Autism Friendly Film Showing at Reel Cinema

1471882_501351566646208_1159465142_nJust got back from watching the new Disney film `Frozen` at Reel Cinema Burnley. This was an Autism/Sensory friendly showing of the film which had benefits of lighting being kept on during the film, lower sound and no trailers/adverts at the start of the film. This was the first time we had been to a special showing normally we just battle it out at the normal film showings, but just these tiny adjustments really helped this morning.

Being a parent of a child with special needs is really important to be able to see your child and the lighting being kept on was great for this as well as being beneficial for the children. The atmosphere felt a lot more calmer, this could have been down to the children not being as over stimulated as normal and also knowing that you are in a very understanding environment with other parents who wont judge.

The film was lovely and just in time for Christmas, Christmas can be such a hard time for children on the spectrum…even us normal (if you can call anyone normal) people feel the buzz of the christmas rush with all the planning and unorganisation! Routine goes out of the window, rooms/environments look and feel different with all the stimulating decorations and also the understanding and making sense of what christmas is about…..a man called Father Christmas just comes into your house while you are sleeping and leaves you presents…..even i still cant get my head around that!!!!

Anyway back to the cinema, i would highly recommend going to see an Autism Friendly showing if you have a child on the spectrum or even suspect they maybe. They don’t need a diagnosis or a statement just go along to your local cinema and see when they are doing them. I think most companies are supporting these showings now, but i have to say a big Thank You to Reel Cinema Burnley this morning for being so supportive.2259376499

 

 

Christmas School Concert

Our little boy MacKenzie has just performed in his schools christmas concert which parents were invited to come and watch but sadly we didn’t go. Its sad but he had told us that he didn’t want us there because he would cry. At least he can communicate what is best for him now, even though he doesn’t understand or cant explain some of his thoughts or feelings.
As parents in this position its a tough call but we did the right thing not going….its been hurtful but his emotions come first. He has come along way in the past few years and we want to help him build on that….maybe next year will be different.
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These last few weeks have been really nice, hearing him talking about his christmas concert (which doesn’t normally happen) and him going around the house singing the songs he has been learning….so thats been the bigger reward for us. He has taken an interest and shown LOTS of excitement about us putting the christmas tree up at home this year, which again has been lovely.

Having a child who isn’t your `neurotypical` child does mean a lot of hard work, a lot of crying and a lot of worrying but the smallest achievements mean so much more and you never take anything they do for granted.

Meme…….The New addition to the Family

A few weeks ago we got a new addition to our family, a kitten called Meme. I haven’t wrote anything before as i am just getting over the whole chaos, anxiety and stress and i think now home life is back to normal…well what we call normal that is.

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Mya has always wanted a pet and we have struggled because Mackenzie really didn’t want any kind of pet in the house. We tried talking to him on several occasions about pets showing him cute pictures and videos but still no. Its really hard on the siblings of children with special needs , they shouldn’t have to miss out on things or have their lives adapted to certain extents.
So we finally got to the day where MacKenzie said yes he would have a cat (kitten) and he said this for three days on a run…we were onto a winner, so we got a kitten called Meme. We let Mackenzie chose a name for her so he felt part of it and that maybe it would create a bond between them. “Meme” an interesting choice of name for our kitten, but coming from a little boy who might be on the autistic spectrum was no surprise to me…the penny dropped about a week later for dad.

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Mya loves Meme and i have to say she is such a well behaved kitten, it only took us a day to train her not to go up stairs (she will be a house cat) so therefore MacKenzie knows he can go upstairs and be in a cat free zone if he wants to.
It was really difficult the first week, Mackenzie cried then got mad, then would panic and kept telling us he didn’t want a cat living at his house anymore…didn’t want any pets ever, but we are here a couple of weeks later and Meme is still here and Mackenzie is a lot more settled with her. I do believe it helps to push the boundaries sometimes of a child on the autistic spectrum and let them experience the different emotions and learn how to cope in certain situations. Meme and MacKenzie have a good understanding of each other now, its called ‘keeping at arms length of each other’ but it has given MacKenzie another subject to talk about at school and we can now say we are living with a pet…something we thought we could never achieve.

