I don’t need you to tell me I’m awesome.

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Asd: the teenage years

Dear amillionshades,

The  time has come to change our relationship. It’s been an amazing experience. You’ve made me laugh and cry. You’ve made me discover new things about myself and my family, but its time to move on.

I’ll always love you,

yours … a mother of teens.

You may have noticed a steep decline in updates from me of late.

My lack of social media contact has not been due to a busy work schedule, illness or laziness. Many times I have sat down at the key board, fingers at the ready, brimming with anecdotes to share, but have stopped short of posting.

Simply put, my children have become teenagers.

teen-ag-er: noun, “a juvenile between the onset of puberty and maturity

caution-teenagers

For a long time I’ve felt conflicted about what I share on my blog. Since starting this blog in 2011, I’ve always been mindful of my children’s privacy. I have never posted anything without their permission.

What was once fun and exciting to them: mum talking about them on the blog, has now become a source of embarrassment. I get that.

Their reaction is typical of many teenagers, whom shudder at the thought of their parents talking about them. They are at an age when everything is magnified — good or bad. Emotions and reactions are extreme, and like Melbourne, they can experience ‘four seasons in one day.’

I am still very active in my local autism community. My online support group, The First Step, is going strong with over 450 members. I recently also set up another Facebook group called, The Next Step, to help support parents whose children are making the transition from primary to secondary school.

There will be more posts. There will be more stories. I don’t know what shape they will take, but they won’t involve hormonal teens.

 

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all.

 

christmas-card-566305_1280

Christmas card, image by Pixabay

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Just for a day…

Sunshine and life in a grey environment Image: courtesy of Pixabay

Sunshine and life in a grey environment
Image: courtesy of Pixabay

Just for a day…
If I could stop the tears,
just for a day…
If I could stop the fears,
just for a day
If I could wrap her up in my arms and stop the world,
I would
Just for a day…
Maybe then,
She would smile and dance and sing,
Just for a day.

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Bill Runs Melbourne

I’m inspired by the work of Amaze and wanted to support them by raising money as part of my participation in The Age Run Melbourne 2015.” Bill Brasier

Run2

Here is a blast from the past. This is a photo of me and hubby from two years ago, taken after we completed Run Melbourne for the very first time. We were both thrilled with our efforts in our first ever ‘fun run’.

While my running career has been confined to the gym treadmill, Bill has been hitting the road every week in training for Run Melbourne 2015. Only this time, he isn’t jogging a mere 10km, but a very long (and sweaty) 21km.

That’s a half-marathon!

Although the weather forecast for this Sunday’s big race would be more suited to:

  • a. staying in bed, or
  • b. staying in bed, or
  • c. all of the above.

Bill is going to be hitting the town and hoping to run very fast to keep very warm. As designated support crew, I’ll be getting up early to make sure he gets to the START on time.

Once again, Bill will be supporting AMAZE. If you would like to help him run even faster, please click on the link below:

Everyday Hero

 

 

 

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Autism: education is the key

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to autism education.”

A Canberra school principal has been stood down after it was discovered that a cage, made from pool fencing and measuring 2 x 2 metres, was used to contain a child with autism due to challenging behaviour.

The Canberra school responsible for the cage incident says they intended the cage to be used as a ‘sanctuary’ and a place of ‘withdrawal.’

News about this cruel practice became public on April 2ndWorld Autism Awareness Day. Given that April is Autism Awareness Month; this is a timely and perfect example of the need to create awareness about autism through education and acceptance.

Light it up Blue, Melbourne 2014.

Light it up Blue, Melbourne 2014.

 

The government, the public and autism advocates have expressed outrage that a child could be subjected to this form of ‘time-out’ punishment.

This disgraceful event reveals a lack of real insight about what autism is and how it affects a person. It also exposes the need for a better education system for teaching children with autism and other disabilities.

Nicole Rogerson, director of Autism Awareness Australia, said that the incident highlights the lack of support in our education system for children with disabilities and, “… it’s not an appropriate way to manage a child”.

In an article published in The Age (Sunday 5 April, p 7) opposition leader, Bill Shorten, has acknowledged that the education system is failing many children with learning disabilities because “teachers aren’t properly trained throughout the school system, and partly due to lack of resources.”

The government needs to work together with organisations that advocate for people with asd, such as Amaze and Asperger’s Victoria, and also with individuals on the spectrum, such as Chris Varney.

