Wednesday, 14 December 2011


We had lots of oranges doing nothing in the fruit bowl so I thought I'd try making some pomanderish things with the children.  I didn't get any good pictures of them actually doing it, they all blurred, but here is James' one....

.....he did really well, it appealed to his ability to do tasks related to putting things 'in' or 'on' and he finished this one happily.  However, when I asked him if he would like to do another, he put all the oranges in the bowl, walked me over to the shelves and placed the bowl onto them! I took that as a no! Brilliant bit of communication though! 

Charlie, Gaby and myself also had a go.  I encouraged Charlie to do some sensory playing with them once they were all done, they smelt lovely!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Windows and Curtains

Earlier in the year, we had some window and radiator coverings put into the boys' bedrooms.  The purpose of these was to stop them standing on the radiators which are under the windows in both their rooms.  The bonus was, after much discussion about how we could do this, that we came up with an idea that meant we could put curtains up again.  We've tried every type of window covering over the years but all have been pulled down.  Charlie's new curtain has been made and done for a while, but we are a bit 'in limbo' with James' room as we are currently in discussions about having room padding installed for him.   This week I decided to just adapt an old velcro curtain I had made for that window until we know what's going on with the rest of the room.  Velcro curtains are quite good and I would recommend them to limit damage to poles and walls, but they never worked for us whilst the boys were awake as they just pulled them straight down!  This was one I made as a total blackout curtain to use when we had James' projector and other sensory lights going and has velcro all the way around.  If you want to make one as just an ordinary curtain, a couple of strips of velcro along the top is enough.

To convert it, I literally snipped a couple of holes in the lining and put it on a pressure mounted pole.  It's very hard to get photos of because of the light, but hopefully these give an impression of what we've done.  The boxing is the full length of the window and radiator leaving no ledges to stand on.  

We are really pleased with this but I would point out if you are reading this and thinking of doing it, shortly after the work was finished we received the latest Tough Furniture brochure and they are making window coverings now so it might be worth looking at those before designing your own!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Frozen Planet and other viewing progress

For the past 9 years we have watched cbeebies and not much else! I thought we would watch 'Bob the Builder' forever and to be honest, that wouldn't have been a problem if that's what the boys liked, but it seems after all this time we are starting to broaden our horizons.  We had a bit of a rearrangement in the house to make a small lounge with a little television and DVD player.  I did this mainly for my own interests, wanting a comfy area to sit in the daytime, however it quickly became clear that James and Charlie quite enjoy sitting there with us watching films, which is lovely. So we are working our way through Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Star Wars etc....anything with 'larger than life' characters, exciting visuals and lots of music seems to work.

Then recently, Gaby and I were sat in the new little lounge watching Frozen Planet on the iPad and Charlie really got into it.  It's not hard to see why, it's amazing and has lots of visual stimulation that we already know appeals to him - big fluffy animals, ice, water, lots of movement - so the Sky+ is set and the DVDs are on pre-order for Christmas.  It's so nice when these things move forward naturally (albeit over a longer period of time) without having to force it!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Garden Progress

We seem to have huge cabbages all of a sudden.....

......Granny has taken to leaving a box of snacks inside the garage for when Charlie and I when we pop in after riding lessons.  He has quickly remembered this will be there and is very happy sat munching while I pick caterpillars off the plants!

We have another one of these troughs which is hopefully going to be put up at the end of the week in time to put in some onions and garlic.  Weather permitting.

James has been helping Granny fill up the containers on her bird table.  He's very good at hanging them back up!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Distraction Treasure Basket and Hyperbolic Ball

Charlie has become very obsessed over our cutlery drawer recently.  He likes to take out spoons and other utensils.  He is particularly fixated with the potato peeler (?!!) which we we obviously can't let him play with so in an attempt to distract him, I've made a treasure basket of things to keep on the kitchen worktop which can be his own. We are trying to direct him over to that and encouraging him to take something out of there to play with, rather than our drawer. I got a load of cheap bits and bobs and I know I'll have to keep replacing them as they will go walkabout.  It had 3 different tea strainers in to start with but they are already gone, as are the spoons!

