Category Archives: Good days

The Picklehead Comedy Show


Sometimes I have to take a moment to sit back and feel very proud of myself. I have somehow managed to produce a beautiful human of a boy who is very bloody funny. 

He has a brilliant sense of humour, creates his own games and jokes, and when he gets the giggles, so does everyone else in the room. You have to see it to believe it. He doesn’t let a little thing like autism get in the way of having a good laugh. 

The best moments though, are the ones that he doesn’t even realise. When autistic logic and the mind of a 5 year old collide, you can really get some little gems. 

Now these might only be funny to me, because, well.  I’m his mum!… We all think our own kids are the funniest. But here’s a few of my favourites that I wanted to share with you: 

Counting ducks

We were practicing counting in the bath. (The Pickle was in the bath, I was kneeling on the cold floor with a warm glass of wine! Such is motherhood glamour…)

I put 5 ducks in front of him and ask him “how many?” 

Pickle says “1,2,3,4…”

I say “Can you count in your head?”

Pickle looks at me with an ‘ok whatever’ expression, then calmly gathers up the ducks, balances them on his head with a deadpan expression, and says “1,2,3,4,5!”

Gotta love that literal thinking. 

Santa

Last Christmas, the Pickles school had a cheery Christmas fete. The normal sort of thing. Raffles, tombola, and the opportunity to meet FC, the big man himself. Now last time the Pickle met Santa, he was 2 years old, screamed the whole garden centre down with the mother of all meltdowns. But we figured, hey why not. Let’s try again. So we queue up, pay our pound, and take the Pickle in. We’ve prepared him for this over the last week, told him all about Santa, and his understanding is good enough that we thought he might understand and maybe even enjoy it. 

We obviously prepared him very well indeed, as he sprinted ahead of us, into the grotto at 100mph. It’s all dark, and as I walk in, I jump out of my skin when a ridiculously loud “HO HO HO!” booms from Santa’s tent. 

I walk in to see the Pickle frozen to the spot staring at Santa. He looks horrified! It’s really dark, the only light is coming from the rave worthy, offensively flashing plastic Christmas tree, next to the big fat figure sat in the dark chair behind a big felt beard. Just some creepy eyes and a nose poking out. Jesus, I would have been scared! 

So Santa starts yelling at Pickle… “WHAT’S YOUR NAME? HAVE YOU BEEN A GOOD BOY??” Poor Pickle is still frozen to the spot, wide eyed at this monster. So I do what an autism mum does… lean down gently next to him and tell him quietly and gently what to say. This tiny, quiet, mouse like voice comes out of the Pickle, as bless him, he tries to answer the noisy questions as best he can. His body is completely stiff, and I’m wondering if now is the time to wrap him up under my scarf and start running. 

Suddenly, in the middle of “AND WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMA… ”

The Pickle stands up tall, puts a finger to his lips, and crossly shouts “SHUSH!!!!”. 

I have to give the boy credit. It was even louder than Santa. And it shut him right up too! It shut up everyone in the tent! There were a few seconds that felt like an eternity, where nobody said anything. Everyone just waited… Then Santa very quietly and meekly said “here’s some chocolate for you then. Merry Christmas.”

The Pickle took his chocolate, said “Thank you Santa” (yes!) and walked out of there like he owned the goddamn grotto. Like his army, we marched out faithfully behind him, leaving the tent of doom behind us. I overheard someone on the way out say; “well you can’t really blame him… he is a bit bloody loud!”

I was very proud of the Pickle. And noted to myself to slip his speech and language therapist an extra fiver! 

Nice one little man! Even when you’re scared, don’t take any crap from a big, fake Santa that shouts at you. 

That’s my boy that is! 

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It’s time for the sun to shine!

Hello! Long time! To be honest, it’s been a real drag to sit down and write this post after the last few, but I think I’m ready now!

My last couple of posts came from such a sad, tired place. I’ve been struggling massively over the past six months, with the diagnosis, with family life and with pregnancy. And I’ve had such low energy levels that has made it difficult to move. I’ve been depressed. I’d stopped going out. I wasn’t seeing my friends. I didn’t want to go anywhere, do anything. I could barely crack a smile. I felt really lonely and isolated.

