Friday, 8 April 2016

Some of our unschooling wins!

I thought it was about time I mentioned a few recent unschooling wins!

Lily is now reading almost fluently and loving her new-found freedom. Not only is she better able to communicate with and understand the world around her, she is also brimming with a new level of confidence in her own ability to learn!

She has gone from reading simple children's bedtime stories, to young adult manga in a matter of weeks. She has revolutionised her own bedtimes in the process. She is now getting in to bed without any electronic media and she is reading (and sometimes drawing) until she feels tired. This doesn't mean we are without incident completely, every night, but it does mean it is far more manageable and that Lily is far calmer and happier.

We have talked again bedtimes as a family, but we are all agreed that they are working really well as they are and we all feel that we are benefiting from them in a positive way. This means we maintain the status quo. Yay!

Hannon and Lily get into bed at 9pm, with all electronics gone by 10pm and then reading for as long as you wish. Dominik stops gaming by 11pm and is in bed with his PS4 off by 12. He has chosen to have his tablet, as he will only read online. He is currently immersed in Undertale fan comics (more on this later).

Lily has also learnt to write by hand. This is something that has never come naturally to the boys, but Lily has taken to it like a duck to water. The boys are happier to type. Full stop. They do not have the skills at the moment to hold a pencil comfortably so typing is far quicker and feels nicer. They can both spell well and Dominik requested that I buy an Usborne book on spelling, punctuation, grammar etc. so he is actively learning some grammar! :-) Again though, Lily has picked up grammar very easily. In fact, I'm not sure we have even talked to each other about it. She may have heard me talking about it with the boys though. Either way, she rocks at punctuation! She wrote a note for my mum this week and it was simply beautiful. I will try and remember to upload a picture of it if that is ok with them. The envelope was even addressed - Beryl/Nanny - how lovely is that?

Lily has begun drawing her own little animations on her white board (her favourite and most used Christmas present by far!) almost continuously. She usually draws boys and girls and love hearts etc, but it is fabulous work.

She has been enjoying parkour and is a natural when she actually tries to be present during the lessons! Her physical abilities are extraordinary. She has also picked up some early tennis skills this week too.

I'm sure I could go on but I must tell you about the others.

Hannon has now learnt to use a second online animation programme. He is putting together little animations as well as making games. He is trying to perfect his YouTube intro at the moment. He has also made a few vlogs which seem to get more views than his gaming, much to his surprise!

Hannon has had a friend here for a sleepover this week and it went so well! There are usually a few skirmishes during a visit but this time, not one! Hannon was kind, thoughtful and generous without even a second thought. He allowed our guest to use his computer pretty much continuously whilst he was here. He said it was because his friend doesn't get to use one otherwise, as he only has gaming consoles. This made me think about how important it is that gaming consoles do not forever overshadow personal computers. We have found that having the ability to type on a keyboard makes a huge difference to communication skills and especially spelling abillity. (Google autofil is an issue though so best to turn that off!!) Lily does not have access to a keyboard and is using handwriting. I guess it just goes to show that where there is a will, there is a way.

Today Hannon typed 50 messages to Dominik during a livestream! 50 messages! He even typed one in the font 'Windings' because he thought it would be funny! He even searched for a translator to do it for him!!! Hilarious. Dominik loved it too.

Hannon likes to make and solve puzzles (they all do actually..hmmm, WE all do!) and we were gifted a 'Monster Book of Monsters' which was great for puzzle solving! If you aren't familiar with it, it is a book that featured in the Harry Potter book series that needed to be stroked in order for it to be opened. Well, this one needs a four part code to open it or it gobbles and growls at you with a cute little mouth. They all had marvellous fun setting new codes and trying to crack them! It was brilliant! Every time one of them cracked a code they would open the book, take out what was in the secret compartment, and then replace it with their own (by now) not so secret stuff and say, "This is my book now", to which I would reply, "No it isn't, it is still Hannon's.". They would then say, "But it can't be, only I know the code, so it's now mine!". How could you argue with that logic? So, the book currently belongs to the person who last set the code!

