Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hawaiian Halloween


Because it seems he cannot resist an airline seat sale, Big A booked another trip for us - to visit his brother in Hawaii.

Since they do not yet have visas, nor do we feel he can manage a 10 hour flight and massive time difference, Little A and the Au Pair are spending the time we are away at my parents' place. Halloween is big in their area, and Little A has enjoyed trick or treating the past two years.

Hawaii seems to have become the Halloween capital of the USA, if not the world, and we were properly warned, so we came prepared. Apart from our costumes, my main goal was to acquire a suntan, which was achieved over the course of the week, with much careful application of skin protection and tan enhancing products.

An unexpected and wonderful surprise was that one of my all-time favourite musicians, Sting, would be playing a one-night concert at the Oahu Arena. We got tickets online, and one more item has been ticked off my bucket list, making my 40th year all the more memorable.

We have, again, traveled much this year. While next year only has two trips on the cards, we are truly grateful for these opportunities to experience these amazing places.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Dog Days




My son is very particular about the dogs he chooses to befriend. I am glad for this, as it keeps us from worrying that he will just approach a possibly aggressive animal.

His breeds of choice are labradors and golden retrievers, which happen to be the most child-friendly types, and my favourites as well. I dream of one day getting him a service dog, but that will be a long time coming yet, as we need a house and the enlarged shoebox we currently live in.

Since Big A is allergic, Little A's only interactions with canines are the neighbours' pets and the occasional work dog. My sister and her family have golden retrievers, but in all his years of existence, Little A has never been to their house to play with them.

Then last Sunday, at birthday lunch for my mum, my sister's family turned up with two of their three dogs.

The adults sat at the table while the cousins alternated between eating and spending time outside with the pooches. Other children came up as well, and played with the very friendly animals.

Little A hopes for more dog visits, so this upcoming half-term I have asked my nephew and niece to bring the dogs over again, when Little A spends time at his grandparents'.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conducting the Orchestra


Little A has always loved classical music. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn and Vivaldi are names he knows well, as he has been hearing their work since he was in the womb. He might not be able to spell Tchaikovsky, but he certainly knows most of the music from Swan Lake and the Nutcracker Suite.

Several years ago, my sister gave him a violin that my nieces had outgrown. It was something he adored, along with the other toy instruments in his music box, and still does. However, it was only recently that he started rereading a long time favourite storybook, and this time he learnt all the parts of the orchestra.

Each time Big A and I have travelled this year, we have been asked to bring back specific instruments from the brass or woodwind sections. Since Little A is not yet having proper lessons and real instruments are huge, heavy and expensive, he makes do with toy versions.

In the last few weeks, he has discovered the joy of conducting "concerts". In the evenings, he arranges the chairs, assigns us instruments, and plays excerpts on his iPad. We "play" along, and bow at the end to applause.

We are pleased with this initiated social interaction, and look forward to building it into proper music lessons, more interaction with peers, and increased opportunities for communication. Music is the food of love, indeed. Play on! 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Singapore Swing


It's been a good three years since Little A was last on a plane. At age 5, he absolutely couldn't bear clapping, and two consecutive trips made that summer were a real challenge as he was always on high alert and would melt down at the slightest provocation.

We made a lot of road trips with him in the years in between, and he took it upon himself to desensitize himself to applause, so much that these days his favorite activity is "conducting" pretend concerts with lots of clapping and cheering at the end.

Since Big A and I have been on so many overseas trips these past two years, I asked if we could please take Little A somewhere. He agreed to a Singapore trip with much trepidation, and on the condition that the Au Pair came along.

We booked an apartment in the city for three nights, bought seats on the flagship carrier that has long been known in the expat circles to have the most accommodating crews for special needs children,  girded our loins, and packed our bags.

I had confidence in our son, but was naturally apprehensive, and enlisted the help of his teachers and therapists to prepare him for the trip. I saved his favourite YouTube videos for offline viewing, prepared pre-cut paper and markers for in-flight desktop activities, and had his snacks, books, and toys on hand.

D Day came, and Little A exceeded all our expectations at every turn. He got through the airport and tolerated the plane ride, despite being extremely anxious, without a single tantrum or tear, and when we entered the flat that was to be home for three nights settled down instantly and never wanted to leave.

