Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas Wear {Boys}


Excuse the poor images, I am working off my pad... so, this is what I do when it's 2am and I can't sleep!

Last year, we bought the boys' Christmas day clothes from next and got matching jumpers for the two of them... this went down a treat, everyone thought they were so cute ~ which they are. So, I was really excited to see what was around this year and I haven't been disappointed.

Next is a main choice for us because I like their clothes, delivery is fast so I don't have to brave the shops with Badger {he despises clothes shopping, it never ends well, so we buy everything online} they wash well and, most importantly,  the labels don't bother Badger most of the time, but in the event that they do, then next labels are good to remove without leaving a really itchy bit behind or ruining the clothing.

The top 3 images are the jumpers I liked best, and that will fit both boys ~ as Badger is still small ~ and I left it up to him to pick; He chose the main (grey) jumper, which also happens to be my favourite and only £10/£11. {The green is £12/£13 & red is £13/£14}

Here is the full outfit, a little coercion was required to make everything match, and I am not sure what planet I am on, thinking he will wear anything other than Vans shoes. Alas, one can dream and at least Bam Bam wont argue.



Death of a loved one for a child with Autism.

As I transfer the following post from the old website, it dawns on me just how well Badger has dealt with the situation, particularly over recent months. It will be one year next Friday since we lost such a huge part of our life, a massive personality and huge support. I am so pleased that Badger had the chance to get to know his Nanna L and heartbroken that Bam Bam doesn't have that same opportunity.

Badger's Nanna passed away. She had cancer and it was too late to be able to do anything to save her life. It seemed that this took all of our emotions, drained us, especially my partner as it was his mother and he took on the role of almost all hospital appointments and making sure what was left of her life, was enjoyable and comfortable. He was amazing. Truly. I always knew that he was - I wouldn't be with him otherwise! But, having gone through this and watched him, almost from the sidelines, was a strange experience for me. On one hand, everything did still have to carry on. Our lives still needed to be structured, Badger did still need his new school arrangements to be made, we did still need to be a family, we did still have a baby on the way... 

Looking back, it doesn't feel like we managed to do an awful lot, it seems that 2012 was blighted by this disease. To me, in my head, it feels that the illness and the passing of my late mother in law to be, was the be all and end all. Of the world. When it actual fact, it was just the changing of mine {and my family and loved ones obviously}. This may seem like a very obvious fact, but for me, with this first "real" loss, it is quite a difficult realisation to swallow; And in part, probably contributes to why I found it so hard to say anything to Badger.

I spent months, not quite knowing how to deal with Badger when the time did come and we lost Irene. He loved her, dearly and he knew that she was poorly - he visited for a while and saw her in bed, we had to remind him to stay away from jumping and so on. He kind of understood, but of course, you get poorly - then you get better. That was his mentality anyway. And when you go to hospital, they make you better. With terminal cancer, that doesn't happen. His only experience of death is Mario or Sonic on a computer game... and of course, you reboot and they come back. How do you explain that to a (then) 5 year old with Autism? With so much already going on...?!

Let me tell you how, you spend months trying to build up the courage to ask your partner, or mother in law what they would like and fail to do so in the fear of upsetting people even more. You bury your head in the sand, praying and praying - right up until you hear the news of her departure - that you wont have to explain death. I don't say this is what you should do, but I do say this is what I did do. I turned to everyone I could think of to ask for help on this, and nothing seemed "right" it didn't quite fit... what little help there was. So I continued to hope that I wouldn't have to explain it, and if I did have to explain her death, that he'd understand, just KNOW, what it meant. 

I made sure that he had as many memories to cherish, I made sure we always said yes. Her favourite place was Blackpool. Seriously, all over the world and she loved there best. It was convenient, in that we were able to go often, even when she was deteriorating, and I know that Badger will now associate the place with happy memories. And trams. Gotta love the trams. 

Unfortunately, wishing someone's illness away doesn't work ~ and my {almost} mother in law passed away all too soon, 7 days before her Birthday and 12 days before Christmas. She was "supposed" to have had Christmas with us.

