How to explain autism to siblings

22 February 2017

Dear friend,

How do you explain autism to children? Lately we have come across this issue in our own family as our youngest son (aged 7) has wanted to know more about his brothers autism. He has always heard the word 'autism' at home as we talk openly with our eldest son about his issues. But thanks to a caring teacher we recently found out that our youngest was struggling to understand what autism means and was feeling a sense of care and responsibility towards his brother (read more). We needed to explain what autism is.

We have always been open about autism but before now (under 7) we felt it was important to keep things simple. Things we told our son:
  • Your brother has a busy brain
  • Your brother sometimes gets a full head
  • You are safe
  • Your brother loves you
  • You are not autistic
  • You can’t catch autism

Initially, this was enough but the autism discussion needs to be an ongoing one because as our son has grown so have his questions. Things we told our son at age 7:
  • Autism is a problem in the brain - we have stuck with the busy brain analogy
  • People with autism learn in different ways
  • Your brother has strengths and weaknesses like you do
  • If your friends have questions, we can help you figure out what to say
  • You are not responsible for your brother that is mummy and daddy's job
  • Your brother does love you he just doesn't love cuddles and kisses
  • It is good to ask questions

We read books together but more importantly we talked about them. There are some fabulous books, written for children that explain autism in a simple way. We already had some books which we shared with our big lad when he was diagnosed so we shared these with the little man and talked about them.

  • Autism is by Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan
  • Autistic? How Silly is That!: I Don't Need Any Labels at All by Lynda Farrington Wilson

  • My brother is autistic; Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
  • The Children's Guide to Autism; Fiona Reeves

Don't be afraid to Seek specialist help - there are courses/groups for siblings of special needs children.

It is important to remember that every autistic child is different. We read the books etc but then we talked about our experience of autism and what autism means to our family together. What helped more than anything was that the boys talked together. The big lad explained what autism meant to him and that he was OK and didn't need to be looked after but thank you. We reassured the little man that whilst it was right and good to care for his brother he must not worry too much, that wasn't his job.
We watched the presentation that my son put together for his class; What is autism? (See here).

Like I said earlier the discussion needs to be an ongoing one. I understand that my son may need more time to discuss his feelings especially as he hits the teenage years. But I am confident that as a loving family and with open communication we can face this together.

Need more help? Check out the Sibs website.

Just a boy!

21 February 2017

Dear friend,

Yesterday he performed his first DJ set in a bar. The huge smile on his face lit up the whole room and his eyes sparkled with excitement. This was his moment!

I hid my feelings behind the camera, as I so often do, looking at our life through a lens can give me the distance I need to control my racing emotions.

I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined this day. How could the confident, smiling boy who was commanding the room be the same toddler who hid behind my legs when anyone spoke to him, or the frustrated, anxious child who just wanted to blend into the background? The tears pricked my eyes and caught in my throat, halting my speech but I heard him saying:

Mum you're so embarrassing...

So pulled myself together and stepped back into the moment.

Much of our life with autism is about control, keeping things normal, sticking to the routine, making him feel safe but mostly self control...

I have learned to be less reactive, to stay calm and hide those emotions but it isn't always easy!

Watching my beaming son I felt totally overwhelmed with pride and emotion but surrounded by the love and support of our family and friends, I got a glimpse of how lucky we really are.

He is happy and he is loved!

This was a day to come out from behind the camera, forget about autism and just celebrate my boy!

Yesterday he performed his first DJ set in a bar. The huge smile on his face lit up the whole room and his eyes sparkled with excitement. This was his moment!

A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer:  this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...

Book Corner: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks The Pirate's Curse

20 February 2017

My book corner choice this month is: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks The Pirate's curse by Kristina Stephenson

We have several books in the Sir Charlie Stinky Socks series and previously reviewed the Tale of the Wizard's Whisper but we loved this one so much we had to share it too. 

The Mystery Blogger Award

14 February 2017

Dear friends,

I was totally flabbergasted and honoured to receive a Mystery Blogger Award from the amazing Lisa Pomerantzster. It made my day as I love this lady and her amazing sense of humour and inspiring posts on her blog Lisa Pomerantzer: Are we there yet? I particularly enjoy her Wordless Wednesday posts highlighting her brilliant photography, beautiful girls and very cute dog. 

Okoto Enigma, creator of this beautiful honor writes, “Mystery Blogger Award”is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.

3 things about me:

  • When I was younger I wanted to be a dancer and won a national championship but had to give it up due to problems with my knee
  • I hate pineapple
  • I can't whistle

My favourite posts:

My 5 questions:
  1. What is the best mistake you ever made? I have no idea. I have made plenty of mistakes but I can't say I have a best mistake. I will say that I would rather call them learning experiences than mistakes or is that the perfectionist in me?
  2. Rain or snow, and why? Rain. Having a dodgy knee means I am terrified of slipping over in snow and become a hermit when there is snow outside!
  3. What is one thing in history you would like to change? Oh my goodness this is such a hard question and I really want to say something super intelligent but I honestly have no idea. Could I go back and make Adolph Hitlers mum infertile? 
  4. What best motivates you? My boys motivate me every day. Kindness also motivates me. I couldn't work for anyone cruel!
  5. What is your absolute, favorite all-time movie? Grease or Pearl Harbour or Love actually - probably Grease - I think I watched it a million times when I was young. 

