Why are school mornings like Groundhog Day!?

This morning was like every other morning, which is like every morning in households everywhere that children live.  The dreaded school run! Why oh why is it just so hard!?

It doesn’t seem to matter what time I get up, how organised I might be, the result is still the same… shouting that we need to go, teeth still not cleaned, ties suddenly lost and an announcement at two mins to blast off that they need to take something random with them to school! Why do they do that, they’ve had a whole sodding night, but NO, please announce this at 7.55am!!

The difference in my household and I’m sure its the same for all mum’s of special ones, the worry is that it will always be Groundhog Day.  Will I always have to remind about putting on deodorant, brushing hair and the fact that there is jam smile on her face?! Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to do this for as long as it takes, but A. it worries me that I’ll still be doing this when she is 25+ and B. it pisses me off!

Thing is, as mums we (that’s the Royal ‘we’) have enough trouble having to think about what we need to do for ourselves, but as a mum, you also have to do the thinking for everyone else as well!  All my two kids want to think about is Pokemon/Skylanders and Coronation Street episodes from three years ago, therefore it’s down to me to remember drinks bottles, PE kits, reading records, lunch, teeth cleaned, suncream/scarf & gloves (depending on the time of year) and any other parafinalia I may have missed!

So literally, every day, every single sodding day, I say (shout) the same thing to the kids before school… and I know you do too… and if you don’t, you are a very lucky lady!  It has to be beyond a shadow of a doubt, the worst hour of the day.  The relief that I feel once they are both dropped off is immense, it just rolls off my shoulders in a big “thank fuck for that!”.

I’ve mentioned before about how hubby would call me, usually on his way to work during school run hour because he thought of something trivial on the way to work.  He quickly learnt not to do this.  Well, a few weeks ago, I went away with my old school mates for some R&R which meant hubby had to do two mornings of school runs!  As we  landed in Dublin, I called home to say we arrived safely… His first words were  “how the fuck do you do that every day?  You deserve a bloody medal!”  I know!!

I’m very fortunate that I mostly work at home and go into the office once (sometimes twice) a week, so for four out of five days, I know I can wing it where I am concerned – if I’m only half ready its no biggy.  If I had to go through the stress of being ‘work ready’ every morning and try to get out of the door at stupid o’clock, I would now be found rocking in a chair with a very large Gin!  At least this way, its just Gin!!

But in all seriousness, as our children grow up, they do become more self-sufficient and do things for themselves.  I have a fiercely independent eight year-old who even now, does so much for himself.

However, for our children who have challenges and needs, it doesn’t always go that way and as parents, there is always the niggling worry in the back of our minds that we will always need to be around to help… which of course, we always will be.  Just pass me the Gin!! xx

Until next time…

Tales of a Mother’s Daughter xxx

This blog of course, extends to stay at home dad’s and not just limited to us mums!

 

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D-DAY! Diagnosis Day… choices to be made and the surprising grief that followed.

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D-DAY! Diagnosis Day… choices to be made and the surprising grief that followed.

I’m heading back to our Autism journey, back to the summer of 2010.  Since ‘the dark winter’ as I call it, of 2008 we had seen many consultants, registrars, speech & language therapists, other therapists with fancy names, Autism Advisory Teachers and Child Development Practitioners.   Today, we thought was going to be just another appointment with the consultant… the one we finally found that took us seriously, who could see that there was something not right and recognised a link between diet and the brain.

We’d already seen Dr McGreggor several times where she assessed Ellie’s behaviour, how she played and interacted and took a ‘progress report’ from us.  What we weren’t expecting was for her to offer us a diagnosis.  It had been two and a half years since we started this journey and now my heart was galloping at what she was about to say.

“Ellie is certainly on the autistic spectrum and I would say she has high functioning Autism.  I would say she is borderline, and with that, you don’t have to take the diagnosis, if you’d rather not?”

I heard the words, I nodded, but it was like one of those outer body experiences.  Were we being asked whether we would like to take the diagnosis?  WTF!

