Planning for a holiday with a child on the spectrum

18 July 2018

Dear friend,

What do you take into account when booking your holiday? Somewhere with lots of sun, good entertainment, water sports, a pool with lots of slides, peace and quiet? It can be difficult to find a holiday that suits everyone, especially if you have varied needs. 

For a number of years we holidayed in familiar places and stuck to Efteling or Centre Parks. The good thing about Centre Parks is that they are all very similar (the accommodation largely mirroring one another) so our son felt safe, comfortable and immediately at home. But the last few years as he has matured we have ventured further afield. 

With some good planning and organisation you can have a successful holiday for the whole family...



Planning for a holiday with a child on the spectrum:

  • Involve them in choosing the hotel or destination.
  • Mark the date on a calendar and regularly remind them of when you will be leaving.
  • Before you go look at pictures on the Internet and talk about what you will do when there.
  • Choose a smaller sized hotel or a private villa.
  • Avoid going anywhere too busy - try and book at the beginning or end of the season when it is quieter.


  • Take your child on a tour of the hotel/apartment/house when you arrive to familiarise them with it.
  • Give a verbal/pictorial rundown of what you will do each day so they are prepared for what will happen.
  • Check flight times. We try to avoid late night flights. Paying extra to keep your hotel room if you have a late flight can also help as you still have a place to escape if needed.
  • Don't plan too much. Especially the first few days. Let them get acclimatised.
  • Bring a favourite toy/game/video game/music player etc to use as an escape during stressful times.
  • Go with family or friends who can lend a helping hand if needed.


  • Inform the staff of any special needs your child may have. Be specific about those needs. Don't just say he is autistic/has ADHD do say e.g. he won't respond unless you first use his name/he will watch first/he will need help to join in.
  • Your child may not want to join in with the kids club straight away. Break them in gently. Maybe just 1/2 hour to start. Show them the room. Introduce them to the staff. Take a familiar toy/game. 
  • Find a sunbathing spot close to the club so your child always knows you are at hand if they need you. Check in regularly!
  • Have a siesta every day. Tiredness leads to meltdowns. Make sure that your child has at least an hour rest (perhaps in the hottest period). They may also have more energy for the evenings entertainment!
  • Trips to busy and unfamiliar town centres/tourist attractions can be really stressful. Be prepared to leave if your child needs to. Have a safe word or phrase. (Take extra money for a taxi if on a planned excursion.)
  • Food. Some ASD children may have a special or limited diet. Check the hotel menu to see if your child's foods are included. Is there a supermarket nearby? Are there facilities to make your own food? You may need to take some things with you. 


  • Relax! If you are stressed, your child will pick up on this.

Happy Holidays!


This is a revised post.



#PointShoot week #64

17 July 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.

Important announcement: Next week will be the last #PointShoot until September. I will take my summer blog break throughout August.

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Photo Diary #3

16 July 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 some of my favourite moments from the week. 

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


It takes a big heart to help shape little minds.

This week I said goodbye to my group 2 class at school. It was really emotional. I've loved teaching them this year. The pain of the goodbye was lessened because my big lad came into school to help out. He was a massive hit and a really good help. It was lovely to see him in a new environment, relaxed, happy and at ease.

I took the boys to the cinema to see the Incredibles 2. Although we all enjoyed it we agreed that it wasn't as good as the original version.

I am now officially on holiday and we have certainly made the most of it this weekend. We started off with a family dinner at the Eet Cafe. The boys loved being able to choose their own ice creams.

I got a new bike this week, an electric one so I can keep up with the family and save my knee and we went on an extended bike ride and took the puntje across the water. It was a great adventure and I hope the first of many this summer. The boys were stars.

On Sunday we spent the day at the beach and then had a barbecue with some friends. It is wonderful to be able to sit out in the garden until late and enjoy the cooler evening air.



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My Sunday Photo

15 July 2018

Siblings, children of the same parent. Each perfectly 'normal' until they get together...


Picture taken on a Sunday Morning walk at Katwijk beach. 


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8 ways to help children learn about emotions

11 July 2018

Dear friends,

Identifying, understanding and responding to the emotions of others are very important social skills for all of us to have. These skills help us to understand and develop relationships with other people.

I have previously explored the stereotype of autistic people not feeling or showing emotion. I believe that it is not the feeling of the emotion that is missing in my son, rather the ability to reason with or explain it.

Research in the Autism Research Group at City University London, and that of many other labs across the world, shows clearly that autistic people do have feelings.

Individuals with ASD  express, as well as experience, their emotions differently, it is not the case that they lack emotions altogether.

