Social Stories – a potential pet pitfall


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My daughter has returned from a visit to family in Australia. During that time she sent the children a booklet after her experience with family, friends, horses and dogs. It’s a story that they can relate to and thoroughly enjoyed when it arrived through the mail. Some may consider it a shaggy dog story or a morality play, but from my tree hugging, ‘electronic’ hating daughter, it certainly made me giggle.

I’m not sure if the writing is legible but I think the pictures more or less tell the whole story.

[I hope!]

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The Holly and the Ivy

I cook in the kitchen. 30 minutes to prepare a hot meal for the table. This 30 minutes corresponds to the children’s 30 minutes electronics time, if and only if, they have completed their homework and chores.

On the days when this goal is unobtainable, corresponds to the days that I open a can of soup in the face of chaos and much misery all round. A certain degree of misery also reigns during the successful playing session but only for me. I find it hard to concentrate with surround sound musak from three different sources. All the tunes are heart stomping brain crashing pump action repetitive roils, enough to boil the blood.

This particular evening, my sons entertain themselves with their new game, ‘De Blob,’ a birthday present. This harmless addition has the added bonus of a wide choice of accompanying music, most of which is mild and inoffensive. As I stir béchamel my elder, jet lacked daughter appears in the kitchen, touseled and famished, “ooo that’s smells nice. What are we having today…….tonight, for dinner?”
“Great! I’m starving……’s very quiet around here?”
“Electronics time.”
“Cool! It’s great that they did all their homework and chores.”
“Yes indeedy!”
“That musak…….it’s different……that’s nothing like as irritating……..that’s not bad at all.” She peeks around the wall to check…… “now that I like guys!” she beams at people who are otherwise engaged. “That’s not even half as irritating as the other stuff.”
“Not even half. Not even half. Not even half,” echoes her youngest brother. She slips back beside me, “what a relief, I can actually think for a change. So I was thinking…….”
“I printed off some copies of the Christmas Carols.”
“I thought we could all sing them together tonight before bed time.”
“Shall we practice now, together, warm up the rusty vocals?”
“Er……I’m not sure…….they hate it when I sing……they find it really annoying……and humming…..and whistling come to think of it.”
“They’ll never notice they’re glued to the screen with their own surround sound.”
“O.k. then.”
I whip up a storm in the saucepan whilst my daughter conducts. Together we chorus our way through the Holly and the Ivy. As I pull out strips of Lasagne my mind fills with the poignant significance of each reference that tells the tale of the “religious” season, as well as the nifty conversion from “paganism.”

We harmonize the last note and beam at each other as couple of decades have passed since we last enjoyed this treat. My son pops into the kitchen, a cuckcoo striking the hour, “dat is real EAR I TATIN……..get it?”

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Tree huggers, it’s a gift

Slurping Life
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Timing is crucial.

I wait until two people stand on the roof to chop down the Christmas tree, one person plays ‘electronics’ and one spins his wheels. I grab the spinner to explain our schedule and specifically, how we shall occupy the next hour. We shall spend the next hour making candy as a gift for other members of the family, “a gift,” our first.

I say a silent prayer that no-one falls off the roof during the next hour, or that if they do fall off the roof, that they won’t fall past the kitchen window, as that kind of distraction would be very off-putting.

My son is unconvinced that the project is doable, or preferable, or possible to complete in under 60 minutes. I share his dubious approach on the inside. I project optimism on the outside. I have selected a recipe for each child, what I hope is a good fit. Whilst it would be preferable for them to each to make their own choice, the ‘choice’ step could fill the entire hour and still not reach a conclusion. So I have chosen for them, a step that I view as dictatorship, although hopefully benign.

