Saturday, 20 May 2017

Conversations that break my heart.....

Before continuing I want to point out that I am incredibly proud of both my little superheroes and what they have both been able to achieve.


Last week at school, O was given the honour of receiving an honour certificate for her achievements in art at the school assembly. She along with numerous other children proudly stood on the stage in front of her peers as they were acknowledged for their academic achievements over the past week. O's academic achievements seem to come naturally to her, she does have to put in effort but learning seems to be a natural process for her. O picks new concepts up very quickly and stores huge amounts of data in her noggin.

L on the other hand has to put in a considerable effort to learn a new skill or concept.

Last night as I was trying to convince L that he really did need to go sleep because Mummy needed to sleep, he came out with "why don't I go on stage?"

We had a short discussion about what he was referring to. Turns out he was very proud of his sister for getting an honour certificate at school but he was sad that he didn't receive one.

L went on to say "Mrs W say that you got to work hard to get one, but I work very hard all day. I don't get one. Why?" And in one short moment, my heart sunk.......

Oh little buddy, you've had to work incredibly hard to get where you are today.


L has come so far in the last 18 months. He is a completely different child and much of it is due to the early intervention centre that he attends. Every week he puts in a huge effort to learn the skills that he needs to navigate our crazy world. L is gradually learning new skills and he puts them into practice every day.

His therapists, his school teachers, his carers at the Outside School Hour Care facility and us are helping him each and every day to pave his way in this world.

L, your time will come for an honour certificate that I am sure of but in the mean time no amount of awards that either you or O receive can equal just proud Daddy and I are of you both. You don't need an award or certificate to show how much you have achieved. We see how much you have achieved each and every day through your perseverance when you find a task difficult.

Both you and O make me proud every day to be your Mama.

Love you little man xxx 

Why is the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis process so draining?

I am often asked about the ASD diagnosis process particularly by families who are about to embark on the process and also by those who are genuinely curious as to how Autism (ASD) is diagnosed. The two points that I initially always tell them is that the process is very long and it can be very draining. Hopefully by the end of this post, you will understand why.



The entire process from start to finish, at times, can take several months. L's diagnosis was over and done with in about 5 months. O's diagnosis has taken 7 months and we are still waiting on the reports.

As you read the following post please keep in mind that this is generally what happens in Western Australia. The diagnosis process does differ from state to state and from country to country. What stays the same is the criteria that must be used during an ASD diagnosis - the DSM-5.

To start the ASD diagnosis process for a child under the age of 12 in Western Australia, one must first go to your regular GP and obtain a referral to a paediatrician. This in itself can pose an issue as not all GP’s are familiar with ASD and how the traits can be presented. Some people have found a lot of resistance from GP's to complete a referral, it is generally not the first line of management from their point of view. Many GP's will suggest that the child be seen by a psychologist or that the parents attend various parenting courses that are often available in the community. Other GP's may suggest medication for children presenting with anxiety.

The first piece of advice that I can offer, is to be an advocate for your child from the get go. The sooner that you obtain a diagnosis, the sooner your child can participate in much needed therapy.

One you have the referral in your hot little hand and you've contacted your paediatrician of choice, you will often be placed on a wait list. This could be for weeks or months even. Pediatricians in Western Australia are in hot demand and quite a few are being very selective or not taking on new patients unless there are serious concerns about the child. We were incredibly fortunate with L in that he was already a patient of our paediatrician. When I rang to make the appointment for O, the receptionist advised me to jot down all of the concerns that we had about O and attach it to the referral. This was so that the paediatrician could make a decision on whether he would see O based on all of this information and to ascertain if enough of the criteria are met to warrant being referred onto a speech therapist and psychologist. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you look at it) both O and L met the criteria in the DSM-5 for the paediatrician to make a provisional diagnosis.



My next piece of advice is if you are wanting to go through private health system for an ASD diagnosis, provide your paediatrician with as much written evidence as possible to put with the GP referral as  this will quite often assist the paediatrician to determine whether or not to take on your child.

