10 things my autistic children have taught me

It was nearly 12 years ago that Jack was diagnosed with autism, then nearly a decade later Lily got her diagnosis. I wanted to do a post looking at 10 things my autistic children have taught me over the years. Unlike Natalie who had been around disability all of her life, I had been sheltered from that life. It was a whole new world I was stepping into. A world that was a lot worse than I could ever have imagined, but is full of some truly strong and wonderful people. So here is my list of 10 things that my autistic children have taught me.

My autistic children
1. Patience

I am naturally a patient person, but since the children were diagnosed my patience has been tested more than ever before. Whether that was dealing with professionals and schools, or the children themselves. Patience is key to bringing up autistic children. Nothing ever happens quickly, but stay patient and you can win the fights against the system. And your children can learn the things you are trying to teach them, it just might not be the way you planned in the first place.

2. To Fight

When you have children going through the SEN process, you have to learn to fight. There is no alternative if you want the best for them. Sitting in meetings with a group of professionals, telling them what support our child needs. And refusing to backdown would terrify a 20 year old Adam. It still scares me today, but I’ve learnt that I have to stand up and fight.

3. Self Care

For those who are familiar with this blog, you probably know that my struggle with depression is a big factor in my life. You can see my post on Managing Depression for more about that. Jack and Lily brought a real focus to me realising, I can’t help them if I don’t help myself first.

4. To Have Confidence

Confidence has always been my nemesis. The things we’ve gone through as a family, and come out the other side has given me confidence in myself. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The kids enthusiasm and participation in this blog, is what made me start in the first place. Then when I was struggling and took a break, it was then again that got me going again. Now I’m also fulfilling my dream of string for an NFL website called Franchise Tagged. Click the link if you fancy reading my latest article.

5. Unconditional Love

Unconditional love for your children should be a normal thing. When you have child who loses complete control during a meltdown, and can be violent. It can be testing, but learn about the person they are. You realise that is not them, it is just a part of the struggle that have to live with. Then the unconditional love stays strong.

6. Positivity

For someone who struggles with depression and confidence, being positive has often been an alien concept to me. I made a decision early on that I wanted to keep a positive outlook, when it came to Jack and Lily. Weighing myself down with the negatives wasn’t going to help me, and it certainly wasn’t going to help the children. I’d like to think for the most part I’ve succeeded with that. Obviously, there have been difficult times that have got me down. We all have them.

7. To Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Before children some people would say I floated around in my own little world, blissfully unaware of what was going on around me. Some would say I still do, but that is only partially true. Jack’s hypersensitivity to sound led to Natalie and I always being alert. When we were out with Jack we’d continually scan the surrounding area for things that could make loud noises. Babies, young children, motorbikes, workmen etc. Sitting down at a restaurant means observing the surrounding area and tables, before choosing where to sit. Being aware of flickering lights in a shop, and strong smells we also have to be aware of. It’s become second nature to us both, we now do it automatically even when we are on our own.

Taking a dog for a walk
8. Accomplishments can be tiny but mean the world

When you have children you have big dreams for them, you want them to achieve great things and make you proud. This doesn’t have to change because your child has a disability. A well-known autism advised parents to grieve for the child they have lost, an idea I despise. You simply have to reset your expectations accordingly. Jack and Lily already both have the ability to maybe do something great in specific areas. But up to now the simplest of things have made me the most proud as a Father. Jack saying his first word (which was Adam!!) at nearly 5 years old, when we’d been told he’d never speak. Lily trying a burger at 8 years old. For a child that wouldn’t have anything touching on a plate, and only ate beige food. I can’t even describe how huge that was. That’s just one simple example each, but these things that most take for granted, are huge achievements for children like Jack and Lily.

9. Silence Speaks Volumes, Words Can be Misleading

Although Jack has learned to speak, his understanding level doesn’t match up with his vocabulary level. He is also unable to verbally express his emotions. We are finding Lily has some of the same issues. So for us to understand them we have to look past the spoken words, and see and hear what is not being said. The actions and behaviours tell you more, and then you can use things like PECS and vision boards to find the real answers.

10. Not to Judge People

It’s very easy to judge, I’ve certainly been guilty of it many times in my life. When you have disabled children suddenly you find yourself being the one who is judged. It really does give you a wake up call, and teaches to look deeper into people. And what their circumstances might be, rather than making i stand judgements.

