Sunday, 21 December 2014

My Christmas Present...

After resigning myself to getting no presents this year, my 10 year old, Dominik, (who has loads of letters after his name: PDA, ASD, SPD, CAPD etc etc) brought this in to me after working on it for an hour.

Toothless, of 'How To Train Your Dragon' fame, is my favourite fictional dragon.

Now, aside from the birth of my daughter in 2008, on Christmas Eve, and my recently received Decree Absolute (yay), this is my best present EVER, EVER, EVER. Just the fact that he put his time and energy into something so thoughtful and beautiful just for me is enough to keep me smiling well into the new year.

Dominik has recently discovered his passion for drawing and sketching and has expressed a desire to be a graphic designer some day...I think he may be on to something.

Merry Christmas. I hope you all get something just as special as I have.

N x

Friday, 12 December 2014

Misunderstanding and Prejudice.

As a mum of extra-ordinary, special needs children, it is increasingly difficult for me to read countless stories on a daily basis about the amount of misunderstanding and prejudice that is out there in the world of 'professionals'

Everyday I am corresponding with mothers (and some fathers) who are at the end of their tether (and sanity in some cases) when it comes to trying to communicate the needs of their children with those who are meant to be helping them.

There is a stunning lack of empathy and understanding amongst professionals when it comes to supporting a child's sensory, emotional and physical needs. This is particularly evident in the educational establishment, not to mention the paediatric setting and don't even get me started on Social Services.

Let me preface my criticism with this thought - of course there are some amazing professionals out there in the country (and world) but unfortunately they are few and far between. Couple this lack of professional understanding with a parents lack of medical vocabulary, and it can get very adversarial very quickly with the parent often being blamed for their child's needs.

The parents I am corresponding with are telling me that those charged with the safety, education and well-being of their children are simply not listening to them.

They are almost unanimous in their cries of, "They think I'm a bad parent." "They say I lack the skills to the manage my child effectively." "They think he/she is just naughty/attention seeking/dramatic/uncooperative." And the list goes on and is exacerbated by a further lack of adequate diagnosis from the paediatric teams. This is particularly true in the case of Pathological Demand Avoidance which is not in the manual and is therefore 'not even a real condition' but simply a parents excuse for poor behaviour. As a side note, not all parts of the country refuse to diagnose PDA making it even harder for parents to figure out where to turn.

Parents often face the above charges without the professional having spent much more than a few hours with their child and even when parents present video evidence, behaviour diaries and testimony from others who care for their child they are still ignored. How can this be?

The professional literature would have us believe that WE are the experts on our children (and of course, we are) and yet in reality, we are ridiculed, belittled and patronised and, more often than not, sent on parenting courses which, in my opinion, is the worst insult of all, especially if you are the parent of more than one child and the others are 'conforming' and 'behaving well' with no obvious difficulties. Surely this alone indicates that it is not the fault of the parent?

My son has Sensory Processing Disorder (a condition commonly diagnosed alongside an ASD) and he often needs deep pressure, movement breaks, quiet time, something to chew or fiddle with and more sensory feedback from his environment (a sensory diet). He can react violently to loud noises, bright lights, too many people and strong smells. As his mum, I know what might cause extreme reactions and I am able to monitor and control his environment when necessary to avoid the sensory overload. I know when he needs his ear-defenders or his chewing gum or even a great big squeeze!

I don't think these adaptations are unreasonable if it allows him to regulate himself and participate in 'normal' activities! They are a necessary part of his 'therapy' and have a huge impact on his behaviour. I think they should be respected, just as you would allow a diabetic to take their insulin, or a wheelchair user to be able to use a lift. Just because they are not visible, it does not mean they are not real.

Now, why can't the professionals accept and meet these needs too? If my son were at school, I would send him armed with a list of strategies and techniques to give to the professionals in order to help them understand and support him. I would give them a very long tip sheet about PDA and how best to get him on board with any given task so that he stands the best chance of being able to comply and enjoy what he is doing. What parent wouldn't?

However, the chances are, my carefully though-out tip sheet and long list of successful strategies would be ignored/forgotten in amongst the mass of other tasks that teachers/TA's have to do in a day.

Fair enough, I guess. They do have a lot to do (and lots of other needs to take into account) but, if they do not utilise our suggestions, surely the resulting punishment of our children is discrimination? They are inevitably punishing our children for their disability! How can this ever be acceptable?

I read about illegal exclusions and draconian punishments DAILY which are a direct result of teachers and TA's being unable to meet the needs of our very special children. I admit, these needs are high, but the professionals have a duty of care, and they accept that duty of care and when they fail to meet the standard of care our children deserve, what are the consequences?

The consequences are disastrous. Not only for the teachers, TA's and other children affected during the school day, but also for the child in question and just as importantly, for the child's family when the school day ends.

When that child goes home they will need to release all that tension, frustration, upset and sensory overload somehow. They will more often than not, explode through the door at home and unleash a storm of fury and pent up anger all over their loved ones.

And here enters another 'professional' who, when told about this set of behaviours, instantly thinks that there must therefore be a problem at home! How ludicrous! How uninformed! How insulting!

No, Mr or Mrs Professional, this does not mean there must be a problem at home. On the contrary in fact, it means that home is where this child feels safe enough to let it all 'hang out'. This is where they can release and be themselves without fear of punishment, ridicule or reprisal for their behaviour.

Home is where all of the unmet needs of the day manifest into behaviours which communicate just how badly that child has been failed by their care-givers during their day.

Parents have to deal with the fall out of a failing system only to be told that their parenting is at fault! That their child's behaviour is a result of their lack of boundaries and training on their part.


It is such a soul destroying situation for these parents. Not only is their child being failed, but now they are being blamed for that failure.

How can we begin to address this issue? 

Well, I think, knowledge, knowledge and more knowledge is the only realistic and long-term answer.

Gathering this knowledge from caring, empathetic professionals (Jude Seaward and Felicity Evans to name two I know of), other parents, adults with special needs (who have long since left behind their school days) and of course, listening to our children, is the best way forward.

Places like The Avenue, and volunteers like Joanne, Elaine and Sarah, who are dedicated to expanding the knowledge of parents and carers, is the future.

It is groups like The Avenue that will make the difference to our children by empowering parents and informing professionals.

It is only when parents are given the confidence and appropriate vocabulary that they will be able to effectively advocate for the rights of their special children.

So, please, please, please, spread the word.

Share your experiences.
Share your knowledge.
Share your thoughts and feelings.
Share with anyone who will listen.

Do not be embarrassed (or shy) about disagreeing with a 'professional'.
Do not be intimidated by their qualifications.
Do not let them claim that they know better than you if what they are saying goes against your instincts and ignores your knowledge of your child.

Trust yourself. Get informed. Ask questions.

Be the best advocate you can be.

N x

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Controversial (or not) Christmas ideas. First published 2014.

I thought I would write a few words about Christmas and how it's going for us this year (and it is an excuse to post a picture of my tree which is, honestly, the best bit for me)!

So, for those of you with little ones who are at school, I imagine this time of year must be particularly challenging not least because of the following;
  • Mufti-days
  • Carol Services
  • Timetable changes
  • Nativity Plays
  • Decorations
  • Staff absence 
to  name but a few of the school based changes. 

