Welcome to our world of 4 boys, Autism, Homeschooling and life in general.

Hi I'm Angie, busy Homeschooling Mum of 4 young boys aged between 4 and 11 yrs.

Bailey (11) is a huge car enthusiast, particularly classic cars, VW 'Herbie' beetles and VW Combi vans. Bailey lives with Autism (ASD) and Epilepsy but does very well coping with everyday life these days since we made the change to homeschooling back in 2010.

Dane (8) enjoys playing guitar, building Lego masterpieces and all things superhero! Dane also lives with a form of Autism (Aspergers) and a Language developmental delay (Apraxia of speech).

Ehren (5) is our gentle 'giant' and is a keen student in our Homeschool classroom. He enjoys both physical and mental pursuits and has a clear interest in currency!

Fraser (aged 4) is our little pocket rocket. He's a confident, head-strong little boy who never stops talking, singing or dancing!

Follow us on our journey as we learn about the world around us in our own unique way!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

School Holidays AGAIN!

As a Homeschooling Mum these days the only time I really know that it's school holidays is when I see my Facebook friends posting comments like "I'm not looking forward to the next 2 weeks of school holidays", "Stuck at home with the kids on the holidays, what will we do?" and "Yay, no school runs for 2 weeks, but can I really survive having them all at home for the next 2 weeks?", etc...

For me the only real drawbacks to the school holidays is that if I choose to take my boys out and about I will find it harder to get a parents parking spot, the shops will be filled to the brim with kids at any given time of the day and I'm best to delay plans to any fun filled places like Dreamworld or the Train Museum unless I'm prepared to deal with long waits and cranky Mums.

Call me crazy but even when my eldest did go to school I enjoyed the school holidays, every day of it. It meant no fighting for a park in the school grounds, no getting everyone out the door to someone else's schedule, packing lunches, remembering that swimming is on or the excursion money needs to be handed in. School holidays was like a giant rest for all of us.

I think part of the reason some families find it hard having the kids at home through the holidays is that kids get bored very quickly. When kids get bored they get up to mischief and there the real issue arises.

The thing I've learnt about Homeschooling first and foremost is that kids are natural learners. They love to learn about the World around them. They love structured activities and unlike school if given some activities at home they can take as much time completing them without feeling any real pressure to perform or compete with school peers.

My suggestion for these school holidays is to think about doing a bit of informal 'Homeschooling' so to speak. It doesn't need to be difficult, nor anything relating to a boring lesson of Maths or History. It could be as simple as choosing a topic suitable for their age/s and running with it. For example a recent topic of ours has been Spring. If you have boys that love all things relating to cars and trucks then perhaps Transport would be a good topic for them. This year so far we've done Emergency services, Recycling and Sustainability of Earth and it's resources, Planets and the Solar system and Healthy Eating, to name a few.

A good place to start is the Internet. Choose your topic and look up what games you can find that might be interesting and informative. Think about what Art & craft activities you can do for that topic also. For eg: Spring topic they can make flower necklaces by colouring in some pictures of flowers and thread onto string with straws or beads. Cutting out pictures from a magazine to make a collage with pictures relating to the topic helps with their fine motor skills when cutting and pasting as an added bonus for younger kids. A trip to the library for some books or DVD's relating to your topic can also double as an interesting outing. Let them choose some other books that they like also for free reading on a rainy day or before bedtime. More interesting outings can be arranged if you like such as a visit to the planetarium for Space or to the Museum for a topic on Dinosaurs or transport.

You might find that the kids will delight in thinking up things they can do for the day that centre on their topic of the week. Let your imagination run wild, you might surprise yourself with all the fun stuff you and the kids can be doing these school holidays. Before you know it they'll be back at school and you might even find yourself pondering what topic you'll focus on next holidays :)

Until next time,
Take care,

Monday, September 13, 2010


Before we knew our son had Autism I didn't really know much about it at all. I had the misconception that all autistic people were much like Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man. I thought of them as somewhat mentally retarded.

