2 October 2017

Marvellous Monday - An Interview With Lynne

Welcome to my new series - Marvellous Monday's. I will be interviewing people who have a direct connection to someone who is autistic, or is autistic themselves. I am excited to showcase some positive experiences of carers and parents. There are many difficulties and challenges that we face when someone in the family is autistic, and those little achievements of success are often overlooked because of the extensive caring duties and severe anxiety that some families face. My aim is to  publish as many interviews as i can, each week on a Monday morning so that after the busy weekend of caring and the daunting week looming ahead has a positive beginning. Something for you to read, whilst you take you first breather and have your first hot cup of tea or coffer in days. I want to share the happiness and joyful moments of many families, children and adults  with the hope that it can help you as a family hold onto that thought that 'It can only get better'

Good Morning, thank you so much for taking the time to take part in my regular Monday Morning series. Hopefully we can help everyone start the week with some positivity and an uplift. We all know how awful and exhausting the mornings are especially if the children are suffering with back to school anxiety.

I for one, would like something joyful to read, as we struggle on a regular basis here. If you have followed our journey, you will know that Lola really doesn’t cope well in the mornings and Connie –Mai is finding it increasingly difficult to become accustomed to leaving me at the school gates.

What a great way to start the week, by sharing all those positives, some tips for the difficult times and telling us a bit about your family and those massive milestones you’ve reached that you didn’t think possible?

So can you tell me a little about yourself and you family and the connection that you have to Autism?

My husband and I have 4 children. Dylan (18), Sarah (6), Marcus (4) and Lawrence (2). Marcus was diagnosed with autism 3 days after his second birthday while I was pregnant with his younger brother. My husband and I recently did a role swap. I got a relatively stressless clerical job and he gave up his very stressful, management job in Telecommunications. Our teenager (who still lives at home) is a full time student.

Wow – It sounds like you have your hands full, I imagine it can be pretty difficult at times, Can you tell us a little more about how you manage things at home positively?

I suppose we do things to suit Marcus. We found ourselves saying “No, no, no” so we removed everything that was negative. For example, He is an exceptional climber. So we got rid of the dinner table and chairs. We put our sofa against the wall and placed a very strong side table at the side. This created a safe climbing area and we encouraged it. We made our living room a YES room. This made our day-to-day living more durable - Especially during the toddler stage.

We are definitely pro-active parents and are constantly thinking ahead. We are constantly risk assessing and tend to stick to places/times we know to make any venture out the house enjoyable for parent and child.

Sticking to our strict routine is key to a peaceful day. We have tweaked our routine to suit the whole family. Each change to routine now has a natural flow to it. They are subtle and don't have a huge impact now. Our son is non-verbal but he has signs, gestures and squeals that tip us off when he is starting to struggle.

We have found our own stresses come from fighting against him. Trying to get him to do something he clearly doesn’t want to do. It's good for his development to have his boundaries pushed a little in order for him to progress. This is only manageable if both parent and child are calm. We evaluate things afterwards to see what went wrong and discuss ways to push further if it went right. Every negative can be turned into a positive learning curve.

My husband and I both agree it's gutting when we can't all go to an event (family wedding, school function), but one of us has to wander around with Marcus or simply stay at home with him. But once you accept those limitations life gets easier.

It’s definitely exhausting having to remember all of these strategies and positive communication to keep anxiety and those shutdowns at bay. Your YES parenting seems simple yet so effective. Its great that you and the whole family are working on the same page that really helps.

What are your three top tips for someone struggling to deal with the morning routine and keeping everyone happy? – I for sure could do with some extra ‘Go to’s’ up my sleeve for the mornings.

Routine, routine, routine! Our lot can wake up any time between 5.30am and 6.30am
7am Coco pops for cereal. Only cbeebies on TV. (we arrange the routine in line with programs)
7.30am Kids get dressed at the same time every day. But no socks or shoes until it's time to leave. He will just take them off!
8.00am Toast (usually stolen from parents)
8.30am Coat, socks, shoes and restraint straps on.
We have a visual time table which helps too.

I also have a very strict routine, they fight against it continually but it definitely benefits them, as if they deviate from the routine it all ends up in chaos.  

Thank you so much for sharing. So its Monday morning and hopefully the readers have grabbed a cuppa, or a coffee if that’s your thing, and are chilling out for a while, de-stressing, re-grouping and reading this wonderful interview about family life with Lynne and her beautiful family. Isnt Marcus gorgeous. 