So there’s 10 things my autistic children taught me. I hope they’ve taught you a few things too. As always, thanks for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Easter Holidays 2021

Easter Holidays 2021

The school holidays are always an interesting time, for families with autistic children. The Easter Holidays 2021 were no different for us. Jack particularly struggles with the school holidays. Like many autistic children, the sudden change of routine throws him out. He does enjoy time at home, especially spending all day in his bedroom. Watching TV and playing in his computer, he did become a teenager after all.

The lack of a rigid routine takes its toll and by the time we come to the end of the holiday. Jack can’t wait to get back to school. We do try to get routines in for the holidays, but it’s just not the same as when he’s at school.

It’s the complete opposite for Lily, who never wants the holidays to end. I’ve talked a lot about Lily’s problems at school, and there will be a lot more to come. There were tears Monday morning, but he first 2 days of school seem to have gone okay.

How we are doing as parents

As far as myself at Natalie go, we are getting on with things the best we can. The passing of Natalies mum at the end of March, has obviously hit her hard. The kids being off school 2 weeks, from the day after the funeral wasn’t ideal. It’s been nice to have a bit of quiet time over the last couple of days.

I was recently asked to join the team of writers for an American Football website. It has always been a dream of mine to combine my love of writing, and my love of sport. I’m absolutely delighted to get this opportunity, and excited for where it might lead. If your interested in American Football, or might just like to take a look. Or just show me some support, you can see the first article I wrote by clicking the following link. https://franchisetagged.com/the-case-for-best-player-available-early-in-the-draft/

That’s it for my little Easter Holidays 2021 update. I hope you all had a lovely Easter, if you celebrate. As always, thanks for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Autism Awareness Week

Autism Awareness Week

I put up my first post in a long time earlier in the week, and it was a complete coincidence that it happened during Autism Awareness Week. To be honest, it’s never been something I’ve been bothered about. Which is why I was blissfully unaware of the coincidence.

The cliche of autism being 365 days a year, not just one week is absolutely true. So is the argument that just about everyone is now somewhat aware of autism. So that should not be the aim anymore, the aim should be to encourage autism acceptance. The other problem I have with this week, is that it brings all the things I don’t like in the autism community to the forefront. Especially on social media.

A friendly reminder

Unfortunately just like every other part of society, there is a lot of nastiness about in the autism social media community. Personally I stay well out of it. I have enough to do, and enough problems without getting embroiled in that. What I would like to say though, as a friendly reminder during autism awareness week. Is that we are all trying to do our best. For ourselves, for our children and family, or in our workplaces. Whatever it is the vast majority just want autistic people to be accepted, and able to live the best life they can.

The best way to make that happen is by supporting each other, not by shooting each other down. Which is something I see far too often. There are a lot of great supportive people out there, I just wish there was more of it, and less of the ugly stuff. Yeah

That’s all I’ve got to say today. We would like to wish you all a Happy Easter, and don’t eat too much chocolate! As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Coming back from hiatus

Coming back from hiatus

Just wanted to put a little post up to say, that I am coming back from hiatus. That’s the plan anyway. To be honest, the break I wanted has ended up being a lot longer than I had planned. This is the third time I have started this post, the first 2 times I never got to the end.

There have been a number of different reasons why. I found the winter in lockdown particularly tough, and so has the rest of the family. There have been so many different challenges, that I just didn’t feel up to doing this. Unfortunately we had another death in the family, with Jack and Lily’s Gran passing away, which has hit them both hard.

The last year has been so difficult for everybody, I just have my fingers crossed that brighter days are ahead.

What’s been happening?

Just a quick run down of what’s been happening whilst I’ve been away. Jack has been doing really well at school, and at home as well. He has coped with his emotions following the death of his Gran incredibly well. The last year a lot of time has been sent on helping Jack express his emotions, and it has been a wonderful success. In my next post I plan to share a great tool we have used for this.

Lily on the other hand has been having a much more difficult time. School is still presenting many challenges, and we have many battles ahead regarding her education. We are at the start (still!) of the process for an Educational Health Care Plan, and I’m sure there will be plenty to share with you from that experience.

