ASC, ASD, Autism, Dental Health, parenting

Autism Survival Tip: Brushing teeth struggles and one quick way to solve them.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that brushing teeth is a real sticky point with our son Bear. He doesn’t brush himself as he is too busy trying to read the Beano or the Phoenix comics or just daydreaming. He finds the brush moving around his molars overwhelming and always puts his tongue on the brush and pushes it away making it a daily struggle.

Tonight I remembered how we had previously used a timer on my phone and a special comedy song to encourage him to brush his own teeth. At least a little. No idea why that stopped because it was very helpful. If you haven’t yet tried the old timer routine I would try that first. We need all the tricks we can muster up to re encourage our kids to learn to do self care solo. The timer doesn’t have to be a phone timer. We’ve used those sand timers before and I even use the cooker timer when I need to as it beeps so loudly. Be creative.

We were creative tonight. OK so I was going for the try the timer routine Bear and he didn’t do a thing. Then I switched over to stop watch mode and that is when the MIRACLE took place. He brushed his own teeth and kept his forefinger up close to the screen. I couldn’t work it out until he pressed lap. He timed each area of his mouth in laps. Back left bottoms, Back left tops, Back right bottoms, Back right tops and fronts. He brushed them all. It took 3 minutes in 6 laps.

Nothing short of miraculous.

I’d love to hear your success or epic fail stories.

Sharing our top tips and experiences is the way to lighten our load as parents.

Go one tell us…

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Mornings, parenting, Resilience, self resilience, strategies

A Hot Chocolatey Recipe for Success

I’m sitting here at my computer feeling content and successful. I believe you should be reading this feeling as good as I feel and I believe I know how you can feel successful. Everyday.

See, I believe we often make the mistake of not recognising our own success.

Success is usually attributed to BIG life events. Great exam results, acceptance to college or University, doing your dream job.

Success can also be attributed to smaller every day events. I made my kids a healthy breakfast, when my kid got cross I dealt with it calmly, and even I arrived at the school gate on time without getting hot and bothered. These statements may say a lot about what I personally struggle to manage everyday but when I do them now I remember to feel the success of achievement.

I’ve got to the age where BIG life successes are rare and unlikely to come around out. Most importantly what this does is build with us a sense of well being which then carries us through the rest of the challenges of the day.

Success can be an abstract term but it can be measured.

It is only when we measure it that we can feel it.

So go on. Congratulate yourself for the good things you have done today.

I’ll do it too.

I woke up early thanks to the lovely sunlight coming into my bedroom and had cuddles with my youngest son, Max. I helped him find his clothes. From the bed. So actually I enabled him to be more independent. He also went downstairs and made his own breakfast (well so we all believed… we later found out he hadn’t had any breakfast at all but we also remedied that with some hot buttered toast).

I made pancakes for Bear, got their swimming things ready, their pack lunches ready and even had a shower before the boys went to school with their Dad. On time. I’ve also now done an hours work for a new client and hung out the washing on the line.

Every time I remember all the good things I’ve achieved today I feel good. You can have the same feeling too. The best thing is the more you remember to tell yourself well done the better you feel and the more natural it becomes. It’s exponential.

Now the funny thing is I didn’t set out to write all this today. I was just going to let you know about a delicious hot chocolate recipe I’ve made up to replaced my morning coffee.

I called it a recipe for success because I love drinking it and it makes me feel much better than the coffee ever does.

Here it is so you can try it out. It’s the kind of recipe that is very open to adjustment and play to make it suit your own taste.

I like it to taste spicy and rich to remind me of chocolates Aztec and Mayan roots.

Hot Chocolate

1 tsp of good quality cocoa powder.

1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder.

1/2-1 tsp of Reishi mushroom powder.

1/2-1 tsp of raw honey.

1/2 cup of just boiled hot water.

1 large splash of goat milk or coconut milk or your preferred milk.

