Sunday, 16 July 2017

Crap happens

"Well hello there strangers! Long-time no-see!"

It’s been almost 5 months since I last picked up my laptop and attempted to jot anything down that faintly resembled a blog, so I thought I would pop on today and give you all a little heads up about what’s been going on.

Where to start?...

Well those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I have suffered with mental health issues for a long time, and as a result of that, I can honestly say that looking after myself has always come way down on the bottom my priority list

… Kids, appointments, school issues, cleaning, ironing, shopping, simply keeping my head above water has been how I have lived the last ten years of my life.

But towards the back end of last year I had a bit of a scare when I visited the doctors for my annual blood pressure review. My weight was soaring, my BP was still sky high despite the meds, my glucose levels were high, and my cholesterol levels were also creeping up and up.

Crap…. I was 37 and becoming a stroke/ diabetic waiting to happen!

I was knocked sideways I won’t lie to you.

I had to take a long hard look at my life and admit some things that were hard to swallow.
I wasn’t looking after myself at all. I had become stuck in a vicious cycle of grabbing the quickest thing to hand, which was usually a bag of crisps, or a bar of chocolate. I was so busy looking after everyone else that I had forgot about me.

I was tired, stressed, depressed, exhausted, feeling like crap and facing the very real reality that my kids could be left with no mum if I carried on the way I was going.

Something had to give.

So I decided in December of last year, that 2017 was going to be the year that I was going to be selfish. I was going to stop making excuses and sort myself out. My kids needed me, so I had to do everything I could ensure that I was going nowhere.

It never ceases to amaze me where that hidden drive and strength comes from within when it comes to our kids. I was going to do this, for them.

I slowly but surely started adjusting my diet, moving my body a bit more, getting out in the fresh air a bit more, and putting my needs higher on the 'to do list' for the first time since, well, forever really.

But you see I quickly found out that all this looking after yourself takes focus and time, precious time that I already had very little of.

Life’s busy ain't it folks!

So as a result, my writing had to take a back seat.

I have so much going on in my wonderfully crazy life, that I simply couldn’t concentrate on getting my ‘five a day’ down my neck, and dragging my lazy butt around the block for a power walk in the dark (so no one could see me all red faced and out of breath), whilst at the same time running a Facebook page and sharing my 'warts and all life' on my blog.

So I decided to take a break and keep the page going as best I could until I was managing this new healthier lifestyle a bit better. And I was getting there, slowly the weight was coming off, I was running for a minute without dying, I was reducing my antidepressants, and the sports bra was doing its job without snapping!

Until…more crap (Life has a habit of throwing curveballs our way doesn’t it!)

My husband phoned me up  one day to say he was being made redundant.

Now this is hard for any family to take. But like many of you sat reading this today, I am my son’s carer, and therefore earning very little as I am unable to work full time. So we rely on his income.
His shift patterns had moulded around our family needs over the years, and we honestly felt like life was piling a whole new pile of muck our way.

I buckled and lost focus. I can’t do this I thought as I reached for the family size bag of onion rings to distract my mood.

Why us, what have we done to deserve this?

These negative thoughts plagued my mind day and night.

How are we going to afford the rent, how long can we survive if he can’t get a job?
Do I need to get another job…but who will be here for my son when his taxi gets home each day? What about school holidays? How will I fit in the 5 supermarkets I have to go to each week if I’m working?

It was a tough couple of weeks. I nearly gave up.

Now fast forward to where we are now...on the cusp of the summer holidays. And I have to say this is the hardest time of the year for me with 7 long weeks to fill!

But I’m OK. I have got this, the good and the bad.

Time has a habit of putting things into perspective you see.

My husband has decided to use this  redundancy curveball to re-train, to go back to college, and change his career completely. It’s scary as hell, I won’t lie to you, but who knows… it could end up being the best thing that ever happened to him. He has turned the situation around to his advantage.

And it took me being told my health was at risk, to learn to take the good days with the bad. To learn that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. Because I was the one telling myself that I couldn’t do it. I was the one choosing to sit on the sofa to watch Corrie on catch up rather than take the dogs for a walk, get some fresh air and actually clear my head in the process.

