Weekly roundup #1

31 August 2015

Dear friend,

It's roundup time, a post where I share with you some of the highlights of our week.

This week I went back to work and after 4 years in one school I needed a change so on Monday I started at a new building. I am lucky that the organisation I work for has 3 international schools so you can move every couple of years and stay fresh. 

It felt strange being the new girl and I was rather nervous on my first day so I could identify with the new kids who arrived wide eyed and full of expectation. I already knew most of my colleagues which made it easier and it was a great start to the year!

Being back at work and the kids at school has been rather a rude awakening after such a fab holiday but we have all got into our stride really quickly. I am so relieved that the big lad has had a settled beginning. All the preparation has paid off! His new teacher is calm and he really likes that. Mum do you know that the "meester" already knows about my autism and how to talk to me, he told me after the first day. What a difference from last year. The little man is learning to read and every day he comes home and tells us the word he learned today, he was especially happy to tell us he'd learned toilet! I am so glad he is more engaged in learning.

Weekly roundup photos: Back to school, BBQ and room swap.

My Photo of the week

30 August 2015


Texel

Autism the invisible disability

27 August 2015

Dear friend,

We are always very open about the big lad's autism. It's not like we make him wear a, "Hey i've got autism!" t-shirt or badge. But we try to share his difficulties with the hope that people understand and then support him and us. Problems arise when we meet new people. Autism is invisible, they don't see it. So many times we have heard the phrase but he looks normal, you don't know by talking to him.


On holiday we had a family photo shoot. The pictures are beautiful but for me they are tinged with regret and disappointment. The photographer wanted us to pose in certain ways. The big lad really struggled to follow the instructions. The photographer quickly lost patience and it made him uncomfortable. Hubby and I stepped in, of course; we helped to place our big lad correctly, quickly explained that he was autistic, we tried to protect him, to spare his feelings. It hadn't entered my head that he may struggle with this so we hadn't prepared the photographer. But he could have had more patience, shown more kindness.



Autism isn't invisible, it is always there...

When the photographer wants him to hold a pose but he can't copy.

In the shoe shop when he can't hold his foot against the measuring device because he doesn't feel it.

In the restaurant when he spills his drink or struggles to coordinate his knife and fork.

At the playground when he takes his time climbing to the top of the frame, up the slide, or avoids anything that spins.

When he can't find his shoes, bag, pencil, the iPad etc even when they are in front of his face.

When he forgets to flush the toilet again.

When he struggles to button his shirt or fasten his laces.

When he loses every race at sports day despite trying his best.

When he struggles to respond to a question asked.

In the library when he talks too loud.

When he can't get the game out of the cupboard.

When he doesn't look at the camera or in your eye.

At the hairdressers when he can't stand the sound of the trimmers.

When the school year ends.

When he goes to a new place/meets new people.

When he misses verbal instructions.

At the birthday party he wasn't invited to.

When he gets lost in the supermarket/restaurant.

When he worries that his brother is talking to strange kids (he is making friends).

When he repeats the same question or phrase over and over.

Autism is there when he runs, sleeps, eats, plays and speaks.

My fun, kind, clever son is often made to feel; lazy, stupid, dumb, weird, unsuccessful! 



Not because he has autism but because of the impatience of other people!


Thank you to the lady in the shoe shop who shows an enormous amount of patience and takes a long time, to make sure the shoes fit properly.

Thank you to the teaching assistant who attends courses in her own time to learn how to help my son.

Thank you to the kids who wait patiently at the bottom of the slide.

Thank you to the kids club staff who know when to leave him alone and when to encourage him to join in.

Thank you to the friend who encouraged him to climb, who told him you can do it!

Thank you to the therapist who showed him all the positive things about being autistic when he could only see the negative.

Thank you to the teachers who read the books and learn how to help.

Thank you to my friends who always listen.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog.

Thank you to all those people who smile.

Finally thank you to the people who try to understand!


I don't want my son to wear a badge or carry a card proclaiming his difference to the world. He shouldn't need to! A little bit of kindness, a little bit of patience, makes a huge difference. 




Celebrating our 10th anniversary

26 August 2015



Dear Friends,

Today is my wedding anniversary. Hubby and I have been married for 10 years today. Many people ask how we met so I thought it was about time I shared this story, along with a message for my long suffering partner in crime.


I first saw hubby on the Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry (aka party boat). My lovely BFF Victoria and I were having a girly weekend away as a post 30th celebration for me. It was our first experience of the party boat and we were marvelling at all the glamour pusses on board whilst we sat in our jeans and t-shirts sipping our pints. I first spotted hubby in the bar, well he was kind of hard to miss in his fluorescent yellow t-shirt. 




As single ladies we had already discussed and eliminated half the men in the place, god we were brutal! I stepped up to the bar to order us another drink and hubby sneaked in next to me. My other BFF Nic had brought me a gorgeous Louis Vuitton purse back from her travels and he leaned across and said; Do you like nice things? I like nice things! With a cheeky look in his bright blue eyes. (This has become a standard family saying now regularly repeated by my boys.)

