Five awesome cheap activities to do with the kids

 

 

cropped-822524745o4tleq2tie5zril.jpgAlthough we do a variety of things during the weekends and school holidays, these are probably the five that are most enjoyed by my children and have led to hours of fun. They are all also relatively cheap to do and set up as well as easy to store away for another day (other that the gingerbread, please eat and enjoy that).

 

Play-Doh

Fairly cheap to buy and many accessories to add to make it fun and also great for helping with social stories. We have the clown and his hair grows so you can cut it. You can make pies to balance in his hands. This really helped my daughter conquer her fear of having her hair trimmed and she found it fun. Play-Doh is really good to learn cutting skills, rolling, shaping and great at improving the hand muscles which in turn help fine motor skills. It’s also amazing for letting imagination run wild. We have made Play-Doh cakes, animals, flower garden, faces….. you can make anything you want. It is also fairly easy to clean up afterwards and put away for another day.

Decorating Gingerbread

Another fairly cheap activity and even more fun if you make and bake the gingerbread yourself. Of course they don’t have to be shaped like a person. On the few times we baked in the past we have made gingerbread flowers, houses, stars, trees (apart from summer, this is also a fab winter activity. At Christmas get the kids to decorate festive shaped gingerbread and pop in a jar or tub, add a bow and you have a lovely home made gift for someone). Any shape you wish really, the kids love decorating them. We use a variety of things to decorate – icing in different colours, smarties, jelly beans, hundreds & thousands. Can help coordination, fine motor skills and encourage choice as well as the added bonus of testing touch, taste, smell. It is a great activity for creativity and imagination and of course quite a tasty one!

Kinetic Sand

Prices have come down recently for this so once you have your basic quantities it is quite a good deal money wise. Many packs come with a box to store the sand in a few moulds, rollers, mini spades. We purchased a couple of inflatable trays to use the sand in (as in photo below) and this helps keep the sand in one area and keeps it easy to tidy (and if you have more than one child, stops the fighting if they have a tray each). It’s a good sensory activity and leads to much creativity and imaginative ideas. It is available in a variety of colours and is a perfect activity for indoors if you find yourselves stuck indoors on a rainy day.

Painting 

Most kids enjoy making a mess!! Paints are quite cheap to buy, as are a few brushes and rollers, sponges, rags. You can even paint with hands, fingers, feet! Paper is the cheapest choice but you can pick up some lovely blank canvas in the sales which make beautiful gifts for friends and family once decorated by your children. We have recently painted wooden bird houses, money boxes, little wooden treasure boxes, canvas, paper masks, balloons, plain white tiles, pasta (uncooked, in case you wondered 🙂 and you can then thread them on string and make pretty jewellery). Just be aware that if you have a stimmer like Eliza, a lot of other stuff gets painted when the ‘flappy when happy’ arms start – hair, tables, floors, cats, noses…… You really can paint anything you like and it can lead to a lot of messy fun. Throw in some glitters, stickers….. whatever your imagination fancies.

Bubbles

Probably the cheapest activity and can be used in so many ways. You have your normal tub of bubbles and a small wand that the child blows through. Simple and fun. Also highly effective for super anxious and upset children/adults to do as it encourages steady breathing in and out. Calming themselves and they don’t even know it. It’s a sneaky weapon I use when Eliza is anxious, I send her outside with bubbles. She thinks she is going to blow fun bubbles, a distraction as such and she has no idea that what she is doing is quite soothing and calming. Don’t forget you can get large bubble wands that can be waved in the air (perfect for the child or adult that can’t control breathing yet or needs a sturdier, larger wand), bubble guns of all shapes and sizes.

Thanks for reading. If you try any that you never did before then I hope you all really enjoy the activities. You can follow Eliza’s journey over at….

https://www.facebook.com/BloomingAutism/

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It’s all about the P’s…..

