Shut up about screen time

27 June 2018

Dear Friend,

Is it a current trend that parents feel the need to justify their choices to others? I am sure that in my parents' day nobody told them how to bring us up. So why do we accept it now?

I have lost count of the conversations I have had with friends and colleagues where we have mentioned children watching TV or using iPads or games consoles and they have felt the need to qualify it with a ...but we monitor/limit how much they can play. But really, honestly, I don't care! 

Just shut up about screen time!



Big lad's play has never been typical it mostly involved lining things up and ordering things (early indications of his ASD) he liked puzzles and memory games and from a very young age he loved TV. When friends came for coffee the TV went out. I hid my sons TV habit like an addiction. Next came the game consoles. First the small handheld things and later attached to the TV. Big lad was hooked. Our world became filled with Mario and Skylanders.

I built screen time into our Big lad's schedule (visual timetable) but he raced through some tasks to get to the computer. I built in timescales e.g. half an hour at least doing puzzles/drawing etc then computer.  I limited the computer time 2 x 30 minutes per day. He just laid on the sofa doing nothing until it was computer time.

I tied myself in knots one holiday organising fun activities for us to do; going out for bike rides, picnics, walking the dog, visits to the park. I bought toys, building materials, made play dough, got cook books, set up train tracks etc Very often he would ask; Can I play on my Computer now? Or can we go home, I want to play with my computer? The obsession with monitoring his screen time ruined my holiday and his, we both returned to school totally stressed out!




I am well aware of the recommendations from Nice that screen time is limited to 1-2 hours per day. I've read the expert advice and there are some 'experts' that tell parents ...be parents, step up to the plate, make the difficult decisions and others who err on the side of common sense.

I do not agree with blanket rules being applied to people regardless of their circumstances. Children have different needs and different interests. Some obsess with Lego, Star Wars or comic books.

What is a realistic amount of screen time in today's modern technological world or for a child with autism?

Being "good at" computer games has actually benefited the big lad socially as it has given him greater confidence and provided a common interest to share with friends. I think we sometimes overlook the positive aspects of gaming.


Big lad took part in a Mario Kart tournament last night. ⠀ *⠀ He came home buzzing & with a small gift for 3rd place. ⠀ *⠀ I’m so proud and happy for him. ⠀ *⠀ It isn’t the placing that makes me proud. It is the fact that he is doing something where he is accepted, feels successful and happy. ⠀ *⠀ We hear a lot about the negative side of gaming but this is the positive. ⠀ *⠀ The other players may not have even realised that he has #autism It didn’t matter he was accepted 100% for being Himself⠀ #Autismacceptance⠀ *⠀ The people there called him the legend! ⠀ *⠀ It is amazing what this has done for his self confidence. ⠀ *⠀ It is time that we recognised the social benefits of gaming too. ⠀ πŸ’™ ⠀ #gaming #gamerboy #MarioKart #autism #autismawareness #autismacceptance #autistic
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According to Isabela Granic and her fellow researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands, media stories largely ignore how video games have changed in recent years to become more complex, realistic, and social in nature and  not only do the newer video games provide young people with compelling social, cognitive, and emotional experiences, they also can potentially boost mental health and well-being.

Positive benefits of gaming:

  • Cognitive development: improved problem solving skills, pattern recognition, improved spacial attention, working memory and quick decision making.
  • Motivation: being successful at computer games can be a huge motivator to try other things. 
  • Emotion: most gamers play for enjoyment and to help improve their mood. In our sons words, 'I just feel really good when I play computer games and nothing else feels like that.' 
  • Social: over 70 percent of gamers play with friends, whether as part of a team or in direct competition. Gaming leads to playdates, groups and spontaneous conversations, it has lead to friendships, our big lad has made several friends through playing Pokemon go. Video games can teach social skills. 
  • Improvements in executive functioning: Executive functions let people plan, organize and complete tasks (often a problem for autistic people.) 
  • Improvement of motor skills:  Many children with autism experience difficulties with handwriting and other fine motor skills. Touchscreen-based games often require refining these fine motor skills and developing good hand to eye coordination. 
  • Learning to lose: Being able to lose in a safe environment is so important. As is learning to try again and not to give up!

Children and young adults with ASD have unique opportunities to capitalize on their interest and aptitude in video games as a resource to develop desired social behaviors and life skills and to increase their physical activity... -  Games for Health Journal Editor-in-Chief Bill Ferguson, PhD.


I am not going to give my son free reign as research also warns me that autistic children have a tendency to become addicted to gaming. We do have one hard rule, no gaming after dinner and I also have an app to control their device usage (and truth be told mine). All devices are switched off between 8p.m and 7a.m.