Marcus is clearly really benefitting from your awesome parenting techniques, tell us those bits about Marcus that make your heart smile, or your stomach flip with joy? The things that on a “normal” level are overlooked into everyday life, but for families like yours and mine are amazing achievements?

Marcus has recently starting ‘giving Five’! He never clapped his hands until last year so these are huge milestones for us.
The biggest achievement he has done is POTTY TRAINING! After going to the bathroom with dad for weeks and being fascinated by the ‘flowing water’ and then the excitement of the toilet flushing. He decided that that’s where it goes. The nappy was off! It was truly amazing at the age of 4. He will wait until a nappy is on to do a number 2 and wears a nappy in bed and on car journeys.

What do you find most Joyful about Marcus?

1 - Marcus notices tiny details; he can be stimming back and forth and all of a sudden STOP! Fixated on something. - A knot in the wood on the fence, a gap in the curtain, a cobweb on the ceiling. I find this fascinating.

2 – His additional needs support worker told me, that he is more intelligent than his peers in Nursery. He knew numbers 1-10 at age 2 and now at 4 he knows his alphabet backwards. He figured out the passcode on his tablet by himself.

3 - He loves our cat. The cat can be quite grumpy but with Marcus he remains so placid. Their relationship is lovely to see, both communicating without words. Marcus can get the cat to follow him like playing a game of chase. When Marcus is ill, he lies on the cat like a pillow using his soft fur for comfort (must be a sensory thing).

That’s amazing, animals have a true sense of loyalty to our little people. Our cat is the same apart from with my boy, absolutely idolises him.

Its really important for carers of autistic children to take some time to re charge batteries, and look after their self, the reality of this makes it quite difficult though so can you share some tips of when and how you recuperate?

Before I returned to work I would definitely find my self, sitting at the bottom of the stairs with a cuppa in one hand and a mobile device (facebook) in the other. This was my alone time. I could see the kids in the living room playing separated by the high stair gate. My cuppa was drunk while it was still hot, my phone was not swiped in order to watch trains on you tube. It’s Bliss!

Thank the stars for our wonderful teenager. He doesn’t mind sitting with his siblings or taking them out into the garden just so I can have a shower, wash the dishes or just have 5 minutes in silence. On an evening, once the little ones are tucked up, he babysits. My husband and I drive to the local McDonalds, get a drive-thru coffee and sit in an empty car park. We chat, laugh, cry and discuss the issues from the day. We are so lucky to have our teenager for this.

Similarly its important for the child to be able to take some time and reflect, process their day and relieve all of their pent up anxiety and sensory overloads, so does Marcus have any successful techniques or aids that he uses that you can share? Lola Loves to colour so when she is struggling we always offer her books and pens as a first distraction.

Food – as soon as he comes into the house after being out, Marcus heads straight for the biscuit tin. He uses his juice cup as a comfort too. He clamps the spout between his teeth and runs around with it – hands free.

When he is struggling he vocalises mmmmm sounds. Our speech therapist said as he is very movement orientated this movement of muscles helps him. And also Stimming, running back and forth, the more he moves the better he copes.
When we are out and about he does really well as long you keep walking, he can’t stand still or wait.

Finally we all want to know about the biggest milestone that you or Marcus has accomplished in recent months?

Honestly, his biggest milestone is settling into Nursery and passing his targets set in his Individual Learning Plan (IEP). This was our biggest fear as parents with an autistic child. His first year we argued his case with our Local Authority and was given his own Additional Needs Worker for 8 hours. So he only went to nursery for 8 hours each week. His IEPs track his progression and OMG what a hug impact those 8 hours have made, he had hit every target set for him.

This year we have just won a huge battle and not only for our son but 2 other special needs children that will benefit. Marcus was the only one of 4 children that got the right support last year. Now all of the special needs children will be in a secondary nursery room with a ratio of 4 adults to 20 children. With one adult being an Additional Needs Worker dedicated to the Special Needs children. This means that when therapists come in they will have an extra adult to help with hand over hand activities and help support their progression.

I cannot wait to see what achievements my darling little boy will make this academic year.

Wow what an amazing achievement you should be very proud of yourself indeed. And on that note, I hope you have a Marvellous week and that this interview has helped benefit you and family, with techniques and ideas, or even just given your Monday morning a bit of a cheery start.

Thank you to Lynne for answering my questions and thank you to those of you who have taken the time to read and share this to help many families start that all important week off in high spirits.

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