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!***

Friday, 9 August 2019

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

*** If you believe that you or your child may benefit from Progressive Muscle Relaxation, please speak to a trusted medical professional. ***

Several years ago, I came across a book titled The Angry Octopus by Lori Lite in which the reader is introduced to relaxation techniques that they can use when experiencing BIG emotions. As the reader progresses through The Angry Octopus, the characters encourage the reader to tense and then relax their muscles starting at their feet and gradually moving up their body ending with their face. This is one book that even after three years, O keeps going back to when she is anxious, sad or frustrated.

I was recently talking with one of O's therapists and she mentioned the term "Progressive Muscle Relaxation," and my brain clicked that this is what The Angry Octopus is all about.

Essentially The Angry Octopus is a story about, well, an Octopus that is angry. A sea child who notices the angry Octopus, teaches the Octopus how to be the boss of his body and his anger, how to calm down and see things more clearly through simple muscle relaxation.

Finding a sense of peace and calm in our day to day lives can be difficult, especially for children. There are many, many different relaxation techniques that we can use to relax our bodies and minds as well as to manage anxiety and other mental health issues. These can be anything from breathing exercises to meditation, mindfulness to gentle physical activities such as yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is yet another strategy that we can use to assist in the relaxation of our body and mind.

The aim of Progressive Muscle Relaxation is to reduce the feelings of tension that we all feel at times. In turn relaxing our bodies will lower our stress levels and assist us to feel much more relaxed.

One of our bodies natural reactions to fear, anxiety and stress is muscle tension. From experience, when I am feeling stressed or anxious, my neck muscles begin to tense up and I usually end up with a migraine. If we are in a potentially dangerous situation, this is a good thing as our bodies are preparing to fight or run (flight) away from the situation. However in this day and age, we will rarely need to fight or run away but the primitive part of our brains still kick into action. During times of stress, you may not even realise that your muscles are becoming tense - you may just clench your teeth slightly so that your jaw feels tight.

When practising Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercises, you tense up particular muscle groups and then relax them before moving onto another muscle group. You may start at your feet and move your way up your body to your face, one muscle group at a time.

With any new relaxation technique, learning to relax can take a little bit of practise. But the more you practise something, the more helpful the technique will be in the long run. The great thing about Progressive Muscle Relaxation is that it can be practiced anywhere and anytime, it can be learnt by almost anyone and it really only requires ten to twenty minutes of practise a day.

The benefits of practising progressive muscle relaxation are that you will learn how to relax your body and mind, and you will become more aware of how your body and muscles respond to stress and tension.

So what do you need?

A quiet area, preferably with no music or other sounds, think no television or radio, and you should try to minimise the distractions to your other senses as well. Think low lights, not too busy areas. You'll need something to relax on, a bed, yoga mat on the floor or a comfortable couch even. Make sure that where ever you chose to sit or lay down, you are truly comfortable and able to relax every part of your body.

You'll also need to set time aside so that you are able to relax. When you do, truly allow yourself to relax and slow your breathing down. We do Progressive Muscle Relaxation on a regular basis with O. I find that when we do this together, O relaxes even more. At times, we will go from her toes right up to her head and face. On other occasions, we may only practice a few areas on her body. It really depends on her mood and how much time we have.

When you are ready to begin, tense a group of muscles, one group at a time. we find it useful to start at our toes and gradually move up towards our head and face. When you tense the group of muscles, hold the tense for 5 seconds and then relax for ten seconds before moving onto the next group. When you tense a muscle group, make sure that you can physically feel the tension but don't tense too tight that you are in pain. When you are tensing a muscle group, breathe in and when you release the tense, breathe out.

And if you have any existing injuries or medical conditions, please seek advice from a trusted medical professional before practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

This is a general run down of what we do!