But what about if we include;
  • School holidays
  • Visiting relatives
  • Christmas Trees and decorations
  • Furniture being relocated
  • Presents (and the accompanying anxiety)
  • All predictability vanished
  • Extra people everywhere
And perhaps even;

  • Parties
  • Father Christmas himself
  • Family events
  • Photo ops
  • Different foods
  • Different clothes
  • An abundance of chocolate/sweets and treats everywhere
  • Anxiety at its maximum surrounding the idea of being 'good/well behaved/deserving'

This is perhaps the most challenging time of year for us families with children (and adults) on the Autistic Spectrum so I thought I would share with you a few of my ideas designed to make life a little less stressful.

It is my hope that they will help things to  run more smoothly (and joyously), in your home too during this Christmas Season.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation.

This cannot be said enough! Prepare to the nth degree!

Let your child create their own special visual timetable (in the form of an advent calendar maybe) so that they can anticipate all the events at school and at home. Let them talk to you about everything that they remember about the changes and how that makes them feel and what they feel they can and cannot cope with.

Enable them to choose, to as large an extent as possible, what they want to participate in and what they don't in the school calendar and respect their wishes. Be the best advocate for child that you can be and ensure that they get the Christmas they want too. Struggling is not a nice way to live at any time but at Christmas, when everyone else is smiling and happy, it must be even worse.

Bribery & Coercion

I think it is all too common that parents begin using Santa (and presents) as a 'carrot/stick' once Christmastime comes around. Children all over the Western world are worrying themselves half to death about their behaviour and whether or not they have been 'good' enough to deserve presents.

It is my firm belief that children will do well if given the environment in which they can do well.

Our special children are already doing their best all the time to manage without breaking down, so at Christmas, when there is so much more at stake, perhaps we should avoid pairing their behaviour with the promise of presents?

A lady told my daughter only the other day that if she 'screamed like that' Santa would hear her and she wouldn't get any presents. Not only was this extremely distressing for my daughter but it was horrible for me too! I do not use this kind of carrot and stick system in my house as a rule (I'm not perfect) and I have to say that to hear it come from a complete stranger was horrifying.

My daughter had been having a difficult (and busy) day and she was getting to the end of her ability to cope (several different shops, in and out of the car, hungry and over-stimulated) and this lady simply made things 100% worse. Sigh.

So, yes, try your hardest to not equate their behaviour with good/bad....they are trying their best.


Please, please, please, unless you have absolutely no choice (or alternatively, they want to come along), let them stay at home! The world is a crappy place for those of us who shun noise, smells, lights, people, being touched and garishness right now! Unless your little one wants to plan a trip (and gets complete autonomy over what happens on that trip, including when to call it quits), don't make them come along.


Keep the number of visiting friends and relations to an minimum, or, at the very least, let your child hide out in their room (or in the room that is most comfortable for them) and do not force them to socialise if they don't want to.

As an Aspie adult I can tell you, being made to kiss, hug and chat to people who are basically a load of strangers, is traumatic and exhausting and certainly not 'fun'!

Please be an advocate for your child and warn any visitors, that if they are bringing presents, to expect them to be unwrapped on sight if they are seen by said children! If they do not wish for this to happen then should wait for the opportunity to 'sneak' them in unseen when they can be safely hidden and not add to the anticipation that our children are already feeling with regard to unopened presents.

Also, tell these same visitors what treats/sweets/foods are acceptable in advance so you don't have repeated meltdowns over food.

If you can, decline any invitations that are non-essential. Visiting lots of different homes is stress-inducing due to the amount of unpredictability.

If you do over-do it our little ones will soon unravel and will not have a chance to regroup and recover, and will therefore end up not enjoying the best bits that Christmas has to offer.


Allow your child/children to take whatever role they wish in decorating the house and tree (or not). If they are anxious about decorations perhaps put them up as late as you can in family areas and allow any other children to decorate their rooms so that they don't miss out.

I guess you may be curious as to how things are going with my brood in the run up to Christmas this year...well, let me tell you!

  • I let them choose when to put up the tree and allowed them to dress it with me (spiking my OCD to the max let me tell you!).
  • They are able to make a Christmas List the whole year through and add to it and take things away from it right up until December 1st ,when their lists are officially 'closed'. This is the same every year and it seems to work well and helps to avoid any anxiety associated with 'choosing' and being 'rushed' into decisions. (They also know that once December 1st arrives, there are no more 'incidental' treats as all my 'spare' money goes towards making Christmas awesome).
  •  This year, once Dominik had decided what he wanted, I went and bought it for him straight away and gave it to him. He knows he will only have stocking gifts on Christmas Day now (and any presents that people have managed to sneak past him) and this has enabled Dominik to focus on everyday...the here and now...and not on the 'what might or might not be coming' in x number of days. It is the anticipation for him that is the hardest part of present receiving occasions, particularly Christmas, with the Advent Calendar, people constantly asking about his list, people coming to drop off presents and being offended when he wants to open them in the instant he sees them, and of course, people reminding him to be 'good'. So, as much as I get lots of 'tutting' and 'sighing' from friends and relations, I don't care. He is not spoilt. He is happy and calm. This makes for a happier and calmer time for us all but especially for him. Phew. 
I have implemented all of what I have listed above and, touch wood, so far, this has been by far and away the most amazing build up to Christmas there has ever been in my house.

It is a magical time of year so here's hoping it is for all of your families too.

Merry Christmas!

N x

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Kids have so much to teach us.

This past week has been full of ups and downs.

There have been a few tense, trying moments (from my personal point of view, probably not the kids) and there have been a couple of days where I only wanted to go back to bed and start over. Sigh.

However, amongst the detritus, there have been a few stunning revelations. Yay!

My 10 year old son (ASD (PDA), Dyspraxia, SPD, CAPD, Misophonia, ADHD) showed me something that blew my mind!

I understand that technology is moving fast. I know that something becomes outdated within a matter of weeks. But this was other-worldly for me.

He showed me a video of Hatsune Miku (live) from 2013.

My first response, was along these lines, "Why, oh why, would people spend all that money to go and watch a hologram?! It's not even real".

And my response was countered by Dominik carefully, and knowledgeably explaining to me how this character (Vocaloid) was created.

Her voice is an entirely digital creation (as is she). She is entirely fictional. A 3D, singing, dancing fictional character on a stage, with an audience. (With a massive fanbase too that created a backstory and persona for her).

In the YouTube comments section, the top comment, by Kaito S, said this:

"For people that doesn't understand why other people would actually pay to see hologram singing and dancing, please let me enlighten you. But this might be a little long so I hope you bear with me :D
(I'd appreciate it if you would upvote this so this will remain at top of the comments for any newcomer to read.)