I got through those dark days and didn’t let the fear swallow me up. It was scary but I scooped up the crap I had been gifted by fate, and planted flowers in it…Who would believe it eh, I actually like running!


Believe me there is no one more surprised by this than me. You see I was always the girl in school at the back of the line being picked in team sports and couldn’t even run to the end of my road to chase the ice cream van in my slippers without having an asthma attack. But slowly week by week, following a programme on my iphone I ploughed on. Running for a minute, then two, then three. And now I can run 3  miles! I still cant quite believe it myself!

When I whack on my trainers, I can forget everything ( if only for a short while) I can live in the moment and feel the rain on my face.

I sweat, it’s not pretty believe me.., and I have jiggly bits that have a mind of their own. But I don’t care anymore. I’m doing this for me, and for my kids. I’m looking after myself and if that’s selfish of me, then so be it!  

I have just had a health review and my BP is now stabilised, I'm 4 stone lighter, my glucose levels no longer indicate pre diabetes and my cholesterol levels reflect the salad and fruit that I now eat instead of the pies and cakes! Turns out I actually needed that kick up the arse to spur me on to sort myself out. Although at the time I didn't see it like that believe me.

I don’t know what the future holds. A whole lorry-load more crap for all I know.  But I now have an extra large shovel, and plenty of flowers that love a good bit of manure to help them grow!

If these last few months have taught me anything folks, it’s that us parents are stronger than we can ever imagine. There will be dark days, fear and uncertainty, but please believe me when I say that you can handle whatever life throws at you, and most importantly look after yourself because you’re more precious than you will ever know! (Oh... and keeping a large shovel in your shed comes in pretty handy too sometimes.)

Bring it on I say, and its so good to be back!
Mrs M x

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Autism and the new life that it brings

At this time of year; despite the rest of the world seemingly partaking in endless fun and frivolity, for families like ours… well we can sometimes feel an acute sense of isolation and pain.
The family traditions, celebrations, and get togethers that have become somewhat mandatory during Easter can serve to highlight to us that our family simply isn’t like everyone else’s.
The changes to routine and school holidays, the family roast dinners and fish on Fridays. The ‘fun’ egg hunts with his cousins in his nannas back garden in the rain on a drizzly Easter Sunday afternoon. Well, all these things my son finds hard.

Yet year after year we have forced him, pushed and cajoled him to partake in our traditions. At times, I am ashamed to say even ignoring his own wishes because we didn’t want his sisters to miss out on what the rest of the world was doing.  

Because this is what families do at Easter isn’t it?
They have fun.
Its idyllic and perfect, all smiles and happiness.
Isn’t it?
Its baking and egg painting, Easter bonnets and hiding mini eggs around the house while the kids are sleeping. (Well that’s what Facebooks and Mumsnet tells us anyway.)

It’s not meltdowns and anxiety, ear defenders and being stuck in the house for days on end. Timetables that have be followed and mashed potato butties for dinner… is it? (There no mention of that on Instagram is there?)
Well, who’s to say what’s right and wrong, what we should and shouldn’t be doing and what our family life should look like? Where does all this pressure to be a ‘picture-perfect’ family come from anyway I want to know.
For families like ours, times like this will inevitably throw up complications and changes to family life. We have learnt to accept that.
Over the years, I think the passage of time has taught me to go with the flow and roll with the punches a bit more. Its helped me to develop a thick skin to other people’s opinions and sod what everybody else thinks. They don’t have to walk in my shoes, or my sons for that matter! So, I have learnt to do what right for us.
For me and my husband, my daughters…and my son.
So, this year due to my sons deeply help beliefs about palm oil, there will be no chocolate for him this Easter. I have to admit it’s been a tough few weeks to get through… as you can imagine at this time of year with chocolate products bursting off every shelf, hijacking every TV advert, and lurking around every corner…avoiding the dreaded palm oil has been somewhat tricky to say the least.
And not only that, but this year he has become increasingly upset and aggravated at all the products that unsuspecting well-wishers have bought as gifts for his sisters that contain palm oil. He feels that because he holds these beliefs, then so should everyone else in the family. Which can make for some interesting exchanges in communication and emotional regulation as he learns to live in a world in which he can struggle to navigate.
Why do humans eat palm oil?
Why are humans so thoughtless to animals?
Why would we want to hide eggs all over the garden, that’s just weird?
And why do people say that Jesus came back to life after three days, he can’t have come back to life that’s impossible, so why did the teacher say that in assembly? … And what on earth has that got to do with chocolate?
So many questions whizzing around in his poor little mind.
There’s no wonder then really that he then can’t cope with the additional stresses that all these family events at Easter can create.
·         Visiting other people’s houses, and the huge social anxiety that brings.

