Lachlan is now 4 years old and in his final year of Early Years Education (formally known as Pre-school year) we are now six weeks into the first term.

Lachlan is happy, settled and just loves his playgroup this is his second full year there, he loves the ladies who teach, support and care for him and he loves the other children.

I am now glad we didn’t pursue a place in an additional needs setting for Lachlan, I think the other children have learned as much from Lachlan as he has learned from them, as a parent I have been deeply touched to watch Lachlan develop relationships with the other children, who are yet to young to understand why Lachlan is different, sometimes they join in Lachlan’s games and they watch out for him too.

In the first post I wrote about Lachlan starting playgroup,

The road to mainstream Pre School…

There were so many obstacles, in the beginning it felt like too many to possibly overcome.

In all honesty Lachlan and I were terrified. After Lachlan’s first afternoon my heart broke harder than it had ever broken before, I realised that day just how different and behind his peers Lachlan was and I had no idea how to make playgroup work.

I will never forget that day, looking back on it though, it shows just how far Lachlan has come, it proves what seemed impossible can be possible.

Miracles do happen….

Lachlan can talk, in short sentences, everyone who works with Lachaln has fought so hard to get Lachlan speaking one of my biggest fears was how Lachlan would communicate that he was hurt or something was wrong at playgroup, I am amazed to say Lachlan’s solution is to say “I bumped,” sometimes while holding the “bumped” arm, leg or head.

“I bumped,” we have worked out also covers, that something hurts, this has solved a lot of frustration on both sides as now when Lachlan is becoming unwell he lets us know, something is bothering him.

The down side to “I bumped,” is when Ian or I give Lachlan a row the monkey runs to the other and you guessed it with a quivering lip says, “I bumped!”

Lachlan can say in words everything he wants these days, the frustrated “Un’s” have almost gone completely, he is beginning to ask for things too, his favourites at the moment is to say, “I need a biscuit, crisps, cake”, “I need juice”, “bum change”, “build a house, lego”, “go out”, “need a kiss” and my favourite “me and my mummy”.

Lachlan hardly ever cries, hardly ever covers his ears, very rarely headbangs and at playgroup instead of hiding from others he actively looks for interaction from the other children and staff, he has learned to sit reasonably well at snack time and latterly sits very well at story time, especially if a “Meg and Mog” book or “Maisie Mouse”, I honestly would not have believed it possible in such a relatively short space of time that Lachlan could come on so much had I not been a part of the journey.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still many battles to be won, currently everyone working with Lachlan is trying to get him to drink from a cup without a lid, we know he can do it as we have caught Lachlan swigging from abandoned glasses of juice at home and drinking the bath water from his bath toys, but he just won’t do it from a cup!

Safety is a huge issue, Lachlan has 1:1 support at playgroup full-time, unfortunately for all his care givers Lachlan’s climbing ability is outstanding, he has no concept of height, loves to jump from high surfaces, hang’s upside down at every opportunity and loves doing headstands, I have yet to try it but Lachlan really is convinced certain programmes on TV just have to be watched upsides down! Outdoor dangers are another huge concern, as Lachlan has no sense of danger, he still wants to walk straight into the river or out into the road. We have a buggy which is now rarely used and if out on foot we always put a harness with a line on it to act as an extra pair of hands.

Toilet training is a disaster, did you know how much fun it is to be able to make ones own puddles to play in??

Eating is still hard going, though after a huge regression due to illness, Lachlan is now back to making slow progress, he will eat anything provided it is mashed, his dairy, egg, gluten and soya free diet continue, Lachlan’s favourites are “Hairy Bikers Sausage Casserole” and “Beef and Ale Stew”.

I was touched and delighted recently that Lachlan has been invited to Birthday parties, we go along and do our best, we have managed three so far, Lachlan loves parties!

I have heard of and seen two occasions in the last week where Lachlan has wanted to share an activity with one of the playgroup ladies, it was heartwarming to see him go and “ask” the ladies to join in with his games.