I put all the powdered ingredients in my cup. Pour on half of the hot water. Add the milk. I stir in the honey after the milk so it keeps all the enzymes alive. Then I top it up with hot water. I do it this way as I like the ritual of only using one teaspoon to stir and I never put a used spoon in my precious honey jar.

I use raw honey because of the it’s many beneficial properties not least it’s active enzymes.

I’ve started added the Reishi mushroom powder to give my immune system a boost.

Give it a go and let me know how you got on.

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Anxiety, Autism, Getting ready for school, Health, Mornings, parenting

Managing severe anxiety and school refusal? A method from the heart.

Unable to get my son Hunter out of bed I try every trick in the book. I make tea, fizzy vitamin C and pancakes. I rubbed his stiff and sore muscles. I suggest how better he will feel once he is up moving around. I remind how he will feel proud of himself for going in on time. The covers are whipped off. The radio is put on. The alarm is left on by the pillow. I beg and plead. I begged. I begged. I leave the room to cry. The covers are back on. His back faces me. I put my hand on his shoulder.  Here we are again I say inside. I make the phone call.

“Hunter will not be in school today. He isn’t feeling well.” Again. Every day.

Anxiety is invisible. It is hard to spot from the outside. It can be hard to name what it is when you have it. The reason for having anxiety can be a multiple and varied. It can take over everything and leave the person affected unable to function.  It leads to people feeling suicidal in extreme cases. Anxiety is complicated, emotional physiological response to fear and uncertainty with very real physical symptoms. Hunters’ included tummy cramps, trouble breathing and migraines. My own includes sweating profusely and my mind going totally blank when asked questions.

These symptoms of anxiety can not be controlled by the sufferer. You can’t stop sweaty hands or tummy cramps. They are just there. A physical response to pressure. What matters is whether of not they over power our whole lives to the point where we can’t function. This happened to Hunter. His anxiety was so severe he couldn’t get out of bed. He couldn’t attend family events. He couldn’t attend school.

Sometimes anxiety looks like laziness. My son certainly appeared lazy. He was staying up late. Then all night. He was unable to sleep so was self soothing by reading or watching his favourite anime’s. Everyone said I wasn’t being tough enough. I should do more. Take away his internet. Take away his computer. Take away his weekly rock school if he didn’t go into school. I should allow him to fail.

“But he is failing,” I said in his Team Around the Child meeting, “Everyday!”

I knew there must be a better way than punishing him further. I just needed to find it. Besides we had tried the reward positive behaviour and

Anxiety creeps in and possibly never leaves. But it is possible to overcome it. Although it may never go completely. We have done it together. Here’s the method I followed.

I realised I couldn’t go on with this situation, neither could my son, neither could his Dad. His younger brothers were missing out on a relaxed family home. The only method that made sense was the following.

Come from the heart.

Hunter needed support. It was clear that he was is a very bad way. He struggled to speak to me about what was going on. He would answer questions vaguely. He told me he was depressed and he had anxiety. He said it was so bad he couldn’t even get out of bed. Slowly I was able to piece together how severe it was and that the main cause was the school environment.

Reduce expectations.

A few years before the problems had come to a head Hunter had told me our expectations of him were too high. I replied it was only because he was so damn talented and capable. But I noted it inside to reduce some of the expectations. Listening to our children is vital. But it wasn’t enough to change our expectations at home.

School life came with demands that he struggled with due to sensory over stimulation and poor organisational skills. Hunter had always struggled with completing home work through primary. At secondary school I am sure it was his inability to organise himself to do home work on time that started the refusals as students at his school receive negative codes if they don’t hand in work. Hunters solution, just don’t go.

Take away the cause of the anxiety where/if possible.

It took us a long time to decide to Home Ed, over 2 years of refusal which became steadily worse, and it wasn’t easy to let go. But as soon as we had done it we saw improvements. During the following weeks and months our son relaxed. He played with his brothers, he ate more, he pushed his long hair out of his eyes and best of all he smiles and laughs with us.

Provide something positive to build confidence.

