narrator in the App is encouraging towards the user and prompts the user as to what step they should take next, for example "pop the bubbles."

L loves the animations in this App and as he uses it, he is able to relate what he is learning to real situations that he has found himself in. 

While this is aimed at younger children, O loves to play this App too! One of the other great aspects about this App is that when L is using it, he thinks he is just playing a game! The power of play!

Out of 5 stars .... O gives it  and L gives it !

Toca Pet Doctor

This is an App that has been recommended to us by several of L's speech therapists over the last few years. It is another free App that is available in both Google Play and the Apple Store. Primarily this is just a game but we were initially using it to teach L problem solving skills, planning and persistence skills. In this App, the user meets 15 animals that need some some help as well as love and care. It is an interactive App in which the user has to complete several steps for each animal from looking after their ailments, grooming the animals and then feeding them.

The artwork and animations in this App are very appealing to children, L goes back to this App time and time again. It is an App that is aimed at children between the ages of 2 years and 6 years of age. And again through the power of play, L is developing his executive functioning skills in having to think about steps he needs to use to help each animal.

Out of 5 stars .... L gives it  stars!

Doctor Kids 
(developed by M by Bubadu)

This is yet another App that has been recommended to us by several of L's speech therapists over the last few years. It is another free App that is available in Google Play and the only complaint that we have it is that there are in App purchases available and it does contain some advertisements for other games and products. Again, primarily this is just a game but we were initially using it to teach L problem solving skills, planning and persistence skills.

The idea behind this App is that children are coming into the doctors clinic with various injuries and ailments. The user needs to appoint the patients to the correct doctors office by matching symbols on the child to those on the reception desk. Once the patient has been redirected, the user becomes the treating doctor and treats the patient. The user then needs to follow the steps to treat the patient. It's almost a series of mini-games with the main game.

The artwork and animations in this App are bright and colourful and while L hasn't played this game in a while, it is one that he goes back to every now and then. This App is aimed at children between the ages of 3 years and 8 years however O still enjoys playing the games. And again through the power of play, L and O are practicing their executive functioning skills as well their fine motor control in manipulating the instruments in the app.
Out of 5 stars .... O gives it 
 and L gives it !

Super Slime Simulator

This App we stumbled on quite by accident when O and L were looking for a new game to download onto my phone. It is a free App that is available in both Google Play and the Apple Store. And as the name suggests it is all about slime, but without the mess! There are in App purchases, however by playing the game, you earn medallions that can be used in the game. 

Again this is more like a game within a game as there are lots of little mini games in the App. Each day there is a new surprise pack to open which will contain two items - a new slime type, a new colour and a new decoration to add to the slime. The combinations of slimes, colours and decorations that you can make, really are endless!

You can make slime and then stretch it, squish it, knead it and pop it. Both O and L love this game and more often than not, they'll be on this App when they are allowed screen time. Daddy superhero regularly gets messages from the little superheroes when they send their virtual creations to him!!

I discovered quite by accident that this App assists both O and L to calm when they are in sensory overload. As both little superheroes have said "making and playing with the slime is very satisfying." For them, playing this game is very similar to the effects of when they stim - playing with slime helps them both to calm when in sensory overload.

Out of 5 stars .... Both little superheroes rate this a HUGE  stars! They honestly love this App.

Smiling Mind

This is an App that was recommended by O's psychologist when we were looking at using alternative strategies to assist O to self manage her anxiety. We were starting to introduce mindfulness and this App is all about mindfulness. It is a free App available in both the Apple Store and on Google Play.

Smiling Mind is a unique web based and App-based program that has been developed in conjunction with psychologists and educators to bring some balance to peoples lives. Smiling Mind is a 100% not-for-profit organisation and their aim is to make mindfulness meditation accessible to everyone.

Smiling Mind has various tiers within the App aimed at different age ranges of children, teenagers and adults.

This is an App that O consistently goes back to when she is feeling overwhelmed.

Out of 5 stars .... O gives it  stars.

Left vs Right: Brain Games

This is an App that I originally downloaded for myself when I wasn't studying so that I could keep my brain active! It is a free App that is available from both the Apple Store and Google Play however the free version only has limited access to the games. If you subscribe to the App, you gain full access to all of the games. If you're like me and not into subscribing to Apps, you only have partial access to the App however it you are really keen and watch the videos in the App you can then gain access to some of the VIP sections!