Our kitchen is covered in all the paintings Lachlan has painted for us, I still have the very first one he ever did. Going near paint used to result in a complete meltdown from Lachlan. The photos below show just how far he has come. Lachlan now loves paint.

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I guess what I am trying to say and prove in this post is, anything is possible, never give up trying, never give up hope…….

I know in my heart Lachlan will be all he can be, I have no idea where this journey will take us but we will travel together.

I, for a long time felt completely out of my depth with Lachlan, I now believe I can and do make a difference, especially with a little help and guidance from the wonderful team of people known in our house as “Lachlan’s angels”.

Autism, Our lives and Autism

A new year, Mainstream Early Years Education,

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Autism, Our lives and Autism

A special Birthday Party

I remember one of the things that hit me hardest when Autism was first mentioned nearly two years ago, was the theory that Autistic children lack imagination, I can remember feeling terribly sad thinking how do you play without imagination?

Recently I have noticed on numerous occasions Lachlan playing in imaginative ways, I have seen him line up my washing baskets, then sitting himself in the front one, happily shouting “chop-choo, woo-woo”, I have watched him crawl around the floor going “woof-woof” I have seen him make “ice-cream’s” with both play doh and sand, handing them out to us all, with a “yum-yum”.

Lachlan frequently pretends to be asleep, making sleepy noises, being a spaceman or rocket and shouting “5-4-3-2-1-BLAST-OFF” while jumping off something is a long-standing favourite, making cups of tea in the bath and building houses out of anything and everything from Lego to lumps of wood, Lachlan does it all.

I want to share what happened one afternoon last week while Lachlan was enjoying some free play time with his play doh.

Lachlan was sitting at our kitchen table with the play doh ice cream factory, happily making cones as he has done on lots of occasions recently, next thing Lachlan is digging in the large box we store all the playdoh stuff in.  We have a fair collection as I never got round to clearing out the bits Alex had finished with, so out of the box come the characters from In The Night Garden, one by one Lachlan lines them up along the edge o the table.  Upsy Daisy, Iggle Piggle, Macka-Packa and the Tombliboos they are all there, next Lachlan gets a large lump of purple play doh, he sits it on the table, to the lump he adds small pink dots of play doh to the top, all the while I am watching curios as to what Lachlan is up to and watching that none of the play doh is swallowed!

What Lachlan did next had me stunned, delighted and yes it brought tears to my eyes!

Around the purple and pink lump of play doh Lachlan carefully arranges his Night Garden friends in a circle, then to my astonishment Lachlan started singing the words to “Happy Birthday”, word for word, when it got to the point of saying whose Birthday it was Lachlan sang, “Happy Birthday to Upsy Daisy, Happy Birthday to you…”

Lachlan then turned to me and said “Upsy Daisy’s Party”

I threw my arms round Lachlan and replied, ‘yes darling, you have given Upsy Daisy a party, a Birthday party”.

All this was witnessed by Lachlan’s speech therapist who was as stunned and delighted as I was.

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Autism, Our lives and Autism

Sometimes it’s all just too much…….

Today was Lachlan’s big review meeting and I fell apart in the middle of it!

I was sitting there and it was such a positive meeting everyone was saying how well Lachlan is doing and how far he has come in the last year both of which are true, then I just went to bits………

I wanted to scream at everyone “is this as good as it gets?”

Somedays I feel trapped in a living hell!

Lachlan swings from my curtains like a professionally trained trapeze artist, does headstands on top of furniture, he thinks the dogs bowl is;  in his woods “a paddling pool”, climbs constantly, has opened the oven door, shouts splash at the pot of boiling potatoes cooking on the hob, has chewed through several power cables and flushed goodness knows all what down the loo!! (toilet)

Take your eye of the ball for a nano second and I guarantee Lachlan will no longer be engaged in the activity you left him at. His current favourite is the dogs bowl!

The door goes, the phone rings, you need the loo, on return all hell has broken loose!

