Friday, 29 February 2008

Boing, boing, boing

Have you guessed what arrived at our house this week? Yes, it's an enormous 8 foot trampoline which I bought from Outdoor Toys Direct. My brother gave the children some money for Christmas and we thought a trampoline will serve us well for years to come. I was very impressed with the prompt delivery and my father was able to errect the trampoline and enclosure in less than two hours (he did have some help, or rather, hinderance, from Bea!). We're going to be very popular with our friends now - I can see us holding lots of barbeques this summer.

When we moved to this house in May last year, we bought James a small trampoline from Toys r Us. At 3 and a half, James had finally gained enough control of his leg muscles to be able to jump and we knew he'd love having a toy that he was allowed to jump on (as opposed to being told off for jumping on the bed or sofa). I had no idea that less than a year later he'd have outgrown it and be ready for a garden hogging contraption! But we moved to a larger house with a family garden specifically to be able to enjoy it, and somehow I can see James spending most of his free time outside bouncing - perhaps we should change his nickname to "Tigger".

Seeing him yesterday bouncing for over 2 hours non stop reminded me of Nick Hornby's introduction to Charlotte Moore's "George and Sam" where he describes his autistic son, Danny, trampolining naked at midnight. If James ever learns that he can get out of his bedroom when he wakes at 1am, then I imagine we'll find him outside, jumping on his trampoline.

I remember when I first read that introduction - it was a damp, cold September day and I'd phoned my health visitor to ask her to come and see me as I was concerned about James' behaviour. From her response, I could tell she thought he was acting up and being demanding as I had a new baby to look after and I didn't correct her. As long as she was coming to see us, I would be able to talk about his difficulties. James had seemed to be developing completely normally - there was certainly no difference between him and his same age peers when they all had their second birthdays - and with my professional hat on I had no concerns at age 2 years 4 months. After a rather stormy May (I was admitted to hospital at 37 weeks pregnant and spent 10 days as an inpatient) Bea was born and we started to try and settle down to life as four. As we became more and more concerned about James' behaviour I was placated by the usual comments "oh, he's just regressing because of the baby" "he's doing that because that's what the baby is doing""oh, he's being a typcial, lazy boy" but literally overnight he had stopped talking with us (preferring to repeat chunks of books over and over again to himself - which turns out to be "delayed echolalia" and a form of self stimulating and self soothing behaviour). I spent most of the summer watching and piecing together his behaviour - I had seen so much of it in my clinic that by the time I phoned my health visitor I knew he was autistic. But somehow until I made that phone call I hadn't wanted to face it head on. I wasn't denying it (I discussed the possibility with paediatric colleagues in July), I just didn't want to face the harsh reality that the diagnosis brings with it. So after that phone call I headed to the library to pick up some books. Charlotte Moore's was one of a handful of books on the shelf and I picked it up, started reading the introduction and promptly burst into tears.

Since that cold, September morning I have shed a lot of tears in a lot of places, but seeing James bouncing away, hearing the joy in his laughter, knowing I have found something that he loves to do, makes my heartbreak a little easier to bear and I smile proudly at my boucy boy. Boing, boing, boing.

Thursday, 28 February 2008


We've had a busy couple of days so I haven't had a chance to update and fill in all our news. In the grand scheme of things, not much has been happening, but I am about to embark on a serious declutter of our house having received a rather large shipment of plastic boxes from here. I have promised my husband that I will tackle our bedroom today/this evening so had better get a move on....

I have another confession - I'm an addict. Less than a week ago I finally cracked how to crochet and ever since I've hardly stopped. I love how I can fling my project in my handbag without having to worry about the stitches slipping off the needles, unlike in knitting. I love how there's no "rules" and how quickly your project grows. I am planning to make all my presents this year even though that means I'd better start now. My husband thinks I'm going mad, especially as new yarn seems to arrive every three days or so. My latest purchase was some Rowan ribbon twist to make a rug for our lounge. I popped into our local charity shops on Tuesday and was able to buy a vintage 1960s crochet book - complete with colour plates of funky dresses and bags.

On Tuesday I went to my first knitting meet! It's an idea that started in the USA, under the title "Stitch 'n Bitch" and I organised a local meeting for other interested knitters. We went to a local pub and sat chatting and knitting (or stitching and bitching I guess!!!). There were only 4 of us this time, but I hadn't publicised it locally (in case it was a disaster) and I think we'll do it again. We got a lot of comments and several men wanted us to teach them - I've told them to look out for us at the next meet and join us! We'll see if it takes off. I'd really like to be involved in organising something like this - I enjoy teaching people and would love to spread the love of the craft.