Our activities were things we knew he would enjoy, and one big question mark on the last day, when we were to meet up with his godmother and uncle, Big A's sister and brother in law, who lived in Singapore.

The Night Safari, Singapore Zoo, and River Safari were like dreams come true for him as he saw and fed his favourite animals. Then came Challenge Day - Universal Studios.

Neither Big A nor I has ever been fond of theme parks, and as children we were never taken to any. But we figured it might be something to try, to see how Little A would react. We were fully prepared to buy tickets and get a refund, or to spend a few minutes and then leave.

Little A, once again, surprised us. He entered the noisy, sensory overloading main gate, and typed on his iPad, "wait brave". We sat on a bench by the turnstiles to wait for him to gather the courage to move into the main park. No tears, no tantrums.

After about 15 minutes, and two quick recon walks by myself and the Au Pair to "check" for possible scary things, Little A shielded his eyes, kept on his earphones, and walked down the main street.

Slowly, we made our way through the park, always at his side, reassuring him that nothing would happen unless he wanted it to.

By the time we got to the more child-friendly zones, he had relaxed enough to sit down with a book while Big A and the Au Pair went on a ride. We had lunch, then Big A and I went on a scary roller coaster while Little A and the Au Pair sat in the shade to wait for us. We sat in a cafe and he watched the Sesame Street puppet show through the window, and then we headed for his favourite toy store as a treat.

So, challenge day was a complete success. The flight home was uneventful, and the days since have been spent looking at the photos, finding videos of the Zoo, and looking forward to the next time we visit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Building Blocks

 

One main challenge for individuals with autism is expressing creativity. They are known to be amazing mimics, and clever teachers and parents can use this as a stepping stone towards individual expression.

Unlike other boys his age, Little A was never particularly interested in Lego. He liked the ready-made Playmobil sets, where you just had to assemble the land and add the characters. Creating his own creatures, worlds or objects, not so much.

But recently, at his favourite toy store, he has been sitting at the Lego table, first recreating 2D images, and occasionally asking for help in adding more elements. I was tasked with building a moon and stars out of four sided bricks, and I am not sure I entirely succeeded, but my son was happy enough with my block figures.

He is now also past the stage of putting things in his mouth, hallelujah! So the next items on his wish list will be his own sets of bricks and a base mat. I look forward to seeing the worlds he will create.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Down Under


Sometime during our tenth wedding anniversary European trip last April, Big A claimed that would be "the last of our long haul travels for at least another year." But then the airline seat sales happened.

With so many Asian cities to discover and revisit, and so many local destinations we have yet to explore, I was simply thankful for the last two years' abundance of travel opportunities, and secretly glad to be done with the interminable paperwork required for the securing of visas. Our passports are well stamped, and our travel photo album covers three continents.

However, one day not long after our arrival from Europe Big A rang me at work. "G'day, mate! We're going to Australia!"

Apparently one of the local carriers has started flying direct to Sydney, and introductory ticket prices were cheaper than a flight to our beach islands. So last week, we went down under.

Three nights in Sydney and three in Melbourne in their wintertime gave us a good taste of both cities. Big A has definitely thrown his hat into the Melbourne camp, but I am still on the fence. Perhaps a few years from now, another trip to this southern continent (hopefully with Little A in tow!) will help make up my mind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Superlatives


Last Friday, when I picked him up from school, Little A took my e-reader and typed "Look at the me. I superman". I read it to him and he was pleased as punch, and repeated the same words on different devices over the weekend.

Come Monday, after school, the same thing. I have not been able to get a chance to ask his teacher what this sentence is all about, but on our walls he has been writing "awesome", "good job", and tonight after brushing his teeth, "very proud". Always with a big smile when I read out the words.

He has started Grade 3, and sits right by the teacher in a class with 5 other boys and girls. These days I am discouraged from peeking into the classroom window and distracting him, but finally there is a parent-teacher communication notebook, so from time to time (twice so far in the first few weeks of school) I get a note on what they have been doing, or how his behavior has been.

This year, apart from their regular academic subjects, the students have sessions in the computer lab, where Little A has wowed the teacher with his prowess at typing and manipulating the mouse. They also have drama classes once a week, and a number of new extracurriculars are being offered.

I hope this year is a good one for Little A, socially, behaviourally, communicatively, and academically. Is that too much to hope for? We'll see.