Things are a bit better now. I’ve been having some therapy for my anxiety problems which has helped me to evaluate a few things and get a better relationship with my husband, so I feel more supported; and towards the end of my pregnancy, I’ve also got a little bit more energy (amazingly!) which has made life more enjoyable. I’m feeling motivated. The puppy has stopped using the living room carpet to relieve herself, and has calmed down a lot. All of this stuff has helped massively.

And the Pickle… well he’s doing really well! He played his first game of ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ at nursery the other day! They showed me photos. He was standing confidently right in the middle of the photo holding hands with all the other children and smiling. He’s become really good at taking turns, and for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I said “I love you Pickle” and instead of repeating it back to me word for word, he said “I love you mummy”

The diagnosis was harder than I thought it would be. I felt it wouldn’t change anything as I had already figured out that he had autism and I thought having it written down on paper would just give him any extra support that he needed and would encourage others to take things more seriously when I explained his needs. But it has been like a giant rollercoaster. Good days, bad days, terrible days, selfish days, easy days, days that were good and then went bad at the last hour, days that felt they would never end. I never really knew what kind of day was coming. And it got on top of me. It really did. But I’m feeling stronger now.

So I took him out at the weekend, he really likes trains. So we took him on London Underground to a few places, and got the cable car from Emirates to the O2. Sounds like a normal thing to do with your child, tame almost. But it was a big deal for me as we’ve been hiding away for months and I get scared taking him out. But here we are! And here he is:

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Something that has really not helped with my anxiety over the past few months, is there have been a couple of incidents where we have been out on playdates or at softplay centres, and other children have gotten frustrated with him and have hurt him. (one scratched his face, the other pushed him and tried to strangle him!) He didn’t seem to mind too much… but it really upsets me. And it makes me really scared and angry. Other mums know their children will run up to them and tell them when something’s happened, but if I hadn’t suddenly got up to check and caught that child doing that to my son, I would never have known. How many things do I miss? I can’t be with him all the time when he’s playing. And all the other mums are “chat chat chatting” and drinking their coffee, knowing that their children will come and tell them if there’s a problem, whilst I’m trying to chat and drink coffee and appear normal, but my anxiety levels are steaming, not knowing if the Pickle is ok, if he’s stimming too much and bumping into other children, if he’s getting himself into a situation that he has no idea is even happening, let alone be able to deal with. Then he can’t even come and tell me afterwards.

He’s not ill, there’s nothing wrong with him, he’s got a different processing system to the rest of us. And he has to live in our world. It’s overwhelming, and confusing. He is the one that needs all the love, help and support he can get. He’s so small. He can’t help having autism. And I’m his mummy.

I promised him last week that no matter what, from now on, we will stick together. I won’t be absent anymore. I will be the Pickle’s spokesperson whilst he can’t speak for himself. I will back him all the way and be his voice. I will educate people around him about his differences and show them how clever he is and how far he has come.

I will tell every day him how special he is and how much I love him. Even more so when he is tired, angry and confused and being difficult to understand. I will always be a firm (but hopefully fair) mum because that is who I am, but ultimately, I want him to think of me as somebody he can go too when he needs help, advice or is simply overwhelmed and wants a familiar face. He can’t see me falling apart anymore, he just can’t. This is his life. It’s too important to waste.

And in a matter of days, he’ll suddenly have a new little sister in his life and everything will be thrown into a new type of chaos. But you know what, I think we’ll all be ok. Because we all going to stick together.

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A Pickle Christmas tale

Excuse me everyone! Never ever prejudge the Pickle!

Well I have to admit I was a little apprehensive, but the Pickle did good this Christmas! When I look back to the weeks leading up to the big day, the anxiety I was feeling after last year’s disaster was huge. It made me a little crazy throughout December, but yet again, the Pickle has shown me not to make assumptions about what he can’t or won’t do.