We needed Hunter to want to get up and go out even though he wasn’t attending school. We wanted him to have social experiences that were enjoyable. Luckily we found some amazing music experiences that have completely changed his life through giving him the confidence to be out and with other people. He has been composing music with 14 other young musicians thanks to a fantastic programme locally. He even went to Birmingham to perform the song they had written together. He also spoke about his anxiety and how playing music with this group helps him to feel better on our County radio station.

After over a year of unschooling at home and lots of music activities Hunter is currently attending sixth form college and his attendance is steadily improving.

He still gets anxious but he is able to manage it because he is living his life on his terms.

I am incredibly proud of him.

*My son chose his own online alias Hunter.

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ASC, ASD, Autism, Dental Health, Health, Recipes, Sensory

Recipe to support Oral Hygiene and Halt Teeth Decay

I have struggled to keep Bears teeth healthy since he began eating food voraciously. One place he has always struggled to have any touch is within his mouth. Every night he would lie on the floor and I would torture him by attempting to brush his teeth. At some point he could stand up and I would brush his teeth and even more recently he has been slightly more independent in terms of doing a little brushing himself. You might have thought he would prefer to brush his own teeth if it is such a sensory overwhelm for him but the routine of me pinning him down lives on. It was that bad I guess. He even sometimes lies on the floor before we start.

His teeth have suffered. Mainly his back teeth. I kept taking him to the dentist but none of them helped as they were more concerned about him in their room than helping him. I did get to tell one of them off recently. Which I have to admit gave me pleasure. He had metal caps put over his decaying back teeth age 4 and 5. He nearly had 4 teeth out age 4 but I managed to get him to see a Specialist Dentist. A dentist who could manage him immediately and he because of that he now sees the family dentist locally.

So we went to see the local Childrens Dentist because one of the metal caps was damaged. We had to see her and not the Specialist because they have changed the whole system of referrals….sigh. She started saying how she doesn’t recommend the caps herself. And I was very quick to point out that I knew that because she had sent my son age 4 to have 4 teeth removed. The same teeth he still has inside his mouth thanks to the metal caps. That shut her up. Anyway I have drifted off the point. I just wanted to explain how big a deal tooth health is to our family. To explain how it can relate to sensory issues and that often you need to fight for better health care. In case I haven’t made that last point clear I believe I took Bear to see the dentist 4 or 5 times in a year and a half, some appointments he didn’t even manage to sit in the chair before we left, before I managed to get a Specialist Dentist appointment because I refused to let him have his teeth taken out that easily. Age 5 he had four metal caps put on and we could finally start brushing his back teeth. Because the pain had reduced.

I have always used Aloe Dent Sensitive Toothpaste believing it to be the healthiest option available. I never even considered making my own. But I changed my mind when researching dental products for George (this is my pseudonym for Bears Dad. I don’t know why but today that’s the one I choose). He had terrible gum pain and taste in his mouth. After researching everything natural on the market I found an oil product, called Glacial Blue, that I couldn’t buy in the UK, but that had the best reviews of all the products I found. When I discovered it’s ingredients were just a carrier oil and peppermint and spearmint essential oils I decided to make our own. Wow. It is brilliant. Georges pain has receded, he has had some amalgam fillings replaced with ceramic so that could also be a major factor but I have recently read that some ingredients in any shop bought natural toothpastes are really bad for our dental health.

Take glycerin one of the main ingredients in many natural toothpastes. It apparently contributes to de-mineralisation and can prevent re-mineralisation. Glycerin coats the teeth which can lead to decay over time as the teeth need to be able to absorb the minerals in our saliva to strengthen them.

So here it is. The simplest tooth oil recipe that not only cleans our teeth and leaves them feeling fabulous, but is also safe, natural and supports our dental hygiene.

Tooth Oil Recipe

50ml Almond Oil

15 drops of Peppermint oil

15 drops of Myrrh Oil

Dropper Bottle

Add all of the ingredients to the bottle and shake. It’s ready to go.

Here is where I chose to buy my oils. NHR are organic and food grade which is essential when using essential oils that are likely to be ingested.

