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Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son
Something happened right at school last year: Princess P finally has a fried close enough that it’s a long walk to her house. Far enough that a sleepover makes sense. So we’ve had a few back-to-back sleepover sessions these school holidays.
They have come with a few challenges. The concepts of “ambush mum and dad while you’re on the phone to your friend” or “ask if a reciprocal sleepover is ok when mum comes to pick you up” have both raised their head. Some extremely loud play has ensued and questions have been asked about if the accomodation (Princess P’s bedroom) is in a fit state for guests.
We have also, given the weather, had some issues with sunburn. Given our daughters age, that’s as much her own problem as it is the mother of her friend. But if it continues it will be yet another nail in the coffin of sleepovers till at least Easter.
I would love to think these two-way sleepovers achieve two things: both an “escape to normality” for a girl growing up with disabled brother, and a “window to her life” for Princess P’s friend – some of both Magpie and BTB Fan’s behaviour have been eye-opening it seems.
On an unrelated note. Damn it was hot today. But at least unlike Tasmania, there don’t seem to be any terrible fires throughout New South Wales.
Compared to what other parts of Australia are going through right now, 34 C is pretty easy.
One benefit of Autism that I have come to lean on a fair bit is “rules.”
Generally, once our son knows what The Rules are for a given situation, he actually is quite good at following them. I see this as a consequence of “rigid application of routines.”
This has allowed me to give my son a fairly “long leash” in situations he is familiar with – when we are at the football with his brother and sister, or even, at the local pool.
Today, this fell down a little. And shock, horror, I was called on to actually supervise a seven year old boy.
The problem wasn’t so much the failing to follow the rules – in this instance a quite reasonable and significant saftety type rule – but due to his condition, the inability of the supervising staff to engage him to actually follow the rules. This coincided with me not really being motivated to sit around and supervise him having fun at a time when I was trying to actually achieve something for myself.
So what gave?
There was a consequence for both of us. Actually, all four – because his brother and sister were there – our time at the pool came to an abrupt end, even though I hadn’t done everything I wanted to do. Along with his ability to generally comply with rules, my son really does understand that not following “the rules” usually has consequences. So, with very little discussion, we left.
*sigh* as complaints about children with autism go, that’s a pretty lame effort. He really is coming ahead in leaps and bounds, and these Christmas holidays have been fantastic for him.
This year the 21st century becomes a teenager.
The teens are typically troubling times in most of our lives, with a lot of change and that’s how I’m feeling at this point. I’ve turned 40, and I’m looking at a year ahead with some uncertainty about how I will be able to measure my success.
I have some aspirations, but if I look closely at them they are routes to success not success in themselves. I need to look more closely at why I want these things, and identify what it is about them that marks them as signs of success. Many of the things I am striving for are intangible, which exacerbates my issue.
Maybe. Maybe my success will be achieved when I can drop the whole SMART attitude to my personal life? It seems to result in more concrete results, results that I know when I have achieved, results which I can help my family to celebrate.
I am very outcome focussed in my career. I really enjoy jobs where I have targets identified and where I can look to some kind of scorecard and confirm that “yes, I’m doing my job.” Yet, it seems I may be on a path to deviate away from that kind of work at the moment.
So what might be the outcomes rather than the indicators of success for the Westies for 2013?
I think those things are still specific enough, without being so carved in stone that there is no room for an alternative solution I haven’t considered yet.
Food for future thought.
Today was a bit of a big one at Westie Central. For the first day since I came home from working in Canberra, Bec had to work, leaving me with all three kids all at once. Which of course is a Big Deal for a dad, even though I’m one of the first to say if they are my kids it’s parenting not babysitting.
There has been far too much electronic time happening in our place since Christmas (or even since Magpie’s birthday). Yesterday I thought that Bec’s return to work was a perfect opportunity to do something about that. So the kids were put on notice that once I returned from my own run, they would be coming with me for a run. So I ran my lap of the suburb, did a few chores and we hit the pavement.
There is a very convenient landmark which is almost exactly 1km from our front gate, which is right on the path of a running track. So all of us headed for that landmark (it’s a bridge), me leading he way with BTB Fan and the dogs. Given the dogs had already finished about 8km, Howie was still eager to go while Lizzie was a bit over it. Yet in only a small fraction longer a time than my standard time, there I was at that bridge with BTB Fan and two dogs.
About a minute later up came Princess P.
Several minutes later again… Magpie finally staggered up. Grumbling about not being at home.
My understanding is the run home was quicker by all parties – except me, who at this point was pushing 10km for the day, and had mown the lawn as well…
Later we headed off to the pool. Both Magpie and Princess P had been told point blank that they would be requried to swim a lap of the full size outdoor pool, because with all the pool time they have had they have spent none of it improving their swimming. I take responsibility for that, but I will reqiure them to put some effort into improving the situation in my own way, if they don’t fix it themselves.
This was accomodated quite readily by Princess P. But somewhere it seems the message had not filtered all the way into Magpie’s head.
As a result… he was less prepared than I had thought he was.
So I had my first in-pool meltdown. In front of some of his school friends, as well as a lifeguard…. Which ended with him swimming his first ever lap of the Olympic pool, back-stroke. Well done mate! At which point I told him that he needed to do it “freestyle” (meaing “front crawl“), and we had another meltdown. In the pool. But again, I perservered, and he swum the lap in the stroke I expected him to use, albeit freaking out and grabbing the lane rope every three to ten strokes.
At the end of it all, he was glad he’d done it, though.
Later, I went through much the same with my littlest Westie, “swimming” (with me supporting his hips) two lengths of the outdoor childrens pool.
