Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Eating of the Underlay and other stories

Pica - I guess lots of children with autism do this.  We only really have issues with Charlie chewing non-edible items at the moment and at times this has been quite pronounced, particularly when he discovered a liking for carpet underlay and ripped up 3 brand new carpets.  We don't have carpets anymore, its obviously very bad for him to chew and eat the underlay and very expensive for us! Anyway, I thought I'd just share a few things we have tried as replacements for the things he chews.  Most have had some limited success. 

I think he likes the textures in his mouth so I just look out for foods which could give him the same feeling.  With the carpet underlay, I started to give him raw mushrooms and crumpets.  He now loves crumpets which is great and will play with the mushrooms.

The other main thing that gets chewed is paper. Any paper he may find laying around, annoying but can be kept to a minimum by tidiness (if I had any of that!) but also wallpaper.  We are slowly getting rid of most wallpaper in our house and Charlie is helping with the process.  Its not so easy to replace, but I came across this sugar/rice paper in Hawkin's Bazaar and I'm trying to remember to offer it to him instead when I see him going after paper.

The other thing is sticks and leaves. Well obviously the leaves can be replaced with edible leaves and believe me, I've tried everything!  I've put lettuces in pots in the garden and in the house I've left pots of herbs, cress, living salads etc.  But no!  He knows they are supposed to be eaten so they get left alone!! 

Sand, cotton wool, oats, and dried rice and pulses are all things that would make it into his mouth during play if we didn't intervene.  Oh and he will chew fabrics. 

We used chewy tubes in the past when James 'nibbled' on stones, something which has thankfully passed.  They never really worked for him as it was a different sensation but I did notice Charlie had found one the other day and was using it correctly.  I think we heard about those from our lovely Barnardo's Speech and Language Therapist  rather than an OT! I know we had to find them ourselves. 

The more I think about it, the more I think this is an under-researched and under-treated part of autism.  Occupational Therapy is very hit and miss in this area.  The boys didn't see one for nearly 2 years after diagnosis and yet their sensory needs are immense. 

All comments and suggestions welcome!

Saturday, 1 January 2011


All available relatives put together this Christmas to get the boys an iPad.  We wanted it predominantly for the communications 'apps' (am I the only person in the world who HATES that word!) but have realised pretty quickly how much other stuff on there will be beneficial for them.  I will probably do a more detailed post when we have got to grips with it but a the moment we are trying to introduce the boys to TapToTalk™.

Its something I'm quite torn over as I really wanted the boys to have this opportunity but it is a subscription service and it doesn't sit well my beliefs on what should and shouldn't come at a cost - I don't think the ability to communicate should, no one else in this world gets charged for the use of words for communication with others.  I have similar issues with symbols programmes copyrighting and also how all this sits within our health services.  As a parent of a child with a learning disability/autism/communication disorder you are expected to pay for these programmes yourself and then most of the time, make and pay for the ongoing resources - laminating sheets do not come cheap!  In addition where are parents who are dealing with such demanding children supposed to find time to make all this stuff?  The last thing I want to be doing when they are finally settled in the evening is getting out the laminator and printer and I don't think if they had a physical need that we would be expected to pay for, make and continually service and repair a wheelchair/walking frame/hoist!  Anyway, I have gone with this basically because we tried another device previously that they took to quite quickly but would have never been able to afford and this was a substantially cheaper option.  It will save us time and I think, money in the long run, as it will greatly reduce our need for making pictures and symbols.  Most importantly, it gives the boys their own voice.  They have used photographs to communicate for a long time and WE add in the appropriate word.  The trouble with that is, it's us that's doing the talking and they, I believe, know we will, so have no need to do so themselves.  With these sorts of devices they press the picture to make the sound - THEY have made the sound of the word which is a step a little bit further.  We will see how it goes.  In addition we have a portable device which can keep them occupied with music, videos and some great cause and effect games which are already going down quite well.....

I will post again with further thoughts on this and any 'apps' (see how I hate typing that!)  that we find useful. 

Granny made it.....

My mum made the boys some wonderful toys this Christmas.....

I'm not sure what to call this but I love it! It has a handle so that it can be carried around.  The ring is a rubber chewy dog toy thing.  I think these would be nice as hangings/mobiles too but if we did that it would likely be removed anyway - hence the handle!

This one was for James. I don't know what to call this either but she made it to appeal to his desire to thread everything at the moment! 

 He was sat next to the Christmas tree when he opened it and must have thought it to be a decoration as he hung it on a branch!

These are some of the other things my mum has made for the boys over the last few years -

A counting book (can't get this picture to load the right way up grrrrrrr!!)

The snake (he has seen better days!)

and their quilts,

not particularly special needs related but deserve a mention because the boys love them and they are 8-9 years old now and are still in one piece despite being played with and washed over and over again which is great!