I am a mother to three gorgeous kids, the youngest of which has Aspergers Syndrome. This is my attempt to chart the journey we have taken together and share with you how autism has effected our lives...
If you had told me a year ago that our lives would be so good now I don't think I'd have believed you. Out of the darkness comes light and Munchkin has certainly lit up our lives and made things interesting. There isn't a day she doesn't make us smile and laugh with her antics :)
It will take me a while to get the blog up to date per se and the beginning will be hard to write for me as will bring me back to the dark place we once were, but I'm hoping it will help even one person at the beginning of their journey xx
Today, I visited a play school that had been recommended to me to have a look and see if it would suit Munchkins needs. I had thought that I would hold off with playschool til the following September as she will have 20 hours HT a week in September to fit in too. It wasn't until I looked back over the last 18 months and seen how far she has come socially that I reasoned it would be unfair not to allow her to have at least one session a week there. I dropped over unannounced to the playschool to discuss placement with them and found a group of very happy, bouncy giddy and compliant kiddies there cooking their fairy cakes and generally having lots of fun. I instantly got a good feeling which grew stronger as I was given the guided tour. There is a main room with all the arts and crafts, puzzles, tables and chairs and table top work. In this room is also the kitchenette with stairgate to block entry. Then I was shown their imaginative play room which was fabulous! There was a toy shop built in and a stage and a castle and plenty of dress up toys and accessories. The third room caught my attention instantly as was the quiet circle time room which also had beanbags and books in it. When I mentioned that Munchkin would sometimes need a quiet place they said that this would be ideal for her. Everything was so geared towards keeping the children safe, happy and occupied. I loved the idea of a structured environment for her to learn in too. They are aware of her aspergers and said that they are only sanctioned to enrol one special needs child per year! Well Munchkins place is now set in stone! I liked their ethos that if a child has a challenging behaviour, that the child is not named bold or labelled in any way. They offer a positive reinforcement policy with all the children.
"Behaviour is not 'naughty' just because it does not conform to adults standards of behaviour. Children need to learn which behaviour is acceptable, and which is unacceptable"
Thinking back to the early days, if you had told me I'd be excited at the prospect of my daughter going to playschool I'd probably have just shrugged. Back then, I was only at the beginnings of our social bombardment. I had been blessed that I made friends with two pregnant moms at my antenatal classes and our babies were born a few weeks apart. We had kept contact and so plan A could be put into operation. I organised a lunchdate for the mums and playdate for the kids in my house the first day. We all ate and chatted but I watched the social interaction (or lack thereof) that was going on between the children. This weekly lunch date became a regular fix in our social calendar and before too long, other mums joined in and our social group grew. Munchkin coped fine with the other kiddies coming in around her but she would be so quiet while the other kids ran around playing etc. I was also bringing Munchkin to a local mother and toddler group on a Thursday and would sit back observing all the other toddlers running around, playing, coming and showing their mums toys etc. Everyone would comment on how good Munchkin was, and "doesn't she play happily by herself" etc... I would look over and see my baby repetitively flicking a lock on a cupboard or emptying the water filter.... after a few months of this I left one day in floods of tears as the "gap" in the social development was widening and my heart ached for my little girl. I gave myself a break from this torture for a while and concentrated on the social lunch/play dates that were working well. That was one day a week, so for the other 6 I would endeavour to have one of the kids over on their own, or we would go to their house for a short playdate. This worked fabulously as she was able to learn one on one with her peers, but also had the social group too :) Her imaginative play was starting to grow and watching the others with the toys definitely helped kickstart that. These days, her imagination astounds most people around her as she definitely "sees things" in other objects etc. I was given help getting her to show me a toy using hand over hand and it didn't take her long to learn.... now I'm shown everything she has hehee. She definitely forged friendships with her little playmates and they loved her too :)
She also spent a lot of time in the beginning up in Dublin one day a week to see her cousin R, and I believe it is with R she developed her first actual bond. They still adore each other when they see each other.
These days, she will happily go into the creche in Dundrum Town Centre and not look for me at all :) Having seen this progress, I made the decision that she needed playschool at least one morning a week so am delighted to have found such a good one that is able to cater for her needs.