On Christmas eve, we went down to the Village Green with our puppy and the Pickle to sing carols. We had both toddler and puppy on a lead! Probably the puppy was the easier to hold on to, but Pickle loved it. He became a bit over excited at ‘Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer’ and after that the stimming, spinning and trying to lie on the muddy grass became a little too difficult for us to handle, but instead of feeling frustrated and wishing things were different, I just felt pleased he had enjoyed 4 carols and he obviously really likes that particular one. My husband and I realised, and accepted that it was probably a good time to head back!

Before the Pickle went to bed, we showed him his empty stocking and hung it up on the fireplace. Then we took it down, and showed him again. Then we encouraged him to do it. When it went up for the third time, we clapped and cheered. On Christmas morning, when we showed the Pickle his stocking filled with chocolate and toys, he was delighted! We all sat in bed together whilst he had a look through. He ate chocolate for breakfast and really liked a squidgy stress ball that was inside.

I bought the Pickle an elf costume again this year. If you read my other post about Christmas you’ll see I did this for his first one when I was full of ‘new mum’ hope and I had no idea that he was ASD. I thought hey, lets do it again. And he was very pleased! Especially with the button on the front that played Jingle Bells over and over and over. Still, any parent of an ASD child is totally immune to repetitive, annoying noise! 😉

We opened some presents as a family, and the Pickle opened three! Granted, they weren’t all HIS presents, he stole some of daddies, but he opened one for him with a backpack from us. Here he is sporting his new backpack in his elf costume:

Pickle is very pleased with his new backpack. He put Daddy's new socks in to it and carried them around.

Pickle is very pleased with his new backpack. He put Daddy’s new socks in to it and carried them around.

He did lose interest, and there’s still a little pile for him under the Christmas tree, but that’s ok. He can open them when he’s ready. Maybe they can be New Years Eve presents!

When we visited family, it was the usual hustle, bustle and busyness. Last year, I had been so desperate to keep everyone happy by forcing the Pickle to open their many presents and look happy at what he’d received, I needed him to stay focused, and eat his Christmas dinner and perform like a child should. This year was different. I wanted to make sure that the Pickle was happy and ok, and if that meant he wanted time out, or he needed the iPad rather than presents, or if he didn’t want to be with everyone, then so be it. The phrase ‘short bursts’ kept going around in my head. It’s so overwhelming for a child with ASD to have your routine changed, be surrounded by lots people doing lots of different things, have lots of different noises, and more than one person talking at the same time. And there were a few times that he switched off from everyone, and I sat him down with the iPad, and just let him be. I also asked others to leave him alone as well if I felt it was necessary.

He was so tired by the end of the day, I know this because he sat down and watched the Snowman from beginning to end, without trying to rewind the opening credits over and over!! And that in itself was lovely because I got to cuddle him and watch it with him.

It was a really, really lovely day. And I am so proud of the Pickle and how far he has come since last Christmas. He coped so well and he will never ever stop amazing me and showing me that he is always capable of learning and progressing and coping with this crazy world around him!

I believe that another very important change this year, came from myself. This year was different to previous years. We have a diagnosis and I am better educated about ASD, sensory issues and the difficulties that our ASD children face. It’s incredible how easy things actually became when I changed my expectations, thought process and my attitude. When I stopped wanting the Pickle to conform to what I wanted, to what others expected, when I stopped wishing things were different and letting go of the set ideals I had in my mind about how Christmas should be. I tried really hard this year to see the world through his eyes, and kept repeating the mantra that “It is what it is”. We are all very blessed to have each other.

Well done Pickle! Keep showing us what life is all about! You will always be my life teacher and I forever your student 😀

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Leaps & Bounds & Ups & Downs

The Pickle’s development has always been a major factor of his autism. It was the first sign to me that something was different.

For example, when the Pickle was born, and up until he was a year old, he hit his developmental milestones without any issues. He smiled, he sat up, he learned to use his hands, started to crawl, even babbled! Then when he turned 1, it changed. He wasn’t developing properly any more. He was barely learning to speak. And I kept waiting and waiting, but the progress was slow. Painfully slow. And it was odd. He could say mummy, but he didn’t say it to me. It didn’t seem to have any relevance in our relationship. He never called out to me in the morning when he woke in his cot. Mummy was just a word with no meaning.

