Challenging Chutney

You may have noticed that we have been working on the RDI goal of ‘Co-ordination’ for some time.  It’s not that Ellen can’t co-ordinate, it’s just that most of the time she doesn’t want to, prefering to be different.  I spent a whole walk once playing Simon Says with her, in an attempt at a co-ordinated game but whatever I said she did the complete opposite – giggling wildly all the time (Me: Simon Says walk like a chicken, Ellen: Baaaa!).

Our RDI Consultant has kindly taken pity on us and we have now moved on to a Co-regulation goal: ‘Ellen to regulate her actions to remain coordinated, while participating in a form of co-regulatory turn-taking, in which each person observes their partner’s “turn” and then responds with their own contingent, but not imitative action.’

This week I was determined to get this nailed, ticked off, completed etc…the trouble was my mind was totally blank of ideas.  I couldn’t go out anywhere because I was in charge of the puppy, apple-printing would be too messy, but hang on we’ve still got loads of courgettes – so how about making a courgette chutney!

The idea was that we would take different turns peeling and chopping the various vegetables.  Ellen tried to peel the courgettes, but found it too challenging, so we swapped and I peeled while she chopped.  This worked pretty well, although the chunks were not quite the ‘small dice’ required by the recipe, but a few goes with the potato masher at the end soon sorted out this little problem.  There were quite a few tasks which we could co-ordinate on whilst working on separate goals; Ellen held the measuring spoon while I poured things in; she put the chopped items into the pan while I started peeling the next ingredient and I even manage to stop over-compensating and let her measure out the ingredients.  I’ve yet to look back at the video and that almost always reveals a few chinks in the porcelain, but we had a lovely time together enhanced by the three flies who kindly flew into Ellen’s orbit to be swatted and the glass measuring jug which ‘spontaneously’ broke while Ellen was drying it up – much to her delight (less so to mine).

 Ellen and the chutney mix

Ellen and the chutney mix

Cheese and chutney sandwich anyone?


Pecking Birds

Yesterday I went to Ellen’s college for an end of year review meeting and on the way out I was shown a display of some of the art work that she has done over the year.  I have to admit I was stunned, in a good way, as I had no idea that she was capable of such detailed work.  It was a proud parent moment, especially when the tutor said that she hoped to have Ellen in art again next year as she just loved the work that she produced 🙂


Ellen's amazing artwork

Ellen’s amazing artwork

I had already planned today’s craft activity and have to admit that having seen her college work I wondered whether I had set the bar slightly too low with pecking birds…  Possibly Ellen thought so too, because she really resisted the first couple of times I tried to get started on the activity with her.   Having learnt from the strawberry planting activity that although it is possible to ‘push through the pain’ of resistance, it is not very productive from an RDI/guiding point of view.  So instead I decided just to swop the day’s activities around. Off we went to the village shop so that Ellen could work through her list there (she’s getting very quick at that – more challenges required!) and then we came back to the pecking birds after lunch.

What a difference there was on the third attempt!  Ellen was engaged and even coordinated her movements with mine on occassion (which had been my RDI objective through the task).  Even more amazingly when the birds were finished she not only verbalised the fact that we needed to clear up, but she even helped me do it.


Happy pecking birds

Happy pecking birds

One thing which we agreed at the college meeting was that it would be useful to have more communication between us (where have I heard that before over the years!) They seemed keen to pool knowledge and resources which has only got to be a positive move.  For example, I suggested that if they sent home the recipies that Ellen cooks every week at college, we could have a go at cooking them again at home and so reinforce the activity.  It’s not rocket science, it’s more at the rocking birds level, but it seemed to set off a few lightbulbs.  Here’s hoping.




Hide and Seek – in the pool


Our post-swimming hair dos

Our post-swimming hair dos

I don’t know why it’s only just occurred to me – seven months in – that one of the activities Ellen and I could do on a Wednesday is to go swimming.  Let’s face it it’s cheap (£2.70 including car parking), gives my couch-potato daugher some much needed exercise and going during the week in term time the place is practically empty.

We went to AquaVale in Aylesbury http://www.everyoneactive.com/tabid/1840/default.aspx  which has a great leasure pool split into four sections and includes a lazy river and lots of whirlpools, mini slides and jets.  An added bonus is it’s shallow all the way round.  Although Ellen can swim, she’s not a strong swimmer as despite many many hours of lessons she preferred to develop a technique all of her own.  In fact surprisingly she’s much better swimming under water than she is on top of it and loves pretending to be a dolphin.  I have to be a starfish, which is not that difficult as it involves lying on my back relaxing in the water.

Still working on coordination, swimming provided lots of opportunities to work together from getting changed to shampooing our hair at the end.  We put our goggles on and went underwater together and swam across the pool a few times (Ellen naturally won every time).  She wasn’t keen to jump in at the same time as me, we stood together on the edge of the pool but then she gestured for me to jump in first – which I did – feeling that this was something we could work on in the future.

The game Ellen loves to play in the pool though is hide and seek.  This can be a bit of a nightmare, especially if the pool is busy.  It wasn’t today, but for a while I couldn’t see how I could get any of my RDI objectives covered, until I realised what great motivation the game was for her.  Every time I found her I would say ‘let’s float together’ or ‘let’s jump in together’ before we hide again – and she did!  One round however, I was struggling to find her.  The lifeguard caught my eye ‘are you looking for the girl with the errr….’ ‘very bling costume?’ I replied (her costume is not-so-subtly covered in sparkly tigers).  He grinned back and nodded ‘she went that way’ he said pointing to the changing rooms and lo and behold I found her in the toilet!  After that we had a rule that the hiding had to be in the actual water and the friendly lifeguard was very helpful in pointing me in the right direction so there were no more mishaps.    To my astonishment, after she had hidden a few times Ellen said to me ‘now it’s your turn to hide’ and I was given a turn 🙂 something which has never happened before.  It felt like we were really playing the game together and Ellen had a great time, and so did I.

Another nice point from today was that Ellen was given an apron to wear when she works in the shop, just like all the other volunteers.  She wasn’t that keen to put it on at first, but I explained that it was part of her uniform and she could take it off when she had finished her work and she obliged.  I thought she looked very smart.

Ellen in her Volunteer's apron

Ellen in her Volunteer’s apron


Step back in time – to Kidzone

Kidzone is an indoor adventure playground in Berkhamsted which has been operating for at least fifteen years; I used to take both kids there quite a bit when they were younger and have had more than one nightmarish Kidzone party (sugar + screaming + running + chips) to contend with in my time.

Ellen and I were supposed to be going pottery painting this morning while her sister Daisy was at her tutor, but out of the blue she announced that she wanted to go to Kidzone instead.  I checked their website http://www.thekidzone.co.uk as I wasn’t sure she would be allowed in, and in fact their age limit is twelve.  However, on phoning I was told that it was more to do with height than anything else (another bonus of Ellen being tiny) and if Ellen would enjoy it and it would ‘do her good’ they were more than happy to welcome her 🙂  So nice to get a positive and friendly reaction to disability!  On the downside rather than sit rather genteelly painting a small piece of pottery I knew I was going to have to squeeze and wedge myself around some equipment built for five year olds – definitely time to put a belt on my jeans…

Luckily for me, but unlucky for Daisy, I had got the date of her tutor wrong, so we ALL went to Kidzone!  I sent the two girls in whilst I tried to park the car- on a rainy day in half-term it seems that strangely other people may have had the same idea as me.  By the time I got in, both girls were up on the frame and so the games began.

The girls running away from their mother...

The girls running away from their mother…

Inside, Kidzone hadn’t changed a bit from my memory (or nightmares).  This obviously suited Ellen’s autistic desire for sameness perfectly and as a result she didn’t hesitate to launch herself at the equipment.

When the girls were younger I used to look with envy at the parents who sat in the cafe enjoying a coffee and a read of the paper whilst their children ran around happily, only bothering their parent when they wanted a drink or a bit of a rest.  If I had any idea that I might be that parent today though I was much mistaken.  Ellen spent the first half an hour wanting me to ‘find’ her and Daisy and the second half an hour wanting us all to take turns on the equipment.  I thought I was fit, but after 45 minutes I was gasping!

From Ellen’s point of view though this was all good stuff.  Her general temperament inclines towards ‘couch potato’ mode and she resists any form of organised exercise like running and swimming.  Presumably at Kidzone she was having too much fun to realise or care that she was exercising as well so perhaps this is the key to her future fitness.

Ellen coming off the slide for the tenth time!

Ellen coming off the slide for the tenth time!

Today, as you may notice from the photograph, Ellen was ‘Mirror Woozle’ (see an earlier post for a full description of the Heffalumps and Woozles).  Mirror Woozle was very keen to pose on all the items of equipment and would stand alert in ‘photograph’ mode until I obliged – much to the bemused looks of some of the other kids.  Ellen also surprised me with her determination to climb onto a large ball-shaped swing.  Usually, if she can’t do something she gives up straight away, but with this she kept trying and even let me help her get on it and swung for a bit until she announced ‘it hurts my f****!’ very loudly and I hurriedly helped her off!

Mirror Woozle mastering the ball-swing

Mirror Woozle mastering the ball-swing

All of a sudden, after we had all climbed and slid and swung and balanced to our hearts content, and I was beginning to seriously regret wearing a thick woolly jumper, Ellen announced that she had had enough and it was all over just as quickly as it started.

‘That was actually quite good fun’ announced Daisy as we walked back out into the persistent drizzle.  And yes, it was.  One of the goals of RDI is to provide positive episodic memories for our children (i.e. personal representational memory of an event tied with emotions and unique meaning for a person – thank you http://www.thinkautism.co.uk/page3.htm).  In this case, I think Ellen’s episodic memory was probably more positive than mine!