First off this is Vocaloid's concert, and Vocaloid long story short is a program with voice database inside where you can make songs by putting lyrics and melodies into it. Of course it is incredibly complicated as it has many parameters (like velocity, dynamics, breathiness, clearness, opening, gender factor, portamento timing, pitch end and ect) so its not as simple and easy as you think,

Anyone can practically buy a Vocaloid and make their own songs or cover songs. Users of Vocaloids can directly contribute by compose songs for any vocaloids, and by now (year 2014) the number of Vocaloid songs alone reach up to HUNDREDS OF THOUSAND, and yes I'm not kidding nor do I exaggerating things. Thier creativity doesn't come from a single mind like every other "real" artist, but rather is a collectives from their fans. That's why as long as their community is alive, Vocaloids will be alive as well. I'm even confident that Vocaloids such as Miku will keep going even after 50, or 100, or 200 years from now as she and any other Vocaloids are not shackled by reality. By now you should get my point that by being "not real" is their strongest weapon.

You might argue that their voice is terrible and you don't like it, well I have something to tell you: remember that Voclaoids are just a PROGRAM. So if you hate their voice its their "settings" or "parameters" that you actually hate. You will realise this if you listen enough number of their songs. Even though they are sung by Vocaloids, they sound uniquely different individually. This because each song has different composer, and each composer has their own unique parameter setting. So my point is don't hate Vocaloids, but hate the composer, like you don't hate guitar in general just because there is a guitarist you hate. Given enough effort and luck, you will surely find your favorite composer through out thousands out there :)

So the "thing" you see on that stage is not just a hologram, but a personification of creativeness coming from hundred of thousand of Vocaloid fans (And I should add that actually their fans count up to millions world wide). In a sense it really is a concert from Crypton Vocaloid fans, to their fans, and by their fans. Thats why they are not there simply to see the marveloussness of hologram technology like you think, Its more than that.

I would also like to add that if you search on Google: "Why Hatsune Miku popular" you would find an article from LA Times Magazines. It will give you more detailed and unbiased information around Hatsune Miku than me.

Lastly, whether you agree or disagree with me, please leave me a comment. I'd love to chat with fellow vocaloid fans and make any newcomer (or probably hater) to see vocaloid the same way as I do :)

P.S.: Damn, this is longer than I thought would be :P
-Written by +Clemens Cave 
-Edited by +Ratio Kun 

Ratio Kun / Kaito S Speaking here
Also if you are new to the Vocaloid I will welcome you, please tell me what you like otdislike about the concert or the Vocaloids in the comments, I would like to hear your opinions.

I will make a new post relating to more about the actual Vocaloids and some examples of their voices."

Dominik went on to show me more examples and enquire about the software used, whether his laptop could run the programme, how he would create the character to go with one of his own Vocaloids and generally how much he'd like to play around with it. Wow.

Who can ask for more than this? 
Genuine interest. 
Genuine learning. 
Genuine enthusiasm. 
A genuine desire to explore and expand his world (and ours I guess).

Who would have known a 10 year old could be this inspired? Especially a 10 year old, who, had he gone into traditional education, would have been classed as 'unteachable', 'disruptive', 'disengaged', 'distracted', 'disobedient' (hmmm..lots of 'dis' words in there) etc.

It turns out that he is none of those things. He is everything I, as his teacher, could wish for. 

So, yes, that's one thing down!

The second thing I learnt this week was from my middle son, Hannon, 7 years old. 

He taught me that birds and butterflies actually move as one (learned from 'Wild Kratts') the water in a wave, rather than as individuals in a group. Amazing and perhaps more than a little insightful. 

We had this discussion whilst driving back from Ampthill Park after we'd had a trek through the muddy woods and sat in the cafe watching the camera that is fixed on the bird-feeder.  

The camera was fun too actually!

It reminded Hannon instantly of 'Five Nights At Freddy's' (an horror themed Indy game which is essentially a complex puzzle game), and he began playing a game with Lily where they performed 'Five Nights At Freddy's in real life. The funny thing was, we had face-painted before we left the house and Hannon was the 'marionette' from the 2nd game, and Lily was Chica, one of the animatronics. Perfect.

Also this week, Dominik has begun making the family bread, Lily has decided she loves to bake, bump is growing fast now (and I'm getting more tired) and Hannon is now a maze genius after completing this book!

Here are some pictures.

Thanks for reading.

N x

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A discussion about therapies.

Last night I was involved in a discussion with a lady called Jude Seaward who has always been my 'go to' for more practical, empathetic approaches to helping my children, and particularly my PDA son. You can find out more about Jude here at her website, "SimplyMisunderstood".

She was asked by someone else in the group we belong to, what the difference was between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and why one might be more beneficial for children (and adults I guess) with Pathological Demand Avoidance, than the other.

I am going to copy and paste the discussion below as there is not much more I can add. Jude's summary was concise, comprehensive and easily understood.

Here you go!


"What I have found is that therapy alone doesn't work, or is very slow. I have found that it must be multi elemental so you look at the environmental changes, teaching a new skill in line with their development and broken into small steps, altering interaction and changing the persons approach.

That is where NLP is slightly better than CBT.

CBT is about challenging people's views and offering alternative thoughts. For example, my friend walked past me and ignored me; 1) because they didn't see me or 2) because they don't like me and are ignoring me. So, CBT would look at the evidence to support or disprove the persons thoughts.

This process, if you think about it, is quite directive, and in some ways challenging. This, in its own way, becomes a demand.

With NLP, it's about building a new thought process and skills, so if you see your friend and they are walking past, you can call them, tap them on the shoulder and so on. You have a shared experience in the process. Instead of being an exploration, you look at the positive thought patterns and plant ideas.

The more you practice them, the more your brain positively reacts to it.

So, instead of with CBT, saying, 'Why am I scared? What can I do about it?', with NLP you would look at, yes, it does worry me but I can do this. Do I need to ask for help, or do I have the skills?

This way it helps the child (or adult) develop coping skills that they can use, (rather than with CBT changing what they think) in a logical format. It is very subtle, the difference, but one is more structured and therapist led (CBT) rather than free-flowing and child-led (NLP).

This is why it works better for kids with gives them some control and relationship with the therapist - it is more nurturing.

Also, NLP will take into account the preferred learning manner and get you to be more in touch with your body, helping you to realise what senses you use to take in information from the world.

It's used a lot hypnotherapy where a positive thought is 'planted' to be triggered. For example, I used it when studying and the thought was simple: I like to read and study. This was in line with my natural balance but I reinforced it and it made doing my masters a breeze as I enjoyed it even more! Even now I enjoy a book (but not always a reference book)!"

So, there you have it. The subtle and yet crucial difference between CBT and NLP.

After having this discussion with Jude I realised that, whilst I don't have the technical terms for what goes on in my own home, I am following NLP principles. We constantly build on what makes us happy and helps us to feel accomplished. We rarely talk about 'deficits' and 'struggles'.

All learning in my house, (social, emotional, physical, educational etc.) happens by building on strengths and focussing on positives. I do not ever begin an activity with my children based on the premise that they need to 'improve' or 'practice' as these in themselves devalue where their skill level is at this current time, which in itself can be discouraging (especially for a child with PDA who has massive anxiety about their performance to begin with).

I know I risk sounding like a broken record, but, the unstructured learning approach for kids with PDA  is so very beneficial. It is also, slower and it is more bumpy and it is certainly requires a lot more faith, but, in the long run, it leads to better outcomes because ultimately, it is an internal change and not an external change.

If your child, whether they have the PDA part to their diagnosis or not, is anxious about failure and struggles to get motivated if the task is something that has been forced upon them, please consider how NLP and using different language might help.