The consultant went through the pros and cons (of which I just don’t remember now) but one was that with a diagnosis, we would be able to access better support.  If having a diagnosis meant a better chance of getting help, then there was no question.  Whilst I would’ve loved to stick my head in the sand and pretend this wasn’t happening, it really wasn’t an option.  Ellie was still the same little girl, with or without a label.  Plus, she had only just turned five years old.  We had no idea how things would progress and change as she got older.

Looking back, I know it was the absolute right decision to make, as things really have changed as Ellie has grown up.  For one, there seems to be an ever increasing gap between her and her peers and she continues to have a 1:1 support at secondary school. I’m sure this wouldn’t have been the case had we not made that choice.

The consultant also agreed that diet had played a huge part in Ellie’s symptoms and confirmed that if we had not changed her diet when we did, she would be in a very different place by now.  The relief to hear that was immense.  Thank god we did what we did and took those ‘poisonous’ foods out.  I won’t lie, back in 2008 it was really hard work as the mainstream supermarkets had barely anything ‘free from’.  My family, especially my mum, played such a huge part in making those dietary changes… it would’ve been so much tougher without them.  I fear, that we may have even given up if it wasn’t for their support and understanding.

So, we decided to go for the diagnosis – High Functioning Autism (or Aspergers), although on our letter it actually says ‘Allergy Induced Autism’.

What I didn’t expect was how I felt in the coming weeks.  Instead of relief… I felt grief.  I definitely went through a grieving process for a good two weeks. Grieving over the daughter we thought we had, worrying about the things she wouldn’t be able to do, fearful for how she would ‘fit in’ with her peers and unsure of where this journey would take us next.

Until next time,

Love and Hugs xxx

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Rice, Rice Baby! What happened when another food becomes a bad guy!(Blog#14)

So, lets get back to the story.  If I’m honest, most of the summer of 2008 was a bit of a blur.  We had returned from Florida, which went ok considering how poorly Ellie had been in the previous months.

There’d been doctors appointments (but that’s for another blog). We’d also decided that we wanted to try for another baby.  I remember this news shocking my mum as she felt that now wasn’t the best time to be thinking about trying for another child with everything that was going on with Ellie.   Why would we want to risk having another autistic child? What if Ellie didn’t get better?  I knew that’s what she was thinking.

Ellie had been following the diet for six months now and we felt we were getting a handle on the situation (how naive!) and considering our past complications with not conceiving in a previous life (that’s a whole other story!) we figured we may not be as lucky to get caught again anyway. Plus, we couldn’t see ourselves just having the one child – I certainly didn’t feel like I was done with the whole babies and pregnancy thing.

So, with a possible pregnancy on the cards, we decided to book a little getaway for ourselves to New York (ok, not that little) in November – at the earliest, I could be in the early stages of pregnancy – and if we didn’t do it now, we might not get around to it.  Mum and Dad kindly agreed to have Ellie while we were away.

So, lets fast forward to late November.  I was 12 weeks pregnant (wooo hooo!) and we were going to New York in two days  but for the past week Ellie really hasn’t been very good.  A lot more moany and any little instruction was met with confusion and meltdowns.  Simple things like ‘sit down’ and ‘put your coat on’ was lost on her.  It was clear to see that she was starting to regress again.

So, in a panic we made a quick dash to the Kinesiology lady that did the weird stuff with little bottles.  Once again, I held Ellie’s hand whilst she sat on my mum’s lap and I raised my arm up (and sometimes not) each time the lady put a little bottle of something on my cheek.  I didn’t know what was being tested and neither did the Kinesiologist but it turned out that along with the usual suspects, Rice was now a bad guy!

WHAT!! Something else we now had to eliminate!  When we thought about it, Rice was in a lot of what Ellie was eating as a substitute to the wheat and gluten so she had now become intolerant to it.  That seemed to happen pretty quickly with Soya earlier in the year which we were warned about from the York Test Nutritionists on one of our telephone appointments.