Anyway this was just a quick post to say I’m coming back from hiatus. Some proper posts to come soon. As always, thanks for reading

Dad Does Autism

Surviving 2020

Surviving 2020

What a year it has been! For me personally and for everyone across the world. With England going back into lockdown. I had the idea for a post, that’s I’m calling surviving 2020. It sounds like the dramatic title of a Hollywood film, or documentary. But in all sorts of different ways, this year has been all about survival. Surviving a virus, surviving massive changes to they way we live, and for some people trying to keep hold of their livelihoods.

There has been so many things going on the last couple of months, and I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by it all. Hence why there’s not been much activity on here. The last post I did, I talked about my depression. Which I am still struggling with. I’m going through a spell, which I think all carers go through. Where I’m just being overwhelmed by all the expectations, responsibility and demand of being a carer.

The uncertainty, the disruption and just the simple concern of a deadly virus, is hard enough for all of us. For young autistic children like Jack and Lily, it has been a really difficult time. A difficult time for them, is a difficult time for myself and Natalie. The worst thing about this year, is we’ve never been able to give them answers with any certainty. All these months later, we still can’t say when we might be returning to some kind of normal.

Making the best of things

All we can really do is make the best of things. We all love Halloween, but there was no trick or treating this year. There’s a house in our village that sets up a walk through haunted house every year, but not this year. The kids were disappointed that halloween didn’t go down as usual. But we got in plenty of sweets, ordered a pizza and watched Scooby Doo. Everyone enjoyed it, we made the best of the situation.

Surviving 2020

We have Lily’s Birthday and Christmas coming up in December. Will we still be in lockdown? Who knows, but whatever the situation is, we will make the best of it.

I hope everyone is doing well during these strange times, and you are surviving 2020. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

How to find motivation when you’re depressed

How to find motivation when you’re depressed

I spent most of September searching for motivation, as my depression took grip in a big way. So I decided to look into how to find motivation when you’re depressed. I really needed to find the answers for myself. Since the kids went back to school, I’ve been a bit lost to be honest. Since lockdown started, every day my task was to make sure they kids were happy and entertained.

Then returning to school, was supposed to be the chance for me to get more work down on the blog. The complete opposite happened. I’ve been finding things really difficult, and that has continued into October. The longer I’m in this cycle the worse it gets, so this post is an attempt to break it. To have a reason to look for how to find motivation when you’re depressed. To give you some indication to where I’m at right now. I started this post a week ago, and this is the second paragraph.

Planning the motivation

Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional, if you are or think you are suffering from depression. Then a medical professional should be your first port of call. I just want to share some advice, from my experience of living with depression for many years.

So where to find this motivation I’m looking for? When I did my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the biggest thing I learnt to do was plan ahead. Think about the things that would make me feel better about myself, and then plan them in for the next day at first. If that proves successful, then you can start planning a week ahead. If it doesn’t prove successful, then just keep planning the next day until you manage to achieve what you planned.

You probably won’t always achieve what you wanted to, and that’s okay! As long as you keep planning and keep trying. So what are the things you can do, to help you get up and get motivated?

Finding the motivation

How to find motivation when you’re depressed

Get up and get dressed

It sounds so simple, but the urge to stay in bed all day is strong when depression has really taken hold. Even if you do get up, the feeling of there’s no point in putting fresh clothes on. Can ingrain itself into your thoughts. If you can’t get up and get dressed, you’re unlikely to find the motivation for anything else.

Go for regular walks

There is nothing better for clearing your head, than going for a walk. It’s something I really like to do. Get away from all the distractions of life, and have a think. The fresh air and exercise seems to help with thinking clearly and more positively. I think there’s some science behind it, with releasing endorphins, but like I said I’m no health professional.

Avoid negativity

Negativity on the news, or in tv programmes are best avoided in my opinion. Also, social media can be great, but it can also be a really bad place to be. If going on the socials is draining any positivity you might have, then it might be time to get off of there. Or cut out the negative influences on there, and the same can be said in “real life” too. If there’s people in your life who only seem to bring negativity, then it may be best to avoid contact with them where possible.

Create a support network and socialize

The most important thing you can do is create a good support network, of people you can trust and rely on. People who know your situation, and will be there for you when you need them. Then when you are feeling up to it, take the time to socialise with them, doing whatever it is that makes you happy.

Positivity journal

Something that I started this year, and that I highly recommend to every one. Is a positivity journal. Where you right down one positive thing you did or that happened every day. You can buy a journal/diary or make something yourself. The great thing about it is, it encourages you to do something positive so you have something to write. Then you can look back at the entries and remind yourself of all positive things that have been happening.