The Pickle can go for a very long time without making any noticeable developments at all. Then all of a sudden, he starts to do new things! Usually three or four new things! It’s always nothing for ages, then suddenly an unexpected leap with something! And everyone is so amazed and impressed and says how things are changing and looking up. I get to experience a million proud mummy moments all at once and I feel high! Delirious. I’m walking on clouds. I exhuberate happiness and confidence in everything I do. I am so proud and in awe of my son that I could burst. I have energy, I do more. I am more.

Then over time, things go back to “normal”. The new skills become normal. And the gaps start to show again. There is a long stretch of time where nothing really happens. Of course there’s speech & language therapy, constant daily repetitive teaching, intensive interaction, but it’s all a bit…. slow.

I had a really bad couple of weeks recently. You can read about it here. I’m coming out the other side and I’ve decided to do some soul-searching and reflection. What I’ve noticed is that my mood seems to reflect the Pickle’s developmental stages.

After a month or so of feeling like we’ve achieved very little, my mood starts to drop. I begin to gradually lose my energy and focus. Things upset me more easily. I feel that nobody understands. I become anxious, irritable, sad, impatient. After a few months, my emotions start to overwhelm me. I cry. I think I’m depressed. I think I’m a bad mum. I wonder if I should get some help. Things feel like they’ll never get better. It creeps up on me and then bang! I’m there. I’m everything I don’t want to be.

Then suddenly we have a Pinecone moment!

And I’m walking on clouds again.

Some further reflection now…. I don’t think this pattern of behaviour is acceptable, healthy or right for me and my son. I’ve always been very up and down with my moods, I’ve been depressed in the past. However that doesn’t make it ok. Making the decision to become a mother meant it stopped being all about me, and I need to find the strength to take control. I’m going to try so hard to break this pattern and I think the first step is recognising and understanding it. The Pickle needs me to be positive and strong for him, not a fair-weather mummy who is only happy when he is doing well. I love him SO much. He is my life. He needs to know that I will always be there for him to lean on, no matter what stage he is at or what he is doing. I am the person he solely relies on to help him make sense of the world. I have a huge responsibility to him that goes way beyond my hormones and personal feelings.

So I’m going to start working on this. Today. Now. Because just by being my son, the Pickle has taught me so much about life. About patience, expectations and endless possibilites. About finding joy and love in the strangest of places. About being a human being. And I am a much better person for knowing him. He has bad days and bad moods, but they are based on a frustration that comes from not being able to understand or cope with the world he lives in. He never judges the progress I’m making as his mother, so why am I judging him? He’s just a child. I am an adult.

By the way… my dream of two years ago that felt so unachievable, came true. The Pickle now knows that I am his Mummy. He comes to his bedroom door in the morning and calls out to me. “Hey-yo Mummy. Hey-yo Mummy”. He says my name repeatedly to get my attention, or if I’m not there and he’s missing me. It’s not just a word anymore, it’s become true. And it’s time for me to start giving it the justification it deserves and step up to the job I’ve been given. Throughout all the leaps & bounds and ups & downs. I will take each day at a time, and I will get there. I owe it to him.

Dedicated to Pickle, love from your Mummy. x

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Pinecone

Well isn’t it the way, when you’re feeling sad, that all of a sudden, your child surprises you and makes you feel so damn proud!

Firstly, this morning when driving the Pickle to preschool, George Ezra – Budapest was playing on the radio as I reversed out of the driveway, and I’m singing along going: “You… ooooooh! You ooooooh!” and the Pickle is looking really cute in his woolly bobble hat, and as the car is reversing, he’s looking at me straight in the eye with a big smile and he starts to laugh! We spend the whole ten minute journey to nursery both giggling and singing “You… oooooooh! You oooooooh! I’d leave it all”. Even when the song was over. It was a lovely little moment. I got to connect with my son.

Then when I’m dropping him off, I’m chatting to his key worker, and suddenly I hear “Oh! Look at Pickle…” so I look over where he’s sat himself down at the table with the other children ready for breakfast, and he’s stood up and started handing out breakfast bowls to all the children (with a very serious look on his face!) Then he takes the spoons and puts one in each childs bowl! Proud mummy moment.