“Whada we doin again?” he enquires with huge dark eyes of confusion.
“We’re going to make chocolate fudge. It’s going to be delicious.”
“Er…….whya we doing it again?”
“It will make presents that you can wrap up and give to everyone in the family.”
“But why?”
“To make them happy. To show that you love them by giving them something they will like.”
“Er…..will dey like em?”
“Absolutely guaranteed. You like chocolate fudge don’t you? Everyone like’s chocolate fudge and they’ll like it all the more because you made if for them. Now…….how about we start by reading the recipe together?” He pauses, again. At this rate it will be a miracle if we ever manage task completion within the next 56 minutes. He rests his head on the kitchen counter as I list what I hope are mouth watering ingredients, but he’s off with the fairies and pays no heed to my words.
“Yes dear?” Please lets make a start. Please don’t let us get off track again? Where is the track anyway?
“You are be tell a lie.”
“I am? I did? What did I lie about?”
“You said…….everyone is be liking my present.”
“That’s right. Absolutely right. They’re going to just love it.”
But me no buts! I hear the tick tock time slipping away.
“But what dear?”
“What about me?”
“You……..hate chocolate.”

They always get me on the details.

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Sweetmaking for Transvestites

I have a small confession to make about autism. When it comes to birthdays and holidays my children do not exchange gifts.

My daughters often make cards and fashion presents at such times, unprompted and generally unappreciated, but even persuading the boys write their own names on a shop bought card, has proved a challenge. This fact dawns upon me one morning. I realize that we have spent our time concentrating on receiving a gift graciously, because this is a social issue with dire consequences. Whilst there can be many humiliating experiences in life, when a gift is firstly ignored, later rejected and later still, destroyed, we are aware of the hurt this causes to the giver. It effectively doubles the pain. The receiver fails to behave appropriately, the giver is mystified.

In some American homes, the present opening section of a party is almost a formal ritual. Even quite young children patiently open each gift, express pleasure and delight and then verbally thank the giver. It is quite a feat to witness.

Last year as children gathered for my own daughter’s birthday party, I was there to see her joy and grace in this ritual. She had learned this from a peers, a lesson she should have learned at home.

Even now, we are careful to ensure that opening presents is a private affair with the boys, direct family only, so that no-one can witness the fall out. I recall previous attempts to overcome this deficit by any manner of means, but all with equal measure of failure. I know that they are now older, we need to pick up the gauntlet again.

I appreciate that I have failed to address this matter. I find it hard to fathom why this should be? I suspect that in part, it is because it is quite an advanced social skill, although I would not have said that a decade ago. A decade ago I would have said it was simply ‘good manners,’ a pre-requisite for every body on the planet. These days, I understand that some bodies have more fundamental hurdles to overcome, like dressing, eating with or without cutlery, toileting and speaking.

I need to think of something ‘doable.’

In an ideal situation, they would spend their pocket money or allowance on presents, but money is a poor motivator for the boys. Homemade would always be my first choice for any gift, as it demonstrates the love and effort which make a gift a true gift, but my children’s hands are not gifted.

I pull out an old book, one that I’m very fond of, a gift from my Granny, the one that my daughter refers to as ‘the man in drag cookbook.’ I have never seen it that way: the child looks like I did once. The woman next to her is the epitome of everyone’s granny, kindly, friendly and familiar, although I wish she’d put that sieve over the bowl.

Now all I need to do is engineer or carve out an hour with each child, one on one, so that they can create candy to give to the other 6 members of our direct family, when the day finally comes.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Top tips to maintain sanity during the holiday season