In Western Australia, a child under the age of 12 years must receive three separate diagnosis – paediatrician, speech and psychologist – and all three must be agree with each other. If one of the specialists disagrees, an ASD diagnosis will not be made.

With L our paediatrician referred him to Intervention Services Autism and Developmental Delay or ISADD. ISADD is basically a one stop shop and have access to speech therapists and psychologists, however they are very expensive. As well as assessments, ISADD can also provide therapy, advice and support.

With O our paediatrician referred her to the Child Development Centre in our local area to see a speech therapist. O was already under the care of a child psychologist so that covered one specialist.

From gaining the referral to the initial appointments, the time period was around 6 months but that was obviously through the private system.

When O was in Kindy she was referred through the public system for her speech issues which at the time were unrelated to ASD. Her Kindy teacher completed the referral and it was processed through one of the local Child Development Centre.

This referral and subsequent appointments were free as it was through the public system, however the wait lists in the public health system are ridiculous. A friend of mine is currently in the ASD process through the public system and it has been over a year since the referral was done. They are still waiting for a paediatrician appointment. A referral done through the school system is processed through the closest Child Development Centre to the child's school. Once the referral has been processed the child is then put into the system to whichever centre has a place available.

I have been told that the wait list can depend on how much information is in the referral – the more information that is in the referral means potentially a shorter wait list time. O’s referral was put processed in term 1 of Kindy, we received the letter of confirmation term 3 of Kindy and we received her first appointment in Term 1 of Pre-Primary. That was purely for a speech issue and it took just over 12 months.

One of the positives about doing it this way is that once the child is in the public system, they will not be discharged from the service until the issue has been diagnosed or the child has made significant progress. O was in the public system with her speech for a good 18 months after her first appointment.


If you do decide to go ahead with the diagnosis process, the third piece of advice that I have is try to NOT prepare your child for the appointments whether they go private or public.

This sounds dreadful but it is honestly best for the specialists to see your child as they would appear day to day with their typical behaviours, their stims, meltdowns, anxiety and so on. I know of several families who prepared their children beforehand so that child knew what to expect. In doing this, by the time they got to the appointment the children were so familiar with the environment that they made eye contact, they stopped stimming because they weren't as anxious about the specialist visits and they were subsequently talking to the therapists. So while the children met most of the ASD diagnosis criteria, the specialists decided that because the children made eye contact and were sociable they could not have ASD.

It is incredibly distressing, but the more your child is acting naturally, the more challenging behaviour the specialists are able to view and document.

The final piece of advice that I have is prior to the assessment process we wrote down every little piece of information that we could remember dating back to birth. All the odd behaviours, all the missed milestones, sleep issues, obsessions, the sensory sensitivities, the repetitive behaviours and so on so that when it came time to answering questions, nothing would be missed. This was incredibly useful as we were able to keep focused on the questions rather than dwell on the apparent negativity.

The questions that are asked during the assessment process can be quite personal, they cause you to take a closer look at your child, they can point out  and focus on the negative behaviours that your child exhibits and at times they can cause you to question your own behaviours. Having all the information in front of you to refer to means that there is a lower chance of you missing any vital information.


The ASD diagnosis process is very lengthy and extremely draining, both emotionally and mentally for the child but also for the child's family. While you are on the diagnosis journey it is important to keep the end goal in sight and in the back of your mind. Keep reminding yourself that you embarked on the process to ultimately gain assistance for your child. This is what has kept us going for both O and L. While the process is draining, the end goal is rewarding.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Puzzle Piece

The puzzle piece. 

It is a little symbol that is often the cause of numerous heated discussions within the autism community.


Depending on who you speak with, some in the autism community are for it and some are vehemently against it. Then there is the colour of the symbol, again a simple colour can also cause many a heated discussion.

Recently there has even been talk that the symbol should be changed to something other than a puzzle piece.

I personally love the puzzle piece as a symbol that represents Autism awareness and here is why.....