It wasn't until we met some new friends who advised their daughter had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that I started noticing some similarities to our son Bailey, who was 3 at the time. We knew at that stage something wasn't quite right with Bailey but had no idea exactly what his problem was. We had been going to the GP, a Paediatrician and a few Psychologist visits for a few months before we met our new friends. We had been told that some of his mannerisms could simply be related to his young age and to wait some more time before getting too concerned.

It wasn't until I was reading an article in a parenting magazine shortly after meeting them that I knew for sure that Bailey was Autistic. The article was on ASD and how to know if your child may fall under the characteristics of the disorder. Almost every point on the checklist had been ticked, perhaps 35 out of 40 from memory. I showed my husband the article and checklist, almost relieved that we finally had an answer.

Sadly, I no longer have a copy of the article and I sometimes find it hard to explain to people what Autism is. You see, ASD shows itself very differently within each child. Some children seem to be affected more in one area than another. Unfortunately some children seem to be greatly affected in all areas.

ASD can be best explained as a complex, lifelong, neurological disorder (meaning brain related disorder). ASD encompasses a number of conditions including Autistic disorder, Aspergers syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.

To you or I most people with ASD look like everyone else. However they experience issues in three core areas.
  • Problems in communication with others
  • Problems interacting in social situations
  • Repetitive and/or restrictive behaviours
The checklist the article had that helped me to realise Bailey had ASD had some very exact examples I could relate to. The points below are similar to those that were found in the article. Note must be made that some of the points apply quite normally to young children (age 1-2 for example), but it is usually the continuance of these behaviours which may point to an issue with the child.

An example of how these may manifest in an Autistic child are:

  • The child may have a noticeable speech delay or difficulties with their speech. They may express their speech by way of echolalia (eg: repeating back the same thing just spoken to them, parroting).
  • May be able to talk well but find it difficult to hold an intelligible conversation on topics that are not of direct interest to them (eg: Hello, how are you? What have you done today? Child: I have a train called Thomas. Thomas is blue and has a number one on him.)
  • Can experience stress in medium to large settings such as a classroom, shopping centre, fairs and fetes, playground or birthday party. (eg: Might cry or cling to parent when stressed and not know how to include themselves in a normally fun activity. Similar to a how toddler might act but this can still occur for school aged affected children and beyond.)
  • May only eat certain foods (eg: preferring a certain colour or consistency), continually move their body in an odd way (eg: flap arms, flick fingers, head bang, rock their body), may be affected by sounds, smells, tastes in an odd way (eg: be very scared of a hand dryer for fear of setting off the loud noise, scared of vacuum cleaner because of noise, be very repulsed by toilet smells, etc)
  • May have an obsession for items that continue over the years (beyond what is expected at certain age levels), such as trains, cars, robots, etc (eg: Taking a toy train everywhere they go and feels the need to play with trains on a daily basis and watch train movies most days. They may know every word from their favourite Thomas DVD and use that exact dialogue when playing with their trains).
  • They may make repetitive sounds such as droning (similar to a noise when playing with a car but will still make that sound without a car), humming or softly singing the same tune over and over again or repeating the same sentence.
  • May not know how to respond naturally in a social situation even with those they know very well. (eg: not giving grandparents a hug or kiss when greeting and perhaps not even saying Hello at all.)
  • They may prefer to play alone on most occassions and seem disgruntled when another child or adult interrupts their play sequence. When they do play with other children they may try to control the play so they know what is expected of them (eg: Child: you take this car and make it go round the track whilst I take my car and drive it back and forth. Child: No, don't bring it over here near my car, just put it on the track and go round and round).
  • They may be extremely intelligent and have an excellent memory, especially for numbers, places and facts of interest to them (eg: they might know hundreds of dinosaur names and be able to tell you what years they lived on Earth or count to 100 at the age of three without any extreme coaching). They often struggle remembering people's faces and names however. This may be because they find it difficult to bond or form a relationship with most people. Some children greatly affected with ASD may have no bond with anyone, even their own parents.
  • They can often lack eye contact and are unable/find it hard to read social cues. (eg: they may not understand that a person wants to end the conversation or is annoyed with them).
  • They find it difficult understanding emotions and feelings of both themselves and others. This may mean they could find it difficult to make a decision as they are unsure if something is going to make them happy or sad. (eg: They might have hurt another person physically or emotionally but are unable to interpret their need to apologise. If they do apologise without being prompted it may appear to be done without any real empathy for the person)
  • In some extreme cases the child may have a low IQ and appear quite slow and 'lost' in their own world. They may not have any real knowledge of the world around them and seem quite happy just walking around in a zombie like trance. They may find it very difficult with toilet training, learning to write and talk.
  • The child may love to spin and show no real signs of spatial displacement (dizziness). They may walk quite often on their toes which can cause physical issues after some time.
  • They may find it difficult to use a pencil or crayon to write and draw quite immaturely for their age (eg: still be scribbling without any real use of stick people, flowers, suns, skies, houses etc by the age of 4).
  • They may enjoy keeping things clean and tidy. They may appear almost obsessive keeping their hands clean or their environment very well organised. (eg: they may dislike getting glue or paint on their hands, wash their hands regularly, get quite upset when someone puts an item back in the 'wrong' place, use the vacuum or broom freely and willingly on a regular basis)
  • They may not have any real friends or ask for playdates or sleepovers at their home or others. They might appear to be a 'loner'.
There are many other signs of ASD. These are just some of those that I know of and those that are considered quite common. Even if your child shows some of these signs it does not necessarily mean they fall within the spectrum. If however you have concerns about your child's development and the majority of the above points seem similar to your child you might be best to seek the help of your GP and/or Paediatrician.