Chris Varney acknowledges the difficulty that educators have when it comes to learning an individual’s needs. He believes that educators need to focus on the positive aspects of asd, rather than the negative ones, “The problem is few teachers are aware how to channel the strengths of children with autism.”

Education is the key

Education is the key

We know that ASD affects 1 in every 100-110 people. Amaze estimates that this equates to approximately 55,000 Victorians, and 250,000 Australians. These numbers get an airing every April, and they form the basis of most Autism Awareness campaigns.

Though it is important to be aware of the number of people affected by autism, it would be more beneficial to make the public aware of the general lack of support experienced by those with asd in the current education system, which leads to poor future employment prospects.

In the 2009, Autism and Education report, figures from The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal similar results, and they recognise that, “Children with autism need a high level of support to attend school, with 41% needing a counsellor or disability support person and 51% requiring special tuition. Of those children with autism attending school, 24% did not receive any additional support. “

Before my children were diagnosed with autism spectrum, I had no idea of the breadth and diversity of the spectrum of symptoms. Education is vital in dispelling the myths that still surround autism.

This is why our education system doesn’t handle disability education well; they are still trying to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system to a group that needs individual styling, from ‘extra-small to extra-large’.

Photo by: Ivan Chuyev, Dreamstime Stock Photos

Photo by: Ivan Chuyev, Dreamstime Stock Photos

My personal experience with my children is evidence of this. Each child had specific and differing challenges. Individual learning plans were constructed for each, based on their strengths, weakness and fears and sensory issues. The educational approach needs to be narrow enough to focus in on specifics, yet wide enough to encompass the spectrum — not an easy feat.

More Amaze facts regarding intervention and support:

  • On the positive side, early intervention can have tremendous results in helping those affected to live to their full potential.
  • For older individuals, timely and meaningful support, advice and information can also be critical to quality of life outcomes.

Asd education specialist, Sue Larkey, recommends ten key strategies which teachers can apply in the classroom to assist both, the child with asd and fellow neuro-typical children.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL1VT2jj2Z4

These simple measures not only help alleviate and deter stress for the child with asd, but they are helpful for all children, who can benefit from a positive educational approach.

Music therapist, Grace Thompson, an educator working with special needs children, uses music to make connections with them. She is a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, where she is currently conducting research into autism spectrum disorder and how music therapy improvisation can be used to help children with autism

I remember one of Lauren’s teachers who used to play gentle, soothing music each time the children returned back to the classroom from the lunch-time break. This served two purposes:

  1. It was a signal to the students that play-time was over and that it was now time to sit down at their desks.
  2. The mellow music had a calming effect on all; voices lowered, movements slowed, and bodies stilled.

Perhaps this should be made mandatory for all classrooms, and there would be no need to ever consider something as hideous as a wire cage.

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Only yesterday . . .

“It seems like only yesterday that she started school.”

I’ve heard this a few times this week when I tell friends that Lauren has started high school.

I know what they mean. All of a sudden, the years from prep to year six have evaporated and in their wake, lies a teenager — confident, mature, and all-so-grown-up-looking in her new blazer and dress —my daughter.

I feel over-whelmed and excited; anxious, and stupidly happy. Here is my girl, who, when she started school at the tender age of five, could only speak two, sometimes, three word instructions (never mind whole sentences); who, would sit on the school bus to and from the autistic school in silence with her thumb planted firmly in her mouth, and who, would refuse to do anything like eat, drink, or get dressed, without the strictest of personal rituals.

This week I have watched as she has gotten out of bed at 6.30am and put on a dress (without complaint); has travelled to and from school by herself on the bus, and has completed her homework tasks (every night).

She continues to surprise and delight me with her confidence. She is my brave girl; always willing to give things a go.

“Hey, mum, I finished my homework.”

“Hey, mum, I’m going on a scooter ride.”

“Hey, mum, I put my name down to do hair and make-up for the school play.”

First day of high school

Lauren: first day of high school

Behind these simple tasks are years of social stories, speech therapy and psychology sessions. In the doing, Lauren is discovering a new world all over again; a world that she can participate in without the need to control every moment. She no longer falls apart or has a meltdown when things don’t’ go according to plan.

I am full of admiration for her never-give-up spirit, and my heart swells with pride when I see her hoist her school bag over her shoulder and walk out the front door.

Yes, it may seem like only yesterday, but I’m so glad it is today.

 

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