Since L arrived in 2012 there has always been something that we were missing with L, no one could work out what the missing link was. Specialist after specialist could not put a finger on what the missing link was until we started on the path of an autism diagnosis. L has always marched to the beat of his own drum and I love this but there were numerous times when I struggled to make sense of L's behaviour and development.


L's autism diagnosis was the piece of information that connected everything together. L's autism diagnosis was the piece of information that we needed so that we could start the process of helping L achieve to the best of his abilities.

The puzzle piece represents the information that we needed to assist L.

Autism isn't a puzzle, it's a different ability.

Sometimes you just need that one piece of information to connect all the dots.

Friday, 12 May 2017

All About My Feelings

No, I'm not going to devote a blog post to my feelings as I think that that would be quite an odd thing to do. What I would like to talk about are the feelings of my little superheroes.



For a very long time we struggled to teach L about the feelings of others. He just didn't seem to 'get it' when we or children his age were sad, happy, hurt, angry and so on. L always seemed so blasé about others feelings and he'd simply ignore the reactions of others. L also became easily frustrated at being unable to label his own emotions and the frustration would signal the beginning of an almighty meltdown.

O on the other hand has always seemed to have an intuitive feeling about other children's emotional states, however she has always struggled to articulate how she was feeling. She struggled, and still does, to recognise her own feelings of anxiousness and nervousness.

Both O and L have come a long way in the last 12 months and it is in part to the skills that L, and in turn us, are learning during the weekly therapy sessions the he attends.

One of L's long term NDIS and therapy goals is to be able to identify his own emotions. During his therapy sessions L is learning how to label his emotions through his therapists reading stories to him and by looking at pictures of faces. He is asked questions such as "how do you think the character is feeling?" or "how do you feel when someone takes a toy off of you?" L started off with being able to identify the basic emotions, sad, happy, angry and so on, and has now graduated to identifying more complex emotions, frustrated, excited and so on.

At home we talk about characters in books that we read and how they might be feeling throughout the course of the story. We also try, where possible, to label our emotions and his in various situations. If L is beginning to become frustrated I'll say "I can see that you are frustrated by ......................." or if L is becoming excited "isn't this exciting." All of these activities assist to consolidate what L is learning at the Early Intervention Centre.

It is mind blowing now to hear him describing how he is feeling or how he thinks others are feeling. The complex describing words that he now uses are music to my ears!



One of the skills that we are working with O is being able to identify the internal feelings that she experiences when she is nervous and anxious. The idea is that if O is able to recognise these internal feelings early then she can begin to use her coping mechanisms before the anxiety takes over.

We have numerous story books that we use to explain anxiety. O has found these incredibly useful in managing her anxiety but they are not very practical to be carried with her on a daily basis.

Over the course of last years therapy we were introduced to the concept of social stories. So earlier this year I decided to write a mini social story about feelings that could be personalized by L and O.

I wanted O and L to be able to identify how they felt inside when they were sad and worried. The idea behind the social story is that once we had finished filling in the gaps in the social story, I would laminate the pages and create a mini book that would sit in their school bags. At any stage if either O or L needed help in identifying their feelings, they could pull out the social story and have a read.

When O is in an anxious state she tends to forget some of the coping mechanisms that she has been taught - talking to people that she trusts, doing some deep breathing exercises and so on, so I included some of the coping mechanisms in the social story to jog her memory.



I also figured that by being able to identify their feelings, both O and L could start to take a little ownership over how they reacted to those feelings. Yes they are young, but the sooner we start teaching them that they can choose how they react in different situations, the better equipped they will be for the future.

Learning this skill takes time, I've only recently realised that I cannot change how others act or how they think, what I can do is choose how I react to others actions. Doing this has greatly reduced my own anxiety and I honestly wish that it is something that I'd learnt many many years ago.

Since creating this social story, I've not only used it for O and L but also with numerous other children who are struggling with identifying their emotions. All of the children that I have made the book with, use their books on a regular basis and I am gradually beginning to see a change in how they react in various situations that previously would have ended in a meltdown or other challenging behaviours.

Me being the nice person that I am would like to share this book with you all. So if you would like the All about My Feelings Book simply click here.




