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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.

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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.

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Happy Christmas !

 

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Raspberry Rippled

We’ve had a few weeks off Ellensdays over the summer and although Ellen doesn’t start college again until Monday, our RDI-focused activity days have begun again with a vengence.  Today we had a quadruple experience; not only did Ellen do her regular twenty minute job in the local shop and enjoy her weekly trip to McDonalds (doing excellent ordering) but we also made raspberry ripple icecream – from scratch http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1508665/raspberry-ripple-ice-cream.

I came at the idea backwards.  Ellen loves visiting the local PYO farm in June to gather strawberries, so I looked to see what was in season at the moment and discovered that raspberries are apparently available into October.  Sure enough, they had plenty and by the time Ellen and I had worked ourselves up and down one row we had a punnet each of gorgeous raspberries and we only ate the ones that squashed as we pulled them off the plant – honest guv! Ellen loved it and apparently next week we’re going back for cucumbers…

The pickings

The pickings

I found a good recipe which didn’t require an ice-cream machine and said it was simple enough to make with children.

I’ve never made ice-cream before and assembling the ingredients I can now see exactly why in large quantities it’s no good for the wasteline. Eggs, double cream and sugar appeared to be the main ingredients with the raspberries seeming rather incidental to the whole thing.  With puppies intermittently racing around the kitchen and Ellen continually asking me why I didn’t have any socks on (I had stepped in puppy wee – an occupational habit at the moment) we mixed the coronary-clogging brew.

Things went fairly smoothly until Ellen misinterpreted (whether deliberately or not I’m still not entirely sure) my instruction to put the bowl containing the sugar and the eggs on TOP of the pan of boiling water and poured the whole lot INTO the pan instead.  It was a moment which would have fitted right in to the Great British Bake Off.  After a few moments of surveying the scene whilst doing my very best to remain calm (remembering I was filming the whole thing for RDI) I dumped the entire lot down the sink and we started again.  At least it gave Ellen more practise at cracking eggs – in the end we got through a whopping 12 of them.

The second batch was completed without further incident.  The result was a totally trashed kitchen but a product which lookied remarkably raspberry ripple like – although it hasn’t yet competed its six hours in the freezer and is as yet untasted.

The finished product!

The finished product!

As a slight aside, here’s an updated picture of the puppies for those dog lovers amongst you – it’s been seven weeks since they were born – and it took five and a half weeks for Ellen to acknowledge their existence and allow one on her lap, but they are now so much part of the family that it will be hard to see them go to their new homes over the next few weeks.  Luckily we are keeping one – Brian

Brian is furthest on the right

Brian is furthest on the right

 

 

 

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Awkward Bowling

It’s half term and it’s been raining for three days solidly.  Anyone who isn’t at the cinema today is bowling, hence despite the fact that I had booked a lane for 2pm, when we arrived there was an enormous queue to pay.  Ellen doesn’t really do queuing, so after standing patiently for 10 minutes or so she started wandering around.

This was OK, this was fine.  I could see her at all times from my place in the queue and for the first few minutes she was just looping around the front area of the bowling centre which contains snooker tables, a tiny cafe and some slot machines.  Because I had my eye on her the whole time, I saw quite clearly the moment when she paused over a snooker table where two large burly men were mid-game and deliberately leaned over, picked up a red ball from the green baize and tossed it down the table.  She then turned and walked off quickly before they or I could react.  Filled with horror, I of course was forced to go over and apologise.  When I arrived at the table the two enormous blokes were still staring after her fairly gob-smacked. They accepted my apology – not with the best grace but then I guess she had ruined their match – leaving me to chase after Ellen, who knew she had done wrong and did not want to be caught.

Ellen obviously was sorry for what she had done and walked fairly sheepishly back with me to the desk, where we sat and waited for the rest of our party to pay for the lane so that we could change our shoes and start bowling.  There was a big poster up behind the counter saying ‘free face painting’.  What a lovely idea at half term I thought and asked Ellen if she would like her face painted.  That’s like asking a teenager if she wants wifi.  ‘Yes please’ Ellen replied, but when I went up to enquire I was told that the free face painting was ‘off’ due to ‘staff shortages’.  Grrr it was not turning into a good trip.

However, once we had got past the queue and the lack of face painting and finally arrived at our lane things turned around. For one thing our lane was on the other side of the bowling venue to the burly blokes and for another Ellen does love bowling.  She is especially happy when she manages to score a strike or a spare, her face lights up and she does an exaggerated bow.  She uses one of the frames to bowl and is very particular about which ball she wants to use, typically the heaviest and then stands by the bowling area telling us all when its our turn.

Ellen just about to bowl

Ellen just about to bowl

The two games passed without further incident, although it was lucky that Winnie the Pooh and the two Minions who were circulating around didn’t come too close to us, perhaps they had seen the snooker incident and were giving us a wide berth.  Probably wise.  I can get a bit overwhelmed by Disney characters.

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Onesie Wednesday

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and our local Community Shop kindly held a coffee morning selling Gingerbread Men dressed in onesies to the generous folk of Wilstone.  It surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have (considering that NAS estimates 1 in 100 people have autism in the UK) but the vast majority of customers who came to the coffee morning either knew someone with autism or had worked with special needs kids.

The gingerbread men in their onesies

The gingerbread men in their onesies

Everyone was talking about last night’s Horizon programme ‘Living with Autism’.  Most people had watched it (so many people are interested in learning about autism) but were confused because none of the autistic people on the programme were anything like Ellen, they were far too able.  A quick glance at Twitter suggests that a lot of people who live with autism feel the same way.  ‘Enforces stereotypes’ and ‘did not delve into the complexities’ were just some of the tweets I saw.  Slanted programmes like that, which only focus on one end of the spectrum, do not give a full picture of what autism is actually about and it was great to be able to set the record straight – even if only to a handful of people!

Of course for Ellen the coffee morning was a bit overwhelming, as although I had told her what was going to happen I don’t think she fully understood what would be involved – and particularly the number of people who would be in the (usually quiet) shop.  She came along to do her usual shelf stacking but everything was different and it took her a while to process it all and she did get a bit stressed at one point… beautifully illustrating autism for those at the coffee morning.  We persevered however and in the end she did manage to put five items out on the shelves (and of course nab her Milky Way on the way out).

Ellen decorating the gingerbread men

Ellen decorating the gingerbread men

Today was a day when non-verbal communication really came into its own.  As Ellen’s senses were overwhelmed by the dynamic situation she found herself in, it really seemed to help her not to have to worry about communicating verbally with me.

As soon as we got back home Ellen was back to normal and later on did her best McDonalds order ever.  She was even disappointed when I finally took the onesie off – for some strange reason seeing her mother dressed as a zebra didn’t cause any anxiety or stress at all – what must I look like to her usually I wonder?