Making friends with a skeleton

We had a letter from our local doctor’s surgery a few months ago, inviting Ellen for an ‘annual health check’.  I read this letter with a mixture of surprise, pleasure and absolute dread.

Surprise, because it seemed to me that for once, the NHS was being proactive.  Ellen hasn’t been to the doctors for about ten years, but I was fully expecting another ten if not more before an invitation such as this arrived on the doormat.

Pleasure, because I was aware that this would be a perfect opportunity for Ellen to experience going to the doctors without the added pressure of actually being unwell.  In my mind’s eye I could see all the social story preparations preparations and the experience sharing afterwards which would be so beneficial to Ellen’s RDI journey.

The dread was because, as anyone who cares for someone with special needs will know, they can be somewhat unpredictable.  The last time I remember being in the doctors surgery, she took some I’ve been to the doctor stickers off his desk and stuck them on a photograph of his two daughters.  Right over their faces.  Yup.


Ellen checking in

But he’ll have forgotten about that – hopefully – and despite answering every question he asked her with ‘car‘, Ellen submitted to the examination pretty well.  By pretty well I mean that he managed to listen to her heart and lungs and examine a small cyst she has under her eye.  She point-blank refused to have her blood pressure taken (even over her jumper) and bent forward, covering her arms over her stomach when he asked whether he could examine it – fantastic non-verbal communication!

Her refusals weren’t helped by his poor choice of expressive language.  Doctors will (despite prior briefing) insist on beginning every sentance with ‘would you mind if I...? Which obviously gives truculent patients the perfect opportunity to answer ‘no‘ at every turn, thus immediately stymying the doctor.  Much better to open with ‘Now I’m going to.….’ but they never do, it’s obviously not in the training.

Still, I think it was a pretty successful visit.  Ellen particularly enjoyed putting a Santa hat on the model skeleton and putting it in different poses, and as there were no stickers in sight, the rest of the office remained unmolested.  This time anyway.


Happy Christmas !



Sometimes it’s as simple as pushing the ‘off’ button

Ellen watches a lot of TV, of that there’s no doubt and of course during college holidays she has a lot more opportunity. Today I came back from work to find her as usual emersed in quite an impressive display of multi-tasking; watching a video whilst simultaneously playing on the ipad.

Every child-care expert, let alone RDI consultant would have shuddered in horror at the the sight, and I decided to turn the TV off. As Ellen is autistic, I wasn’t quite this brutal – I did give her some warning.  ‘I’m going to hoover’ I said ‘and then there will be no TV until after supper’.  This was not a thorough hoover (surprise surprise) and so Ellen had perhaps 15 more minutes in brain-washing heaven before I came back in and pressed the off switch.  I listened; there was no protest.  Ellen put the ipad down as well.

She didn’t want to immediately do anything with me so I left her to her own devices.  After perhaps 10 minutes I found her lying on my bed playing with all the buttons on the alarm clock and making it alternatively speak the time and then emit loud pop music.  I pretended to dance and fall asleep in depending on what she did and we had a bit of a giggle. Then I got out the nail varnish.  ‘Let’s paint our nails’ I suggested and to my surprise, Ellen agreed!  I painted her toenails and then she, gulp, painted mine…choosing the colours and applying with confidence if not accuracy.  Since then we have played a game and done some face-painting, Ellen has spent time with the cat and is now helping hubby cook dinner, in an amazingly up-beat and happy mood.  My alarm clock may never work properly again but, wow, never in my wildest dreams could I have expected such a simple action to have produced such wonderful results.

Matching toenails!

Matching toenails!

Wonder if it’ll work with other members of the family….?


There are no flies on us

I’m a vegetarian and my mother is a Buddhist, yet one of Ellen’s favourite summer activities is swatting flies.  A few weeks ago my husband broke our (admittedly rather cheap) fly swat with a rather enthusiastic swing at a bluebottle which buzzed merrily out of harm’s way.  This meant that the next time we went shopping Ellen was very keen for us to buy a replacement swat – imagine her delight when we found that in the local poundshop you could buy 5 swats for £1!  As you can imagine the quality of the tools has not significantly increased.

Ellen proudly displaying her prey

Ellen proudly displaying her prey

So, this afternoon we spent half an hour searching the house for flies which could be swatted.  The fact that we had a choice of swats meant that we could have one each, and so fulfil an RDI objective by co-ordinating our swatting!  Our grand total of corpses was five but in addition to this we found one tiny baby fly, a spider and a moth which were all spared because according to Ellen, the fly swat can only be used for flies.

Being a day at home we also had plenty of time to finish painting our papier mache shark which has ended up looking remarkably like the picture on the box, more by luck than design I think.  The part that Ellen was the most enthusiastic about ? Painting the blood around it’s mouth.

Painting the shark

Painting the shark

Perhaps I should be rather glad that at the moment she has only wanted to look at the puppies….


Art lessons – the outcome

Ellen has been doing Art one day a week at college for the past half-term.  Numerous attempts to prise from her what has been going on in the lessons have been met with vagaries such as ‘I don’t know’ or just ‘painting’.

Imagine the parental excitement, when a carefully wrapped, heavy object arrived home in the book bag last night.  Ellen’s name was fixed to the paper with a sticky label and I carefully unwrapped the treasured item to reveal…..

Ellen's Piece of Modern Art

Ellen’s Piece of Modern Art

Now I have to say there was an inner struggle between the proud parent and the cynic.  I think I’ve taken the photograph showing the object at its finest; allowing natural light to stream through and pick out the nuances of texture and colour.

I think Ellen’s intent must have been to create a modern piece, either that or she was keen to get to the canteen.

The question is – what do I do with it now…?