Thirteen Things about top tips for sanity in the holiday season

1. Buy yourself a chocolate filled Advent Calendar regardless of your faith so you can reward yourself at the end of each productive day.
2. Write holiday cards and mail on 12th. Realize that the last mailing date for Europe is the 11th.
3. Buy wrapping paper on sale in bulk. Realize once home that it is Wedding paper.
4. Splash out on an extravagant festive tree. On return realize it is too tall to be housed.
5. Stick to new rule that carelessly scratched DVD’s will not be replaced. Will power melts in the face of “Polar Express.”
6. Yield to whining children and buy cheapo stockings for the cats. Realize, once home, that they are for dogs.
7. Label your pies carefully before freezing, as mashed potatoes, vegetables and apple pie is unlikely to tickle the taste-buds.
8. It is a mistake to wrap and give a calendar to your spouse as a gift. It will be needed both before and during the holiday season, especially if your birthday falls in January.
9. Estimate how many days you can remain sane without a shower, then order the turkey. Write the shop’s name on the inside of your left wrist.
10. Draw up a fully comprehensive list of everything you need to buy from the supermarket for the feast well in advance. Do not leave the list anywhere near the paper shredder.
11. Do not wrap all presents and label later to save time. This only works if you have a photographic memory or x-ray vision.
12. Note that decorative wax apples, whilst festive, are also a health hazard unless you can guarantee 24/7 supervision of the fruit bowl.
13. Dig out the old spike so that you can keep all receipts from purchases until after the great day. After the great day when you note you have a houseful of rejected gifts, you can stab yourself in the forehead as a reminder against extravagance. Even if you are an abject failure, you did try, so scoff all the 24 chocolates in your Advent Calendar.

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Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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Birthday party fall-out – Special exposure wordy Wednesday

5 Minutes for Special Needs

I prepare in advance for 7 guests, as American breakfasts are a tour de force. The choices; waffles, pancakes, 4 types of cereal with full fat or fat free milk, fruit, bacon, fresh bread, jam and several gallons of maple syrup. I forget the eggs but remember them just in time. I suspect I deliberately forgot the eggs because eggs are very complicated in America. I hate the egg question in a restaurant: “how would you like your eggs?”
The server will instantly recognize indecision and reel of a list of options all of which are completely incomprehensible. Once, in a moment of uncommon bravery I ordered ‘over easy.’

It was a mistake.

13 years later I am no further forwarder. I stick with what I know, poached.

Maybe I could whip up a flip chart, icons of poached, fried or scrambled? Encourage them to point to their choice? I wonder if they know sign language? I can’t cope with the jargon but if they’re able to translate, I’ll oblige.

“Do yah have any vitamins?”
‘Gummy bears?’
“Are they from Wholefoods?”
“Is it pulp free OJ?”
“I’m on a diet.”
How can you be on a diet when you’re ten and look like a wafer?
“I like it toasted only on one side?”
“D’ya have any turkey bacon?”
“D’ya have any cloth napkins?”
Diapers babe, diapers. Anyone have any tactile defensiveness issues?
“Are those organic?”
“Are those free range?”
The birds dined at the table and slept in down beds with their owners.
I glance as the girl who is coping, “what can I get you? Name it?”
“I’m great, whatever.”
Finer blending skills I have rarely witnessed. She’s in my son’s class, special ed, but she is also a friend of my daughter’s. There’s a connection, they just clicked.

The boys observe, silent and stupefied by a female warrior clan, but fully clad. I am unused to the company of girls, girls with specific needs that they are able to articulate with accuracy. No-one needs to have their food cut up for them. No-one needs to be persuaded to eat. No-one needs to be spoon fed. The food is not the focus. Chatter is the primary concern interspersed with demands to the server. All too often I focus on the deficits and fail to celebrate those thinly disguised assets.

As they discuss who is in which class of the two fifth form classes, with which teacher, I wade in with my size tens, before the unknown teacher and the unfamiliar class are exposed, “who would like a muffin?”
“Gross! Too fat!”
“Are they blueberry?”
“I’m full alrighty.”
“Do they have muffins for breakfast in England?”
“Don’t they have English muffins there? I hate English muffins.”
“Do you have any whipped butter?”
“No honey? Honey is English right?”
“My eggs are cold. Can I have some more?”
“Certainly. I step to the table, remove the rejects, and glance at ‘coping’ to ask, “what about you dear? How would you like your eggs?”
“Poached,” she grins as her legs pump and snap at the tether band under her chair.

Truly, quite an exceptionally, delightful child.

If you enjoy caption competitions and photographs, you may wish to nip along to“DJ Kirkby” over at “Chez Aspie” and test your brain power.