Not the best trip to the pool for us. We had been going so well before Christmas, too, but with our routine broken… it was as good an opportunity to establish the routine I need these kids to follow, if they want me to take them to the pool every day while it’s hot and I’m not working.
Stretching our boundaries will bring some growth. One way or another.
Well it seems we are still here so unless that was a spiritual or emotional end of the world, they were wrong.
As has been stated, the Mayans seem to have successfully predicted the end of employment for a bunch of people I have been working with. I’m too tired to get over that quickly I think, but I should be fine by the time 2013 rolls around.
Today is the 22nd of December. A Saturday. Three days before Christmas. and I am taking one child diagnosed with Autism and his two siblings – one under assessment for Autism – to the shops.
Great question. There are a few answers.
Autism should not rule you put of experiences. It should not be an excuse to opt out of every experience you are not 100% equipped to deal with right now. But parents should be right there to support monitor and intervene.
On top of that. I’m time poor this side of Christmas. That is not my preference but comparing the certain money available last week with the uncertain money available next year it was not s difficult choice.
I will take some pics. There will be more to follow. I will celebrate my kids success. I may also mourn if it becomes too much.
Yesterday, my family went out to dinner to both celebrate Magpie’s birthday, and because after being away for so long I just wanted to.
We came home to a message that my nephew is in town and would like to catch up with his cousins. So today for the first time in a long time I went to a Sydney beach – at Coogee – in fact it was the first time I have been to a Sydney beach with my wife or kids!
We had a great day. Well, I did, and BTB Fan seemed to.
My nephew is having the type of career I was worried I may have when I was very young – driving agricultural equipment – but unlike me he is enjoying it and earning a pretty ok living (I drive plenty on my fathers farm).
It was really great to spend the day with him, and his girlfriend. I hope he left knowing how much his offer to spend his time with my family meant to me.
One event I have missed out on by being in Canberra, is my kids attending the Variety Club Christmas Party for kids for 2012. That’s OK, you can check out some of the pictures on my wife’s instagram feed.
I will dedicate tonights’ post to saying thank you to Variety. Along with a few other organisations, Variety have given my kids some opportunities to participate in things like a Christmas Party in an environment where if a meltdown happens, or some child gets too excited, “that’s OK.”
Things like KidsFlicks, where about 1 in 3 kids were in a wheelchair. And like us, none of the families had been to the cinema as a family ever before in the lives of their disabled child.
But today is all about Variety. Thank you Variety! You do fantastic work, and if any of my readers can share in the shout out that will be a case of the more, the merrier. Or even better, dig deep and help pay for them to provide opportunities like they have today for other children.
Sundays are a dichotomy here at Westie Central. They always start late, peaceful and relaxed. But soon after they become chaos and mayhem.Early on, I set my goals for the day: to go to the pool and swim laps. To ensure my laundry was done for the week, and my bag packed. That I spent some time relaxing.
Simple goals. Yet children, especially it seems my children, seem to be able to complicate such simple endeavours.
It started simply enough, with breakfast. Then “a chat” about “household chores“. One of those chats that people have with their kids about a job that it would be quicker to just do the job yourself – but that is not how to teach a person anything. So we haf a similat discussion to one we have most weeks, about who washed up how many times this week and how we all need to work together if we want to do anything with our weekend like “go for a swim.” While that sorted itself out, I attended to some other chores that are not so readily delegated.
Those done, I asked who was coming to swim laps with me. I handed out another job to someone who said they would rather stay home, when @Westybec said she was going to come, too. This ended up triggering a mini meltdown and not from Bob the Builder Fan but from one of the other two, who didn’t respond well to the change in plan.
But we walked to the pool. Part way there, Bob the Builder Fan stopped with me to read a “christmas letter” sign in some random person’s front yard. While his “elastic band” is becoming quite long, he does not appreciate being left behind – ever – and he was quite upset that his mother and siblings continued on. His brother and sister are “stepping up” when it comes to helping to keep him out of harms way in public. So today, his brother and sister took turns making sure he was going through the motions of using a water slide then lining up to do it all again, while I – and Bec – swam some laps. I’m not that great a swimmer, but it felt good to do some “serious” swimming rather than just “play in the pool.” Princess P and Magpie also had a bit of a go at swimming. They are both almost pool safe…but a long way from 100m “drownproof“, and they would really like to stop swimming every third stroke while they breath.
When I had quite enough of attempting to not drown – I’m a far from elegant swimmer – I bought the youngest one home. We stopped part way to gossip about gardening, which was a welcome distraction. My son and I made it home in time to chill out, and have a post-chlorinated-pool shower, before the caphony of Princess P and Magpie returned home with their mum.
My afternoon was a pleasant relaxation, before being under the pump to get ready for my week at work.
That’s a pretty typical Westie Sunday in Sydney. I hope yours was fantastic, too.
Things have taken a bit of a turnaround at Westie Central (it was what I’d called our house for years before Bec stole the name).
The Angry Birds have leaped from the computer and tablet screen into the Real World. They have bought with them a whole bunch of events, behaviors and activities:
The most exciting part of all this, is that it has involved interactive play with both his brother and sister, and even mum or dad if we are able to get involved. It is quite an exciting development, and that we are excited about this development in a seven year old boy is a story in itself. His Autism has been persuasive throughout his entire social, communication and emotional development, although thankfully it has (so far) had only limited impact on his physicality and even his intellectual growth – although his ability to demonstrate his intellectual capability seems to be very poorly identified or harnessed.
Forget about all that though. Let’s just celebrate his interaction with his brother and sister!