In the end, it was a few weeks after her funeral (we decided against taking Badger) and he was asking questions (in his way, not literally...) again. Exhausted with trying to say "the right things" and put it a certain way, I simply phrased it on this occasion, as she was gone. It sank in, he was sad for a while, but he understood and knows now why we have a grave to visit rather than a house... Honesty, plain language - even applies to this situation. I don't recommend burying your head like I did ~ find a way to prepare... any way you can.

What you really need to buy when you are expecting ~ The Essentials

The amount of products available to purchase for new babies and mothers is seemingly unlimited, and when you're starting to look at what you need to buy for baby, it is very hard to distinguish between things that you need, as in essentials, gadgets that will benefit you and products that seem "a good idea" but will never be used. Clothing for little ones is a massive industry, when in actual fact most parents will only use sleepsuits and bodysuits for the first few weeks at least. Whereas there will also be items that you have forgotten {yes, despite the house being overrun with baby products!} especially new mum items.

I am, by no means the person who buys only the bare minimum... I love  gadget or a gizmo and anything prettily designed makes me melt, but the truth of the matter is that: it is probably best to buy what you need, spend your budget wisely before going for all the fancy extras.
So, this is the essentials list.

The Essentials - Clothing

Let's get straight to it and work out exactly how many wardrobes and chests of drawers you'll be filling.

Clothes for babies are adorable and pretty and we only get to buy them for our own, in the tiniest sizes, a couple of times in our lives. Bear this in mind, as you will undoubtedly find that friends, family and neighbours will be popping round to meet the arrival and probably with a delivery of something they couldn't resist - almost always an outfit for a little baby. So don't go overboard yourself.

Not only this, but you will find that you'll be changing lots of nappies and therefore need easier access to baby's bottom - sleepsuits and vests offer this. Baby may need changing 3 or 4 times per day, especially if you have a difficult feeder, problems with leaky nappies or a baby whom is fairly sickly so again, sleepsuits and vests are practical and easy. They dry quickly, are cheap and fit into life very easily.
NHS choices' pregnancy planner recommends that you have 6x sleepsuits and 6x body vests. This way you'll have 3 per day and can easily wash and dry a set each day too.
As for things like hats, scratch mitts, cardigans and snowsuits - it depends when you're baby is likely to be born as to how many hats, cardigans and jackets you'll be needing. Summer babies will use cardigans far more than a snowsuit and winter babies will need either both, or a couple of very thick snow suits. Scratch mitts are a necessity - babies are inquisitive little tikes with little to no hand control so nasty scratches are inevitable if you don't purchase them.

My personal recommendation would be 6 pair of scratch mitts2-3 cardigans3x hats and a snowsuit and/or coat to begin with. It's unlikely that you'll need anything more than this and again, people may purchase these items for you as gifts.
Don't forget that babies grow out of newborn sizes rapidly, so if you do see items that you can't resist buying - or if anyone asks you what you would like/need as a gift - consider purchasing 0-3 months or 3-6 months. The clothes will keep and you'll be thankful that you've not gone overboard when it comes to packing up the items after only a few weeks of use.

The Essentials - Equipment

This is a little harder and usually the expensive part. Different circumstances will determine exactly what you need.
Sleeping:
Carry cots, moses baskets or bassinets are lovely and are practical for those first few weeks - however, they are only used for a few months at most. If you can borrow a moses basket and replace the mattress that would be ideal, otherwise, shop around for the best bargain, or head straight to the cot.
Cots are usually designed to be altered to different heights as your baby grows. A baby can go straight into a cot. What is really important is that your child is close to you and it's easy for you to get them in and out when necessary. They need to be safe, well protected and warm. So, providing you buy the appropriate cot bedding and keep it next to your bed, there is no real reason why your child cannot go straight into a cot if you're on a tight budget.
Aside from that, you will need a cot bumper2-3 cellular blankets1-2 fleece blanketscot quilt and a spare quilt. Plus 2 valances/fitted sheets for the mattress.
Feeding:
Breastfeeding save you money - fact. It's also seen as the best and most nutritious food for your baby. So do think about it.

