Saturday, 30 August 2014


It can be difficult to motivate Ryan to do tasks that he is uninterested in or doesn’t see the purpose of. Sometimes he can be motivated with a reward such as computer time or ‘down time’.

Although his verbal responses are very good he finds writing very difficult and needs a lot of time to finish work as the process of thinking about what he wants to write, sending the correct message from brain, down arm to hand and then formulating correct letter pattern with pen gets very muddled and confusing.  It can also take Ryan some time to respond to a question or statement which can come across as though he is ignoring you, or daydreaming, when in fact he is taking time to process what has been said/asked of him and to formulate a response.

Ryan has quite a sense of humour but doesn’t always respond as you might expect. Things he says, does or writes which we don’t generally find amusing he might or vice versa (see previous post on neologisms).  He can use humour at inappropriate times or out of context which can cause confusion or unintended upset.

He also has some sensitivity to noise, lights and smells. He may try to cover his eyes or ears as an indication to this stress.  Once you get to know him there are indications to his building stress levels and he best removed for a time out or allowed to work in a quite area before the situation becomes unmanageable as Ryan still doesn’t always recognise the signs himself.
When he does become increasingly frustrated and/or angry he can shout out, be confrontational or swear.  

All of this has become much more manageable as Ryan has settled into secondary school life and has excellent support, however it is still a rumble to be aware of and which came to light, not unsurprisingly at exam time during his first year in secondary school, year 7.

He has not had to sit exams before and it was an exceptionally stressful time for him. Fortunately he (along with several other children) were given the opportunity to sit their exams in a quite class room where there were experienced staff to read and scribe (depending on need). The pupils in this class were also permitted 25% extra time due to the differing needs they had.
Unfortunately the stress was still too much and he wrote some inappropriate answers and even completely ignored sections, some of which were the big mark questions where he was required to write more detailed answers.

I am not going to worry too much at this stage in his education and put it down to a learning curve where I need to better prepare him and try to arrange with his school if in future he may be able to use a scribe for sections of the exam.  
We have another couple of years before the exams become really formal external GCSE based. 2 years of ‘training’, preparing, practice and hopefully more maturing.

All that said we have received his first full, end of year report and it completely blew us away. Okay his exams result were not as high scoring as we had expected or hoped and know that he is capable of, but his effort and attainment grades were excellent. He got: 3 As, 5 Bs & 5 Cs.

How could anyone possibly be upset with that. We are so proud and it just goes to show, exams are not everything. So much focus is put on to them, by the education system and governments but some children just will not shine or show their capability through this particular medium. Remember the whole picture, the whole package. Specks of talent could lay anywhere, anyplace. Find it, nurture it.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Family Building Club – Lego

One of Ryan’s other passions in his life has been his LEGO and as mentioned in the Martial Arts post he much prefers clubs/activities where he can express himself in his own way as opposed to confines of direct instruction. 

One such club was the lottery funded Family Building Club in Swansea that unfortunately no longer runs, but at which we had some lovely times and great memories.

The Family Building Club Project was a fun activity based on Lego building. Each day there was a different project for you to work on together. Past projects included an adventure playground, an airport and a wildlife park.

You could stay as long as you like. It was a great, cheap way to fill in a morning or afternoon.
The Family Building Club ran during school holidays and some Saturdays at different locations in Swansea.

The club was aimed at children aged 3-11 (or a little older) and all children must be accompanied by an adult ie. parent, carer or guardian. 

Ryan's lego can be seen here.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


My interest in Autism, and in particular, Asperger's Syndrome started many years ago, when a parent of a karate student, told me her son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s.  My initial reaction was ignorance and following that class I read as much as I could on Asperger’s.  My interest grew and I now teach many children with Asperger’s and other ASDs.

Martial arts are a popular sport, more commonly known in the industry as arts.  There are many martial arts including the arts of taekwondo, karate, tai chi and kung fu to name a few.  These disciplines and others, are further split into a variety of styles.  ‘Taekwondo has proven to be another great intervention for many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome (Willey, 2003).

Martial art training is very consistent and regular classes are likely to be similar in content, satisfying the child with Asperger’s need for routine and predictability.  There is a ranking system of belts a child can achieved and techniques become more difficult with each belt.  Basic training is always practised however, even when the student achieves the highest grades.  This can be repetitive and can be a bore to many children, but to the child with Asperger’s, this repetition can be comforting.  Luke Jackson (author of Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome, 2002) agrees ‘the fact that it is so structured and predictable makes it the perfect form of exercise for anyone on the autistic spectrum’.

