Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Adventures with My Little Superheroes.

One thing that we love to do as a family is take day trips. We pack the picnic basket, get into the car and pick a direction. Neither of my little superheroes enjoy the unknown - the element of surprise and unknown really throws them both off balance. But throughout life, we all will come across unknown surprises so both Daddy superhero and I want to prepare them. We want them both to know what while preparation for changes is great, every now and then they will come across a change that they didn't know about and that they will be okay.

So the day trips that we take serve two purposes - having fun as a family and preparing them for the future.

About a month ago we decided to go on a day trip and when we got to the motorway, both little superheros pointed south so that's the direction we went in. We ended up down at one of Daddy superheroes old stomping grounds on the south side of Brisbane. There's a great little (well not so little in the grand scheme of things) playground with huge old Moreton Bay fig trees at Wellington Point. After a picnic, both little superheroes took off towards the trees.

Each time we venture to Wellington Point, both little superheroes love to climb up and sit on the branches of the old trees. This time, not only did they just sit on one of the branches, they wanted to have a go at climbing/crawling/shuffling along one of the branches into the tree. This is a huge step, especially for O, as while L really doesn't have a sense of fear, the branches aren't the easiest to climb along.

But they both had a go, and with a little help from Daddy, they both made it into the tree! And not only did they have fun, but by climbing the tree, they gained a little proprioceptive input!!

After some tree climbing, we saw that the tide was on its way out. Each time we've been to Wellington Point, the little superheroes have talked about the little island that is located a short distance off shore from Wellington Point. What they both didn't realise is that when the tide goes out, there is a sand bank that appears that runs between Wellington Point and the island, King Island.

So off came the shoes and we made a snap decision to walk the sand bank to King Island! Now as the tide hadn't gone completely out, we had to cross a small channel to get onto the sand bank. We all pulled our shorts up as far as they would go and waded into the water. Me being my clumsy self, went bum up and was soaked from the waist down - thank goodness, I'd wrapped my phone in a few plastic bags! Both little superheros, and Daddy superhero and the people around us, had a good chuckle. And both little superheroes reminded me "Mummy, you don't have dry clothes in the car. Now you're wet, you going to have to walk home!"

King Island is situated approximately 1 kilometre out from Wellington Point. The island is a conservation park and is a combination of sandy pathways alongside trees and it is surrounded by mangroves. It is uninhabited now, but in the early 1900's, the island was once home to the Phillips family for medicinal reasons - one of their seven children had polio and it was suggested to them that the child would benefit from bathing daily in the sea water. They built a makeshift home on the island and lived there for a number of years.

The walk out to King Island was quite lovely. At one point L told me "It very peaceful out here!" and that it was. We took our time walking out, stopping to look at the coral and shells that were washed up on the sand bar.

The walk was a little too much for O. She did make it out to the island but the shells and coral along the way was too much for her feet. So once we'd made it to the island, she and I headed back while L and Daddy superhero explored the island.

As you can probably tell from the photo, L had a ball bouncing, running and jumping all over the island.

On our way back to Wellington Point, O and I had a talk about what we had learnt from the walk as by that point O was quite teary. Her pain threshold is quite low compared to L's so I wanted to try and take her mind off of the walk itself.

We decided that next time that while we'd take our shoes off to cross over onto the sand bar, we'd bring our shoes so that the coral and shells didn't hurt O's feet. It is wonderful to see her problem solve issues that she comes across as it means that in the future, she will have these skills to help her in every day life.

At one point on the way back, O spotted a lump of dead coral. She knows that as a teenager and young adult, I had my heart set on becoming a marine biologist, so she is always asking me questions about marine life. The coral that she happened to pick up had two, that we could see, different marine creatures living on it. There was a black and brown chiton (a marine mollusc) sticking very tightly and moving very slowly along one edge and in a burrow was the tail end of a mantis shrimp - it was madly clicking as we looked at the coral as if to say "put my home down!"

All in all, it was a great day out. Both little superheroes are already talking about the next time we walk to King Island and what we need to take so that we're a little more prepared. They both did really well to walk the 2 kilometre round trip to King Island, as we kept reminding them - it was the longest walk that they'd both done in quite some time.

Oh, and I didn't need to walk home - we'd packed towels just in case we ended up at a destination where the little superheroes could swim!

Saturday, 15 February 2020

L's Speech Therapy Journey

Four years ago, on the 2nd of February 2016, L began early intervention therapy which included Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy, at an amazing Early Intervention centre called Little Stars with the Autism Association of Western Australia. Little Stars rapidly became known as Tara's School due to the bond that one of his therapists, Tara, built with L. 