Unfortunately, however, some women are unable to breastfeed - for many, many, many reasons and so you should have at least 2 bottles and a steriliser at home ready for the event that you can't breastfeed. Most ladies move on from breastfeeding after 6 months, too, so it's not a complete waste of money to have these in ready for the future. You'll also use the steriliser for any pacifiers/dummies(you might want to have one or two of those in ready, too, they may not be essential but some babies do seem to need a soother) and teething toys you have for baby

If you are formula feeding, or being extra careful as you've previously been unable to breastfeed your child(ren) then a tub of formula will be required. You can look for bargains when doing a normal shop. Don't go overboard buying lots of it, as you might need to change brands if your child's tummy doesn't agree with the formula you've given them.
Changing and Bathing:
You can bath baby with you, but you'll find, especially as baby becomes more active that you'll need a bath bath or a support seat. A top & tail bowl is also going to be heavily, heavily used! A mild baby bath, sudocrem, shampoo and sponges will be needed. You'll also find that you have to cut little tiny fingernails and brush their soft hair and it will work out cheaper to buy a set of those rather than individually, keep an eye out for the best prices with this one, though as you do have time.

Nappies! 
Lots and lots of nappies. Whether you plan on using reusables or disposables, make sure you have plenty in for the baby's arrival. Don't go buying hundreds and thousands as you will find that baby quickly grows and will soon be out of the smallest sizes. Buy enough to last you a week or so - however long it will be before you are definitely going to be able to buy more, the last thing you want is to run out in the middle of the night.
Wipes are not, technically, essential either, however are a God send. You can use a sponge and warm soapy water - in fact, should do as often as possible as it will reduce chances of nappy rash making an appearance.

The Essentials - Getting out & about.

If you have a car, then a car seat is absolutely essential.
pram is obviously a useful addition and will save your back, however you can buy second hand and a travel system can be a good choice as both carseat and pram which will last many years is already included and paid for. It's not a necessity to buy all the various accessories - aside from raincover and footmuff/cosy toes and/or blankets. You wont need matching changing bags, toys, buggy boards or additional pieces such as carry cots. They may be nice and useful, but they're not essentials.
changing bag (doesn't have to be a matching, posh, expensive one) is pretty essential if you're going to be going out of the house to absolutely anywhere at some point in the first twelve months - which of course you probably are! It needs to be strong and hold nappies, bottles, wipes and food safely.

How to make your own free Picture Exchange (PECS) cards and other visual supports.

There are a number of options available here. The first being that you can make your own – draw them – however, for those of us who are not that talented in the drawing department, that’s not really an option. {You want your kids to recognise the pictures, afterall!}

Secondly, Mayor Johnson’s Boardmaker. I need not delve into the benefits and disadvantages of this programme, as it’s so popular the chances are you’ve already heard of it and seen the price of it. If you are really struggling with symbols and software, or need an all-in-one, very little effort required program, and find that your child is going to benefit from Picture Exchange for the rest of their lives, then I could possibly say that the price of the software is justified. However, if you’re new to picture exchange, unsure of how it will work out or can’t bring yourself to pay those prices, then I suggest starting out elsewhere and then considering Boardmaker if the alternatives don’t work out.
Thirdly, you can purchase everything ready-made or buy CD-ROMs. There are some good discs available on eBay or through Pyramid. Be sure to shop around as prices do vary and some are much better value than others.
Finally, you can choose to take matters into your own hands and using some basic software and by collecting different sets of symbols (or using photos, from Google) build up a good base of pictures, software and editing software so that everything you make can be entirely personalised to your child.
This can be completely free and it is flexible too – colour, black and white or photo, writing or no writing – it’s entirely up to you. Not to mention that you can be a lot more creative with how you go about things – visual schedules are more fun for some kids if they are bright and attractive. Badger, for example, would NOT follow a timetable {at home or at school} until I created one which was pretty and bright and went downward, rather than across.

