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

Autism and Reading

Autism and Reading

Today I want to talk about autism and reading, specifically how Jack and Lily learnt how to read. Jack starting school life at a SEN school, before moving to a school specifically for Autism. Whilst Lily is at a mainstream school. So there School life is very different.

Jack was never expected to do anything academically, and had proved people wrong. With how much he has actually been able to do. Parents of school aged children here in the UK, I’m sure will know all about reading diaries. And the Biff, Chip and Kipper books. Other parts of the world I’m sure will have something similar. We never had any of that with Jack. He’s never had homework, or been given reading books to do.

He can read though, something that came out of the blue, a few years ago now. He still has no set reading work though, as making it school work would be counter productive. We just allowed him to read at his own pace. The main place he was reading was on computer games, or the internet. He’d always be asking for things to be read for him, then one day I realised he’d stopped asking. With no external pressure, and because he wanted too, he had basically taught himself.

Making progress with Lily

That last bit is the very important point I want to make with this post. Lily has the reading diary, the spelling tests and the homework. This is the area that has been the cause of the problems we’ve had, with Lily and school. Reading and writing is something that Lily finds very difficult, and has caused her a lot of anxiety.

During the months of lockdown, we didn’t put any pressure on her to read. I’m general we didn’t do a huge amount of structured homeschooling. We did lots of different activities that were just part of the day. Not making a big point of this being school time, and putting pressure on it. It was a stressful enough time anyway, without adding more stress to everyone.

I know Natalie was especially worried about Lily falling even further behind. Fast forward to Lily coming home for the first time with a new reading book, and she sat with Mum and confidently read through the book first time. This has NEVER happened before. It would take a whole week, for Lily to get to grips with a book. We are talking roughly 15 pages, with 4 lines to a page maximum. The next when she came, I found her in her bedroom reading through a new book by herself. It was one of those parenting moments, where you are just bursting with pride.

Lily reading

SEN children learn at their own pace

When you have a child with special educational needs, one of the first things you have to come to terms with. Is that they won’t follow the rule book of expectations. The certain points children are supposed to be at, for each school year aren’t important. If you have family and friends with children the same age, who are way ahead. Or have younger children who over take yours, then try not to worry about it.

I know it’s natural to worry, as we all want the best for our children. But it doesn’t do anyone any good, trust me, I have been there. So whether it’s autism and reading, or any other type of school work. Give your child the support they need, without piling on the pressure. Then they will achieve the best that they can, and whatever that is, is great.

If you yourself have any tips or success stories when it comes to autism and reading, we’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment below. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Enjoying school

After the back to school tears, from Lily last week. I just wanted to do an update, and tell you all. That Lily has been enjoying school. After a few tears on Monday, she has happily gone to school the rest of the week. And most importantly, she has come out from school every day with a smile on her face. Fingers crossed this continues, and she doesn’t go back to dreading going to school.

I think that being back and seeing her friends again, has made her happy. And that is over riding the worries about the school work. The “bubbles” that they are in is also making the school feel less busy, which is also definitely helping g Lily. So far it’s all smiles, and lets hope it stays that way.

Enjoying school

How long will they stay at school?

The thing that’s on my mind, with Lily enjoying school. Is how long will they stay at school? There’s already news of possible Covid cases in the area, though not at Lily’s school. I’m expecting it will only be a matter of time before the schools close again. If that does happen, it will be even more difficult than the first time.

Jack is really happy at school, and would be allowed to stay in school if the schools close again. Which would leave the decision of whether he goes in our hands, which is a lot of pressure.

With Lily I will be back to worrying is she would settle going back again. It’s been a confusing time for young children, and I worry it’s not going to get any easier. I guess we will just have to see how things go, and wait for any announcements. At least for now both Jack and Lily are enjoying school, and hopefully that continues. As always, thanks for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Back to school tears

Back to school tears

Here in the UK it was back to school this week, with schools opening properly for the first time since March. I am sure there was quite a few back to school tears across the country this week. Here we had complete polar opposites, as Jack couldn’t wait to go back to school and see his friends. Lily on the other hand was not so keen.