Do we stick to the guidelines? No! But we have found something that works for us. So please don't lecture me about screen time. You don't need to prove your parenting prowess to me. I am the last person to judge!




 

This is a revised post.

#PointShoot Week #61

26 June 2018

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 

You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.


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Week in Photos #36

25 June 2018

Dear Friend,

I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus. Here I take a look back at our Instagram feed and share some of my favourite moments from the week. 

 Now over to my photo diary... Happy days!

She turned her can't into cans and her dreams into plans

This week has been all about taking the first steps and following my dreams.











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My Sunday Photo

24 June 2018


Raise your words not your voice, it is rain that grows flowers not thunder...



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A Glimpse into our autism: Cure

20 June 2018


Dear Friend,

Yesterday she rang me with good news.
There is a cure for autism. I read about it in the Times.
I quickly changed the subject.

Autism is often in the news. The press seem to particularly like the good news stories, from the child who suddenly begins to speak to the miracle stories of some 'Outgrowing their autism' and the success of a new treatment or a revolutionary diet.

Something about this 'miracle cure'  type of story just makes me feel uncomfortable. 

I know that some parents/grandparents/families of autistic children will have excitedly watched the news or read an article to find out about a potential treatment hoping that their child/grandchild/relative will have the same success.
Let's be clear here. There is no cure for autism. 

People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet. 
- Temple Grandin

My child is not  ill, autism is not a medical condition. But it is no surprise that the general public view autism as an illness when in the press we regularly see phrases like; 'the autism epidemic', 'autism disease' and 'disorder'. Mainstream theories still present autism via a deficit model. Autistic does not mean less.

We have to stop seeing autism as an illness and see it as a natural variation or a different way of thinking.

Whilst most autism research continues to be funded by the pharmaceutical industry (with I would argue a vested interest in medical cure) we will see little change.

Autism is what is known as an ‘all pervasive condition, which means it affects every bit of the person. There is no part of the way that my son thinks or feels that isn’t affected by autism to some degree or another. To ‘remove’ the autism from an autistic person would change everything they are, which is why the search for a ‘cure’ is such a controversial subject.

What message would I be giving my son if I spent my life searching to cure him or to modify his behaviour? You need to be made better? You are broken? You are doing something wrong? For a child already suffering with low self esteem this could be dangerous!

I am not looking for a pill (or anything else) to take my son's social difficulties away or help him understand his emotions. My cure is acceptance and a whole lot of love.

Yesterday she rang me with good news.
There is a cure for autism. I read about it in the Times.
I quickly changed the subject.





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



Point Shoot week #60

19 June 2018

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 

You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.


This week's featured post comes from the gorgeous Mackenzie over at Reflections from me.



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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


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Week in Photos #35

18 June 2018

Dear Friend,

I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus. Here I take a look back at our Instagram feed and share some of my favourite moments from the week. 

 Now over to my photo diary... Happy days!

My weekly quote:
I want to be like a sunflower⠀
So even on my darkest days⠀
I can stand tall⠀
And find the sunlight...⠀
We got quite a scare this week when we had to dash little man to the emergency doctor. I am drawing strength from this quote and looking back at our weekly photos to see the sunshine moments in our week has helped me to get some perspective.




Big lad took part in a Mario Kart tournament last night. ⠀ *⠀ He came home buzzing & with a small gift for 3rd place. ⠀ *⠀ I’m so proud and happy for him. ⠀ *⠀ It isn’t the placing that makes me proud. It is the fact that he is doing something where he is accepted, feels successful and happy. ⠀ *⠀ We hear a lot about the negative side of gaming but this is the positive. ⠀ *⠀ The other players may not have even realised that he has #autism It didn’t matter he was accepted 100% for being Himself⠀ #Autismacceptance⠀ *⠀ The people there called him the legend! ⠀ *⠀ It is amazing what this has done for his self confidence. ⠀ *⠀ It is time that we recognised the social benefits of gaming too. ⠀ πŸ’™ ⠀ #gaming #gamerboy #MarioKart #autism #autismawareness #autismacceptance #autistic
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My Sunday Photo

17 June 2018

Get lost in nature and you will find yourself...

Photo taken at Landgoed Clingendael



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Adding luxury to your home

15 June 2018

Dear friend,

Hubby and I have been very busy painting our house and updating the interiors. It has been quite an undertaking and one that was badly needed. We all want our homes to be as comfortable as possible. But when you are working with a fairly tight budget you have to be pretty careful about what you buy for your home.

It is easy to dismiss the idea of buying items for our homes that are not absolutely essential. Often, that is the right call, but sometimes those little luxuries are worth it because they can greatly enhance the quality of your family´s life.

Ways to add a bit of luxury to your home...


