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

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

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

Summer holidays

Summer holidays

Originally I had the idea to write about the transition to the summer holidays from school, which is something Jack finds difficult. It’s perhaps unfair to say we dread the them coming round, but the first week or two are always very challenging. But it’s been a weird year, and although Jack did go back to school for a bit. It doesn’t feel like normal, and Jack has mostly spent his time on his Xbox. So I’ll leave that on the back burner, until next year.

His routine has been all over the place for months, so I don’t think the boy knows what’s going on anymore. He broke his TV in a meltdown a few weeks back, so he has his Xbox in the living room at the moment. Which he is loving, far too much for my liking. It’s keeping him happy, and entertained at least.

Spending time with the kids

I’m looking at slowing the blogging down for this month, and as much time doing stuff with the kids as I can. Obviously we will no doubt share some of the things we do on here, whenever we we do anything now they both ask if it’s going on the website. Which is nice, I’m happy that they are proud to show of the things the do.

We cancelled our holiday to Devon this year, and booked for 2 weeks next year instead. Which is something I’m really looking forward too. It does mean I have to keep the kids entertained without a holiday, and some of the things we’d like to do not open, or we are unsure about doing.

We got a small inflatable pool for the garden, which Lily loves splashing around in. With the heatwave that’s forecast I might be getting in it myself soon hah. We are going to try and have as much fun as possible, during this unusual summer.

Summer holidays

Looking towards school

Thinking ahead, does anyone have any idea what’s happening with school? Jack will go back in September, but it all seems a bit unclear with Lily. To be honest from September, Lily and school is probably going to be a “hot topic”. The EHCP school promised to apply for this year isn’t materialising, leading to a greater feeling of we need to go about it ourselves. And start looking into “special schools” for Lily. I guess we will see what happens in September.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer holidays, whatever you are getting up to. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

What is Autism?

What is Autism?

I have decided to do a series of, What is…posts, looking at the different medical diagnosis’s we have in our family. And there’s a few! What is autism? Is the obvious place to start. I’ve touched on the subject, and talked about what is and isn’t in various posts, but this will the first post looking directly at what autism is. I’m will then be following up with, What is Chromosome Micro Deletion? What is Fibromyalgia? Then possibly some others like Anxiety Disorder, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Pathological Demand Avoidance, Social Anxiety, PTSD, Depression….like I said, I’m not short of subject matter.

I’m far an “expert” on all these things, they are things I’ve lived through myself or watched those around me live through them. Part of my way of coping, especially with the conditions those around my that I love have to live with is. Researching as much as I can, to help them as best as I can. Now I want to share what I’ve learnt with as many people as I can. That after all, is the whole point of this blog.

Outside perception

What is autism?

Everyone seems to have heard of autism these days, but how many people actually know what autism is? When I see various people talking about what autism is, whether that’s directly to me, or seeing posts online. I have to be honest, it makes me wince. More often than not, they are completely wrong. There is a lot more awareness that autism is a thing, but the awareness of what autism actually is. And what it means to be autistic, still leaves a lot to be desired.

Of course the vary nature of the condition probably doesn’t help, it’s a vast spectrum. Every autistic person is different, and some have other things like learning difficulties, anxiety disorders etc.., and some don’t. If you don’t know anyone who is autistic, how much are you likely to know? When Jack got his diagnosis, I knew nothing. I vaguely could remember hearing about it, somewhere in my life, that was it.

So what is autism?

The National Autistic Society says,

Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.

Is that what you all had in your mind, when you started reading this? If you thought something please leave a comment saying what. I’d like to hear what people thought and why.

I’d also like to add what the NHS has on their website about, which makes a very important point.

Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It means your brain works in a different way from other people. 

It’s something you’re born with or first appears when you’re very young. 

If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life.

Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a “cure”. But some people need support to help them with certain things

Other than the “it appear when very young” bit, you are born autistic. That’s a very important thing for people to remember. Sadly, people get drawn into looking for “cures” or blaming it on vaccines. I have two autistic children, I have completely accepted who they are. The difficulties they face, but also embraced what they are good at.

Acceptance

Acceptance is the latest buzzword, that is replacing awareness. Most people are aware of autism now, what needs to be worked on. Is people accepting what it is, and what it means. I hope this explained that well enough for people to understand. It can be a difficult thing to grasp when you around it all the time, so asking people from the outside to fully grasp it. I think is asking a lot, but if we can get people to at least know the basic facts. Then we will have made progress. As always, thank you for reading, and your continued support.

Dad Does Autism

Finding good support providers for autistic children

Finding good support providers for autistic children

Something I’ve come to learn is, finding good support providers for autistic children. Is a bit like looking for the golden egg/fleece, or Poseidon’s Trident. Or whatever other mythical object you might want to find. We have been fairly lucky that Jack goes to a really good place for overnight respite, every other week. Finding a good service provider for weekly daytime respite, has proven a lot more difficult. We have gone through a few in our time, for a variety of different reasons.