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The giving Season – try tackling it Tuesday

Try This Tuesday

When it comes to gifts in these financially stricken times, we’re all struggling to hit the right note. America is a secular country, which means foreigners should proceed with caution not to cause offense.

One safe route is to choose a holiday ornament, bought or home-made.


This is a simple Cinnamon stick as a trunk with ‘branches’ of faux greenery and the decorations of your choice, buttons, sequins, stick on gems and ribbons. We avoid the peel off stickers as that’s far too much of a challenge for the fine motor skills.

I particularly like this project for a number of practical reasons. First and foremost there is no paper to deal with for the tactile defensive amongst us. Although you can use a hot glue gun for a quick fix, ordinary tacky glue does just as well.

It’s a good idea to make up one in advance so that children have a visual cue for what they’re aiming at.

I am confident in this choice, as I have been schooled by three dis-interested, independent third parties, one American born and bred, one blow in and another naturalized American. Each of these people were in business, professionals. During the holidays it was their policy to give a holiday ornament to their visiting patients. I was the delighted recipient of holiday ornaments from Mrs. Cavity, Mr. Braces and Mr. Slice. Of course there is the remote possibility that this is a hybrid gift tradition for the dental profession?

Afterall it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been hoodwinked.

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Girls’ Birthday Party cakes – Magic Marker Best Shot Monday

Hosted by “Tracy” at “Mother May I,” but the photo-picture below will whizz you right there with one click.

Just call me snap happy.

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A selection of random cakes as it’s too tricky to get them all in the right order.

Now all the fun stuff is over and we’ve graduated to boring old grown up cakes.

Here’s the recipe for the Peppermint Ice frosting underneath:-

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
4-5 cups powdered [Icing] sugar, sifted
1/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon all natural peppermint extract

Beat butter until creamy, scrape bowl.
Add 4 cups of sifted powdered, milk, and peppermint extract, beat until combined.

Taste and add more peppermint extract until it tastes strong or weak enough. And yes, you’re quite right, it’s vile, tastes just like toothpaste.

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Earwigging the wise

Please scroll down for Smiley Saturday / SOOC

“It’s just grossly unfair! Don ya know how lucky you are?”
“Me? I am be lucky?”
“Yeah. You sure are the luckiest kid I ever knew.”
“I am be lucky?”
“Yeah. Jus tell me this. What other kid on the planet get to eat chocolate every day? Huh? Well?”
“Right! You. Just you. Only you. Nobody else on the planet gets to eat chocolate every day. It’s just not fair.”
“Not fair?”
“No! In fact… I come to think of it you get chocolate more than once a day… get your chocolate in your Advent Calendar, sometimes you get Nutella sandwiches and you always get chocolate pudding if you eat the other crap.”
“Food you don’t like.”

All too often I need an independent third party perspective on domestic matters. I believe we have reached the point where we need to scale down chocolate consumption, now that a more broadly based diet has been “generalized.”

Here’s an update on that one:-

11. Sat – wholewheat pizza with pepperoni, mozzarella and spinach, bean burrito
12. Teriyaki chicken, chard and brown rice
13. Custard filled éclairs
14. Cut apple pieces
15. Shredded gem lettuce, grated raw carrot, chopped tomatoes, sunflower seeds, Chinese dressing and terryaki chicken
16. Vanilla pudding with chocolate chips
17. Thai chicken curry [mild] steamed greens brown rice
18. Macaroni with fresh chopped tomatoes, garlic, spring [green onions], sautéed celery, carrot and onion
19. First ever whole [small] slice of pizza [red pepper, onion, tomatoe, spinache and chese]
20. Macaroni and beef ravioli, egg nog
21. A prune!
22. Lemon pepper pappardell, onions, garlic, and bacon
23. Pumpkin and coconut bread
24. 3 prunes
25. Popcorn
26. Toasted open cheddar cheese sandwich [first ever toast]
27. Fresh apple slices [skin on]
28. Non chilli chilli with mashed potatoes and white French bread
29. One scoop of TJ’s sun dried tomato and pesto torta on one tortilla chip
30. Meatloaf and gravy, scalloped potatoes and mixed [frozen] vegetables
31. Chilli with kidney beans [mild] with mashed potatoes and mixed [frozen] vegetables – new phrase = chew it or you’ll choke!
32. Mushroom gnocchi [2] large pasta shells with spinach and mushroom
33. Hot dog in white hot dog bun [half]

