If you’re new here – read this first..

First of all, welcome.

Sincerely.

I’m glad you have dropped by my blog for whatever reason. 🙂

A little about the history of this blog: I have blogged previously at 2 other WordPress blogs and originally began blogging about my family back in April of 2010.

During that time I was Freshly Pressed and gained a sizeable number of email subscribers, blog followers and daily hits. But one day it occurred to me that none of this was important to me.

I realised that I really didn’t give a toss about those statistics, but what I found myself placing more importance on, was being true to myself, protecting my children’s rights and writing from my heart even if it wasn’t going to get noticed. I realised that I didn’t want to write about what everyone else seemed to be writing about and I wasn’t really interested in becoming a big-time blogger.  (Plus, I didn’t have the time to put into promoting my blog or blogging regularly anyway!)

I wanted to go back to why I originally started blogging – to create a place where I would be able to gain the therapeutic benefits that writing brings me, and also so that I could share our story with other families who may be walking along similar paths.

I have learned a LOT since my very first blog post and I admit that when I started out, I was INCREDIBLY naive. I now realise that:

  • Not everyone on the internet is kind.
  • Having a child with a diagnosis is not always enough in common to cement friendships with other autism parents.
  • There will always be people out there who will disagree with you and they will not be backwards in coming forward with their views and opinions.
  • Some of them will get personal.
  • Being too honest will open you up to cyber-bullying and may get you accused of playing the “poor me” card too often.
  • You have to decide to either let them win or refuse to be bullied into defeat.
  • Some people on the internet hide behind their computers and write things that they would probably never say to your face.
  • Children don’t deserve to be ridiculed because of decisions and choices that their parents have made.
  • I am extremely emotional and make too many decisions with my heart and not enough with my head.
  • I am not like everyone else and I march to the beat of a very different drum. And that is completely and entirely ok.

So in saying that – welcome to “Wonderfully Wired version 2”.

This time I will be refraining from posting photographs of my children. (Yes I realise that the internet has things called caches and our digital footprint already exists) but I have no control over that. I do however, have control of what I post from now on.

To begin with, this blog will be mostly made up of a collection of my most favourite posts and the ones that I am most proud of. So those of you who followed the older blog (which is now deleted) will have a sense of de ja vu when reading some of these posts. I will be starting to add newer posts as I feel inspired sometime in the new year and when life has returned to ‘our version’ of normal.

Hopefully you’ll all join me to share in the trials and triumphs that 2014 will bring.

Fi x

Please note that the URL of this blog has changed to http://www.wonderfullywiredblog.wordpress.com so if you had the old URL (same but without the word ‘blog’ in it) you will need to change it in your bookmarks.
Also – if you had an email subscription or “followed” the old blog via WordPress – you will also need to re-follow or re-enter your email address in order to remain on the receiving list for new posts.

Thanks x

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10 ways to spot autism in a crowd…

I am often asked the question: “What does autism look like” or “How can I tell if a child has autism” and the simple answer to those questions is “You can’t”. Because autism doesn’t have a particular ‘look’ but is detected by observing behaviours NOT appearance.

Autism is often referred to as the silent disability because there is no wheelchair or defining facial features to help identify it at first glance.

But if you know what you’re looking for – its not as difficult to recognise as you might think. It’s important to me to share this because the more that society is taught about differences – the greater the acceptance and tolerance levels toward children and adults on the spectrum for the future generations. So I are condensed a lot of information here into ten short points that may indicate an autism spectrum disorder.

The first rule of thumb in possibly identifying autism is;

ALWAYS GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.

Whenever you see a child who appears to be odd or quirky or if their behaviour is not quite right-even if you can’t put your finger on the possible reason or see any other indicators of a disability, assume that there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

For example: If you see an older child having a tantrum in public then it’s usually safe to assume that there is something else going on here. Generally, kids are too embarrassed to pitch a full blown tantrum past the ages of 5 because they have enough self-awareness to know that people will stare at them. But not in the autistic child because often they are simply unable to contain their emotional and sensory overload and it is no longer a matter of choosing whether or not to hold it in.