Feet - Curl your toes downwards like you're trying to make a ball with your feet. O then likes to push her toes upwards like she's trying to reach the sky.
Lower legs - Tense your calf muscles.
Upper legs - Tense your thighs and quads.
Hips and Buttocks - Squeeze your buttocks muscle.
Chest and abdomen - Breathe in deeply and fill up your lungs and chest with air. Then slowly breathe out.
Hands and forearms - Make a fist and squeeze as tight as you can.
Upper arms - Bring your forearm up to your shoulder to make a muscle.
Shoulders - Tense the muscles in your shoulder as you bring your shoulders up to your ears.
Shoulder blades and back - Push your shoulder blades back as though you are trying to almost touch them together.
Neck - Do this movement carefully and slowly. Bring your face forward with your chin trying to touch your chest and then move your head slowly back, as though you are trying to look up at the ceiling.
Mouth and Jaw - Open your mouth as wide as you can as though you are yawning.
Eyes and Cheeks - Squeeze your eyes shut.
Forehead - Raise your eyebrows as high as they will go, as though you are surprised by something.
Finally, relax your entire body and allow every muscle in your body to let any remaining tension out.

When you have finished and are ready to keep going for the day, allow yourself a few moments to stay seated (or lying down) until you become alert.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Progressive Muscle Relaxation. I would also highly reccomend The Angry Octopus as a starting point in explaining Progressive Muscle Relaxation to children.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Our Autism Organiser

When L was diagnosed as ASD in 2016, we started to amass a huge amount of reports, funding plans and other supporting documents. We initially kept these in several folders but I found that it was difficult to keep track of where everything was.

During one of L's therapy sessions, his then key therapist mentioned that the early intervention centre had an Autism Organiser and would I like one. Ah, yes please!

The Autism Organiser that I was given was brilliant and meant that everything pertaining to L, his Autism and his medical issues, were now kept in one magical folder. This orgainser became our Autism bible.

This is the folder that we take to IEP meetings, new therapy providers, NDIS planning meetings, specialist appointments and any other meeting or appointment in which we may need any of the information in the folder.

Prior to O being given her ASD diagnosis, I was able to get my hands on another Autism Organiser. 

Each time that we have pulled out the Autism Organisers during meetings, people have commented on how useful they organisers are as well as how organised the folders are.

Over the last three years, I have added sections to the original Autism Organiser that we were given. I've added new forms that we use to add new information or when we are leading up to a NDIS plan review. And every year, our two Autism Organisers are updated with larger folders to accommodate the new documents that we gain.

Recently I created a new version of the Autism Organiser and I would like to share it with you all.

So what do you need to create your very own Autism Organiser?

A plastic folder of some description. We use two three ring plastic binders, one for each little superhero.

You'll need to print out a copy of the Raising My Little Superheroes Autism Organiser, which you can download here!

I have laminated each of the section pages so that they easily stand out in the folders. For each section, we then use plastic sleeves to keep all the documents in one place.

The Autism Organiser contains the following sections - Participant Information, Diagnostic Information, Funding Information, Service Provider Agreements, Service Provider Information, School/Education Information, Personal Information, Education Resources and Important Contacts. Each section has a little blurb about what we have found useful about that section and what you might want to include in the section. In the Personal Information section I have created a form that we found useful when planning for the little superheroes NDIS reviews.

You can download your copy of this Autism Organiser here!

I have no doubt that over the foreseeable future, I will be adding to this organiser, so stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, 1 August 2019

My World Magnet Collection by O

I asked my Mummy if I could write a blog post about my magnet collection because it is something that I am really proud of.

One of my special interests is collecting magnets from around the world. I started my magnet collection when we went to Singapore for a holiday. 

When I was two my Mummy and Daddy took me on a holiday to Singapore. It was so much fun and one of the things that I really loved about Singapore was going to the Aquarium. Late one afternoon it was raining really hard so we couldn't go on the tour that we were meant to go on. I was looking at a magazine in our hotel room and it had an advertisement for the pink dolphins at the Singapore Aquarium. I really wanted to go, so we went there instead because it was all undercover.