Are you building on their passions? Are you harnessing their interests? Are you strengthening their confidence and self-esteem by using a 'can do' attitude?

I hope you have taken something from this short discussion that can be of use for your family.

Have a great day,

N x

Friday, 21 November 2014

An afternoon window shopping.

Fair warning

(well, not really a catastrophe, but certainly a massive a whole in your wallet)!

My son, Dominik, loves, loves, loves a YouTube channel called Vat19. Find their website here.

It is basically an innovative, geeky team of guys and gals who find, test, promote and then sell unusual and awesome products.

I think they seem particularly geared towards those of us who are slightly more quirky than the norm!

Yesterday afternoon my kiddos and I sat and watched dozens of their product reviews on YouTube and had an absolute blast.

In my opinion they have a high educational slant as well as being super fun and highly sensory.

Here is our wish list!

JishakuMaster the art of magnetic attraction with Jishaku, the strategic boardgame.Your goal is to place all of your magnetic "stones" on the Jishaku board without any of them touching each other. This is simple at first, but becomes increasingly challenging as the board fills up. Stones will twist, turn, and jump as you search for a safe location. Make a mistake and a flurry of magnetic action will end with a half dozen stones stuck together.

TenziTenzi is the fast-paced and frenzied dice-rolling game for 2-4 players. The concept is simple, the game-play is lightning fast, and the fun is immediate.Here's how to play: be the first player to roll all ten of your dice to the same number.Because speed is essential to winning, Tenzi creates frantic bursts of sloppy and sometimes erratic dice rolling and oftentimes induces frustrated screaming and indiscriminate insults. It's almost too much fun!

Konexi - If Scrabble and Jenga got together and had a bit too much to drink, Konexi might be their "gift" nine months later.Konexi is played by taking turns adding notched letters to a teetering tower of words. The longer the word you spell, the more points you are awarded. But be careful, the next letter you place could topple the entire tower.

Piperoid - Paper Pie Robots - Piperoids are desk-sized robotic characters made entirely from colorful paper pipes. Starting with a handful of tubes and only a pair of scissors, you can build a Piperoid Robot in roughly 30 minutes via a series of cuts and folds.Because all Piperoid characters are built using the same diameter of pipes, pieces can be interchanged to create awesome hybrids. Furthermore, the absence of glue and tape allows you to move all of their joints.

Fastrack - Fastrack is a frenetic desktop disc flinging game. Your goal is to shoot your five wooden discs into your opponent's half of the court. The catch? The opening is only a quarter-inch wider than your ammo.Therefore, you must aim carefully as you pull back on the elastic band used to fire your discs. But don't dilly dally or you'll surely be bombarded and overwhelmed by your opponent. Ride the fine line between speed and accuracy to win the day.

Timeline - The GameIn Timeline, your objective is to correctly place inventions in chronological order. This involves asking yourself questions like, "Was barbed wire invented before or after the can opener?" Yeah. Not so easy.At the start of your turn, select a card from your pile (representing one of mankind's creations) and call out its place amongst the table's current timeline of inventions.Next, flip over your card to reveal its date of creation. If correct, add the card to the timeline. Claim victory by being the first to correctly place all of your cards.

The Original Buddha Board - Live in the moment with the Original Buddha Board. With just a dab of water, each stroke of the brush appears like black ink on the surface. Similar to watercolor painting, the Buddha Board produces soft, beautiful images. As the water slowly evaporates, your painting fades and a new blank canvas is revealed.With the mentality of a Zen Buddhist, you're free to create pictures on a whim, without concern for the outcome. The Buddha Board is great for relaxing, clearing your thoughts, and is just plain fun. It's the perfect gift for the hard-to-shop-for.

Sand by BrookstoneSånd (rhymes with "wand") brings all the fun of beach sand indoors without any of the mess.You can mold it, sculpt it, and write on it just like wet beach sand, but Sånd is completely dry and only sticks to itself — not your hands!Sånd is an ingenious Swedish invention that is 98% regular sand and 2% polymer. But boy, oh boy, that two percent makes a huge difference!Sånd simply has to be felt to be believed. It oozes when you squeeze it, yet you can sculpt it and it will hold its shape. And watching it flow is simply mesmerizing.

And finally,

Magnetic Thinking PuttyMagnetic Thinking Putty takes regular "silly" putty and turns its awesomeness up to 11. Like any other putty, it can be stretched, bounced, molded, popped, and torn. However, when this putty is in the presence of a magnetic field, it exhibits fascinating properties.Millions of tiny micron-sized magnets are embedded in each handful of Magnetic Thinking Putty. Use the included super-strong ceramic magnet to control the putty like a snake charmer. Or "charge" the blob of putty so it can become a magnet of its own and pick up small tacks and paperclips.

I hope you like our discovery and at the very least, that these products have given you some unusual Christmas ideas for the coming holiday season! 

If you do decide to buy any of the above, or better yet, find a UK stockist for these products (outside of Amazon), please do let me know! 

N x

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A few Amazing Things Happened this week!

I try to find the time to sit down everyday and count my blessings.

I will admit that my ability to sustain the practice is not great, and I certainly don't manage it 100% of the time, I do do it properly when I remember!

Today, I have done it so I thought I'd share my gratitudes with you.

It was my birthday last week and the children and I went out for lunch. Success.

Last week we attended a fireworks display for the first time ever as a family of four. Success.

Hannon is picking up his reading ability with a vengeance and it is both exciting and awe-inspiring to watch.

Lily is branching out in whole new ways. She is showing signs of maturity in her ability to understand the world around her.

Dominik has not argued with me about any of the following things (which are usually a massive issue for us): teeth brushing, showering, exercising, making healthier food choices, spending time with his siblings...and the list goes on.

Dominik and I had lunch out by ourselves this week too. Such a rare occasion and so lovely when it happens!

Today Dominik and discussed ratios and percentages as s result of his kill/death ratio in Battlefield 4. He also showed an amazing level of skill! I cannot imagine ever being able to master the skills he demonstrates...the speed with which events move on its own is astounding to me. Let alone all the different weapons combinations!

Lily is immersed in a new anime. (My three children love Japanese anime and manga). She is learning to sing the theme tune. She is asking intelligent and interesting questions about the show and its events, It presents lots of discussion points and it also means we can begin a new manga together once we have finished 'Soul Eater' and 'Soul Eater NOT!'.

(For those who don't know, getting to grips with reading a book from back to front and from top right to top left is no mean feat...especially when it is written in block capitals, which is a real challenge for me already)!

Comic books have helped Hannon to learn how to read because the letters are the same as they are on a computer keyboard. He is learning to read by listening (a lot...30 minutes per day, one to one) and by using the letters themselves in his daily activities. He does not like to write (most boys don't I think), so he is able to practice his skills using a more than valid (and let's face it speedier) alternative. He is given as much time as he needs/wants to read/spell with me.

Dominik would like to spend time with a native Japanese speaker. The search is on for someone who likes (and wants) to talk about Pokemon, Nintendo, Manga, Anime and Japanese Mythology...wish me luck won't you!?

