Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Celebrating Christmas...

Last week, I was sat with one of my all time favourite Special Mums slurping frothy coffee

(Can I say that? Can I divulge to the world that she is one of my favourites or can I not show favouritism amongst my Mum friends? But I've said it now so I will leave it in)

Anyway, so it was a freezing, icy cold day and we were sat in a nice warm coffee shop with our hands wrapped around our mugs warming our hands.

We were talking about Christmas and of course our children.
My friend suggested that I write a post about how we celebrate Christmas as she knows we do some things differently than most families.
I agreed that it was a great idea so here it is :)

First of all, I have to say how I love Christmas! :)
As a woman in her mid-thirties, I am still very much a child when it comes to Christmas! :)

Now DS likes Christmas but only of it's done the right way for him.
It took me a few years to get the balance just right for him, with a few slightly mis-judged errors along the way but now we have it spot on :) *yay*!

My feeling on Christmas is that it can be such a magical time of the year.
I believe it can still be magical for DS (and me!) with just a few little tweaks here and there.

When DS is happy, calm and relaxed then I am happy, calm and relaxed so it's great investment to get these tweaks in :) *High fives all round*

Okay folks so this is what Christmas looks like in our house.
Here we go...

* Less is More....I think we've all seen the pictures on our Instagram feeds of the giddy parents posting pictures of their cherubs waiting Christmas presents. It resembles a  medium sized mountain in their living room and will take the kid to around the 5th January to open if they start opening very early on Christmas morning!

This would just be far too overwhelming for DS for a start!

DS recieves just a handful of gifts. And no, this isn't because I am a Scrooge!
DS needs to process each present individually, the least amount of presents, the less he needs to process. This means less stress for him and he only needs a short amount of time to do it as opposed to a whopper of a pile which will take him much longer to process and stress him out.
Santa tends to bring DS  a main present and a couple of smaller ones that he knows he will just love and get lots of sensory stimulation from! Oh yes Santa knows what he's doing here ;)

*Take a Picture...This is what I noticed. On Christmas mornings when a sleepy DS would stir and wake, I would whisper to him that Father Christmas has been and left him presents.
DS would seem a bit alarmed. He would slowly get out of bed, creep to he living room doorway, have a quick peek at his presents and then run back to bed.

Only after about 10 minuites would he then again get out of bed, make his way to the living room and start opening his gifts.

I realised that what DS must be doing is processing the 'scene' before he opened his presents.
Christmas Day is certainly a day from the norm so he just needed some time and space to process and work through it all in his mind.

I thought of what I could do to help him with this and decided on taking a picture of his presents in the room exactly how he would find them in the morning. I knew the picture would need to be exact.
I would then print it out and leave it next to him in bed.

So in the morning, DS would wake up to the picture of what the living room looks like allowing him to process the image in his own time before getting out of bed to open them.
This has been in place for a few years now and works well.

I find that having the picture takes away that anxiety of what to expect.
I also do exactly the same thing for his birthdays too :)

*Christmas Tree...For a long time now, I always put up the Christmas tree and decorations whilst DS is present.
This means he sees the tree and decorations going up in stages and again allows him that time to process each stage.

I decorate the tree slowly on purpose for DS which I have found helps.
He even lends a hand too :)
Decorations are kept to a minimum and I always keep the bedrooms decoration/Christmas free so he has a calm room to escape to if needs be.

I knew one family that use to put the Christmas tree up in stages. One day they would just put the tree in the corner and leave it. Then a few days later they would put lights on it followed by baubles a few days later again. They kept to this pattern until it was complete.
It worked for their young man, he was happy and they were happy :)

*Batteries...To save lots of time and lots of frustration (I am referring to the parent/carer just as much as the person with autism here!) I check what batteries toys need.
Before I wrap presents, I always ensure two things are ticked off each item.
They are

1) That the correct batteries are in and checked that the toys works wether it lights up, moves, spins or makes a noise - that bad boy is not wrapped until I've seen it do it's thing with my own eyes! :)

2) I untie the million cable ties and unscrew those mega annoying mini screws that hold stuff into the box.
They always take an age to do and I know DS would get pretty frustrated if he was mega excited to play with a toy but had to wait for what felt like an eternity until I had got the thing free!