The first provider we had ceased to exist due to lack of funding, so we moved to another one. Not long after the same thing happened again. The next one we had for a couple of years before cancelling only recently. They were okay, with 2 workers taking Jack out for 3 hours a week, which he really enjoyed. The trouble was, the turnover in staff was ridiculously high, which caused problems. As Jack would get upset when people would leave.

The staff also weren’t given any real training, and far too many times we were let down by people not turning up. Or cancelling at the last minute, which caused major problems. Telling an autistic child that their plan for the day has been changed at the last second, or 30 minutes after he was supposed to have gone out, which happened a few times. With no real explanation as to why to give him, is a recipe for disaster.

Searching for a new provider

With this in mind we have been searching for a new provider, for a while nothing was coming up. Then we were recommended a place, that sounded so perfect for Jack. A provider that could give Jack the 2 to 1 support he needs. They have their own centre, where Jack can go and do all sorts of activities. He can also mix with other autistic kids of his own age if he wants to, and he really wants to. He finds new people difficult and it will take time. They can also take him out into the community, and the big one is the service continues into adulthood. This is unheard of, I’ve never certainly never heard anything like this before. So we desperate to try and get Jack on their books.

We had the issue over needing funding increased to allow Jack to have 6 hours a week, to make it worthwhile. We got the funding in place, for him to go over the summer holidays. He went for the first time this Thursday.

Jack’s first visit

Jack is always anxious about going to a new place, even somewhere he is looking forward to going to. So we put all the ground work in, to make him as comfortable as possible. The people who were going to be looking after him, came to meet him. They showed him photos of where he would be going, and talked to him about what he likes, and what he wanted to do.

On the day, Jack’s support workers came to pick him up, and he was so excited he shot straight out of the door. I had to call him back, as he forgot his bag. It was a good sign that he was so happy to be going! He was really happy when he came home, and even brought home some homemade pizza for us to eat. And he had all our favourite toppings, Pepperoni for Mum and Lily, and vegetation for me. Which shows he was putting thought into what we liked as he did them, which is nice.

Finding good support providers for autistic children

He talked all about what he had been doing, and how he met lots of new people. He said he can’t wait to go back next week, and even asked why he can’t go everyday. In the evening we did have a meltdown, which would have come from all the sensory input, throughout the day. He was fine again afterwards, it’s just one of those things. Jack will always have meltdowns. Hopefully when he fully settles into the routine of going there, he will be able to stay calmer.

Overall though, finding good support providers for autistic children, is no easy task. We are really pleased with the one we have found, especially as it’s not something that will suddenly stop when he turns 18. Which is what happens with his current overnight respite. We are a few years away from that yet, but it soon comes round.

If you want any advice about service providers, please feel free to ask. As always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Simple Rocky Road Recipe

Simple Rocky Road Recipe

The latest trip into the kitchen, sees myself and Lily making this simple rocky road recipe. This is number 7 of our attempts to make the recipes from the top 20 easy bakes for kids list, that we came up with. I’ve eaten plenty of rocky road in my time, but this would be my first time making it.

One thing that stuck out to me, as I was looking online for a recipe to follow. Is just how many slight variations there are to a Rocky Road recipe. In the end I picked one, and made my own slight variation. This is quite similar to the chocolate digestive fridge cake, that we have already made. The main difference is that you want to break the biscuit into much bigger chunks this time, and we are adding more ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 2 table spoons Golden Syrup
  • 75g mini marshmallows (for mixture)
  • 25g mini marshmallows (for decoration)
  • 25g raisins
Ingredients
ingredients (minus the butter that I missed out)

Method

  • Great a baking tin.
  • Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of boiling water. When the chocolate has melted add the butter and golden syrup. Stir regularly until its all melted and combined.
  • Mix the biscuits, raisins and the 75g of marshmallows in a bowl and pour in the chocolate mixture. Stir until the biscuits and marshmallows are evenly coated.
  • Pour the mixture into a tin and refrigerate. After 15 minutes remove from the fridge and top with the remaining marshmallows. Then return to the fridge.
  • Once the chocolate has set, remove from the fridge and cut into pieces.
Simple Rocky Road recipe

And there it is, another easy one that require no baking. Our simple Rocky Road recipe. It was a team effort this one, as we wanted to get them made quickly, so they would be ready for a picnic in the garden. It went quite well for a first attempt, I thought the chocolate mixture was a bit too runny, and was worried it wouldn’t turn out right. But they look okay and they tasted nice, and that’s a win in my book. After a couple of easy ones, we might have to do some real baking next time! As always, thanks for reading.

Dad Does Autism