I always make sure Lachlan is never in any danger, we are all very aware, but it is exhausting, I don’t even switch off in my sleep, the other night my older son got up to use the loo, I heard water and flew out of bed panicking Lachlan was puddling in the bathroom, this is at 4.00am! Lachlan was of course sound asleep at the foot of our bed oblivious to the fuss. Poor Hamish got the fright of his life!

I need a break, I am done in, I guess I need to fall apart, I have been strong too long, I need to let it all out……

I am so angry with myself…..

I should have seen it coming, I have been listening to Guns and Roses November Rain,  Let it be by the Beatles and lots of P!nk up loud in the last few weeks, my music therapy you could say, a warning that I am struggling though.

The worst bit is I fear I have hurt a few of the wonderful allies who fear they have upset me.

It is so hard to explain the roller coaster I am trapped on, I truly celebrate every little step Lachlan takes with heartfelt joy, I tell anyone who will listen how amazing my boy is but then the frustration grows in me it builds and knawes away, little things that fill me with joy will then break my heart all in one go,

The day I taught my little nephew to ride his bike without stabilizers, I was so proud in that moment I couldn’t have been prouder of that wee lad, but then it hit me, I might never teach Lachlan to ride a bike….

The conversations I have with my nephews when they want to tell aunty Vicki something, I am delighted they want to tell me, then later on I wonder will Lachlan ever tell me about his day in the same way?

It hurts. No matter how had I try to not let it, It really does hurt.

It is the constant immense pressure I feel under to keep pushing Lachlan on, all if Lachlan is doing so well and is happy can’t we just stand still for a little while?

Enjoy the moment?

 

Just breathe.

Lachlan is just a little boy, my little boy.

 

Today it all just got too much, my guard slipped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Autism, Our lives and Autism

Birthday Boy

“What a difference a day makes! This time last night I was in floods of tears feeling robbed and thinking way too much about what other four year olds do on their Birthdays that Lachlan wouldn’t do.

First thing this morning I sang Happy Birthday to Lachlan and he replied by saying “cake” then we had music therapy and Gill played “happy birthday” several times on keyboard much to Lachlan’s delight, we brought out the cards at lunch time and thanks to the “look who got a letter” song from Blues Clues Lachlan opened his cards with help and a huge grin.

A little while later we gave Lachlan the one wrapped present Gran and Grandpa had brought, Lachlan opened it with help from Gran and was delighted with the tractors jigsaw inside.

We then had home visiting teacher in, this was when we gave Lachlan his play table and train set, both my little and big boys have had a great time with it! At tea time Nana and Graham came and we had cake and candles and sang “happy birthday” twice, Lachlan loved investigating the candles, then Hamish gave Lachlan his present, at supper time we sang and had candles again and Alex gave Lachlan her present which both Alex and Lachlan played with for a while.

Lachlan has loved every minute of a stress free amazing day and I have no doubt he knew it was his Birthday, his special day, we achieved so much today, so much that most people take for granted, it is the little simple things that give hope and bring happiness and joy, Vxxxx”

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Autism, Our lives and Autism

The Road To Mainstream Pre School Part One

I had enrolled Lachlan in our local playgroup before his initial assessment, Lachlan was due to start in August 2013, I had spoken to staff when enrolling and explained about Lachlan still not speaking and that we were waiting on assessments, after the EYCAT assessment I had to make the call explaining that Lachlan’s problems were much bigger than we had realised, it was agreed Lachlan would start playgroup 7 months earlier than intended 2 afternoons a week in a small group of 2-3 year olds, the idea was Lachlan would have time to get to know playgroup the staff and children and for them to get to know Lachlan it was also hoped that in time learn to be away from Ian and I.

I think it fair to say that on that first afternoon in January both Lachlan and I were completely unprepared and over whelmed, I never realised how traumatic a change starting playgroup was to be for all of us. I came home that day and sobbed for hours vowing never to put either of us through that again, I never realised how hard it would be or how much it could hurt to spend an afternoon playing with other children, my older two had both gone to the same playgroup and I had always loved playing with the other children when my turn on the rota came round, this was not going to be the same, this was the first time Lachlan and I had spent time with children Lachlan’s age in over a year, there it was, suddenly clearer than ever before just how far behind Lachlan was and also how different. The other children could talk, they could eat normal food, they played with each other and they asked questions.

