Okay, so my son punched me in the shoulder today; he became frustrated because the queue to the waterslide was too long. So I told him he wasn’t going on the slide and he bit me in front of everyone. I’m sure I heard someone mutter the word ‘chav’ as I took him back down the stairs and into the swimming pool. That’s nothing really compared to what happened last weekend. So I started thinking with the summer holidays looming, how am I going to manage for the next six weeks? Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the summer holidays; I miss being able to spend quality time with my son since he started school, but with crowds, the unpredictability of other children and the change to routine, summer can be a very stressful time. Now I’m no expert on these things; but here’s my plan for the summer. I’m hoping with a little forward planning it will be a lot easier:
- Sensory Den
I’ve had an attempt at building a little sanctuary, a place my son can retreat to when he feels angry or stressed. It’s just a cosy place with soft cushions and various textures and things he can mess with: different types of paint roller, a bunch of keys, scrunchies. There are some books in there too. He managed to calm himself down last week by reading a couple of stories; it’s a bonus when children can find their own ways to relieve stress
- Making use of Woodland and Countryside
It’s important that your child interacts with other children but sometimes it’s far less stressful when it’s just the two of us. I’m lucky that I live only 10 minutes’ walk away from woodland where we can go for some peace and quiet. While we’re there I use the time to read and talk about forest stories like The Gruffalo and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. We collect flowers there to press when we get home, find out about the birds and insects that live there, go pond dipping and pick elderflowers to make cordial at the start of summer and elderberries in August for crumbles and tarts.
- Choosing ‘Relaxed Performances’
Odeon cinemas are really good for these and there are lots of theatres now who dedicate certain days to making their films or shows accessible for people living with autism. They leave the lights on, turn the sound down, provide chill-out rooms if it becomes too stressful and talk about what to expect from the show before it starts. If your child makes noises or can’t keep still, other audience members understand that they are not simply being ‘naughty’.
- Accepting Help and Finding Time to Have a Break!
My family don’t live locally and I’m very bad at accepting help from friends. I feel like it’s putting on people and I get anxious when I’m away from my son, but I do make use of the Surestart playscheme. My son loves it and it gives me chance to get on with a few jobs at home or – shock-horror – go for lunch with friends. We all need a break sometimes, though it can be very difficult to get one!
- Taking a Packed Lunch
Queues are a real problem for us. If we take our own food at least it’s one less queue. Also since doing the Food Dudes programme at school, my son refuses point blank to eat things like burgers or fish and chips, which is a good thing, but can be difficult when you’re out and about. Lots of touristy places don’t seem to have any healthy options.
- Remembering I am a ‘Carer’
It feels strange referring to myself as a ‘carer’ for my own child, but if you take your DLA letter with you to some places, they will let an accompanying adult in free with a disabled child.
If all that fails then there’s always gin! (For me, not my son, I hasten to add!)
I’ll be giving this some more thought but would love to hear everyone’s ideas and suggestions.