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Our summer holidays just started here in England, six weeks off for the kids. I envy the families that can just enjoy each day as it comes, those that just do whatever they please and whenever they please. For us, yes we generally have a good time off but it comes at a cost – endless work to make sure we get it right. Choosing what to do, where to go, is it safe, can the kids escape, is water involved….. We risk assess everything! We have to or a simple day out can end in disaster. I have friends that can sit their kids in the car at a seconds thought and off they go to a theme park, a zoo or the beach. We do these things but they are rarely spontaneous. Routine is key with Eliza but she can, at times, be flexible if a small change suddenly happens and in particular if it is something that catches her attention and interest. For a day out I have visual planning to do, checking out locations of all toilet facilities, all exits and how to get to them, areas that she can bolt and escape. Looking up places she will eat at, packing a bag full of essentials – pull ups, wipes, juice cup, iPad, spare clothes. Creating, printing, laminating and sticking up visuals as needed and working on social stories and making sure she fully understands what is happening and when. Before we even leave the house I am sure I have worked towards this day out at least half a day.

We live a life surrounded by P’s…… PLANNING (so that all should run smoothly and nothing is missed), PREPARATION (visual aids for Eliza, social stories, explanations) and PRAYING (that it all goes well and the first two P’s were worth it). Without it we would end up with a highly anxious, super stressed Eliza as well as a miserable Noah who will be upset because his sister is. We would also have parents with the headache from hell that have most likely wrestled at least one child in to the car for their own safety and attempted to calm the situation and stop the child running in to danger. It’s bloody hard work, you never get to switch off because you can’t. You have a child that NEEDS this planning and preparation so anxiety stays low, they stay safe and have a great day. You have a child that has NO DANGER AWARENESS whatsoever, so all this extra work is a must to ensure that everyone has a great time and everyone leaves together happy and well. You have a child that somehow manages to blend in among other children whilst you hold your breath hoping she is coping because she seems to be smiling and enjoys herself in the situation she hates the most, BEING SOCIAL. The funniest thing is she normally has a blast and loves the day whilst as a parent you feel you just performed a military style operation just so she can have that day and you are exhausted.

Yes I envy those that can just do things without a second thought, no care in the world but we can do the same and it just means a little extra work but if it makes sure we all have a great (safe) day out then so be it. We just need those P’s. We must plan and prepare and I am pretty sure most of us end up praying. Perhaps there should be a fourth ‘P’ involved – PROUD (because it’s worth celebrating when all that hard work pays off).

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It’s not us, It’s you

I have lost count of how many times I have accidentally stopped a conversation dead, how many new friends I have lost before I even had them and how many times I have managed lose invites to things because of Eliza. You know that awkward feeling when you meet new people whether it be a friend of a friend you bump in to, a new toddler group you are trying out or just chatting in the queue at the supermarket. Somehow, don’t ask me why, but if you are a woman you always get asked that question….. “You got any kids?”. Naturally I reply yes and it ALWAYS leads to the next one “So what school are they at?” and that right there is the question that gets me in trouble if you like. As soon I say the name of Eliza’s school it is the biggest conversation killer ever. (She attends a special school because she is unable to cope in mainstream). The odd person will politely nod and accept what you just said but so many drop to full on silence. Her school is great and has an impressive reputation so please  don’t get me wrong,  It’s not the school being mentioned that stops them dead, its the fact that she is ‘special’.

It saddens and shocks me how people fear special needs and how misunderstood Eliza is simply because she is autistic. A lot of people drop to silence because they don’t know what to say, how to reply. In some ways I prefer that because its miles better than hearing stuff like “Oh yeah I read about that, she just needs some good discipline and she will grow out of that phase”…….. Ahh yes, thanks for that (said no parent of an autistic child ever!!). It’s a shame really as you are missing out on me and I am pretty awesome as a friend, even if I do say so myself lol. You are also missing out on getting to know Eliza because behind the autistic diagnosis is a cheeky, feisty, independent diva who is a top notch negotiator where having time on the iPad is concerned. A girl with such a strong personality she has tried to charm the keys off staff many a time at school so she can get outside on the slide. She has the most infectious cheeky giggle and smile. A proper tom boy in personality yet when the mood takes her can be a delicate princess or a super hero taking on the world. Yes, she attends a special school. It doesn’t make her less of a person and it certainly shouldn’t stop you getting to know us. She is special, in fact she is blooming amazing and she is mine. Your loss people, your loss.