·         The sensory overload of people chattering, food cooking and palm oil filled chocolate everywhere.

·         Unexpected visitors with small children who haven’t yet learnt that their older cousin doesn’t like hugs and finds playing with them impossible. It’s not that he doesn’t like them he just finds it all too hard so shuts himself away for safety.

·         Well-meaning family members that want to talk to him about school, who are unaware that their questions freeze him to the spot with fear as he doesn’t know what he should say and do in these situations, so he can appear rude and abrupt with them making them not know what to say next.
So, this year there will be no pressure from us to attend the traditional family egg hunt, and he will be eating his mash on bread for dinner.
It’s taken me many years to realise that I was the one putting pressure on myself to be the ‘picture-perfect’ family.
But my family is anything but ‘normal’, anything but ‘perfect’, and that’s great…because that’s what actually makes us… well normal!
My kids are all individual, unique and my family celebrations must reflect that. True acceptance for us begins when we accommodate everyone’s needs and that has taken us some time as a family to understand.
You see life for us has had to become a bit of a juggling act in which we take turns, and negotiate roles. I am not ashamed to say that we do what we need to do to avoid meltdowns, create a peaceful house for our kids to grow up in and learn to ride the tide of emotions that comes with being an autism family.
So this Easter, my son will visit his beloved airport with his dad while I attend the family egg hunt with my daughters. And then we will come together for an hour in which he can tell his family about the airplanes he saw (if he wants to )or he can go to the sanctuary of his nannas room with his IPAD upstairs (if he wants to) No pressure.
He will be given a chimp statue and a model plane instead of Easter eggs, and he will spend his day doing what makes him happy.
The days are long gone when I would let people tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing with my son. How I should be stricter with him, and feel guilty as they whispered within my earshot “what a shame it was that he was missing out on all the fun.” No more will I make him feel unsafe by forcing him into situations that he finds impossible (because no one ever came out happy when I did that I can tell you).
I won’t let anyone tell me that parenting in this way means that we are pandering to him, or spoiling him. That’s simply not true.
But parenting this way does mean that we pick our battles, accept his challenges, follow his lead, embrace him for who he is, and strive to accommodate the needs of everyone in the family.
When my son is happy, I am happy, my hubby is happy, and his sisters are happy.
That’s just the way our lives must be. Complicated, unconventional, bonkers, and bloody wonderful!
So, happy Easter to all of you, I hope you spend the day doing what makes you happy…
But if you’re not quite there in your journey yet and you’re feeling the loss of the life you feel you have missed out on, then please take hope from my story. After all that’s what Easter is really all about isn’t it… hope, love, acceptance and new life. I have been rock bottom and had days where I didn’t know where I would find the strength to carry on. But I promise you, it does get easier.
Having a child with autism isn’t the end believe me.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite, it’s the beginning of a new life.
You will learn to roll with it, face the challenges that come your way head on, and you will eventually take strength from the fact that no one’s life is really ‘picture-perfect’. Because believe me behind all the smiling Facebook posts real life is happening. Burnt fairy cakes, tantrums and money worries.
We all have issues and challenges, autism or not, it’s just it’s harder to hide behind ours that’s all! And why should we I say. Embrace the bonkers, be kind in yourself and don’t allow other people’s judgements to affect your journey.
Happy Easter
Mrs M xx

Friday, 24 February 2017

World book day heroes

World book day is the day that children up and down the country arrive at school dressed up as characters from their favourite books. Playgrounds will be awash with Harry Potters, Little red riding hoods and Gruffalo's to name but a few.
Facebook will be lovingly taken over by photos of happy smiling kids posing in the kitchens of every home. Spirits will be high, routine will be changed, and even the teachers join in with the fun by dressing up too, making it a day of frivolity and fun learning that everyone looks forward to.
Except maybe for that child that is crying in the corner of the corridor that hasn’t dressed up.