L's first day at Tara's School was a nerve wrecking day for all us as L's verbal communication skills were still developing. He did a lot of stimming we initially arrived but by the smiles on his face when we collected him after his session, he had had a ball.

Since that date, L has been attending weekly speech therapy sessions and over the last four years L has made huge leaps and bounds and he is continuing to move forward.

Last Wednesday afternoon, L came to the end of his speech therapy journey. It really was a bittersweet moment as all of his speech therapists have become extended family members. They have all invested a lot of time, both professionally and personally, into developing L's abilities as well as encouraging him on his Autism journey. But as his Speech therapist said on Wednesday, L has come to the end of what a speech therapist is able to do. In looking at the scope of what a Speech Therapist can do, L has reached the end point with speech therapy.

So now we're down to Occupational Therapy and psychology sessions!!

I am so very proud of just far L has come. He's faced many obstacles, and will probably face more going forward, but so far he has overcome everything that he has faced. From a little boy who struggled to understand his own, and others emotions, who was non-verbal to the talkative, mischievous little superhero that he is today.

This little superheroes future is very, very bright!

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Thoughts from my children

O has always been very articulate in how she describes the world around her. A few years ago, I started writing down some of her thoughts about her anxiety, about Autism and life in general through her eyes. Late last year, L started chiming in with some of his thoughts.

So here are a few of her thoughts, and L's, for you to have a read of.

I love that everyday I get to view the world through their eyes.

[L .... Mummy, my dreams got lots of colours
What do the colours mean L?
L... Gold if the bestest kind of dream. Green is a good dream. Blue is a sad dream. Pink means a weird dream. Red is a scary angry dream and the baddest dream is black.
L, 6 years]

[I got Awes-tism.
That means that I awesome.
L, 7 years]

[Autism 101 #12
Sometimes I think in pictures, sometimes in words and sometimes I think in music. But mostly in pictures and music. That's why I love to sing. When I see or hear words, I think of pictures and sometimes sounds and music that mean what the word is.
O, 7 years.]

[I really don't like it when people say that I am special because I have Autism. In the dictionary special means better or greater than. I am not better or greater than my friends. i am just different because I have autism.
O, 8 years.]

[Autism 101 #25
I bounce when I am really happy or excited. I chew my shirt when I am worried. I need to bounce my feet in class sometimes. This helps me to keep my mind still. If my feet are busy, my mind stays still so that I can concentrate on my teacher. I don't realise that I am doing these things. It just happens.
O, 8 years.]

[When my feet are busy on my chair band, my mind is still and ready to learn.
O, 8 years.]

[When I'm anxious my brain feels like it is exploding. Exploding with everything that I feel, see and think. I think that's why I get confused. Am I anxious or do I feel sick. That's what my anxiety feels like.
O, 9 years.]

[Some people say that my little brother and I don't look Autistic. And that makes me sad. You can't see Autism. It's inside us. But if you get to know us, you will see our Autism. I just want people to stop saying that we don't look Autistic. It's not a compliment. It's and insult.
O, 10 years.]

[We're all different in so many ways. We have different coloured hair, we have different coloured eyes. We all have different hobbies. And our thoughts are different from each other. We need to celebrate these differences because these differences make us unique from each other.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #35
I won't grow out of my Autism. I will grow into my Autism. Autism is something that I was born with and it is something that will always be a part of me. I am constantly finding new ways to manage my anxiety and my sensory processing difficulties. I am more and more me every day.
O, 10 years.]

[Mummy, when I'm older, I want to be an Autism Advocate and help kids like me and my little brother just like you're advocating for us now. I want to be a VOICE for those who haven't found their voice yet.
O, 10 years.]

[Most of the time my anxiety is silent.
You can't see it or feel it. But I can.
O, 10 years.]

[My anxiety feels like I am carrying something extremely heavy. I can feel the heaviness of my anxiety but sometimes I don't know what's causing me to be anxious. And no matter what I do or how hard I try, I can't make my anxiety go away. The heaviness only goes when i can talk to Mummy and Daddy, or when my emotions take over completely.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism is a ability. But I don't think of myself as disabled. My Autism doesn't disable me. It trys to stop me from doing things that I like to do sometimes, but I can usually overcome what is holding me back. If anything, my Autism enables me to think differently and see the world around me differently.
O, 10 years.]

[When there is a lot of background noise like talking, music and other sounds, my brain finds it very difficult to concentrate on what I should be listening to. My brain becomes confused and my anxiety takes over. This is why I wear my headphones. They block out the background noise and my brain can filter out what I need to listen to.
O, 10 years.]