Most of us learned skills such as how to “read” other people’s facial expressions, tones of voice and/or body gestures very easily and naturally when we were very young. We learned through social interactions with peers, parents and other adults. We somehow picked up this important social information without it being explicitly taught to us.

For some children, identifying and understanding emotions does not come so easily. That was certainly true for our son. He found it difficult to read nonverbal cues (facial expressions, the movements of the body body language or tone of voice). Without being able to correctly identify and understand the emotions of others, you are more likely to respond inappropriately.

We had to teach emotions explicitly and very clearly and we continue to have an ongoing dialogue about emotions.



8 ways to help children learn about emotions

  1. Help children to build their feelings vocabulary. Get into the habit of naming the feelings your child is experiencing. For example, if your child runs up to you and hugs you as you walk through the door, you can say something like “someone is excited to see me” or “someone is happy I’m home.”  
  2. Read books. There are many books that investigate emotions but you can discuss emotions when reading most story books to your child, discuss how the characters in the story are feeling, discuss how the characters feelings change in the story. Ask them how would you feel if that happened to you?
  3. Use games and activities. We used an emotions kit supplied by the psychologist and played emotions snap. See also: 30 activities and printable to teach emotions to kids.
  4. Watch Inside out. This is a brilliant film and it describes the emotions really well. Many children are visual learners and using video can play to their strengths. Make sure you discuss the film's themes afterwards to strengthen the connections.
  5. Talk about behaviour. Let your child know how their behavior might make others feel. For example, “When you called your sister names, she felt sad and her feelings were hurt. “ This will help your child be mindful of what they say and do to others. You can follow up by asking how they would feel if someone did the same thing to them. This will help to develop empathy.
  6. Model appropriate ways to express feelings to your child.  It’s important that children learn that it is OK to have their feelings and having the self-control to express your feelings appropriately is no easy feat but it is important to remember that our children copy our behaviours. Model the behaviours you want to see.
  7. Praise your child when they use words to express their feelings.  When your child tells you how they are feeling instead of having a melt down or tantrum, praise them for doing so. Be very specific. For example, “I like how you told your sister that you were sad when she called you names. That was very grown-up of you.” Praising your child for practicing good behavior makes them more likely to do it again in the future. 
  8. Teach your child different ways to act on feelings. Like:
  • Ask for help
  • Solve problems with words
  • Say it, don’t do it (say “I am mad” instead of throwing toys)
  • Tell a grown-up
  • Take a deep breath
  • Describe what you are feeling
  • Walk away
  • Ask for a hug

#PointShoot Week #63

10 July 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 Cranium Bolts



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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.)


Link up your pictures!










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Photo Diary #2

9 July 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 some of my favourite moments from the week. 
Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over she began to fly...
It has been a really emotional week, filled with endings.

This week has been busy as I have juggled leavers parties, musicals, assemblies etc

On Friday, I said goodbye to my group 7 kids via FaceTime, as unfortunately little man caught a sickness bug which meant I had to stay home, to take care of him.

Friday also saw my big lad leave school.

Big lad has struggled with saying goodbye to his friends as he finally feels accepted. He gave an impromptu speech at school thanking everyone for helping him accept his autism.

Thankfully big lad also had a new beginning this week. An induction afternoon at his new school. It was my turn to get emotional as it is such a perfect fit for him. I am so relieved that we got him a place there. I am certain there are more great things to come!

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








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My Sunday Photo

8 July 2018

You can shake the sand from your toes but it will never leave your soul...



View of the beach huts at Katwijk. I wasn't sure which one I liked best so included both. 

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One Moment in Time with Four Acorns

6 July 2018

Welcome to one moment in time, a guest posts series, where bloggers share the stories behind special or significant photographs. I was so happy when Annette contacted me to say she had a post for One Moment in Time. I love her bilingual blog Four Acorns / Quatre graines de chêne the photography is stunning and her adventurous family are inspirational.  Thank you so much for joining me!



“Honey, it’s another little boy!”

I will never forget the words Brian whispered in my ear as our fourth baby emerged from the water in the expert hands of midwife extraordinaire Philomena.

D was born at home in the middle of the night. After waiting 9 days past his due date, he came out in just 2.5 hours of labour. He was still wrapped in the caul (amniotic sack). This is apparently a sign of good luck – fishermen used to buy cauls off new mothers to protect their boats from sinking.

D’s arrival earthside was simply wonderful. Gentle, intimate, calm, full of laughter.

A family event, rather than a medical intervention.
A physical feat, of course, but also the most empowering experience ever. Fully trusting my body, I discovered within myself a powerful force that I didn’t know was there.

This is how I became a mother of four, and our family, complete.