I chose to use Myrrh oil instead of the spearmint in our recipe because the qualities of spearmint are very similar to peppermint.

Peppermint oil is freshens your breathe and whitens your teeth as well as removing any film coverings to the surface of your teeth. It has anti bacterial properties.

Myrrh oil can help aid gum health by promoting the flow of blood to tissue. Myrrh oil has some amazing healing properties that are perfect for dental health including relieving toothache, gingivitis, and mouth ulcers, and also freshens your breath.

I just created a new version of the above recipe where I supplemented the almond oil (which is runny so does drip from the brush) with coconut oil (which is solid+ no drip) and trialling it on Bear tonight he said,

“Tastes exactly like Coconut. I’ll have the rest.”

So he did. I didn’t initially use coconut because the other 2 (as Bear would call his brothers) don’t like the taste of it. Boo. But Bear does and I do so it can be our special paste. No more drips for us!

Our boys have adjusted really well to our homemade tooth oil. I even use it after brushing as a final conditioning rinse.

I am keen to see how our dental health adjusts over the course of the next year. It seems to be positive so far.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on dental health and any DIY recipes you’ve tried and tested. Please comment below.

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ASC, ASD, Autism, Getting dressed, Getting ready for school, Mornings, parenting, Siblings

The day my son got up at 7am without a wake up call from me.

I noticed something significant today. In fact I noticed two important things about Bear that hadn’t been clear until this morning.

One of the most obvious signs of my son Bear’s autism is that he is often in his own world. He is very happy there. He talks to himself and laughs. He seems so happy it doesn’t worry me that he has somewhere of his own to go. It only interrupts our lives when we need to get on with something in particular. Like getting ready in the morning.

When Bear is in his own world he doesn’t respond to us. Which means he doesn’t follow our instructions. Which means it takes a long time getting him ready.

I remember one time in particular when Bear was four and I had asked him to get his jumper from the chair. He gazed around the room but didn’t get the jumper even though he looked at it. I know he understood I had asked him to do something. He just didn’t know what it was.

His inability to follow verbal instructions was one of the main reasons that we knew he needed support and looked for his autism diagnosis. He has gradually improved and we needed to improve our own communication and expectations of him to achieve these improvements.

Last night I told Bear that he should stop reading  now (9pm), sleep and get up at 7am to read the comic. He said he would need a loud alarm clock to wake him up. Which is fair enough Bear is someone who struggles to get to sleep every night then struggles to wake up.

When he was younger he would get out of bed constantly and walk around the house. He’s only stopped doing this in the last year or so. Although we still have episodes of late night walking. Now we hear him talking to himself in bed until quite late. Often when we go to bed at 11pm he is still talking. Last night he settled easily. It was little something I had said went into his consciousness.

It has been a slow drawn out process to see changes. But sometimes they do appear to happen over night.

We have had to change our way of giving instructions to see improvement. I will give one specific command at a time. Instead of this vague and unspecific instruction, as he sits at the table after breakfast,

“Bear, go and get ready for school, we have to go soon.” I say,

“Bear, upstairs.” Then we go upstairs together.

I might then say, “Time to get dressed” or something similarly short and precise.

Once we are in his room I name each item of clothing he needs to put on and count down from ten for him to actually put the item on. Sometimes I have to pass him the socks or other items for him to respond.

Recently he has been getting dressed on his own without being asked on non school days. He puts on clean pants every morning because he has always takes off his pants after his first morning wee. He used to take his pants and trousers off after every wee. His getting dressed by himself at weekends involves him pulling on trousers and a hoody over his clean pants. This is progress but it was only happening at the weekend.

So the first amazing thing that happened this morning was that Bear woke up at exactly 7am. No alarm clock. No whispering sweet good mornings in his ear from me. No delivery of fizzy C (my current favourite method to getting him to wake up in a gentle but effective way) from me either. This is a first.