*Playing it Cool & Calm...Christmas at one time was a great huge family reunion!
We would all get together on Christmas Day to eat, drink, sing and be merry - it was ace! :)

I lived in a small terraced town house then and how we would all cram in and actually fit in it I don't know but we did and we had a great laugh.
My Mum would cook the dinner for something like 15/16 of us in my then teeny tiny kitchen, it was superb!


DS would seriously struggle with that set-up today. He loves his family members dearly but would struggle to cope with that amount of people at one time.

So we keep it cool and calm for him being careful not to overwhelm.
DS does see and visit family but only a few at a time.
Just recently, I have been challenging him a little bit more socially with careful calculations of course.

I would never throw DS into a situation that I thought he couldn't handle but ones that I think he would be okay with then I've tried them.
Most of the time my little risk assessment has paid off and it's gone well, other times it hasn't so I've kicked started my Back-up plan (I always have a Plan B to everything!)

So as we do Christmas a little bit differently now that doesn't mean it's any less enjoyable or magical at all!
I still love it and what's more important to me is that DS enjoys it too.

I think Christmas is definitely not a 'one size fits all'.

It should be celebrated in anyway you like or see fit for you and your family as I am a huge believer in happy children means happy parents and happy parents means happy children :)

So that note, I am going to end it there and just in case I don't manage to pull up another post before Christmas, I wish you and your family and Merry Christmas! :) :)

Love Amanda xx













Thursday, 24 November 2016

It's beginning to smell alot like Christmas...

Christmas preparations are well underway here.

DS and I have been very busy bees in the kitchen indeed.

I have made our Christmas cake, Christmas pudding a batch of mince pies.

For those who are not familiar with 'Stir-up Sunday' this is a Victorian tradition when British families would get together after church to make their Christmas pudding giving it plenty of time to mature for Christmas Day.


I absolutely love this little tradition so a while back, I myself adopted it :)


So on Stir-up Sunday, DS and I got to work on making our Christmas pudding.

It is said that if you make a wish as you stir the fruit in the bowl then the wish will come true! (Stir East to West to remember the Wise Men that visited Jesus)


We all made our Christmas wish before the pudding went into basin for it's 6 hours of steaming.


This got me thinking about other Christmas traditions that I have adopted.


One that springs to mind is Christmas Eve boxes.

For years now, on Christmas Eve evening, I have presented each family family with a Christmas Eve box. Inside is usually something like new Christmassy py-jamas, Christmas socks, favourite drink (wether thats a miniture bottle of wine or a vintage case of Coca-Cola) some fiddly toys and chocolate coins.

The Christmas Eve boxes in time have become more exciting that the presents on Christmas Day! :)

I love doing this as I usually pop one of DS's Christmas presents in too which means less to overwhelm him on Christmas Day. I like to keep Christmas low key-ish for him so its easier to cope with and I think I've got it just about right now.


The tradition of opening presents on the evening of Christmas Eve comes from countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland and Norway to name just a few which is where I probably adopted this tradition from.
There's just something so magical about Christmas Eve I think :)

The only thing I need to make is some Mulled Wine which I absolutely love!
The house smells very Christmassy right now and with my Christmas play-list playing in the background, I am feeling very excited! :)
We just need some snow to finish it off nicely! :)


Must dash...


Love Amanda xxx

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Thomas Centre...

I sit here writing this with a sort of daft smile on my face feeling happy and content.

I know exactly the reason for that and that is because we have just had the most enjoyable, relaxed and much more than that but 100% SUCCESSFUL family holiday!

This is breaking news for us as the above has not happened since DS was a little baby and we went to Devon. He was 13 months old and the weather was glorious! One of my favourite memories was cradling him as he fell asleep snuggled in my arms as Daddy and I sat in the shade looking out at a beautiful view watching a little steam train chug across the landscape. I've never forgotten it or the warm fuzzy happy feeling I felt as I sat there.

We have tried allsorts of different types of holidays since with DS over the years but either there has been a safety issue with anywhere we have gone, it was too loud or too busy, it was too stressful, there wasn't suitable activities for DS.....yeah I can go on and on with loads of reasons why other places have not been quite right.

A good while ago, I discovered somewhere that claimed that they were an autism specific holiday centre! Straightaway, I needed to know more!

The Thomas Centre in Lincolnshire is owned and family run by parents of autism.
Reading their website, I loved their vision and aims for the holiday centre - it sounded perfect for us.