A heated towel rail: Trying to dry your hands on a damp towel is never nice. My IBS means that some days I am a frequent visitor to the bathroom so my hand towels are constantly damp. A heated towel rail makes sure they do dry out completely. Plus, of course, getting out of the bath or shower and wrapping yourself in a big, soft, fluffy and warm towel feels like heaven. Fortunately, you can now buy a heated towel rail for about the same price you would need to pay for a newbathroom radiator. So, in reality, they are not actually an expensive luxury.


A coffee maker: I love my coffee and would even argue that this is an essential rather than a luxury. Being able to drink decent coffee, while at home is always nice. Surprisingly, your coffee maker can actually end up paying for itself. If you buy a coffee every morning on the way to work taking your own with you will save you a surprising amount of money. Over the course of a few years, you will have saved enough to pay for your coffee machine.

Luxurious towels: Speaking of towels, a great piece of advice from my nan was to always buy the nicest ones you can afford. Higher-quality towels will continue to look good for many years, provided you follow the care instructions.



Decent sheets: Good linen always feels nice. So buying good-quality bedding is always worth it. The only problem with this approach is that you can easily end up using the quilt cover for several years. So, it is best to choose classic designs that never really go out of fashion. Something that is relatively neutral should fit in regardless of what style of dΓ©cor you choose for your bedroom.

Good mattresses for everyone: Getting a good night´s sleep is essential. The best way to ensure that you wake up in the morning well-rested and feeling refreshed is to invest in a good-quality mattress. They are not cheap. But buying a low-cost one can be false economy. You do need to know what you are doing when buying a matress. If you do not, it is all too easy to inadvertently end up paying a premium price for a mediocre mattress. This mattress buying guide should ensure that does not happen. Once your kids start sleeping in a full-sized bed, consider buying them a good quality mattress as well. It really will help them to sleep better.

What luxury item can't you live without? 


This is a collaborative post. 



9 simple steps to get children to look after their teeth

13 June 2018

Dear friend,

Did you know that record numbers of children are having tooth extractions?

There are record numbers of under-fives having rotten teeth removed in hospitals and even babies and toddlers are having their milk teeth removed according to a report released by the Royal College of Surgeons in March 2017. Milk, fruit snacks, and sweetened baby food is partly to blame. Dentists say that this Health Crisis is wholly preventable and parents should ensure that they monitor children's brushing habits until the age of eight. 

We were recently shocked when our dentist found my boys teeth were stained and recommended that they have a tooth brushing lesson with the dental nurse so I did some research and came up with the following 9 simple steps to get your children to look after their teeth.



1. Start them early
Take your little ones along to the dentist with you so they get used to the room and meet the dentist. Our dentist let the boys ride in the chair.

2. Make it fun
You can get some great tooth brushes now that play tunes or light up. Brush to music or make brushing a game. Read stories about teeth or there are apps which you can use.

3. Have teeth friendly snacks
Most parents know that chocolate bars, sweets and biscuits are filled with tooth-damaging sugar but seemingly innocent, natural foods such as raisins, oranges and dates are also packed with decay-causing acid that can damage your child’s teeth.

4. Get them involved
Let them choose their own brush and try a range of toothpastes until they find one they prefer.

5. Be a good role model
Brush your teeth together.

6. Choose a good dentist
Our son has ASD we had to find a dentist who would understand his sensitivity to smell, touch and taste.

7. Make it part of their routine
Routine is really important to children. Try to stick to the routine. One good tip is not to leave teeth cleaning until too late when children are over tired.

8. Bribery
OK, I am not suggesting bribery (I believe in intrinsic rewards) but now and then a little reward, letting them wear their favourite pyjamas or reading them their favourite story can't hurt.

9. Be patient
Don't rush tooth brushing to get them into bed. Allow plenty of time.

What are your tips for successful brushing?





Point Shoot week #59

12 June 2018

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 

You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.


This week's featured post comes from Old house in the shires.



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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


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Week in Photos #34

11 June 2018

Dear Friend,

I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus. Here I take a look back at our Instagram feed and share some of my favourite moments from the week. 


It always seems impossible until it's done...

This week has been about applying the finishing touches to the big home makeover. Everywhere has been cleaned (even the oven) and tidied. We had an evening trip to IKEA to get a few things we wanted and came home with a coffee table too (oops, bang goes the budget). At the weekend we enjoyed some much needed family time.

 Now over to my photo diary... Happy days!









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My Sunday Photo

10 June 2018

Escape and breathe the air of new places...

Photo taken in Goedereede South Holland.



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Autism and IQ tests: Why I am saying no!