V and I of course found this totally hilarious but it did break the ice. Let's not say too much more about that night other than we drank too much, danced a lot and really hit it off. We exchanged numbers and before we left each other hubby promised to show us the sights of Amsterdam the next night. He kept that promise and we realised that through his work he visited my hometown every week so we arranged to meet again and the rest is history...



Dear Hubby,

Happy anniversary babe. We made it through ten years! Ten years of fun, work, laughter and tears. 



I remember the exact moment that I fell head over heels in love with you. We were waiting for the lift to arrive and when the doors opened a toddler dashed out and promptly fell over your big feet. You picked him up and brushed him down and said, alright little man, with a huge smile on your face and handed him back to his mum. I knew in that moment that you had to be mine!

Here are my ten photos to celebrate our tenth anniversary:

Our wedding day will always be one of the best days of my life. Surrounded by the people we loved.

You and the big lad. You have always been a fantastic dad.

You changed my life! You introduced me to a whole new country, culture, language, world!

I love the relationship that you have with your boys, they adore you.

You are always up for fun!

I love how you have done everything to support our special son.
You were there to step in when I lacked the strength.
We make a formidable team!

The beach has become one of our favourite places to spend time and unwind,
although you always let me read my book and relax whilst you play with the boys.



You are the king of days out always organising somewhere fun to visit.
We joke that you can't sit still but I secretly love that you always have fun things for us to do!

Family is everything!

I only wish we had met sooner so that I could have loved you longer!

Photo story: Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum

24 August 2015



Dear Friend,

On Saturday we took a trip to Amsterdam with some friends. We planned to spend the morning at a museum and the afternoon exploring the Jordaan. We decided that the easiest way to explore would be via the Canal cruise boat. We could hop on and hop off and also see some of the sights of Amsterdam. 

Hubby and I love Amsterdam and have been often (we live close by) and I have been wanting to visit the Rijksmuseum since it reopened its doors. The Rijksmuseum - Museum of the Netherlands had a rebuild and renovation that lasted ten years. The building is just as impressive as it's exhibits that include paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. As a national institute, the Rijksmuseum offers an overview of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages onwards, and of major aspects of European and Asian art. 

Here are some of my favourite pictures:

We arrived at Central Station and stopped off at Cafe Loetje for coffee and cake. A perfect start to the day.
The view from Cafe Loetje is amazing!

We took a Canal cruise which gave us the opportunity to see the sights of Amsterdam: central station is a beautiful building as is the St Nicholas Church, and the Victoria hotel. Amsterdam ties the old and the new perfectly. The new O Cinema is a stunning architectural building.

The 17th century canal ring including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordan, were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.


The impressive building of the Rijksmuseum.
The exhibition of earthenware was simply stunning.
In bloom: dresses from the 1930's with popular flower motives are beautifully exhibited. 
Collector's cabinet: this houses many small pots and bottles containing medicinal ingredients.
Welcome to the 18th century: my favourite piece was the Beaker of ice glass: it was made using a technique developed in Venice but much used in Antwerp.
Portrait of Charlotte Beatrix Strict van Lindschoten, Mattheus Veryheyden (1700-1777).
Portriat of Prince William IV of Oranje Nassau (1711-1751)
The mantelpiece was made by Jan Baptist Xavery (1697-1742) for the principal room in the house at 48 Rapenburg in Leiden, where Diderik Baron van Leyden lived.
Tea service and stand Melssen (1725-1730)
Dish Japan (1690-1700)
Document case, Dutch East India Company (1720)
Haarlem reception room 1794.
Gold snuff boxes (1720's)
Portrait of Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninck and his family, Pierre Prud'hon (1758-1823)
The Night watch gallery.
Rembrandt: The wardens of the Amsterdam Draper's Guild
Self portrait as the apostle Paul.
Rembrandt's son Titus in a monks habit
The Merry Drinker Frans Hals.
Militia company of district VIII under the command of captain Roelof Bicker Bartholomeus van der Helst (1613-1670)
Isaac and Rebecca: Rembrandt
The Milkmaid: Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
Amsterdam city view with houses on the Herengracht and the old Hrarlemmersluis Jan van der Heyden
Rembrandt the Night Watch: a portrait of Amsterdam's 'militiamen' the cities civic guard. Rembrandt made the painting in 1642 to hang in the their headquarters in the Kloveniersdoelen.
Breach of the dijk Jan Asselin.
Children of the sea Josef Israels (1824-1911)
Summer Luxuriance: Jacobus van Looy (1855-1930)
Oostizijdse Mill along the Gein river in moonlight: Piet Mondrian (1872-1946)
Self portrait and Undergrowth: Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Jan Toorop (1858-1928): Beach near Katwijk, know as 'The Misty Sea'
The sea near Katwijk
The 20th century.
Teapot Delft 1705.
Cabinet Augsberg 1660.
Four Poster bed 1705.
Flower pyramid Delft 1692.
Cabinet attributed to Andre-Charles Bouille (1642-1732)
Corner chimney piece, the Hague 1700.
Dolls house of Petronella OOrtman Amsterdam 1686-1710.
I was fascinated with this as I have just read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. 
Naval Power.
Celestial globe,
Wallpaper with a fava bean motive: Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof (1866-1924)
Cornelis Tromp's weapon Rack.
140 piece gold service, Jean Baptiste Claude Odiot (1763-1850
Anne Frank House.
One of the most photographed spots in Amsterdam, the famous seven bridges of the Reguliersgracht. At night all these bridges are illuminated.