There have been tears, and lots of talk about not wanting to go back to school over the last week. They both returned to school on Thursday, and Jack leaves first being picked up by a taxi. He went off happily. Lily got up and ready for school well enough, but as soon as it was time to leave the house. Those back to school tears started.

We usually walk up to school, but decided it would be better in the car on this occasion. She was okay in the car, and the short walk into school. But when it came time for us too leave her, the tears were back. It’s never nice to leave your child when they are upset, but her best friend came over to see her. So after giving her some reassurance, we slipped away hoping she would settle once we had gone.

Back to school tears

First day back

When we picked Lily up from school, she came out with a smile. She did settle and enjoyed her first day back, which was reassuring. She’s in a smaller class than she was last year, and will spend a lot of time working in a small group of kids who need extra support. There were more back to school tears on Friday morning, but she walked up to school with her best friend. Which cheered her up, and she had another good day. So far, so good.

Jack enjoyed being back at school, though 2 of his friends aren’t in his class anymore. Which he’s not to happy about, but seems to be okay with. As he can still see them. They have shortened the class size to just 4, which probably benefit Jack. It’s incredible that they can even do that.

On Friday Jack came home and went to his room to play his Xbox. After an hour or so, I suddenly realised he’d been very quiet. He’s usually shouting me from his room, wanting food and drink. Or to show me what he’s doing. So I went to check him, and at 17:30 he was fast asleep. A busy couple of days had obviously worn him out!

Back to normality

I have to admit, it was nice to have a bit or normality back. Plus some peace and quiet for a few hours, which allowed me to get stuff done. And have some time just to relax. It’s all gone well so far, I’m still worried about how Lily will cope with school, especially once the dreaded English work starts.

The social distancing and being in class “bubbles” is probably a good thing for Lily. How busy the school is, has always been the biggest problem for her. Jack seems happy enough, there has been a few changes at school. There is always a delay with Jack, while he processes changes, so we will have to wait a week or 2 at least. Before knowing he’s definitely okay with them.

All in all, the return to school went pretty well, and everyone is happy and ready to enjoy the weekend. I hope the return to school, if your children did return also went well. As always, thanks for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Things I am looking forward to for the rest of the year

Things I am looking forward to for the rest of the year

As summer is drawing to a close, it’s been a strange old year. So I wanted to do a post about, the things I am looking forward to for the rest of the year. 2020 will be a year remembered and talked about, for a long time to come. Unfortunately for all of the wrong reasons. So I wanted to try and think positively for the rest of the year, and look at some of the things I am looking forward to.

Football season

September bring that start of the new football seasons. Both Football (soccer) and American Football are huge passions of mine, and the start of the season is a welcome distraction. Football normally starts in August over here, but a late finish to last season pushed the start of this one back. I look forward to spending my time at the weekend watching sports again, and completely obsessing over my fantasy teams.

Back to School

Although it’s unusual circumstances, and it’s more worrying than usual. I have to be honest and say I’m looking forward to a few hours a day, when the house will be quiet. Now that the kids are back at school. Who knows how long that will be for though, as I somehow doubt that coronavirus has finished with us yet. Though I do hope I’m wrong.

Halloween and Christmas

Two of my absolutely favourite times of the year, are Halloween and Christmas. So I’m looking forward to them, though who knows what they will look like this year. Going trick or treating with the kids is great fun, and I always going in costume! I don’t know if it will be happening this year, especially if there’s another Covid spike. But we will see.

Same goes for Christmas. Will we all be travelling too see family as normal, or will we be in another lockdown? I guess we will find out over the coming months.

Things I am looking forward to for the rest of the year

Finally, I am looking forward to kicking on with the blog. The first 7/8 months have gone better than I could have ever hoped. I started in January with absolutely no idea, but I’ve learnt as I went along. I feel I’ve been getting better, and the numbers have been getting better every month.

I still have lots to learn, and think I can improve the blog in many areas. I’ve got lots of ideas, and I’m looking forward to getting to work on them. I hope your are all doing well, especially the parents out there. Back to school has been more stressful than ever this year. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Autism and Pokemon

Autism and Pokemon

Something that myself and Jack have wanted to do for a while, is a post about Pokemon. I’ve not been sure how to do it, but decided to look at the relationship between autism and Pokemon in general. And look specifically at Jacks complete Pokemon obsession. The cartoon itself and the games are obviously fun, I am just about young enough, to remember when the cartoon first came out in the UK.