I made the cream coloured ball thing. It's a crocheted hyperbolic ball. The pattern is from a book called 'Kooky Crochet' by Linda Kopp.  I think I'll be making more of them, they are quick and simple and make an effective sensory ball. I'd like to do some more colourful ones, maybe on a cord?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Butterfly Blackberry Cakes

My mum picked us some blackberries from the back of her garden.  I already picked quite a few a couple of weeks ago.  They are really early, the other places we pick them are not so ripe yet, but we keep checking!  Although we've kind of had 'summer holidays' we have done a bit of informal butterfly work following on from the Big Butterfly Count and I picked up a butterfly cake mould yesterday so today we used it and the blackberries.

We just added the blackberries to an ordinary sponge cake recipe and then we did one cake in the mould and made fairy cakes with the rest.  We made the filling with whipped cream, about a tablespoon or so of pureed and sieved blackberries and a tablespoon of sugar.  This is an old whisk from my childhood.  The boys really like using it so I'm glad I rescued it!

I always leave some cakes without icing/cream as James and Charlie are much more likely to eat them plain - we let them choose.  Charlie ate 4 cakes!! They were very nice!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Rainbow Mop Painting

I've been wanting to post this for ages but we lost the lead to the phone the photos were taken with! It was found this morning so here we go......

I stumbled across this activity here whilst we were learning about rainbows and just had to try it out with James and Charlie.

I bought a cheap sponge mop and poured paint into a tray in stripes. We just dipped it in and pushed it along lining paper.

They both gave it a really good go once they realised what we were doing.

Then I encouraged feet to go in the paint and walk along the paper. Even Dad tried this!

It all got a bit messy......

I think we all really enjoyed this one!

Car Safety

We have just got new car harnesses for James and Charlie which I fitted yesterday. It got me thinking about the different things we've tried in order that we can travel in the car without worrying about boys jumping out of their seats! We used the Britax Special Needs car seats for a while and whilst they were very comfortable and fitted well, the boys were still taking the shoulder straps down (even though they have an extra clasp - they are really intended for children with physical disabilities I think) so at that point we moved onto Crelling Harnesses. They work well for us on the whole and can be used with booster seats for smaller children but they do need to be worn with the ordinary seat belt which has presented us with a few issues. It's supposed to go on top but for the first few years we had to put it on underneath because the boys would just pull it all around and tie it in knots!! They don't do that so much now so we can use them as advised. We did try out some others but as they had Velcro as their main fixative the boys would have undone them in no time.

So we are using the next size up Crelling harness which seems ok so far. I'd like to get to a point where they are not needed and I don't actually think that's far off.....but only with another adult in the car. We have to be safe driving around and I don't think I would be happy driving on my own without them as the boys behaviour can be unpredictable so although they may at first look restrictive, I think they actually give us more freedom and flexibility as a family than going without them would as I am still able to take the boys in the car on my own.

The other thing we use are these stickers....

...I'm not big on Autism Awareness, it sometimes seems to be doing more harm than good and quite honestly, it makes me feel really uncomfortable. On the other hand because the boys are at the more severe end of the spectrum, I'm never really in the position of having to explain that they have a disability like some families so perhaps I might feel different if their autism presented less noticeably.

Anyway I find the wording of these stickers very useful, should we ever be in an emergency situation.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Little Vegetable Garden

My mum has very kindly let us use an area of her garden to grow some vegetables with the children.  We have 2 of these troughs to work with and got one put together and started off this week.  I think we are going to need to purchase a new electric screwdriver to do the other one as ours keeps conking out and I ended up with blisters on my hands from using the manual one!

Yesterday we went over to fill it with compost, plant the cabbages that I had started off a while back and to sow a few seeds.  I'm not sure how we'll get on now as we had the idea a bit late in the year but we'll just see what happens and make better plans for next year!