Now, I am sure there are many, many other things to be grateful for, (a healthy Harriet bump and wonderful friends to name two more) but, perhaps the one that is stopping me from continuing to write any more, is this one:

Tomorrow, I am having an afternoon and evening out in London, with my absolute best friend in the world, and we are going to see a live performance of 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin', read by Russell Brand, at the Royal Albert Hall with a live orchestra to boot! I am so excited I could pee my pants (which is much more likely these days as it is)!!

So, I hope you can find the time to think about what you are grateful for right now.

It will be soooo worth it.

Sweet dreams.

N x

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Is your Aspie a born gamer?

So, as I am sure many of you know, a large number of Aspies seem to arrive with an inbuilt love of technology and all things digital.

My oldest son is no exception!

I have found that above all else, gaming is the best way to engage him in true, meaningful learning experiences that are self-motivated and highly rewarding (the virtual trophies, the new high scores, the online competition and the ultimate goal of game completion).

I have often felt conflicted about the benefits of gaming and about the level of his obsession,but as time has passed, I have learnt, read, watched and experienced so much that I no longer feel any conflict.

I hope that by writing this, some of you, who are perhaps still skeptical, might gain a new perspective and understanding, and perhaps even support your child's less than 'politically correct' hobby.

A bit of background.

Dominik was obsessed with the computer from around the age of 3. He would repeatedly attempt to 'break into' our family pc by trying many different passwords over and over again, giving up and switching it off by the power switch to just begin all over again! Eventually we decided to teach him how to use it rather than constantly having to do pc maintenance because of repeated, unnecessary rebooting!

He had some simple games revolving around 'Thomas the Tank Engine', 'Dora the Explorer' and 'Bob the Builder' to begin with and invariably completed them on the first try so we expanded his horizons to BBC Bitesize, OMGPop, National Geographic Kids and a few other 'kid friendly' sites that I have long since forgotten.

He would spend hours watching his dad playing 'Morrowind', 'Evony', 'Kings Bounty', 'World of Goo' and playing strategy/tower defense, puzzle and brain training games on!

So, after several more years, along came 'Minecraft'!

I introduced Dominik to 'Minecraft' when he was just over 7 years old when the game was still being heavily developed and improved.

Well, it was like I had opened Pandora's box! 'Minecraft' combined his love of the PC, Lego, sand box games, YouTube research, real life physics, multiplayer servers and much, much more. He was in love and still is to this day. We have 'Minecraft' on our tablets, on our PS3, on our XBox and on our PC's.

If you are unfamiliar (or even skeptical) of the benefits of 'Minecraft', here are some useful links:

Minecraft In Education
Hey, Parents. What Minecraft Is Doing to Your Kids Is Kind of Surprising. (includes some excellent videos too)

The Benefits of Minecraft for Children

I could go on, but, if you are truly interested, you will have the idea by now! If not, then you should probably stop reading here as it is only going to get more controversial from your point of view!

During this time we also played many games that used real-life physics engines: 'The Incredible Machine', 'Happy Wheels' (yuk) and 'Crayola Physics' to name a few.

We played 'Bookworm', 'Scrabble', 'Spore', 'Worms', 'Little Big Planet' and countless 'Lego' games!

Using the 'Minecraft' multiplayer model, Dominik moved onto 'Steam' games ('Team Fortress 2', 'Portal', 'Half Life' and 'Binding of Isaac' (yuk)). 'Steam' offered him further opportunities to make new and interesting friends from around the world (some of whom he still speaks to to this day on 'Skype'), as well as improving his typing, reading and social skills (all unexpected and welcome events).

We bought ourselves a second hand Wii gaming system for his 8th Birthday and the fun just kept on coming! 'Mario Kart', 'Wii Sports' 'Raving Rabids' and the 'Zelda' games just expanded our repertoire further and allowed us to incorporate more gross motor skills into our learning, as well as continuing to improve his fine motor skills.

Whilst the learning is taking place, there is another important factor to consider...the family time! The joys of racing each other, out-shooting each other and sabotaging each other cannot be underestimated! We have had so many hours of laughter and family bonding over the Wii it is worth its weight in gold as far as I am concerned.

At this current time we have the following gaming systems in our house:

PS3 (x2)
Wii (x2)
Nintendo DS
Nintendo 3DS
XBox 360
Tablet (x3)
Laptop (x3)
Super Nintendo

So, as you can tell, I have now fully embraced my sons expensive hobby!

Some more games that stand out as being instrumental in his learning have been:

'Guitar Hero'
'DJ Hero'
'Band Hero'
'Portal 2'
'Mirrors Edge'
All of the 'Call of Duty' games
All of the 'Sonic' games we have
All of the 'Lego' games we have
All of the 'Mario' games we have
'Tomadachi Life'
'Angry Birds'
'Plants vs Zombies'

I am sure you are asking yourself how it is possible that these games could lead to learning experiences, well, I am going to tell you!

I am going to focus on the 'shoot-'em-up' type of game as I think this is the most controversial type of game in the grand scheme of things but here are some links to general gaming benefits/pitfalls:


10 Benefits of Video Games

Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds

Are There Benefits in Playing Video Games?

The educational benefits of videogames

Gaming Can Make A Better World

Benefits of Gaming - A Graphical Representation

So, the 'Call Of Duty' series and others like it, were the games that I resisted buying for the longest period of time. I am an anarchist (please look up the definition if you think it is synonymous with violence of any kind) and a pacifist and I hate the idea of warfare full stop.

Buying the first game (which I bought last Christmas after having had the PS3 for two whole years prior to that), was a big step for me and a huge leap of faith.

I spent many hours watching Dominik playing these games trying to ascertain what the benefits are, as I was certain there must be some given the level of popularity of this particular genre.

He has learnt the following from these games as far as I can tell (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  • remarkable hand eye coordination
  • problem solving
  • strategy and planning
  • teamwork
  • focus
  • communication
  • patience
  • logistics
  • weapons expertise
  • history
  • military history
  • geography
  • English

The reason I decided to write this blog entry happened last night. Dominik chose to buy a new shoot-'em-up' game yesterday called 'Battlefield 4'.

As I watched him, I noticed that the graphics were of outstanding quality....such outstanding quality that the glare from the sun can affect gameplay and requires you to plan your strategy. The game engine is so precise as to allow you to walk on girders (if you are able), to plant bombs in rail cars and then close the doors to remote detonate them if an enemy enters the area and to parachute into areas occupied by the enemy and infiltrate their base. This particular game has an added element that intrigued me enough to actually play!

You can download and install, on any tablet, an app called 'Battlefield Commander'. This allows you to join the server that you are playing on on your PS3 and 'command' the gameplay. This enables further strategy and planning, the use of EMP's to disable to enemy teams communications and so much more.

Yes, not nice I hear you cry! I agree! I DO NOT envisage my son being military material and yes, I hate the idea that he is being 'trained' in modern warfare, but the long and short of it is, he is.

And he is extremely good at it.

The benefits of watching (and playing) these games with Dominik are that I am able to discuss some of life's' bigger questions with him within a context that he understands and loves.