Thankfully our health visitor had foreseen what I hadn’t and called to help pick up the pieces, she helped to convince us to go back the next day and called regularly over the following weeks, sometimes it is not until you find yourself in a situation do you realise how complicated a situation it is or how much is being asked of you or just how much you are asking of others.

It suddenly struck me how vulnerable Lachlan was, I realised I was going to have to place an enormous amount of trust and faith in the playgroup staff, I realised Lachlan was not going to be able to tell me if something was wrong, he was not going to be able to tell someone if he was hurt, or if he needed or wanted something and it terrified me.  We were at this point, just about getting by at home, with Lachlan taking us to everything he wanted or pointing and making very determined sounding tones but in an unknown environment that wasn’t going to work.

That first afternoon Lachlan clung to me in playgroup with his hands on his ears we tried to join in but every activity we went to sparked off tears and very stressed sounding goodbyes from Lachlan. The next day was better, the next week worse, Lachlan and I found ourselves on a bit of a roller-coaster of highs and lows over the coming weeks, for every step forward there would be one back, part of the problem was we were all learning, Lachlan was learning how to be somewhere new with other children and adults, the staff were all learning about Lachlan and global developmental delay and the autistic spectrum as was I at home, it was awful due to the lacking services being asked questions about why Lachlan did things or what Lachlan needed and not really knowing the answer.

Reluctantly at the end of February I asked our GP for a referral to be made to Social Work to try and make some headway in terms of support for us all. I will be honest and say at that point I strongly believed Lachlan needed to be in a specialist educational provision, he just didn’t belong in mainstream, it felt a bit like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, no matter how hard we all worked at it, it just wasn’t happening. Lachlan was so stressed all the time, he wouldn’t eat, either wouldn’t sleep or would sleep all the time, wouldn’t wear clothes, was banging his head all the time, I hated seeing him so distressed and miserable.

I called the education department to ask what additional support Lachlan was entitled to and to ask about how to apply for a specialist setting, as Lachlan was not yet 3 he was not entitled to any support at all and Lachlan could only attend a specialist setting if referred there usually after a period of time in mainstream.  I arranged for us to visit the SEN nursery 20 miles away from our home, there are only 2 in our region the other is 30 miles away, it was very impressive and everything I could have wanted for Lachlan, they had classes of only 6 children all children had 1:1 care, everything was laid out and designed with additional needs children in mind, there were sensory areas, outdoor areas, there were picture cards everywhere, it felt very right, the children there were just like Lachlan too. I went home and asked again for a placing request to be made for Lachlan we were then dealt the blow that integrated children’s services would never agree to fund a child Lachlan’s age traveling so far in escorted transport plus Lachlan’s needs were not in their eyes great enough to warrant a place. I never was happy with the idea of handing Lachlan over to strangers to get to and from nursery my intention was, had we been offered a place I would escort. It was awful feeling Lachlan didn’t belong anywhere. We had to find a way to make playgroup work.

A huge turning point came when Lachlan’s grandparents bought him a weighted vest, very quickly Lachlan became a much calmer little boy, I will never forget the afternoon he first sat still for more than a minute; Something Special had come on TV and Lachlan had stopped to look, that day for the first time he stayed and watched the whole episode, it was as if before the vest Lachlan couldn’t bear to sit or be still, suddenly Lachlan could concentrate on taking part, suddenly Lachlan and I could do puzzles and play.

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Autism, Our lives and Autism

Lachlan’s Angels 2013

Lachlan’s Angels are the wonderful individuals who have seen us through our journey so far, they are his big brother and sister, grandparents and relatives who are always there, our friends who didn’t shy away, the amazing ladies at playgroup, the Speech Thearapist, Home Visiting Teacher, OT and our Health Visitor, all have gone above and beyond their duty to Lachlan, all have helped shape what is now a happy little boy, for this I owe them all everything.

