He’s my Favourite, You’d Think, Right?

Countdown!

SEVEN SCHOOL DAYS until the Summer Holidays begin 🙂🙃

The kids’ll GO WILD on life across the next 2 months – recharging on relationships and fun experiences, sunshine and no school work!! FAMILY TIME 😍

We’ve been taking swimming lessons weekly for months; a Spanish, Water Park holiday with Daddy, firmly in mind. ☀️😎💦

Our 9 year old is really getting into running too and is already mapping out 5k park runs at the weekends, across some favourite northern cities, with his Step-Dad. His 2-years younger sister is desperate to be in on the action!

On the way to school in the car this week, Summer-time suggestions abound: 

PLEASE can we go to the beach?!!… Legoland…Go-Ape…Sea-life?”

…not forgetting the BIG adventure to Spain (for the first time) by aeroplane (for the first time)…

…sleeping in late, uninterrupted children’s television, water fights in the garden, meeting up with cousins/ best friends, soft play, pub meals, baking, Summer Clubs, new water-sports to try, City day-trips, Blackpool Tower!

But our Awesomely Aspergers boy, Caleb, is sort of caught between excitement and dread. For every suggestion made by his brother and sister this week, I watched him sink further and further down his car seat, face setting in stubborn opposition 🙈

On the one hand, Caleb can’t wait to finish with school for a few weeks and be in the comfort of home…be done with work pressure and authority figures, swap his school uniform for Pjs until 11am, and wind down with his tablet! But he already anticipates his siblings will wind him up. I guess he represents your typical pre-teenager up to this point!

But add to this some bigger perceived challenges of venturing OUT; on top of new surroundings and broken routine – the beach involves the feeling of sand on skin; struggling to coordinate yourself to play watersports (and being highly suspicious little bro made this suggestion JUST to annoy you!); physical exertion in general too draining (unless it’s Football – albeit you opted out of watching the Euro Final when offered; and when playing, you’ve recently begun tackling like a rugby player)… bored of the park… sea-life – meh! …finding the sun too bright, longer car journeys too restrictive…and only just coming round to the idea of venturing abroad, mainly because your favourite car blogger (EVERRRR!) just did a road trip around Europe and Dad has promised free Icecream on tap!

On the surface it could look like I have the biggest soft spot for Caleb. Over-protective, nurturing preparation for activities, supportive and reassuring, taking up hours of my time and thought life.

The truth is I absolutely adore each one of my 4 children, and I feel keenly the impact of supporting Caleb on the other children at times, both in terms of them having to deal with a big brothers’ negative headset, anxiety or withdrawal on the lead up to their most fun times: What a dampener! …or the reduced attention they get from me as I try to coach Caleb through each day.

Don’t get me wrong, I do actually think he’s ACE. So loving. Great to relax and chat with. So compassionate and nurturing, especially with his baby sister…very keen to protect and see justice ….and so fun-filled when he’s chilled!
So VERY proud.


But daily EFFORT to support Caleb, to access what his siblings easily do, with gratitude… That’s not favouring. That’s not taking extra pleasure in him.

What that is is sheer commitment. Investment. Often exhausting. Sometimes upsetting. Rarely registered by him.

It is determinedly LOVING DEEPLY, without recognition. And choosing the challenges worth tackling, and letting other things go for now.

It’s trying to enable in a way that builds Caleb up and invests in him, and doesn’t hurt or ridicule him. (I hate sarcasm when it’s directed in conflict. Fact.)


The ironic thing is, despite complaining, Caleb always has an amazing time. In-the-moment, he loves life! But this requires careful handling of the day by supportive adults, and resisting the urge to just do what Caleb wants for an ‘easy’ life, and  neither bullying him along in haste.
…An added frustration, too, is that no matter how much of a brilliant time Caleb does have, if he considers the activity to be outside of his named interests, chances are he will reflect back on it as mediocre! So the extra support invested in him is rarely appreciated on his part either. He just doesn’t see it. He sees only his thoughts.

Once we took a trip to Disneyland, when Caleb was about 6 years old. Caleb never stopped laughing and  simply loved every moment. But looking back, shortly afterwards, he would tell you he didn’t enjoy it all that much. Today he’d have you believe it was practically torturous!


