Enjoying the beach when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties/ Autism.

The sun is shining, the ocean is calling, picnic packed we are heading to the beach!

Now i am going to let you into some of our beach disasters along with what we do now…. we have had some fantastic days at the beach, more recently probably now we have a few more strategies, but as usual we have learnt through Trial and Error!

So this was a day a couple of summers ago but still fresh in my mind…. it took us a good four hours to pack our stuff to go to the beach, luckily we were up at 5am! My little boy had already decided he hated the beach, sand and the waves and our boundless enthusiasm about the beach was just irritating him….his anxiety was growing and our energy was wavering and we hadn’t even set off yet! Our boot was full to the brim of stuff for every eventuality but not actually much to help what we were about to face! 

So we reach the beach carpark after an interesting  journey with hysteria everytime the sun went behind the clouds. He worries that the day will go to night instantly, daddy’s headtorch helped with this to ensure if the blackout occurred he was covered! We paid Β£7 to get in the carpark. We were parched as through the chaos of the morning we only had a mouthful of tea and left the rest to go cold as usual! But with old fond memories of childhoods on the beach firm in our minds we get out and start to suncream the kids.We had no boot space so cream them on the passenger seat ensuring we get all covered we stripped them off and put his newly purchased ear defenders on to block out the traffic noise.

Just at that moment that we thought we were winning, he broke loose and decided to bolt out the door wearing only his ear defenders, head torch and birth-day suit!! Luckily hot footed Daddy was hot on his heels! So family re-united and with a ton of stuff we obviously ‘needed’ we head onto the beach, the crying started, he didn’t like the noise of the waves, the sand felt funny, he needed a wee ect….we were kind and softly spoken trying to reasure him, but nothing was helping. We found a spot after walking for a while (big mistake). He decides he still needs a wee so we explain we need to head near the car to the loos. He proceeds to instantly wet himself in the only uv suit we have with us! He then completely refusing to stand on the sand, so balancing on top of a bag and refused to put his dry clothes on as they are not ‘beach clothes’……Massive meltdown complete sensory overload, we can’t do this anymore it’s not fair on him or us,or anyone….and home we go….5 minutes after arriving…we go home..massive walk to the car carrying a million bags, a child each, one covered in wee obviously, we battle on  ….defeated and sad…….

This was definatly one of our low points but we definitely had our high point today! We feel really lucky and proud of our big lad! We have learned so much about Sensory Processing and we are still learning as we go!  

Today our superstar let us put on his UV suit and wetsuit, he built sandcastles, he dug a hole, played in rockpools, dug a bigger hole, body boarded!!! He ate his lunch without a wobble, he told us when he was struggling with the noise/ sand and we had strategies to deal with it. He loved it! He said how much he loved it and how he wanted to go another day! 

Below is what we do now… it works for us and although we still have wobbles some big some small, we try and have a solution waiting in the wings! 

1. We sun cream at home while he is pottering. He is safe in his environment and puts up less fuss, we also try and use a bit of pressure to get a bit of proprioceptive input in before the beach.

2. On wobbly days he wears his wellies to the beach, this way he decides when he feels comfortable to touch the sand.

3. We always have the sun tent which is sand free and shaded, block out bright light/wind or close it up for a sensory den cosy space. 

4. We make his normal pack lunch, we used to take yummy special food as a treat…this is not a treat for him and in his words ‘he doesn’t understand his lunch’. I put all aspects of his lunch in seperate tuppawear so if he feels one element of his lunch gets contaminated with sand he doesn’t reject the whole lunch.

5. Take loads of digging stuff, the proprioceptive input (heavy work) is great and a project like a massive castle or ‘sand tractor’ keeps his mind off external noises and worries. Throwing the ball for Polly our dog is also good for this!

6. If he can cope with the sand on him we bury his legs the deep pressure is great to de-sensitise the body and he finds it funny!

7. When we hit a wobbly moment and he gets into a rhythm of anxiety we do something completely different like have an ice cream!! 

8. We bought some ear defenders just for the beach/pool they are a different colour and have made a huge difference!

9. We choose beaches which have carparks  close to the beach. If you have an uba-meltdown a speedy exit is key! Position of your ‘spot’ on the beach is also important! We like to try and get near the entrance to the beach with enough of a distance to the water so we can catch him up if he bolts before he reaches the sea/traffic but also so it’s not to far to the sea if he refuses to walk!

10. We take a Potty on the beach, public toilets are a nightmare still and it’s less stress for all πŸ™‚ 

11. We take a big bottle of water this way we can pour over his hands anytime if he needs to de-sand it’s quick and stops worry from building up. 

12. Travel mugs and flasks are the way forward, no faffing with trips to the cafΓ© leaving Mummy or Daddy out numbered in a bolting incident and coffee refills your superpowers in a meltdown I am sure!

13. We take a full spare set if UV suits somtimes we can extend of beach trip by another hour by stripping him off drying him and putting on a fresh sand free suit.