This was not great timing.  We were due to go to New York in less than two days, we now needed to sort through what Ellie could eat while we were away. Thankfully, Mum was ‘on it’ even quicker than I was.  She had everything sorted out ready for when we went and assured me that Ellie would be fine.

So we went to New York and had an amazing time – apart from feeling absolutely shattered from walking for 10 hours a day and growing a baby… and not being able to enjoy a beer in a New York bar 😦   We rang home often to check on Ellie and was assured that everything was fine.  Apart from it wasn’t.  Mum and Dad had taken Ellie to visit my brother and his family for the weekend and whilst she was there she was extremely upset, and unsettled… they just didn’t want to tell us while we were away.

By the time we got home the following Wednesday Ellie was just coming out of this withdrawal period and was starting to follow things a little better.  Mum knew that had we known how bad she was on the Saturday before we flew, we may not have gone.  We couldn’t believe the effect food had on her.  Once again, Ellie had become intolerant to something that made her regress.

Thankfully, over the months, we managed to reintroduce Rice back into the diet.  We now knew that too much of anything could cause Ellie to become intolerant.

For this last year or so (2016-2017), we have become a little more relaxed with the diet. Back in the day we were so anal – making sure there could be no contamination of wheat or dairy. However for a while now, we’ve allowed the odd bit of chocolate or a burger if we’ve been out and stuck for food options and some cheese on her gluten free pizza on ‘Pizza Friday’!

I have noticed recently though, that some of Ellie’s behaviours have become more extreme. She is getting easily confused, not understanding what I am saying, extreme mood swings and slurred speech. Of course, this could all be the process of becoming a teenager (god help us!) but when you have a feeling in your gut (excuse the pun!) you need to act on it.  We’ve already had a Kinesiology test which is great if you want an immediate answer, but it revealed 11 different foods!  We needed something more conclusive (ie; whether something was severe or borderline) – so yesterday, YorkTest received a small blood sample to get Ellie re-tested for food intolerance … so now we wait! :/

For more information on YorkTest visit: http://www.yorktest.com/products/foodscan-junior-test/

Until next time….

love and hugs xxxx

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Mixed Emotions for Little Mix! How we nearly didn’t go to the concert!(blog #13)

Back in May, we surprised the kids with tickets to Little Mix as part of their birthday present (they’re both May babies!).  They were both very excited and for the last few months I’ve heard nothing but how excited they (Ellie) was for the concert.

Fast forward to the night before (Thursday). Ellie had a huge meltdown about how she was going to look rubbish, how she would “look like the donkey” (what!??), how she was going to have her hair – up/down/curly – and which ever way I suggested, it was still going to look rubbish!

Then there was more…. “Are you going to dance?” (Yes Ellie)  “I don’t think you will”.  “Can I dance?”…  “I’m a rubbish singer”… “Shall I sing?”… “My hair is going to look rubbish”…… I zoned out!

Weirdly she said nothing about the crowds and waiting… though I know this was the underlying factor to the anxiety.  There was constant shouting at me of  “I’m excited for Little Mix!”.  I had to resist the urge to shout ‘Tell your face then’ and just replied “Ok babe” but that just got a shout back “Are you excited?”   Well,  right in that moment, no I wasn’t excited.  I really didn’t want to go at all.

Forty-five minutes later and Ellie had finally gone up to bed – crying and mumbling more of the same… and I’m sat with a vodka – on a school night – with work in the morning (I’m hardcore like that 😉 !).  A WhatsApp moan to my best girls and a waffle on my Facebook page and I felt a little better… plus the second vodka was kicking in! (don’t judge).

