Our December

ohuinjk

December is here. The countdown to Christmas has begun as advent calendars and candles start, countless elf on the shelf pictures appear daily on social media and generally the shops in town suddenly get busier each day on the run up to Christmas Eve. Of course, Christmas songs started on the radio as soon as Bonfire night was over! Our house is decorated, minus the tree that we collect in a weeks time. Both of my children love Christmas but especially Eliza. It’s her favourite time of year. She loves the lights, the tree, her letter from Santa, Christmas films, driving past all the houses lit up at night… Her love of Christmas and Santa helped Eliza on her journey to becoming continent too, with a little help from Mrs. Claus as well (Striving for Continence) . This year I’ve added something new. We have an elf, although he’s not on the shelf. I’m not doing it for monitoring or encouraging behaviours, the elf is not reporting back to Santa etc. I’m doing it because I think the kids will find it funny and have a giggle. You see, our elf is a very cheeky elf and he’s going to get up to some light mischief on the run up to Christmas, simply to entertain the children. That’s the way we’re doing it anyway.

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All presents are already purchased and hidden in the house ready for wrapping.  I’m an early shopper, once September school term starts is when I start picking up a gift here and there. I find it very hard to buy for Eliza every year. She has her safety net of favourite things that never change (Super Mario, any gadgets, Mickey Mouse, Sonic and Dr Seuss) which is a blessing for me as I can always find something she’d like. Other than those few things, her tastes change often. This year has been a little different. She had some ideas of her own and told me. The last few months she’s grown up so much in what she likes and how she behaves. Eliza would like an MP3 player because “I wants pop songs on it, big headphones and I can take it in the car”. She’s recently changed from listening to Disney Soundtracks to asking for pop music. Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ has her up and dancing before you can blink. She’d also like a bag and a purse so she can carry her fidget stuff around and her pocket money. My baby is growing up yet I can still see her in her red dress for her first Christmas, wide-eyed at the sight of Santa arriving at play group and then attempting to open her gift by eating the paper. In fact, I found that exact photo…

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Every year we visit Santa and this year is no different. I have a feeling we will be visiting Santa for a fair few many years yet. Eliza totally believes still, it’s more likely her younger brother will find out the truth sooner than her, at 3 years old he already noticed how Santa looks different on all the TV adverts! So yeah, we visit Santa every single December and she loves it. She ups her stimming in December, ‘the Santa effect’ I call it. She flaps and jumps so much with excitement I seriously think she stands a chance at flying one day. Her innocence is just so beautiful. As soon as she sets eyes on Santa though, her words disappear in a ‘star struck’ kind of way. Last year when she saw him she whispered quietly “He’s really here” and couldn’t stop smiling.

We try to take part in the local festivities too, the Carol Singing and lighting up the tree. I’ll be attending Eliza’s School for a few Christmas themed things and Noah has a Christmas party at nursery to enjoy. I’m taking Eliza to the theatre in a few weeks to see ‘Wind in the Willows’ followed by lunch in McDonald’s and buying some sweets from the shop before going home. That is our mum and daughter afternoon out (Noah and I go to kids farm and play place together one day when she is at School, that’s our afternoon out). We’ll have a drive around the local area now and again in the evenings to check out the lights on people’s houses.  So for us, December is pretty amazing. Sadly not everyone enjoys Christmas and the run up to it. It can be really distressing for many children and adults as everywhere suddenly looks, smells, feels, and sounds different. The routine is completely thrown out so just please be aware that not everyone will find it easy at this time of year.

Thanks for reading. This blog was part of a ‘Finish the sentence Friday’ and the topic is the holidays and the approach to them. Hosted by my wonderful friend over at Finding Ninee

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Striving for continence

I don’t normally talk about something so personal but I thought it was worth sharing our experience as lot of children struggle with continence. Continence is something Eliza has always struggled with. She is seven years old and wears pull-ups both day and night. There have been so many hurdles to jump including fear of small spaces, fear of noisy hand dryers and just being in a place that is always different. Lets face it, at home it is easier as the bathroom pretty much looks the same but when you are out and about every toilet place looks, smells and sounds different. It has taken years and I mean YEARS to bypass all these hurdles and we have gone at her pace with the odd nudge forward if we thought she was ready. There was even a time when she was a ‘smearer’ and for months we went through a regular routine involving bathing and cleaning rooms. I’m going to visualize so many parents nodding because they know what I mean. For those of you that don’t, brace yourselves…. Eliza would smear poop all over her walls, her clothes, her face, the carpet and any other surface she could reach. Mainly sensory led we worked hard to overcome that stage and *touches wood* it’s been a very long time since we saw any of that. It has been a long process of reassurance, explanations and visual aids but we are so close now. By we I obviously mean she,  Eliza is the one working towards being continent but I say we as it’s a journey of hers where I have always been by her side guiding her and preparing her. During the last few months she has been using the bathroom more and more and trying really hard to be continent.