Burnley College Family Day

Yesterday we attended the Family Day at Burnley College, the event was certainly filled with lots of exciting activities and demonstrations that we just didn’t have time to get around them all.Main_entrance_to_Burnley_College_on_Princess_Way_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1366358

Firstly we were greeted with a couple of people one dress as a carrot and the other as a pea pod, MacKenzie was very uncertain of this but we managed to pass giving a large distance between them and us. Entering the building Mya and Mackenzie were encouraged to have a go on a very large buzz bar (they didn’t take much persuading), it looked very exciting but quite tricky. Next to the engineering room where they both had a go at the eco water powered micro remote control cars. These tiny remote control cars use a real fuel cell station that stores energy using waters basic elements, what a fun way to learn.

In the atrium of the building the main attraction was the Tae Bo demonstration which looked really good. The instructor Maureen Kelly and her participates made it look so easy but i don’t think i would have lasted 5 minutes! Also in this area was a giant scalextric which Mya and MacKenzie both loved, it was also a big hit with most of the parents you could tell most dads really wanted to have a go. Also in this area was face painting, a sweet shop, treasure trail, course advise desk and arts & crafts.

Next stop the large sand pits with the beach theme setting with cook 4 life, fruity pick & mix, you are what you eat and a herbie garden all in the same area of the college. By this time 2 hours had already passed so so quickly…time for a sit down and a drink at the countryside cafe.photo-474

The countryside cafe was also run and organised by Maureen Kelly and her team which was a lovely set up with a water display and tiny tables set up with china cups and saucers. The ladies came to take our order and we were served with tea and a selection of tasty cakes. Not to MacKenzie`s liking has he wanted toast but was later happy to sit and eat a small tub of jam! The countryside cafe did a great job and the tea and cakes were all put on in aid of raising money for autism and the awareness of it…..customers made donations for their food and service. Also they advertised our posters for our collection of old mobile phones and converting them into iPads which we donate to autistic children or children with social communication problems.photo-476photo-475

Mackenzie soon spotted the the drama theatre where a small group of students were acting out small sections of plays. Mya really enjoyed this because its the topic she is mostly interested in and has a great passion for. MacKenzie also enjoyed it and got right into it…… literally.

The last stop of the day for us was to be the sports centre where there was a large army inflatable and a climbing wall. The army inflatable obstacle course was fantastic a really army feel squeezing and climbing through all the different parts. After about 8 rounds on this it was time to go…with 2 tired children.photo-477photo-478

This was a great event and there was so much we didn’t see like the camping display, paper aeroplanes, robots, wii & X Box games, slime making and also all the outdoor sporting activities like basketball and netball.

2BR radio station were also supporting the event presenting live from the college entrance. This was a great event and gave the families in Burnley and the surrounding areas a good opportunity to see what the college has to offer………see you next year!

The Autism Show 2013

I awoke this morning with my mind still buzzing from attending the Autism Show 2013 at EventCity in Manchester yesterday. The atmosphere was great, i was surrounded by understanding people of autism which doesn`t happen a lot these days. First job on the agenda was to check out the show guide and make a plan of which talks myself and my partner would like to see. There were three talks happening constantly throughout the day in the main theatre, the hub: theatre 1 and the hub: theatre 2. The plan went completely out of the window straight away because we wanted to see most of them but had to make a choice which ones had more relevance to us and MacKenzie. A big star was put on the programme for the last talk of the day which was Carrie and David Grant and their experiences of bring up two autistic daughters……what a wait!IMG_6085

 

At the start of the morning  our first port of call was the SenseToys Ltd stand to buy a couple of the `Bendy Men` a fantastic fidget toy which sold out very very quickly at the nasen live show in Bolton last month. In fact they were the busyest stall all day but the product are suitable for most and are fantastic. I think all the parents and teachers were actually a big fan of all these tactile, brightly coloured little toys if they had to be honest. I know we were and we got quite a few for MacKenzie and Mya but i know i will play with a couple of them when they aren’t looking….shhhh!

There was a  fabulous set up of a sensory room created by Mike Ayres Design and OM Interactive. The omiVista Interactive floor projection system is a fun and exciting sensory learning experience. Lots of different images can be projected into the floor which are highly responsive to small gestures or movement, enabling children/adults to easily interact and engage in stimulating audio visual experiences.omi-main

Some of the other stands were:

* Auty Not Naughty, a mother of an autistic boy who was selling designed t-shirts and hoodies for children on the spectrum, she was inspired by wanting to display her pride of her son in public, and to also send a message to onlookers in public.

* IPSEA, is a national charity that provides free, legally based independent support and advise to families with children with SEN and/or disability as they negotiate the education system…..fantastic support! We will be contacting them in the near future as parents like us need to know everything to get the best for our children. We learnt a lot within just 10 minutes of talking to these people yesterday.