I loved seeing the pink dolphins and Mummy brought me a magnet from the Aquarium shop that had a pink dolphin on it.

The pink dolphins are Indo-Pacific Humpbacked dolphins and they are listed as a threatened endangered species in the list of threatened animals of Singapore. The reason that they are sometimes called pink dolphins is that as the dolphin grows older, it's skin pigmentation turns pink. And the dolphins at the Singapore Aquarium really were pink. It was so cool.

Since going to Singapore I have wanted to collect magnets from around the world.

The reason that I have so many magnets is because Mummy and Daddy's friends and some of our family do lots of travelling overseas. They know that I collect magnets from around the world, so each time that they go on holidays, they bring me back a magnet. I've only lived in Australia and been overseas once to Singapore, so I'm very lucky to have such a huge magnet collection.

I'm now 10 and I have 97 magnets from all around the world. I have magnets from 6 continents - I only need a magnet from Antarctica and then I'd have magnets from every continent. But unfortunately the countries that have bases in Antarctica don't have magnets. Mummy sent off an email for me to some of the companies that work in Antarctica and one of the replies said that "even though we don't have magnets from Antarctica, every magnet has a north and south pole so technically speaking, every magnet could be considered a magnet from Antarctica." I really liked their reply.

And I have magnets from 45 different countries.

I have some magnets that I call rare ones because not many people go to those places on holidays - these are the ones from Peru, Nepal, Cocos Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador and Uganda.

I love all of my magnets but my absolute favourite magnets are my pink dolphin magnet from Singapore, the Dublin magnet because my Daddy got it for me when he went to Dublin on a work trip, my Pisa magnet because I used to learn Italian when we lived in Western Australia, my Minnie and Mickey Mouse magnet from Tokyo Disneyland because I'm learning Japanese at school, my Eiffel Tower Paris magnet because I love Miraculous Ladybug who lives in Paris and my Arab lady magnet from Dubai because Daddy got that one too.

I'm running out of room on my magnet board so I think I need to get Daddy to help me make a new board. We had to put some of my magnets on our fridge because they won't fit on my board.

One day I would love to do lots of travelling around the world and visit some of the countries that I have magnets from.

Can you see your country on my magnet board?

Thank you for reading my post about my magnets,
Love OπŸ˜πŸ˜ŠπŸ’—πŸ‘ΈπŸ˜»πŸ˜˜

Friday, 26 July 2019

Food Jagging ... Say What Now?

**** If you feel that you or your child are food jagging, please seek advice from a trusted medical professional. ****

The one thing that I am constantly reminded of while on our Autism journey is that there is always something new to learn. There is always an aspect of Autism, or something that is related to Autism, to learn about.

Earlier this year, L attended a food school therapy in the hope that it would broaden his range of foods that he would eat. It had the opposite effect but that is another blog post. But before and during food school, I learnt all about food jagging!

I've always said that the more I know and learn about Autism, then the better off I am to assist my little superheroes. So after hearing the term food jagging, I set out to find out as much about it as I could.

But first a little background. Towards the end of 2018, we started to notice that L was cutting particular foods from his diet. These were foods that he'd normally eat day in, day out. Foods such as green apples. By the beginning of 2019, he no longer wanted to eat green apples. It was at this point when we mentioned this to L's Occupational Therapist that she said "It sounds like he is food jagging." Say what now???

The term "food jagging" describes when a child wants to eat the same foods, that are prepared in the same way, every day and sometimes at every meal. When a child "jags" on a particular food, it is very likely that they will eventually tire of that particular food and they will eliminate it entirely from their diet. This is exactly what L did with green apples (as well as a host of other foods.)

Put simply, food jagging is when an individual limits their diet to a couple of their favourite foods and they then start to eliminate foods from their diet that they once happily ate.