Then when I went to pick him up after lunch, I’m normally told that he’s been a bit over excited and keeps running out of the doors, or they’ve tried such and such method to keep him still, and it hasn’t worked… but today, his key worker tells me that he’s had a brilliant morning!! (!!!)
He hasn’t been opening and closing the door. He really enjoyed Zumba (so much so that he took part in 2 sessions) and was full of smiles and dancing. Then… at lunchtime, he ate most of his roast dinner, including his carrots!! I haven’t told you about the Pickles food issues yet, that’s a whole other post. But believe me, this is a HUGE deal!!

That would have been more than enough for me, but it goes on! I took him to his playgroup which is for kids with additional needs. Whilst he’s there, he sits on the mat with the Duplo, and builds a big tower! The Pickle never builds creatively with lego unless he has an adult telling him which brick to place, piece by piece. He never puts together train tracks or jigsaw puzzles either, so again, this is a huge deal!! He’s just sitting there on his own creating a duplo tower! I’m in shock. Here’s a picture of it. I know his arm is covering most of it, but take it from me, it was nice and tall! (And perfectly formed. No bits sticking out anywhere… very Pickle!)

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Another child comes along and starts to put her own bricks on his tower (and they are not perfectly formed). The Pickle not only allows her to enter his game but with a little guidance from myself, he accepts her ‘help’ and even takes turns with her!!! Amazing.

Then… for the grand finale, he sits down at the arts and crafts table, for more than 30 seconds, and with a little guidance, he makes a beautiful, glittery pine cone that we can hang on the Christmas tree this year!

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Isn’t it fab! And when I say help, the pine cone was handed to him with glue on it, and the Pickle was handed the stuff and shown on another pine cone what to do, but there was no ‘hand over hand’ or help at all! He followed instruction! And he made something beautiful, and individual, and creative, and his own.

It’s been a wonderful reminder of just how clever my little boy can be when he finds it in himself to engage with those around him and focus on what he’s doing. It gives me hope for the future. If we can find a way to support him and help him to sit still, to listen and engage with people, imagine what he could achieve! It’s all in there and he has so much potential, we just have to help him to bring it out into the world.

That pinecone is now sitting in the kitchen waiting to be hung on the Christmas tree. It is a symbol of everything that is possible. Although the glitter will eventually fall off and the stalks will break, the message is here to stay.

Thank you for my beautiful pinecone, my lovely Picklehead Wigglebum! I love you so much x

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Peter Pan

It’s really dawned on me over the past six months how I am bringing up a little Peter Pan.

Yes it’s hard that the Pickle doesn’t respond much when I call his name. It’s hard that he has never once asked me a question, tells me when he’s hungry, or comes to me for a cuddle. But do you know what is quite amazing? That complete lack of awareness of the negative world around him that he has. It’s part of his diagnosis, but also who he is, and it blows my mind how you can have such a beautiful innocence. Even aged three, I’ve seen such ‘grown up’ traits develop in the children growing up around him and although it worrys me half to death how he’ll cope in the world when he gets older, it’s also an incredibly beautiful thing.

I recently hosted a play date for five of the Pickle’s friends. It was like being thrust rudely into the middle of an episode of Emmerdale! It was great fun, but oh my goodnews, the social chaos was overwheming! There were group dynamics, some of the girls were best friends, until one of them touched the other ones shoe. Then they weren’t friends anymore. All the while, there was another little girl who was a bit left out, until one of the girls had gone home and the girl who was left out, became the only remaining girl. Then she was brought warmly into the circle. The trampoline had lots of autumn leaves on it and although fun at first, they became too annoying and messy for some of the children. Too many people were on the trampoline. Little bodies got pushed around to make room. Everyone shouted to get off and at one point, there were tears because we weren’t all going to go upstairs and look for pussy cats. Everyone was embroiled in dramas and invisible narratives!

Everyone that is, except the Pickle!