Stick to routine, but don’t over schedule

Lastly, it’s good to try and stick to a routine and make sure you complete the tasks that you plan to do. But don’t over schedule! If you have been really struggling to do anything like I have been lately. The last thing you want to do is set yourself up fail, by asking too much of yourself straight away. It’s an easy trap to fall in too, and something I’m often guilty of doing. Start with small tasks, and congratulate yourself when you achieve them, and then build on that success.

Conclusion

I hope that offers some help, on how to find motivation when you’re depressed. If you can get yourself up and going, then you can start enjoying the things that you like. Whatever that might be. If you have any comments or tips, I’d love to hear them. Fell free to leave a message in the comments section below. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Simple Jam Tart Recipe

Simple Jam Tart Recipe

Today we are bringing you a very simple Jam Tart recipe, which only uses 3 Ingredients. All you need is self raising flour, butter and jam. A quick reminder that you can find the other baking recipes we have had a go at, on our post Top 20 easy bakes for kids.

This is another first time bake for me. I don’t know why as we all love jam tarts, but I’ve just never thought of making them before. Anyway let’s get to it.

Ingredients

  • 85g of butter
  • 170g self raising flour
  • Choice of jam to be added to taste

Method

  • Preheat oven to 200c/gas mark 6
  • Rub together the butter or margarine with the flour in a bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in a few tablespoons of water to form a dough. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Use a pastry cutter to cut out about 20 circular shapes. We got 16 out of ours,
  • Put each pastry case into an individual cupcake tin. Add a teaspoon of jam to each case, you could add a bit more jam, but be careful not to add too much. Otherwise them jam will ooze over the edge during baking.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry has gone pale brown (check the tarts after 20 minutes). Then hopefully the tarts should just come straight out of the tray like ours did.
Simple jam tart recipe

Undisputed champion

These were amazing! So simple and easy for anyone to do, and yet so tasty. I’ve been told we have to make some more, unfortunately we’ve ran out of flour. So the kids will have to wait until I can pop down to the shop to get some. Which they are not happy about. We have enjoyed all the things we have baked so far, but the jam tarts are the undisputed champion so far. It is unanimous from everyone, that this has been the favourite so far.

Jam tartar

When I go and get that flour, we will be making some more. I’d like to get some different jams, and some lemon curd in too. I highly recommend giving this simple jam tart recipe a go. You won’t regret it! As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

The good and bad things going on at school

The good and bad things going on at school

I’ve not been putting much on here for the last month or so, and I will talk about why at a later date. Today though I wanted to share with you the good and bad things going on at school. Jack and Lily both went back to school happy enough, but now as we start to settle into the routine of being back at school. The little cracks start to appear.

To be honest, on the whole Jack is doing really well at school. He’s doing some really good work, he’s maturing as a person, and he’s becoming more involved around the school as a whole. Whereas previously he’d mostly stay in his class room, even at dinner time. He still eats his dinner in his class room, where he usually has a friend stay with him. He took his and his classmates plates back to the dinner hall, when they had finished last week. These are the tiny things that in normal circumstances, wouldn’t mean much. But us, and families like us, are massive.

Confusing Jack

There has been one thing that has annoyed me a bit though. One of Jack’s obsessions at the moment is something from Minecraft called SCP’s. It is videos made using minecraft, and the scp’s are mostly monsters. Jack wants to research about the SCP’s during his time on the computer at school. Some of the images he finds have scared the other children, so he was rightly told he couldn’t look for them.

What school did was create a list of safe SCP’s he was allowed to research. Jack was happy with this compromise, and was sticking too it. He then went on the computer and found the website blocked, when he searched for the SCP on his safe list. The school have blocked the website as it’s unsuitable. I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with how they’ve gone about it.

They should have blocked it from the start, and they definitely shouldn’t have come up with this safe list. To then go and block it. It left Jack very confused, and unsurprisingly caused the first major meltdown he’s had in months. Long term it will be for the best, but it’s caused him to become unsettled, when he was doing really well. Which is disappointing. Hopefully it’s just a small blip, and things continue to go well.

Bigger problems at Lily’s school

On the surface Lily’s return to school is going really well. She says she doesn’t want to go every morning, but her friend comes and walks to school with her. And she goes happily enough, and comes out of school at the end of every day smiling. But a closer look reveals all is not as rosey as school would like everyone to believe.

