Getting Through Summer, (The Autism Friendly Way)

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.


Different Strokes

marmadukeLove, love, love this book. Did I mention I love this book.  Thank you Rachel Valentine for writing it:

Marmaduke’s not like all the other dragons – his ears are too big and he never even tries to fly. He just doesn’t fit in, however much he wants to, and so he feels terribly lonely.

And Princess Meg? Well, she wears trainers and breaks into dance at the most inappropriate of times, which means that she sticks out like a sore thumb. She doesn’t really have any friends, but then she’s far too busy having fun to notice . . . Until one day when Marmaduke and Meg’s lives collide in the most exciting, brilliant and surprising way and they both realise just how much they need each other.

And, who knows, maybe a princess and a dragon will make the most perfect best friends.

So Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon is all about celebrating difference. And it’s a book very close to my heart because I happen to know a little boy who is just like Marmaduke and a little girl who is just like Princess Meg. I am very glad that they found each other. Sometimes being different can be cool – it’s a lesson that young children are being taught in schools all the time: value others for their uniqueness.  I like to think things have moved on. I have a very painful memory from age about 12: my Geography teacher calling me ‘weird’ in front of a whole class full of children.  Sadly, there is still a lot of bullying directed towards people who have special needs or who are considered ‘different’ in some other way. Perhaps more adults should read books like this. Very young children have a wonderful way of looking past people’s ‘differences’.  We could all learn a lot from them.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

I had a telephone call today from my son’s head teacher.  Apparently he informed a member of the clergy today that “Bishops are only allowed to move diagonally!” Another wonderful comment from a child who sees life in very literal terms. I might try and take him to meet the Queen – see what happens… I can feel another story coming on!


Rediscovering Paddington

paddingtonI’m lucky enough to have the book man come to my place of work every week. This week a huge selection of Michael Bond’s “Paddington” books were on offer for £10. I have to admit I was never a very big fan as a child but having watched and loved the film last month my interest was renewed. These are perfect for anyone who wants a gentler read, without monsters and witches and poo, (although I do have to say I’m guilty of enjoying all those things in picture books!). The stories have also prompted my son to ask me all about the royals and London – things we’ve never really spoken about before, so a whole new dialogue has been opened for us. Also I love the idea of a bear travelling here all the way from darkest Peru to make his home in England. The books have brought back a lot of memories for me. My mom’s from London and we used to visit there often to see my grandparents who took us to see all the famous landmarks just like Paddington in the stories. My nan worked at Paddington college and my mom was born in Paddington. I’ll definitely take my son there when he’s old enough to appreciate it.

On the subject of Paddington, I would highly recommend the film to anyone. We didn’t stop laughing all the way through. It was so much better than any of the films we’ve seen recently, gentler, simpler and more-child friendly. I wish we’d make more children’s films here in Britain. Especially if they’re based on such a national institution like Paddington.

Anyway, thanks for reading – I’m off to make some marmalade.


Adapt Your Children’s Book For Film Or TV

Hi – I thought I’d let fellow writers know about Amazon Studios where you can submit scripts for movies, comedy series and children’s programmes. If you’ve written a book then you’re half way there because you already have the story and the dialogue; it needs formatting in a different way though which is a lot more time consuming than you may think. I’m going to have a proper read of the fine print before I upload, but hey… in it to win it.



Calling All Picture Book Authors / Illustrators

Hi – I’d really love to feature some author or illustrator interviews on my blog. I’m hoping it might be a way to network and to find out about each other’s work. If you’d like to be featured, please drop me a message on my Facebook page:


Look forward to meeting you.


Autistic and Searching for a Home

So many people will identify with this – I felt really emotional while reading. Our children will always need us.


Genna Buck | Maisonneuve Magazine | Winter 2014 | 28 minutes (7,101 words)

MaisonneuveThis week we’re proud to feature a Longreads Exclusive from the new issue of Montreal’s Maisonneuve Magazine, about a young autistic woman who needs a home.

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