Hannon has been helping around the house completely voluntarily. He is also helping to choose meals with me every week because he is so fussy it is causing me too much stress now. He is helping me choose foods for him that he will eat. Today he ate....wait for it......KIMCHI!!! Yes, my 9 year old boy ate kimchi and asked for more when he was finished. I am so proud of him for trying it. I lived in South Korea when I was 21 and refused to even try it! He is amazing.

Ok...move on Natasha.

On to Dominik. He has been reducing his competitive gaming time gradually. He is realising what we already know and that is that he is far nicer to be around when he doesn't do it at all. I know. It truly sucks. He is gutted at the result of our experiment. I think we all are actually. We all want him to be able to play the games he adores but we have all seen that without them, he can function far easier. We think it is simply over-stimulation. He gets so agitated that he cannot manage anything else. Not even a conversation some days. He is playing fewer games and he is spending more time with me. He is also spending more time with Hannon, which Hannon loves.

He has continued with his physical exercises too and says that he hopes to return to parkour one day and to take up archery with Hannon and I. He is optimistic about the impending neuro-developmental therapy and is eager to get on with it.

What an incredible change. He is actually taking charge of his own well-being in a big way. He is embracing changes to himself like never before. I have talked to him about the possibility that his behaviour may change once he begins the therapy and he seems to understand that too. I am so proud of the leaps he is taking. He is also monitoring his diet and getting dressed and undressed at the end of each day. Not made much progress with bathing nor teeth brushing but baby steps are good.

Oh, yes! The Undertale fan comics! Dominik has begun writing Undertale (a new-ish game following on from FNAF) fan stories! It is called 'fanfiction' and he loves it! He has written at least two of his own so far. He brought one to me to read and I began talking to him about grammar and punctuation and the importance of structure for your story-telling. At first he was frustrated and cross and then he listened to me read his story without any punctuation and then again, but with some punctuation.

He immediately identified the difference and realised that his lack of 'theory of mind' was inhibiting him. He had assumed we would all read it how he does completely forgetting that we are NOT him!

Once I physically showed him what would happen to the reader, he understood immediately. Yay!

Just proves that practical, one to one support is priceless.
Especially with children who have communication difficulties.

NB - That ('communication difficulties') is NOT just a phrase for SEN advocates to bandy about! It actually means something! You must be practical in your teaching! It must be real! NOT realistic! It cannot be learnt via a make believe story, at least not to any real depth of understanding in my humble opinion. It MUST happen TO THEM. Not AT THEM. I am speaking from experience!

Domink has been taking strides I was unsure I would see.

And I suppose I should include Harriet?

Oh, ok then.

She is still, completely lovely. Today we had a baby visitor and she simply hugged and kissed him, and hugged and kissed him for about the first ten minutes of his visit. She just wanted to love him. It was quite obsessive and she was doing it with no prompting at all. It was beautiful. She's an empath of the highest order! You could see him visibly start to relax even in this new, strange, noisy environment. He left his mum without a glance and began smiling and playing happily as soon as she was done.

She is also walking! Yay! Oh man, she took a few steps in the week before Easter weekend and then on Easter Sunday she just walked! Over 50% of that day, she was on her feet. She was so proud and excited that she had finally got the hang of it! She is now only walking. Within two weeks she has gone from crawling to only walking. The downside is that she now does not want to go to sleep. Ever!! It is tiring me out a little but, meh, it'll pass and she is so happy I don't care! Today we went for a little walk to the end of the road and last week she walked around her first park, choosing her rides and her explorations. Harriet is truly content and happy with her life right now.

Her comprehension is excellent. There are very few daily routines that she doesn't comprehend now. She can communicate what she wants very effectively too. She rarely screams for attention but she does 'tantrum' if she doesn't get her way. I am hoping this will get better when she truly understands that I will let her do anything that does not pose a significant risk to her or us (or the cat)!