In those long months of waiting an old friend would become the first angel to come into Lachlan’s life. Kirsty works with older additional needs children in a special school, Kirsty was to offer the first light on our journey through a very long and dark tunnel, Kirsty was kind enough to visit us with loads of information and visual aids, it was a wonderful first step to have someone sit down and talk to us honestly about Autism and what it really meant for a child.

I set about reading as much as I could, I won’t lie, some of what I read was harrowing, at times it was very hard to accept all I was learning about autism, the more I read the more I realised it was not a case of if Lachlan would be diagnosed with autism but when. I hoped and prayed as I still do that Lachlan would be a happy little boy, suddenly nothing else mattered we could cope with anything autism was to throw at us just as long as Lachlan was happy, I knew we would find away.

In February 2013 we met Lachlans next angel, The Speech Therapist, she was impressed how far Lachlan had come since his initial assessment as Lachlan appeared to be trying to lable things he liked as parents we were convinced Lachlan wanted to talk, at first I wasn’t sure of the Speech Therapist , as she gently explained that her role was to be to get Lachlan communicating but not nessasarily with speech, it was also explained to us then that Lachlan may never speak other than echolaillia (mimicked speech), I hated the thought that one day Lachlan and I may never chat as I do with my older two, I didn’t want to be looking at other ways of communicating, I wanted Lachlan to speak.  It was around this time that Lachlan learned another word which was Daddy, we had heard it before but now it was back and to stay, don’t get me wrong I was delighted but at the same time I longed to be Mummy.

We set about making pictures of everything with an aim to using a PECS (picture exchange communication system) so far this is still hit or miss for Lachlan as he can exchange the card for crisps and juice he chooses not to though!!! The Speech Therapist  tried in one session to give Lachlan the choice of two cards one for Twinkle Twinkle the other bubbles, Lachlan ignored her or so we thought, The Speech Therapist made the choice and started singing next thing not only did Lachlan hand Ellen the bubbles card he shouted the word from the souls of his feet!! The Speech Therapist has the patience of a saint and really does care, she has always said she can see a lot of potential in our wee man, I have always tried to believe it, now I know he has.

In March Lachlan started having fortnightly visits from the Home Visiting Teacher Susan, Susan is amazing, Lachlan warmed to her very quickly, the advice and support we have received from Susan have been invaluable, Lachlan has come on so much thanks to Susan’s visits, it was during these visits we realised Lachlan can count easily to ten, I had to bite my lip to stop the tears the day I realised the sounds Lachlan was making were an attempt at saying numbers as he counted the little cars, now he counts a lot, we also learned that Lachlan knows most colours, Susan was laying out coloured matts on the floor saying the colours as she went, red, green, blue and then a very little voice beat Susan to it, to say the next mat was yellow! Lachlan told us!  Lachlan likes to randomly point at things and tell me their colour, he can when asked in play give me the right coloured car or ball or take the right one from me. Lachlan now likes to point out letters in logos, he knows the letters C, B, A and S, Susan has also been a great source of ideas and suggestions to engage Lachlan in play, as well as offering advice to playgroup and fighting our corner at meetings and helping me to see the broader picture when something’s have not gone to plan.

It is wonderful to be sitting here tonight knowing Lachlan is a happy little chap, he has moved mountains since this time last year and it is down to the wonderful individuals mentioned above, I feel certain Lachlan will continue to surprise us all in the years to come, I hope as and when they are needed many more angels find there way into his life.

written October 2013

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Autism

Finding A New Way……

Knowing we were on our own and would be for months was actually frightening, things for Lachlan and us all were bad, I was terrified how much worse things would become if we just sat about waiting, having a definite diagnoses of Global Developmental Delay and knowing it was highly probable a diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder was going to follow in time, I set about trying to make life for Lachlan and in turn us all at least a little better.