The software which I use and would personally recommend is PictoSelector. It is free, but if you do use it, please consider making a donation. It’s a fantastic resource, it really, really, really is. Pre-installed on this software are the Mulberry Symbols (if you want just symbols, not software, you can download these from Straight-Street which is also free) ARASAAC, and Sclera symbols – amongst others. There are thousands – and some you would never ever dream of creating yourself, but you do know will be useful. I tend to use ARASAAC and Mulberry as they are colour and easy for Badger. However plenty of kids do prefer black and white so it’s whatever works out best for you and your family. In Picto Selector, you are able to import your own images too and create picture cards out of them, so if you’ve bought a disc with images on or wanted to use photos then you can, easily. You can also change the background colour and colourise to be “good” or “wrong” which does come in very handy. Changing how many pictures you want on a page comes easily, I stick with 5x5 as these are a good size for us, however younger children or those who struggle with motor skills may find it easier to have larger cards, 3x5 for example. Finally, you can export the files as PDFs or PNGs. You may not need to, however the one downfall to me with Picto Selector is that if you want the text printing on each card, then it comes underneath and the size/font is not editable. For that reason and because it’s easier to send a PDF to a relative to print, or school etc, I save as PDF without the text and then use Adobe Illustrator to add text inside of the box (so directly onto the card rather than below) and make it smaller.

This brings me to the next software – Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop and other image editing programs.
I already had Illustrator installed on my computer. This is even pricier than Boardmaker and so is Photoshop. So I wouldn’t suggest that you go out and pay for something so expensive, not just yet anyway. However, if you already have the software, I’d recommend using it. Alternatives which work well are: Photoshop Elements, Serif Craft Artist, Paint. You will be able to find something which is free, or cheap, and easily edit images and picture cards to suit you.

Image editing/creating software isn’t just about editing the actual cards, though. This is where I create the boards and pages that we need to use, plus social stories and activity sheets. I love Digi Scrapbooking so a lot of the backgrounds/borders and so on are easily used to create attractive and customisable picture exchange within editing software.

Anyway, that should help you guys get started on the road to creating your own PECS. Any questions – just ask!

The 25 words your two year old should know.

According to the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College

All children develop at different rates and their capabilities are varied from birth. We have early walkers, late talkers, super gifted readers, computer whizz kids and so on. Every single child on the planet is special and completely unique with their own strengths and their own weaknesses. Still, parents do like to know, as a rule, what's "normal" and whether their child is reaching all of their milestones on time. Speech is definitely one which is most often discussed between mum's and dad's, and while there is usually no need for concern over a slight delay, it is a factor that can point to other problems when a child has previously shown no concerns at all.

Autism, for example, is often picked up on because of a speech delay. Milestones before this can all be met at a normal, often faster pace, than you would expect of any other child, so it is important to take notice of where your child should be in terms of their speech development - that way, problems can be addressed early and any further complications can be picked up on quickly. Of course, you must take everything you do read with a pinch of salt, and remember that your own instincts are just as valuable as a research paper.
The study which took place at the child study institute at Bryn Mawr College determined that children should know 50 words by the age of two, and they should be starting to link words together from the age of two. They perhaps wont be clear and concise but a vocabulary of 50 words should be there. If there is less, it may not necessarily be a "problem" as such as all children do develop at different rates, but you should perhaps start to chart your child's progress to check they are continuing to develop their language skills.
To allow for speech delays and other attributing factors as to why a child may have less than 50 words speech, the director of the Child Study Institute, Leslie Rescorla,was asked to select the 25 words that children of 2 should know (as opposed to 50) from a list of the 351 most commonly used words by children of that age group. She determined the following list:

  1. Mommy/Mummy
  2. Daddy
  3. baby
  4. milk
  5. juice
  6. hello
  7. bye-bye
  8. yes
  9. no
  10. dog
  11. cat
  12. ball
  13. nose
  14. eye
  15. banana
  16. cookie
  17. car
  18. hot
  19. thank-you
  20. bath
  21. shoe
  22. hat
  23. book
  24. more
  25. all gone

Deciding what to put into your child's bedtime routine.