[When I read sheet music, the musical notes leap off of the sheet and dance vibrantly through my brain. My brain really comes alive and is so very colourful when I sing. I think that is why I love music and singing so much.
O, 10 years.]

[Most nights I find it hard to fall asleep even when I've had my melatonin. My brain just wants to go over everything that happened during the day so I have trouble shutting down my thoughts. If I've had a rough day with my anxiety, then it's even harder to turn off my brain because my amygdala takes over my brain.
O, 10 years.]

[Someone asked me "Aren't you afraid of standing out?" so I told them, "No, but I'm afraid of being someone that I'm not."
O, 10 years.]

[My anxiety used to be very intense. It was as though my amygdala was hijacking my brain when it thought that something was very stressful. Now, because I take my anxiety tablets, my brain doesn't let my amygdala take over. I still have worries, but I can see them much more clearly and my brain can think through how to solve my worries.
O, 10 years.]

[My brother and I see the world around us through a different lense than what our friends do. What we see might seem different to you, what we do might seem weird to some people. But if you look at the world through our lense, then what we do and see is perfectly normal.
O, 10 years.]

[I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud that I have Autism. Autism is one of the things that makes me unique.
O, 10 years.]

[When I am in sensory overload, it feels as though all of my senses are amplified so that everything that I see, smell, touch and hear are very sharp.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #15
When people accept me and my little brother for who we are, they've made a conscious effort not just to know what we do but also to understand and accept us for who we are and the things we do.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #10
Sensory overload feels like...
Too much noise makes me ears and brain hurt. It feels like mt brain is being squeezed so much that all the information inside and my thoughts are muddled and I can't work out what I need to concentrate on. My brain stops working and starts pounding and making more noise.
When I wear my headphones, they block our the noise around me, my brain works again and then I can concentrate on the important stuff, like my teacher giving instructions.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #16
I mask my Autism sometimes when I'm at school. Not because I want to be like everyone else but because I don't want to be singled out for being different. Masking my Autism is really hard. It takes a lot of energy to mask.
O, 10 years.]

[Sometimes I feel as my anxiety hinders me more than my Autism does. I know and understand that Autism manes that my brain works differently. But do I have anxiety as well. Having a brain that works differently is easy to understand. Anxiety is not easy to understand.
O, 10 years.]

[I'm never going to let my Autism or anxiety from stopping me doing the things that I love. They might slow me down but they won't stop me.
O, 10 years.]

[All children have needs. All children are special.
Being Autistic means that I have additional needs that other children might not have.
O, 10 years.]

[When I am having a meltdown it feels like I am having an out of body experience. I can see myself having a hard time but I can't stop myself from screaming and yelling. It's like my amygdala has completely taken over my brain to protect me from danger.
O, 10 years.]

[When I am feeling anxious, my amygdala hijacks my brain and zooms in on my worry.
My amygdala stops my brain from seeing the bigger picture. This makes me even more anxious because I know that I should be focusing on the bigger picture but I just can't.
O, 10 years.]

[When your child is anxious. instead of asking them 'are you okay,' you could ask them...
Can I sit with you? What does your worry feel like inside? Would you like to tell me about your worry? I am here for you. What is something that I can do to help you feel calmer? Let's try and think of some solutions to your worry. Being anxious is okay.
O, 10 years.]

[In the afternoon when I am asked 'how was your day,' sometimes I don't know how to answer because my brain is still processing and sorting all of the information that I've learnt at school that day. It is easier for me to answer specific questions about the subjects that I had at school that day.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #2
Autism is a part of me. It isn't everything that I am but it is a part of me. I am so much more than just an Autism diagnosis. I am me. I just happen to be diagnosed with Autism,
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #5
I can make eye contact. But when I do, it hurts my eyes. Eye contact hurts my head. I know that I should but eye contact is very painful. And just because I'm not looking at your eyes, doesn't mean that I'm not listening.
O, 10 years.]

[Autism 101 #9
Autism makes me listen louder. It makes me feel things intensely - sounds, lights, thoughts, feelings. It makes me pay attention to everything all around me, all of the time. That's why I wear my headphones. They block out the noise so that I can concentrate.
O, 10 years.]

[Some people call our interests, obsessions. We call it having an indepth knowledge and intense interest in a specific topic.
O, 10 years.]

[I used to think that having anxiety meant that my brain was broken.
Now I know that having anxiety means that my brain, especially my amygdala, is working overtime to protect me.
O, 10 years.]

[Inclusion is everyone having a voice, even if they have a disability or not, and their voices being heard.
O, 10 years.]

I can't wait to see, and listen to my little superheroes thoughts in the future. They really are little old souls.