The child whose mum can’t get her through the front door because she is pacing up and down outside in the playground.

Or that child who is already sat on the carpet reading his book not joining in with the fun.

At first glance you could think that they were crying, or not joining in because their mum had forgotten their costume or they were just being silly.

But you could be wrong.

The child crying in the corner could be autistic or have Sensory Processing Disorder. And that child may have spent the previous week worrying about coming to school today……

But we normally do Maths on Thursday Morning, not assembly?

That costume is itchy!

It will look silly on me!

People will laugh at me!
I don't know what's happening?
I cant' see peoples faces? 
I'll be the only one not wearing one?
My teacher will look different!
But we wear uniforms to school, not costumes?
I don't know what to say to people about their costumes?
I will get too hot!
Face paint hurts me!                
My tummy feels all bubbly inside!
What happens when we have PE?
I know from experience that mum and dad will have spent the last week trying to prepare their child for today. But no matter how much they want their child to dress up like everyone else, but their child just has too many worries about the day that they can’t take away.

The world is confusing and unpredictable even on normal school days, so for their child today it must feel like they are walking into the lion’s den.
Believe me today is no fun for any of them.
But bravely they come to school, with half a costume, no costume, or maybe a book in hand is all they have managed. But really its not that important - they've got him in, and that's what really matters today.

Despite how anxious they were about the day ahead, their child has been so brave inside - and they have got them in!
Despite the noises, smells, costumes, scary faces and unpredictable changes to routine that lie ahead they have achieved the amazing - and come to school. That's a huge achievement.

So to that mum and dad today I say well done, and to your child I say I think you are amazing!
Yes your child may not have dressed up today like everyone else but it doesn’t make them any less. Your child is different yes, but never ever any less!
And please believe me I'm not writing this to put a dampener on what is a very fun day for many kids at school, I think its a fabulous day of celebration. But I write this so that you may stop and think - if you ever see a child not joining in, don’t make assumptions, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Because that child may not be a Gruffalo or a 'Cat in The hat' today. But they could well be one of the bravest little people in school instead, a true hero or heroine  - not a fictional one, but a real life one - and in my book  that deserves to be celebrated too!
Have a fab world book day folks, whatever you do. 
Mrs M x

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A letter to the parents of a child with no diagnosis