Once I had laminated the pages, I bound them together with a small keyring so that the pages could be flipped over easily.

Teaching our little superheroes how to identify their emotions is an ongoing process but it is vital to their emotional wellbeing. I do hope that you too find the All About My Feelings Book useful.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Why I am an Essential Oil convert!

As a mum of two special needs children, life can be very challenging. There is always so much new information to learn and absorb and there are times when I question myself over the decisions that I have made.



We've been on this journey, officially, for just over 12 months and I have learnt many new things so far. Three that really stand out to me are i. you need to have patience and lots of it, ii. perseverance goes a very long way and iii. never say never!

Parents who are sleep deprived will try almost anything to help their children sleep and we are no different! I've learnt to think outside of the box when researching new ideas and I am willing to try new things if it means that my little superheroes lives will be made easier and if means that I will be able to get a few hours of decent sleep!

Over the past two years two of my friends, thank you Amanda and Krystal, have introduced me to the wonderful world of essential oils. I must admit that I had always thought that essential oils were for use in oil burners to make rooms smell nice or to be used for massage and in spas. When first introduced to essential oils I did not know that they are in fact beneficial for your health. Essential oils seem to be all the rage now but fear not, I'm not here to push you into purchasing oils or  into joining a group, my aim is to simply introduce you to the world of Essential Oils!

Essential oils have many benefits and the benefits differ from oil to oil. Some essential oils can assist in relaxation and sleep. Others can improve your skin or digestion. Other essential oils can have a healing effect mentally, physically and emotionally.

Although technically essential oils aren't actually oils. They are in fact a therapeutic grade of highly concentrated plant components and it can take a huge amount of a plant to get a small amount of an essential oil which explains why some are particularly expensive.

Essential oils should not be confused with perfumed oils - essential oils are a la natural whereas perfumed oils usually contain artificial ingredients.



There are some general tips that you do need to know about before using essential oils. 

There are several ways in which essential oils can be applied - they can be applied topically onto your skin where they are then absorbed into the blood system - the pulse points are the best areas to be applied as the blood vessels are closest to the skin. Essential can be inhaled, some oils can be ingested and most can be used in oil diffusers which allows the oil to be dispersed into the air.

Most oils should not be applied directed to the skin without being diluted first. Oils can be diluted in either a carrier oil, like coconut oil, or in water. Essential oils are highly concentrated so it is generally recommended that you do a skin test first. And not all oils can be ingested, always ask first!

Most oils have different dilution rates for children and adults. It is important to follow these dilution rates so as not to irritate your child's skin.

You can buy essential oils from a number of different sources, they seem to popping up all over the place now. I buy our oils from doTERRA but wherever you choose to buy your oils from, please ensure that they are quality essential oils and not perfumed oils.


We use oils as one of our alternative ways to manage anxiety, meltdowns, sleeplessness, general restlessness, for aches and pains, breathing and headaches.

The essential oils are certainly NOT a cure, but they do help my little superheroes in some way. We do therapy to help my little superheroes to succeed, so the essential oils are simply supporting their inner well-being.


When we first started using the oils, I really didn't notice a huge difference but after time the effects were able to be seen. The anxiety blends certainly do not take O's anxiety away however the oils do help to calm O enough to the point that she can start using her other management skills.


Most oils are sold as separate oils, Lavender, Wild Orange etc so you will need to establish what oils you would like to work with. You can also purchase oil blends that have been designed for specific uses. As well as the oils, you will also need to purchase a carrier oil to dilute the oils in, Fractionated Coconut Oil is brilliant, and a number of roller bottles to store the oil blends.  You are then ready to start experimenting to find the right blends for you.

If you search essential oil blends on Pinterest or just through Google, you will find many many results. It is a case of searching through the results and choosing which blends suit your needs.



So you're probably wondering which oils you should get. There are so many to chose from and the range can be overwhelming, so here are the oils and blends that we use on a regular basis.

Frankincense Oil - This does wonders for the migraines that I suffer from. Is also great for reducing stress reactions and negative emotions and to assist with focus.

