For the Love of Horses

When I left School many years ago, the only thing I had an interest in was horses. So I went to college and got some qualifications and even competed in some small show jumping and cross-country events. At the stables I worked at, we ran summer clubs and gymkhana’s. My days there were some of the happiest of my life. Except the falling off horses, being kicked by horses, being trodden on by horses and horse flies…. Other than that, pretty awesome days. As much as I loved all the horses in my care, two stole my heart. Starlight and Sundance, although we had nicknames for them. I still have a drawing of them both that was given to me as a gift for my birthday when I worked at the stables (I think it was for my 18th birthday).

Here, have some pictures of me between the ages of 17-20 ish years old with both of them.

Horses

Sundance, also known as ‘Fatty’ because he never stopped eating, was bay colour and a gentle yet stubborn git! If you wanted to head to the right, it was a given that he wanted to go left…. towards the lovely grass he had his eyes on. Always getting holes in his rugs, I spent many a night at home hand stitching his rugs. He was popular with everyone, his name often requested for hacks out because he was pretty safe with all scenarios regarding traffic etc. He was the cute boy that you just had to love.

Starlight, also known as ‘Scar’ or ‘Scar bag’ because of the scars on her face but she was so beautiful. She was a chestnut mare with a serious temper. Nobody was allowed near her tail, she was a kicker. She once let me plait the top of her tail for a competition but made it clear when she’d had enough by trying to eat my face. At competitions she had to wear a red ribbon in her tail which basically alerted others to the dangers of her flying back feet. She was a bitey, kicky, feisty, moody, stubborn, aggressive mare… and I loved her dearly. Point her at a show jumping fence and she was happy. We won a fair few rosettes for clear rounds between us. I have fond memories of us jumping, hacking out (although freaking at the sight of a tractor and trying to chuck me in a ditch was not as pleasant memory wise) and I loved just watching her grumpy attitude as she strutted across the field. One day I went to work and she’d gone. The vet had been called and she was ‘put to sleep’ because of twisted gut and she was suffering. I cried for days. I miss her every day, even now.

1-horses-leave-hoof-prints-on-your-heart-joyce-geleynse

Eliza will be 9 soon and has struggled with anxiety a fair few years now. We use essential oils which help loads. We have various strategies that we use if we see her anxiety rising. These days she is pretty good at saying how she feels so she can sometimes give a heads up that anxiety has popped by. One of the best things she ever did was attend ‘Horse Therapy’ (or Equine Therapy). At the start she hated it, well hated the thought of it (anxiety) and would scream as soon as she saw the turning to the stables (anxiety) and we’d spend the first 20-30 minutes of the session in the car for safety whilst she screamed, kicked the car seat and yelled (yep, anxiety). Eventually she would get out and tell me she’s only staying for five minutes. I agreed as it was confidence for her and her compromise. Every time those five minutes ended up as at least an hour if not longer. She’d help groom the ponies, feed them and learn about how to look after them. The minute she sat on a pony to ride she was totally relaxed and anxiety gone. Horses are said to be amazing help for those with autism and special needs and it certainly worked for Eliza. We went for weekly sessions for a year unless the weather was too bad. It gave her confidence, pushed her boundaries, improved her speech along with the confidence and lowering anxiety. She also made friends there. After a year, she didn’t want to go anymore and to be fair I think she’d got what she needed from it. The amazing power of horses.

(I’ll just add here that even though Eliza’s anxiety caused some upset as described above, I know her extremely well and I trusted my instinct and her fighting spirit that she could do it and it was worth persevering. Eliza often needs ‘anxiety squashing time’ and she actually really enjoyed the horses company and she still talks fondly of them now. If at any time it seemed damaging to her, I would have stopped the class).

Here she is (2015-2016)

Eliza Horses

This has been a post for ‘Photo Share Friday’ (although mine turned out to be an essay too lol). Hosted this week by Sporadically Yours and Finding Ninee

What am I afraid of?

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Mice? Flying?. Everyone has fears don’t they? (even if they don’t admit them or want to talk about them). I’m not a fan of mice or spiders but I can catch and remove them from the house without having a heart attack or passing out. Flying, I’m fine with although the popping of ears really annoys me and I’m not keen on the take off as the plane surges forward. I am afraid of many things, some deep and emotional things and other stuff that is completely stupid and pointless but I feel that way anyway.

Do you have children? I do. Eliza is 9 soon and Noah is 4. I am a single parent (and main carer to Eliza who is autistic with learning difficulties). I bet all parents have the same fear as I do – dying. For me it’s not so much about how I’ll die or when, it’s what I’ll leave behind and that includes those two beautiful little humans that rely on me every day. I’m terrified of dying when they are young. I want to be old and have seen them settle in life with their own families or a job they love. No parent should ever live longer than their child, a thought I can’t bear to ponder on as it just adds to my anxiety about the whole situation. As awful as it is to think about it, I often do. It’s like living in fear yet living with a need to make sure you do as much as possible now for the future. I worry for both of them but with extra worry for Eliza. Nobody knows what the future holds but she’ll ever live a fully independent life, she’s always going to need supervision and support. I worry about how she’d be without me so I spend a lot of time teaching her life skills and talking her through situations and scenarios and I often push her comfort zones. I once saw a picture on another Facebook page and I’ve never forgotten it. It was from a lovely page I follow called Forehead kisses – Our Awesome Autism page and this was the picture..

ihujkn

I found it so emotional to read. But that’s what we do for our children, teach them how to live independently because one day, we won’t be here for them. So yeah, I fear dying but not for the actual dying part.

**You should check out that beautiful page, it’s been wonderful watching Brodie growing up (who now has left school and has his own business)**

I’m afraid of driving yet I drive most days although mainly short distances. I’ve thrown up on the driveway before at just the thought of getting in the car! My legs shake, I start to cough (you know that kind of annoying anxiety induced back if throat cough) and I have to sometimes talk myself in to driving (I’m actually fine once in the car). I was in the passenger seat of a car once when the driver was going too fast on a country lane, skidded and we ended up in a ditch. I had an accident where I was the driver years ago when heavily pregnant with Eliza. My car was a total write off and the road I was on was dark with nothing in walking distance. It was raining heavily and thundering. I stood in the dark in the rain with my almost 7 month baby bump, waiting to be rescued and not a single driver stopped to help. I’ve also been a passenger that felt nothing but helpless fear when my husband had a massive panic attack in the car and started shaking and shut his eyes whilst he was driving. I had to calm him fast and help him pull in to a lay by. A very small baby Eliza was fast asleep in the back of the car. I then had to drive us home, my first time ever on a motorway and only 7 months after my own accident. I HATE DRIVING!!! But I need to. The kids have appointments, Eliza’s school in 35 mins away, shopping etc. I also do it because I don’t want to let fear and anxiety win. So I push my own comfort zones.

I’m scared of sharks! Like forgetting I can breathe, sweaty palms, legs buckling under me scared. Doesn’t matter which type, they are all scary! Yes, go ahead and laugh. It’s a totally ridiculous fear to have. I live in the UK, pretty central/midlands area with absolutely NO possibility of meeting a shark unless I visit the sea-life centers. But nonetheless, they terrify me. I’ve been in the sea-life places before and walked through those glass tunnels where sharks lay over the top or swim by. A giggling and happy Eliza or Noah have a blast. They look in amazement at these things. Me…. eyes straight ahead at the exit and do not engage eye contact with the sharks, I repeat do not engage eye contact with the sharks…… FEAR!! The stupidest fear I have but it’s there. I only agreed to go swimming in the ocean in Australia after I asked my brother about 30,000 times if he was pretty sure I’d not meet any sharks (and that if I did, he’d wrestle them until they spat me out if they ate me). I’ve had many nightmares involving sharks attacking me, eating me, swimming around me in circles and even being trapped in a cage with a shark…… STUPID FEAR!!

gh

**Avoids eye contact with shark picture**

Other than totally waffling my way through this blog, I find it interesting that the three things I chose to share are so different and have come about because of life and situations (other than the sharks, NO IDEA where that came from). That emotional deep-rooted fear about dying too soon, the circumstance induced fear because of cars and accidents and the just stupid irrational ‘did God throw that in for a laugh’ fear.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “I’m afraid of/that…” hosted by Finding Ninee by Kristi Rieger Campbell and Sporadically Yours

 

 

Favourite Things (of Eliza)

This is a Listicle Friday post from the ‘Finish the sentence Friday’ group I am in although I’m finally adding my efforts on Sunday because, well life is busy as usual. This week we have to list ten of our favourite things so I thought I’d ask Eliza what her ten favourite things are and write about those. Some of her answers really made me laugh.

Pasta – Yep, seriously! One of her favourite things in life is pasta. She’d eat it every day if she could and it has to be plain with no toppings or only grated cheese. No other ways will do. Since asking her about her favourite things and her saying pasta, she’s now asking for pasta so I guess I know what I’m cooking tonight.

iPad – No surprise there. She loves her iPad and her precious Roblox game. Not so long ago the iPad was her means to helping her communicate with ‘talking software’ similar to PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Nowadays it’s all about the games. And the music. Eliza recently found a love for pop music after years of Disney tracks so she also has her iTunes play list on there which includes Taylor Swift, Queen and Ed Sheeran.

Her new knickers! – Oh how I laughed. But yes, her new knickers are amazing she says. She likes the boy shorts style ones and recently I got her some that have the word ‘whatever’ repeatedly printed around the waistband. She thought that was hilarious and now they are her favourite pants lol. Whenever she wears them she says ‘whatever’ in a kind of 8 year olds attempt at an attitude tone.

Super Mario – Especially playing Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario Maker. She has cuddly toys from the games, a racing track, a hoodie, socks… Eliza just loves Mario and has the games on her Wii-U and DS consoles.

Jaffa Cakes – On the off chance you’ve never heard of them, they are chocolate sponge like biscuits with an orange squishy centre. She loves them and would eat them all if she got her hands on them. Here, have a picture.. United biscuits sale

Adventure Time – An animated TV show that I just don’t get but she does and it’s one of her most watched things. “Twelve-year-old Finn battles evil in the Land of Ooo. Assisted by his magical dog, Jake, Finn roams the Land of Ooo righting wrongs and battling evil. Usually that evil comes in the form of the Ice King, who is in search of a wife. He’s decided he should wed Princess Bubblegum, though she doesn’t want to marry him. Still, he persists in trying to steal her away, and Finn and Jake, along with Lady Raincorn (a cross between a unicorn and a rainbow) do their best to keep her from harm”. To me it’s just background noise but she loves it and can talk about it at great length when she wants to. 

Special Days – OK this one melted my heart a lot. As much as we enjoy family time together I always do separate things with each of the kids (because they are in to different things, different ages and I think it’s nice to have quality time with each). I recently took Eliza to the theatre for a relaxed performance of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and she loved it. Sat for the whole thing, laughed and clapped. It’s been something we’ve worked towards for a long time as anxiety often stops her enjoying things. On New Years Eve morning she decided she’d like to go to the cinema to watch ‘Lego Ninjago’. She’d not been to the cinema for years (anxiety) but with her new found enjoyment at watching Lego related animated shows on TV, she wanted to go. So we did. She sat through the entire thing equipped with sweets and a drink. She really enjoyed it and has asked to go to the cinema again so I keep telling her what is on, so when she likes something we can go. ooi98u8

Trumping – No, it’s nothing to do with Donald!!. Eliza is giggling away after saying this. Politely it means breaking/passing wind but she thinks this is a hilarious answer so here it is. #ShesStillLaughing   #TheThingsSheFindsFunny

Paddling Pools – Nothing she likes more in summer than a splash in the pool and a water fight. On hot summer days here I often see what has become known as the ‘school to pool’ transition. Basically there is a straight line from our front door to the back door. Eliza gets off the school bus and walks in, I tell her the pool is filled. In the few seconds it takes for me to close and lock the door and put her coat away she has already stripped completely and looking for her swim suit, leaving a trail of school uniform behind in the hallway. Yep, ‘School to pool’ lol

The House – She loves the house we live in and the surrounding area. We live close to forests to often see deer, foxes, hedgehogs, red kites and many more. We have a park we can walk to in five minutes and a lot of open green areas. Eliza loves her bedroom, it’s her fun and safe place to be. Our local area do carol singing at Christmas, Halloween trick or treat locally, Summer fun days etc. It’s very family orientated and very inclusive. I think the move here was the best thing for her and her brother.

So there you go, Eliza’s current most favourite things. She’s a funny character and there is never a boring day here at home. This, as I said above, was part of ‘Finish the sentence Friday’ and the new listicle thingymebob. This week hosted by Finding Ninee and Sporadically Yours

 

 

 

 

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.

BUDDY2017

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…

hi

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

iuhj

 

Ideas To Help Toilet/Potty Train An Autistic Child

l,op

I keep stumbling across posts all over social media from parents and carers asking about continence and toilet/potty training tips and ideas and finding myself repeating the same stuff on each one so it seemed a good time to put it in one place and do a blog. Eliza is 8 years old, diagnosed ASD age 3. Continence was always one thing she struggled with, she just didn’t show any signs of awareness or understanding it until last year and I’d tried various things over the years. During last winter, aged 7, something just clicked and I put a plan in place that I knew she’d both understand and love and it worked. I’ll post a link to the blog that covered that later on.  It was a perfect situation for us as I got to use Eliza’s favourite time of year to give that nudge she needed, and that she seemed ready for. It worked and she’s been officially classed as continent for six months now. We’d attempted potty training when younger and every now and then we tried again and it had never worked but we found some interesting ways to approach it so I’ll share them below.

*** These are ideas that helped us. They won’t work for everyone but you might get idea’s and be able to tweak them to suit ***

Favourite Characters

Being near Christmas when Eliza decided the time was right to toilet train, I used her love of Christmas as a nudge. I created personal letters from Santa and Mrs Claus and arranged a ‘special delivery’ from the North Pole. The package included knickers, toilet seat, books, reward charts. She loved it and was so excited about it. (You can read about how we did it here Striving for continence ). The letter was an excuse to add extra praise and support, full of lovely words and pictures.

If there is a favourite character they really love (someone from a cartoon or kids TV, someone from a book etc) it would be easy to recreate this and tailor it to them and your child’s personal needs and situation. It doesn’t need to be a specific time of year, just go with it and if you think your child would like it then get creative. You could even use a family member if that would work and after someone read my blog about continence last year, they used the family pet as the letter writer!. You know your kids so you’ll know their likes and what they might find fun or exciting.

Favourite Dolly or Teddy

If there is a favourite doll or teddy then this could work for children that tend to be more visual learners. I’d done this with Eliza many years ago but she’d clearly not been ready at that time. Use dolls or teddies and sit them on the potty. Hide a syringe up your sleeve (weak squash can be a bit more convincing than water, depends on whether your child will notice detail) and show your child what happens when sitting on the potty. Teddy can do a wee if you secretly squeeze that syringe in behind it. Lots of praise for teddy etc. It’s worked for quite a few children as they gained confidence seeing the process. I know some of you are thinking ‘what about poop?’ and yes, you can do similar and make your own pretend poop to use if you need to (Soft dough, icing and smooth peanut butter are good options. Add food colouring or chocolate spread to change the colour and use an icing piping bag to squeeze it from). It’s a little trickier to do these things is using a toilet instead of a potty but it can be done. You might need to practice hiding things up your sleeve and working it out but yeah. it’s achievable. **realising how much of my life was taken up with toilet issues 😛 **