The structure of a lesson is usually similar in that there is always a warm up of about 10-15 minutes, the basics, maybe some group work, possibly some sparring, and a short cool down or discussion session. There are variations to this, but for instructors experienced in teaching students with ASDs, if a major change is planned, students are told in advance.  For example, if a different hall is to be used, students on the spectrum are invited to visit the hall and become familiar in advance of the class.

I found that over the years of teaching children with Asperger’s, when the class is due to learn new concepts or moves, it is most effective to pair them up with empathetic higher graded peers so that the student can be taught on a one-to-one basis, and then join the main class when he or she feels more confident. Watching other children execute the moves may also be an effective way to learn.  This is relatively easy in martial arts as most of the work is taught in sections, eg, blocks or kicks, and then repeated over and over until the students are competent.  With these basic moves, the child with Asperger’s feels comfortable because there is little need for any physical contact or interaction.

For a child with Asperger’s, who often experiences ‘lax joints, immature grasp, slowed pace of movements and problems with manual dexterity’ (Kirby 2002, cited in Groft and Black 2003), a martial art such as karate or taekwondo can be very beneficial.  The kicking skills of these arts, and others besides, are an excellent way to develop balance, co-ordination and flexibility in all children.  Groups of movements known as ‘kata’ or ‘forms’; and the various stances needed, develop strength, and also the ability to move the body in diverse ways.  It can also help with the left versus right issue many children have.

There are some who may express concern about a child with an ASD practising martial arts.  The tantrums which can occur during times of tiredness, frustration or anger could mean that the child will strike out with taught moves.  While it is true many techniques can be dangerous, these would take many years to perfect with specific knowledge, and more dangerous techniques are never taught to children, with autism, or otherwise.  All children who are taught martial arts are constantly reminded that if the arts are misused or abused, the child will be withdrawn from training and there may be serious legal ramifications.  In my experience, students with Asperger’s, love their classes, and would try hard not to put their training in jeopardy.   I teach my students, more so for those on the spectrum, simple breathing exercises which they can use wherever they happen to be, if they feel tension or anger coming on. 

My amazing sister drew my attention to this website and I think it is an excellent article, but I would like to add my own experience of Ryan trying Martial Arts. He obviously likes routine but does not cope well in an environment where he is told what to do and how to do it. He is much more of a free spirit, so he has never coped with any of the clubs we have tried so far. Swimming lessons, beavers, martial arts, even football club.

School is a major battle for him to cope with; constantly being told what and how to do things, so adding more pressures on him outside of school simply don’t work for him. We go swimming regularly just me and him or a couple of friends where he can just do his own thing.

His photography is another prime example. He is extremely reluctant to have any formal lessons or join a club because he wants to do it in his own way. I am however working on an idea with a friend to create a children’s photography club for any child but particularly those with additional/different needs where they can simply come and have fun with photos rather than direct instruction and enjoy learning new social skills in a relaxed and fun environment.   

Watch this space for more details if we can get it arranged during September. 

Give praise, time to talk and listen. Build esteem

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Liability Insurance

Exclusive Personal Liability Insurance Scheme for people caring for persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Are you a parent or guardian of a person with ASD? Or do you care for a person with ASD?

If so, would you be protected by insurance in the event of a member of the public holding you responsible for bodily injury or damage to their property caused by a person with ASD in your care?

In today’s climate, the possibility of being sued for negligence is increasing, with legal costs, expenses and awards continuing to escalate.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) offer cover designed especially for their members, this low-cost scheme helps protect you if a member of the public holds you responsible for bodily injury or damage to property caused by a person with autism in your care.

Annual cover costs just £26 per family/insured carer and offers up to £1 million in cover, protecting an unlimited number of carers if named on the policy. More than one individual with autism can be named on the policy, making it perfect for families.
You may find that your household contents insurance provides this cover. Where this is not the case, you may be interested in this cover.

Having a diagnosis of ASC doesn’t not excuse you or your child from damage to another person or their property. Autistic meltdowns are scary and can be very dangerous. You are still responsible for your child’s disability or differbility. Make sure you are covered. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Twenty Dollars

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked. "Who would like this $20 bill?"

Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you - but first, let me do this."

He proceeded to crumple the 20 dollar note up. He then asked. "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air.

"Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" He dropped it on the
ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?"

Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No
matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still
priceless to those who love you. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do or who we know, but by ...WHO WE ARE.

You are special - don't ever forget it."
Raising a child with additional needs will always be a challenge but just remember; the struggle you are in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.
You are special and your child is special that is why you were chosen for such a great privilege. Few can take on such a responsibility.
We are going to take a special ride, together all the way side, by side. It doesn’t matter what you have heard. We could mean the whole wide world.