The next amazing thing that happened was when I asked him to put his pants and socks on he just did it. He went off and found the pants and socks I’d laid out and put them on. Without me in the room.

When he arrived in just pants and socks I tried this,

“Put your shirt and trousers on.”

Again, he came in wearing his trousers and shirts.

Something has changed inside Bear.

He is able to get up early on a school day and he is able to follow an instruction containing two items.

These two things are nothing short of a miracle in our getting dressed and ready for school routine.

I know why we’ve had such dramatic changes.

It’s all because of his younger brother Max.

Max has been up to all kinds of fun things early in the morning while his brother sleeps on innocently.

But Bear’s finally noticing what his younger brother is up to and he wants in. I guess he’s found a motivating force to get himself up in the mornings.

I wonder if you can guess what it is?

Max’s routine has always been markedly different to Bears.

Max goes to sleep easily in general. He consequently wakes up early (often very early but that’s another story). He hassles me for breakfast. He hassles me for whichever item of clothing he can’t find. He gets dressed. And then because there is time (usually an hour) he has been allowed to play his favourite game (usually Angry Birds) on his Papa’s mobile.

He has been doing this for over a year.

I’ve been wondering over the last few months how come Bear hasn’t noticed?

We have boundaries over computer/screen time because our boys would play from dawn to dawn without them. We would like them to have balanced lives. Get outside, ride their bicycles, walk, jump, play with sticks, the simple things. So they mostly only play for an hour or two in the evenings. Considering this I would have thought Bear might have noticed Max is getting to play Angry Birds games in the mornings.

Bear often comes into our room where Max is playing and watches him. This is where I need to add that Bear is completely obsessive about playing computer games (as is Max). He is so crazy for gaming on screens that not only do we have limited times when they can play on screens we also have to hide consoles, leads, put in passwords, and go to extreme lengths because he will find a way to play at any time of the day unless we outsmart him. All the gaming equipment has been disabled until we say it is time. So how come he hasn’t ever noticed or said anything about Max playing before school?

The answer is autism.

He doesn’t always have the awareness or consciousness to notice what others are doing. And in the morning if he is struggling to wake up, having been woken up before he has slept enough, then he isn’t really going to notice what Max is doing. Even if he is playing on a screen.

It makes me sad. But that’s how he is and it’s OK too.

The one thing I will not be doing is using playing on a screen as a method to motivate him to get up. We do that enough with the time he plays later in the day. But I’ll save that rant for another day.

Have you noticed differences between your children?

Please comment below.

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ASC, ASD, Autism, Senses, Sensory, Trampolines

A Day Without Shocks from the Trampoline

This is Bear back on the trampoline for the first time in well over a year. I had to positively reward him with an extra hour on the computer to get him there.

Just look how much he loves it?

Trampolines are brilliant for vestibular and proprioception stimulation which most autistic kids need to feel more relaxed. Vestibular is our balance and proprioception is the awareness of the movements between joints and of the position of our body. They are the two extra senses we have that you learn about once you have a child with autism.

We got the trampoline from a Family Fund grant. So it was very sad that Bear stopped getting his dose of bouncing.

Bear unfortunately got put off coming back on the trampoline when he got three too many electric shocks in a row when bouncing the summer before last. Once from my hand, once from Max, and then as he went to get off another one from the metal frame. Ouch! Ouch, triple OUCH!

It seemed we all gave each other shocks when we bounced. We thought it might be our socks. But without socks we still had shocks. It seemed to be us. Has anyone else ever experienced this in the summer?

I thought we would never, ever be able to convince him to get bounce again. But when Max and me were happily bouncing in the sunshine today we noticed that there were no electric shocks.

It must be a sunshine and heat phenomenon. Today was cold, freezing ground at 3 pm cold.

I told Bear there were no shocks today but he wasn’t having any of it until I asked him what would get him on it. At first he had claimed nothing could but then we came to an arrangement where he got to have another hour on a screen (his obsession and he’d run out of time for the day).

Totally the best thing and was worth the bribe.

Just look at how much fun he had.

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