6 June 2018

Dear friend,

In the past, nonverbal children with autism were considered mentally retarded, and those who had difficulties in communication were considered intellectually slow. Now it has become more widely recognized that autism spectrum disorder has nothing to do with intelligence, it is a developmental disorder. In fact more recently studies have been carried out to identify the links between autism and higher intelligence. It is fair to say that Autistic people like Neuro-typical people run the gamut of intelligence. 

French psychologist Alfred Binet developed the first modern IQ test in the early 1900s. Its purpose was to find children who needed special education. Common tests now include the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scale, and the Wechsler Scales. They measure skills that are, 'Generally important for success in school.' 

But IQ tests measure only a part of what we often think of as intelligence, which includes a person's ability to solve problems, reason, plan, think abstractly, and learn from the world around him.
IQ scores of children on the autism spectrum may not be accurate reflections of their intellectual potential. 


We recently had an intake meeting with a psychologist. We wanted to find some therapy for our son to help him with the death of his grandpa and we hoped he would be able to join a group for pubescent boys with autism. We left the meeting deeply disappointed as the only help we were offered was medication and an intelligence test.

We turned down both..



Studies have shown that often autistic children who are performing at grade level or above in school, have IQ scores that show them to have below average or even mentally deficient intelligence levels. 
There is...too much reliance on IQ tests that frequently underestimate the intelligence of autistic people... - Simon Baron-Cohen
This was certainly true for us. 

Our big lad was given an IQ test as part of the battery of testing he had on diagnosis (aged 5). We were shocked by the results and dumbfounded when we were advised to enrol him in special education. The results did not reflect the picture of our son that we had at home or school. We decided to ignore the advice.

We were offered another test when our son was seven. The psychologists acknowledged that the original test could have been flawed as our son was tested in his second language. I think they found it hard to believe that he was coping so well in a 'regular' school environment. 

The results showed he had a disharmonic profile. With high peaks in some areas and significant lows in others. But despite improvements, he still presented as 'below average'. School concluded that this wasn't a true reflection of his abilities. And we agreed wholeheartedly. 

When American psychiatrists updated their diagnostic manual in 2013, they acknowledged a difficulty with IQ tests and autism. They cautioned that measuring a child's intellectual ability may be complicated by the symptoms of autism and that a child's score may vary widely over time.

For a child to perform to their ability on a standard IQ test, they must be able to quickly respond to verbal questions and have well developed motor skills. These are areas that are difficult for our son and for many others on the spectrum.

People with autism spectrum disorders are impacted by sensory processing challenges and this can effect test results. The big lad will find it hard to respond in a room with bright fluorescent lights or in new environment or to someone he doesn't know or in a room with a ticking clock.

Many people with autism also have anxiety disorders. My son has significant anxiety around testing and a fear of failure. Why would I choose to put him under stress to get a number that means little to school or to us?

We know that it is extremely difficult to measure the IQ of a person with autism. Their social interaction problems, communication delay, and behavioral issues all work against an accurate measure of their intellectual abilities.



I asked our psychologist why we were being offered a method of testing that is ill-suited to autistic children. According to her the people who administer the test are trained to take into account the needs of autistic people during the testing by for example; giving them more time, taking breaks or adapting the test. 

It is worth noting that the IQ test was never intended to be used as a measure of intelligence. Some scientists have even gone so far as describing IQ as a myth. Dr Roger Highfield and his team concluded that, IQ tests are misleading because they do not accurately reflect intelligence. They found that a minimum of three different exams were needed to measure someone's brainpower.

I am not advising that everyone turns down IQ testing for their children but that you consider it as one set of data and that you take into account the 'bigger' picture when looking at test results. Trust your instincts, you know your child best and communicate with school.

To me my son is uniquely and remarkably intelligent. And as a teacher with over 20 years experience I will always struggle to limit intelligence to one test or one number.

Intelligence is, too complex to capture with a single number - Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man

I am saying no. What about you?


#PointShoot Week #58

5 June 2018

Do you love making photos of your family? Do you like to record the everyday memories you are making? Then #PointShoot could be the linky for you. Come and share your photo story posts with me. 

You can share days out snaps or a fun, special, or touching moment from your week. It can be one photo (including Instagram posts) or a series of shots with words or without.


This week's featured post comes from Queen of Collage




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A photograph is the pause button of life.

We are open from Tuesday 6 a.m. until Friday 6 a.m. (so there is plenty of time to link up.)


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Week in Photos #33

4 June 2018

Dear Friend,

I love capturing the ordinary moments and special times with my camera, looking at our life through a lens gives me a clearer focus. Here I take a look back at our Instagram feed and share some of my favourite moments from the week. 

Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love...
This week has been all about our home. We have spent the week decorating.

 Now over to my photo diary... Happy days!








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