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When Two Teams Become One Again

oijlknmOver the last six weeks my husband and I have mainly been apart. We have spent less than 4 hrs a week together. Our conversations have been brief and mainly done via text or Facebook message. The only time we spoke on the phone was for urgent messages or when the kids were asleep so they could not hear the conversation. Don’t worry, this is not a marriage breakup but it was a separation that was unexpected and split the family in to two ‘teams’.  Our son, Noah, was 2 in January and recently became very ill and very quickly leading to a lot of time in hospital (Team Noah) meaning Eliza was at home with one parent through all of this whilst also working her way through a few incidents at school that caused her injury so her anxiety rocketed (Team Eliza). Hubby and I became a Tag Team so we could care for both children and their needs with me staying in hospital Mon-Fri and returning home for weekends and hubs doing the opposite. It was the best we could do between us as it meant he could work from home in the week when Eliza was at school. We saw each other briefly at ‘hand over’ which was a mere ten mins here and there as the hospital Noah was in was over an hour away from home and we didn’t like leaving Eliza without one of us for too long. Family  were great at helping and enjoyed her company whilst the travelling took place for hubby and I but I think it has been an eye opener for them about the anxiety she often hides so well.

Noah had the symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection and was treated with antibiotics (two different lots in fact over 2 weeks) but started to become quite unwell. I took him to A&E and he was admitted with what they thought was a kidney infection so he went on to IV meds and fluids and a catheter was put in as he could not pass urine without it. He had an ultrasound that showed a very infected kidney (plus kidney stones) so stronger antibiotics were given via IV and he often needed morphine for the pain. A repeat scan was done 3 days later and the expected outcome was that the infection would be clearing. After all, at this point he had done 2 weeks oral meds and almost 5 days of IV meds. The scan was shocking, the kidney was getting worse instead of better so we were transferred to the children’s hospital where the specialists were that could look in to why. Long story short – After a failed stent to kidney, failed drain in to kidney, numerous scans including a special dye scan to determine function of kidney (there was pretty much none!) we were lucky to fall under the care of the senior specialist who simply had a gut feeling that he knew the cause and it turned out he was right. From what they told us, Noah is only the 4th case in that hospital in 15 years or more to have this rare condition and he is certainly the youngest they have seen. Noah had his kidney removed and has to return in the near future for removal of some stones and many check up scans and bloods. He is recovering well considering what he has been through. We have been put under the ‘Rare Disease/conditions’ team also.

(For those that may be interested in it, this is it – Xanthogranulomatous pyelonephritis (XGP). XGP occurs in approximately 1% of all renal infections. It is 4 times more common in women than in men and is usually noted in the fifth and sixth decades of life. XGP affects both kidneys with equal frequency. Although XGP is rare in the pediatric population, it is found in approximately 16% of pediatric nephrectomy specimens. In children, XGP is more common in boys and usually affects those younger than 8 years. Ref http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2050430-overview)

Whilst all of this was going on Eliza was doing her best to understand why we were not all together, why Noah was ‘missing’ which is how she described it. Sadly she had also been injured at school a few times by other children during this and ended up with a black eye and teeth marks on her arm. Her anxiety was through the roof and we have has many meltdowns which we have not had for a while but they are expected after everything. The Easter Holidays happened at the time Noah was heading for surgery so she was already out of routine with no school so her entire world fell apart for a while. Considering what she went through, she coped so much better than I expected. After all, there was no time to plan for something none of us expected to happen. It took a few days to encourage her back to school last week, she kept saying “School is dangerous”. If I had been given a black eye and bitten, I would feel the same too!! She has settled back in and slowly the routine is getting back to ‘normal’. Noah is home recovering from surgery (although you would not know he has had anything done the way he is dashing through the house as usual).