14. We pack the footwells and leave the boot mostly clear. This means we can use the boot (open obviously) to contain him while we do last wees in the potty and do any last minute dressing of hats ect also great for dressing at the end into dry clothes πŸ™‚ 

15. We have different expectations on the beach then we did. It is not a relaxing day out, it is fun, challenging, we need to be on the ball and ready to react with a solution but we love it and have seen a massive change in the way we do things with a positive outcome which is rewarding! 

I try and take loads of photos especially ones where he is doing amazingly and make little social stories for the wobbly days which seem to help. We really enjoy the beach now, not in the same way, but in a way that works for us and our family. 

I would love to hear your beach top tips! We are always looking for new solutions πŸ™‚ 

Hope you enjoy a beach day soon like we did today….

Anna 

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Food Shopping when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties SPD

Picture this…..two little legs, in shorts obviously, poking out of the fish finger section of the chest freezer isle in the Supermarket. He isn’t looking for food….he isn’t even hot…he is of course looking for fans! The ability to hurl himself from the trolley into the freezer at the exact time I had turned my back to grab five bags of waffles and I would turn back around to just two little legs and a voice shouting “Mummy there is two fans, come on in” I mean just with the pure embarrassment of the guy stacking shelves, coming towards us shaking his head at me, did make me consider climbing in there with him, but I chose the mature response and halled him out apologising profusely to the bloke! Obviously my little boy lying on the floor in full meltdown mode meant I could quickly grab another bag of waffles, I mean you can never have enough waffles with a food avoider! As I turn around it all goes quiet all I can hear is the gentle hum of…..ah….. yes that is why he is quiet… there are fans under the freezers too! As he stares into what to him is heaven I just stand and wait. He hates to be rushed…. eventually I sit next to him…defeated by the supermarket….. and we chat about what the issue is…noise, the lights, why can he not climb in the freezers? Why isn’t everyone else looking in the freezers? The isles look like race tracks why can’t we run?….the list goes on…

So now we very rarely go to the supermarket, it’s stressful for everyone. We obviously need to food shop so this is what we do now… 

1. We mainly shop online. Great for keeping to budget, I can shop once the kids are in bed and ammend right up to the night before with stuff I forgot.

2. If we need mid week ‘bits’ I usually just shop locally in a small shop. This usally means softer lighting, less noise and no chest freezers to climb in! I always give my little boy a basket the proprioceptive input (heavy work) is great and stops him running around. 

3. I keep all shopping trips brisk and organised, no time for browsing, that only creates time for meltdowns, I write a list and stick to it!

4. I always have the ear defenders to hand, bleeping tills, crying babies and all the hustle and bustle can definitely be helped by his ear defenders. 

5. I pretend shopping alone is a treat, like going out for coffee or having a spa day!! If you get to go out food shopping alone, crack open some Strawberry laces, shove in a bottle of wine and keep living the dream πŸ˜‰ 

When I see another SPD/Autism Mummy or Daddy in the shops and I am out on my own I feel like saluting them, telling them they are amazing or just randomly putting a bar of dairy milk or bottle of wine in their trolley. 

Shopping is hard…thank goodness for  Online shopping! 

Anna πŸ™‚

Choosing a holiday when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties SPD

Thinking about booking your next family holiday? Nervous? This is our story and why we now look forward to holidays….. 

On thinking about booking a holiday we used to look for beautiful sandy beaches, sunshine, impromptu activities, chilling  with a glass of wine and the thrill of staying somewhere new and exciting, culture, bustling cafes filled with atmosphere and a real buzz…..this is definitely what we used to look for but to be honest it’s  my little boys idea of hell..

Now our idea of a holiday it is very different, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy them we definitely do, but we have definitely learnt through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. We definitely incorporate some of the things we used to enjoy but in very different ways.

Since having children, our holidays have changed quite considerably anyway we have tried holidays abroad, holiday cottages in this country along  with camping. We have had some real disasters where my little boy only settled on the 6th day of a seven day holiday, where he has been so traumatised by an extractor fan in a holiday cottage in Wales that we can’t even mention the country! The older he gets the more fixiated on routine he is getting and the less flexible he is getting with change. 

After a series of stressful holidays where we needed a holiday when we got home, we took the plunge, after someone suggested it, and invested in…. a caravan. 

We bought our caravan off ebay for under a Β£1000, we didn’t want to spend too much money as we had no idea if it would work for us as a family. We named her Dotty….
Dotty arrived home and we popped her outside the house. My little boy was intrigued which was a good start! We took about cleaning and pottering and getting it all ready for our first trip, we filled it with familiar things and talked about the fact we may in the future go on holiday in Dotty.

So after a little while had passed we booked our first trip….we chose a campsite 20 minutes away from home so if it all went wrong we could get home quickly! 