One taste, teaspoon or half teaspoon of each of the following
34. Roast potato
35. Roast parsnip with rosemary
36. Garlic mushroom
37. Sautéed crook neck squash and courgettes
38. Pureed sweet potatoes
39. Pureed carrots
40. Pureed swede
41. Cauliflower in bechamel
42. White Corn on the cob
43. Brussel sprouts and chestnuts
44. Creamed spinach and toasted almonds
45. Green beans
46. Leeks in white sauce
47. Pearl onions in cheese sauce
48. Steamed brocolli
49. Sausage
50. Bacon
51. Turkey
52. Gravy
53. Cranberry and orange sauce
54. Chestnut stuffing
55. Parsley stuffing
56. Yorkshire pudding
57. Cornbread muffin [Owen’s recipe]
58. Cinnamon raisin English muffin toasted with butter [scored 7!}
59. Home-made meat loaf and gravy, pureed carrots, creamed spinach and leeks with pearl onions
60. Pecan pie and cream
61. Couscous and apricot turkey tangine
62. Whole pasta, pesto, garlic, prawns [shrimp]
63. Apricot sausages, mashed potato, half a brussel sprout, leek, sweet potato
64. Savoury turkey croquettes, spinach nuggets, sweet potato, mashed swede [rutabaga] marinara sauce
65. Wholewheat English muffin with nutella Toasted!
66. Turkey meatballs, marinara sauce [with spinach] and fettucine
67. Sticky Toffee Pudding
68. Roasted pepper and tomato soup, sausage roll, crab cake, cheese quiche, mushroom turnover.
69. Cinnamon raisin toast with butter [one third of a slice!]
70. Campbells chicken and stars soup [small cup] TJ’s individual mini cheese tomato and pepperoni pizza = all of it
71. home made shepherds pie with frozen peas, much lower level of protest [apart from the poisonous peas] Half slice of home baked bread and smear of poisonous butter
72. ‘spicy’ peanut cabbage, bacon, onion, spinach scramble

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Core Body Strength – SOOC Smiley Saturday

Slurping Life

Many autistic children have this deficit which is one of the many reasons that we visit an occupational therapist regularly. This deficit makes many every day tasks more difficult, such as dressing.

Both the boys can now dress themselves but it’s still not easy for them. It’s not just the fine motor skills and co-ordination, it’s also a question of balance.

Most of us are quite capable of putting on a pair of trousers, hold open the waist, drape the legs out in front, stand on one foot, insert the other foot, shimmy down to the opening, transfer weight and repeat with the other leg.

Is that about right?

Try it out.

That’s quite a good deal of sequencing let alone anything else. If that’s a difficult task, how might one overcome the problem?

This is how my boys do it, both of them.

See if you can follow along.

Lay out the trousers flat on the floor. Turn your back on the trousers and sit down on the carpet behind them at the waist end with a three foot gap on the floor. Roll onto your back and swing your legs over your head until your toes touch the carpet. Lift your arms over your head to grab each side of the waist of your trousers to open, insert feet into the hole and then into each leg, pull the trousers up to your waist, continue body roll onto your knees backwards and jump to your feet = done. Your work out is complete and you’re half dressed! Those compensatory skills kill me every time. It’s very funny to watch one child whip through this sequence, but watching two boys whiz through the same sequence simultaneously is somewhat hysterical, a daily dose of a comedy double act, but then I always have been a little “biased.”

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