Ginny Moon is a teenager with autism who was taken away from her mother when she was just nine years old. In the story Ginny is thirteen years old and in her fourth foster family (which she calls Forever homes). Finally she has found a family that loves her but is that all about to change now that her Forever Mom and Forever Dad are having their own baby?
The Original Ginny Moon really is a story that will keep you wanting to read more as you get to know Ginny and all her ways. You will be hard not to fall in love with Ginny and be proud of her. The Original Ginny Moon really is a story that will keep you wanting to read more as you get to know Ginny and all her ways. Feeling sad when she feels she doesn’t belong (-Ginny) and understanding the difficulties she faces living with autistic spectrum disorder – that sometimes make her just too much for other people to be able to handle.
Ginny likes numbers and they help her make sense of the world. The book is written in diary format telling is either approximately or exactly what the date and time is for each entry. Ginny starts each day with exactly 9 grapes, loves Michael Jackson, can only answer one question at a time and always has green eyes. Ginny is 13 years old but turns 14 during the course of the book, and in that time we come to see that Ginny has overcome so much and means well.
Ginny struggles to communicate why she needs to escape from the Blue House (her forever home with Brian and Maura) to go back to Gloria (her biological mother) where it was such an abusive and unsafe environment for her. Ginny tries to explain to everyone that is to make sure her Baby Doll is safe (as she left it in the suitcase before she was taken), but no-one seems to take her seriously.
Benjamin Ludwig has written this beautifully narrated as Ginny – letting us clearly see what is inside her head and the reasons why she behaves in the way that she does. She clearly explains what things mean – which are mostly based on what she has learned from what other people have told her. But she is still confused by other things – that as a reader we know she hasn’t got right. Other times you realise that you have made the wrong assumption that she hasn’t got it right – and that even you have got Ginny wrong – just like everyone else!
I think this book is great to understand the mind of a teenager with autism, the fostering process and its difficulties and anyone who just wants a good book to read. Plus it gives a clear message about how not everyone is able to self-advocate and make their voices heard and their needs known. The short diary entries make this an easy to read and fast paced book – but even though you can read it in small bites – I am not sure it is something you will really want to put down.
I had a proof copy of The Original Ginny Moon for purposes of review – and honestly it is that good, opinions are honest and my own (although I am sure A LOT of people agree with them too).
Sensory Processing Disorder in Italy was always going to be a bit different than at home but The Sensory Seeker coped amazingly well during our stay.Of course there were times when he just didn’t cope, but there are some things I think made it easier for him and other things that I wish I had known before we left for Italy, that would have made things better for all of us. The main thing for us was to just make allowances: Letting him sleep in bed with us some nights whilst we were in Italy for example. Obviously every individual with Sensory Processing Disorder is different but hopefully some of this will help if you are planning on travelling to Italy.
Flying with Sensory Processing Disorder – What we learnt on our travels to Italy
So our flight to Italy was the first time we had taken the boys on a plane. The hardest part was the fact that the electrical devices need to have battery to go through security so the boys were unable to play with their iPods and 3DSs until we then and we weren’t prepared to risk them having them confiscated. In hindsight I wish we had taken the in-car DVD players – these could have been used in the car and again once we were at the resort (as there was no television) and they could have been packed in the hold. You should take into consideration the time of the flight – would it be easier if it was at a time when the child will be likely to sleep (remember this could be delayed and they could be overtired in the airport). Luckily our flight to Italy wasn’t a long one (or shouldn’t have been before all the delays). We did not take advantage of the flight’s special assistance but this means that we could have had priority boarding so that it was not as chaotic and noisy when he went on the plane. Saying that in Gatwick Airport we went through Family Security and this was much less of a wait and felt less intimidating than other security checks I have previously been through.
Tips for flying to Italy with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
Obviously have some entertainment that does not involve plugging in – a book, crayons, LEGO etc.
Give them a lollipop for take-off – this will help with their ears as well as giving them something to distract themselves with.
Decide whether you think they would be better with a window seat or not, if they need extra room, or easy access to the toilet when booking your seats.
Carry a charger (and adapter plug) with you – all the trains have somewhere to charge your devices and in Pisa airport there was free charging (with a lighting cable).
Of course let them know what is happening and what to expect in advance. The Sensory Seeker was selected through security and had to take his shoes off. I think because we had talked about everything with him it made it much easier. Speaking of explaining things we were delayed by 2 and a half hours on the way there and 3 hours on the way back – although we were past security and the electrical devices were able to be utilised (and charged) so this wasn’t a problem for us.
We took special things – a travel cushion, a soft throw and his favourite teddy.
Things to consider in Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder
I think it is good to discuss things that are not quite the same – such as crossing the road. We discovered that just because you are crossing the road on black and white lines does not mean that the drivers have to stop! Here are some tips from our visit:
Plan where you are going and figure out where the toilets are. Book in advanced where possible (on the train this also means you do not have to validate your ticket before getting on). This can not only save you money but time too – some of the queues are actually really hideous. Find out which places are busy and which are quieter. You have to pay for toilets, so carry plenty of euros and 50 cents with you. I wish we had put on a map where they were located too.