Whilst there were dramas unfolding all around him, the Pickle just played. He jumped up and down on the trampoline. He laughed at the others throwing leaves (and threw a few himself!) He was completely and utterly blissful and happy, surrounded by other children. He just smiled and laughed, and did his own thing.

The beautiful thing about the Pickle, is that he never notices the little things that are going on all around him. He doesn’t see when a child doesn’t want to play or turns their back on him. He doesn’t notice when he is pushed. He doesn’t react when a toy is taken from his hands. He just finds a new one. The Pickle finds joy and delight in everything that he does and he plays in a way that although he can be quite solitary, it doesn’t hurt anybody.

And isn’t that such a beautiful thing? To have complete innocence? To never worry about what somebody else thinks about you, to never want to take anything for himself, or be better than anybody else. He just exists purely in the moment he’s in. Nothing else matters to him but what he is doing then and there. He is a picture of total acceptance and tolerance of everyone who meets him.

As ‘normal, mainstream’ people, we all become tainted with the social rules and chains from very early in life. We become sucked in by the invisible games, rules and regulations that society puts upon us and enables us to function in the world we live. To survive in a socity like this, we have to grow a thick skin, we have to learn to look out for ourselves and sometimes we have to throw our weight around to get what we need. Don’t get me wrong, we also learn lots of amazing, caring traits as well! But we’re all all guilty of being clouded by conflicting emotions, worry, self doubt and negativity which we express to those around us, who in turn, learn by our example.

Now imagine being a real life Peter Pan! Isn’t that something amazing!

Diagnosis

Not sure how many of you have been touched by or know somebody who has autism.

Pickle was diagnosed last week.

He is considered ‘mild-moderate’ on the spectrum. It’s part of who he is and I love him for it.

I noticed Pickle was different when he was about 14 months old and stopped hitting his mile stones and making ‘normal’ progress, especially with his speech & language, and social skills.

Suddenly the path I was sharing with all my mummy friends split off and started taking its own direction, and it was lonely and isolating as all Pickle’s friends zoomed on ahead and turned into little adults seemingly overnight!

All the while, everyone told me that Pickle was fine, that he would catch up. Boys are always a bit slower right? 😉

When Pickle was testing the boundaries as all toddlers do, I couldn’t get him to answer me, look at me or listen to what I was saying. I started thinking that I was a pretty terrible mum.

As it dawned on us all that we may have a little boy touched by autism, I realised that I was the one who needed to change, to adapt to this funny, intelligent, beautiful little boy who has the most amazing smile and addictive laugh in the world. As far as he’s concerned, it’s US who are strange and confusing with all our words, different faces and funny rules. He’s going to be living in a world where people will struggle to understand and relate to him. Even though logically, everything that he does, makes total sense!

We wouldn’t be where we are today without autism. The best scientists, physicians and pioneers of our age are usually on the spectrum. It gives individuals the drive and obsession to problem solve in a way that ‘mainstream’ people could never do. Without autism, the world we live in today would be very different. Much slower paced, less treatments for ill people, less technology.

Pickle is the best life teacher I could ever ask for. He has taught me patience, kindness, understanding and unrequited love. He has shown me that life doesn’t always work out how you plan. That’s ok. Life is a journey and we’re all travelling there together, even if our paths are not the same.

I’ve learned how to fight for what’s right and develop a thick skin as I will always have to push harder than the majority of other parents to give Pickle the best support, help and education that he needs.

Somebody said recently when I told them about the diagnosis, ‘I’m so sorry. Poor little buggar.’ I politely told them that although I appreciate the sentiment, Pickle hasn’t changed. He may now be classed as having a ‘disability’, but he is the same amazing, sweet, funny little boy he has always been. Please don’t ever feel sorry for him. It’s him who sees us as ‘strange’. There is nothing wrong with him, he just thinks differently to us. And who’s to say that we’re the ones who have it right? 😊

If you feel this status was unnecessary or an ‘overshare’ then you should probably hide me from your feed as I’m so SO proud of my Pickle, everything he has achieved and I’m so excited to see who he becomes in the future 😊 I used to think that people with special needs kids just said this… But I honestly would never change him.

Also we probably won’t have to ever queue up at theme parks again! Hooray! xx