So why bother?
Well we do bother because …

  1. We have 4 children who I want to enjoy life to the fullest and give every opportunity to. Being one of 4, Caleb has to learn to be one part of a shared journey
  2. Caleb is now relaxed and comfortable during activities he once found impossible… only yesterday offering to go pick up some groceries on his own from the local shop, riding a bike, enjoying showers, eating the same food as the rest of the family, throwing himself into swimming lessons …
  3. I have a million photos that capture Caleb’s sheer JOY in the midst of the experiences he has had. I hope one day, he may not register the effort we put in to supporting him, but he will look back on his childhood experiences with happiness.

In the meantime, we also try to give Caleb ‘out’ time too. Alone time. Recharge time. Comfort zone time. His agenda time. Away from siblings time!

And I keep trying to learn from other people’s experiences and wisdom, researching Aspergers… So that I stop taking Caleb’s outlook as a personal criticism of the family life we are championing , and instead grasp not only how he views the world, but how lots of likeminded people do…where discomfort lies, how that can manifest in behaviour …. And keep trying to understand.

To respect. To accept his ways.

But equally to love and encourage him onwards.
To help ENABLE Caleb to ENGAGE with life in all its fullness. And feel content with himself, tolerant of others, and capable of thinking BIG and reaching his dreams.

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Another School Sports Day?! Noooooooo!!!

Here is Caleb’s little sister ❤️ Today, she took part in three events at the children’s Primary School Sports Day.

In the first and second individual races, she was first across the finish-line, and then in the team relay event her group came second! She was absolutely on Top of the World, and basqued in all the deserved praise.

Her 9 year old brother also picked up 2nd place for the Long Distance Race, and came 3rd in the Sprint. He enthusiastically carried on his own Sports Day in the garden, with his sister, as soon as they returned home 😀

To be honest, the pair of them had been buzzing since bedtime, last night. Excited. Nervous. Going to dream about it! Today, searching for us in the crowd. Big waves!

But that is just NOT the case for Caleb, our oldest, 11 year old, Awesomely Aspergers boy. Things couldn’t be further from this happy picture!

It has always mystified me how much discomfort Sports Day brings Caleb, on EVERY level. 

Is it the change from the usual school day routine? Motor control challenges? Team events? Physical exertion? Public praise? The disappointment? Crowds of spectators?…

I’ve never really researched it as an Aspergers issue, but I can tell you that Caleb and Sports Day, for whatever reason, have a troubled history!

Last year seemed a lot better because Caleb had a gentle-natured male teacher who he massively looked up to, and the competitive events were reduced to a short period, with fun activities and group games taking up the majority of the day. Caleb even happily acknowledged we were there watching (!), which was amazing because usually my presence only seems to exacerbate his misery. Playing football that day, he regularly called over to us, and seemed very proud!

But having recently moved to a new school, Caleb struggled today, albeit he bounced back quickly when home. He talked about the positives much more than in his younger years. He was keen to point out what he’d succeeded at. Happy classmates didn’t criticise that he was allowed to sit out of the sprint race. No one insulted him.

But not a pleasurable day!

So I tried to put myself in his Aspergers shoes…. And this is the ‘experience’ I imagined…

Dazzling sun or drizzle assault on skin; What will these next hours hold? 

Shoe laces have (AGAIN) come undone. Fingers shake as I bend down.

DON’T look for those familiar faces in the crowd. A frenzy of excited children, surround. A rush of activity, where to now? 

Sit there! Get in line! Get ready! Look smartAn in-charge voice rings out LOUD across the field. 

A high pitched whistle blows. Cheers and chanting explode. From somewhere my own name is called. “Faster! Faster! Come on! You can do it!”…Every stranger’s eye on that finish line, high expectations abound. 

The scent of cut grass mixes with sweaty bodies.  This body, no longer my own… Heavy limbs, prickly skin, aching chest. Breathing shallow.

Can’t swallow. 

Senses in overdrive, yet feeling my energy leave. So weary.

Team points, others look to me… So much for just blending into the background. 

Everyone else happy, celebrating community?

Pressure. Scrutiny. Competition. 

Broken routine. Adapted rules.

1st? 2nd? 3rd? Not today. Yet to know HOW THAT feels.

But all the fun’s in the taking part, I’m told.

……………………………..

Glad I didn’t keep Caleb off school, despite secretly wishing for rain! Proud this is another tough area he is facing and navigating his way through.

Maybe I need to look into it more, to help him keep moving onwards and upwards. I can see, from a quick google search, we’re far from alone in this challenge.

