For day 3 of our 30 Days Wild challenge we did something very simple: going barefoot on the grass. This is a lovely sensory experience and is calming to connect to the earth in this way.
Today is PDA awareness day so I made this brief info video. Apologies if anyone feels that the video moves along abit too fast and is therefore hard to take it in. If so, this is actually a good demonstration of how the world can feel for someone with sensory processing difficulties, which is often one of the many challenges faced by those with PDA (and other types of autism). Pressing the pause button will help with reading and digesting the information if needed, not as simple in real life!
Hubby attended the PDA Society Parent and Carer Conference 2015 in Northampton today. (PDA stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance, which is a subtype of autism). He came back feeling so inspired and enthusiastic that he even agreed to write a blog post about the day (Hubby does NOT blog and does not usually share feelings so openly; today has clearly had a profound effect on him! 😉 )…
My expectations were blown aside today, my experience was so much more than simply developing my appreciation and understanding of PDA. From the privilege of hearing so many thought provoking messages and hope for the future from Phil Christie, a student and colleague of Elizabeth Newson (I wish he was our Psychologist- he gets my daughter despite having never met any of our family); to the reassurance that- despite all our daily struggles and lack of understanding from so many- WE ARE NOT ALONE; to Neville Starnes and Jane Sherwin’s fantastic presentations. What can I say? Both of them emotionally touched me, their journey’s will stay with me and I know that I wasn’t alone in finding inspiration in their words.
I found the entire day extremely reassuring that there are clinicians as well as parents and carers who truly understand, and can share experiences and guidance. Throughout the day I found myself writing copious amounts of notes… that was until Jane Sherwin’s and Neville Starne’s presentations, when I didn’t lift my pen once. Why was this? It certainly wasn’t because I wouldn’t have wanted to but because both of their stories not only captured my undivided attention but they have given me inspiration that I haven’t felt for years. I wish I had the chance to personally thank them both for sharing their personal roller coaster with all of us. Thank you!
If I had to pick three highlights of the conference it would be a tough choice but I will go with these…
· Jane Sherwin and Neville Starnes talking about their children (although in both cases I had to keep reminding myself that they weren’t actually talking about my daughter!!!)
· Neville Starnes reciting a light hearted blog post on clinical support
· Phil Christie painting a picture of developing understanding in the medical world
Key things from each of the speakers that I will keep with me…
· (PDA is) “like ASD but…”
· Difficult behaviours and need for control is underpinned by significant social exposure anxiety.
Dr Jo Clarke
· Solve the problem not modify the behaviour.
· Understanding comes before helping.
· Problem solving is collaborative and proactive.
· Kids do well if they can… doing well is preferable.
· Family environment- reduced demands (eg safety only), surround only with those who understand.
· You’re only human and its ok if you don’t cope with every situation perfectly.
· Take the lead from your child.
· Masking is different to coping.
· You as the parent are your child’s expert.
· You can take a PDA child to water but you can’t make him wash!!!!
I met so many wonderful people today and left feeling better equipped to support my family on our onward journey and with a new found appreciation for both the challenges my daughter faces every day but the amazing job my wife does as her full time carer. We are all human, but I honestly think that I found someone pretty superhuman. (Thank you Jane for reminding me!)
The theme of the day was what makes us stronger. During the day we had to write on strips of paper what makes us stronger to make a giant paper chain. I wrote on two, the first “my daughter” and the second “my wife”. But if I could write one more link I would add “days like today”.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the end but would like to thank all the presenters, the lovely people I met and the PDA society for not just a well organised conference, but a life enhancing experience. HUGE thanks to everyone involved.
We have been to various fetes, fun days and dog shows this year. We really enjoy going to these events, not only as a fun family day out, but because they are educational and excellent social opportunities too.
For example, dog shows might seem like an odd place to hang out if (like us) you are not a dog owner but we find they are a brilliant way for Squiggle to initiate social interactions in a relaxed, spontaneous situation. She loves dogs but she knows not to stroke them without first checking with the owner, so she has been learning to judge the situation to decide if it seems a sensible time, then asks the owner’s permission before petting the dog. She sometimes then chats to the owner further, asking questions such as the name of the dog, breed, age etc… Great for building her confidence!
Oaklands Summer Fete in July had a huge range of activities and events going on. This one was a big hit!
St Albans Country Show relocated at the last minute from Aldenham to Highfield Park. This was another lovely event with plenty to do.
These events also inspire her, capture her imagination, bring out her creativeness and motivate her to write. Her are some of the activities she has chosen to do at home after our days out…
Squiggle designed her own dog activity worksheets.
She made herself an animal colouring in book.
She acted out the dog agility.
Squiggle’s book of dog breeds.
Sometimes I think the importance of playgrounds are undervalued. I have often included in my posts photos and information about our trips to playgrounds and it strikes me that some parents may wonder why this is even noteworthy. Yet everything around us can be considered of educational value in some way. Other than the obvious health benefits of this physical exercise, a trip to a playground also has another clear purpose as well as ‘just’ being fun. Playgrounds are highly beneficial for a child with sensory processing disorder (or any child without!) because they provide plenty of opportunities to organise the nervous system, especially through vestibular and proprioceptive input, which helps to integrate and rebalance the senses. In short, it has a calming effect and helps the child to be more focused and ready to learn. A playground is almost like an informal sensory integration therapy session, with the added benefit of being readily available and often entirely free!
Personally we love going out alone to quiet playgrounds during school hours for some unrestricted and unhurried therapeutic play. When we meet up with friends at playgrounds it tends to be a very different experience compared to going alone, both beneficial for Squiggle but in different ways. Whilst one provides a lovely social opportunity, she gets less out of those trips in terms of sensory ‘therapy’ because she tends to play differently at playgrounds when with others, rather than spend as much time on the range of equipment. So she particularly enjoys the opportunity to focus on the environment itself sometimes too.
Here is squiggle’s writing development over the past few months, since she first decided to pick up a pen in order to try to write:
And here is her drawing development (see the creative development page for 2011-2012 for comparison)…