Harriet is a blessing as I always knew she would be. There is no love like the love from Harriet.

Ok, that's enough.

I'm exhausted and I want to snuggle with everyone before they get to sleep!

Love to you all from our unschooling bubble.

N x

Saturday, 2 April 2016


I've been composing and erasing this blog post for about two weeks now and it just hasn't really come together at all so, I'm just going to type and see what happens.

The second and third month of this year were shockingly stressful. I don't like to write about my life when it is going off course because I try to be positive and uplifting. I cannot write about anything other than what is actually going on in our real life either so consequently, when I don't write, it's because things are shit.

Here's a brief synopsis of what happened -

 - My car died a death.
 - My daughter was refused DLA because our incompetent Dr lost the form he was meant to complete and return on our behalf.
 - My son has seen a private podiatrist who recommended an urgent referral to an orthopaedic surgeon with regard to his tip-toe walking. This has still not happened as I type.
 - The stress of the potential surgery has sent my son into anxiety overdrive.
 - My daughter has been without her usual activities due to a complete lack of funds so has been equally as anxious.
  - Baby has started walking and is getting 8 (yes, at once) new teeth so is not all. Ever. (Well, obviously not, but you know what I mean.)

I think that is about it but it was more than my Aspie self could manage.

It got me thinking about responsibility.

Sometimes it all just overwhelms me.

The very idea (reality) that I have four little people who rely solely on me for everything in their lives is just staggering and terrifying. When life takes unplanned turns I feel so out of control and panicked that I simply freeze. I just cannot function with any real fluidity. I am normally organised, present, confident, open, engaged and happy. But when I feel out of control, I am distracted, confused, sad, angry, impatient and detached.

The kids and I have a very open relationship so they are aware of all the things that are going wrong but that probably doesn't help when I am once again answering the question, "What's for dinner?", with "I don't know. I can't think about it right now."

As it stands, the DLA for my daughter has been reinstated. Phew.
The car has been scrapped and replaced. Phew.
The baby is beginning to calm down and isn't quite so keen to be on her feet 24/7 exploring her new world of freedom. Phew.

So, that just leaves the potential surgery for Dominik. Well, I took a step back, thanks once again to my guardian angel friend, Felicity, and I don't think surgery is in Dominik's best interests after all.

Felicity's timing is nothing short of miraculous. We don't speak that often and we see each other even less, but when we do make contact, the Earth moves and my life, and the lives of my children, change for the better.

I spoke to Felicity this weekend and began to tell her about the nightmare that has been trying to get seen by said surgeon and she immediately said, "Stop. No." I was relieved when she did because I knew that meant she had a plan! Thank the universe!!! This responsibility was going to be shared. Hallelujah!

I was so nervous about the surgery route anyway (because it goes against everything I believe in in terms of health and well being) and if anyone would know of a better alternative solution (permanent solution, not temporary, surface level, band aid), it was Felicity.

Now, back in 2012, I know she talked to me about what we came to discuss on Saturday, but it had slipped from my mind. It happens. I'm not perfect. It is back in there now though and I'm ready to tackle it! As is Dominik for that matter (which is something else Felicity and I discussed at length).

The alternative to surgery is something that goes by several names, but the most common I have found is, retained infant/neonatal reflex therapy.

It is a lot of information to take in so I am now going to link you to (and quote from) what I found to be the most helpful webpages.

First, a visual, for any Aspie mums like me who need a good visual synopsis before they begin!

Here is the Wikipedia page.

"Primitive reflexes are reflex actions originating in the central nervous system that are exhibited by normal infants, but not neurologically intact adults, in response to particular stimuli. These reflexes are absent due to the development of the frontal lobes as a child transitions normally into child developmentThese primitive reflexes are also called infantileinfant or newborn reflexes."

So, that is what they are.