It’s funny how kids recover fairly fast to things yet I am nowhere near over any of this. My heart and head are still in pieces. Every moment I was in hospital with Noah I felt guilty that I was not home with Eliza. Stupid things went through my head every minute. Was she ok? Did hubby remember she had swimming today? Does Nanny know Eliza can’t drink orange drinks? Was she ok at School? Does Daddy know where the uniforms are, where the timetable is, did he put pull ups in her bag, does he know what she has for lunch……..???????? Yet the minute we switched and I went home I felt guilty at leaving Noah. As much as I loved spending time with Eliza and she very much needed mummy time, at the back of my head was fear. What if he became worse? I would be an hour away at best through traffic and that is after I find someone to stay with Eliza. I am not ashamed to say that many times in my head I panicked “What if he dies and I am not there!” and I am pretty sure hubby felt the same when he was home. I have never felt like such a useless mother than I did during all of this yet deep down I know I did my best. It really hits home how hard it is when you have more than one child and one becomes so poorly they are in hospital yet the child at home, autistic and struggling with anxiety needs you too.  My heart aches for what both children have been through but it’s healing slowly as I watch them together, reunited in chaos and cheekiness. The look on Eliza’s face when she walked in the lounge and saw he was home was a look I will never forget. Neither will I forget the look on his face when he saw his sister “Eye-za” coming towards him with a hug. We are all (for now) back together. Team Blooming!!!

 

 

 

 

 

TRYING A VARIETY OF THINGS TO TACKLE THE ANXIETY

It has been a busy few weeks so yet again I have neglected the blog! Time just runs away with me, life takes over and often I sit here with the intention of writing a new piece and then something else happens and it gets put to one side. We also had school disco, parties, half term…. Apologies all, let me fill you in on what has been happening in the Blooming Household.

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Those of you that follow the blog and/or our Facebook page will know that Eliza suffers greatly with anxiety, it really impacts her daily life. I pushed her comfort zone a lot and took her to Horse Therapy. Lovely little club at a local stables at weekends that works with Special Needs children. The children get to groom ponies, lead them around the yard, hug them and some ride if they want to. The first couple of weeks she didn’t do much, anxiety took over and she spent most of the session on the floor crying and kicking my legs. She started to enjoy it towards the end when she realised it was OK, nothing bad was going to happen. As the weeks went on the meltdowns became less and she was offered to sit on a pony, she did and instantly relaxed. Not a care in the world. Her balance was incredible considering she sat bare back and never even sat on a pony before (we tried once when she was younger, lasted 3 seconds). The following week she sat in front of one of the instructors, again no saddle and they rode for half an hour. Anxiety gone completely, she was so relaxed her speech was non stop, constantly chatting about ponies, school and gold dubloons (like you do). The last time she rode was a couple of weeks and she was so relaxed she was yawning. Telling the instructor as she rode “There is a pony over there…. under the tree….. it eats hay you know…… it’s a brown pony……” She even helped feed ponies after and led one to the field alone (with teacher in front and me behind just in case she let go lol). As we were about to go home she gave the teacher a hug! Unprompted and lovely to see, her way of saying thanks. Horse therapy is great and we will carry on with that weekly.

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We have been using essential oils around the home to aid relaxing and calming. I found some small metal diffuser balls (look like tiny baubles with holes in) that I can discreetly hide around the house. I often sit in the same room as her before she heads to bed and I light the burner too. I have noticed she quite likes the oils and we have had some mixed with a carrier oil so she can have some on her skin (she loves a foot rub). Other than making my rooms smell amazing, they do seem to take the “edge” off her stressy self that we often get more towards bedtime as she struggles to wind down and switch off. We will keep up with the oils and I will keep you posted about how we are doing.