Dear parents of a child with no diagnosis,
I want you to know that I see you.
I want you to know that I feel your pain.
I want you to know that you don't need to do this on your own.
I want you to know that no matter how alone you may feel right now, there will be better days on the horizon.
I want you know that I understand how it feels inside when passers-by, or even worse your own family, judge your parenting by criticising your child. Or brazenly stare as your child has a meltdown in the supermarket. You want the ground to swallow you up and make it all go away.
You want to scoop your child up and hide them from the world.
People can be so cruel. It hurts so much. A raw deep emotion that only someone who has faced those stares can understand.
I also want you to know, that I know how it feels inside to be on the receiving end of your child’s challenges.
You feel every emotion with them, you are in the firing line and sometimes get hurt physically. I want you know that they don’t mean to hurt you. It will get better, and it won’t always be like this.
I want you know that I understand those strange emotions we feel as parents when we are hurt by our own child. We are their safe place, the person they can be themselves with… and that can take its toll.
So, if you are reading this today and recognise anything I am saying, then please…look after yourself too. Because living in a high state of alert and constant stress can make you very poorly.
Trust me I know.
Please believe me when I say that it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
It’s not a sign of weakness to feel overwhelmed with it all.
It’s not bad parenting to battle with your own mental health issues when you’re trying to put on a brave face for the world to see.
The uncertainty of the situation you are in while you are waiting for answers in incredibly stressful. It consumes your every waking moment and haunts your sleep most nights.
I want you know that although the wait for answers may be long, those meetings at school may be strained and the support you receive as a family may be non-existent…that I see you, and I am with you everystep of the way.
I want you to know that on those days when you pick your child up from school and there has been another issue, or when that parent in the playground throws accusations your child’s way without realising how difficult simply getting to school is for your child... well I want you to know that I am here.
Me and a whole army full of parents up and down the country that know how it feels to be stood where you are right now…. Scared. Alone. Overwhelmed. Isolated.  
I want you to know that we are right by your side.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more support at school. Put support strategies in place now. It will do no harm to your child at all…diagnosis or not.
You know your child best so have more faith in yourself. Your child may not yet have that elusive piece of paper but don’t let that stop you doing what you need to do. Timetables, visuals, social stories, sensory diets… whatever works.
No matter what people may think or your family might say. Put any support you can in place now as early intervention is key. We don’t have time on our side like the government seems to think we do. I waited 5 years for my son to receive his diagnosis. Its not good enough.
So, don’t wait.
Be proactive.
Piss people off, don’t worry about upsetting people, become a pain in the rear, be your child’s voice and knock on doors until you get the help your child deserves.
I also want you to know that eventually, when you have that piece of paper in your hand, the one with your child’s formal diagnosis on it for all to see, its not going to solve all the problems and suddenly make everything all better. This is your life now and that can take some adjusting to.
I want you to be prepared for the wave of emotions that will hit you when the day finally comes. You may feel a mixture of relief, anger, sadness and some people even feel grief.
You may feel relief that it wasn’t all in your head, that is not your bad parenting and relief that now you may be able to get the support you need.
You may feel anger, asking yourself why my child? Where is the fairness in that? You may even question your own faith. I know I did.
You may feel sadness and grief. Grief for the life you thought you would have. Mourning the loss of all those things that you imagined you and your child would do together.
No one has the right to tell you how you should feel, or how you should react to getting that diagnosis for your child. It is a deeply personal experience and it is also a lot to get your head around, I’m not going to lie to you.
When your child gets a diagnosis, it can hit you like a tonne of bricks.
But that doesn’t mean that you love your child any less, or want to change them.
Please give yourself time… be kind to yourselves and let all those feelings wash over you, do what you need to do to get through those first hazy days of diagnosis.
Then will come acceptance.
You will still have battles. Face judgements and have bad days.
But there will also be lots of good days. You will want the world to see all the amazing qualities your child has to offer.
Your child will have the protection that a diagnosis provides to help you fight for access to services and get the right support at school.
You will have answers, and with that comes confidence in your own abilities.
And then life will settle into a new rhythm. You will be on a different path and soon that its OK. Its not what you expected, but this new road has some amazing views along the way and has a lot to offer.
I want you to know that no matter how long you have to wait for answers, no matter how hard things are for you all now. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And you never have to do this alone.
And your child may not be able to thank you for everything you do for them… but I can.
Thank you for being an amazing parent. Thank you for never giving up and letting your child know that despite their differences they are never less!
Thank you for your unconditional love and patience. And thank you for putting your own life on hold in order to support your child.
I see you, and I am thankful for everything you do.
Our kids are amazing…. and so are you!
With love,
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The many faces of anxiety