So as you can imagine the first trip was like any new environment, difficult and unpredictable but after the two days he started to settle..he liked the simplicity of the caravan. No extractor fan in the caravan loo, so it was quiet, his bedding from home made it feel almost normal, familiar and familiar is definitely a good thing!

We started going to a campsite at Woolacombe in Devon. We all as a family loved it, something for everyone. We realised the more we went the calmer he got and having a familiar base to come back  to made a huge  difference. My little boy sees Dotty like our second  home now and connects very little anxiety to it.

We have learned lots over the couple of years we have had Dotty and this is what works for us…

1. We put Dotty outside our house a couple of days before we set off and potter in and out. We have our little ‘tea breaks’ in there, the kids love it although the neighbours must thing we are a little odd!

2. We put as much familiar stuff in the caravan as possible. ‘Garry’ the fan always comes with us along with his sensory lights to make it feel as ‘like home’ as possible. 

3. We take the exact same food that we eat at home. We have a fridge and tiny freezer and a halogen oven so we can cook all the favourites! We also take his favourite sectioned plate and cutlery, the beaker he likes and of course the Tomato Ketchup!

4. We try and book the same or a similar pitch, the more we can keep the same the less processing he needs to do πŸ™‚ The other reason is ‘our’ normal pitch has a cracking view which brings me onto my next point…

5. Location- The reason I like our usual pitch is that we can sit outside the caravan once the kids are in bed, enjoy the sunset with a glass of wine and some olives and really relax…..well obviously for the ten minutes before one of them needs a wee/the world putting to rights!

6. Facilities – We like to choose a campsite with an outdoor pool. Indoor pools are full of echo, fans, heating systems and are usually much busier…We quite often will be outside in the outdoor pool just us, as it is spitting with rain but my little boy loves it and it’s great Proprioceptive input.

 7. Talking of proprioception- We still try and get lots of proprioceptive activities in while away. It’s easy to melt into a more seditory pace of life but that usually ends in meltdown for us all! So we do a mixture of working our bodies and relaxing. The following are some of our faves…

  • Get the kids to undo the zips to the awning.
  • Getting the water in the barrels and rolling them.
  • Visit the park
  • Swimming
  • Pulling tent pegs out/hammering in
  • Getting out on the bikes
  • Blowing bubbles in a cup of water with a straw.

8. We take the baby monitors. We have video monitors so even though we are literally outside the caravan door we can look and see what the kids are doing without us going in and the bedtime ‘obsessions with how the world works’ starts again. 

9. We allow chill time. It’s easy, as holidays go so quickly, to try and cram alot into everyday but that is alot to process. We usually plan one outing a day usually in the morning when we are all fresh and then do something more familiar in the afternoon. We usually at this time occasionally take the opportunity to have some time to do what we as adults enjoy aswell. My husband will go off surfing if the surf is good and another afternoon I will usually potter around the shops in peace. We usually come back feeling fresh and ready to jump back head first with the kids to the relief of the parent that was left juggling! 

10. We try and plan what we are doing so we can pre warn as to what may be a potential worry. Things like microphones at the children’s entertainment and we give a solution/alternative if it gets too much in advance so this hopefully means that at least part of the time we are prepared if there is a wobble. 
We really look forward to holidays now. My husband and I have been lucky in the past to have travelled the world, but I truly have never been happier sat in my camping chair looking at ‘mummies view’ overlooking the beautiful Woolacombe beach. The gentle whir of Garry the fan coming from the awning teamed with twinkling sensory lights and the familiar sound of my husband reading ‘Peppa Pig goes on holiday’ to my little girl for the millionth time. This is our life now and I couldn’t be happier πŸ™‚ 

Christmas….when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties.

Christmas really is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.
But when does Father Christmas come when you have a child that doesn’t sleep? No amount of Father Christmas won’t come if you don’t go to sleep will work….

We always had our stockings at the end of our bed when we were little but the thought of a ‘stranger’ coming into my little boy’s room and leaving unfamiliar things is probably a step to far for him to process…he likes things the same, change is tricky to handle. He is very practical about things very literal and although he wants to belive the magic his literal brain trys to stop him….

In one of our christmas books Father Christmas comes down the chimney and leaves gifts under the tree. The issue is he wants to know the practicalities of this, dimensions of Father Christmas dimensions of the chimney, why are we letting a stranger in our house? Surely if he could come down the chimney gravity would mean he would hit the bottom and all the presents would break?….just to remind you all he is four….other questions include…will Father Christmas be noisy? Will he need his ear defenders? and the list goes on…

My little boy would like a ‘Walking wind turbine for Christmas’ It is a dutch design and quite incredible! He was worried that the elves wouldn’t know how to build such a structure but luckily we have en elf in our house (Daddy) who is an engineer and happy to build.

Also he wants it to look like the Christmas cards on Christmas day as that is what he expects Christmas to look like. He wants a snowy scene with children in hats and gloves and a red robin! I keep explaining that it probably won’t snow on Christmas day but he just laughs and says “no mummy that Is what Christmas day looks like!” I am not quite sure how I am going to curb his disappointment yet, other than hiring a snow machine!!