If you can relate in ANY way, or have your own insight, I really would love to hear your thoughts and/or experiences 😊

Another Sports Day over!!✅

And Caleb already has a smile back on his face, on the same day! 

This is most definitely progress ❤️

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When Laughter Matters

Facebook Memory; February 2014The year Caleb gained a Step-Dad ⭐️

Mum: Caleb, can I ask you something? Do you think you’d feel brave enough to get up in front of everyone, at the wedding, and read something out from the Bible, down a microphone? 

Caleb: [deep, hesitant breath] Ye-eess. Sure Mum, I can do that for you.  [Pause] YES! [more certain this time, beams a big smile]… Actually, I’d REALLY like to!

Mum: That’s brilliant Caleb, thanks!

Caleb: [Walking away, he continues to himself…] I think I’ll start by telling everyone a joke first, of course…

😆 Haha!

An ‘awkward sense of humour’ is a commonly identified trait of Aspergers with inappropriate timing and misplaced content, if given the chance! BUT! I just don’t think social cues are the be all and end all here. 

There is SO VERY much about Caleb’s communal, energised, wholesome, fun-seeking outlook that, to me, is just heart-squeezingly special. Hilarious too. Enviable. Maybe even more advanced than the status quo?

Take me. When did I last properly laugh out loud, with abandon? Today? The beginning of this week? The weekend before? I’m actually not sure, off the top of my head. Not that I’m a misery! I’d like to think I’m rather cheerful! 😂

Can you recall when that last, involuntary, bubbling up feeling overtook your body?

For Caleb, interacting playfully ALWAYS comes hand in hand with the sort of laughter that has him gasping for breath!

Things don’t get in the way. He doesn’t care about looks, how popular you are, nor about age, gender, ethnicity, background, sexuality, disabilty … Or any other label you can think of.

Face-to-face with you, Caleb will just accept you, wanting NOTHING MORE than to laugh with you. LOTS.

 LOUDLY!

Tactile and affectionate, he was saying to me only this week, about high school I’ll be friends with anyone Mum. I’m not going to write anyone off, so long as they are nice back to me, and nice to my friends’ 

I read somewhere recently (unverified!), that babies laugh up to 300 times a day, and yet the happiest adult compares with a vastly lower 20 times a day, and even still – the typical 40-year-old laughs, on average, just three to four times daily.

I’d LOVE to have the capacity, like Caleb,  for laughter to override the challenges… wider worries dissolving: The house is a bomb site  – The bathroom STILL needs cleaning – I just watched something traumatic on the news, AGAIN. What is WRONG with the world?? – I’m in a rush – People are watching, this is embarrassing, what will they think? – Just had an argument, feeling sad -Got caught in the rain – hair is frizzy – Feeling fat … It’s-been-a-lonnnnnnnng-week...
But for Caleb, laughter is a regular,  in-built release, overriding all the negatives and anxieties. What an awesome gift!

Granted, he does rely heavily on his agenda and interests driving play. Caleb’s not remotely convincing in pretending to have fun, if the activity isn’t all that attractive!

And yes. You could argue he lacks some of the subtleties and timing, which more readily connect his peers…

But what I wouldn’t give sometimes, to strip away the sarcasm, synicism, caution and weariness – and just enjoy daily, good ol’ Laurel and Hardy Slap-stick, TRUSTING, fun!

I think one school teacher captures Caleb’s nature beautifully, in a single end of year report paragraph:

Caleb’s enthusiasm for life and the way he throws himself into each day with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step, is purely infectious, leading him to being well liked by adults and peers alike. He’s SUCH a keen, fun-natured learner, full of confidence, always excitable and enthusiastic…and I know he will continue to shine!

Summer 2010: Caleb leaps onto the school stage,taking his turn to shake the teachers hand, and receive his year-end Learning Journal ❤️

Today, compared to your average 11 year old boy – Caleb laughs a LOT. Regardless of any awkwardness! And that makes me VERY happy.

Research identifies laughter at the heart of health and well-being: It basically ‘switches on’ our immune systems; reducing levels of stress hormones, increasing health-enhancing hormones, neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting antibodies; and improving blood flow to the heart—all resulting in greater relaxation and resistance to illness, improved mood, sleep, short term memory, creativity, relationships, and overall positive outlook!

I’M IN! 

How about you?!

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Don’t Quit Your DayDream!