Before I go on, it is important to note that food jagging is NOT the same as having a food aversion. Food jagging is not refusing to eat a particular food due to the texture, taste or smell. It is also important to note that during a typical child's development, all children at some point in time will tire of their favourite foods and cut these foods from their diet. But after a few weeks, or perhaps a few days even, they may add that food back into their diet. This is perfectly normal and is not considered to be food jagging.

As with anything, when the food has been cut from a child's diet for a long period of time, that is when it becomes food jagging.

Any child, or adult, can be susceptible to food jagging but those who have a difficulties with eating are at a higher risk of food jagging, in other words those who have food aversions may be prone to food jagging.

There are many reasons as to why an individual starts food jagging. It could be due to poor oral development which means that the individual is unable to properly eat or chew the foods being offered. They may have developed a negative association to the food - they may have become ill after eating the food. There is a train of thought that children may food jag as it is a way in which they can assert their independence and have some control over what is happening in their every day life. With L eliminating green apples from his diet, I honestly think he just got tired of eating them. Individuals may food jag if they're not offered new foods on a regular basis or they may develop anxiety over trying a new food.

While eliminating a few foods from a diet may not be cause for significant concern, if a child (or an adult) continues to food jag for an extended period of time, they may significantly limit the amount of food and types of food in their diet. Food jagging can cause a lack of variety and poor nutrition. There is a risk that the individual may become tired of eating their other favourite foods and eliminate other words as well. Food jagging can mean that mealtimes become stressful for themselves and their loved ones.

So what can you do??

If your child will only eat a limited range of foods, continue to offer them a varied and healthy diet on a regular basis. The more foods that a child is offered on a regular basis provides greater opportunities for the child to expand their food repertoire.

You could offer your child the opportunity to assist with the food shopping and food preparation. In assisting with the food preparation, this alone will introduce your child to new textures and smells. They may also be more inclined to try the food as they have helped to prepare it or have chosen the food.

When you offer your child the desired food, offer it with other healthy nutritious choices and in small portion sizes. A large portion size may be too over whelming for a child to deal with and manage to eat. We offer new foods to  in bite size portions alongside foods that we know that he will eat. Through talking with L's Occupational Therapist, she mentioned that some foods have big smells and the smell of the food alone may put children off from eating the food. Foods such as egg, fish, chicken, certain types of cheese, salami. Offering these in small portions may reduce the smell a little.

When offering new foods, rather than putting them on the same plate as foods that your child will eat, offer them on a separate plate. You could place this plate on the opposite side of the table so that your child will tolerate them in their personal space and then gradually move the plate closer to your child. We've used this strategy with L and he has ended up trying small bite sized pieces of the food.

When offering the foods that your child will normally eat, prepare them and serve them in slightly different ways. The changes should be noticeable enough so that your child is able to see the change but subtle at the same time so that your child will accept the food to eat at that point in time. You could change the shape of the food, the colour or alter the flavour slightly. Generally the shape is the easiest way to change food but also your child is more likely to accept that change. The final change that you should make to food is the texture. From experience, changing the texture of food can often cause the most stress for a child who has a limited diet.

When offering new foods, try to make the environment as fun and relaxed as possible and offer the new foods alongside foods that you know that they like. If the child feels relaxed, they may be more inclined to try the new food.

We've begun to reintroduce green apples in small amounts to L but we know that the process could take some time. We've set small, realistic goals so that L knows that there is no pressure what-so-ever.

Lastly when you are introducing new foods to your child, or if your child is food jagging, try to remain calm and not take it personally if your child refuses to eat the food. There's quite possibly a genuine reason behind why your child is unable to tolerate the food.

I'd love to hear any tips or tricks that you have used to introduce new foods to your children.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Calming Breathing Strategies for Children

Both O and L struggle with emotional regulation and over the last few years, we've tried many different strategies. The one that they both keep going back to, is calming breathing techniques.

Calming breathing techniques have to be one of the best tools that we can equip our children with to use when they need to manage their own emotions. Both O and L have a sensory tool kit that generally goes everywhere with them. But at times, it just isn't possible to send the tool kit. Their breath on the other hand, they will always have that.