How does he feel about war?
How does he feel about unmanned drones?
How does he feel about remote warfare?
Does he realize his skill set is one of a 'soldier of the future', where robots and unmanned vehicles will be the norm?
Does he realise that being able to control machines via game console controllers is something the military are really interested in? (Game Controllers Driving Drones, NukesArmy fly UAV spyplane with Xbox 360 controllerUs Army Remote Vehicles Using Xbox 360 Controller?Wii All You Can Be? Why the Military Needs the Gaming IndustryWar Games and the list goes on).

Whilst Dominik is uncomfortable with this reality, even he has to concede that I have a point! Through these discussions and many others like them, I hope that (as he matures), he will be able to make the right choices for himself...whether I agree with them or not.

It is not my place to make decisions about how he should prepare for his future. I do not have a crystal ball. I do not know what the future holds.

I want my children to make decisions that are right for them, not me. It is my job to ensure that he is fully informed and that he has a moral grounding that is sturdy. I am doing that to the best of my ability whilst enabling him to pursue his interests.

Whilst people are frowning upon 'gamers' as a group, they might want to consider that one day, in the not too distant future, a gamer might be responsible for saving their life.

The technology is not going to go away.
The horse has already bolted.

My son, and the millions of others like him, are being trained for war and they are the future.

I wonder what it will hold.


Friday, 24 October 2014

The Unravelling!

Those of you with children on the Autistic Spectrum are all well aware of the concept of unravelling I am sure, but I wanted to tell you a little my daughter Lily who is 5, going on 15 (and soon to be 6)!

Lily was born, unassisted, in Peru in 2008, in a room overlooking the sea, in a tiny village called Los Organos. She was born in the early hours of Christmas Eve and therefore earned the affectionate nickname of Angel De Navidad...Christmas Angel.

It was a very fast, easy labour and delivery and because of the time difference, we were able to Skype with our family in England shortly after she was born so everyone could see her.

She was a lovely baby. Smiley, affectionate, easily humoured and friendly. She met all the milestones with ease, fed well and developed with no obvious 'disabilities'.

We lived in Peru until Lily was 15 months old when a family breakdown forced us to return to Bedford.

Upon our return we were homeless and income-less so we stayed with my mum. She lives in a three bedroom semi so the little ones and I shared a room! Dominik had his own, my mum had her own too and I shared with Lily and Hannon.

It was around January 2010 that I began to investigate Dominik's quirks and discovered that he had a myriad of differences.

I suppose being alerted to all the different neurological conditions opened my eyes to all the possibilities and I began seeing Lily in a different light.

She wasn't happy being dressed. She did not sleep well. She wasn't happy with any kind of change. She became fussy and obsessive. She was resistant to new people and places and she adored her nanny!

I suspected she had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder with the often found sensory integration diffculties to boot very similar to her oldest brother.

Fortunately, our life was structured in such a way that I was able to accommodate her differences with ease most of the time. The decision to home school was a blessing in disguise! It enabled us to find our own rhythm and it helped me to understand Lily (and Dominik and Hannon) better than I would have been able to had they been away from me for hours every day.

Lily's difficulties continued to expand. She was edgy, nervous, aggressive and took to running away whenever she was upset/angry/overwhelmed or unable to communicate properly.

Between the ages of 3 and 5 she was at her most challenging. We could not go shopping, to busy parks nor noisy play centres and we could not travel any distance in a car at all.

She would take hours over a meal, procrastinate about clothes and shoe choices and point blank refuse to do anything that was outside of her comfort zone.

Life was becoming more and more isolated with two little ones on the spectrum.

When Dominik was 9 and Lily was 5, I applied for Disability Living Allowance. I was successful for Dominik in the first instance but it took two tries to get Lily an award.

The first thing I did was find a local homoeopath with knowledge of Autism. I contacted Alison Jones who agreed to meet us all and see what she could offer.

Alison was a godsend. Her patience, tenacity and understanding made a refreshing change after the professionals I had met up until that time.

She put Dominik on a series of remedies and the difference was almost immediate.

I decided to ask Alison to treat Lily and Hannon too.

Lily began seeing Alison in early 2014. She was given several remedies to tackle her challenging behaviour from several angles. We dealt with language, maturity and tried to increase her sense of calm.

Lily has been a completely different child during this time. So different in fact, that I began to question whether or not I had imagined all the difficulties she was experiencing.

Things have now changed!

For those of you who do not know anything about homoeopathy, there are a couple of stages that the remedies go through. There is a 'proving' stage where you expect to see an escalation of the symptoms for a short time (this means they are having an effect) and then there is a settling period where the remedies 'find their mark' so to speak and the behaviours are diminished, or in Lily's case, eliminated completely.

Lily has been stable since early summer. Her remedies has varied slightly but have not 'tailed off' to any extent. She has matured, her language has flourished, she has not had any violent episodes nor has she had trouble sleeping. We have had a real life!

At the end of last week that all changed! The remedies seem to have finally run their course and the difference has indeed led to an unravelling the likes of which I have never seen before.

She is anxious, easily upset, extremely emotional and fragile. She is punching, kicking, running away, hiding, screaming and reverting to the behaviours of a toddler to make her point. She also seems to have forgotten how to use any words at all at times of high anxiety. It has been an eye-opening and depressing few days.

These kiddos have a tendency to lull us into a false sense of security I think. Many weeks can pass without incident and then, out of nowhere it seems, everything regresses. Sigh. It is so disheartening and so very distressing to watch it happen. To see Lily so traumatised by her own mood changes has been horrible. She is at an age now where she is very self-aware. She knows that she is behaving differently and this alone frightens her compounding the problems further.

Lily was given an emergency remedy this morning and has had a semi-aggressive reaction which was thankfully, short-lived!

I hope we are now back on track but only time will tell.

There are a couple of good things to come out of this experience and they are:
Firstly, I wasn't imagining her 'disability' in the first place. And secondly, the homoeopathy is having a huge impact on her behaviours in a positive direction.

If you have any questions, please do contact me. I would love to share our experience some more.

Here's wishing for a quiet day for us all!


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The right to be disappointed in someone else.

Who do people think they are?

To look at someone else's actions/words/life and to pass judgement is wrong I think.

"Judge not lest ye be judged." - Matthew 7:1-3

Is that the essence of why we judge one another? Because then everyone can be judged indiscriminately? That can't be right.

I have an intense dislike of people passing any kind of  judgement.

I am not completely free of the urge yet but I am consciously working on it.

I will do my utmost to see the best in every situation/person I encounter because I would rather be happy than sad.

I would rather other people were happy (and loved as I am) than unhappy and I would not deliberately hurt anyone and I think passing judgement is hurtful. (That stands irrespective of what they may have 'done' to me).

No one does anything to you beyond that of their actual 'behaviour'. There lies the end of their power. It is how you respond to that behaviour that ultimately matters. That is where the true power of people lies.

"It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to." - W. C. Fields

I don't think I have always been this way, but it has always been the way I was heading.

Perhaps this is the biggest lesson to pass on to my children?

Be accepting of others. Be tolerant. Be understanding. Send out love, empathy and kindness.

The world needs more of those.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dominik uploaded the Introduction to his new YouTube Channel!

Proud Mummy moment.

My 10 year old uploaded his first YouTube video this week after much learning and much angst!

He also has a Facebook Page and a Twitter all set up ready to go. :-)

Here's wishing you much success in your chosen endeavour Dominik. Let the gaming career commence!