Left vs Right has a total of 50 games that test and train your brain in six different areas - Awareness, Adaptability, Reflex, Reasoning, Precision and Patience. There is a section in which you can see your progress in each of the six different areas however this is a VIP section but if you are patient and watch a short video, you do gain access to this area.

O has become a fan of this App in the last twelve months. As she says "I like to test my brain to see what it can hold and to see what my brain is capable of."

Out of 5 stars .... O rates it  stars. I give it a  out of 5, even with the videos to watch to gain full access!

Migraine Buddy

This is an App that I use to track my migraines. It is a free App that is available in both Google Play and the Apple Store.

Put very simply this App is an advanced migraine tracking journal. It was designed by Neurologists and data scientists and it really is a very useful App.

Within the App you can record the onset of migraines, the triggers, migraine symptoms, medications that you used to help with the migraine, migraine frequency, duration, the pain intensity and location and other lifestyle factors so that you can gain insight into why your migraines may be occurring. Once all of these details are entered, you are given an easy to read summary report on your migraine. The reports stay in the App and can be exported so that you can take the details to your GP if needed.

I have found this App incredibly useful to record details of my migraines as well as what works and what doesn't work. There is also a sleep tracking function within the App.

Out of 5 stars .... A very definite ★★★★ stars.

Skyview Free

One of O's intense interests is all things space. A few years ago we were given a telescope as a gift so that we could search the night sky with O which she absolutely loves but at times it simply isn't practical to get the telescope out. Last year one of our friends suggested that we download Skyview. O loves this App as she can open it and find stars, constellations, planets, the moon, galaxies, satellites and other celestial objects day or night! 

We've used to track and locate the International Space Station as it flew overhead. We've also used the App to track the progress of a lunar eclipse last year. And I often many, many screen shots on my phone of celestial objects that O has found interesting! One of the reasons that O loves this App so much is that no matter which direction the phone is facing, even down towards the ground, O can see where everything in space is!

It is a free App that is available in both Google Play and the Apple Store.

Out of 5 stars .... O rates this a very definite !

Sky Map

Like the App mentioned above, Sky Map can be used to find and track stars, constellations, planets, the moon, galaxies, satellites and other celestial objects day or night! It is described as a hand held planetarium for your mobile device! It is a free App that is available in Google Play.

O will swap back and forth between this Sky Map and Skyview but she does prefer to use Skyview.

Out of 5 stars .... O gives this  but only because she prefers Skyview! Sorry Sky Map!

Helix Jump

This is another just for fun game that is a free App available in both Goggle Play and the Apple Store. It is an App that has ads in it but nonetheless, L loves it. It is one that will keep him occupied as we wait in specialist reception areas.

It is a game of skill where the user needs to bounce a ball down through a helix maze. L has said that this App is also satisfying to play so it is another App that can bring calm to sensory overload.

Out of 5 stars .... L says that this one can get ★★★ because he likes the slime game more.

How to Draw Cartoon
by Creative Apps 

This is an App that we recently downloaded for L as he wants to learn how to draw his favourite cartoon characters and other superheroes. This particular App is available for free in Google Play. There are in App purchases but L hasn't discovered them yet!

There are dozens of characters to draw and when the user chooses one to learn to draw, the App takes the user step by step through the process. There is also the option to colour the picture once the user has drawn it. L loves this App and will practice drawing in the App before drawing the character on paper. It is definitely assisted him in his confidence in being able to draw his favourite characters.

Out of 5 stars .... O gives this a ★ rating and L gives this ★ as he learnt how to draw Dragonball Z characters!

And don't forget to check out O's tutorial on how to create stop motion animations as she mentions a few different stop motion Apps!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Let's Talk About .... Gender Dysphoria

So there is a bit of a backstory to this post, so bare with me.

A few weekends ago we had a very interesting development occur in superhero headquarters just before midnight on a Saturday night. We have a pet lorrikeet, named Popeye, and there were some very odd and strange noises coming from his cage. As Daddy superhero said, it sounded like Popeye was trying to poop out something rather large. It turns out that our lorrikeet was laying eggs. Say what now?