Teaching children different calming breathing techniques gives them a simple yet very effective strategy for slowing down, physically, emotionally and mentally. Calming breathing techniques can assist children to take notice of how they are emotionally and physically feeling and can also help them to relax and calm when they feel overwhelmed.

I've used calming breathing techniques for my own two little superheroes as well as with other children that have been in my care. A few years ago I found a book titled "Little Monkey Calms Down," which I used to introduce calming breathing techniques to O and L. I then went onto use the book in an early learning setting to explain mindfulness to children as young as two years of age. And you what? It actually worked.

I've found that if I model to a child how to use calming breathing techniques when they are experiencing BIG emotions, they are more likely to want to start using the breathing techniques themselves.

Now there are many, many sites on which you can find different breathing techniques and visuals, but unfortunately we've never been able to find visuals that both O and L liked. So over this past week, I sat down with O and L and they helped to make visuals using images that they liked.

We will print these out, laminate them and put them onto a small key ring so that they're handy for when O and L need to use them.

Dragon Breathing

O ... I like to do dragon breathing when I am angry or frustrated.
L ... Me too. It very noisy and good for when I angry.
O ... You can make lots of noise when you roar like a dragon which helps to get the anger and frustration out.
L ... Yeah, cos dragons can be very angry.
O ... Some dragons are friendly but they can be very noisy. To do dragon breathing you take a deep breath in through your nose. When you breathe out through your mouth, you roar like a dragon and all of your frustration and anger comes out with the roar.
L ... Yeah, like, ROARRRRRRR!

Snake Breathing
O ... Snake breathing is something that I like to do when I am sad because it's a sad sounding noise.
L ... This one too hard for me.
O ... It's okay L, we just need to practise it more, we can practise together. To do snake breathing, you take a deep breath in through your nose. Then when you breathe out through your mouth, you hiss very quietly like a sad snake. It sounds like a long sssss sound.
L ... Oh okay.
O ... I really like this one when I'm sad because it helps me to control my breathing too.

Honey Bee Breathing
O ... Some people call this Bumble Bee breathing but I like Honey Bee breathing better because I've never seen a bumble bee but I've seen lots of honey bees.
L .... You can buzzzz like a bee.
O ... You can! Or you can hum like a bee. I like honey bee breathing when I am worried as it calms me down and helps me to think a little clearer. To do this one, you take a deep breath in through your nose. Then when you breathe out through your mouth, you hum quietly. I like to do this one with my eyes closed so that I don't become distracted by what is happening around me.

Candle Breathing
O ... Candle breathing is another one that is good for when I am sad because it helps to slow down my breathing when I am sad or upset. I use this when I am hurt as well because it sometimes takes my mind away from whatever it hurting.
L ... Like when you broked your arm sissy?
O ... Good remembering L. To do candle breathing, you take a deep breath in through your nose. When you breathe out through your mouth, you have to imagine that you are blowing out a candle.
L ... A birthday candle!
O ... Just like a birthday candle but with one long slow breath.

Balloon Breathing
O ... Mummy, what is this one good for?
Me ... This one is sometimes called belly breathing,
L ... Belly breathing, that funny!
Me .... Belly breathing or balloon breathing helps to teach your body how to take deep slow breaths.
O ... So it would be good to help to calm you down if you're feeling sad or worried?
Me ... It sure would, but it takes practise because as you breathe in, you need to imagine that there is a balloon in your tummy that is expanding.
O ... We could use the expanding ball for this one!
L ... Oh I like that ball.
Me ... The expanding ball is great to use when practising this breathing. As you breathe in, you can expand the ball. And as you breathe out, you can make the ball smaller.
O ... You could pretend that your hands are the balloon too. When you breathe in, your hands could move apart like a balloon being blown up. And when you breathe, your hands could move together like the balloon is getting smaller.