I watched Lachlan for a day or two, of course I hade been watching him all his little life but this was watching with newly opened eyes, I made notes in my head about everything that seemed to set off a negative reaction.

The only thing Lachlan liked to play with was our PC as a baby he had been fascinated with it, at around 14 months of age we discovered Lachlan knew how the PC worked, from 18 months he could from the desktop screen, open google, clear the web bar, type in the letter B bring up the BBC homepage and from there either watch what he wanted on the iPlayer or play games on CBeebies, or have two windows open so he could do both at once! Now at 3 he has broken the PC and fixed it many times, bought loads on Amazon interestingly usually toys or DVDs from the shows he liked.   Lachlan loves to explore the worldwide web. I did then and do now allow him some freedom to explore.

The first and perhaps most obvious problem was Lachlan didn’t play, on the advice of professionals most of Lachlan’s toys and lots of buttons, sound and lights, these toys were not right, Lachlan was either frightened of the light and noise they made ( sensory overload) causing ear covering and head banging or would spend hours pushing the same button over and over again, on, off, on, off never doing anything more with the toy, another suddenly huge apparent issue was all Lachlan’s toys were age appropriate all were for 2-3 years plus, it struck me in the middle of a sleepless night that if a child has Global Developmental Delay normal rules are out.  I packed away nearly all Lachlan’s toys and went shopping. I bought an Elefun which has balls pop out its trunk meant for 9-18 month old toddlers, a click clack track where the cars slide and drop from top to bottom, wooden shape sorters and a few wooden peg puzzles, no lights, very little sound and only one button in all the toys put together.

I will never forget the smile and happy sounds that first afternoon we set up Elefun, to begin with Lachlan watched from a distance hands covering his ears and just watching from the corner of his eye, with in half an hour with gentle encouragement he was chasing coloured balls round the room and bringing them back for more. We quickly learnt Lachlan liked shapes and shape sorter toys I also realised Lachlan was cleverer than he was being given credit for……

It was November I had bought my Christmas present, an IPad, I set it up, within minutes Lachlan has it sussed and was off to CBeebies, the IPad being touch screen I believe developed the first skill needed on the long road to speech a skill Lachlan was still missing at two and a half.  To make the IPad work Lachlan had to use a single finger to point!
Lachlan quickly got the hang of pointing miraculously he cleverly realised that pointing on the IPad got him what he wanted, pointing for biscuits, food, drink all followed very quickly, suddenly we had at last opened very early lines of communication, If Lachlan was upset or distressed I started to ask him to show me what he wanted, it was hit or miss and still is in many ways, but for us it was a massive corner turned.

I had already bought Lachlans Christmas presents, everyone bought over the year with lots of thought and hope of a smile on giving them to Lachlan. I had to accept based on the success we were having with the new simpler toys, what I had stashed away was inappropriate, the little balance bike is all I have kept in the hope one day Lachlan might master it, all the rest I sold months down the line when it sank in it could be years before Lachlan is ready for them. Some thought I was mad, perhaps I was a little, I couldnt believe the diffrence in my wee lad in a few short weeks, the decision was made Lachlan got his very own IPad for Christmas, we have set rules as to when Lachlan can have his IPad by no means does he have it all day, I saw and still do see the IPad as a way into Lachlans world a world I sometimes am allowed into.

Everyday I would spend an hour or so purposefuly playing with Lachlan and a chosen toy or toys trying to develop new skills and strengthen imerging ones, no one showed us how it just felt the right thing to do.

I decided to pick our battles, we stopped the pointless battle for solid food for the time being, let Lachlan sleep in our room, shoes and socks were not nessasary in the buggy with the cosy toes on, tooth brushing stopped as did hair washing, clothes were only essential if going out, all these things were a sensory nightmare for Lachlan, we just took time to breathe.

We kept taking Lachlan shopping, for days out, to visit friends and family, partly because he didn’t seem to mind also because the rest of us needed some normality.

By Christmas 2012, 6 weeks post assesment we had a more settled happier little man. The only help and advice we had came from a very good friend to you I owe everything.

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