                                     For my son, anxiety is part of who he is.
In fact, it is as much a part of his make up as the colour of his hair or the freckles on his nose that come out every summer. It is his constant companion and is far more than just a bit of worry that can be soothed away with some reassuring words of encouragement.
It is with him forever, and it is important we take it seriously as it plays such a huge part in his life.
It was also actually one of the first indicators to us as he was growing up, that something wasn’t quite as it should be. The older he got the bigger his worries seemed to grow. But at the time we didn’t realise that all the different behaviours we were seeing were driven by this hidden force lurking inside him. And the more we tried to overcome it and force him into situations that we thought he should be able to cope with, the worse we made it; because we didn’t take his anxiety seriously. We didn’t realise how much his anxiety was controlling his emotions and behaviours.
So we bowed down to pressure.
Pressure to make him conform because he looked so ‘normal.’ Pressure from professionals who didn’t have the answers we were so desperately seeking. And pressure from ourselves to live up to the perfect family image that everyone expected.
Pressure to fit our son into societies neat little boxes.
But in fact, we quickly learnt that the key to us being able to move forward as a family unit was far more about us learning to accept and embrace his differences as much as anything else. Learning to accept that his anxiety was part of who he was, and it wasn’t going anywhere. And after all that we had to learn how to unpick his behaviour to see what was really going on underneath the surface.
And so out of necessity his anxiety became our constant companion. We have reluctantly learnt to share our lives with it, having to let it into our routines and family time. Allowing it to dictate the ebb and flow of daily life like the tide. It’s inevitable when your child has anxiety linked with their autism, there is no hiding from it…ever! So, we learnt to accept that it is part of what makes him so unique and roll with it.
Sometimes we can all see his anxiety, even people that don’t know him inside out like I do. It is etched on his face, in his body language and it seeps out of every muscle in his movements. There’s no mistaking it. It controls him like a puppet master making him bite his nails, compels him to ask the same questions again and again with nothing being able to satisfy its hunger. It makes him pace around the room like a caged tiger, and at times it completely takes over his body. Primal instincts kick in which trigger the fight or flight reflex in his body.
But this anxiety also has a darker more secret side.
The side that not everyone sees. This kind of anxiety disguises itself and takes many forms, and shows many faces.
This cruel force can morph and change costumes at its own will. Like a shape shifter it controls our children and confuses the adults who are fooled by its whim. It becomes hyperactivity, violence, exhaustion, fear, illness, or demand avoidance to name but a few. All these facets of our children are driven by anxiety. It can hide and pounce as children learn to mask their emotions and fit in to the confusing world around them.
And so, we find ourselves putting unhelpful labels on our children to give meaning to behaviours that we don’t understand.
High needs, challenging behaviour, low functioning, disruptive, hyper, impulsive, normal, obsessive, high functioning, passive, aggressive, avoidant, or even naughty.
But I fear that these labels only serve to box our kids in.
Making us set rigid expectations for them in a world that should actually be far more flexible for children on the spectrum. These labels can lead us to make assumptions and take things for granted. Not seeing the potential pitfalls and variables that affect autistic children so intensely. Leading us to miss the hidden anxiety that is so often driving so many of these behaviours that society wants to put a label on.
When I think what we really should be doing is looking at how we, as the adults, respond to our children’s anxiety. How we reflect on our own practice, honestly, and without fear of criticism or failure. Believe me when I say that over the years I have made many mistakes. I have got things wrong, and spent many a sleepless night thinking how I could have handled things better. But when I think about it, those mistakes taught me so much.
So as practitioners, we need to be asking ourselves if we were flexible enough (because when fire meets fire no one wins I can tell you!) We also need to be sharing good practice, sharing our successes and our failures. Working collaboratively with parents, and talking to colleagues openly.  Bouncing ideas off each other in order to support these vulnerable children effectively as a team.
We need to see beyond the labels.
Understanding that often their behaviour is telling us, in the only way that they know how to, that something is wrong. And often if sensory issues can be ruled out, then the controlling factor is usually anxiety in disguise.
Real, deep, life defining anxiety.
Anxiety about failing, anxiety about not understanding, anxiety about the social interactions and rules they can’t makes sense of. Anxiety about filtering out the acute sensory overload that is probably taking up all their energy. Anxiety about holding it all together and that sense of implosion that is building in their tummies as the hours tick by until home time. And even anxiety about being anxious. It’s exhausting for them, and often tricks us adults into thinking that the issues lie elsewhere…

·       It can make kids isolate themselves and withdraw often getting overlooked, confusing us to think that all is well, but whose parents report seeing a different child at home. The ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ kid that you can’t make sense of.

·        It could be the real cause of the child in class that often complains of headaches or feeling sick, even asking to go the toilet more often than they probably should.

·        It’s probably the source of all those delay tactics when it’s time to settle down to work, the real reason that a child seems to have a knack of finding lots of distractions around the classroom, rather than them simply being fidgety or hyper.

·        It could be controlling the child in class with their head down on the table, chewing their sleeve, scratching their arm or rocking back and forward on their chair. The one you may think is just being stubborn.

