I was definitely a bit slower today, breakfast at a civilised pace followed by detailed plucking of straw and grass seeds from the lining of my boots. The hotel fan heater had proved effective for the drying socks and it was time to go. The views over Rutland water were beautiful and there was only they silent swooping cyclists negotiate. There was one near disaster when a small child already slightly wobbly struggled to break and ring his bell simultaneously as he raced up behind me — I leapt helpfully onto the verge only to find that was where his mother was cycling in an attempt to give him more space.
We all juddered to a halt briefly. The small boy then set off again in a huff and I was reminded how easy it is to feel cross when you have made a mistake, and how many children give up when they experience failure. The lure of the bike and the excitement of the activity certainly helped this chap get over it!
Rutland water had an interesting array of visual prompts and reminders some were bound to be ignored as the temptation was just too great.
How could a cyclist resist a long down hill stretch?
Visually supported communication does need to be practised and used frequently across the day, it just doesn’t work if it is only used in an emergency or when the urge to ‘go for it’ is overwhelming.
Pictures and symbols do work but they need to be logical and used early enough in the child’s thinking as flexibility is not a strong suit for most on the autism spectrum. The children are often interested in the pictures/drawings/symbols providing they give information clearly and are current.
So often people are reluctant to use this strategy for supporting communication but I am struck by how frequently I am being offered information in this way as I walk on, I am fascinated by signs and whether they work or not and the time it takes me to think it through.
This was my favourite today, ‘stick and flick’ is a new phrase but very memorable!
I walked in with a long stretch parallel with the A 1 which was a salutary reminder of the amount of traffic on the road. I needed to be on the other side but there was nowhere to cross safely, the lorries roared past and I walked on realising I have got used to walking for hours with just bird song and the occasional rumble of agricultural machinery for company.
I was met in Caister by Jane a fellow speech and language therapist who set up Park House School with her husband, Alan. We sat in their garden drank, fruit juice and discussed the state of speech and language therapy services. We both used to feel such pride for our profession but have real concerns for its future.
The dog Pepper is a super enthusiast tearing from looking at the chickens to checking who is coming out of the back door. He is alert and fascinated by the world around him but he just can’t let anything get by him without a thorough investigation.
I spent the evening with a group of parents from the NAS Peterborough group organised by Jackie Luland. The conversation flowed fast and furious with discussions covering obsessive hand washing and anxiety about germs, swearing, getting a 3 year old interested in interaction and ways forward for children who struggle with speech. All the while the children in question and their siblings raced round the soft play centre.
A brilliant venue, thank you Jackie and I am so sorry I didn’t have the chance to talk to everyone.