With this homebirth, my childbirth journey came full circle, and the wounds of the first time were healed at last. (My first labour was a textbook cascade of interventions, which resulted in a traumatic emergency c-section.)

None of this would have been possible without the steadfast support of independent midwife Philomena Canning. From the day I contacted her, she enquired, asked and battled alongside me so I would be “allowed” a homebirth. In Ireland, having had a caesarean automatically precludes you from giving birth at home.

In the end, my two successful hospital VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean), one in Denmark and the other in Dublin, were enough to convince an obstetrician to sign off on a homebirth with Philomena.

During this fourth pregnancy I came across the inspirational website Birth Without Fear, which often featured fabulous birth photography. A little bit of online searching for something similar in Ireland yielded no results. Until Philomena mentioned attending a birth which, for the first time in her decade-long career, was captured by a professional photographer.

On contacting Claire Wilson, of Newborn.ie, it turned out she lived only 40 minutes away, and that she was available around my due date.

I cherish the photos Claire took that night, all 158 of them! To this day, watching the beautiful slideshow that she put together after D’s arrival brings tears of joy to my eyes.

D has just turned 5, and his gentle birth at home, in the quiet of a full moon night, will forever remain one of the most magical moments of my life.

Annette is French, married to an Irish man, and they live in Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland, with their four bilingual children. She blogs in English and French at Four Acorns / Quatre graines de chêne to inspire families to unplug, go outside and reconnect with nature and with each other. 


Join Four acorns on:
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Autism Awareness: Tips for the end of the school year

4 July 2018

Dear friend,

We are rapidly heading towards the end of the school year.  The 6 weeks holidays stretch ahead of us. For many this is a time of excitement and anticipation but it is worth remembering that for some children this period can be a nightmare.

At the end of the school year most parents are relaxing bed times and allowing children to play out longer, to enjoy the summer weather. Not us! If anything we are tightening control at home to provide more stability...




From the first group (reception in UK) the big lad knew the routine. When he went into class on the morning he would check the visual timetable and tell the teacher if she had got something wrong. He knew exactly what happened on each day.

If you ask our big lad; What did you do at school today? He usually recites the days timetable.

There is a degree of safety in the routine of the school day, in the normality and regularity of it.

But at the end of the year there is another vibe, everything feels different.

There are changes in routine and schedule. There are new experiences, you are expected to do things with other people, classes, teachers, mum helpers etc and the social expectations are huge!

It is summer, it is warm, you are wearing new clothes so you feel different too.

The stress starts to build...

Then the class has a meet and greet with a new teacher s/he seems nice but different, the class room is different. Where will you sit, who with, will you know where things are, how do the chairs feel, how does his/her voice sound, does he get cross easily?

Too much change!

Meltdown...


Ways to make the transition easier:

  • Be positive! 
  • Let them know it is natural to feel apprehensive
  • Stick to routines at home 
  • Make a visual timetable and mark on key events during the last weeks of school 
  • Talk! What are they most worried about? Ask; If you could tell the teacher 1 thing what would it be?
  • Speak to school management: Arrange for your child to meet with the new teacher 1-1 
  • Visit the New classroom: Do this before or after school when it is quiet. Let your Child become familiar with the surroundings and meet the teacher
  • Sit in on a lesson: Try and pick a time when they are doing something you know your child likes. 
Supporting very nervous children
  • Parents meet with the new teacher (or old & new teachers together); put a transition plan in place and get the schedule for the first day of school


Let the countdown begin. Bring it on end of term, we are ready, I hope you are too!

Have a great summer!


Post revised June 2018




#PointShoot Week #62

3 July 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 @bryonyannie on Instagram.

Humor can make a serious difference. In the workplace, at home, in all areas of life - looking for a reason to laugh is necessary. A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times. Been with this one today as he refused to go to Nursery or in fact leave my side, with three children spreading time out is so difficult but he's been happy just with his sister and I... Won't mention the tantrums he's had alot today... Doesn't match the aesthetic. • • Day 40 #100daysofhappinesschallenge #candid #thisisparentingMFM #snappedup #momitforward #myonlyson #happythings #louthmummies #lincolnshire #preschooler #mumsofinstagram #summerglow #mumtimewiththekids #kidsareinsane #letthembelittle #growingfast💙 #motherhoodunited #positivitycorner #hashtags #needgin #freckles #ohheymama #pbloggers #candidchildhood #heatwave
A post shared by Perfectly Imperfect Mama (@bryonyannie) on

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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.)


Link up your pictures!








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Photo Diary #1

2 July 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 some of my favourite moments from the week.
 


You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.  - Maya Angelou


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










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My Sunday Photo

1 July 2018

Water your roots so your soul can blossom...




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