Yearly Roundup

31 December 2015

Dear friend,

Here we are at the end of another amazing year. I honestly can say that I have never been so tired as I am now. I was so ready for this break. Being a mum is certainly one of the hardest jobs in the world but also one of the most rewarding. I know I don't always get things right but when I look back on our year I know that I'm not doing too bad. 

Our year at a glance

Autiquotes: Quotes about Autism

30 December 2015

My aim is to spread a positive message about autism through my writing and to help my son to grow up in a world of understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Being a special needs parent is...

Dear friend,

Being a parent is amazing, exhausting, awe inspiring, confusing... full of contradictions. It is everything and nothing like I expected. When my son was 5 he was diagnosed with autism, one of life's curved balls and we had to learn to parent a little differently. Lots of friends sent us a poem to read. It was called; Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley. Ironically most people who sent this did not have children with special needs.  I think it was a well meaning attempt to empathise with how I was feeling and perhaps they felt it had added significance as I live in Holland.  

Initially I loved the poem however, over time I have become less comfortable with the hint of disappointment expressed. Here is my attempt to describe my feelings...

Our experiences are unique and it is how we choose to respond to them that defines us. We need to trust that in the end we will all arrive at the place we need to be.

There comes a time when you have to let go, face the fear and embrace the unexpected! One thing is certain, I am going to make dam sure I enjoy the ride!

I posted a version of this post in March 2015: What is parenting from a special perspective. It was published in The Mighty.
The post was revised in November 2016.

Weekly roundup #17

28 December 2015

Dear all,

Wow this week went fast. We were really lucky to get to spend Christmas in Middlesbrough with my family and friends this year.

We arrived just in time to celebrate Grandad's birthday with a family meal in the pub. The boys were really happy to see grandma and grandad and had lots of fun with their mad uncle and cousins. 

Silent Sunday

27 December 2015

Christmas memories

25 December 2015

Dear friends,

What better way to celebrate Christmas day than a look back at Christmas since becoming a Mother. Some of my happiest memories brought together to share with you all. I hope you enjoy my rather indulgent Christmas day post. Happy Christmas everyone!

Silent Sunday

20 December 2015

Happy Christmas everyone!

Weekly roundup #16

18 December 2015

Dear all,

This was a weekend of Christmas Markets. First we visited the market in Leiden on Saturday and then on Sunday we went to Haarlem. It has really helped to get me in the Christmas Spirit, well the mulled wine did! And it was just what I needed after an extremely busy week at work. The end of term is always a hive of activity. Time with the boys has been short but we have been grabbing quality time together and playing Monopoly Junior most evenings after dinner. It is such a fab game!

My Sunday Photo

13 December 2015

Christmas market at Kasteel Keukenhof. 

Weekly roundup #15

11 December 2015

Dear all,

This has been a super exciting week for all kids in Holland as we celebrated Pakjes Avond (present evening). On the evening of 5th December there was a loud knock on our door and two very excited boys ran to find 3 sacks of presents on the doorstep. My goodness we must have been very good.

I couldn't wait any longer and on Sunday morning (after making the lego dimension portal for the boys) I got to work on our Christmas tree. I went for a different design this year with new lights, copper baubles and beads hanging down rather than round. I love it. The Christmas decorations are minimal but the candles are plenty and it is really gezellig.

Silent Sunday

6 December 2015

Weekly roundup #14

4 December 2015

Dear all,

Hurray, I am very relieved to report that our bathroom is finally finished. It is such a joy to be able to shower at home and not have to rush to the Mother in laws every evening. I think she is probably relieved too! 

The boys asked to have a gourmet evening on Friday much to my delight, any excuse for family fun time and we decided to make Friday a Family night, packed with yummy food, board games and lots of fun. A brilliant start to the weekend. 

Autistic people do show empathy

2 December 2015

Dear friend,

I love our conversations around the dinner table. I really feel it is so important to sit around a table on an evening share a meal and talk together. It has become one of my favourite times of the day, especially on a day that I work because this is maybe the first 'proper' conversation I have had with the boys.

I don't know how it is on a morning in your house but I am normally found rushing around, making sure they're dressed, have eaten their breakfast, the dog is fed, school bags are ready etc I sometimes feel like an army sergeant barking commands at his company, poor kids. Anyway, I digress...

The other evening at dinner we were trying to sort out our schedule for the week. The boys regularly announce that "Mark is playing tomorrow" or "I am going to Dave's" and we are generally OK with that but we like them to 'ask' as there may be other plans. At first I found this strange as I was used to the mum's arranging the play dates not the kids but I have learned to go with the laid back flow here and as long as the boys are happy that's fine.

The little man announced that he had a friend coming to play tomorrow then the big lad said, oh yes I have 'friend' coming too. But he didn't look very happy about this so I asked the question; Is there a problem because you don't look very happy about it? What he said next totally knocked me off my feet.

I don't really want to play with 'friend' he is not really one of my 'best' friends and I find him a bit annoying but no-one really wants to play with him and I think that's not nice for him so I think that I should. 

I have read so many times that autistic people lack empathy. This can be linked back to the work of Simon Baron-Cohen on Theory of mind.

Yet, I do not believe this as here is another example of my big lad demonstrating perfectly that he does have empathy for others. In a previous post I have also discussed how he almost seems to feel the emotions too much.

Theories develop as understanding grows and Simon Baron-Cohen and his team are conducting further research at Cambridge University into Theory of Mind. It appears that empathy has now been broken down into two distinct areas:

ToM is the ability to attribute mental states to others, to infer what someone else is thinking or feeling. It is one of the two major components of empathy, sometimes known as 'cognitive empathy'. The other major component is known as 'affective empathy', or the drive to respond with an appropriate emotion to someone else's mental states. Our work is showing that in Asperger Syndrome it is primarily cognitive empathy that is impaired, whilst affective empathy is intact. In classic autism, both components of empathy may be impaired.

If I understand this corectly then my big lad is showing signs of affective empathy, responding with an appropriate emotion to someone else's mental state. 

For me, however this is just another example of the complexities of autism and a reminder of how no two autistic people are ever the same. But ultimately it a moment to feel immense pride that my son is growing up to be such a kind and caring person.

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