My nominees:


All brilliant bloggers who I have been following for a while now and who regularly linked up to #EatSleepBlogRT Thank you, you are all stars 🌟

  • Proudly display the award image on your blog
  • List the rules 
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention Okoto Enigma, the ingenious creator of this award and provide a link too
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • You have to nominate (10 – 20) bloggers
  • Notify your nominees
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

My questions for my nominees to answer:
  1. Who do you admire the most and why?
  2. What is your most treasured possession?
  3. What are you scared of?
  4. If you could learn a new skill what would it be and why?
  5. Why did you become a blogger?

Parenting from a special perspective: Its a Tink thing

13 February 2017

Ever wondered what it is really like to parent from a special perspective? Parent to a Special Needs Child? Where do you turn for help? What challenges do you face? What has surprised you? What have you learned? Every month I will be featuring one of my brilliant fellow SEND bloggers and sharing their reflections on raising a child with special needs. 

Welcome Kelly to Diary of an Imperfect Mum. 

Kelly blogs over at It's a Tink Thing a blog about her daughter, Tink, and their life with autism.

This blog is my way of dealing with the craziness of my mind and our life right now…

1.      When did you first realise your child has autism? 
We knew Tink had issues with her speech and communication, so asked for a referral to a speech therapist, which she had when she was coming up to 2 years old.  It was the therapist that first mentioned autism. It hadn't even crossed my mind at that point.

2.      How did you feel when you found out that your child has autism? 
At that initial SLT appointment, in denial.  It wasn't autism. She was waving, not flapping her hands! She wasn't looking at you because you're a stranger. She wasn't doing as you ask because she's so little!  As time went on we saw a paediatrician (who agreed with the SLT) and then an assessment at the Child Development Centre. By this time, I had learnt more about autism and realised that it was the most likely explanation for Tink's behaviours. So when we received the diagnosis when she was 38 months, we had pretty much come to terms with it and were relieved to get a diagnosis as it meant we could move forward.

New school

8 February 2017

Dear friend,

Yesterday he told me I don't want to go to an Autistic school!

Why are you sending me to that school? I don't want to go there. I want to go with my friends.

I could feel my heart pounding in my chest...

How do I answer?

In my imagination I'm throwing myself on the sofa like a stroppy toddler and saying, don't blame me it's your bloody autism's fault not mummy's. But in reality I listen and nod and tell him it is just one option and he can look at a few places, and we will decide together...

I always get the blame. I know in my head that we take our frustrations out on those closest to us but the punishment stings.

I am taking him away from his friends and I am putting him in a school for 'Autistic kids'.  (He appears to have forgotten that he is one of those 'autistic kids' too.)

It feels early to be looking at secondary schools, he has over a year left in primary but we need to be on top of our game. We need have to make the right choice!

The choice for us is made smaller because he will not cope in a mainstream secondary school. The size, noise, organisation required, different rooms, teachers etc just will not work. We've discussed it with school and we all accept that but he doesn't!

It is amazing that we even have a school for autistic children in our neighbourhood. Parents will be desperate to enrol their children. He doesn't understand that we'll be really really lucky to get him into this school.

And if we don't get him into this school what is our other option? I honestly don't know... our choice is extremely limited!

All parents face pressure that they must make the right educational decisions for their child, this will determine their future success after all.

But if your child has additional needs the choices available are significantly fewer.

I want to be ambitious for my son. I want to give him the chance to reach his potential too...

Yesterday he told me I don't want to go to an Autistic school!

Why are you sending me to that school? I don't want to go there. I want to go with my friends.

I could feel my heart pounding in my chest...

A glimpse into autism is a series of short letters that explore how autism effects us on a day to day basis. Disclaimer: this is our experience not all autistic people are the same.

More autism awareness posts...

How to sleep better

6 February 2017

Dear friend,

Do you ever have trouble sleeping? I do. And lately it seems to have got worse. I either take ages to fall asleep or wake suddenly in the middle of the night and can't sleep or need the loo twenty times or wake up with the birds... Maybe I can put it down to my age (I can't mention the menopause without coming over all Miranda Hart) but in a bid to rescue my sanity and help my poor family (yes I have been a snapping mess lately) I decided to try and do something about it. I did some research and found that lack of sleep can also have a devastating effect on our physical health.

In order to rescue my own and my poor families mental health I did some more research.

How to establish healthy sleep habits. 

Keep a consistent sleep schedule.

Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night. Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep.

Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy 

If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.

Establish relaxing bedtime rituals. 

Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.

Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. 

Make sure you have a clean, comfortable, quiet, and dark sleep space. Use a sound machine or a fan to block noise from inside or outside the house, and install darkening blinds for streetlights and morning light.

Avoid using electronic devices before bed

For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. 

Exercising can help regulate your body and make you sleep better, but working out too close to bedtime can activate you and make it harder to settle into sleep.

Avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine or eating before bedtime. 

Alcohol and cigarettes can disrupt sleep, and eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort that can make it hard to sleep.

Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Too much fluid can mean regular trips to the toilet disturbing your sleep.

Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.

A power nap may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

Image source: healthline

Hubby and I love our sofa picnics, especially on a weekend so I know there is room for improvement in my eating and drinking habits. I could also do with more exercise. But I know my biggest problem is that I sit all night on my electronic device (the perils of being a blogger). I am going to attempt to stick to my schedule and to introduce a blogging shut off time. Wish me luck ❤️

Do you have any brilliant sleep tips that you could share? 

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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