We started with Hannah in my sandals claiming she was ‘fine’ though inspection of her heels proved otherwise. Clearly application of multiple plasters and small train trip to halve the mileage was going to be sensible. We were off, disgustingly cheerful with 5 miles to go into Kings Lynn for the first appointment. The views along the river were beautiful, the sun was shining and the company was great.
As we approached Kings Lynn we were falling behind and there were some extra miles to cross the town I had not factored in. A swift phone call to Paul and the problem was solved, we were collected and conveyed in great style to meet his wife and son Harry. I noticed a plastic folder of photos in the car and a series of visual timetables that covered the everyday stuff of life. This family were using the photos and pictures every day, and as Paul said, ‘ it works. My boy is non-verbal and he works visually. We do it because it means he understands’.
We looked at the pictures and timetables and talked through how Harry went to look for the iPad symbol in his PECS book when Dad hid it. Like many families they don’t want Harry spending 6 weeks with his eyes glued to a screen .
We talked through how a simple timetable that showed him where the iPad would be available in the day would help reduce his frustration for he thinks he just needs to ask more often bringing the iPad lead, or taking Mum to where he expects it to be kept. It will take some time for him to realise it is for limited times at certain times of the day but the holidays is a good time to practice and there is a huge willingness to try.
Harry is a placid cheerful child most of the time but recently has been agitated and aggressive, lashing out, throwing tantrums and hair pulling. There has been a great deal of thought given to why this is happening but of course it is only guessing albeit that Paul and Andrea are very good guessers as they know their son so well. We thought about what had worked in the past when there were bad patches, for what worked then in helping Harry through is likely to work again. In the past regular movement breaks, exercise, Intensive Interaction therapy session and attention autism activities have worked well. Time to add these back regularly across Harry’s day to see if shared good times can help him find his equilibrium once again. The time went so fast, these parents taught us so much. Thank you Paul and Andrea.
It was time to wave Hannah and Laura off to catch the train back home and I shall miss their insights and honesty let alone the humour and readiness to laugh! The children are lucky to have them as teachers.
Paul took me to the next meet up point and encounter we talked about his role as a governor in his sons school. This very active involvement in education is a part of his determination that children get the help they need. Parents have so much to manage every day to add this takes courage and makes a big difference to others.
I met Laura no her two some exploring a church to fill in the time whilst they waited for me. We drove home with William the 2 year old keeping up a constant stream of appeals …’Gina … Mum … Gina …, not with anything particular to say but just for the interaction it gained. Harry sat quietly hood up occasionally contributing a comment.
We had a carpet picnic and gradually Harry became positively chatty, there was a great deal of passing on of cheesy biscuits as he worked out how to get everybody to have one even if it did mean yours disappeared to reappear reallocated! Harry talks and he is interested in interaction it just seems he can’t keep all the balls in the air at he same time interaction+ words+ meaning. There was always some kind of link between what he said and what was happening or his thoughts at the time but it came in learnt chunks of echolalia. This has of course been so confusing for everyone, apart from his younger brother William who just carries on regardless.
We talked and tried out some ways to use Harry’s ability to learn chunks of language and to plant the ones that work in this everyday world, how to keep the conversation on track and how to accept and respond to the willingness to communicate whilst gently keeping the words relevant. Louise is an astonishing parent, confused yes, upset yes but determined and so open to ideas given in practical situations with her boys. Intervention needs to work in her everyday life as William will join in too!
Thank you for a picnic that was fun, interesting and yes perhaps a little quirky but it was also kind and loving.
Louise and the boys dropped me off on the peddars way and the afternoons walking began.
It is a beautiful walk, wide paths scenery that takes the breathe away and for at least a couple of hours cloud formations that really made me think about the whole big sky concept.
Then it started to rain and my thinking became more pragmatic — walk, walk, walk, FINISH. The new waterproof was thoroughly tested, it mostly works but I arrived in Hunstanton youth hostel cold, knackered and ready to sit down!
Maybe is is possible to take this exercise concept too far, we will see how the legs are in the morning!