In every book you are likely to read about "how to be a parent" you'll see the importance of a bedtime routine and the benefits having a consistent routine has on both your child's development and you're life. It will also probably tell you to do the same kind of (obvious) things - tea, bath, story, bed.
Unfortunately, however, life isn't always that smooth and some children quickly adapt and take to a new routine while others don't seem to be able to take to it and cause havoc for the parents, not matter how hard they try to follow a professional's advice.
You see, how to be a good parent isn't set in stone and you certainly can't learn it out of a book. It's entirely about learning as you go along - each child is different, each family's circumstances are different and there are multiple factors to take into consideration when you are raising your own child and deciding what steps to take.
Which is why, I want you to forget all the usual ideas and tips on bedtime and work with me as we create a routine that is right for your child.

My child.

My own child's sleep issues come from his condition: Autism. That's no reason to not use the same techniques regarding designing a routine for your child, however, it just means I may have more contributing factors.

We've tried the usual bed time routine patterns and failed spectacularly, which is why we're now trying to think outside the box a little bit more so that his lack of sleep doesn't have a negative impact on his education. Plus, with a second baby coming in a matter of months, I can see his sleep being disturbed and we'll need to be able to deal with that.
Generally, once he's asleep, he's asleep. It's getting to that point in the first place that's problematic.

Designing the routine ~ Step one.

The first step I'm taking is considering what my son likes and responds to well.

It's all fine and well being told that you should give a bath, then bed and story - but if you've got a child who seems to spring into action when they have a bath, or get's very animated at story time, then of course these should be avoided within the hour or so that you're trying to settle your child down.
So, compile a list of things that you have to do in the evening, without fail:
  • Eat
  • Wash/Bath
  • Homework
  • Story
  • Play
  • Walk the dog
Then compile a list of things that will relax your child and/or that your child enjoys to do:
  • Hot drink
  • Snack
  • Massage/Lotion
  • Cuddles
  • Seeing Dad
Your lists may be longer or shorter, similar or completely different. It doesn't matter about that, what's important is that you recognise your own child and your home life.

Designing the routine ~ Step two.

Next, you should go through the lists and compile one list which is ordered by how stimulating they are to your child, most relaxing should be at the bottom of the list. You will, need to fiddle about a little, however, as these should be in an order that you actually can stick to and is practical - don't make your life impossible, otherwise no routine will work:
  • Homework
  • Story
  • Eating
  • Walk the dog
  • Play
  • Bath*
  • Massage/Lotion
  • See Dad
  • Snack
  • Cuddles
  • Hot Drink
*Pyjamas come on after bath. For us, bath time is more stimulating than most of the other activities, however it's not realistic that we do that first because of the chance of getting messy with eating, playing and walking the dog.
Bath time is quite stimulating for us because I take the chance to play, talk and have fun away from distractions such as TV. So, I think we'll have to have tone down fun in the tub, just a little.

Designing the routine ~ Step three.

Now you have the basic routine in front of you, it is a good idea to consider how you can make these activities run smoothly and efficiently. Homework and reading, for a child that doesn't want to complete these tasks, can often take a very long time when they don't have to. It can cause stress that would be best avoided both parties. Similarly, activities such as seeing Dad when he gets home from work could be cut short because of the tasks that take longer, when ideally, your child would be happier and more settled if they were allowed to spend longer on the "fun" bits. (They're only kids once!)
Ideas for making things run smoothly? Hmm...
Get the trickiest bits out of the way. If your child has homework to do, get a snack and a drink ready as soon as they walk through the door and sit down in the usual spot you use, to complete the homework while they have a drink and a biscuit.
Set up a system of reward charts. I say charts but you could use marbles in a jar, charts, stickers and any other ideas that you like. It's good to have a few reward systems going on - some long term, short term and immediate ones. Marbles in a jar for each piece of homework they complete, for example, is a good idea as they're likely to keep on getting homework and having a big reward for each one can prove expensive. So a "Homework Marble Jar" or a "Reading Marble Jar" where they are rewarded for completing their homework separately and over a longer period of time, may prove more efficient.
Try not to raise your voice, the more stressed out you get, the more agitated and disruptive they'll behave. Make it fun where you can, but ultimately, just try to get through it as quickly as possible.
Stick to your guns - no playing until the homework's done - less playtime the longer it takes to get through - homework will have to be redone, however, if they rush and don't put a real effort it.