Last week we started a homeopathic tablet called Calm N Restful. Completely natural and harmless. I was hoping it would help at night time when Eliza struggles to switch off. Day one showed a little change, she was more relaxed and less jumpy. Day two onward she has been much calmer in the evenings and found it a lot easier to switch off and actually sleep. Usually bedtime is an endless battle and she’s up till after midnight. She gets so anxious about all sorts of things and her brain struggles to process things and she ends up upset. The last 5 days she has been asleep by 9.30pm so a huge improvement. We still get a lot of sleep talking (and sometimes sleep yelling) but the bedtime routine has been much easier. The added bonus is that as she now sleeps a little better, her morning routine is full of smiles rather than tears and grumpiness because she was always so tired. They can also be used for daytime when facing things that cause stress or anxiety. She had one before a party at the weekend and she was much more confident and had a wonderful time. So far they have had a fantastic impact on her so we will continue to use them for now. Even school have noticed how much calmer she is and that she is more focused.

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The letter above I made the other day ready to ‘deliver’ to school next week. I found a template online then added the written section an a picture of ‘Santa’. Eliza LOVES Christmas and this may work in helping lose a few habits she has picked up at school. I often chat to her teacher and give them’ammunition’ they can use as needed whether it be for motivation or a helping hand towards some behavior issues. This might be something like a programme she loves currently or photo’s of something she enjoys. Every week on Monday she takes in a piece of A4 paper with pictures on from what she has done over the weekend. It’s used as a prompt to remind her what she can talk about in class when they discuss the weekend as she often forgets when so busy at school.

So there you have it, a few things we have been doing since the last blog. Eliza changes all the time, I can not believe she is going to be 7 next year!!! Where did the time go?

Why routine is important to us and why we purposely break it

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I used to wonder if routine really worked when we first found out she was autistic. I remember the consultant, speech therapist and even nursery teacher all saying “Routine is key”. To me I was thinking what a boring life that would give her as I didn’t know or appreciate how bigger part of her life routine would become. They all told us to start small, meals at certain times and bath at certain time and so on, gradually introducing other things that were daily life. In time we created a daily planner board so we could add ‘extras’, you know the things that don’t happen daily but need to be seen as happening. Eliza is a very visual child, she likes to see (and memorize) what is happening in her life. When she gets a new timetable for school, she knows it lesson by lesson after a couple of days. Handy for the days that I forget what we are doing but she doesn’t and announces things like “Mummy, it’s swimming today”. Yes, my 6 year old has a better memory than I do!

Yesterday I had a phone call from school mid morning. Eliza had an upset tummy and had had diarrhea so, as per school rules, she needed collecting and has to be off for 48hrs minimum as a precaution. I popped Noah in the car and went to fetch her, checking in at reception to wait for her. The school nurse appeared and asked if I could go to class and collect Eliza as Eliza was refusing to leave class. So off we went, and as I entered the class room I was met with a ‘What you doing here’ look from Eliza and her not so subtle “Goodbye Mummy, see you later” announcement. She wasn’t being rude, she was in her right to say I needed to go because Mummy is never at school unless invited to class events likes sports day. She was confused as to why I was there. This was school, this was her thing and I was not supposed to be there. I had not been invited!! I got down on my knees to her level and asked her to come home, she refused. I explained in basic words that her tummy was poorly and needed a rest at home, she refused. I said I had found the ‘lost’ DS games (They do get ‘lost’ now and again if you catch my drift). That swung it and she got up and fetched her bag and we came home.

When we got home she didn’t want the DS, she wanted to get her sensory fiddle toys out so she did. I had pulled her from school in the middle of ‘Tac Pac’, a sensory programme. She then insisted on eating her lunch that was in her school bag because that is what she would have done. I asked her to get changed out of uniform and she became upset and told me “No, we go back to school now”. I said school had finished for the day and asked her what she wanted to do “Swimming time” was her answer because that is what she would have done in the afternoon. She got teary when I said swimming was not an option because of her tummy. So instead we got a blanket on the floor and pretended it was water, we pretended to swim and she giggled and smiled. When we reached about half past three in the afternoon, she stripped out of her uniform and fetched her pyjamas and asked for a juice and a biscuit. This is her usual routine when she gets home at around that time. She has an hour on her computer whilst I cook dinner so off she went and switched it on and she was calm and relaxed, no more tears and tension because she had some how made it through the day that I interrupted by bringing her home and now ‘normal’ had resumed for her. Even though she was confused and upset, she coped and we got through it by almost mirroring what she would have done in school so she had some sense of ‘normal’ in her day and it made sense to her.