·        It’s almost definitely ruling over the kid that needs extra support as they often refuse to even attempt their work, and regularly disrupt the class because that is better than them facing the embarrassment of failure in front of everyone. You see anxiety breeds low self-esteem and the need for self-preservation.

·        It can also be the real reason that a child can struggle to follow verbal instructions in the classroom, and leads them to regularly forget what they are meant to do when the lesson starts. Not simply because they have poor concentration or just don’t listen.

·        And I can say with certainty that anxiety will be the puppet master pulling the strings as a child gets frustrated and explodes in class, often with no awareness of who is around them and how they can hurt themselves or other people in the process. It throws chairs and swears in anger, and it leaves children and staff confused and scared in many schools up and down the country. That child is probably overflowing with stress chemicals pumping through their bodies. Going from one panic attack to another in a constant primal state of flight or fight… due to anxiety.
So instead of labels

I think we need to be open minded and far more flexible.

We need to see beyond the behaviour, and play detective to peel away the hidden faces of anxiety that is often driving our children’s behaviour.

Perhaps by making behaviour analysis tools part of our daily practice, so we can begin to really understand what’s going on with these kids and break down those walls of hidden anxiety.
We need to think outside of the box and make real accommodations in the classroom that are meaningful and not just ticking a box for a policy.
We should understand that one size doesn’t fit all, and every child is different. And see things from the child’s perspective and not just our own.
And slowly but surely, these amazing kids will begin to trust us, let down their guard, and their inner anxiety may just have nowhere to hide anymore. No more shadows to lurk behind and no more masks to wear.
Mrs M xx
This guest blog was written for Kathy Brodie Early Years Advisor and can be found here at -

Saturday, 17 December 2016

December 17th- Taking care of yourself this Christmas is important folks

Please remember we don’t need to be superhuman, we will laugh and cry, have ups and downs, good days and days we are relieved just to see the back of. Don't beat yourself up when things feel too much.

Give yourself a break every now and again to meet a friend for coffee when the hubby's home, walk the dogs, nip to the supermarket, or catch up on the soaps (if you can.)
Take peoples offers of help if you're lucky enough to get them, family often want to help, and can often feel helpless not knowing what to do. It could be taking siblings out for a bit, doing some washing for you or walking your dogs. I know I can sometimes feel quite trapped over the holidays so take any offer up... I know I will be if any come my way.
ONLINE SHOP, enough said.
If you can't get a sitter (let's face it it's pretty unlikely) have movie night with the other half over the holidays, maybe a £10 meal deal with a bottle of wine. I know for us it often comes way down the list of priorities, but I need to remind myself how important it really is to do every now and again.
Let people know if you need to talk. Bottling things up won’t help. Make the most of your friends and family and tell them if you need a hand, it's not failing honest, it's called being human (and I have certainly been there and worn the T-shirt many times before so you're far from alone honest.)
Use your online support network. We understand how it feels and are probably feeling the same as you. Sometimes all we need is a quick chat to someone who gets it and then we can get on with our day.
Acceptance can go a long way in helping us get through the holidays. Be happy that your life is chaotic and always eventful, and trying to see the funny side of things really can help. This is half the battle of feeling happy, as looking at others and wishing our lives looked like that does us no good at all (usually their life is never as perfect as it seems anyway.)
If you feel like you're having more bad days than good and the fog isn't lifting it could be worth seeing a doctor. Our mental health should not be taboo, I myself am on antidepressants and I am not ashamed in the slightest to tell anyone that will listen! Because I am important too. In order to be there for my kids I need to look after myself. I learnt that the hard way. So please don't suffer in silence and feel ashamed. Be proud of what you do on a  daily basis and look at it as something you just need to do to fill up the tank when its running low.

Remember no ones life is perfect folks we all have our own challenges to deal with. So smile and remember you're doing a great job! 
Our kids are amazingly unique and yes life is challenging, especially at Christmas. But make the most of everyday... whatever comes your way!
And hold your head up high in pride as our children continue to teach us a new way to view our world and show us how to love unconditionally, as only children can.

Friday, 16 December 2016

December 16th- Calming Strategies and Meltdowns

Calming Strategies....