That’s not to say that older children don’t have tantrums, but in an older child, a tantrum in public is usually much more subtle. These tantrums are designed to get their own way without attracting attention to themselves. Like kicking a shop display, or mumbling insults under their breath or sulking and refusing to do what they’re told. But not flailing and screaming in front of dozens of onlookers.

And in an autistic child, what may start as a silly little tantrum can quickly escalate into a full blown meltdown if they are unable to make themselves understood. Usually something has triggered this tantrum and if its not nipped in the bud it can get really messy really fast. Autistic children cannot control these meltdowns and are unaware that they are causing a scene and giving into them wouldn’t end the yelling whereas in a tantrum – it would.

But back to spotting autism….

Let’s imagine that you are in a playground and you know that there is an autistic child playing in there but have no idea which one it is. What would be the first clue that you would look for?

For me, spotting that child would be as simple as looking for the one who seems to be on the outer.

1. BEING ALOOF:

The child who either plays alone or is trailing along behind the other kids desperately wanting to be included. It’s often wrongly assumed that autistic kids don’t care for other kids but often it’s just their underdeveloped social skills and lack of social intuition that are holding them back. Most of the time they desperately want friends but don’t know how to initiate conversations or interact with other children. These kids don’t read body language or facial expressions and may not understand if another child gives them the ‘leave me alone’ face. Children on the autism spectrum learn by mimicking their typically developing peers and you would be looking for the child who is ‘following’ rather than leading the group.

However – in some of the higher functioning children (Aspergers Syndrome especially) the child may actually be the ‘life of the party’ and come across as obnoxious, precocious, loud, inflexible and unreasonable. But it’s important to remember that this is not a character flaw – it’s indicative of their under developed social awareness. They just want to be included but don’t understand how to do this in a socially acceptable manner. Either way – the child has a definite “quirkiness” about them.

2: REPETITIVE PLAY

Children with autism may also indulge in a lot of repetitive play. They may sit and watch the spinning of a wheel for a long time or continue to retrace their steps and repeat the same actions over and over again never seeming to tire of the monotony. That’s because children with autism enjoy getting the same result every time and take great comfort from being able to predict the outcome in an otherwise unpredictable world. These kids may also group items together or line them up. Example: rocks in a line in a sandpit or leaves sorted into colour shades.

3. EYE CONTACT

A child who has autism will rarely make eye contact with strangers or with other children. They can sometimes appear to be ignoring you but this is rarely the case. I’ve been told by autistic individuals that they are unable to look at people when they’re spoken to because it confuses them and they have to stop listening in order to look. They say that looking in people’s eyes is frightening unless they know , love and trust the person talking. Often times a child with autism may become mute when a stranger speaks to them because they cannot form the correct words whilst their brain is in freak-out mode.

4. TOUCH

If a child is in fact on the autistic spectrum, they may react if they are touched, hugged or accidentally brushed up against in a playground setting. They may strike out at another child who playfully pushes, taps or attempts to cuddle them as they sense that their personal space is being invaded. Because of this, they can wrongly be labelled as ‘rough’ ‘mean’ or ‘aggressive’ but really it’s just their self-protection mode kicking in.

Or….a child who under registers stimuli may do the exact opposite and be overly affectionate and not seem to recognise those invisible boundaries that we all have. Either way – the behaviours displayed here in these two scenarios are an indication that there is something bigger going on with that child.

5. UNDERSTANDING VERBAL CUES

These kids struggle to understand and comprehend instructions especially if they’re complex or contain too many steps. So you’re looking for the child who seems to be deaf or ignoring their parents or who doesn’t register that they’ve been spoken to immediately. The child may explode if they are unable to convey their wants and needs to their caregiver and become frustrated if they’re not understood by other children.

6. REPETITION

An autistic child may repeat (and mimic) the phrases that other children use or insert lines from a movie or tv show into a conversation whether it fits or not. This is called echolalia and it is a very common communication tool for children who are developing speech.