The only aspect that put me off was that it was expensive!

I pondered over this and pondered some more....

I thought of past holidays and how difficult they had been, some more than others. I thought that if a stay at the Thomas Centre was really as good as it sounded then I would happily pay extra for my son to be in a safe and enjoyable environment and also an accepting one. I would also be happy to pay for a holiday where I can relax with him instead of constantly scanning our surroundings for potential dangers and risks to him (I am sure that I am not the only one who does this! ;))

So it was deemed worth a try and we booked a long weekend to trial it and to see how DS got on.

Jan and Richard are truly marvellous hosts! They are very welcoming and very much 'get it' being parents themselves.
The Thomas Centre has been very much well thought out - Jan & Richard have covered absolutely everything! :) The place is immaculately clean and furnished to a very high standard.

We stayed in Victoria House which is a 3 bedroom two storey house. There are bungalows available too with full wheelchair access.

The Welcome Basket was the fullest I have ever received. It was as if Jan & Richard had done some detective work to what our favourite food and  drinks were as there was DS's favourite cereals and orange juice as well as my fave chocolate biscuits and a large bottle of wine :)


The Thomas Centre is very flat so I was able to see DS at all times. Also the grounds are very quiet as the nearest neighbour and road is some distance away.


DS enjoyed visiting Josie's Corner which is a sort of community room with squishy sofas, books, toys, games and tables for colouring, drawing and craft activities.


There is also a sunken trampoline, bikes, trikes and a huge barn which houses skittles, table football, table tennis, snooker and a soft play area. So even if the weather isn't great then there is always something to do.


The indoor pool was somewhere we visited everyday whilst we were there.
DS loves swimming and I loved how we used the pool privately.
Families book their preferred hour slot for the pool which means they have exclusive use of it for that hour :)


The Thomas Centre has good WiFi (a must for DS's iPad) and some great hints and tips from Jan & Richard themselves on ideas for great days out as well as autism friendly pub restaurants and the best take-aways that deliver to your door to name just a few.

A couple of major supermarkets deliver to the Thomas Centre which Jan & Richard suggest maybe doing an online shop scheduled to be delivered on your arrival day to take the strain off your car.


We did have a few days out but we found that DS preferred to stay on the centre's land so we kept trips out to a minimum for this reason.


Then again, who can blame him? There was a woodland area to explore and two fab play areas as well as everything else I have mentioned.


The weekend went so fast and I could see that DS wasn't ready to come home which really has never happened before!

To summarise, all members loved this break at the Thomas Centre. DS really enjoyed it and we kept commenting to each other how happy he was there!
Like a domino effect, because he was thoroughly loving it so were us adults!

I found myself a lot more relaxed and able to enjoy the break myself which as a parent carer is just fantastic!

I loved how families understood each other and our children, it was refreshing saying good morning to our 'neighbours' and them smiling away at DS when playing out in his pyjamas as he escaped out of the house onto the play area :)

So was the experience worth the price? Most definitely!!
So much so that we have already booked to go back!

My only regret is not discovering it sooner!


Here is the website, I highly recommend and just to be clear that I have received no payment or any incentive of any kind to write this, these are all my own words and views :)

http://www.thethomascentre.co.uk/

Love Amanda xx


Saturday, 8 October 2016

September in a Flash...!

September was a ZOOM month for me!

September always marks new beginnings for me. I think that stems back to a child with starting a new school year.

So every year when DS goes back to school, I start working on the house getting it ready for hibernation for the Winter :)

I start de-cluttering, all outgrown clothes either get listed on eBay or get bagged for the charity shop.
That includes abandoned toys too.

Then I start a mega deep clean which involves, scrubbing skirting boards, picture frames, washing curtains, cushions, pillows - everything!

In addition to all that and not quite content on how much I already had to do, I decided that the house needed a bit of a spruce up so I re-painted all walls, doors, skirting boards and door frames throughout the house.

DS's bedroom, I say bedroom though it was never his bedroom really.

When we first moved into this house two years ago, I decorated DS's bedroom in a car theme.

DS decided that he was going to sleep in the master bedroom (my room) and has done so ever since. He happily chose that bedroom as his and has slept well in it ever since.

As a result, I decided to de-child the second bedroom so I scraped the car wallpaper off, painted and wallpapered with a Autumn theme - it looks so different!