Lavender -  Well known for its calming properties, this is a component of the majority of the calming blends that we use. Lavender has a calming effect, it helps with sleep and it can reduce the effects of anxiety and emotional stress.

Vetiver - It is thought that Vetiver's calming and relaxing properties assist children with concentration and impatience as well as assisting with sleep.

Sandalwood - This oil promotes clarity and also has a calming and relaxing effect.

Roman Chamomile - This oil is well known for its calming, soothing and relaxing properties.

Wild Orange - A drop of this into a drink bottle full of water, touch wood has kept the cold and flu bugs at bay this year. Can also help to reduce anxiety levels.

Ylang Ylang - This oil can have a positive effect on emotions as well as assisting with sleep.


Easy Air - This is a blend of Laurel Leaf, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lemon and Ravensara. I have this in a roller bottle, helps with the little superheroes breathing.

On Guard - This is a blend of Wild Orange, Clove, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus and Rosemary. I have this in a roller bottle, has helped with healing cuts and scraps that L always has!

Balance - This is a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy and Blue Chamomile. This is a wonderful calming, grounding blend.

Lavender Peace - I apply this to the soles of the little superheroes soles feet at bedtime to help them to relax.

Past Tense - This is a blend of Wintergreen, Lavender, Peppermint, Frankincense, Cilantro, Marjoram, Roman Chamomile, Basil and Rosemary. This is a great for relieving the tension in my neck that is associated with headaches and migraines.

There are many, many other essential oils to choose from, far too many to list.


What works for some may not work at all for others. But isn't it worth giving something a shot if it means that it will assist our children to achieve to the best of their abilities?


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Blogger Recognition Award

I feel very honoured and excited to receive a Blogger Recognition Award from fellow bloggers Jimmy and Tina from over at Durham's Love Life and Travel.

This is the first time that my blog has been nominated for an award such as this, and although there's no presentation or a trophy to show for it, I am very proud of how far my little blog has come in a little over 8 months. I'm thrilled to bits that Jimmy and Tina feel that my blog is worthy of receiving this award.

I feel very blessed to be a part of the blogging community. The Blogger Recognition Award, to me anyway, is a lovely gesture to show appreciation to bloggers around this wonderful world of ours. I've never met Jimmy and Tina but I feel that I know so much about them just from their blog and their Facebook page.



There are a few rules that I do have to mention prior to accepting the award.
  • I have to thank the blogger, or this case bloggers, who nominated me and provide a link to their blog. ✔
  • I have to write a post to show the award. ✔
  • I have to write a brief story of how my blog started. ✔
  • I have to give two pieces of advice to new bloggers. ✔
  • I have to select 15 other bloggers that I want to pass this award onto. ✔
  • I also have to comment on each of the 15 blogs to let them know that I have nominated them and provide them the link to this post. ✔
Why did I start my blog?

I started my blog in August 2016 as a means of clearing my mind from all that we were experiencing on our Autism journey and I thought that having my own little space on the Internet would be a great way to do this. When I began writing I honestly didn't think that anyone, other than my family and friends, would read my ramblings, but wouldn't you know it the page views slowly started climbing upwards. And it wasn't just my family and friends that were reading my blog! Writing helps me to relax, it is one of my hobbies that I can do day or night.

As I have said in a previous post, writing for my blog acts like a soul cleansing - writing gets it all out there, there is nothing left for me to dwell on. I can mull it over while writing, analyse it while re-reading and editing the post, and my mind is clear when I hit the publish button. I guess my blog is therapy for me!

Once I had published a few posts and started to receive some very positive feedback, I realised that through my blog I had the potential to share our experience with those that were also on an autism journey. When we began our autism journey it was a very lonely experience. I do hope that by sharing our experience, that I am able to let other families know that they are not alone on this journey, that having autism is not a bad thing, it can be a very positive experience if you let it be.

Now through my blog, I would like to raise awareness and acceptance of Autism, to educate others by sharing our families story. I hope that my blog provides an insight into living life with two children with Autism as well as educates, inspires, and supports others who are also on this journey.