I enjoyed it at the time, but soon grew out of it and didn’t collect the cards or anything like that. A fun fact that I only learned recently is, the creator of Pokemon Satoshi Tajiri is autistic. The idea for Pokemon came from his obsession as a child for collecting bugs, and playing video games.

Pokemon Go

The real game changer though, was when the Pokemon Go came out in 2016. It was a big craze when it came out, but has calmed down to the big Pokemon fans. The good thing about the game for an autistic person like Jack, is it encouraged getting out in the fresh air and exercise.

Getting Jack to go for a walk wasn’t easy, now he can’t get out the house fast enough, so he can catch Pokemon. Also there’s the social side to it, if you don’t know the game. There is a need to have in game “friends” to complete tasks and compete in raids. I joined a local group (I have my own game account) so I could do this with Jack. Then there’s the conversation topic, if anyone mentions Pokemon (or even if they don’t) Jack can talk all day about it.

I have to say I enjoy our walks “Pokemon hunting” as Jack calls it, we have spent many hours out there catching or battling Pokemon. It has been fun, but it is something Jack takes very seriously. Jack has trouble distinguishing what is real and what is fiction, and a game like Pokemon Go blurs the line even more. That is what I want to talk about next regarding autism and Pokemon.

Jack’s Pokemon obsession

Autism and pokemon

Anyone who has ever met Jack, very quickly gets introduced to his “obsessions”. The 4 main ones are Pokemon, Minecraft, Secure Contain Protect and Lego. He will try and start a conversation about these things with anyone he meets. Which can be interesting when you’re stood in the queue at Tesco.

Currently he spends a lot of his time playing Pokemon Go, or various Pokemon games on his Nintendo Switch. He is determined to collect all of the possible Pokemon, and become the greatest Pokemon trainer who ever lived. It’s all good fun, but when people talk to him about it, they often don’t realise it’s not “just a game” to Jack. Saying that gets Jack very frustrated, to him his Pokemon are very real. Being able to tell the difference between reality and fiction. Is one of the big issues we face with Jack, and his ability to be independent at the moment.

Jack recently told he wants to travel the world to research all the Pokemon. A fun idea of course, but how to you make that a reality? I’m in a difficult place at the moment. Should I be trying to get him to see things from the “real world” perspective? Is that even possible for him? Should I just let him live in his fantasy world? Sometimes I wish I could live there. It’s so difficult to know what to do, as Jack also talks about wanting to get a job, have a girlfriend, get married and have a family. Some autistic people are able to function in the “norm”’of society, and some cant and need to be looked after their whole life. We still don’t know with Jack, it’s like he’s in a grey area in the middle at the moment.

Getting creative

Autism and pokemon is all about creativity, and it’s not just computer games and watching TV. Jack uses Pokemon to express his creative side as well. He is really excited to show you what he has been making, and we will start with his homemade Poke balls.

Jacks got some polystyrene balls, and decorated them using markers to looks like poke balls. The other thing he has been doing, is making his Pokemon book. Which is a a4 lined pad, which he is putting in Pokemon related stuff. Like drawing and colourings. It’s still very much a work in progress, and he is having fun doing it.

book

That’s all from this post on autism and Pokemon, the subject will undoubtedly pop up again at some point. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Chocolate chip loaf cake

Chocolate chip loaf cake

The latest recipe we tried from our top 20 easy bakes for kids, is the chocolate chip loaf cake. I personally love loaf cake, it’s my favourite kind of cake. Lemon drizzle is my favourite, but the kids wanted chocolate chip. The kids always win!

Ingredients & Method

  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g self raising flour, sifted
  • 100g chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Lightly grease and flour a 900g (2 lb) loaf tin.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the sieved flour, then stir in the chocolate pieces/chips.
  3. Pour into greased loaf tin and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Fun to make

Lily had a great time making this, as with all these recipes. The idea is that they are simple enough for Jack and Lily to make, with minimal involvement from me. I helped with weighing the ingredients, breaking the eggs (as Lily gets very anxious about getting shell in the mixture), and putting in and out of the oven.