As I was at it, I ripped up all the carpets as I am exhausted cleaning the mud from them everyday and opted for hard wooden floors instead. Sooooo much easier to clean plus they look fab!

The decorating and the enormous cleaning pretty much took the whole of September up but I am glad to say that it's all finished and I am delighted at the finished result :)

September also saw my Mum and I host our first ever MacMillan Coffee Morning and it was a huge success! :)


I think most families, I've been touched my cancer and Mum and I have been talking about doing something like this for a while now.

We really enjoyed doing this, sitting, chatting with lovely friends and eating yummy cakes is one of the perfect ways to spend a morning in my book! :)


Plus we raised £102 which was way beyond both Mum and I expectations.....we were so taken back and obviously very very thrilled! :)

Another WOW was DS going to his first ever charity disco and LOVING it!
He wore his ear defenders and lasted a good hour and half before requesting to leave - I was soooo impressed! :)



I am now just catching my breath from it all and have vowed to make October a more easy going month of  catching up with friends, resting, reading, going on chilly walks, cooking and baking and doing more of what I love <3

I have got some ace ideas of some cool autumn crafts so last weekend, DS and I went on a nature walks in the woods to collect some natural materials.


I loved seeing all the pretty autumn colours :)

I will update what we make but right now, I'm off to make some mod podge ;)

Have a lovely and happy Saturday!

Love Amanda xx


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Summer Holiday Snippets...

Aaarrrgghhh! How on earth are we in September already?!

The school Summer holidays have flown by, which by my reckoning is a good thing as if they had gone slow then that means that we haven't really been enjoying them and having fun.

Don't get me wrong, we have encountered a few sticky spots over the hols but that's always to be expected with DS ;) We just deal with it as and when :)


Though, I'm glad to say that overall, its been a successful holiday break.

I find that in some ways, DS is changing all the time though in other ways he doesn't change at all?
Does that make sense? lol

For example, around 4/5 years old, DS had to be constantly stimulated with lots of adult interaction.
I would cram a day full of play barns, waterparks, parks and games at home....if I took my eye off the back for even a teeny amount of time then he would meltdown unable to cope with the void in his day.

Nowadays, DS actually prefers a chilled out, unplanned day at home doing stuff at is leisure.
He wants very little interaction from me compared to past years though he will request me to play as and when he feels like it.

He will happily come out with me for a day but I've noticed he seems to be the most calm and happiest when he is in his own environment playing with no agenda.

This has been great as with the gorgeous weather we have been having, we have sat in the garden playing in his sandpit, swing, slide, treehouse whilst drinking ice cold drinks watching birds fly.

Next week, he starts back at school and after his 'Back to School' hair cut today, we are all ready.

In a  few days, I will start preparing him for school by talking about what to expect and showing him pictures of his classroom, new teacher and staff.
I find that this helps him in a massive way and eases that anxiety of what is happening and what to expect. He will still struggle with the new term but this definitely does help with that.

After having him home and us enjoying lots of family time together, I will be a bit bummed out to take him to school.
I know that I will be constantly thinking about him wondering of he's okay, is he coping? Is he happy? Is he enjoying what he's doing?
So I don't drive myself absolutely bonkers with my constant fretting, one of my special Mums has suggested that we all meet for breakfast after getting our kids to school on their first day back.

I think it will be a good distraction for us all (especially me!) no doubt that at some point, I would of called school to check he's okay before my mums would of finished their skinny latte!

Here are some our highlights over the Summer......




On holiday....
Admiring beautiful scenery on a steam train...
Exploring in the sea...

Swimming with Daddy pretending to be a shark! (he loves that!) :)

Running with Nanny...

Sunny days on holiday...

Sandcastles at the beach...

Playing football with the team his Dad manages :)

Fun days :)......

Blackberry picking....

Baked Blackberry & Apple Pie using our picked blackberries :)

Just a snippet of what we got up to :) though we will be squeezing the last of Summer fun filled days before the season changes to Autumn.

Speak soon,

Love Amanda xx

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

School Holiday Update...

Well in our part of the world, we are now exactly two weeks into the Summer holidays.