AttractionTix offer a range of discounted and beat the queue attraction offers: We chose to review the Rome Hop on Hop off Cruise. As there was a bar and toilet on board it meant that we could literally hop on if The Sensory Seeker needed the toilet desperately without having to worry about where to find one. Getting on and off the cruise was straight forward and simple and The Sensory Seeker loved the narrative about the area as we went round. Particularly when we were near where Romulus and Remus were left in a basket on the Tiber River as babies (which he had learned about in school). It also allowed him to sit and calm down as we were taken around closer to the next major attraction we wished to visit. Children under 10 years old are also free! Just be careful when going upstairs as if they are too seeking they could end up going overboard.
Be aware of the street sellers. One guy came and put necklaces on the boys for “free” and tied a piece of string around my arm even though I kept telling him no. They he was quite forceful saying he needed money for food. My husband gave him back the necklaces and we gave a euro for the string as I couldn’t get it off – he was still trying to get money out of us, but my husband was quite verbally forceful back. This experience was unpleasant for all of us but particularly The Sensory Seeker. They seemed to be where the tourist attractions are most. Try to avoid eye contact and do not get into conversation with them.
Italians do not eat at the same time as us here in the UK. At 5pm we found that they had not long closed up from lunch and could not get dinner. Supermarkets we personally fund difficult to locate and a sandwich meal deal cost us almost as much as eating out in a restaurant!
Checkout the weather – we went in April and it was warm enough for us with just a bit of rain but did get really chilly on some nights. The mornings start out really bright though – but most places had wooden blinds blacking it out.
The sirens sound different in Italy – maybe listen on YouTube before you go so it is not so startling. Or use the headphones/ear-defenders.
Tips for sight-seeing in Italy with Sensory Processing disorder
First of all have a clear plan so that they know what to expect and when. Try to let them have input into what goes into this. For example if they just want to go swimming maybe you could incorporate that into the afternoon or evening for them.
Give them opportunities to allow them to do what they need with their bodies – run, spin, swim etc. Parks are good for this (and obviously swimming pools).
Ensure you plan in some quiet areas to take a break from noise/busy tourist areas.
Listen to them – our son needed breaks and said it was because his toe hurts. I am pretty sure that actually he was sensory overloaded and needed a time out.
Establish clear rules of what behaviour is expected and any rewards/consequences. In our case this largely involved a lot of Gelato!
They may be unable to deal with their feelings (and possibly become upset or aggressive). Be aware that they may regress (eating with their fingers, need reminding to go to the toilet). Remember that this is a big deal for them and try not to chastise them for their behaviour, instead try and find ways to help them cope. We know that with The Sensory Seeker letting him talk about his favourite computer game helped him calm down. You can also use hand gestures to get your message across, when they do not appear to be responding verbally, or carry visual aids.
Don’t beat yourself up if you did get stressed though – it is hard for us parent/carers too and we are only human. You sometimes may wish to explain why they are licking the locks on the public toilet! The nearest thing I could find is: “Mio figlio non e’ cattivo. E’ autistico. Per favore, siate comprensivi” Which translates to “My son is not being naughty. He is a child with autism/He is autistic. Please show some understanding.”
Consider carrying packed lunches so they can be eaten in quieter locations – and it will alleviate the problem of finding somewhere to eat when they are hungry. Alternatively there are many Pizzerias where you can buy pizza/sandwiches take-away. If you carry a water bottle you can also have an instant drink – plus there’s water fountains around to refill them too.
You could get the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder to carry the bag for the pressure (weighted work).
Also pack ear-phones; a hat and sunglasses; something to do with their hands/keep them occupied (maybe a map to hold or a toy).
If you have any questions or experiences about visiting Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder I would love to hear them in the questions below.
Thanks to AttractionTix for the Hop on Hop off Cruise.
Swimming is important for those with Sensory Processing Disorder as they may either be afraid of the water or not aware of the fact they can drowned – and therefore having the ability to swim may save their lives. Swimming is also good for developing fine and gross motor skills/motor planning, attention, listening to instructions, communication, social interaction, group work, and self esteem.I remember when The Sensory Seeker first went into the pool he loved the feel of the water so much he just tried to keep going as deep as he could (with the poor lifeguard keep bringing him back). It is such a great skill to learn and can be life changing. We have given The Sensory Seeker a mix of group, individual and intensive lessons and he has really come on a long way. And it is not just his swimming that has improved.
Swimming can be in lessons in a pool or the sea, or just family fun. Of course you can help slowly build up in the bath – or swimming could help develop water confidence to go onto the bath or shower!
You have to consider whether you are taking a Sensory Seeker or Sensory Avoider. There are going to be lots of sounds and they echo around – both above and below the water. Different times of day, and indeed different days, will have more or less sounds dependent on how busy/popular they are. If you have an Avoider you can buy swimming ear-plugs which may help to block out some of the sounds. Also consider the changing rooms – does the complex have a family change which may be more isolating and quieter?
Ideally it would be good if pools offered quiet times to swim such as the Relaxed Performances offer, or the Autism Hours that Supermarkets and now offering more and more. Or just to be able to show the individual around so that they can get used to their surrounds/what to expect. The trouble is more and more we are not allowed to take photos of the pools – but check their websites to see if they have any still or video footage of what to expect.
When it comes to the visual sense it depends on where you go. Some pools are literally places to swim with just water and better for Sensory Avoiders. Others can have lots of stimulation including slides, tipping buckets, water spraying out, wave machines, waterfalls, inflatables, toys, Seascooters and so on. Just be aware of how much time you spend there as to whether the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder becomes overstimulated.
I guess the tactile sense could be very problematic if you have a Sensory Avoider – from the touch of the costume to the feel of the water. You may want to consider which is harder for them – the costume or the water – and then decide whether you get one that covers them up (and a swim hat) or one that allows them to be as free as possible (check the pool rules as to whether they can wear “Bermuda style shorts”). They may need to gently become encouraged over time (especially if they are sensitive to the temperature of the water). Overall this may help with other hygiene issues as they get used to the feel of water on their body and overcoming the fear of putting their head under water – which will inevitably help with washing their hair.
Swimming and Proprioception(Sense of body position, from information received through the muscles, and joints – force, speed and control) and Vestibular Sense– Movement and Balance/Gravity
Swimming is good for Proprioception (muscles and joints) body positioning/awareness, movement and balance (vestibular). You may need to consider the other people around you but usually there is plenty of room. For Sensory Seekers pools with lots of slides and action can be great for this – and pools are certainly great places for them to move about a lot! Seascooters are great because it can really pull them along, moving their body right under the water – whilst they retain some control.
Swimming and Olfactory (smell)
The only problem I can think of with smell is the chlorine in the pool (and possibly the smell of other people). Apparently there are certain pools who do not use chlorine if this is a problem.
The Sensory Seeker and Swimming
As I say we have had to try a variety of different types of swimming lesson to help get The Sensory Seeker where he is today. He doesn’t always listen and can be slower than the others (in terms of time to actually swim across and picking it up). But when we consider how far he has come, and how well he is doing it is an amazing difference. Most importantly he can swim pretty well now. He loves the water – especially going underneath. In fact his favourite thing to do is bob up and down under the water vertically (it actually looks like he is drowning and am sure scared many a lifeguard!). At the end of the day we want him to see swimming as a fun activity so also regularly go as a family and actually travel quite far to visit pools with great slides and things to do.
Swimming and the Max Card
With The Max Card you can get discounted entry to pools such as The LC Swansea, Wales. At The LC Swansea it costs only £3.00 per person on presentation of a Max Card. There were no problems with this at all and the member of staff was very friendly and helpful. There is a carpark which offers disabled parking. It is £1 an hour and the pool will refund £1 (a swim session is up to 2 hours). There is a white-knuckle rollercoaster waterslide, an aqua slide, an aqua tube; wave pool; whirlpool; lazy river; min-slide (although great fun for adults!); tipping buckets, fountains and water spurting out from various places. The water is set around 31 degrees Celsius and the air temperature is around 32 degrees.
Our family was given a Max Card for purposes of review. To find out more about Max Card visit my previous post.
As a parent there’s no real breaks. You are not allowed to lose your shit. You decided to have a child and that’s the end of it. Having a child with additional needs is no excuse – there are no allowances. I was reminded of this fact after finding it too much to cope with the Summer holidays alone (as my husband was working) with 4 children – three of which (it turns out) have additional needs and my house just falling apart – never mind the mess. Feeling so tired, exhausted (physically and mentally) and every burden weighing on my shoulders. I had no idea that this would lead to attending a Child Protection Conference in order to keep our children!
I discovered that the boys don’t like change – even if it is rewarding them for something. So can you begin to imagine how hard the holidays are for THEM? It was the summer of additional challenges, as our oldest was moving out to University – but not really doing much about it. He wanted to go without any real mention of his Asperger’s – just trying to get on with life – but unfortunately his condition had other ideas. In retrospect having my hair cut from reasonably long to spiky wasn’t the best idea. I was finding it all a bit much to cope with and I didn’t feel it unreasonable to ask for help (from my family) – simple things like the children flushing the toilet after themselves and not urinating all over the floor! After all the youngest of them was 6! Respite has never been an option for us as I am aware that there are children with needs far greater than mine, whose parents are not even getting this kind of support. Extended family never really have the children, not even for a day – well actually apart for the one child. putting added pressure on him (this has since been addressed). Just wanting, no needing, a little bit more help but it was not coming.
It is all a bit of a blur now, and I don’t remember why it got on top of me so much more than any other year but it did. I can’t think about my kids as being a burden because they are not – but their needs were just too much for me to handle on my own. My basic needs just were not being met (I am talking being able to go to the toilet without something happening that meant I need to rush to ensure their safety!). I guess it wasn’t what I expected to be doing with children of their age. Of course they were just children. I should have been able to tell myself that it did not matter. Who cares if there is stuff everywhere; mud piling up on the floor from where the bikes have gone in and out of the house; why should my children load their own dishes into the dishwasher right?
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And then I snapped. . . . .
You see no matter how many days I coped with goodness only knows what, that one day when I just couldn’t take it I threw a toy across the room and screamed how I was fed up. I threw it so hard it made a tiny mark in my laminate flooring. The kids were upstairs and so they would have heard it. I felt awful. But never really thought more of it beyond that day. I apologised to the kids and got an earlier night. In fact it was completely forgotten about until some 3 months later when my life changed so much.
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The Beginning of the Nightmare
I don’t really know where it began – but one day I asked our 12 year old son to load the dishwasher which resulted in him punching me rather badly. He then put a picture on Instagram basically saying I got what I deserved. I did hit him back in order to defend myself before pinning him down. My husband arrived and defused the situation. I said something stupid which was meant the way it sounds and this resulted in further foolish behaviour from my son that ultimately led to the school ringing Social Care on us. Initially a nice guy came out, and this was the first time anyone had mentioned that they thought my son has special needs. The guy from social care (from the RATs team) tried to pass us on to the appropriate team to get help for our son and assured me we were doing all the right things. We were unaware that they had decided to close the case and were desperately waiting for help. The only reason someone else came was because I phoned the police when our son attacked me again – and the case was re-opened and passed on to someone else.
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I feared that someone had done something to our son (due to things he was doing online but I will never know because no-one could get him to talk and they just gave up trying to find out). I was honest about everything as I wanted help – even just to be told coping strategies, so I told Social Care what I did the day I snapped. I was worried that it could be my fault (which is a nicer thought than him being groomed online) that I brought my pre-teen son’s behaviour on myself (there was a lot more things he was doing but I will not go into that here for his sake): They agreed it was.
Before I knew it there was a team from the Diversion from Care and Placement Team – talking about doing things to prevent my children going into Care! I have said before how I feel I may have Autism but never before have I truly felt this – thinking of only I could be less honest and say/do the right thing. I was looking up every bit of information I could and my husband was getting stressed that I sounded too textbook. Social Care had nothing to offer in the way of help – they came to see if they could get us to do family things together – but actually ended up suggesting we do less. You see my family are my life and I plan so much to enrich their lives and ensure they feel loved! The new Social Worker saw things differently and decided that my children were at severe risk of harm of emotional abuse from me! Even the fact that I have provided them with a desk each (which are covered in toys) as I am apparently too pushy! Do you know how that hurts – even now is that she was saying that it was because I was abused as a child: That I did not even realise that I was doing it. Fearing she was right and that I was oblivious to what I was doing I waited for help – only stopping myself from suicide because I knew that that would help nobody. I can fully understand the lady who has run away with her children because the thought entered my head too!
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I found myself in a Child Protection Conference defending my right to keep my children. Absolutely everything brought up and used against me. From putting my children in danger by putting their pictures online, to the fact that my son’s notes had not been updated over a medical matter – so I was blamed for not caring and it ultimately being my fault. Feeling a sinking feeling as they recalled that my son broke his arm badly when he was only four years old – and I had no witnesses around. Things I said twisted, people saying incorrect things in front of us. I had to stay quiet so as not to come across as over-emotional (again something they said as I was SO upset about the experience). The whole experience completely disrupted my family (they had to keep going out and pulling the kids from school and questioning them) – did I mention that they do not cope with routine changes. Plus they wouldn’t consider that The Sensory Seeker has a disability (despite the fact that he had a statement of educational needs) because he was NOT DIAGNOSED AS AUTISTIC. So when he apparently said that he heard me say that I wanted to kill his dad it was used as actual evidence of how evil I am (I hadn’t even said this at all!)
Parents are meant to get all the reports 48 hours before the Child Protection Conference – but this wasn’t the case. The Chair hadn’t even got all the information at the start of the CP Conference – and some of which we were blamed for (although we were unaware we had to give it!). Our son was asked if he wanted to go because of his age but instead sent an advocate. I didn’t think it a good idea he went especially some of the things said about him and us. In fact it was even suggested that The Sensory Seeker’s difficulties are due to ME emotionally abusing him as he did not get an Autism diagnosis! Thankfully his head teacher knows how hard I have fought to get everything possible to help our son and how much progress he has made with this support and backed me up. Still absolutely heartbreaking to hear, and what if I wasn’t so forthcoming (or pushy as teachers are calling parents that fight for support!).
The Child Protection Conference ends up with a vote – everyone around the table says what their verdict is and the majority is the deciding factor. As I sat with my pen and paper tallying up the results it came down to the last person. People who didn’t know us, didn’t know the facts and certainly had things wrong! Luckily for us it went the right way – but frightening to think one more vote and things would have been really different. We did not receive any help, support or advice. The social worker passed us on to a family worker and she had fleeting visits at our house before passing us to a charity who just had one meeting at the school. The awful thing for me is that they closed the case down after our son got accidentally burnt with an iron and he beat me up one more time.
We never considered our son to have special needs but after the first social worker suggested it, so did the police, the school and CYPS – but no the latter won’t assess him and also closed the case down. He hates seeing people and has calmed down so much that we just don’t want to annoy him. There was a lot of things that went on that year, and one of them was that he got kicked off the school bus (apparently for persistent bullying but it was the first time we had heard about it). Social care were really keen that he caught that bus again but we decided against it. I later heard that the bus driver was taken off the route as he was found to behaving inappropriately let’s say with the children!
I am so proud of our son and how he has come out the other side of this and is like a different boy again. Although we are still struggling with getting him to do basic things at least he isn’t being violent any more. As for me I have been taking anti-depressants and do not think I will ever get over what social care did to me, and my family and the thought of what could have happened. I think about all those poor kids who are having all manner of awful things happen to them (and even what happened to me) and it makes me feel sick to the stomach that I was consider even close to the same. That they wasted so much time interrogating us when actually if anything I am guilty of spoiling my kids and doing too much for them.
I want to thank everyone who supported me, especially my husband who held me up and defended me. I thought the most awful thing was going to happen and that I would have to leave all the people I love in order to keep the rest of them together as a family. I have felt so scared for so long of sharing my story for fear of losing or upsetting them – as well as people who don’t know me judging me. But I wanted to share in hope that I can help someone else.
It is that time of year again – Party Season. I know it is hard when a child is different to others to cope with their additional needs at a party – but honestly The Sensory Seeker is doing so well that I would actually say he isn’t much different to the others. I do understand that not everyone needs to be invited to every party but it is hard (probably more for me than him) when he is that child: You know the only child out of the whole class who hasn’t been invited.
It isn’t even so much about the party it’s about him knowing he’s not fitting in. That it is okay for everyone else to go so why not him as well? The ironic thing today was that he came out with a sheet about worries – the school obviously trying to get disclosures for social services with the use of a Worry Monster. Ironic because they weren’t very sympathetic to listening to these worries; simply saying there’s nothing we can do. I explained that I knew they couldn’t make him be invited to the party (although I am sure his EHC Plan probably does make provision to ensure that he socialises/fits in with his peers) and that I didn’t like how it was so apparent to him that he was the only one not invited (erm like they had all been handed out in front of him). I was reassured that they had only been given out at break time. It is real progress that he is getting so smart. Previously he never noticed this happening but still wanted a party to invite everyone to. A blessing and a curse of his development.
His birthday is coming up and we are taking him out of the country but he wants to have a sleepover a different day this year. He doesn’t really care who it is (well actually his first preference is his 14 year old cousin who doesn’t live near us!) he just wants a friend – someone who wants to spend time with him. But again the school will tell me that he does have friends, that he is a happy and likable member of the class – so how come he doesn’t feel that he is/has because he isn’t invited?
Disclaimer: He is invited to the odd party and I am very thankful to those parents. I just wish this wasn’t even a thing. Why invite all but one?!
When we redesigned our bathroom we had to really stop and think about our youngest son’s disability. We took him along to make sure he approved of the colour scheme and had some real issues adjusting him to a square toilet. Our son’s needs are sensory as he has sensory processing disorder and rather individual to him. More physical needs can affect not just the disabled but the elderly too so it is useful to find solutions for their bathroom.
Sensory Help in the Bathroom
I felt mindfulness really helped me understand what the Sensory Seeker needed in the bathroom. I found that even the slightest tilt of my head under the shower can make the noises sound very different. This gave me an insight into the fact that even small changes can make a big sensory difference. Sensory Processing Disorder is different for each individual and it can be every time they enter the bathroom, depending on their sensory diet that day. Knowing if The Sensory Seeker would be effected by colours, smells, touch or temperature etc are very important factors in encouraging him into the bathroom, and then using the products he needs when in there (see also my posts about brushing his teeth and washing his hair).
I previously wrote about Sensory Processing and Bathtime problems – but have since discovered additional solutions you can have added into a bath that may help with sensory issues such as Chromotherapy and Echo. Chromotherapy is based on light therapy and uses a visible spectrum of colours which help the body harmonise the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. The colours can be fixed or run through a cycle of seven. Not only is this useful is you have a visually sensory seeker but it also encourages the mind and body to relax. Whilst Echo is a sound therapy which utilises sounds and music to create a relaxing environment. It works wirelessly from a music player using Bluetooth technology, with simple volume controls at the fingertips of the user. Again great for the auditory sensory seeker but also relaxing for mind and body.
Do you have any other helpful hints when it comes to the bathroom?
There’s no denying it that the internet is a big part of children’s lives; with new kinds of lessons about child safety – for both them and us parents to learn about. My husband and I learnt the hard way that we had to be savvier about what goes on online when we potentially could have lost our children due to some issues with child safety and the internet. Here I will cover things that every parent should think about when it comes to children’s internet safety and some things that are happening that we may need to be aware of.
There are so many devices that children can access the internet on now – not just Personal Computers, but each one has roughly the same issues for child safety. There are laptops (which are obviously portable), games consoles (including portable ones), tablets, iPods, Skype, WhatsApp and there’s probably a lot more I haven’t remembered. PLUS there’s the fact that even if your child does not have access to one of these then once they leave the home then someone else can show them on theirs. Plus it seems that children are having mobile phones younger and younger. For me internet safety falls into two categories – the first being the obvious we need to stop our young children accidentally coming across content (whether that be visually or people) that is not safe or suitable for them; and the second is those who are going looking for that content – out of either curiosity growing-up and/or peer pressure.
Some problems with Child Safety and the Internet
Let’s start with the lesser of the evils and that is spending. Be careful of in-app purchases and advertising around what they are using online – we ensure everything requires a password and that you need to keep re-entering the password rather than it still working when you give the child back the device. Obviously also ensure that the content is age-appropriate for the child before you download it too.
Children keeping themselves safe
These are probably the problems that we are most familiar with – knowing that children must be aware that not everyone online is who they say they are. Make sure your child knows basic rules such as not to tell everyone everything about themselves – not a photo in your school clothes with the logo, your address, telephone number, password or even your age and name. Using nicknames to connect with friends is a good idea – and once they start wanting to play on “servers” – but try to ensure that these are moderated. Don’t accept things from people you do not know – including messages, e-mails and texts.
Make sure any social media accounts are private, not public, and that they only connect with people they know. Plus regularly check the security settings. Ensure that they are in the living room with their devices and make sure you can hear what is going on – I would think twice about headsets until you are absolutely sure that they would be safe (we are still saying no to our thirteen year old). The same can be said of webcams and if they have access to “Facetime”. If they do decide to meet up with someone make sure other people know where they are going (with permission of their parents) and meet in a public place.
Some of the things that children are experiencing today are much the same as we did when we are growing up – bullying and peer pressure, wanting to be “grown-up” etc but now they are magnified with the use of the internet. I am sure we have all seen the videos on social media of the children being beaten up whilst someone else is just standing their filming it on their phones. Other bullying can be a lot more subtle – little comments, exclusion – including not giving “likes” and even nasty or inappropriate private messages. I think it is important to be aware of the platforms that have these private messages as you may only be monitoring your child’s account by having them as a “friend.” Top ones that spring to mind for me are: Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and any games which have a chat facility. I find that on YouTube people can be just nasty publically. I guess it is so much easier to be an anonymous behind a keyboard. Plus be aware that your child is capable of making a new account where they know you know nothing about it. I am not sure which is worse – having a child who is bullied or IS the bully?! Either way try to keep a close-eye on their activity and devices. Take an interest in what they are doing online – what are they playing, and join in. Let them know that they can come to you if they feel that they are someone else is experiencing something unpleasant.
So one minute your child is watching a video on YouTube – a Minecraft Video, or Peppa Pig – and the next thing they are watching a totally inappropriate Peppa Pig video that someone has made. It has come on because YouTube thinks it is of a similar nature and lets it autoplay. In situation one you can avoid this by getting your children to use YouTube Kids and parental controls. However children are very technically minded and can easily change the settings (for example to say that they are over eighteen years old) in order to search for this content. Some people would argue that this natural curiosity is no different to sneaking an adult magazine into their bedroom when they were younger – but that it is a lot more accessible. I am afraid that there is a lot more seriousness than this with videos being available to children of a very abusive nature and not what they are ready to cope with; never mind any cyber grooming they put themselves at risk of. I believe Google search and YouTube to be known to have the worst most easily accessible inappropriate content to children.
Other things that are happening at the moment are sexting and sending naked images and I have even read about children opting to access porn as young as 7 years old – and this wasn’t a one-off child. This could be due to hearing things at school and from other kids – who may have older siblings. Of course online grooming is very real such as the case of murdered teenager Kayleigh Haywood.
I think the most important thing here is to talk open and frankly with your child about these issues. Don’t make them feel ashamed. Let them know that they are loved and it is dangerous/unsafe. Remember what it was like to want to be older than you are and wanting to fit in. Tell them that their curiosity and urges are normal (even if you wish they were not). Do things to ensure that their self-esteem is raised and not damaged from the experience.
Extreme Measures for keeping children Safe Online
Sometimes as parents we need to take extreme measures – as maybe the case if your child has ended up with an addiction. Our devices are now controlled by our HomeHalo (which only allows the internet at certain times, controls each device for where it can and can’t access and at what times – I have also heard there is one called Guardian Web) plus we completely turn the router off at night; there are administrator accounts on things were possible and each one needs a password entering before anyone can use it – which only us parents know. There are then parental controls – which are also on the television (we even had to stop children’s channels being accessible in the middle of the night); the history is monitored and small handheld devices are locked away at night-time (we bought a safe especially for this). We haven’t but you can install an app such as SMS Backup+ which e-mails a copy of every SMS, MMS and WhatsApp message that is sent or received on a phone, as well as logging every incoming and outgoing phone call. Plus you can set e-mail accounts to auto-forward copies of every e-mail sent or received from your child’s address.
Resources of help for keeping Children Safe Online
Books are a great source of help especially the ones that help children understand what is happening to them as they grow up.
The NSPCC – they have a great range of resources for these topics for different ages. I like the one called I saw your willy – that demonstrates that even if you post something for a few seconds and delete it – it is too late and potentially the whole world can see it.
For parents there is the Youngminds Parents’ Helpline which offeres free confidental online and telephone support, information and advice to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of twenty-five years old. It is a free call – 0808 8025544.
Thinkuknow, is a websiteset up by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and offers advice and guidance for both children and parents.
Of course with our special needs children there is even more of a risk of their vulnerability – and they may not understand what is appropriate and what isn’t. This is, unfortunately, how we came to discover that our son is also most likely on the Autistic Spectrum. Luckily it did not go unnoticed and he was safe – but not without a lot of hard work on his part and a lot of emotional distress.
When it comes to Christmas and the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder it is all about making sure they still manage to get the right Sensory Diet. Trouble is with all the additional Sensory input (especially in terms of vision, sounds and smells) then this is going to knock their normal routine right out. I have already talked about how to tackle things such as Visiting friends and Family at Christmas . This post is particular about Sensory Craving at Christmas. The way I have found is best to deal with Sensory Craving is to ensure that there is a regular and often stimulation given. In a way I have provided a Sensory Advent Calendar this year to help calm the excitement a little.
It is key to consider what it is that has changed and is affecting them, and what can be done to get the balance right once more. This can be really difficult to understand because it may be that there is more visual stimulation than normal so you try to limit it (keeping decorations to a minimum for example): On the other hand it may be that you need to give them more opportunities to touch as they NEED to explore the world around them. Christmas for us is one of the most difficult times of the year as The Sensory Seeker gets so excited but often struggles to control his emotions and reactions. As well as trying to keep him at the right balance we ensure that he is supervised more than usual and remember that once things are back to how they were then things will be easier.
The Benefits of a Sensory Advent Calendar
The benefits of a Sensory Advent Calendar for our Sensory Seeker has meant that The Sensory Seeker is not just waiting until Christmas to get all his much needed Sensory Stimulation. Sensory Craving at Christmas can be a nightmare as our Sensory Seeker just cannot get enough input to the senses (mostly auditory, movement and touch; but he is also more sensitive to smell – but seems to want to avoid those). He gets really excited about actual Christmas day and I have found that giving him something to do each day has helped his Sensory diet. This in turn has meant it has been much easier with his hygiene issues (Sensory Craving is not pleasant where the toilet is involved!), especially cleaning his teeth – and sleep (ie he is managing to pretty much stick to his routine and get sleep!). It has also made the build up to Christmas a pleasant one for the whole family – doing nice things together, as opposed to feeling like we are just trying to contain the Sensory Seeker’s excitement a little! An added bonus of this has also been that he has been encouraged to at least try more foods – he even licked a lettuce leaf!
About the Sensory Advent Calendar
The Sensory Advent Calendar is simply having twenty-four things to do with The Sensory Seeker, one each day in December until Christmas Day. ? I wanted to get a real mix when deciding what to include in the Sensory Advent Calendar. I told the children that we would be doing a different thing each day but did not tell them what basing which activity we did being dependent of The Sensory Seeker’s needs and the needs of the whole family. Let’s face it just because he may have limitless energy at this time of year does not necessarily mean that I do too!! Your family may need something more structured and, depending on what works best for you and your family, maybe you could map something out, even produce a visual aid showing the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder what they are doing each day.
Activities to include in a Sensory Advent Calendar
There are obviously a great many things you can do with your child over Christmas, with a wealth of ideas online: Things I considered when creating The Sensory Advent Calendar consisted of activities to get really messy and creative; others were simple, clean and easy to organise and tidy away: Some that he could do independently, and others that involved us all coming together.
Does he require noise? Ideas include singing Christmas Carols, Playing with noisy Christmas novelties or playing Christmas songs (and maybe even having a dance too). Or simply getting outside and letting him be as vocal as he likes! Or if he wants to be settled and quiet some Christmas colouring or other quiet calm activity.
Does he require movement? Again dancing (or playing Just Dance on the computer) is a great way to get movement, as well as our 14ft trampoline, ice-skating and walking around to see Christmas lights. We are regularly doing Parkrun and are carrying this into December – but wearing festive clothes! I have previously written about the benefits of the Forest and Sensory Processing Disorder – and at this time of year you can catch falling leaves – or collect things to craft with at home. When he does not need movement and needs to settle and relax I have bought him some films to watch (linked in with the Christmas presents he has asked for this year), planned trips to the cinema, have Christmas story books to read (The Night Before Christmas Olaf style is The Sensory Seeker’s favourite), make Christmas shapes in our LEGO (also good for fine motor) or play a board game.Does he require touch? I had some really messy activities where he could get covered in paint and glitter. But also some edible ones where it didn’t matter if he tried to eat what he was touching! This could even be tied in with making gifts – such as our Christmas Tree Biscuits.
Which kind of activity used also was determined by time – such as was he able to easily have bath to get clean afterwards. I considered which kind of materials to use – does he need the same as he did last time or would he benefit from a different ones? (see my previous Sensory Snowman post). We made Reindeer food so that he could put it out on Christmas Eve so that he can visually associate it with being the night that Father Christmas comes out.
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Does he require smell? The Sensory Seeker has been more sensitive to smell and taken a dislike to some. The ideas I have when he needs smell are – a big bowl of freshly cooked popcorn; creating ornaments (such as Wonderbaby’s Apple & Cinnamon Ornaments); a scented candle (supervised); bubble bath/bath bomb or even a real Christmas tree.
I hope this post has been useful for you – and this blog has lots of ideas on it of things to do with the Individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. If you are having Bad days – then please read my previous post and hopefully things will be easier in the New Year.
Friendships. When it comes to friendships it is the one thing I really struggle with. Whether that is because I am actually Autistic or not makes no odds because either way I don’t seem to be able to keep friends. So when my children come home and tell me that they have no friends I really do not have the right words for them. I want to go and make people be friends with them, or tell my kids – fuck them they don’t deserve your friendship anyway. But it is the most painful thing and I know I long for that bond that others seem to have so easily.
It started when The Sensory Seeker made an imaginary friend – his name is a crossed between Mr Invisible and Mr Invincible (he gets the two mixed up and when I tried to correct him he said, “He’s my friend and so I can call him what I like!” I have never had any imaginary friends in my house before and I am glad that he is able to be creative but I do hope it is not because the school are failing him socially – and I fear that that may be the case.
I would go in and speak to the school about it but I haven’t for two reasons – the first being that when we go into the playground other children call his name in a way that seems to be pleased to see him. Plus he hasn’t been sobbing and breaking his heart, he just tells me that no-one plays with him at break time. Oh and because the school don’t really seem to care. No schools seem to be bothered about the social side of my children’s disabilities in my opinion – but maybe that’s because I am one of “those” parents.
The really heart breaking thing though was, not to hear that no-one wants to play with The Sensory Seeker, but that his confident, well-loved, well-liked older brother confided in my that his close friends no longer want to play with him because of his brother (The Sensory Seeker). Although I would like to hope this is not true since he told me I have actually stopped to notice what happens in the playground in the morning and there is a shift in the dynamics. I want to be able to tell him how to fix it, how to either get that friendship back on track or deal with it and move on – but I am no good at any of that and really don’t know how. I can’t go and speak to the other children’s parents because it is just one of those things – and you can’t make people be friends.
I hope it isn’t true and my children are just trying to get even more attention from me, and actually they are happy and well-liked at school – but my own fears choke me up – and I am just glad they have each other.
Do you have any experience with this? Any tips or advice for me and/or them?
Please note that the photo was taken in the morning before school and he wasn’t actually alone in the playground at playtime – which is also why he looks so happy.
The National Theatre, Southbank, London has bookings now open for the Relaxed Performance of Peter Pan showing on Saturday 21st January 2017 at 2pm.
All children, except one, grow up… When Peter Pan, the leader of the Lost Boys, loses his shadow during a visit to London, headstrong Wendy helps him reattach it. In return she is invited to Neverland – where Tinker Bell the fairy, Tiger Lily and the vengeful Captain Hook await. Exploring the possibilities and pain of growing up, it’s a riot of magic, mischief, music and make-believe.
Relaxed performances are specifically designed to welcome people with an Autism Spectrum Condition, sensory or communication disorders, or learning disabilities. There is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement, and some small changes made to the lighting and sound effects. An easy way to understand the atmosphere is perhaps ‘the opposite of the quiet carriage on the train’. There will be a ‘break out’ space and friendly ushers on hand to assist. A Visual Story, a short information document emailed/posted to all bookers prior to performance, will contain information and pictures about the performance, plot, characters and some information about the venue to help prepare visitors for their visit to the theatre. Peter Pan is suitable for children aged 7+. Bookers will need to decide if the show will be suitable for the person’s cognitive (and not necessarily chronological) age.
Peter Pan at The National Theatre is a co-production with Bristol Old Vic; devised by the Companies and based on the works of JM Barrie. Directed by Sally Cookson with dramaturgy by Mike Akers, set design by Michael Vale, costume design by Katie Sykes, lighting by Aideen Malone, music by Benji Bower, sound design by Dominic Bilkey, movement by Dan Canham, aerial direction by Gwen Hales, fight direction by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper–Brown of RC-ANNIE Ltd, and puppet direction and design by Toby Olié. The National Theatre would like to thank Sophie Thompson for developing the roles of Captain Hook and Mrs Darling. The cast includes: Saikat Ahamed, Suzanne Ahmet, Marc Antolin, Lois Chimimba, Laura Cubitt, Phoebe Fildes, Anna Francolini, Felix Hayes, Paul Hilton, John Leader, Amaka Okafor, John Pfumojena, Jessica Temple, Dan Wheeler and Madeleine Worrall.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, including a 20-minute interval
Tickets: adult £16 / under-18s £10
Other Accessible Performances:
Audio-described performances: Saturday 17 December at 2pm, Monday 19 December at 7pm
Pre-show touch tour: Saturday 17 December at 12.30pm
Captioned performance: Wednesday 28 December at 7pm, Friday 3 February at 7pm and Saturday 4 February at 2pm
National Theatre, Olivier Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX
RELAXED WORKSHOP: Junk Puppets
Saturday 21 January, 11am – 1pm, Duffield Studio
A morning of inclusive activities for all the family. With NT workshop leaders, you will design and create your own puppets and learn how to bring them to life. The workshop has been created specifically for families with disabled children aged 6 – 12, but is open to all. All children must be accompanied by an adult, and all adults accompanied by a child. Each adult may only be responsible for a maximum of 2 children.
Directed by Richard Bracewell (2015), PG, 92 minutes
Saturday 11 February, 11.30am, Cottesloe Room
Infectious energy and brilliant gags from some of the team behind Horrible Histories. This film tells the story of ‘what really happened’ during Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’ – how the hopeless lute player Bill Shakespeare left his family and home to follow his dream. Along the way he encounters murderous kings, spies, lost loves, and a plot to blow up Queen Elizabeth.
During the screening, there is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement and some small changes made to the light and sound effects. The cinema lights will be on low and the volume turned down slightly. There will be no trailers or advertisements before the film starts and you are welcome to move around the cinema space if you want to.