Things can get really hectic  at this time of year, and sometimes it all just becomes too much for our little ones.
Keeping routine and structure will really help keeping anxieties low, but if you sense that your child is beginning to struggle its worth trying to de-escalate the situation by using whatever strategy works for you and your child. 
Here are some simple things you could try…
Going outside for some fresh air can work wonders, maybe a dog walk or a run around the park. My son often finds being in nature really relaxing, he climbs trees and rolls around in the mud to his hearts content. It often really helps to bring his anxieties back down and levels his mood.
Calming music and dimming the lights can really calm a child.
'Bubble motion tumbler' toys can work really well for children to focus on and are very relaxing to watch.
Lying on the sofa and being 'squished and squashed' with cushions can have a calming effect on some children.
One of the hardest things for children to recognise is when they are beginning to feel anxious and stressed, as they often live in a heightened state of anxiety all the time. That's why they can seem to explode from out of nowhere.  So emotions visuals and wristbands etc can help us as adults highlight to our children when we sense they may need some calming strategies. Visuals work well for this as language is difficult for children to process when they are anxious
Some children find being in a warm bath or shower relaxing, as do us adults when we get chance!!
Pets are amazing at calming children who are anxious. My sons loves to cuddle his dogs when he is feeling sensitive.
Its always worth having a sensory kit bag with fiddle toys/ earphones/ blanket/ lights/ stress balls / favourite snacks etc.
Sucking on ice can help, my son uses ice pops or chewing gum as I find when he is stressed he starts chewing his sleeve.
A tent with cushions and blankets, this could be in the lounge or upstairs out of the way, whatever works for you.
Favourite activity/ special interest can be what children need to reset.
Allowing your child to stim, its what they need to do.
Pressure and weighted products can help calm children, these include jackets, blankets, shoulder and lap cushions.
Jumping on a trampoline/off the sofa can relax and calm kids as it repetitive movement. Or a scooter board also offers repetitive relaxing movement if you scoot up and down on it.
Shaving foam on the kitchen table is a great sensory activity that relatively easy to clean.
Spinning in a chair can help some kids to calm.
Ear defenders can help if things are too loud, or listening to a favourite story or music on their earphones.
Stretchy suits and sleeping bags can provide cocoon  like comfort and help children feel safe.
A drive in the car can help calm a child sometimes maybe with their favourite audio story just to get out of the situation.

Hand/ head/ shoulder massage can help calm a child that’s becoming distressed, this often works well for my son.
But inevitably things do escalate sometimes despite our best efforts so....Reduce pressure, reduce language and choose your battles.  I find it helpful to think of it in terms of a panic attack. This helps me focus on helping my son instead of getting frustrated with him.
Kids who are really overwhelmed feel trapped and will more often than not want to run away to keep themselves safe from whatever the perceived threat is. And if they can't escape, they will lash out to get passed whatever is in their way, which is often us (flight or fight). So as long as it's safe for them to do so, allow a way for them to get out of the situation, and you will find they often take themselves to what makes them calm anyway. 
Keep your tone as calm as possible, your language to a minimum and don't criticise. This is one of the hardest things we have to learn to do as so much of the process of de-escalating the situation is down to how we react to the behaviour. It always helps me to just keep telling myself it's not personal and they can't help it. They are not in control of their bodies when things have got to this stage. Repeating this again and again in my head has  got me through many a tricky situation with both my own son and the children I have supported over the years.
If you feel that knot in your stomach becoming too big and you feel swamped with adrenaline get someone else to take over and get yourself calm again.
And finally don't beat yourself up. Despite all the planning, prep and routines in place ....sometimes we can't avoid everything. 
So do your best and give yourself some time to recharge afterwards. Just as your child will need time to recover, so will you. Take care of yourself and don't dwell on what went wrong.
Pat yourself on the back for being so in tune with your child that they feel safe enough with you to truly be themselves at their most vulnerable time. And know that they need our help, love and support more than ever when they feel like this. 
So what you're doing simply by being there everyday is so important for your child and if they could, they would tell you the very same as I am about to.....You're Fab!
I hope some of these suggestions may have given you some ideas, and made you realise what a great job you're already it would be great if you could share anything that's worked well for you and your child in the comments section below