Like I said, Lily really enjoyed making the chocolate chip loaf cake. It’s a pretty big mixture so takes a bit of work to mix, but Lily had some music on to keep her motivated.

Lily sieved some icing sugar on the top of the cake to finish it off. It turned out pretty well, all of the chocolate chips seem to have sunk to the bottom half of the cake, but I like the texture of the cake. And in my humble opinion it tasted awesome.

chocolate chip loaf cake

This was number 9 of our top 20 list, we are getting through them slowly. We all hope you enjoy these posts, and they inspire you to get baking. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child

Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child

This post idea came from twitter, and some of the great people I’m following on there. Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child. Some of the ridiculous and often downright offensive things, that we as parents of autistic children have said to us. Amaze me at times. Usually its by people who aren’t meaning to be nasty and offensive. There are those horrible people out there, but I’m not wasting my time trying to preach to them.

What I want to do is tell you all, things not to say to a parent of an autistic child. Specifically some of the more common things people say, and probably don’t realise just how offensive they are being. I’m quite a relaxed guy, and don’t personally get too upset by these things, but some people do, which is why I want to do this post.

Things not to say

Let’s start with the simplest and probably most common one. Sorry. When a parent tells you their child is autistic, for Christ sake don’t let the first word you reply be, sorry. I’m not sorry, they’re probably not sorry, and no one has died. Don’t be sorry. Depending on the parent, you could be met by a sarcastic or angry response. You’d be getting the sarcasm from me!

What like Rain man? If you don’t know Rain Man, it’s an 80’s movie about a someone kidnapping their autistic brother, to try and force him to give up his share of their inheritance. My main issue with it is, I’ve never watched the film so I have no idea if Jack or Lily are anything like Rain Man. I’ve heard plenty about it though, with some blaming it for the creation of lots of the negative stereotypes surrounding autism. Some also say it made autism visible, which was a good thing. I should probably watch it and make up my own mind at some point.

My personal favourite, Does that mean they are really good at maths? Something I got asked a lot when Jack was younger, the look of disappointment when I told people Jack doesn’t understand maths at all was quite amusing. Lily does like Maths, and finds it easier to understand than other school work. She’s not quite at genius level, not yet anyway. And let’s not forget, they don’t look autistic. Autism doesn’t come with “a look”, so I’m not quite sure what that is even supposed to mean. Or what this autism look that some people expect even looks like.

Things not to say to a parent of an autistic child

Just like any other child

I know it can feel a bit awkward knowing what to say, and unless you have been around autism you are unlikely to know a great deal about it. And what you do know are likely to be unhelpful stereotypes. So my advice for if the situation arises when someone tells you, there child is autistic. Treat the conversation like they are just another child, which of course they are. Then see where the parent takes the conversation.

I’ve shared 3 things not say to the parent of an autistic child, but I’ve been fairly lucky with my experiences. I’m sure there are lot more, and probably worse things that have been said. So to all the parents out there, if you have any other examples you would like to share. Leave a comment on here or on the social media’s, and I will add them into the post. As always, thank you for reading and your continued support!

Suggestions from readers

  • How do you cure them?
  • Did they have their vaccines?
  • Does that mean he’s a mong? (Christ, I’d be getting arrested, if someone said that to me.)
  • Is he going to be like Forrest Gump?
  • Will they grow out of it?

Dad Does Autism

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling stressed and overwhelmed at the moment. I think all 4 of us in this house are, and I’m sure a lot of people are. Especially parents, and even more so parents of children with special needs. I said in my last post I was planning to take time out for the next couple of weeks, to spend plenty of time with the kids. Truth be told, it’s as much for my own benefit, as I was just feeling so overwhelmed with everything.

I think Lily is finding things most difficult in our house at the moment. She’s been off from school for so long now, it’s proving more and more difficult to keep her entertained. With no holiday, and no real days out, she’s become bored. She is also being very vocal about not wanting to go back to school, which is no surprise. I firmly believe she needs a SEN school, and we are going to have a battle on our hands to get her a place.