* Suppautism, is an online system which schools can take onboard to monitor the progression of pupils with autism and asperger`s syndrome in secondary education. The guy behind Suppautism is Matt Winning, Matt has aspergers syndrome and had serve difficulties coping with school life…..but he has come along way and has recently graduated from University and has now confidently launched `Suppautism` ….great!

* Aldebaran Robotics, The NAO is a programmable 57cm tall humanoid robot which is capable of speaking, reacting to what you say, recognising faces and objects and adjusting to the surround environment. A great tool for schools with autistic children, the robots were really popular yesterday with all age groups….i think i want one (might need to start buy a few scratch cards or start playing bingo, these robots cost £10,000 each).High_Res_NAO_NextGen_05_HD

* Hearts & Minds Challenge, Ian McGrath who was not present at the show yesterday but was present Friday and my other half got to meet him…i could have kicked myself for missing him! Our ongoing collection of old/unwanted mobile phones in exchange for Apple iPads which we donate to local groups Phones 4 Autism, Ian is the main man we deal with. Hearts and Minds mission `is to raise the quality of life of individuals and their families affected by autism by ensuring the highest standards in education, care and support leading to employment and equality of living opportunities`. They are currently raising funds so they can open a Centre of Education for Autism in Manchester.IMG_6098

* Autism Bubble Day, this  was launched in partnership by Hearts & Minds, Autism in Mind and Monique Blakemore. A fantastic way of raising the awareness of autism and helping others gain a better understanding.

Other companies and services exhibiting were: Acorn Care and Education, Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd, ActiVise Software, ASC Healthcare Ltd, Aspire in the Community Ltd, Autism Eye, B Squared, Autistic UK, Beacon Reach, The Cambian Group, The Disabilities Trust, The Challenging Behaviour Foundation, Eden Supported Living, Craegmoor Ltd, Enable Supplies Ltd, ESPA, Hesley Group, Explore Your Senses, Home From Home Care Ltd, Hereward College, iMap Centre, Ludlow Orbis Group, Kingkraft Ltd, Maclntyre, Lighthouse Healthcare, Manchester Progressive School & Walton Progressive School, Maxwell Gillott Solicitors, The National Autistic Society, Meadow Lodge at Lea Green, OptiMusic, Options Group, Play to Z, Orchard Care North East Ltd, Queen Alexandra College, Pengwern College, Redcliffe House Ltd, Reach Autism, SEN Magazine Ltd, Ruskin Mill Trust, Safespaces Ltd, SensoryPlus, Skybound Autism Therapies, St George Healthcare Group, RM SpaceKraft, St Christopher`s School (Bristol), Time Specialist Support and AuKids Magazine,Together Trust, Widgit Software, Tough Furniture, Wirral Autistic Society, Wargrave House School & LEAP Specialist College and finally The Witherslack Group.

Also running were 1-2-1 Clinics where you could attend a free personal consultation with specialist clinicians and advisors. We went to the sleeping difficulties clinic (not for myself even though i have never slept right since MacKenzie was born, he doesn’t need a lot of sleep for some reason). Vicki from The Children`s Sleep Charity was lovely and gave us some great information and advise in the 5-10 minutes we were in their. Really glad Scott persuaded me to go in because i didn’t think it would be that useful….how wrong was i, any parents having trouble with their child sleeping contact these people….www.thechildrenssleepcharity.org.uk

Cannot believe we missed the fabulous Anna Kennedy with a selection of acts from Autism`s Got Talent. This lady does so so much, in 1999 she set up her own school for autistic children and it currently has 150 pupils. She also has two sons with autism.

The three main events of the day were the three talks we went to, the first one by Dr James Cusack ..Understanding Autism, why research matters; a researcher with autism`s perspective and the second one by Laurence Mitchell….How to un-autistic your autism; the confessions of an autistic adult. Both these talks were emotional and heartfelt, both adults on the spectrum speaking confidently about their feeling and experiences of living with autism. I am sure it gave hope to most parents listening to these talks….i know it gave us hope.IMG_6102

The third and last talk of the day we saw, Carrie and David Grant (TV presenters and celebrity vocal coaches) gave their experiences of bringing up two autistic daughters. It was so interesting relating to them, we all go through the same problems of schooling, statements and diagnose even. They were truly inspirational parents and provided empowerment to us as parents. IMG_6115IMG_6118

It was a great day yesterday and has put me back on a more confident positive route, myself and Scott will do the very best we can for our child and make sure they get the very best out of life and be most of all Happy.