Next morning… what do you think were the first words I heard?  Yep, you guessed it… “I’m really excited for Little Mix” which would’ve been fine, except it was a moany, shouty noise I heard and not an excitable 12 year old!   Oh god! Here we go again! There was an hour of more of the same – all whilst trying to get us out for the school run and me off to work.  Well, I lasted 45 minutes before I blew my top – which actually could be some kind of a record!  Hubby stayed out of Ellie’s way so as not to add to the anxiety levels!  It’s really not helpful for two parents to lose it!

Later that morning, I hear that the traffic for the the previous night’s gig was horrendous.  Over an hour just to get into the car park, and hours to get out again.  I was really not wanting to go now.  Ellie doesn’t do waiting at the best of times, so this would definitely be meltdown territory.

After much consideration, we came up with the following plan.  Hubby offered to stay at home as he’s not great in traffic either (stressssss head!) and that would take the pressure off of me to try and keep both him and Ellie calm.  I think the thought of a quiet night, hot tub, beer and the TV to himself may have also played a part!  What a trooper! 🙂

We were also taking George’s little friend from school and her mum with us, so that would hopefully be a good distraction for Ellie.   Well, the plan worked!  Despite it taking well over an hour to move the last six miles, the singing in the back of the car and eating of snacks was a complete distraction and we got there meltdown free.

We were lucky at the gate as well.  We arrived just half an hour before the main act – which meant the line for bag search was empty and despite a little wobble as we entered the site, Ellie was doing really well.

The concert was held outside at Powderham Castle in Devon so there were no feelings of claustrophobia and we stood quite near the back (which was handy for later as we got out first).  Ellie didn’t even need her ear defenders (George wore them) and she was now genuinely excited to see her favourite group.

What happened next made all that pain and anxiety (mine as well as Ellie’s) worth it.  As the girls came on, Ellie held her hand to her mouth and started to cry.  She was so happy to see her girls there on stage!  Granted, they were small dots from where we were, but seeing them on the big screen and seeing Ellie so ecstatic was amazing.  She must have cried with joy at least half a dozen times during the concert!

We danced, we sang, we waved and even ‘slut dropped’ a few times! (did I just say slut dropped?!).

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Pure Joy!
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Finally relaxed at the gig!
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Fun Times!
 

As I said earlier, being near the back had its advantages.  We left just before the encore (as did a lot of others) and watched the last song as we walked to the car park.  I then made a sprint for the car and picked up the guys on the way out!  We were out of the car park in 5 minutes! Genius!*

Apart from a scary detour up a single car sized country lane which seemed to go up into a forest and me trying to manoeuvre us past several cars coming the other way (Ellie really not keen on that – & nor was I tbh!) the evening was a complete success and I’m so glad we decided to go.  Both Ellie and her brother George were still buzzing when they got up this morning.

So, I might just do it again!

*I heard later that night that two friends were stuck in the car park for over two hours!  So whilst they were still trying to get out, I’d got the kids up to bed and was now sat… having a vodka! Right decision made! 🙂

Until next time….

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Sports days, exam results and being proud of the progress (Blog #12)

So, the end of the school year is nearly here!  To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about the holidays.  I love the fact that there’s no routine, no lunches to prepare, no uniforms to get ready and no PE kits to hunt down!  On the other hand, there is the anxiety of what we are doing for the six week stretch (and that’s just me!).  If I give out a programme of activities to Ellie, I won’t hear the end of it as each situation is super analysed and questions (the same ones) asked over and over again. If I keep information under wraps, there are meltdowns that we aren’t doing anything this summer and its going to be rubbish! We actually had one of these on Sunday with two whole weeks to go! Joy!

Anyway, I digress! I want to talk about the end of term and events that our AS children find particularly difficult – Sports Days and Exam Results.

Sports Days have always been difficult – especially in the early years. The cheering, the waiting around, the heat (if we happened to have a hot day) the co-ordination required to do the races and following multiple instructions.

I remember the first sports day Ellie had with the teaching assistant running along with her. We felt a huge sense of pride, but also saddened that she wasn’t able to do it on her own like the others.  She stood out as being different.  What I do know, is that everyone loved her.  All the parents were cheering her on and were genuinely as pleased as we were that she was competing.

