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A Tiger makes dog treats

Tiger with the pre-cooked dog treats

Tiger with the pre-cooked dog treats

Before you think I’ve improved leaps and bounds from my usual heffalump and woozle creations, I’m afraid I can’t take credit for the face painting.  Ellen’s new carer has set the bar impossibly high and won Ellen over for life by turning her into a real live tiger.  As you can imagine, she came back from her trip to the zoo very happy and completely in her tiger persona having had great fun apparently stalking people in the zoo cafe.

Luckily the tiger was happy to oblige the human by helping to make some dog treats for the hungry canines in the house.  Attempting to train a puppy requires a lot of treat-persuasion and so with stock running low, this seemed like the perfect task for an afternoon with a tiger.

There are a lot of great dog-treat recipies on the internet, but I particularly liked this one for Gluten Free treats on Jamie Shanks’ blog http://www.bdws.co.uk/2013/10/13/gluten-free-dog-treats/ as it had close up pictures of each stage of the combining and cooking process, thus saving me a lot of work!  The activity probably took about twice as long as it would have normally as Ellen kept stopping to admire her face in the mirrored surface of the microwave, however despite this slight delay, the tiger turned out to be a brilliant dog treat cook and as you can see the dogs approved of the end result.

Phoebe and Brian enjoying the fruits of our labours!

Phoebe and Brian enjoying the fruits of our labours!

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A Decoupage Zoo

Ellen was supposed to be going to respite tonight, but is apparently too ill.  After telling me last night she had too many itches and too many spots; she then surprised me by saying she had chicken pox.  She got a gold star for inventiveness and I was impressed that she actually knew what chicken pox was, but considering she had already had it aged five I was fairly sure the odds were stacked against her catching it again.  Not to be defeated however, this morning she woke up with a sore leg and earache too.  I didn’t believe this for a minute, but she did look a bit pale and subdued, her hands were cold and her sister has had a bit of a lurgy too, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  But of course this meant there would be no trip to McDonalds and that today’s activity would have to be an indoor one.

Decoupage is the perfect craft activity for Ellen because the more random the application of the paper, the better the finished product looks.  There is also a great independent Arts & Crafts shop in the local town of Berkhamsted which is crammed full of loads of brilliant bits and bobs and has an extensive decoupage section.  Ellen was after a giraffe and thank goodness they had one which we swiftly snaffled.  We also managed to leave the shop with an elephant and a lion (‘do them another day’), several sheets of decoupage paper and a box of sequin art.

Liberally applying the glue

Liberally applying the glue

Decoupage is good for me too in an RDI -way because there’s no right or wrong way to go about it so I’m less inclined to try and take over to make sure it ‘works’.  What made the whole experience even more fun for Ellen was that she spotted a money spider in my hair and then refused to take it off for me, so I had to put up with it until it finally decided to abandon ship and abseilled down in front of my eyes where I eventually managed to extract it.

I have to say despite having chicken pox, an earache, too many spots and itches and a bad leg, Ellen seemed to enjoy the activity immensely, even more so when she discovered she could daub me in glue too.  Who says autistic people have no resilliance?!

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Edge plus one and musical spoons

We have got into quite a comfortable routine on a Wednesday – far too comfortable in fact – time to shake things up a bit!

Ellen is now very happy to put on her apron, go along to the Community Shop and work down her list of things to do until all items are out on the shelf and she gets ‘paid’ (the Milky Way bar moment).  The Shop has now acquired a garage just around the corner which is proving brilliant for storage and they have a trolley to help move items back and forth.   Much to Ellen’s dismay a trip to the garage was added to her list this week.  We had to load the trolley with items for the garage, wheel the trolley round and then fill it up with items to take back.  Not surprisingly this did meet with some resistance from Ellen.  I held out the tray of diet cokes to her whilst she stood with her arms crossed staring intently at the milky way bars and making a ‘hurrrumph’ noise.  The stand off didn’t last long however (although I needed my extra thick skin suit to ignore the interested stares of customers!) and we were soon on our way to the garage.

Ellen reluctantly pulling the trolley...

Ellen reluctantly pulling the trolley…

Not surprisingly more stand-offs occurred at the garage when the unloading and loading took place, when taking the trolley back to the shop and unloading it at the shop.  The resistance was short lived though; as despite Ellen’s folded arms and ‘harrumphing’ we both know that she will and can do these things and after a pause she did.  The ladies in the shop were concerned that Ellen didn’t like doing the trolley; but luckily they are totally supportive and willing to learn about ASD and so took my explanation about resistance, new things and edge plus one with lots of nodding and welcome offers of coffee.

We also gave McDonalds a miss this week (yay) and instead had lunch at the local garden centre.  Ellen even came up willingly with me to the counter to order.  Unfortunately, despite the late hour, there was already another customer at the till placing a very very long and complicated order which she kept adding to; then she couldn’t find her card; then she couldn’t remember her postcode so they could add her loyalty points without the card; by which time Ellen had given up and returned to her seat.  I must admit if I could have left I would have too, but I persevered and luckily once the order was placed, the food came quite quickly.   Actually sitting down and eating together (rather than Ellen munching her McDonalds in the car on the way home) is quite a challenge for Ellen too, as as soon as she has finished her own food she is desperate to be off and watches my every mouthful like a hawk – not the most relaxing experience, but I did almost finish my coffee.

I gave Ellen a bit of down time after that before the finale of the day. Making den den drums out of old wooden spoons while doing a good old bit of RDI co-regulation.  It looked good on http://www.learning4kids.net/2012/01/25/homemade-musical-instrument-den-den-drum-2/ but sadly my lack of any real practical skill let us down a bit, and as soon as we tried to use the spoons as instruments half the beads flew off and were immediately pounced on and chewed by Brian the puppy.  The stickers followed suit pretty soon afterwards and we ended up having to sellotape them back on.  Luckily Ellen loves it when things go wrong, so as far as she was concerned this was probably the best experience of the day!

The disasterous homemade Den Den drums

The disasterous homemade Den Den drums

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Dusting off the SEN System

I had a meeting at Ellen’s college this morning all about the new ECH Plans, which from September 1 this year are gradually replacing Statements of Special Educational Need.  Whilst my friend and I both felt that all the professionals creating reports and attending meetings would probably be better off actually spending time with our young people, neither do we want to be left out!  The whole process sounds time-consuming and a paperwork nightmare but it does get all the relevant people together to talk about the young person, their aspirations (beyond McDonalds and DVD-watching apparently) and how to give them the best education to prepare them for their future lives.  If it manages to create any kind of joined up thinking between the various departments – even within the local council – I’ll be phoning up to request Ellen’s assessment tomorrow!

Whilst I was having all this fun, Ellen was out with a new carer at Whipsnade zoo.  Ellen’s been going to the zoo for around fifteen years and has a fairly strict order around the animals – Discovery Centre (spiders and snakes), then tigers, possibly elephants, hippos, giraffes, zebras and home.  Imagine my surprise when the new carer said how much fun they’d had feeding the bears and watching the chimps being fed.  Bears?! I queried, feeling as surprised as if she’d told me one of the Teletubbies had served them lunch.  Ellen was smiling away, loving my discomposure.  It just goes to show that some of her routines are more carer-based than autism-based.

Fun with the dusting ;-)

Fun with the dusting 😉

I had a very stimulating activity all lined up for the afternoon – dusting off the bookcase of CDs.  It may on the surface seem to be fairly boring but actually it is not only very good for RDI patterns and turn-taking but it gets a bit of dreaded housework done too.  At first Ellen was quite distracted and only wanted to talk about how to get Roo’s ball off Hide & Seek Woozle (an integral part of the play station game; Piglet’s Big Game), but the lure and excitement of the task soon got to her.  We took it in turns to take the CDs off the shelf, sprayed and dusted (there was a rather shocking amount of dust) and put them back.

I have a few Indian ornaments which are wrought ironwork and difficult to dust with a cloth duster.  Ellen tried but her duster kept getting stuck on the metal spikes.  Yes!  I thought, a problem!  Problems are RDI gold.  Using the ‘pause’ it’s an opportunity to explore and develop Ellen’s dynamic thinking.

‘Your duster is getting stuck’ I said….then I waited.

‘It’s too sticky’ Ellen replied.

‘You need to dust with something else’ I prompt.  More pausing.

‘You need to brush it’ Ellen finally says.

‘Yes!’ I cried, ‘that’s a great idea, if we brush it the dust will come off straight away.’

At this point Ellen walked away purposefully and I was secretly glowing inside.  She’s gone to get the brush I thought, waiting with growing anticipation.  Well, I waited and waited for a couple of minutes until I could hear the unmistakeable sound of Hide and Seek Woozle being vapourised by piglet.  I had been abandoned.  Ah well, baby steps.