7. RULES

If a group of children are playing together and one of them changes the ‘rules’ or starts to play it differently, the autistic child may react with aggression or anger because they are not coping with change and suddenly become frightened at their lack of understanding. Autistic children thrive on rules and routines and require them to function peacefully.

8. SENSORY STIMULII

A child with autism may severely under or over react to noises, crowds, smells and sights. This is all due to their sensory system either being overloaded or under registering. Most typically developing children won’t notice subtle changes in noise levels or the sun getting brighter but you can bet your bottom dollar that the over sensory child will be the first to react negatively.

9. UNUSUAL COMPASSION

Children with autism usually always have an affinity with nature and with animals. They seem to have somewhat of a connection that most of us just don’t understand. The autistic child may be the one who prefers to lay down in the dirt with a dog or finds a lizard underneath a rock. They may also become upset and inconsolable if another child steps on an insect and go into bat for the poor defenseless ants that are crawling up your leg!

Every single autistic individual that I have met has got a very gentle nature and a sensitivity to all forms of life that most of us could really only dream of.

10. DANGER AWARENESS

The last thing to look for is the child who has no apparent fear of danger or consequence. And this goes beyond the normal ‘rough and tumble’ boy stuff. These kids have an underdeveloped sense of caution and just don’t see the risks that most other children would instinctively notice. Look for the child climbing up the flying fox or jumping off the top level of the climbing structure or – *gasp* running onto a highway to get to the shiny object that has caught their eye over the other side.

Autism really is beautiful. It is almost magical and it is extremely rewarding to live with. But how do I know this? I and the mother of two boys who have autism and they have taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined.

Because of them, I now appreciate the smaller things that most folk often take for granted. I am learning to look for beauty in the most unlikely places and I no longer take anything at face value.

Let me encourage you all to dig deeper, invest into those “different” people in society and you will always find that it was more than worth the effort.

 

25 things to tell my children….

This is a list of 25 things that I really would like my children to learn about life and what I consider to be the most important things that I can teach them in my role as their mother.

I’ve written them all down in the form of a letter that I will print up and give to each of them when they turn 18 but for now, this list is laminated and stuck to the back of our toilet door!

I am amazed how much of this has sunk in over the past few years and regularly hear them quoting parts of is to each other.

Here goes:

My dear, precious, amazing children,

1. Please know that I love you all so incredibly much. And love is most definitely a verb.

2. There is nothing that any of you could ever do that would cause me to love you less. But this revelation is not permission to break the law, intentionally hurt someone or create havoc. There is also nothing that I wouldn’t do for any of you. But don’t deliberately push me just to find out my limit.

3. There are not enough hours in the day to show you how special you all are to me, and I want you to remember that even when it appears that I am pre-occupied and too busy for you – I’m only ever a hug away. I will drop anything if any of you ever need me. And don’t believe anything or anyone that disputes this because it’s simply not true.

4. I believe that you are all capable of achieving great things and I will support whatever life decision you make.  Even if what you choose to do is non-conventional and low paying. As long as it makes you happy and you do your best.

5. Having an asperger’s diagnosis gives you a reason for anger and resentment but not a right. There is a big difference. Some things will always seem more challenging and harder for you than for others but it’s not an excuse to give up. You are all blessed with many talents and skills and you WILL succeed despite being wired a little differently to your peers. Use this to your advantage instead. Choose to excel.

6. Respect those that are in leadership over you. You may not always agree with them but respect has nothing to do with this. If you learn this – you will go far in life.

7. Treat other people as you would like to be treated yourself and always go the extra mile.  Let people cut in front of you in lines, pay for friend’s meals and be the first one to say “I’m sorry” .

8. Don’t retaliate. It only exacerbates the problem and makes matters much worse. It doesn’t achieve anything but creates more drama and grief.

9. Always take the high road  – The view is much nicer from up there.

10. Don’t argue for argument’s sake and don’t desire to be right at all costs. It’s just not worth it in the end. Agreeing to disagree is a safer and much kinder route.