Something then happened at the Year 1 Sports Day.  Ellie managed to do one race, along with the assistant running with her, but everyone cheering her name and encouraging her to finish, it all got too much.  Ellie sat back down in tears and didn’t want to take part in any more races. My heart went out to her.  Her peers were always so caring and really looked after her – they made her feel like it wasn’t a big deal – I loved them for that.

The following year, Sports Day was rained off … twice! Aaaah, those rainy memories of 2012!

So, onto Year 3 and a major achievement!  Sports Day was taking place at the local park with all of the Key Stage 2 children – some 240 children plus parents.  Once again, we were apprehensive about whether Ellie would want to take part.   My heart was thudding as she stood with her team mates ready for her race.  I can’t tell you the pride I felt as she ran down the straight towards the finishing line.  As I looked around, hubby, Mum and my Dad were all tearing up as well.  Over the other side of the track, I could see Ellie’s teaching assistant wiping tears from under her sunglasses. Yes – Ellie had done Sports Day all by herself.

 

And by the time Ellie did her final Sports Day last summer she was nailing it!

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Exams and results are also a big part of the summer term.

We were very fortunate with the SATs that Ellie took last summer, as school didn’t pile pressure on the children and we certainly didn’t with Ellie. Surprisingly, Ellie’s assistant reported that she had her best week ever at school during SATs week. All the routine and structure was a dream for Ellie.  In the end, we didn’t even find out the results of the SATs – we knew that Ellie had made progress during the year which for her was the goal.

So now fast forward a year. This week we had a panic attack about this year’s exam results?  Where did we lose the ‘being proud of the progress’ attitude.

Its not that we would ever compare Ellie to any of her peers, but it was just a shock to see how she did in a paper that the whole of the year took.  Admittedly, it was Maths, which has never been a favourite ( Ellie used to be scared of Maths) but to see that she only got a handful of questions correct out of a score of 60 really got us worried.

The story was similar in other subjects.  All I could think was ‘what are we going to do?’. I was imagining Ellie sat in her classes, not benefiting from the curriculum in any way.   I couldn’t understand why they would test her on a paper that she hadn’t even been learning (Ellie does Maths at a lower level away from class).

Thankfully, Ellie is fortunate once again, to have a super teaching assistant who kindly asked the Head of Year to give me a call.  Talking things over with her made such a difference.  She explained the processes and the reasons to why they tested everyone the same and that for Ellie, she has made great progress during this year… not only academically, but more so socially, gaining confidence and independence in lots of aspects of school life.   She has her own targets to strive towards and school were very pleased with her progress.

And that’s were it’s at… progress.  We don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing – as long as our child is moving forward, be it big or small, and most importantly, if she is happy, its all good.

So, I’m now on countdown to the start of the summer holidays!  Best re-stock that wine fridge! 🙂

Until next time,

 

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My First blog post… Our story of Autism and Diet… in a nutshell! (Blog #1)

Welcome to what I hope will be the first of many posts, talking about the ups and downs on living with a ‘Tween’ with Aspergers. From past experiences to future hopes and dreams… it’s all here!

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Welcome to ‘Tales of a Mother’s Daughter’.

This blog is primarily about the ups and downs of living with a ‘Tween’ on the Autistic Spectrum.  My wonderful, funny, kind, challenging, anxious daughter is now 12 years old and on the brink of teenage years – god help me!.

From tales and tips, humour and hilarity (hopefully) and moans and groans, I’ll be waffling on about all sorts! From special wheat/dairy free diets and alternative therapies to hormones, teenage strops (and strategies to get you through it) and anything and everything in between!

I’ll be talking through past experiences as well and current ones – good and bad – offering advice… and asking for help!

 So, why am I here?

I’ve been saying that I was going to start a blog about our experiences for years.  I remember mentioning to my boss in an annual review at least four years ago, but never got around to starting… life just got in the way!