Mum x

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Teaching by Stealth - My top Tips!

Teaching by stealth is something many of you have heard me refer to before I am sure but it is something that has been invaluable to me so I thought I would expand on the idea a little more and turn it into information that would make sense to everyone!

A brief description -

Teaching by stealth is imparting information, encouraging learning and curiosity, and presenting interesting new opportunities to children, that are cleverly disguised as fun activities (which are actually fun).

For me there is an added layer to teaching by stealth because my son is demand avoidant and will generally refuse to do anything if it was a) not his idea and b) if it does not coincide with his current interests.

So, here you go, my top tips, for teaching by stealth.

Focus on what they love and expand on it!

  • create a simple word search of characters names
  • have a drawing competition
  • send the characters to the shops with some money and list of items to buy
  • make your own jigsaw puzzle
  • play with your children and let them teach you what they know
  • help them research the history/development of their chosen interest
  • find someone who is more knowledgeable than you are and make a connection with them on behalf of your child
  • use paper mache to create something from a show/game
  • encourage them to use pixel art/Minecraft to create their own scenes and stories
  • make your own board game
  • use instruments to create a unique soundtrack and storyline
  • make masks and costumes and play-act together
  • make your own finger puppets and put on a show
  • use their current interest as a theme for charades
  • play hangman using their theme
  • send their favourite character on a round the world trip and plan their journey
  • use the internet and find out as much as you can and drop tid-bits of new information into conversation
  • write a quiz and have a prize for a certain number of correct answers

I hope they give you some new ideas to get more out of the time you spend with your children and to help them get more out of what they love.

N x

PS - I just came across a great list of recommended reading for those interested in learning more about relaxed home schooling.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Some of our favourite resources!

It occurred to me that this might be useful.

This is a list of things that we do together more than twice per week.

  1. Snap
  2. Top Trumps
  3. Mario Kart Wii
  4. DJ Hero
  5. Angry Birds
  6. Scrabble
  7. Game of Life
  8. Monopoly Junior
  9. A Harry Potter Diagon Alley game.
  10. Battleships
  11. Mastermind (with the coloured pins)
  12. Pokemon
  13. Trampoline
  14. Cards
  15. Draughts
  16. Hangman
  17. Eye Spy
  18. A few games Hannon knows from Beavers.
  19. Jenga
  20. Pictionary
  21. Charades
  22. Matching Pairs
  23. Freecell
  24. Spot the Difference
  25. Jigsaws
  26. Cooking
  27. The Park
  28. Crafting
  29. Face painting
  30. Hama Beads

And the list goes on (I realise) so I'm going to stop there!

This list comprises of games that are played by many different combinations of my household, and friends, for varying lengths of time.

It looks like a lot.
But it isn't.

We have lots of fun learning and growing together.

N x

Sunday, 12 October 2014

All because of a Galaxy bar!

I read many stories from other parents (mostly mums) about the abuse they suffer at the hands of their highly resistant Pathologically Demand Avoidant children and to be completely truthful, I tend to sigh and move on quickly as they upset me.

I did think though that it might be useful to describe what happens in my house when Dominik, my PDA eldest son, has a bee in his bonnet about something.

At this current point in time, Dominik's 'bees' tend to be about food or money.

Dominik was once a slim, energetic, active child who pretty much ate what he wanted and didn't gain weight. Well that is not the case anymore. Over the past 18 months, he has slowly become more sedentary and more fixated on unhealthy foods.

I am a conscious shopper. I don't buy snacks as a rule, we don't have chocolate in the house nor do we have jelly sweets, ice cream or fizzy drinks. I buy organic, whole foods and I cook all of our meals form scratch. I get my Abel and Cole box every week and we drink fresh juices and enjoy home made soups on a weekly basis. I also have never had a microwave.

My children's health and well-being is something I take seriously and it is one of my top priorities. I spend plenty of time telling Dominik about essential nutrients and vitamins and we even went so far as to give the main vitamins personalities and characteristics so my children would remember why they were so important!

Well, this is all well and good, but with a PDA child, once the genie is out of the lamp, it is impossible to put it back.

We had a very close friend and neighbour who would regularly turn up at our house with the giant, £1 Galaxy bars and share them with my three. This honestly was not a problem because whilst I may buy very little of the sugar laden foods, I have no problem with others buying it for them. In fact, my mum relishes this part of being a nan!

Yesterday, Dominik decided he wanted a £1 Galaxy bar as he hadn't had one in a very long time. This is true, it has been months since we've indulged in a giant Galaxy, but I still not want him to have one as he had certainly had enough calories for the day already.

I took a stand and said that I would not go to the shop and buy one.

That's when it began. The screaming, the crying, the throwing toys around the room, the ripping my duvet cover off my bed, the hiding under the bed, the swearing, the punching, the 'you hate me', 'you're the worst mum in the world', refusing to have the shower that had already been put off since Thursday....and the list goes on.

Yes, this is hurtful, difficult for my smaller children to witness and downright exhausting (especially after an hour and a half) but I stuck to my guns.

What I often read in these scenarios is that other parents escalate the situation...adding on punishments and retributions for the current round of disruptive (panic/anxiety driven) behaviour whilst it is occurring. I do not do this.

I sit quietly, I maintain eye contact, I speak in a soft voice, I empathise, I reiterate my point and I finally say that I am done talking about the Galaxy bar today.

This is not always guaranteed to work. As I said, this particular event happened over an hour and half at top volume. In the end he went and curled up under my daughters bed. My son went to see if he was ok. He was ignored. My daughter went to see if he was ok. She was ignored. I sent him a text message (which is sometimes the best way to communicate to him that yes, I do care, but no, I will not talk about the issue any more) and I was ignored too.

He eventually came out and instantly complained that none of us cared about him. I pointed out that we had all tried to make him feel better....which he did not acknowledge as being true, but he did drop the subject.

In the end, the meltdown was over and we all got on with our evening. I needed to nip out to the shop and while I was there, I bought him a small Twix.

I took it home and gave it to him. He was over the moon. Full of gratitude and love because even though it wasn't what he had asked for, it was an acknowledgement of his current needs (and in my mind, a reward for moving on relatively quickly from a meltdown). He gave me half of one half. Proud mummy moment which also demonstrates that it is less about the chocolate, and more about the control.

No, it wasn't what he had demanded. Yes, it was small. But, most importantly I think, it left him feeling like he had not lost face. That he was still loved. And that yes, I did indeed care.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who will see this as rewarding 'bad behaviour' but I don't. For me, it was a way to connect with him, even when he is in the dark. He knows that his behaviour is unacceptable (after the event) and he knows that it won't help him achieve his goals (after the event). But he also knows, that I love him, and that if something is reasonable, and not extravagantly over-indulgent, he is likely to get it.

I try not to sweat the small stuff. For us, meltdowns, can become small stuff if they are handled with sensitivity and empathy.

N x

Dominik in Portugal with his precious 7Up! 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

What does unschooling a PDA child look like?

We (my household) have honestly, cross my heart found, that the fewer the demands (ie, respectful living, few rules, free rein to roam in the early days), the higher the level of cooperation we can expect in the future.