Now here's the twist. Popeye is a boy. Well we thought he was until she started laying eggs late one Saturday night!

We got Popeye almost three years ago as a hand raised baby lorrikeet. The bird park in Perth where we got Popeye from, DNA tested him prior to us bringing him home and we were told that Popeye was a boy. So for the last three years, we've been referring to Popeye as a boy.

Well clearly that isn't the case because we had two little eggs in a makeshift nest in the bottom of Popeye's cage!!

We now know that Popeye is in fact a girl and she was very proud of herself for laying two eggs. She had no idea what to do with them and the eggs aren't fertilized, much to the little superheroes disgust as they wanted to see some baby birds, as she's never been in contact with another lorrikeet other than her parents and her brother three years ago!!

L thought it was hilarious, went and tried to wake his big sister up so that she could share in the excitement. L was quite disgusted that O wouldn't wake up so he woke her friend G who was sleeping over. Then very early the next morning, L and G told O the news about Popeye!

Later on that morning the questions started ...

L ... Mummy, how did Popeye be a girl and lay eggs when she got boy blood?
Me ... Well buddy, turns out Popeye was a girl the whole time.
L ... So she got girl DNA and not boy DNA. The bird shop got it wrong.
Me ... They sure did buddy. And how do you know about DNA?
L ... I heared it somewhere!
O ... So we thought Popeye was a boy but she just wasn't able to tell us that she wasn't a boy. Popeye told us in her own way when she was ready. A little bit like E, when she wanted to be a girl and not a boy anymore.
M ... Good remembering O, yes a little like E.

Both O and L have not had any issues in now referring to Popeye as a girl, to them it's just a matter of fact that Popeye is a girl and she lays eggs.

This conversation got me thinking. A few years ago when we lived in Perth, one of the little superheroes carers built up the courage to come out to those who knew and loved her, that she no longer identified as a male. She explained that she had gender dysphoria, identified as a female and wanted to be known as E.

We'd just started on our Autism journey and I honestly had no idea how O and L would react to the news that one of their beloved carers was not only changing their name but also changing genders. At that point in time, we were still learning how to adapt our life style so that L was able communicate with us and those around him so the thought of introducing both little superheroes to the concept that sometimes people feel very different inside, was very daunting.

But you know what, it was a very simple process. We sat down with both little superheroes and spoke with them that their carer felt very different inside, that she didn't feel as though she was a boy and that she wanted to live life as a girl and be known as E from now on.

O's response was "Oh, so E wants to be a girl? As long as she is happy that is all that matters," and that was it.

The very next day when O saw E, O embraced E before running off to play.

In O's mind, E was still the same person, the only difference was that E now dressed like a lady and had a female name.

Children really can teach us adults a thing or two about being accepting no matter what the circumstance.

O has since asked more questions about why people change from being a girl to a boy or visa versa so we have had chats about gender fluidity as well as gender dysphoria.

Transgender and gender nonconforming people are gaining more and more visibility as they find the courage within themselves to come out and live publicly as the most authentic versions of themselves. So it's important to have these conversations with our children when the circumstances arise. Children are naturally curious and naturally accepting. It is us adults who are, at times, not accepting of those who are different from us or different from our beliefs.

Gender dysphoria is the condition in which an individual's emotional and psychological identity as male or female is opposite to their birth gender. Gender fluidity on the other hand refers to an individual who prefers to remain flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to a single gender. An individual who is gender fluid may fluctuate between genders or express multiple genders at the same time.

When we lived in Perth, it was suggested to us that we read the book "Introducing Teddy," which is written by Jessica Walton, to our little superheroes. This book introduces children to the idea of gender identity in an easy to understand manner. Both O and L loved reading this book and it just cemented to them that no matter what another looks like or how they feel inside or who they identify as, we should accept them as they are.

*** Popeye is a cross breed between a Rainbow Lorrikeet and a Scaly Breasted Lorrikeet. Occasionally when these two sub-species breed, they can have olive coloured chicks. 
Hence the name Popeye!! And unlike a few other animals, 
Lorrikeets are not able to change genders! 
We've since found out that DNA testing birds when they are chicks can be a little unreliable!***