Christmas dinner is featured alot on the tv on the run up to Christmas and to everyone else who is salivating over the M&S Christmas range there is my little boy panicking he will need to eat different food! 

The run up to Christmas can be a tricky time, loads to do and a stressful environment can lead to more meltdowns! I feel like I have a secret other life as an  elf at the moment trying to keep everything the same through the day and going Christmas crazy once the kids are in bed!

We have learnt through trial and error what works and what doesn’t and we are definitely still learning! This is what we are doing this year….I am hoping to ease his fears without spoiling the beautiful illusion and magic of Christmas!

1. On Christmas Eve if we have the issue of Father Christmas  (a stranger) coming into our house we will leave a mince pie and carrot on our front step.  

2. If anxiety grows about Father Christmas coming down the chimney or entering the house to leave the presents I as “chief elf” will intercept Father Christmas and pop the presents under the tree and escort Father Christmas off the premises! 

3. We will leave the magic basket outside their room with their stockings in on Christmas eve. This will a leave fear about Father Christmas coming into their bedroom and “changing how it looks or feels” and also handy for ‘head elf’ to leave the presents if Father Christmas needs intercepting at the front door! 

4. Christmas morning otherwise known as ‘none of us can bare the anxiety/unfamiliarity/excitement any longer’ could be anytime, we will just embrace it…”coffee anyone?”

5. Father Christmas will be filling my little boys stocking with all things spinny as that is what he loves! This is basically a bag full of stimming things which should keep him calm throughout the day! The elves must have been busy researching wind turbine kits since July! 

6. We will use a social story to explain the change in routine of the day although to be honest bar the presents it will be just like any other Sunday! Chilled out morning, roast dinner and dog walk and bike ride in the afternoon! 

7. We have learnt just to let him open his presents at his pace. He likes to open a present and play with it properly, building if necessary. He is systematic and I will include social prompts like please and thank-you in his social story to help him to appreciate the gifts.

8. We add in proprioceptive activities in all day! Luckily we have got the kids new bikes this year from us so that will help. We have bought them some beautiful books so that is good for a big deep pressure cuddle while reading those. 

9. We keep dinner very similar to our sunday roast. We do have some different special bits but we tend to keep them down the other end of the table from my little boy. The more familiar the food is the calmer dinner will be πŸ™‚

10. We will try and keep it chilled and relaxed so  everyone has a nice time. Lots of cuddles and nice Tv, sandwiched  with fresh air and proprioception whilst listening to the gentle whir of what can only be described as a windfarm that is arriving on Christmas day πŸ™‚ 

I really hope you all have a wonderful Christmas whatever you may be doing and that 2017 brings you all you wish for…

Good Luck for Sunday!

Anna πŸ™‚

Our favourite sensory lights for my little boy who has Sensory Processing Difficulties SPD

We love the pretty lights in our house… No idea what people must think when they drive by and we look like we are having a disco at 4pm! Different lights help at different times of the day but the closer we get the bedtime the more lights we need to keep my little boy calm.

1. The Windmill – This is a new addition to our lights collection, but has brought a real element of calm to the run up to Christmas. My little boy fell in love with it at a local garden centre and was entranced…the rotation of the propellas and the gentle lights were a real hit! It wasn’t cheap but a family member kindly bought it for him and we will treasure it ::)

2. The Magic Light – We call this one the magic light as it is like magic it calms my little boy so quickly. It can be placed in any bayonet fitting and can be taken anywhere we go. The best thing about it is it’s only Β£2.99 from Chaplains or they do a similar one at B&M.

3. The Glitter Ball- This little beauty is from Ikea and is really lovely. There are lots of different coloured lights which reflect of the mirrored ball. It was Β£25.00 and really good buy πŸ™‚

4. The Rainbow Windmill – This is a hand held spinning light and is great for out and about as it is battery operated.

5.The Flashing Beacon – It’s the one my little boy is drawn to when he needs real light input and as it is battery operated it’s also great out and about.

We are always wanting to add to our lights family so if you have any good ones please let me know by commenting below.

Until then, enjoy the light show, it’s actually quite relaxing!

Anna πŸ™‚

Mealtimes when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties SPD

Everyone has food preferences, I love Yorkshire Puddings, infact I love dry food and not keen on gravy although these days I eat pretty much everything. I like to try and set a good example to my children by trying most foods and having a variety  of foods on my plate.

Trying to ween my little boy was so difficult. He had some allergies which didn’t help but also, he gagged on everything. When he was 6 months I had done what every new mother does, i had  bought every weening book going, blended every vegetable imaginable and invested in the nicest highchair we could afford. 

The issue was he wouldn’t sit in his highchair……he wouldn’t eat any of my blended food, he gagged on everything i gave him and then he sicked it all up. Meal times were hell, my dreams of family meals chatting about the day desended into a mixture of me sobbing into my dinner about the fact he was loosing weight and i couldn’t get any food in him, while he screamed the house  down and my husband googled the next new plan! He would go days without eating anything living on milk and water….

We were refered to dietician after dietitian, dr after dr until finally we met with our GP and had a frank discussion. He said “right..what does he eat without a fight” I realed off the list…it was 8 things…

Ella’s stage one red pouch, Waffles, Sausage, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, plain pasta, cheerios and milk (but not together obviously!)

I was embarrassed, how had my intentions of healthy living and a varied diet for my child stemmed down to that list! My mummy friends were all channeling Annabel Karmel and i was busy appearing to be opening my own fast food chain!

The plan we made with the GP was just to feed him what he liked, where he liked, when he was hungry. No more meal time battles… he recommended some vitamins and supliments and to try him on the innocent smoothies, which luckily were a hit!

What we didn’t know then and we know so clearly now is that his Sensory Processing Difficulties is what was stopping him from eating and enjoying food and were the source of most of the food realted meltdowns. 

So this is what we did then and i will follow with what we do now….

1. We ditched the highchair at first. He was screaming even at the suggestion of going in the highchair so we just removed it from the house and that anxiety went away….

2. We fed him on our knee in front of the TV. I know not ideal…but necessary. The distraction helped so much and he ate. Only the food listed above… but he was eating and that was progress. 

3. I carried food everywhere with me. He grazed, quite often he would be pottering at the park with a warm fish finger..hooray for tinfoil and a thermous bag πŸ™‚

4. We didn’t offer him anything new for a while….he then stopped panicing about what might be arriving on his plate…

These are not things i would do willingly but with a child who is under weight I was happy to try anything!

So over the years we developed new ways of doing things that now mean he eats with us at the table at mealtimes, he will tolerate new foods on his plate at times and although the list above makes up most of his diet we now have a few more to add to the list! So this is what we do now….

1. He has a sectioned plate. We got ours from Cath Kidston for Β£6 it’s brilliant and i always use this if i am putting something on his plate that is off the “safe list”. 

2. I do challenge him at times. I do put vegetables on his plate in one of the compartments of his plate….sometimes he just ingnores it, somtimes he won’t touch his other food until it is off his plate, but one day i hope he may try them and we have aquired a few new “safe foods” from this technique. 

3. We keep all dry food separated from wet food. This includes ketchup which he now loves. If any wet food touches any dry food that is dinner over for him and he politely just says “no thank-you” I then have to leave it a good hour before trying again. 

4. We try to get some Proprioceptive activities (heavy work) in before mealtimes. Our favourite it straw ball where we get a ping pong ball and two straws and try and score goals! The other is pulling funny faces to work the face muscles. 

5. We line his chair at the table with a fleece blanket. This is mainly as he quite often has no clothes on so means he doesn’t have to battle the feeling of the chair and can just concentrate on eating. 

6. We are careful about cooking smells. Sometimes he can be put off his own food purely because he doesn’t like the smell of ours.. I tend to try and cook things that can have strong odars while he is at school and then juat reheat at tea time.

7. I always take a packed tea/lunch when we go out places or if we go to friends. He will quite often, if it is presented right, eat food while we are out, but if not I always have a back-up. 

8. I trust his judgement. Occasionally he decides his food is dirty. Although I sometimes can’t see the tiny spec of something on his plate he feels it is and I have found removing the thing he is worried about will be the difference between him eating and not. 

9. When presenting a new food we build up slowly. If it is a outright “no” then next time we suggests  he gives it a smell or licks it first to see what he thinks and build up slowly.

10. We get him involved in the food preparation. There are some foods he wouldn’t even  touch before and is now chopping (with  blunt table knife) and handling and this is how he started eating little oranges. I asked him to help prep one for me to eat. I did this a few times until I asked him to smell it, then lick it and finally he put a bit in his mouth. 

I think food is always going to be tricky for him but we have made progress with this and he has been the right weight for over a year now! 

I would love to hear your ideas for encouraging your selective eaters to eat! Please comment below with any ideas πŸ™‚ 

Anna 

Ten inside activities for kids with Sensory Processing Difficulties (SPD) on a rainy or windy day!

This weather is a bit soggy isn’t it…..?Especially when you have a child that hates to wear a coat but also, hates being made wet by the rain! The battle and emotional build of trying to convince my little  boy it is worth wearing a coat, is an ongoing one!  Heavy rain also means the world is made into a ‘musical instrument’ while the rain bashes off cars and buildings making unfamiliar noises.
We as a family spend lots of time outside. We have a dog called Polly who I have spoken about in other blogs so dog walking is a daily occurrence. We have waterproofs and wellies which I will talk about in another blog but on ‘wobbly’ days as we call them in our house sometimes we just can’t go out.