Here is an amazing summary from a lady called Sue Hyland. I honestly did not find a better summary than this after many hours of research. 

I am going to simply copy and paste the sections that are most relevant to us. Please do visit her website linked above for the full text. It is brilliant. 

"Moro Reflex

Sudden head movements on a vertical plane, that is forward and backward, will initiate the Moro reaction. This reaction is a rapid extension of the limbs, with a big inhalation of breath, followed by contraction of the limbs and a cry. This reaction is initiated by the Moro reflex and is perfectly normal from about 9 weeks after conception to about 12 weeks after birth. It is a reaction to potential danger and occurs as a result of both nerve/muscle stimulation and chemical release."

"Should this reflex reaction be retained after it’s normal time of inhibition then not only willunwanted muscular reactions occur but so will the release of the chemicals, every time the head is jerked backwards or there is a sudden visual stimuli or unexpected loud noise. Obviously these will sometimes auger danger, when a full blown flight or fight response is required, but frequently they do not. "

"3 or more of the following are the kinds of behaviour which suggest a retained Moro:

Mood swings
Unexpected sudden changes of behaviour
Aggressive outbursts
Withdrawn timidity (either of the last two can exist as major characteristics or they can alternate)
Tendency to observe others rather than join in play
Craving for sweet things
Snacking, inability to eat a whole meal
Dislike of rough and tumble
Dislike of fairground rides
Dislike of bright lights, headaches
Dislike of wind in face, water in face
Panic attacks
Copying difficulties
Perceptual difficulties both visual and auditory
Need to be in control
Dislike of change
Dislike of loud noise
Over sensitivity to particular frequencies of sounds
Over sensitivity to textures, labels etc
Sensitivity to a range of high frequencies normally outside human hearing (so that cars can be heard miles away, lift mechanics emitting a high pitch whistle)"

So, that is just the first reflex in the list and as I continued to read them, light bulbs were switching on all over my head.

Here is just one more, perhaps the most relevant for us.

"The Grasping Reflexes

The Grasping Reflexes develop and inhibit at about the same time as the Moro, which in itself is really a grasping reflex, and can be divided into the Palmar, Plantar, Rooting and Infantile Suck Reflexes. They are therefore frequently found if the Moro is retained, usually all being present."

"3 or more of the following would lead you to suspect retention of these reflexes:

Poor pincer grip between thumb and forefinger
Immature pencil grip
Over sensitivity on the palms and bottom of feet, very ticklish
Poor knife and fork grasp and control
Difficulty with cup handles
Poor running skills
Complaints that shoes hurt especially over toes
Tripping, falling
Poor saliva control, dribbling, frothing at mouth corners, spitting whilst speaking
Over sensitivity around and in the mouth
Messy eating
Dislike of certain textures of foods
Tendency to suck rather than chew
Noisy eating
Inability to close mouth on eating
Narrow high arch to Palate
Poor tooth alignment and the need for orthodontic work
Poor control of mouth for speech
Poor co-ordination of breathing and speech
Retained thumb, jumper, pencil, hair sucking
Poor bladder control
Possible reflux from the stomach"

As you can see, there is much food for thought here. Domink has at the very least retained these two, but I suspect he has retained more.

Felicity recommended someone who is an expert in this field, and whilst we may not be able to go to him for the therapy itself, we will be going to see him for the initial assessment. It takes on average, a year to eighteen months of therapy to release these reflexes, but by all accounts, once they are released, the progress and improvement in the individual is life-changing.

I just cannot imagine how much happier Dominik would be if he could fully participate in his life. He is often so timid, afraid, cautious and in pain to even begin to think about taking part in the activities he would like to, but this might just change all that. 

And with it, his heels might actually feel the Earth. How great would that be? 

I'm going to sign off now and hope that what I have written is coherent and helpful.

And, to all of you out there feeling the weight of your responsibility; don't worry, you're doing a great job, you're not alone and remember, it is only temporary and it will get better.


N x