We sampled the hospitality of the Jordaan area before heading home. A really 'gezellig' way to end our day. 

The collection at the Rijksmuseum is huge and in the morning we spent there we only saw a fraction of it. We had such a fantastic time that we are going to plan a return visit. I love Amsterdam and would definitely recommend a visit to the Rijksmuseum. What a super day out!

Liked this post then check out more of my EXPAT series here.

Photo of the week

23 August 2015


Beautiful Amsterdam.

Photo story: How long until school starts?

17 August 2015



Dear friend,

Wow this week has been long or have we just been spoiled as we had such a fun filled first four weeks of the holidays. Either way I think we are all starting to feel the weight of school and the impending end of the holidays upon us. 

The little man and I are in mourning already for our lie ins and late morning cuddles. He is worried because this year he will learn to read and keeps saying; but I can't. I am wondering what the new school year will hold for me and already worrying about whether we will get the start right for the big lad this year. The big lad is missing the structure and predictability of school and seeing his friends. He can't wait to begin. But I think he is also a little nervous. All this tension had lead to a strange week with everyone getting in a grump at some point. 

Have I tried too hard to make this last full week together fun and somehow caused the problems? Maybe we are all just ready for a rest from each other. How long until school starts? Harsh to say because I really do love my kids and I know that when I am in work next week my heart will be pining for them. 

We had a bike ride to our favourite park. It is the first time the little man cycled there on his own bike. He did brilliantly!


Photo of the week

16 August 2015


Hand in hand together we will make it!

How to make a visual timetable

12 August 2015

Dear Friend,

Why do autistic children need visuals? Many autistic people have communication difficulties so using visuals to see can give them a better understanding of the world. A picture remains constant whereas words/instructions disappear. Having visuals gives the big lad a sense of structure and teaches him routine. Visuals also help to establish his attention and manage his time, they can speed up slow thinking e.g. visuals for tasks like cleaning teeth and showering. They also help with him handling change and following rules as without the timetable he would simply spend all day on his computer.

We have been using visuals with the big lad  for a long time, since pre 'official' diagnosis. The first one I made was a washing line with clothes pegged on. We used this to show him the order of dressing/undressing so he could learn to do this independently. We use/d visuals for teeth cleaning, showering, remembering to flush the toilet, shut the door and put out the light. Morning and evening routines were made visual when he was younger too but now we rely on a holiday calendar with special events marked on and a daily timetable. Today I am going to share how to make a daily timetable.




Using visuals:



  1. The type of visual you use e.g. photo or image will depend upon the age and needs of your child. Very young children may need images that closely resemble the object.
  2. They must have meaning for your child; I have used Mario bros characters and minions in the past to grab his attention.
  3. Always use visuals with speech. They are an aid to teaching language.
  4. Print the name of the visual in the bottom corner so that everyone uses the same name.
  5. Visuals need to be accessible; We keep ours on the fridge (not too high) where the boys can move them around and make choices.
  6. Be patient! Wait for your child to point to the cards and process the information.


We keep our visuals on the fridge

  • How to make a Visual Timetable:
Lots of websites offer free pictograms and you can find these easily by searching. I have used the sparklebox Visual resources professionally and personally they are clear and easy. I also came across Autism Buddy, this sight looks great and I can't wait to explore it further. 

As I wanted to make my cards specific to my kids I searched for images I thought they'd like and then made them using Pic MonkeyI made the images 300x300 pixels. I choose a clear, simple font that would be easy to read. 

Some of my visuals:

 







Next I made a daily timetable to place the cards on. 


Timetable 1 for normal school days

Timetable 2 for Wednesdays


Timetable 3 for Weekends & Holidays


I had to make 3 different daily versions as the big lad does not attend school on Wednesday afternoons and I made a separate timetable for weekends/holidays.


The timetables and cards are printed on high quality paper and then laminated to make them more durable.


You can place cards on the timetable e.g. doctors appointments, physio therapy, shopping, a visit to the beach or a party. Your child then completes the empty squares.(They may not use all squares every time, especially if you are spending a morning out somewhere.)


It is important that you talk through your child's choices with them. I usually give the big lad 2 or 3 choices per square. We have some rules e.g. only 1 computer choice per morning/afternoon but you can set your own rules. Obviously some activities take longer than others. 


Be patient. At the beginning the big lad would rush through some tasks to get to the computer activity that he really wanted. I then set at least a 30 minute time frame for each one. Using the visual timetables has helped to add more variety to his play.


My big lad relies on the visuals less now and some days doesn't use them at all, especially if we are busy out and about. But we made the mistake of removing the timetable from our fridge and he really struggled so it is back to stay. He needs the structure more on weekends and holidays when there is no school.


Perhaps you know someone who would benefit from these cards? Please feel free to share this post or e-mail me if you would like a copy of the timetables and cards.



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