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

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