Visual Aids 

Friends and family will testify that my bathroom had instructions on the wall for quite some time about how to go to the toilet…… in start to finish order including washing and drying of hands…. YEP!! Eliza is easily distracted and her anxiety can often make her lose her train of thought so I made visual prompts. We also had a smaller version of these laminated and on a key-ring for when we were out and about. They can be as descriptive or basic as you need. Pictures and/or written prompts.

Books we found useful

Suzie’s Toilet Time

Princess Polly’s Potty  (also a boys version ‘Pirate Pete’)

Toilet Time: A Training Kit for Girls (Ready to Go!) (also do a boys version)

Lulu’s Loo

There are also apps you can download if your child prefers those to books. ‘Potty time with Elmo’ was popular and ‘Potty train baby Eva’.

Whoever is wanting to toilet or potty train, involve them as much as possible. Let them choose underwear, style/design of potty, pull-ups, toilet seats. They can help you create reward charts of their choice or decorate it themselves. Get as many books as you can and see which they enjoy and understand better. Let them go at their pace and don’t worry if it doesn’t work first time. From first attempt to becoming continent it took Eliza four years! FOUR YEARS of trying stuff, finding ways she understood, different books, apps on the iPad, much trial and error. Four long years of her constantly watching me go to the toilet (Yeah, no privacy when you have kids!!). Just don’t give up because it can just take longer for some to be ready.

 

Changeable Mum

For almost three years I was a sign instead of a spoken word. Eliza had regressed and lost speech, she could not say that word that so many mums take for granted, ‘Mummy’. It was hard sitting in play groups and hearing children calling for their parents whilst Eliza sat happily on her own in silence. There was no “Mummy, come look what I have painted” or “Mummy, come see”. We relied on Makaton sign language to communicate. I longed to hear her say the word but instead she tapped three fingers on the palm of her hand which is the sign for Mummy. I was so proud that she could sign but at the same time my heart ached to hear a voice. But she knew who I was, she knew I was Mummy and that in itself was wonderful.

When Eliza’s speech started to return one of the first words she said was ‘Mum’. I was cooking in the kitchen and she tugged at my top wanting something. I asked what she wanted and she pointed to a toy she could not reach, pointed to me again and said “Mum” before pointing back to the toy. I cried. I’d waited a few years to her speak and I felt overwhelmed and relieved. It gave me hope that other words were still to come. To me it was the most wanted word in the world and I finally heard it. Since that day I have been called a variety of mum related words – Mum, Mummy, MumMum (she even made me a label with this on from a label maker), Mummy-Pig, Mother (I know right!!!) and more often that I can count “Muuuum” which is usually followed by the following sentences –

“…….can I have…..”

“…..where is the…”

“…is dinner ready?”

“….tell him!” (Directed at small sibling who is usually causing ‘trouble’ 😉 )

I’m a picture visual on the daily board we have in the kitchen. I was a Makaton sign for a while. I’m a label that she made (that still sticks to my laptop). My name is shouted in both love and anger. My name is whinged and whined at when she doesn’t get her way. My name is mumbled through tears when she’s feeling unwell. On the odd occasion, my name is sworn at and lashed out at in frustration. Once she announced “Mother!” when her Wii U game didn’t load properly.

Whatever the name she uses and whatever the context or situation she puts it in, it’s who I am and I love it. I love her. And if you catch her relaxed and at the right moment and you ask her who I am, she will simply tell you that I am “Eliza’s mummy” with a huge grin.

IMG_3379IMG_3380IMG_3382

 

This was written for the weekly topic in ‘Finish the Sentence Friday’ hosted by Finding Ninee and themeaningofme