I am also going to have to go and take some better pictures as my mum has a lovely garden and these pictures don't do it justice at all!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Lavender Play Dough

I've been planning this for a while and finally got around to making it this week.  I made purple play dough to which I added lavender oil before cooking.  Once cooked, I split it into 2, left one half plain and added some dried lavender to the other half to add more aroma and texture. 

It was a great idea in theory, a nice calming and relaxing play at the table.....unfortunately I forgot to add the cream of tartar so we ended up with an immensely sticky mess - not so relaxing!!!

 I'm going to make some more though as I do think it's a great way to use essential oils with the boys. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

James enjoyed making these today....

he was happy to try the chocolate,

but not so keen on the strawberry!

Sparkly Shiny Treasure Basket

I've been collecting a few bits together over the past week for this treasure basket.

Amongst it all there's a silver slinky, pan scourers, a teaspoon, silver star confetti, an old necklace, a silver heart with a jangly bell inside (it says 'peace' on it, probably wishful thinking!), a small silver bowl, a couple of CDs, a set of glittery nail files, some shiny streamers and some cake cases. (I made the huge sacrifice of eating some cherry bakewells to obtain these)!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Messy Rainbow Painting

Hands always find their way into our painting activities but was planned for with this one....

We squirted the paint directly out of the bottles onto a large piece of lining paper using 'hand over hand' to make a big rainbow. I left a brush next to it and encouraged both brushing the paint and pushing hands through it.  Needless to say, the hands won!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Strawberry Sensory Success

We have been spending some time each week focusing on a particular fruit.  I have loads to post about apples which we have been working on for months but we've now moved onto strawberries so I'm starting with that!

The boys are not good at eating fruit and vegetables.  We've made what we consider to be huge steps forwards over the past months. To most people it probably looks minimal.  Charlie is eating apples and trying new fruits regularly.  James has been eating carrots and sometimes a sprout or piece of broccoli with a roast dinner! It's all very wonderful!

We approach this with a very relaxed attitude, there's no expectation that they eat what's put in front of them, we play, sing, cook and explore the fruit with all our senses. If someone takes a bite, we go really over the top with praise!

Today we made strawberry smoothies.  I find the boys really like the smoothie maker as it gives rewards that Charlie in particular finds pleasing - not the smoothie - the really loud noise and the great visual stimulation!  The first time I made smoothies with him he danced around the kitchen!  Today, he was brilliant, signing please to press the button again and again.  (I purposely kept switching it off to keep the communication going).  His smoothie was very well blended after this surprise communication game!

We then led onto some time spent sitting at the table with the smoothies and some more strawberries.  We listened and watched several different 'Strawberry Fields' videos on YouTube, listened to the story, 'The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear' and did a bit of sensory play and hand massage with some strawberry scented soap and Lush strawberry massage bar.

Charlie sat with me doing this for a good 45 minutes and ate quite a bit of strawberry!

Rainbow Cookies

We tried to make this slice and bake recipe, but this is how they ended up!

I chilled the dough overnight and it was still not stiff enough to roll out or slice so in the end, after I managed to layer the colours, we just put spoonfuls of dough on the trays. It wasn't a complete disaster. I think they were still quite effective, James worked really hard making the dough and Charlie enjoyed them, repeatedly asking for more. We might give it another go next week with a different recipe.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Our potato plants grew rather large.....

 I have been worrying for weeks that there were actually no potatoes in the planters because the plants seemed to have put so much energy into growing upwards.  As we decided not to enter the competition in the end, we harvested one container on the 'Potatoes For Schools' day and the other one when we needed them - which was today!  

These were Charlie's....

....and these were James'.

We weighed James' spuds and he had 3lb. 

We cooked them tonight. I really wanted the boys to try them so we roasted them as we know Charlie will eat potatoes this way.  He ate them all up, James didn't want to taste, which is fine, we just keep offering!