We managed to get in a few family fun days before a very inconvenient viral infection came along and ruined our Summer fun filled days :(

We visited a Monkey Forest which was great watching them play and as there were a couple of newborns.
It was so lovely to watch Monkey Mums carrying, rocking and caring for their little ones just like we do :)


We have discovered and played on some really awesome play areas too which DS just loves! :)

We have had a walk around beautiful gardens and lakes. DS is a sucker for a cool water fountain. He loves watching them and dipping his fingers into the fountain  - though on this day he managed to run off and jump in a little shallow fountain, fully clothed! :) :)


We also visited a Special Needs playbarn that isn't too far from us.
It was a drizzly day so we mentally prepared ourselves that it would probably be really busy and noisy. But suprisingly, there was only one other child in there :)
We had a great day both Daddy and I chasing DS through tunnels, over wobbly bridges and down slides that at one point he was laughing so hard, he was struggling to catch his breath! :) :)

That was the last fun day we had as during that very night, DS start to run a very high temperature.
I monitored him throughout the night, kept taking his temperature and trying to cool him down.

Just like any other parent out there, I hate seeing DS poorly but with him being a strong little trooper, within a few days he had fought the bug off and sent it packing! Yaay! :)

He still isn't 100% yet but he is running around and playing again so he's nearly there :)


I very recently posted a thread on Netmums about ideas for sensory play. I thought it would be great for likewise parents and carers to swap ideas for cool sensory play activities.
I'm huge believer in always learning new things  - I really DO NOT believe that you can ever know it all.

Anyway, some great ideas have come from that thread so far such as a bucket of cheap cold baked beans and a bucket of jelly (which DS absolutely loves the feel of)

I chipped in my 'No salt/No sugar play dough' recipe which some parents are going to try with their children and young adults so I look forward to seeing how they get on with that.

As I type, my large bowls of jellies are setting in the fridge.......I get the feeling that today is going to be a messy day! ;)

I hope your Summer holidays are going well :)


Love Amanda xx

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Preparing & Organising for the Summer...

DS only has a few days left in school before the Summer break.

I can't believe that a whole school year has come and gone in a flash!

So being a naturally organised person, I hopped onto the school's website and ordered his new school uniform (which he has gone up a size in by the way!)

This boy is forever growing - the top of his head now comes up to my chin!! - very scary stuff!!

His uniform arrived yesterday :) I order both Winter & Summer uniform in one hit so polo tee-shirts and warm sweaters for the more breezy months and lightweight round neck tee-shirts for the warmer months.

I tend to hold off on school trousers and shoes for another few weeks just in case he has another growth spurt as these spurts are coming thick and fast now .....but when I was in Aldi yesterday, I noticed a crowd of shoppers around one of the Special buys sections.

Being a little curious (more like very nosey!) I wandered over to see what was attracting all the attention.

It was the Specialbuy schoolwear  - school trousers for just £1.50! They were DS's size, in the right colour, the right style so I grabbed 5 pairs - BARGAIN! :) :)

Feeling pleased as punched with myself, I trotted off thinking it's just shoes and school socks I need to get now :)

Speaking of growing boys ;) I had a really good sort out this week and listed all of  DS's outgrown clothes on eBay. They all sold straightaway! so I went off to the Post Office loaded down with two large shopping bags full of parcels to post :) The person in the queue behind must have done a silent groan when they saw my two enormous shopping bags full to the brim with parcels!

Also this week, I finished making up the gift bags for DS's teacher and class staff.

We always like to show our appreciation and say a little thank you for all the hard work they put in with him - I always include a minature bottle of wine in each gift bag as I'm sure they need it some days - I certainly do! :) haha

Next week, on my to do list is to mow, strim, trim, tidy and weed the gardens (which is pretty much an all day job!) and clean the windows and then I am done and all ready to completely focus on playing with DS and giving him my undivided attention without niggly housework jobs occupying my mind :)

I also met up with my Special Mums for lunch - just in case any of us do not survive the holidays! lol we will meet up again during the holidays but it's always good to find an excuse to get together with them and we certainly do not need much of an excuse!


I also won a chocolate hamper this week which will come in very handy for the Summer break! :)


It contains quite a few bars of DS's favourite chocolate so he will be very pleased :)

So that's been a snippet of this week with the key theme being to get organised for the Summer holidays.

I wonder if it's just me that started prepping for the holidays or do other Mums do something similar or even something entirely different!

If you do, please let me know :) I would love to hear what you do.

Love Amanda

xx