11. Stay close to one another. One day Dad and I will no longer be around and you will all need each other.  Even when you’ve all grown up and have gone your own ways – keep the sibling link alive and nurtured.

You will be pleased that you did.

12. Always do your best. You don’t have to always win, but as long as you gave it your best shot – that’s the most important thing.

13. Know what you want out of life and give it all you’ve got. Don’t worry if your dream is not the same as everyone else around you. We were all created differently for a reason. We don’t all have the same giftings.

14. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to life plans.  The catch phrase I want you all to memorise and repeat as your life mantra is : Different is NOT wrong.

 15. Be who you are. Be who you were created to be. Don’t mimic other people because you envy their lives. Things are never really as they appear. Everyone has problems – some people are just better at hiding theirs than others.

16. Don’t sit back and expect everything to be handed to you. Work hard and work faithfully. God will see to it that you are rewarded accordingly.

17. Don’t believe everything that people tell you. If it doesn’t line up with the word of God and doesn’t sit right within you – don’t take it on board – it’s not for you. It’s ok to say no.

18. Don’t cheat and don’t be dishonest. You will ALWAYS be found out on both accounts and people will learn that you cannot be trusted.

Keep your integrity in everything.

19. Speak words of life and words of love. Don’t beat people down verbally and don’t always say everything that you are thinking. Once a sentence is out- it’s impossible to take it back again.

Think before you speak.

20. Choose you life partner wisely. Choose someone who you not only love, but someone who you respect. Make sure it’s someone that treats you how you deserve to be treated and treat them well in return.

21. Talk about everything before you decide to marry.

22. Ask the hard questions like:  Are we having children? When? How many? Where will we live?  What is our plan B if things start to go awry? & What is our ultimate escape plan as a family?  If you both know these things up front – most things can be worked out before they occur.

23. Aim high. Don’t settle for mediocre – you deserve the very best in life and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

24. Know your limits and learn balance. People pleasing is very taxing on your soul, your emotions, your family and ultimately your life. It’s impossible to serve two masters. Don’t let your work become more important than your family and don’t let anything become more important than your relationship with Christ.

Lastly and most importantly:

25.  Put your trust in God not man. Man will ultimately fail you because we are all only human but God will NEVER fail you or forsake you. He will never let you fall.

Love always Mum xxxxx

 

10 things Harley wishes you knew…

This is inspired by Ellen Nothbohm’s book “Ten things your child with autism wish you knew….

1. I have feelings and emotions just like everyone else. I don’t always know how to express them and they sometimes overwhelm me.   Talking about me or my behaviour while I am in the room is a very bad idea. I have autism- I am not deaf or stupid.

2. My parents did not make me this way by bad parenting. They are doing the best they can with what they know. I do not need to be medicated, punished or cured. I was born this way.

3. This is how God planned for me to be. It cannot be smacked out of me, nor will I grow out of it. If I am having a meltdown, don’t always assume that it’s because I didn’t get my own way. If my environment is crowded, noisy or action packed, my sensory system becomes overloaded.

4. I did not choose to be different. I just am. I am proud of who I am because I am unique. All autistic people are individuals and different to each other. Please do not pigeon hole or stereo-type me.

5.When you ask me a question….you need to wait for my answer. I need time to process it and may take more time than usual to answer. Please don’t hurry me, it will only cause me stress. I need to go at my own pace.

6. I need to complete my sentences in full. If you cut me off mid sentence or finish it for me, I will lose my momentum and get frustrated. This may cause me to meltdown.

7. If you are talking to me and you lean over and touch me- I may react badly. Please remember that you need to ask to touch me. I’m very sensitive to touch. What feels like a brush on the arm to you , feels like a razor blade to me. I  need to be pre-warned.

8. Just because I don’t look you in the eye doesn’t mean I’m not listening to you. I find it almost impossible to do both at the same time.

9. I see things as either black or white. There is no grey. There’s no point trying to make me see otherwise. I am only 9. I still need to learn the social art of diplomacy.

10. I am trying my best to fit into “your” world, so please learn more about autism so you can understand mine.