Putting the routine into practice.

This step is the part you've been waiting for - and not entirely dissimilar to step 3 of designing the routine: It's necessary to think about how you'll cope with any defensive attitudes about starting the new routine and how you'll reward your children for sticking with it. How you do this is entirely up to you.

For me, I will also be creating a visual schedule where my son will be able to see the stages that I expect of him and where I'll be able to add any slight changes - some days we might not walk the dog because we've had to visit a relative, so it's important that he recognises that slight changes to a routine are inevitable. It's a good idea to consider using visual aids if you have a child with Autism, Special Needs, ADHD or even younger children as the picture symbols will make things a lot, lot clearer.

You can find more info on creating a visual schedule for the evening here.

For you, you may choose to have everything written down for your own sake and explain to your child a few times. Again, this is entirely up to you, just be sure to take into consideration your child and their own, personal needs.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Makaton.

Makaton Signing is another alternative method of communication, or interim between non-verbal to speaking. It is very often used in conjunction with visual resources and Badger did use Makaton when he first started using the PEC System. This helped us as he realised quite quickly that there are these methods of communication, it was useful to partake in conversation = you get what you want! 

Unfortunately if you are in an area that doesn't seem to have a Makaton Club/or Course then you may well struggle to find Makaton Signs online for free, and resources that will help you out. I know that I did, and looking back at what links and resources I did have, I am stunned at how many are now not available what so ever.

What is Makaton, anyway? If you use the navigation menu at the side then you will see a page dedicated to Signing. This covers both Makaton and Sign Language (I am British, so it is BSL that I may refer to, however for ASL or another language, the theory is still sound, you just might want to double check a little bit of the info.) Anyway, that page will explain it all a little bit more and will be updated with links and resources as they are found. It is an amazing language in itself, which is why, despite Badger no longer needing to use the signs, I wanted to share this information with you.

Many Libraries have a fair range of official Makaton products that you can use to teach your child, and yourself, signs. These are all free, or a very small charge, as long as you don't lose or break anything. 

The website: http://www.totalcommunication.org.uk/makaton-signing.html has got quite a wide selection of basic signs to get you started. It's in video format and a very, very good website. They also sell CDs with more basic signs, intermediate and advanced, at a very reasonable price. 

Don't go jumping in and expect too much too soon, while PECs was pretty straight forward with Badger,  he would not learn any signs what so ever until around the time we started using visuals. I worked on his eye contact over a few months and slowly this led to us being able to teach him a few signs. Try to catch them at a good moment, when they are willing to engage, for Badger this is after tea and not long until bedtime. Don't forget you can use the YouTube video on Eye Contact Resource page to help improve this.

If you get started using that website, or any other resources you already have then you may be interested in using my basic tracker. I created this just to print off and follow Badger's progress. The words are all words featured on the total communication site (the link above) so are a good starting point. The tracker features columns for:

"Word" - The word!
"Known" - More for your advantage, do you know and use the sign to your child?
"Repeated" - Does your child repeat the sign back at you?
"Aided" - Will your child do the sign without seeing you do it, but with a little encouragement, i.e. "Do the sign for Mummy." or saying the word (ie. More).
"Own" - When your child uses the sign almost always unaided, of their own back, when making a request or comment.

For a track sheet and further advice and information, including a couple of videos to start off with, then please click here.