Me ... Thank you for helping to explain all of these breathing techniques.
O ... You're welcome Mummy.
L ... You welcome Mummy.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Sensory Souls Train Day 2019

Over the past few years we've attended a few sensory friendly events that were organised and conducted by an organisation called Sensory Souls. We've been to numerous Sensory Santa sessions, Stand Up Paddle Boarding and a train event last year.

Sensory Souls is a Queensland based organisation that organises, coordinates and conducts sensory friendly events for individuals who have additional needs both in Queensland and in other states of Australia. They recently won the Disability and Inclusion category in the National Awards for Local Government in conjunction with the Moreton Bay Regional Council for the Backstage Pass Program. The Backstage Pass allows families and individuals access to Council Libraries after hours in a low sensory environment.

Sensory Souls was originally developed to support families, children and individuals to have fun in a range of positive experiences and activities in a safe an judgement free environment. Initially Sensory Souls organised Sensory Santa sessions and they've now evolved into offering other activities and experiences.

For those not in the know, a sensory friendly event typically looks like a pretty ordinary outing. It differs in that the number of participants are limited so that the activity is not too overcrowded, the noise or music may be kept to a minimum so as not to overwhelm the participants and the lights may be dimmed if the event is at an indoor venue. Most of the events are activities that the majority of society would take for granted but for children and adults who have sensory processing difficulties, keeping all the above factors at a minimum, means that the likelihood of the child or adult having a meltdown because they are in sensory overload is less likely.

During the last school holidays, Sensory Souls ran their very popular Train Day. We went along to this for last year and the little superheroes had a ball. So off we went again, this time we took two of their friends.

The Train Day is conducted at the Pine Valley Railway by the Queensland Society of Model and Experimental Engineers - a huge group of individuals from all walks of life who share a common interest ... making engineering models of trains. Lots of trains. In other words, they're just big kids who love the trains!

The Pine Valley Railway is open to the public by invitation only and once a year the members of the organisation join forces with Sensory Souls to conduct a train day for children and adults who have additional needs.

The Pine Valley Railway truly is spectacular. It's situated on a piece of landscaped land that is five acres in size and has over 2000 metres of ground level track and approximately 180 metres of elevated track. There are tunnels, bridges, round houses, signal boxes, train crossings and all of the other things that you'd expect to see on a real life train line. There are also areas for children to run around and play, picnic tables and a small canteen.

In terms of the trains there are steam trains and replicas of diesel locomotives. There was even a replica of the Pacific National, a HUGE LOONG freight train!

The steam trains when under full steam were truly spectacular.

This Mama spotted the little red caboose and was in love. One of my all time favourite Golden Books as a child was the story about the little red Caboose. By the end of the day, there were lots of photos of the little red caboose on my camera!!

On the Train day, the members of QSMEE had numerous trains running for the families to ride on. Trains were leaving the main train station every ten minutes or so, so everyone was able to have numerous train rides. O, L and their two friends were very impressed that each time they rode a train, they went around the circuit three times! And when on the steam train, they were quick to remind each other "close your eyes and mouth in the tunnel!" Otherwise you might get a mouth full of smoke and steam!


O and her fiend G, were fascinated by the scribbly lines on one of the old gum trees so I took the opportunity to give them a little nature lesson. Scribbly Gums are spectacular Australian Eucalyptus species that get their name from the scibbly lines that are left on their smooth bark. The tracks are tunnels that are made by the larvae of the Scribbly Gum Moth!

If you are interested in visiting the Pine Valley Railway, you'll need to visit their website and send off an expression to visit the site. As I previously mentioned, the site is invitation only so make sure you get in early as I'm told their open days are very popular and they are book out very early.

Sensory Souls is a not for profit organisation and they do rely heavily on their volunteer base to run these events as well as their sponsors. So from our family to Leah and Chanelle and all at Sensory Souls, thank you for everything that you do. We truly do appreciate these events.