Advice for New Bloggers!

When I began my blog I knew very little about the blogging world other than I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. I was very certain that I wanted to share every facet of our experience on our autism journey, from therapy to meltdowns to explaining the different aspects of autism as well as other disorders or issues that can be co-morbid with autism. I am very passionate about autism and do hope that this shows in my blog. One of the things that I have learnt in the last 8 months is that no matter what you want to blog about, whether it is food, travel, fashion, animals, parenting, crafts, if you write with passion and believe in what you publish then your readers will pick up on it. Blogging about something that you are passionate about makes it very easy to think of post ideas.

The second piece of advice that I have is to stay positive and aim high. Unless you already have a huge fan following, it does take a while to get your blog off the ground and running. It can be disappointing to log in and see very few views on your blog but if you keep positive about what you are doing, then you will get there. You also need to aim high and have the self belief that you can get there. I have lived my life, and am going to continue to do so, by believing that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to. Soon after I started my blog, I came across The Mighty and decided that I too wanted to have an article published on The Mighty. I am sure that they must get thousands of submissions a week but you have to aim high. I am very proud to say that I have two articles that have been accepted and published by The Mighty and I plan to submit quite a few more!

Above all you need to believe in yourself and not let anyone bring you down.


Now for the tricky part, I've yet to come across a blog that I haven't enjoyed reading and there are so many amazing bloggers out there that write with passion. But alas I have to chose 15, however I am a rule breaker from way back so instead I have chosen 20 amazing bloggers to pass the love onto.

Alison over at Instant Mum of Two
Toni over at For You Son
Nahdia over at Nadhz Adventures
Ruta over at My Story 4 his Glory
Kell over at All Mum Said
Natalie over at New Momma Survival
Emma over at Mummyemblog
Emmy over at Bright Little Mama
Chantel over at Healthy Happy Mom of Many
Ashley over at Mrs. Mommy Mack
Holly over at Pack the Cork Screw
Kayla over at Adventures of a Young Mother
Savannah over at Mommy Guidance
Sherrie and Emily over at Forever Young Moms
Darlene over at FamLee of Four
Chelsea over at 700 Smiles
Lauren over at The Playground Chronicles
Ashley over at My Dear Hart
Heather over at Real Life Mama

Ashlea over at Mommy Wife Lifestyle

As I have said, there are so many wonderful amazing passionate bloggers out there and it was incredibly difficult to cut my list down to 20!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

A Handful of Quiet by Thich Nhat Hanh

About a month ago as I was searching on one of my favourite online bookstores late one night, I stumbled across an interesting looking book titled A Handful of Quiet.

I should mention that I am known to purchase books because I like the look of the cover and I will admit that this is one such purchase.



On a side note, I am happy to say that thankfully I've yet to make a wrong purchase based on the look of the cover!

As the introduction in the book states, the pebble practice was invented by Thich Nhat Hanh a number of years ago as a tangible way for children and their families to concentrate on their breathing, connect with the world around them and learn the art of meditation.

I purchased the book with the sole purpose in mind of assisting O to ground her emotions when she begins to enter an anxious state.

After I gave the book to O and she had had an opportunity to read through it I asked her what she thought the book was about.

O answered with:

"This book tells us about four little rocks. The four little rocks represent a flower, a mountain, water and space. And these four things represent how we should feel about ourselves and other people every day. The book is going to teach me how to stay calm and happy and to think properly about problems that are troubling me."

I could not have said it better myself!



The book is written with children in mind. It is very well set out and very well written. Thich Nhat Hanh explains each step of the meditation process in very easy to understand language.

I think the book appealed to O as she loves collecting rocks.

We did have to go out and purchase four special pebbles, the ones from the front garden just weren't good enough apparently. O has been carrying her four little pebbles around with her since reading the book and occasionally I've been able to watch her sitting silently with the four pebbles in her hand contemplating the universe!


**** I do not receive any commissions of any kind for this review, it is simply a book that we have found useful. ****