 

 

nasen Live 2013

This week I attend the nasen Live 2013 – Dedicated to SEN at the Reebok Stadium Bolton. There were many companies exhibiting such has Jolly Learning, Crossbow Education, Taskmaster and SenseToys, Trugs (Read Successfully) and Collins Education. Also the Department of Education were present giving information and seeking views on the new Code of Practice which the final copy will be finalised in spring 2014, the draft Code is now completed and released.

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There were a number of seminars which you could book beforehand which looked very interesting: The role of the SENCO in an era of school-to-school support for SEN, ADHD skills and strategies for teaching and learning, iPads for the busy classroom – getting the most from your portable technology and many more.
Most of the visitors were teachers and teaching assistants which was great because it shows such an interest and passion in the SEN area of their work. There were so many tools and ideas for learning all types of special needs children.

Of course my target was to source items and advise for MacKenzie, to encourage and promote his learning at home and give him the best start I possibly can. A couple of years ago we thought he wouldn’t be able to read or write and we are so pleased that he can now do both, maybe it doesn’t come as easy as other children find it but he is doing well.

In the first 5 minutes I had made my first purchase which was trugs at home (box 1), a really fun way of teaching reading using games. Every time a child plays with trugs they are practising, reinforcing and consolidating a reading stage without realising it. The card games called Guess it, Match it and Take it are fun and competitive. `Guess it` is a two player game which is good for children who are struggling in group situations and encourages good eye contact also.
Before buying the lady gave a full demonstration of all 3 games and let me join in playing with her while showing others, I really enjoy myself. It also gave me a head start for when I got home so that I could show MacKenzie and Mya straight away what to do instead of taking time to read and understand the instructions.

I also came away with some soft conversation cubes, great for social skills from Crossbow Education. Three sets of cards (Let’s Predict, What Are They Asking? and All About You, All About Me) from Taskmaster and the BEST SELLER of the day was Bendy Man a fantastic fidget toy (which the adults all loved) from SenseToys.

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I could have easily spent the whole day there but the school run was calling very loudly. On getting home after tea I showed MacKenzie how to play the trugs `Guess it` game on a one to one, which he enjoyed and then he and Mya had a game. I find it very important to involve his sister Mya as much as possible and she is such a big help. Also with the resources i bought with the main aim being MacKenzie`s educational learning, its also for the whole family and for everyone to have a part in the fun way of learning. Mind you after playing the next trugs game `Match it` using the word fun may not be appropriate. This game is for a small group and MacKenzie can easily come unstuck when in group games because they involve more turn taking, sharing and coping with the concept of winning/losing. Feathers were flying by the first  2 minutes of the game but myself and Dad remained very calm and tried to carry the game through to the end. We got to the end with lots of gritted teeth shown by MacKenzie but the more we practice theses group activities the more its helping promote better understanding and social skills.

Later that evening both MacKenzie and Mya asked to play again the day after, so i think we will be whizzing through this box quite quickly by the time we get to box 3 it maybe learning me something (box 3 is age 9-15 years plus) !!!!!!

If you didn’t get chance or you didn’t know about it make sure you make space in your diaries for next years nasen Live, it was worth the trip.

 

Nobody Likes Me

All this week MacKenzie has come home from school quite a happy little boy but when I have asked him about who has played with him at playtimes he has replied “nobody”, “nobody likes me”. It’s very sad to here that has a parent and especially when you know that social skills are one of your child’s weaknesses. The only problem is that he doesn’t express theses problems and you wouldn’t know by looking at him that anything is bothering him…..or is it?. If I hadn’t asked him then he wouldn’t have shared the concern with me. Or the other question is, is he bothered that nobody is playing with him? (I think it does really deep down).  When I  ask him he answers me in quite a factual manner unlike a neurotypical child who would show upset and want help to solve the problem.

child-alone-in-playground-006When does a child realise they are different or is it that others start to realise that the child is not quite like them.
Help and Awareness is so important because a lot of these children do want to mix and socialise, its just that others make it difficult for them and a lot of it is due to a lack of understanding of them. With the increasing number of ASD diagnoses ………. Something needs to change.

Hope MacKenzie has had a better day today and that he has been able to play with someone. I know some people may say that all children go through this at some point and that its only been a week upto now that nobody has played with him but this is where it can start. A tiny crack can turn into a large social gap very quick in a child’s life. Through play children learn social skills such as sharing, cooperation and turn taking. Social language is also learnt, self-esteem is built and friendships are formed, all of which are just as important as the educational part of school life.
Early intervention is everything!