These things you can see but not with your eyes…and hear, but not with your ears. 

Dreaming takes up A LOT OF TIME, both at night, like every human does, but I also have loads of day-dreams as well.

If I go out at school playtime to play with my mates, I usually end up getting kicked out of the game all the time, so I find a quiet corner because it’s lonely sometimes at school, and I find it MUCH easier to daydream instead of fussing. Also I get bored a lot and feel like I have got nothing to do… So I daydream.

This may seem to you lot as unfortunate, but for me it’s good – or even great! – as I get to think of what future career I might have and how I will achieve it. At the moment I’m thinking of being like SOL (Supercars Of London), who is the best EVER youtuber. (at the moment at least) But for now a blog will do.

My daydreams aren’t all about a future career though. Sometimes they’re just random. An idea, story or event suddenly pops into my head.

Like yesterday, I said to Mum in Co-op Carpark… “Mum I just had a vision. I just daydreamed about a meteor flashing past and then everything going black!”

I guess fantasy daydreams are fun because no one can stop you and your wild imagination.  They belong to me.

They are my thoughts to keep for ever! 

*Thanks for the car votes by the way! The Ferrari is winning , but you still have time to vote!! I’m going to give you some awesome stats about two awesome Mercedes cars today, so check out ‘Caleb’s Cars’ too!

Do it with Passion, or Not at All

Facebook MemoryJuly 2014, the year Caleb received an Aspergers diagnosis, aged 9…

DESPERATE voice, Caleb appears from his bedroom, half an hour AFTER bedtime: MUUUUM!!!

Mum: What on earth’s the matter?!

Caleb: PLEASE can I find a piece of paper and write an important message?! I REALLY need to remember something for school tomorrow!

Mum: Just tell me now and I’ll remind you in the morning?

Caleb: NO! It’s WAY TOO IMPORTANT and you know how grumpy you are in a morning!!

Mum: 😁 Hurry up! Go!

Herd of elephants descend the stairs, clattering, much rushed activity. Two minutes later, clearly satisfied emergency is over [BIG SMILE], Caleb heads to bed.

Caleb: Night Mum!

Silence resumes upstairs. I just can’t resist. I find the note in his school reading book bag: TOM. I NEED to be a mid fielder. Stop making me defens, it’s a BAD plan!

…a school playground, football, emergency !

When it comes to the things Caleb’s EXCITED about, he could teach us a thing or two about passion 😍👏🏻✅

Clues that something is a BIG DEAL for Caleb:

  • LOTS of questions, facts and reflections will be voiced, sometimes a bit out of nowhere, when everyone else is on a different topic; or, driving along listening to Capital FM (don’t judge!), a voice will pipe up!
  • Sometimes Caleb’s been masterminding his ideas for a while and it’s a bit hard to work out what the out-of-the-blue question/ fact links to. It gets a bit frustrating for him too, that we’re not keeping up with the chat he’s been having in his head! Josh, Caleb’s younger brother, tries to help: “What I think Caleb means is…”….”NO JOSH, I don’t!”
  • Distracted by a surge of new thoughts, bad timing isn’t on the radar really, understanding people might be in the middle of something else and so it’s not the best time to talk!
  • Caleb’s voice ALWAYS turns UP LOUD when there’s something worth talking about. But Caleb does not notice this, and tells me he’s worried I might have a problem with my ears!
  • Thoughts usually drift to what could go wrong too, or who might be a ‘foe’… “Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst” is a saying Caleb didn’t get from me!

Writing this new blog is THE LATEST EXCITING THING for Caleb. All weekend, despite a family birthday, Pizza Hut and ‘Gravity’ Trampolining; despite his Step Dad walking through the door at 8.30pm on Friday evening, after driving the full length of the country, at the end of a very LONG week > Caleb’s brain is firing ideas, questions, thoughts and feelings at a million miles an hour about THE EXCITING THING…and he just can’t stop talking about it.

As we drive to school for the first day of term this week, much conversation revolves around Easter activities – visiting Wembley and planting sunflowers, making homemade pizza from scratch…fun times! But for Caleb, his mind races about Supercars and the blog:

“Some kids at school might think ‘Awesomely Aspergers’ is a stupid name for a blog”, he reflects.

I remind him that no one knows about the blog and he could keep it that way. Not say a thing!

He nods, “I understand Mum, yes!” he says, a bit absentmindedly, spotting a group of children from his class out of the car window.