These days can be tough as it’s quite hard entertaining two little ones all day and trying to avoid meltdowns. Saying that over time we have come up with some firm favourites which fill the day  are usually quite fun! I would like to share some of the things we do which involve some proprioceptive activities (heavy work).

We plan our day – Even if I don’t share my plan with the kids at least I have a structure to our day! If you can, prep the stuff for  the next day the night before, (obviously this is only if you have any energy left from the day) I literally write a list factoring in lunch and snack ‘breaks’. We definitely don’t get through it all but it’s nice to have options at your finger tips ! 

1. Put a measuring jug outside – My little boy finds the rain and wind tricky it’s ambiguous and i can’t tell him when it will stop. Situations he can’t control he gets really wobbly about. We realised the more he could measure or make sense of the weather, the better it was. We pop a jug outside and i bring it in at wobbly moments to see how full it is getting. It really seems to have helped. I am planning on getting a wind measure (I must find the proper name!) that will hopefully have the same effect on him! 

2. Build a den- I like to do this early in the day as we can do things in the den throughout the day and is a good hideaway for my little boy if things get too much. The dining table and a big sheet does the job nicely! 

3.Tidy the toys- Strangely trying to get on with housework on a rainy day is near impossible but toys are different ball game! We get the kids lifting the big toys (heavy work) I usually do this at a very wobbly moment as while you are sorting them out you get toys out that the kids haven’t seen for a while so they love it and reingage with  them and also you get a feeling that you have actually achieved something when it looks neat! 

4. We do craft in the bath….i know it sounds a bit odd! The bath is empty obviously, the reason we craft in the bath is that any paint or glitter is easily washed away at the end using the shower and also when my little boy reaches his limit with craft stuff on his hands, as it is usually a switch from “I love craft, it’s so fun”…. to “I can’t bare this paint on my hands for a second longer, get it off, please get it off!” followed by a massive meltdown and lots of flapping. The shower means we can rince him really  quickly and calm is resumed alot quicker! Just remember to not use any paint that may stain your bath!

5. We build a shop- We get all the tins out of the tin cupboard and get a wicker basket and we pretend to buy the food. We take turns being the shop keeper and the customer. It is great proprioceptive input (heavy work) carrying around the basket full of tins and counting them up to pay is fun too!

6. We build obstacle courses in the living room. Using chairs, broom handles to form small jumps, create tunnels, we use bits of cardboard for stepping  stones and usally have a space hopper finsh! 

7. We use paired rolled up socks and get points for every one we get in the washing basket, this game usually gets pretty competitive when daddy gets home! 

8. Balloon Tennis – We blow up a balloon and use two fly swatters to try and hit balloon to each other πŸ™‚

9.  Straw Ball – Great activity to do before lunch as it really helps my little boy with his oral sensitivities to food.We play on a smooth service, build a couple of goals with some small cardboard boxes or upturned tuppawear. We then blow a ping pong ball with a drinking straw until somone scores a goal! 

10. ‘Mummy Says’ we play this quite often throughout the day. Same principle as Simon says but with  lots of proprioceptive activities for what he is struggling with…..examples are…

Strugling with food…”Mummy says do a happy face, silly face, rub your cheeks (massage) blow me a kiss” ect… If he is struggling with noise i do”Mummy says do jumping jacks, hopping, waving” ect…

I always plan a chill time into our day a time to just chill and watch TV and re-charge. I find the less we do this the more effective it is when really needed! 

I would love to hear you ideas for a rainy day! Please comment below or follow me on Facebook @annagreybooks or Tweet me at @annagreybooks

Until then good luck with #coatseason! 

Anna πŸ™‚
 

Coping with sleep deprivation when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties SPDΒ 

When was the last time you went to sleep at bedtime, slept solidly and woke up in the morning, like no time has passed? If you have a child with SPD you probably can’t remember the last time! 

I used to dread going to bed, that sickening feeling of the fact you are so nosiatingly tired but you know you have no chance of having any restorative sleep. I have become more accustomed to living on little sleep now but it does catch  up with me at times.

Somtimes i regain some sanity by watching some TV that isn’t Peppa Pig or Tractor Ted on an evening. This is obviously after tidying up from the day…..the soul destroying picking up of the lego, straightening the covers on the sofa knowing they are just going to get trashed at 5am when you come down in the morning anyway and the balancing act of what energy you have to prep for the next day, while still keeping enough patience for the night shift. It really is a balancing act.

On a good night my little boy will wake 4-8 times a night on a bad night it is every twenty minutes all night. Usually our days starts between 5am and 6am but this is ok as by bedtime my little boy is really tired! 

We as a family have gained some coping strategies as after nearly 5 years we have tried it all and now just go with the flow…

1. We have a strict bedtime of 7pm – This is for everyones good. Firstly my little boy sleeps his best between 7pm and 10pm and secondly because I need to know that i am going to have some adult time before the night shift! 