This time at home has really highlighted Lily’s autism, and where it has a negative affect. She’s been really confused by what’s going on, her anxiety levels have been more visible than ever before. She is having numerous meltdowns everyday, though I think we’ve often overlooked her meltdowns in the past. As they are not as violent, or dangerous as Jack. But a meltdown is a meltdown, and will be just as distressful for Lily.

What is sleep?

One major issue is getting Lily to sleep at night, which of course has a knock on affect on mine and Natalie’s sleep. If we can get her to sleep before 2am at the moment, it’s a miracle. She already takes medication to help her sleep, so it might be a case of the dose needing increasing. Which is what happened with Jack as he got bigger. The chance of getting an appointment with the paediatrician right now? Not bloody likely.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed

I’m sure this is factoring into me feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but this is the life of the “autism parent”. Thankfully, apart from being argumentative and the odd meltdown. Jack has been pretty easy to deal with, as he’s been busy building stuff on minecraft.

Me time

Since lockdown started, way back when. I’ve basically no quality “me time” at all. Sure, I’ve grabbed a few minutes peace here and there, but those hours in the day when the kids are at school. Where you can just get stuff done, I’m sorely missing. I feel like I’m constantly trying to juggle doing 2 or 3 things at a time. As much as I’ll miss the kids being around, when they go back to school. I’ll be grateful not to have them under my feet all day long hah!

I had a lot of plans for house, garden and garage this year, and although some bits are getting done. It’s so difficult with 2 kids who need your constant attention. One major job I have managed to do, with the help of my parents. Is take out the bushes in our back garden, which was something we’ve been looking at for a couple of years. We get birds nesting in them, which is why we’ve kept them so long. But they grow like crazy, and every single one of them comes with massive thorns. Which I kept getting stuck in various body parts, never mind the kids.

So we decided to take them out, and put new stuff in, whilst also incorporating a fairy garden for Lily. Which should be fun. Here’s before and after photos to show you the difference, the garden feels like it’s twice the size it used to be. The bare patch in the middle had already been cut down, and was the highest part, before I thought about taking a photo. I’m still getting used to thinking about photo opportunities for the blog.

The blog

As I said, feeling stressed and overwhelmed has left me not feeling motivated to write what I would call “proper” blog posts the last few weeks. Coming on and having a bit of a rant like this, is pretty easy. Writing properly about a certain subject, takes time and a bit space to think. Which I’ve just not been getting. I have started one, I just need to finish it. Anyway, I have kept up with my daily pinning to Pinterest, so despite the lack of new posts. August is well on the way to being my best month for views, which is definitely helping keep the morale up!

This has gone on long enough, as always I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read, and I hope you’re all having a lovely summer.

Dad Does Autism

Simple homemade cookies

Simple homemade cookies

It’s time to try another of the recipes from our, top 20 easy bakes for kids post. If you haven’t already seen that post, click the link to see all 20. Simple homemade cookies are what we have in store for you today, and who doesn’t love homemade cookies?

This was another one where I sat back and Lily did most is the work by herself, perhaps because it’s been a while since we last did some baking. She was very enthusiastic about making these. Weirdly this was the most difficult one so far, to find a simple recipe for. It seems like everyone to make their cookies extra fancy, personally I just want a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie.

Ingredients

  • 112g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 112g plain flour
  • 100g chocolate chips

Method

  • Preheated the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). Line two baking trays with baking parchment.  
  • Cream together the butter and the sugar until its light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat.
  • Sieve the flour and mix in with the butter and sugar.
  • Once you have your cookie dough, divide to make the number of cookies you want. It depends on the size of cookie your after. We got 10 medium sized cookies out of it. Place onto baking tray and press the mixture down slightly.
  • Bake them for 8-12 minutes. When they are cooked leave them for 15 minutes on the tray then transfer to a cooling rack.

Simple homemade cookies

Simple homemade cookies
simple homemade cookies

And there you have the finished article! Lily piled in some extra chocolate chips, so these are a bit extra chocolatey. I think I left them in the oven a little too long, I’m a bad judge on when cookies are ready. A couple of them were a little burnt, some still had that chewy texture you want. They all tasted nice which is the main thing!

They must have been good enough, as they didn’t last long. I’m hoping we will do another couple of the recipes from our top 20 bakes post, that we haven’t done yet. In the next week or so. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism