Archive for May, 2007

I’m sticking with holidays today. Perhaps apt for this rainy bank holiday weekend. I’ve just been told about the Thomas Centre. Situated in Louth, near the Lincolnshire coast it’s a holiday centre designed for families with communication impaired children.

 It looks rather stunning. Self-catering houses and bungalows with contemporary interiors, an indoor pool, private woodland (and presumably a whole heap of understanding- the owner’s son is communication impaired). I’m now trying to think of excuses to visit Louth.




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We don’t really go away with Archie at the moment. It’s too unpredictable. Some friends very kindly lent us their caravan last year; we arrived, realised all the windows were also fire escapes (and therefore easy to open) and left very quickly; just hanging around long enough for Archie to flick a few lightswitches.

Last year I won a Mumsnet competition (good special needs board on there by the way) for a week’s holiday at Bosinver Farm Cottages in Cornwall. We couldn’t take a whole week, so my Mum and Dad had a few days away, then returned to look after the boys whilst we went away for a break. We therefore attended without children,  but I put my autism hat on to check the place out.

 We stayed in Pear; a 2 bedroom cottage. It was ideal for children with autism. The door locked with a removable key; the windows all had working locks. The only potential problem was coin operated electricity which ticked loudly in the second bedroom. The owners  Pat and David Smith are very welcoming, and every year have  a week when a group of adults with learning difficulties stay with their carers. In other words they are very accepting and unfazed by learning difficulties. I’m sure they would do their best to sort out problems such as a the ticking electricity meter (I’d ask if the beds could swop rooms for example).

There is an outdoor pool but it was closed when we visited in October. Other facilities include the games room with pool and table tennis tables and animal feeding times. Car traffic through the site is fairly limited. It’s ideally situated to access the South Cornwall Coast. For welcoming and accepting owners it has to recommended if you have a child with autism. I suspect it may be the destination for our first attempt at a few days away with Archie when we finally pluck up the courage to try.

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Archie’s watching Thomas and refusing to go to bed until the end, so just time for a quick review tonight. If you’ve been in the special needs game for a while you’ll almost certainly have come across this company, if not they need to be added to your favourites list on your web browser.

 Inclusive Technology provide hardware and software for all kinds of special needs. From specialist keyboards to simple software. They are extremely helpful and very knowledgeable. If you have any sort of IT need start here. Delivery has always been quick, communication good and many of their products are VAT free if being bought for someone with a disability.

I’ll review the various bits of software and hardware I’vbe bought from them another day.  

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If you’re interested in a biomedical approach then you really need to start with Treating Autism. This website is a gateway to a huge amount of information. Started by parents in 2005 the aim is to raise awareness about the biomedical approach, to encourage and support research and to act as a resource for parents interested in exploring the different biomedical interventions.

 Treating Autism runs a very active online discussion group. ‘Autism Biomedical Europe’ that can be joined  from their home page. If you sign up you’ll get a lot of posts, but if you’re starting out its a place to really tap into a lot of experience.

 It’s worth putting aside at least an hour to explore their webpage, their beginners guide is a great place to start. I keep returning to it! It’s a good place to start reading in more depth as well. The interventions page will take you straight to information on specific approaches. In February 2007 Treating Autism hosted a 2 day conference in Bournemouth and the speaker slide presentations are now available to download.

It is possible to join Treating Autism as a member (at a cost of £25) and this entitles you to various discounts (such as 25% off nutricentre purchases) and  a free book, as well as a folder with further information, a handy pill pouch a DVD and a Treating Autism wristband !

Treating Autism states that its ethos is to be inclusive. I have found the people involved to be very open to the idea that each child is an individual, and will respond differently to the various interventions. An excellent, supportive starting point if you decide you want to investigate biomedical approaches further.


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We’ve just come to the end of an 18 month stint of a wet bed every night. Having been toilet trained for about 2 years, Archie ‘decided’ overnight to wet his bed, every night. Usually twice a night. He refused to wear nappies (or anything come to that) so we very quickly investigated incontinence products for the bedroom.

Fledglings, reviewed below are a good place to start. They can provide waterproof duvets for example, you can use these uncovered and just wipe clean, although we tended to still use a duvet cover, to increase comfort. Our real lifesavers were Kylie bedsheets. These absorb an enormous amount of urine, whilst drawing it away from the sleeping person. We had a mix of 2L and 3L sheets. I placed these on top of Archie’s sheet and changed these every day and this really reduced the number of times in a week that I had to wash sheets (most days I was washing 2 duvet covers, 1  kylie and a light waterproof pad so any reduction in washing was appreciated). Under the sheet was a waterproof mattress cover, and on top of the kylie a light waterproof mattress protector the sort you can find in Mothercare or other baby shops. When I went up to bed I’d usually find the top waterproof pad was wet, I’d remove that leaving the kylie to sleep on. The next morning I’d start the day by loading the washing machine.


The wetting stopped as quickly as it started. Overnight. Archie still has occasional night time accidents, but will now wear a nappy.  I’ll review incontinence pants and nappies another time.

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Archie really struggles with waiting. Really struggles. Even the word “wait” sends him into a frenzy. It actually makes going out incredibly difficult because as soon as we hit a queue I know that things are about to get noisy.

waitbuttons School introduced a low tech aid, known as wait buttons. You can see them in the photograph. 3 threading buttons velcroed onto a PECS sentence strip. When Archie has to wait he’s told “3 waits” and shown the sentence strip. After an appropriate amount of time has passed, one button is removed and he’s told “2 waits”, and so on, until all the buttons are gone. In Archie’s case we can string this out to about 10 minutes, but not really any longer, and he does get very cross. He’ll also pass us the sentence strip with the wait buttons on as way of asking for things to move along. It’s definitely a good system though, and can be adapted to be used as a quick visual countdown system to warn when activities are going to end.

Recently we’ve been having problems at home with Archie wanting to hurry things along. For example people come into the house to carry out various jobs, and he wants them gone. Not because he doesn’t like them being there, just because he wants the sequence finished. Cue lots of screaming at some poor visitor, who has to fight off their bag and coat being repeatedly fetched. Wait buttons have helped a little with this.

timer I became interested in using something that would show the time elapsing more continuously to see whether this would increase the length of time Archie was prepared to wait and today my time timer arrived. This product aims to visually represent elapsed time. The best way to see what that means in practice is to look at their website. It’s a simple idea, but is really effective. It took me a long time to find a UK distributer. Eventually I found Ed-Solutions Direct Ltd . If you’re in the States you can order from the excellent Different Roads for Learning. There are several different models available. We went for the small clock with an audible alarm (this is very quiet) that goes off when the set time has elapsed. This allows up to an hour to be set to countdown. If Archie takes to it I’ll probably invest in a watch. One of these, the “time timer watch plus”, allows up to 12 hours to be set to countdown (perhaps useful if he tries to get up at 3am?-That may be a little optimistic).

There are other options. Some people find sand timers work well. We have tried these, but found that Archie just wanted to watch the sand falling, and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. There’s also the time tracker, although I found this a little complicated to use, and hard for Archie to understand. He’s a bit keen on lights and buzzer noises as well. I do have a friend who uses it successfully.

UPDATE Tue 22nd May 2007

The Time Timer is working better than I could have expected. Yesterday Archie was desperate to look into the boot of his ABA tutor’s car. Looking in boots is getting obsessive and generally interfering with daily life as well as triggering lots of screaming, so we said he had to wait until the end of the session (30 minutes) and set the Time Timer accordingly. He calmed down immediately and worked really well for the last 30 minutes. Today we set the timer at the beginning of the session for 60 minutes, showed him and had an exceptionally calm session. I suspect I’ll be buying a watch soon……

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IPSEA, the independent panel for special education advice, provide free independent legal advice and support to parents of children with special needs in England and Wales. If you’re having trouble with school, or you’re just thinking about trying to get a statement IPSEA is the first website you should visit. There’s a lot of advice on there, and model letters that you use to request a statutory assessment, or to complain that your child is not receiving help specified in their statement for example. They can also provide a lot of help if you end up going to tribunal.

 Their website is full of information, including summaries of previous relevant cases. When meeting with our statementing officer  whilst in the process of agreeing Archie’s first statement we turned up clutching the IPSEA summary of a case known as “the Lancashire judgment“. This indicated quite clearly that for a child like Archie speech and language therapy was an educational need and therefore should be specified in parts 2 & 3 of the statement. This is important, as therapy specified in part 2 and 3 of the statement becomes a legal duty for the LEA to provide, whether or not the local health authority can provide therapists. As it happens Archie’s speech therapist took maternity leave during his time in mainstream, and was not replaced by the health authority. Because, with IPSEA’s help, we had managed to get speech therapy specified as an educational need the LEA had  to pay for a private speech and language therapist to visit him in school. His statement made this a legal requirement. LEA’s are not keen to put speech therapy in part 3, preferring it to go in part 5 (where it can then be ignored). IPSEA’s help was absolutely invaluable.

IPSEA also run helplines. Times of operation vary, so best to check on their website  for the latest details. At busy times you may be waiting several days for someone to ring you back. Their helplines are run by trained volunteers.

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