After a lovely meeting with the continence team this week we decided it was time to take the next step and move from pull-ups (nappies but shaped like pants/knickers) to proper cotton knickers (Eliza has chosen to call them knickers but some of you may say pants, undies, underwear… but as Eliza calls her pull-ups ‘pants’ we needed a different word).  As it is such a change we thought using washable incontinence knickers would be a step forward – these are simply cotton and look like normal girls knickers but with a built in cotton booster to help with little accidents, you know those ‘not quite made it’ moments. The hope is as time progresses she will then just move on to normal girls knickers in time. We have extra books ready to help her learn about how it’s quite normal to use the loo etc. This is when I decided on a plan that may help her take to the idea even more.

Eliza LOVES Christmas, she adores Santa and every December she pretty much bounces rather than walks. So I decided to write her this letter…

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This letter will be ‘delivered’ to her on Tuesday as she breaks up from School for the holidays. As you will see in the letter, we have mentioned Mrs Claus and a special present. To help Eliza with her next step towards continence and use her love of Christmas I am making up a pretty box, a ‘special present’ from Mrs Claus. Inside the box will be some pretty knickers, books, stickers and a new kids padded toilet seat (you know those ones you can move on and off as needed). It will be wrapped up and will have a letter from Mrs Claus attached. The fact that Santa, in his letter above, will have pre warned her about the present will ready her for the arrival of this special gift. This is the letter from Mrs Claus…

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So that is my plan and I hope it helps her on her transition. I thought the special box should come from Mrs Claus, you know, girl to girl as such. So there it is, my cheeky use of something my child loves being used to try and help her with something she struggles with. It wont work for all children, this is just something I know will go down well with Eliza. Although I hope it gives some of you ideas that things like this can work. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, it could be linked to a favourite character or film. This is just something I know MY child will adore and be amazed at. Eliza is very visual, she likes to see/watch and to read and she will read the letters over and over with joy. I am hoping it gives her that extra boost in confidence to at least try the knickers and we will just from there, at her pace like we always do.

A Special Little Girl’s Christmas

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Dear Santa

As another Christmas approaches fast, I always think back to one special meeting we had a few years ago. It was a visit that changed how my daughter (and myself) saw Christmas and helped her enjoy what can be a stressful time of year that is full of change. Back in 2012 we came to see you in your magical winter wonderland with Eliza who was 3 years old. It was extremely busy as every child on earth wants to meet Santa and who can blame them, you rock! We had to queue, something Eliza wasn’t very good at them. The queue was in a very very VERY busy crowd of people, another thing Eliza wasn’t very good with. You see Santa, autistic children struggle with crowds, noise, waiting, busy atmospheres and change but Eliza had only one goal in mind which was to meet you.

“Merry Christmas to you all, you have a special little girl”

We spent what felt like years in a queue trying to entertain her as best we could and eventually reached the front of the queue. One of your kind elves led us to a door which opened and there you were waiting for us. The room was amazing and I was lost in the magic of Christmas as I admired the tree, the decorations, the smells and the lights. Eliza ignored you as you tried to ask her what she wanted for Christmas and whether she thought Mummy had been good that year (For the record Santa I am pretty good most of the time, honest). I nervously stepped forward and said “I’m sorry, she can’t talk yet” and you looked at me, smiled and nodded. Eliza wandered around the room being nosy, looking at her face in shiny baubles and picking up things that caught her eye. I started to move in a bit of a panic but you touched my hand and said “Leave her be, she’s OK. Nothing in here that can hurt her”.  A grumpy elf knocked and suggested time was ticking by but you kindly said we needed a little longer. Eliza carried on looking around and then she finally looked at you and came and sat by you. You quickly took this opportunity to greet her again and she smiled. She started to flap, it’s something she does when she is happy. Spontaneously Eliza leaned in towards your hand to give it a kiss at the same time you clicked a secret button to take her photo with you. I thanked you about a million times (probably at least ten in reality) because you made her visit so relaxed and comfortable. As we left the room you grabbed my hand and said “Merry Christmas to you all, you have a special little girl”.

The words you said to me have always stayed in my head. Every year we approach Christmas and I think of that one visit to see you. You see Santa what you didn’t know was that three weeks before we met you, Eliza had received her diagnosis of Autism with moderate-severe learning difficulties. She could not speak other than 2 or 3 words. The world overwhelmed her and she struggled to find her place in it. You made her feel so at ease and she had a wonderful time seeing you. For me as a parent I am so grateful to how you treated her and for the kind things you said to me. Thank you Santa for taking the time to let her anxiety drop, for letting her explore and just being understanding and kind. 

Eliza’s mum xx