2. We start the bedtime routine anytime that is needed – I used to have an hour of hell between 17.30 and 18.30 now when things start going down hill I take them for a bath this can be any time from 17.30. We just read more stories after the bath or they snuggle in our bed and watch a dvd of a book like ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ or ‘Room on the broom’.

3. I take supplies to bed, getting up and down all night is thirsty work, a drink and even a ceriel bar on a hard night might be the difference between you being able to hack the night or not! 

4. Sleep where and when you can! I quite often wake up on my little boys floor still holding his hand after a bout of fan related anxiety. I always try and get back to bed but sometimes just any sleep is better then none. 

5. When we can’t hack it any longer and it’s past 5am we go downstairs. Obviously anything pre Cbeebies is pretty depressing but never fear Netflix is 24hrs! I never underestimate how much better i feel after a cup of tea and breakfast however early! Somtimes a change of scene alone helps. 

6. Fuel fuel fuel…now this is the part i really struggle with. I replace sleep with food. I know it isn’t healthy nor ideal and i know i am overweight because of  it but it’s the only way I get through the day! I try and eat things that give me long term energy like oats and wholemeal but to be honest i need a quick fix and sugar is usually my crutch! 

7. I love my travel mug- I got a new travel mug from Cath Kidston for my birthday. It’s beautiful and makes me smile πŸ™‚ I take it pretty much everywhere with me and it means i have tea whenever i need it! I also have started using it in the house as i was just following cold cups of tea around or reheating them in the microwave three times before chucking them down the sink. Yay for travel mugs!

8. I plan chill time- I plan at least an hour into our day where we do very little. Time to just pob out and watch Tv, usually we watch a nice kiddy film with a fleecy blankey and a little snack bowl.

9. I go for a walk – The last thing i usually want to do is exercise, but actually a good dog walk helps us all. The exercise boosts endorphins and the fresh air does us all good! 

10. I tell my friends…I spent so long being embarrassed that my child wasn’t sleeping when everyone elses was…what was i doing wrong?….I tried everything….but to be honest i realised eventually that he needed me and through his diagnosis and us meeting with specialists i started to understand why. I will always be there for him when he needs me, as it is genuine need. I tell my friends now after we have had a particularly bad night as my brain gets mushy, I cry somtimes for tiny reasons, I forget things and I conserve energy as i know i am going to need it. My friends luckily are very special and are so lovely and kind, I surround myself with good friends and they are so important to me.

Through the strategies above we have learned to cope with sleep Deprivation and we still do loads of cool stuff. I realise i look about 90 years old but we are happy and pottering along and enjoying life between the hurdles:)

Do you have any more tips for a sleep deprived Mummy? Let me know by commenting below, in the meanwhile invest in a travel mug! 

Anna πŸ™‚ 

Our Favourite Proprioceptive activities, (heavy work) in the Autumn when you have a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties SPD

We have really enjoyed Autumn this year, we love being outside and it’s lovely that my little boy is really noticing the finer details of nature and the changing seasons. 
With Autumn comes a change in weather the colder weather means a few more clothes to wear which  is an ongoing battle. The falling leaves bring different noises under foot and the darker nights bring the uncertainty of the impending switch between day and night. 

The way we comabat all those changes in environments is to incorporate heavy work (proprioceptive activities ) into our day. 

These are our favourite….

1. Raking the leaves- we rake them into a big pile and put them in buckets to put on the compost.

2. Autumn walks/Run – We love dog walks all year round but autumn walks seem the most fun! We walk in quiet areas so my little boy can relax while burning off some steam, he loves to run and this is great for his body!

3. Craft- We have been working loads on building strength in my little boy’s hands, he has hypermobility which is common with kids with SPD. Our favourite craft at the moment involves painting leaves, putting paper over leaves and rubbing with a wax crayon and making trees by drawing the trunk of the tree and sticking on real leaves. 

4. Collecting fallen apples -Where we live has loads of apple trees. We take a bucket out and collect the apples in buckets. We then make an apple shop, we use real money as my little boy is very literal and they count out the apples into carrier bags (more great heavy work) and good counting practice! 

5. Fill the water tray with leaves – we hide treasure usually stones and pebbles and then they get put in buckets and taken in the trailer of the tractor, to the drop off point usually the wendy house! 

6. Collect sticks – We collect sticks, some of which are like half trees, you talk about heavy work, this is amazing! Between the dog and the kids we usually have a good pile by the end and we usually make a big pile and pretend it’s a camp fire! 

7. Shelter building- Definitely our favourite, we drag branches, and sticks and I usually take a picnic blanket for the roof or the floor, team this with a celebratory crunchy snack which is another good way of getting Proprioceptive input.

I love the fresh feeling air in the Autumn, surrounded by the beautiful oranges and browns that paint the landscape. Being perminantly sleep deprived means the fresh air really can be the boost you need, obviously alongside coffee and the odd sugar boost! I think what we love most is just being outside and trying to include as many Proprioceptive activities to help everyone feel calm and realxed. 