It might seem small and pointless to some, but breaking a routine can cause huge meltdowns, stress, anxiety, upset and anger. That fear of the unknown, unplanned and unprepared takes over and any sense of calm and reasoning just disappears. Two years ago she would have had to be carried out of class screaming and crying because she would not have coped with such a change that was not planned. It is something we work on at home and at school. At school there are things that you can not plan for – snow day, fire alarm or unexpected sickness. There are times at home that I throw in unexpected plans in to her day because they will happen in everyday life as she grows older. Not everything can be planned for so I push her boundaries and comfort zones. I make her try new things like horse therapy or ballet knowing it will trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, anger but also knowing in my head and heart that she is capable of change and can cope when given the right support and understanding. Routine is important in so many ways but so it breaking it sometimes.

Autism & Anxiety

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Dear Anxiety

It has been a while since you and I fell out. Today you made me angry even though I was not your target. You see my daughter is 6 and she is autistic. It makes her day to day life extremely hard at times as she attempts to navigate a crazy world and find her place in it. It’s not helpful when you come along and add to the mounting stress she feels. I know you often tag along with your friend autism, you seem to be closely connected.

We had a lovely play date arranged with some close friends in a park we often visit. The school holidays throw her out of her comfort zone but she copes really well with planning. It should have been a lovely day. Plan we did, prompt we did, talk it through and off we went. Some days there just isn’t enough planning in the world, you just seem to grab her regardless. My beautiful girl was crying, screaming and kicking the seat in the car. She hit her little brother, she threw stuff she could get hold of. Refusing to get out of the car we sat there, her crying and her brother unsure whilst I decided on the next best step for all concerned. You had her, you were winning.

I wanted to yell and scream at you Anxiety. I really did. I wanted to rip you out of my daughter and stamp on you a million times for what you do to her. I wanted to swear at you and boy did I have some select words just for you. I wanted to cry, truth be told, because I am exhausted, overwhelmed and often feel out of my depth trying to do what is best for her. Trying, as a parent, to make her world as easy and understandable as I can whilst at the same time keeping her safe. I have to think with/about/for her 24/7 and when you decide to stop by it is a hundred times worse because she becomes ‘flighty’. Likely to run at any given chance and with her lack of danger awareness, it is bloody scary.

Instead I wish to thank you, Anxiety. You see every time something like this happens it makes me a stronger parent, ready to face you the next time you decide to gatecrash our lives. You know what else? With my help (and maybe a little stubborn attitude) she got out of the car. She had a few moments on the floor waving and kicking her arms in the air and I let her. Why? Because she was releasing you. She was angry at the feelings she was having. Deep down she wanted to see her friends, to go on the swings, to eat the picnic we took with us. After she started to calm I bent down and gave her a choice – go to the play day or get back in the car and go home. I was calm and fair, she knew either would be OK with me and do you know what, she chose the play day and after a few more minutes calming she had a great time. It was a lovely day after all. You are a pain in the backside Anxiety and believe me when I say I HATE you, I really mean it.

Thank you for attempting to take my daughter down today, you have shown me even at the age of 6 she isn’t going to let you win. She made a choice to put you to one side, remind you that you don’t get to rule her life. She was able to release her feelings safely inside my car and make a decision to keep going. I would say better luck next time but that just suggests I offer you seat on our next day out so instead I will just bid you farewell for today but no doubt you will be back at some point. We will of course be ready for you every time.

Yours Sincerely

Eliza’s Mum