We err promised when Lily started at the school last September, that we would work towards a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) for Lily. Obviously Covid happened and we didn’t get far with that, in the last school year. We had a multi agency “child in need” meeting, through a zoom call. These have been in place for a few years now for Jack, but now include Lily as well.

The question was posed to Lily’s headteacher, what is happening about an EHCP for Lily? He said they would be working towards applying for one later in the year . Which we were happy enough with. Then then next day we get and email from the SENCO from Lily’s school, which basically said they have no intention of applying for the EHCP. Instead they want to apply for non legally binding support, where they will get funding, but it has to be re applied for every year. There’s no legal requirement that the funds even have to be spent on Lily. But most importantly, when it’s time for thinking about secondary school for Lily, we will have nothing in place for her to have extra support. The school are simply taking the easy option for them, but it the right option for Lily.

Apply ourselves

We will be going down what will be a very lengthy process of applying for the EHCP ourselves. Already we have had some great advice and support from Social Media and the local community. We would like to thank everyone for that. I am going to use this platform to share the experiences we go through with this. The number of people we have already met who have been through this, or are in a similar position just locally has staggered me. Not to mention the people all across the country, we’ve heard from on social media.

So if we can share this journey and help the people who go through this after us, in any way at all then that would be great. So this has been the good and bad things going on at school. People often say it must be difficult being a “special needs parent”, and I always say that it is. But it’s hardly ever because of the children. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Chocolate Sandwich Cake Recipe

Chocolate Sandwich Cake Recipe

Today we are bringing you a chocolate sandwich cake recipe. I’ve had complaints from the kids, that we are not getting through our top 20 bakes for kids recipes fast enough. So I was ordered into the kitchen to bake this cake, which was done with both Jack and Lily. So a real team effort.

The chocolate cake was the one the kids had been really waiting for, and they were both delighted. When I told them that’s what we would be doing.

Ingredients

For Cake

  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 25g cocoa powder

    For butter cream
  • 100g butter
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 30ml milk
  • a few drops of vanilla essence

Method

For Cake

  • Cream butter and sugar together until it has a light and fluffy texture.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time, with a table spoon of flour each time.
  • Gently fold in remaining flour and cocoa powder, then transfer the mixture to 2 sandwich tins.
  • Bake at 180 degrees for 25-30 mins, when finished leave to cool.
 tin

For Butter Cream

  • Beat Butter until soft.
  • Gradually beat in sugar and milk until light and fluffy
  • Stir in drops of vanilla essence, to taste.

To finish, take the cakes out of the tin and put the butter cream on one side of one of the cakes. Then put the other cake on top and sandwich together. Finish off with a dusting of icing sugar on top.

For those who like their cake really chocolatey, you can make the buttercream a chocolate cream. And even put the cream on top of the cake as well. We find that way a bit too sickly for our taste, apart from Mum who likes it all chocolate.

Chocolate sandwich cake recipe

I have to say that this chocolate sandwich cake recipe, is probably our favourite so far. It definitely is for the kids, and I have to say I probably agree with them. It was a nice light chocolate taste, not too sickly and went great with a nice cup of tea.

We definitely recommend giving this a try, and that you enjoy it as much as we did. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes

Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes

The latest recipe from our top 20 bakes for kids, is one I have been looking forward to. It is the Cherry Bakewell cupcakes. It’s not quite the famous Bakewell Tart, from our home county of Derbyshire. But I’m still expecting these to be really nice.

Ingredients

  • 150g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tea spoon baking powder
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1 table spoon milk
  • handful of glace cherries

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  • For the cupcakes, cream the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients, including the cherries which should be chopped to taste, and mix until well combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Cherry Bakewell cupcakes

I have to be honest. I forgot the baking powder, so they didn’t raise very well. Put this isn’t the place for expert baking haha. The kids wanted to sift icing sugar on top of the cakes, as neither are keen on icing. I’d like to make some more, with some proper icing, with a cherry on top, and remembering the baking powder. It’s something I will definitely be doing.

Even so, our cherry Bakewell cupcakes tasted really nice, and they didn’t last long at all. I wasn’t sure if the kids would like the almond flavour, but Lily loves them. I don’t think Jack liked them quite as much, but he still are them. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism