Tag Archives: Aspergers

Colour and Vision

On Monday we took a trip to the Natural History Museum for their Colour and Vision exhibition.  I love colour and anything to do with it so I really wanted to see this, and especially the light installation that had been created especially for the exhibition.  I figured/hoped the girls would be a little interested but took their iPads along just in case.

I find NHM to be quite ‘dry’ on the whole: it could do with more interactive pieces, which would really engage the sausages.  The exhibition could have done with some injection of life too.  Considering it was about evolution and vision, it was very ‘dead’: there were far too many glass cases of dead things, many of which made M and me baulk.

The art installation was beautiful and we all admired the changing spectrum of colours from different angles.

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D managed 5 minutes of the exhibition before collapsing into tears because it was so boring! 😀  So she played on Minecraft for the rest of the time.  Fair enough, it just wasn’t attention grabbing enough and the exhibits were too high for her to see.  M on the other hand, absorbed most of it – she asked soooo many questions and we chatted about evolution, the tree of life and the development of eyes.  Her favourite part was the only interactive bit – a computer game which tested how quickly you could spot a camouflaged crab.

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The past two London outings have shown me how ready and eager she is to absorb information now – the questions she asks are incredible and tend to get me thinking along lines I’ve never considered before!

On the tube, M wanted me to give her sums to work out – it was a good distraction from the heat and motion sickness she was suffering from.  She managed quite a few before her eyes became glazed and she just couldn’t even hold the sum in her head.  We had a chat about Aspergers and how she has a smaller working memory than a neuro-typical person.  Her diagnosis has been so useful to me in helping me to understand her more and to help her understand that other people have the same struggles too.

When we got back I put on my favourite ever documentary, ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science’.  The girls dipped in and out of it while playing Minecraft.

Overall, it was a good day!  I think it’s a shame that NHM is so old fashioned – I think they need to up their game a bit.  It’s so exciting just stepping through the doors but I find it quite boring inside. :/ Though I was impressed to read that you can now tour the NHM on Google Street View so perhaps there is hope. 🙂

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Edible Maths

M has been working hard at eating her 8mg of iron a day – just shows how far she’ll go to avoid taking medicine!  An off-shoot of this has been adding up the iron mgs each day and asking me to calculate how much she’s eaten.  Yesterday she got frustrated because she didn’t understand what I was saying when I said she’d eaten ‘1.4mg’.  In essence, she didn’t understand decimal fractions.  So I sat down and tried to explain it to her (all the while realising how rusty my mathematical thought processes are) – there were a lot of tears and anger but M determinedly persevered (and I kept my cool).  Well done us. 🙂

I tried many different ways to explain it (while wishing I had invested in an expensive fractions maths set I was eyeing up a few years ago) but what worked in the end was drawing out the ‘ones’ divided up into grids of 10, which she can then colour in as and when she eats.  She hasn’t grasped it totally but she’s comfortable with the concept and is happy to use the grids to track her progress from now on.

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We had a similar situation a few months ago when M decided she was going to use Khan Academy to learn maths – all was going well until it suddenly switched from simple additions and shape recognition to subtraction complete with carrying over (or regrouping as it now seems to be known).  I spent about an hour explaining the process and she got there in the end after a lot of angry tears but unfortunately it put her off Khan Academy for good.

I got through maths at school by parroting back everything I was taught, I had no real understanding of it and the whole thing seemed totally useless to me, though I can now appreciate how certain aspects of maths have everyday applications.   I love how M desperately wants to understand the roots of mathematical concepts and I can see how she’s gradually getting a grounding for maths that will mean she’ll eventually have a true understanding of it all.

Thankfully she can learn at her own pace, and work on concepts as and when her brain is ready to assimilate them.  What a privilege. 🙂

A Lot of Science

Oh my word, such a sciencey few days: M has been asking lots of questions and I’ve been thinking about how much I need to up my game in the science department.  My knowledge of anything sciencey is appalling and it’s something I’d really like to rectify if I’m going to give the sausages a balanced education.  I don’t mean that in the teaching sense, but I feel that currently my strewing is heavily weighted on the arts side and there is very little on the science side.

Anyhoo, as usual, M is pushing me along, letting me know when she is ready to take a step forward.  Her questions this week (well, at least the ones that made me stop and think) were: “What makes some things heavier than others?; What’s an atom? What’s the point of genes?”  Jeez, where do I start?

Well, for starters I need to learn some of this stuff myself.  A great deal of M’s learning is filtered through me, this is mainly because she has issues with any form of information intake.  So if we’re watching a film, I have to pause it every so often to recap on what’s just happened; if we’re reading a book, again I have to recap after each paragraph so that the information is simplified and re-organised in a way that she understands.  Sounds like hard work but I’ve normalised it so much that I barely notice it anymore.

So I’ve been looking around for some sort of way that I can learn very basic science.  Most resources assume some sort of prior knowledge – I even tried our See Inside Science book but I found it baffling!  The other day I happened to be on Khan Academy and I noticed that there’s a science section on there – bingo!  I spent a couple of hours yesterday learning all about atoms, protons and atomic weight.  After that I went upstairs and succinctly described an atom to M and told her that you could string a million carbon atoms across the width of one strand of hair.  This pleased her muchly so my time was not wasted. 🙂

We’ve also been watching ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science‘ together this week.  I can highly recommend it!  In the first episode, Lapis Lazuli made an appearance, which intrigued the girls as they have mined for it in Minecraft.  The presenter ground the rock down to make paint so D has now added a pestle and mortar to her Christmas list, which I think might be the best present request ever!

This evening we watched the second episode and M was grilling me as to why chlorophyll was green and not any other colour, and wanted to know the full details of photosynthesis – I struggled to answer some of her questions so I have a fair bit of research to do, starting with light waves which I’ve never really understood.

The way that M grills me for answers leaves me thinking she’d do very well on Prime Minister’s Question Time.  Her Nanny took her to see Annie at our local theatre this afternoon and when she got back I was reading through the programme, which had a little history on the 1930’s depression era.  She was really interested in the whole cycle of how and why it started so I got another grilling. 🙂

D has been SUPER excited this week because her friend came over to play on Wednesday.  It was honestly like Christmas: she couldn’t wait for bedtime to come and then she couldn’t sleep for excitement!  They had a really lovely time together and D has been counting the days until she can see her again.

We’ve had a very quiet day today, partly because M was out at the theatre all afternoon and partly because I’ve been feeling a little unwell.  D has spent most of the day cuddled up to me on the sofa, doing all sorts of ‘schooly’ type learning: she began with her Times Tables book, and then went onto her onebillion maths app which she played for hours before going onto some letter writing practise on her iTrace app.

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Phew.  It seems like there’s suddenly been a whoosh of learning over the past few days – no wonder I feel tired! 🙂

Focus on D

I didn’t realise it was so long since my last post!  I just haven’t been in the mood to write lately, even though I’ve had lots of ideas swirling around my head.

Leading on from my last post, we got up at 3am to see the supermoon lunar eclipse – it was a beauty!  We managed to spot some constellations we’d never seen in real life before too – Taurus (D’s favourite), the Seven Sisters and the square of Pegasus!  We managed to stay in the garden for 20 minutes before we all decided to go back to bed.  I tried not to think too much about where we would all be the next time there’s a supermoon blood moon in 20 years – that sort of thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. 😀

As I mentioned last time, D is coming out of her telly phase, and is often looking for activities.  I’m at a bit of a loss with her to tell the truth, her interest in space is waning and we haven’t yet found an interest to fill the gap.  D is quite hard to strew for since she doesn’t readily try new things so there’s been quite a bit of boredom lately!  However, this morning she came up with an idea to make a large golden key (inspired by The Secret Garden and an atmospheric puzzle app we have called ‘The Room’).  She has plans to make a keyhole with a matching symbol next!

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Lately, D has also become interested in competitive games – they were always avoided before because of her fear of losing – I’m impressed by how well she can now play Connect 4, all learnt from observing me and M play I think.  She’s also learnt a lot of Super Mario skills from watching M play.  She loves to watch and learn: I think it feels nice and safe to her.

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I’ve focused on M a lot over the past 2 years of home edding: working through her anxieties and helping her to blossom.  I think I can safely say M is ‘there’ – or at least, she’s in a place where I feel satisfied she’s open to learning and new experiences, her anxieties are low  and she has excellent social skills.  Further down the line, I think (and the paediatrician thought) some cognitive behavioural therapy could help her with some strategies to deal with her anxieties, but she’s not ready for that yet.

So now I’m looking more closely at D (sorry, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to multi-task as I approach 40 – one issue at a time!!).  I recognise a few Asperger traits in there, but nothing as debilitating as M’s.  I don’t feel she needs a diagnosis, partly because I’m pretty sure she is borderline and partly because she is generally more robust and able to express herself better than M: meaning that it’s easier for me to iron out anxieties and issues rather than fumbling around in the dark as I do with M.  I won’t go into the ins and outs of D’s issues now, I’m sure I’ll cover it in future posts.  Suffice to say, I feel as if D has changed quite a bit over the last few months and my focus will now be on calming her anxieties and expanding her horizons.

Now a few snippets on what we’ve been up to:

D has been playing on Room (an iPad app) and we’ve just downloaded Room 2.  She has some totally out there ideas about how to solve the puzzles and I’m learning to shut-up and let her get on with it as she’s generally right.  She’s also been playing on her favourite maths appTeach Your Monster to Read and the Arithmasticks have been out again.  She also made a rocket, a Christmas bauble, baked cookies and played on Minecraft.  This weekend we had a lovebombing day, although I got the feeling we were just biding our time until M returned from Brownies!  We did lots of sewing together for her bunny’s outfit, as designed by D.

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M has been for a day out with the Brownies (she chose not to spend the weekend there), and loved all the activities.  I had to make a mermaid outfit for the mythical creatures theme – it tested all my abilities since I haven’t made anything for about 10 years!  I could have done a much better job had I had time and patience but M was very pleased with it.

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M has been trying to finish off old projects, like the Fimo set she got last year.  She also made her first Christmas decoration and has started learning to touch-type again.  She has mainly been occupied with Super Mario on her Nintendo DS – she has completed 6 of the 8 worlds now and has shown perseverance way beyond my level – I would have thrown the machine through a window by now!  It has also meant that she has begun looking up the ‘walkthroughs’ on YouTube on her own!  She’s never dared to do that before.

We’ve given up on Minecraft school.  Freedom to quit and all that.  The subject matter wasn’t enthralling M and the stuff we had to learn to pass a quiz was exceedingly dry.  As it happens, the course creators sent out an email to say they’d had complaints that the course was too hard so perhaps that was another reason why we weren’t feeling drawn to it.  One week, there was a cartoon about the space race which showed JFK sitting at a desk with a picture of Marilyn Monroe on it… cue half an hour lost while we looked up videos featuring her!  Anyway, M loved the idea of a Minecraft school so I’ll keep an eye out for future courses.

They’ve both been having fun with friends too.  We had a glorious afternoon at the common, we were there for over 4 hours in the end and only left because the sun was beginning to set!

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We also had a great time at our Curious Minds group.  This week, the kids played with boxes and made dens out of them.  In the end, D made a ‘kind monster’ out of hers and we brought it home – she has been decorating it every day since!

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Aspergers?

We’ve had a quiet few days: I’ve needed to keep things low-key so that I could mull over today’s appointment with our paediatrician.  I was getting quite worried about it to be honest – I felt like all the past frustrations and confusion were building up to a head; I was dreading having all those memories and feelings drenched up and raked over; dreading both a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answer and worst of all dreading that I wasn’t going to be believed (again).

I spilt all this out onto an HE special-needs Facebook group and had a bit of a chat with another mum and generally began to feel calmer.  In fact, today I positively felt peaceful and totally ready for whatever came our way.

So today we had a 2 hour appointment with Dr Keen, who was really, really, great.  She asked lots of questions and I loved the way she didn’t talk about M as if she wasn’t there.  M appeared to not have a clue what was going on, what was being asked, what was being said.  She also didn’t appear to have any idea or memory of the difficulties she’s been through so she wasn’t entirely helpful but she was amazingly patient throughout the 2-hour appointment.  I think it was a case of information-overload to be honest, and I think I began to suffer from it towards the end as well.

After an hour and a half of questioning, Dr Keen summarised that yes, my suspicions were correct about Aspergers (but not ADD).  Interestingly, she said she found it very difficult to diagnose M because we have removed her from most of the situations that make her anxious (i.e. we home educate because school was a source of great anxiety, and we now learn autonomously because of problems I had with directing M’s learning) meaning that a lot of her traits appear to have lessened because of HE!  But she also had no doubt that should M return to school, those traits would reappear again.  It reminded me of a post I read recently called ‘My Son Isn’t Autistic on Weekends‘.

Dr Keen went into detail about the various points that she thought showed Asperger tendencies but said that if we were at a regular NHS assessment, M probably wouldn’t get an official diagnosis because she is only borderline at the moment.

Lots of things to think about and more mulling over to do!  Basically, I feel utterly satisfied with the outcome: I can now use this information to help M progress on through her education and life in general.

And as for M?  She is still a sausage, Aspergers or not.

Water, Judo and Films

We had a fantastic water-splashy time at our weekly social group, Curious Minds.  The girls are beginning to feel more settled there and M looks forward to it all week!

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We were back at the scout hut again today, but this time for the girls’ Judo class.  Today they were being graded and so I thought I would pop along too (I usually use the time to relax or do cleaning).  It was so full on!  I think M found her match in a boy who is equally as strong and skilled as she is; and D had a few bumps but bravely soldiered on.

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They both passed their grading test and D now has 3 stripes on her red belt while M moves up to an orange belt!