I would love to hear your Autumn inspired ideas! Please comment below.

Anna πŸ™‚

A day out to ‘Rainbow Care Farm’, in Somerset with my little girl who is three and my little boy who has Sensory Processing Difficulties SPD

Well what an amazing place!

This was our second visit to the farm, it is set in beautiful surroundings near to the village of Wiveliscombe in Somerset. The farm has a real feeling of calm, like the complications that come with modern environments have been removed. No whooshing cars, no unpredictable sirens even the toilets which I will come to later, are simple and induce little anxiety!

We were welcomed back by ‘Rexy’ who owns the farm and lots of smiling faces. We arrived a little early to fill out some paperwork about our children and to note down some of my little boys additional needs. I liked this, as it meant I could explain some his difficulties without having to have a lengthy conversation in front of him, or his peers for the session and their parents.

There is an area in the middle of the stables with hay bales for us to sit on and a tea and coffee area for the sleep deprived parents!! Rexy is so in tune with the children with additional needs as she is constantly reassuring and pre- warning just naturally in conversation which is lovely to witness.

We were given a short safety brief before starting our first job of the day, feeding the chickens! For those of you that know me know I am terrified of chickens  but becoming a parent has definitely made me face me fears and looking at me you wouldn’t even know now! I don’t want my kids to be scared and I tell them, they are capable of anything, so I put on a very brave face and embrace the chicken feeding with everyone else! The children are asked to place the feed in a long line, with little piles for the little ducks which are the cutest things you have ever seen!

The last time we went to the farm we went down a little track to feed some lovely sheep. The walk down to the field was a great opportunity to chat to other parents in the same position and network. Most of the sheep have been pet lambs so are really friendly. Safety is discussed as they do have horns, but if you don’t have the bucket you can stand out the way and the sheep don’t come near. My little boy was hesitant at the start but by the end he was feeding the sheep out of his hands and it was lovely to watch!

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The ‘jobs’ for the morning were all on a blackboard so I could warn my little boy what was coming next and what may happen, what noises there might be ect… I loved this as we use visual timetables at home.

On both visits to the farm we worked with the ponies. The first time we went down to the field and ‘poo picked’ the field and this time we took the ponies to an exercise area and then mucked out their stable. This was a fantastic ‘Proprioceptive activity’ (heavy work) and really calmed my little boy before the next activity.

We were encouraged to wash hands after touching the animals and for any kids wobbly about the toilets there was hand sanitizer. I want to chat for a moment about the toilets as for me as a parent of a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties, they really were a highlight! They are really basic but everything you need. The bliss of no hand dryers (a basic towel), no fans, no strange lights, the acoustics were so dead no tiles, no echo just basic wood frame and just a basic loo and sink to wash hands. It was clean and for us drama free!! I don’t remember the last public toilets we managed to go in without ear defenders and a minor to major meltdown, so I know I am going on and on, but yay for simple toilets!!

Next we went down to the camp fire area, yes you heard right a camp fire! If someone had told me snack time involved a campfire and the kids cooking their own snack on it I wouldn’t have believed it! To be honest at first I was hesitant, my kids I describe as ‘free range’ at times and so I usually stay away from situations like that. Saying that I can honestly say as soon as we reached the fire pit area, I say that as it has a perimeter fence, I was put at ease. The fire pit was about 18inches x 18 inches and was made with raised bricks. Before entering the fire area we were told that when the fire was lit the children were not allowed to stand up. They were told to sit on big logs. They were encouraged to scrunch up bits of newspaper and pop kindling on top. Once everyone was sat safely on the logs the fire was lit and the children were given really long bits of willow with BBQ skewers on the end. A marshmallow was placed on the end and the kids could toast their marshmallows from safely sat on the log! If they did need to get any closer they kneeled so they couldn’t trip near the fire. On us leaving the fire pit area, we were asked to go behind the logs and then the area was locked so nobody could wander near it after. It was an amazing experience and the one thing my little boy kept talking about when he got home and for about a week after!!

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There was a mud kitchen so the kids could have some free play, which was another great opportunity for networking. I learnt loads from the other parents and they were so lovely and signposted me to some services that I had not heard of before, that I have found really useful! We went onto make a bow and arrow from willow and string and we went to a safe area to try them out.

So to sum up our time at Rainbow care farm I would have to say it is inclusive, caring, well thought through and a haven for us a family. Going out on days out can be very stressful but I have to say I haven’t enjoyed an outing so much and that is down to Rexy and her team who are truly special people and ‘Short Breaks’ who help to fund something which for us was a real find!

We can’t wait to go back to the farm again and would recommend it to anyone, especially families with kids with additional needs!

I have tried to keep this blog short but I could have gone on and on, so if you have had fun at Rainbow Care Farm and I have missed something that would encourage other families to give it a go please leave a comment I would love to hear from you..

Anna πŸ™‚