A lot has happened since those initial thoughts of the blog, and finally, I’ve gotten around to making a start.

The event to prompt me was the loss of my wonderful Mum.  For five years she bravely battled cancer but finally lost the fight in February 2016.

Mum was my rock, my oracle, my best friend and the person who knew me inside out.  Now that I no longer have her to turn to, I’m ready to start sharing tales about my daughter on this here blog – hence the name, ‘Tales of a Mother’s Daughter’.  Clever huh?  I hope some of the information and ideas will be useful, though I can’t promise it won’t be used for a right old moan now and again!

Our Story… in a nutshell!

What started out as a virus for our two year old daughter turned into something life changing.  Something that would challenge our strength, our belief and our fight for a diagnosis.

Our daughter Ellie was two when she was poorly in early December 2007.  A couple of days of vomiting and temperature seemed nothing out of the ordinary.  It wasn’t until over the Christmas period that things started to change.  Eye contact with us was lost, speech which was fairly advanced had reduced to moans and groans.  The ability to follow simple instructions was gone and recognition of close family reduced greatly.

After paying to see a consultant who had no clue as to what was going on and deemed Ellie’s dream world behaviour as ‘endearing’, we had no choice but to turn to Google! We took to researching and found study cases for Allergy Induced Autism that matched exactly what was happening to Ellie.  The main focus in helping children in these cases was removing Wheat, Gluten and Dairy from the diet.  Not knowing what else to do other than to watch our daughter’s symptoms worsen, we had no choice but to give this a go.

After going through a period of ‘withdrawal’ from these foods (not too dissimilar to drug addicts coming off heroin)  three weeks later we started to see an improvement in Ellie’s speech  and she started to interact with us again… but things still weren’t back to how they were before.  If at any time Ellie accidently had one of the withdrawn foods, she would suffer around three days later with excruciating tummy pains, and a worsening of symptoms in eye contact, moaning etc which would then lessen over a few days.  It was clear to see that there was something in this connection with food.

There we embarked on a two year journey, seeing consultants, re-telling our story over and over again, having multiple assessments.  We would go through the same story of how Ellie would regress and be in pain when she had wheat or dairy but the Paediatricians we saw had never heard of a connection with Autism and food.  We were made to feel like we were making it all up.

We then insisted on seeing a particular consultant who was more specialised in this field.  After several appointments with Ellie, she confirmed that Ellie was indeed on the Autistic Spectrum and we finally had a diagnosis for her.  We also saw a Dietician that confirmed that some children with Autism can improve when certain foods are removed from the diet – but there is a very small window of opportunity to do this.  Finally we felt we were getting somewhere!

Once we got a diagnosis we started to get some help.  Support groups helped us to understand what was going on and put us in touch with professionals who were more ‘in the know’.

We met with a lady called Ruth Salisbury who, once we told her our story, sat and drew a diagram of the nervous system and explained to us exactly what had happened to Ellie’s system the day she had the virus and how things hadn’t reconnected properly once the virus had been fought.  She explained how wheat and dairy are not being fully broken down in her tummy and therefore their ‘proteins’ stay in the bloodstream and effect the brain.

To have someone understand what you are talking about and give you the answers to why things are happening was the biggest relief. I think I cried the whole day, retelling family and friends that this is what had happened.  For two and a half years we told our story to at least half a dozen consultants that didn’t understand, just nodded and said “oh, I see”. Finally – somebody understood!

Things would have been very different if we had listened to those doctors and consultants in the early days that didn’t really understand what was going on with our daughter.  If we’d taken their advice, the situation would now be a very different one.  With a little belief in what we were doing and the determination to fight – we managed to reverse those dark days of minimal eye contact, minimal speech and a host of other symptoms and kept going until we got the answers we needed to hear and got the help to move us forward.

When it comes to your children, never give up on your instinct…always go with your gut. You know your children better than anyone.

 Until next time…  Love & Hugs xxmothersdaugter logo

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