We’ve been dipping our toes into film making over the past few days, following on from a question from M in the car about how long it takes to make a film.  This led to looking at special effects on Harry Potter: including Mrs Weasley’s knitting needles (not CGI but an amazing little machine!), quidditch and Voldemort’s nose.  Which then led to looking at a real-life invisibility cloak.  We’re probably watching 2-3 films a day and there is soooo much learning arising from it.

In other news, the same day I published my ‘rainbows and unicorns‘ post, M had a tearful/angry meltdown.  The space between meltdowns have definitely lengthened, to the extent that I begin to wonder if she has Aspergers at all.  These meltdowns leave me feeling very helpless as she can’t be soothed with a hug and a chat as I could with D.  To me, the reasons for the meltdowns are ridiculous (hair getting on her nerves/unable to complete a puzzle/too hot) but to her the problems must feel enormous and insurmountable.  This meltdown was a timely reminder as she has her ASD assessment in two weeks time.  I’m feeling a little nervous about it but mostly looking forward to it: it will be a relief to be listened to, get some answers and move forward with it.  M seems nonchalant about the appointment but that may mean there is stuff simmering underneath that she isn’t showing me yet…

 

 

Papier Mache, Rubik’s Cube and Google

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time making papier-mache goody bags (inspired by an episode of Creative Galaxy).  D is beginning to realise that these TV programmes aren’t very realistic in showing you how much time these art projects take to complete.  So instead of taking 1 minute it took us 3 days to make our goody bags!  And even then, D’s collapsed because we hadn’t put enough newspapers layers on.  However, she wasn’t to be defeated and was keen to start all over again.  This time we made it with 4 layers of newspaper, just to be sure.  After it had been painted and a ribbon handle was stapled on, she immediately filled it with goodies and gave it to M!  Aah.

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The girls are really getting into films now.  They probably watch at least one film a day and their current favourites are Cat in the Hat and Paddington.  They’re both brilliant films, even for adults, and I’m usually asked a few questions during the film, which goes to show they’re not just flopped zombie like in from of the telly: instead they’re engaged and learning.  I’m quite thankful for the break it gives me too: they’re both really busy with different activities at the moment but they still require a lot of hand-holding and help through things – not complaining, just sayin. 🙂

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In keeping with my promise to get outdoors more, the girls have been out on their bikes, scooters or roller skates every day lately, a great achievement for me!  M adores her bike so will willing go anywhere on it, and D is getting more and more confident on hers thanks to J’s persistence that she practices.

D has been keen to play long-ignored board games (Tell the Time, Junior Scrabble and Pop to the Shops) and also completing her favourite map jigsaws which she’s getting faster and faster at.  J has also begun teaching her how to play chess.

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D even made up her own game by drawing the Sun and each planet in the solar system (Pluto is always included because she feels sorry for it).  We then had to choose a planet and orbit the sun like the planet would.  There was a discussion with M about whether the planets traveled at differing speeds or whether some planets take longer to complete an orbit because of their distance from the Sun!

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M is becoming more and more engaged in learning as time passes by: she now asks me some incredible questions and I can tell by the surprise and pleasure I feel when she does it that I had become accustomed to her never asking me anything (or asking and then feigning disinterest when I begin to Google it).  On a visit to the Museum of London last week, she was full of questions about the Roman invasion (including some rather interesting ones like ‘weren’t the English angry?’).  This week she has also asked me ‘what’s the point of ants?’ and ‘why do people in different countries speak different languages?’.

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Last week, M decided she wanted to make the bunnies a toy out of loo rolls.  She had the idea of making them a castle but she had an added challenge that she couldn’t use any glue or tape to fix it together in case the bunnies ingested it.  She came up with an ingenious way of connecting the rolls using a slot on one and a flap on the other.  Her brain never ceases to amaze me!

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M has also dug out a long-forgotten Rubik’s Cube and has been spending hours and hours working through the instructions.  She’s now got to the point (after working on it solidly for a day) where she’s gaining an understanding of its movements and can figure out problems more easily.  She’s set herself the challenge of being able to complete it without any instructions at all!

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And here she is in her new Brownie uniform!  She is thoroughly enjoying it, though small problems are arising to do with her being unable to take in long streams of information from her leader.  I was unsure whether to make the Brown Owl aware that we’re seeking an Aspergers diagnosis but in the end I decided I would so that she might understand M’s behaviour more.  She seems like a very understanding woman and had already noticed a few of M’s difficulties.  After each session I can sense a faint shadow of M’s old school self – the anger at me, the needing to wind down, and the faintly glassy-eyed look which tells me she’s over-stimulated.  But on the whole, it is a positive experience for M and she really looks forward to it every week.

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And finally, a picture of a sausage sandwich for you to enjoy.

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