Never distrust your parents' instinct. Never listen to family or friends if they tell you it's normal not to be talking by age 3 or normal to seem vague and 'lost' in their own world without any real feelings or emotions towards their loved ones. These things are NOT normal and the longer real issues are left without seeking help the harder it will make things for your child in the long run. Don't be alarmed though if your child seems to be developing normally and does a few of the things listed above. Some of these things are quite typical for children aged 1-3 anyway.

I feel the more I make people aware of what Autism is, the better understood Bailey might be growing up. I'll also feel happier if I can assist the parents of other potential ASD children to help their child within the best window of opportunity for change (age 2-5). ASD can never be cured but when diagnosed accurately the child can learn and develop with the right supports, to reach their own full potential.

Until next time,
take care,

To blog or not to blog....

The first question I asked myself when setting up a blog was "Who will read it?" I thought this over and realised that what mattered more was did I have something to write about. The answer was a very loud YES and so here I am.

My life can never be called dull. Challenging? Yes! Somewhat bizarre at times? Yes! Interesting? For sure! Boring? Never!!!

I live a very full life. I often get people asking me how I manage or if I ever get any sleep. My best answer is only that I couldn't imagine my life any other way. Since as far back as I can remember I have always had an enormous amount of energy. Resting has only really been something I do when sick or hungover (those years are long gone mind you). So I guess having four kids was more than likely in my destiny, something inevitable to keep me out of trouble ;)

I once wondered why God had given our son Autism, why us? Weren't we good people? Didn't he deserve to live a normal life like all the other normal people in the world? Was this Karma coming back to me for something I had done wrong? I guess all very normal, human reactions that most parents have when they find out their child has been diagnosed with a disorder, disease, illness or some other challenge thrown their way. The thing I remind myself of frequently is that we have it lucky compared to some other families out there. Our child can walk, he can talk, he can kiss and hug, listen and learn, see and hear and grow up to live as long as anyone else in this world. He's not confined to a wheelchair, he's not been given a death sentence or suffering in pain day in and day out. He just sees the World differently to most of us. In actual fact I believe his brain actually works much more efficiently than ours. Perhaps he's the lucky one not being normal?

I think God gives us all challenges in some way, shape or form. Perhaps the bigger ones are given to those he feels can handle them better? Perhaps these challenges make us better people in the long run? Anyway I wouldn't change a thing about our lives. I love every bit about our family and maybe in time through reading my blogs other people will be able to truly understand why.

So until next time,
take care,