As he bounds through the open school gate, I hear him say loudly, in a super-friendly way “Hi guys!! What’s new with you this Easter?”

My heart does a big squeeze…and I know already, there will be no secrets. There NEVER are with Caleb. Just the truth. The whole of Caleb’s truth, as he sees it.

Mum! How do you spell ‘Aspergers’ anyway?

image

Hi! I’m Caleb, 11 years old, as my Mum has probably already told you out there!

So Aspergers does have it’s challenges now and then, at school and at home. I feel like a man from one country living in another, as if I am never ‘correct’ – methods at maths (even though my answers are right) what actually happened in an incident, or my actions…sometimes it gets worse (but not in a serious way)…

But whenever there is bad, there is good – or should I say ‘SICK’ – I HAVE BEEN TO WEMBLEY STADIUM WITH MY STEPDAD PAUL THIS EASTER. I watched England v Netherlands and I had the best time EVER in my entire life …even if the Ref must have been bribed, as he was making some stupid decisions during the dreaded 90 minutes!

Mum is lately helping me with my Aspergers (by the way if you don’t know what it is, it’s not a disease. But it is called a disability. But it doesn’t effect me as much as other disibilities, like, errrr, em….I don’t know another disability on earth really. So whatever! (#feelingsassy!)

I don’t know what lies ahead for me but let’s see. For example, today I lost a tooth, and I didn’t know that was going to happen!

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A Mum Finds her Voice

In honour of Light It Up Blue, Autism Awareness Month 2016…

I’m WINGING IT again. I’ve given it thought and I think now I’ll say: My oldest son has an Aspergers brain.

There. *Long exhale of breath*

He knows it. Frankly, he tells everyone he meets.

He ‘gets’ it; His brain is wired a unique way and it makes him awesome. Simple, right?

But, actually, no. Not simple.

He is beginning to discover everyone else doesn’t get it, this simple fact. Even me, at times (*gulp*). Yes! EVEN I cringe sometimes when he announces it.

More and more he is understanding it’s more COMPLEX than just his personality makeup, the way I explained it to him back when he was aged 8. He’s different. And it often hurts.

He’s kind and people are mean back.

He’s honest and passionate about being fair and just, but others come out on top by lying and tricking the people in charge in his life.

He knows TONS about some topics and is so enthusiastic to make you an expert too, for FREE, but you’re not interested. In fact, his energy makes you frustrated. It feels like he’s sharing his most exciting news and all we want to do is argue or rubbish it.

He sits down at the school canteen table with a smile on his face, and you all get up and leave?! – and the world says HE’S the one with social interaction difficulties?

High school is hurtling towards my son like an oncoming high speed train and there’s a blunt challenge in his outlook – I’m Aspergers. How will this high school business cope with me?

I admit it, I’m as nervous as him. More so. I’m not ready for a big wide world!

I want acceptance for him. I want inclusion. I want happiness SO much.

But actually I want more than that. I want people to say ‘lucky you!’ to me… And see what I see, and believe I am blessed.

WTF, a syndrome?!!

Without Aspergers brains we wouldn’t have Microsoft, Lego, NASA, Apple and Facebook … To name but a few CORE aspects of life as we know it! Is this amazing brain REALLY a disability?

So socially he’s a bit, well – “blunt in conversations, justice oriented, black and white in his thinking, awkward in eye-contact, overly-focused on a few subjects, has odd speech at times, misreads some social cues and can be clumsy”….

But I say… So? Are we each perfect, us Non-Aspies?

He’s BRILLIANT.

Beyond tender and concerned when you’re sad.

He’ll never try to belittle you.

Be your friend regardless of how you look or sound.

Soooooo demonstrative of his affection. Big HUGS!

A deep thinker, passionate to make a difference in this lifetime he’s been given … An unquenchable energy and drive.

Honest. ALWAYS.

And yet…a Comic! A bubbling up longing to see you abandon whatever is holding you back – and join him in LAUGHTER. He can be hilarious!

My son definitely makes the world brighter. I wouldn’t have him any other way. Yes, there’s challenges for him and by extension, me and us, his family… But I would be lost without his amazingly wired mind. He brings me soooo much love and happiness and his vulnerability is precious.

He’s a gift, and I hope by raising awareness people like my son won’t feel alone , misunderstood , sad, angry or frustrated that they can’t find their place.

DIVERSITY SHOULD BE CELEBRATED.