Dominik was at a point where we could not leave the house as a family at all. My mother would not take them anywhere nor would she babysit at night for me. He ran away at times too.

Things were almost I let go. I paused for breath, I stopped trying to control his behaviour and I let him be himself. I ignored the bad behaviour. I learnt about his hobbies and interests and tried my best to share in them with him.

It was an intensive, one-to-one trust building exercise.

Yes, he does choose many activities I don't like! But guess what, I have hobbies he doesn't like too!

The more he trusts me not to judge and control, the more he wants to trust me and listen to my thoughts and opinions.

He is no longer instantly offended by my disagreeing with him nor by my saying no.

He is beginning to understand that not everyone is out to get him.

He said to me a few days ago, "Mum, don't make me think about things because when I do they frighten me". He meant it.

Imagine living in a world where as soon as you thought about an action (and presumably its potential consequences) you became frozen? So terrified that you either engaged; fight, flight or freeze.

That's what is happening to our children.

We need to build their trust and their own self-esteem.

N x

Home Educating in Bedford Borough - Our Story

Some of you may not be familiar with home education guidelines in England so I thought a document that outlined the legal position and the powers delegated to local authorities might be useful.

But, rather than reinvent the wheel I am going to link to some pages that provide an excellent summary of the law for all children and also more specifically, those within special needs settings and then I am going to tell you about our experiences. - Fiona Nicholson

Education Otherwise

HE and SEN

HE and SEN - from Fiona Nicholson


Now, about our HE journey.

In England, home education registration is voluntary. Well, in theory!

I did not intend to register my home education plans with Bedford Borough (as is my right) but that intention was superseded by a paediatrician who took it upon herself to report me to the local authority pretty much as soon as we left her office (whilst at the same time refusing my requests for an auditory processing assessment, an educational psychology assessment and an occupational therapy assessment).

I had a phone call from Lindsay, the Elective Home Education Officer, within an hour of arriving home. Sigh.

The argument the paediatrician made was that Dominik was a child missing education.

Dominik was clearly not a child missing education. He had demonstrated an incredible amount of intelligence/knowledge during his appointment, discussing his science experiments and his desire to be a little 'Einstein or Tesla' when he grew up.

When I pursued a formal complaint against the paediatrician I was told that safeguarding legislation gave her the power to share my information because Dominik was a 'child missing education' and that this was permissible within the safeguarding guidelines. I went on to learn that home education is never (in and of itself) a self guarding issue which meant that her referral was completely unjustified and way outside the scope of her 'powers'. 

However, this small detail of legality does not seem to matter to some of those in positions perceived authority.

At this point I decided to challenge the EHE Officer instead and I did make her life rather difficult. I asked to see her CRB clearance (as it was then, now DBS), I asked for her personal work experience with special needs children, I asked her if she would make a video of herself so that I could introduce her to Dominik without the need to meet in person first, I made it clear that she would not be able to visit us at home and I also stated that I understood the law and that I would not be bullied into complying with anything outside of it. Needless to say, she accepted my final offer of submitting a written summary of our learning journey on a yearly basis without the need to meet any of us. That is the maximum legal requirement for home educators at this time.

Suffice it to say, at the time, I was furious. I really did not want to have to report on my home education to anybody! Especially knowing that Dominik (who was the only one of statutory school age at that time), was never going to comply with a more school-based, traditional approach to home education. I was worried that an autonomous education would be hard to justify and document. I was terrified that I was going to fall prey to more overly judgemental busy-bodies who thought they knew best and assumed a lack of formal, written work meant a lack of learning.

Well, thankfully, I was wrong! Phew!

Lindsay has been nothing but supportive and non-judgemental and has (I think) thoroughly enjoyed reading about our exploits!

I am now going to give you a few samples from my reports for 2014. I should probably add, that I do submit more than is necessary but I like to have a record of what we have all done for myself (and for the kids should they ever ask)! My reports also include, photo's, videos and a list of resources.

If you would like to read more, please send me an email and I will send you a full copy.

Art & Design

"Dominik continues to explore his creative side in the kitchen with more baking and juicing. His favourite YouTube channels include ‘Nerdy Nummies’ and ‘CupQuake’ both of whom make gaming cakes and gifts. We have replicated several from Minecraft and Pokemon. We recently baked some cookies in the shapes of ‘Soul Eater’ characters, one of Dominik’s favourite animes.

We have been making lots of pixel art with hama beads which have not only expanded his creativity and design skills, but have helped enormously with his fine motor skills and concentration. He is also still making plenty of pixel art in Minecraft."

Trips & Activities

Standalone Farm
Hitchin Pool
Milton Maize Maze
Fancy Dress Party
EuroGamer Expo
Nature Kids (Felicity Evans)"

Geography & History

"This year has seen Dominik expand his viewing to Animal Planet, The History Channel, MythBusters and several YouTube channels, including ‘VSauce’.

His geography is improving due to his love of Minecraft! We founded an Unschoolers Internet Gaming Group and were joined by families by from all over the world. He now plays regularly with friends from Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Japan, Wales and the United states to name but a few."

Maths & Science

"Notable experiments:
Fire (exploring oxygen, tinder, burning times, fuel)
Lots of combustion with bicarbonate of soda.
Sea Monkeys
Ant Farms

We have spent time watching the Slooh web cam and have seen many an asteroid flyby. We watch videos from the International Space Station also.

We watch a lot of MythBusters and Ancient Aliens."


"He has played Scribblenauts on the PC and we still play hangman and Scrabble and various word games on the tablet and online regularly.
He has begun reading the Manga comic Soul Eater and we have started to read The Hobbit.
We play a game called MadLibs which is an excellent way of learning basic English Language skills."


"Dominik is constantly utilising music in his environment. It seems to ‘power’ and exemplify his mood. This year he has explored heavy metal, Japanese traditional music and Band Hero on the PS3."

Physical Education

"Dominik has taught himself to swim this year and we had an amazing day out at Hitchin Pool. We also went to Scratby for a short family holiday which further helped his learning. He was able to cope with the noise, smells and unpredictability of the environment better than ever before with only one major meltdown during our stay.
He still loves to bike ride and often rides to his Nan’s alone for a visit. He recently went to her house to deliver flowers and card for her birthday. My mum was so proud and she said it made her birthday very special to see how far he has come and what a lovely young man he is becoming."


"Dominik is still an avid ‘gamer’ and has this year extended his gameplay to more ‘retro’ games. These are often more challenging. They are also an expansion of his curiosity as to where games have come from and where they are going.
We went to EuroGamer this year where we spent a considerable amount of time in the retro games arcade where Dominik was able to ask questions of the stall holders and experience how gaming happened in the early 1980’s. It was a great learning experience on all levels."

Please do remember we are completely unstructured and autonomous and yet the learning flows easily (even with a PDA child).

Finally, I would like to emphasise the importance of being pro-active with the LA if you should choose to register (or you deregister). We were recently invited to be part of a working group here in Bedford Borough to redraft our home education guidelines and policies and bring them into line with the government guidelines and other examples of best practice.

It was productive and useful for all concerned and I sincerely hope that all those considering HE in Bedford will receive a warm welcome and lots of support and encouragement.

Thanks for reading! I do hope this was useful.

N x