If my knitting and crochet hobby is an addiction, well I guess there's worse things I could be doing with my time. Our lives are so full of challenges, worries, misery and stress that I need a creative outlet to express myself. I don't like having idle hands - if I am concentrating on my crafting then I'm less likely to be fretting over the latest problem we're having in nursery/ with the LEA/ with James' behaviour. It's important to have a way to let go and relax.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Pay it Forward

Whilst trawling my various internet forums over the weekend (yes, I'm addicted and it's not healthy, but I have fun!) I stumbled across a forum on Ravelry called "Pay it Forward". I was intrigued so entered and have found a lovely forum based on a sort of variation of a chain letter. The premise is that you sign up to receive a handmade gift from someone through their blog and in turn you offer to send a gift to the first three people to respond to your invitation on your own blog. So unlike a chain letter, you're not expecting to receive half a million pounds, or be in the Guinness Book of Records - just joining in with a really thoughtful community. So I've signed up and will be making a gift for the first three people to sign up here! The "blurb" on the forum is below:

Let me tell you about it, these are the instructions: "It’s the Pay It Forward Exchange. It’s based of the concept of the movie “Pay it Forward” where acts or deeds of kindness are done without expecting something in return, just passing it on, with hope that the recipients of the acts of kindness are passed on. So here’s how it works. I will make and send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I do not know what that gift will be yet, and it won’t be sent this month, probably not next month, but it will be sent (within 6 months) and that’s a promise! What YOU have to do in return, then, is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.
I will now Pay It Forward to you THREE, I wonder who you will be?! Please, be a PIF! You will enjoy it just as much as we do!"
And, have 6 months to get your gifts done! Come on, you know you would love to be one of my angels. Then, one day, but you don't know will get a gift that I have made especially for YOU!
Please remember, you don't have to knit or crochet to participate, anyone who can make a nice handmade gift is welcome to join :)

Apart from offering to make gifts for other people, it's been a day of giving for me. This morning a friend from another online forum, Damsels, drove over to see me. She has just found out she is expecting twins and I offered her my (virtually unused) double buggy. I had been given the buggy to product test two years ago and had only used it once (James has always been very happy to walk everywhere so I had no need for a double, plus I tended to wear Bea in a sling from an early age so hardly used a buggy at all) so I hope she gets lots of use out of it. Bea enjoyed playing with her 2 year old daughter - it's so nice to see Bea making efforts to interact with other children, as she gets no interaction from her brother.

The air is far from clear between me and my husband - I'm going to turn the computer off now and see if we can talk properly.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

What a weekend

I love the weekends as I can slow my pace down, kick back a bit, enjoy James without the pressures of having to get him to and from nursery, have a bit of time to myself and basically try and live. My life is usually pretty challenging, but sometimes things get on top of me and are too much. This weekend has had it's share of ups and downs and I'll be glad when I get to sleep tonight and wake tomorrow to a new day and a new week.

Two weeks ago my husband took James to his weekly swimming lesson. It was only the second time he had taken him swimming and I made a nonchalant comment about James never pooing during a lesson. Of course, I jinxed them and poor David had to deal with a rather distressed little boy and a lot of poo. Everywhere. Luckily it didn't actually get in the pool or he'd have had to contend with the embarrassment of everyone being hauled out of the pool and the pool being drained for decontamination. So it wasn't really a surprise that when I offered to take James swimming this morning he breathed a sigh of relief and sent me on my merry way. I couldn't understand why James was refusing to try to jump in the pool and was about to prise him off me and sit him down to drop himself in from the side when his teacher realised it had happened again. Luckily I was a little better prepared than David had been and we coped pretty admirably. I had a chat with his teacher and she thinks it may be because he is scared of jumping in (he clings to me and really doesn't want to go in) so we will hold off getting him out from now on. I just hope it hasn't become a new "habit" - when autistic children develop a specific routine in certain situations it can be very difficult to break them, even when the behaviours result in something unpleasant for them.

After I'd cleaned and showered and dressed James I took him to the park behind the pool. I was really pleased at how willing James was to try some of the more difficult climbing apparatus. He is quite fearful of heights and has visual processing problems (part of his difficulties with sensory processing), so finds this sort of activity very challenging. He was happy to have a go at climbing up and down the rope assisted wall, and used the scramble net really well. It has taken us a long time, but he even went down the slide of his own accord!

We met up with Bea and my husband and went to ASK pizza for lunch. I was really impressed with the service and attention we received and the children really enjoyed their lunch and were very well behaved. The children's menu was impressive to say the least - James and Bea shared a menu between them and there was more than enough to fill them both up. I was highly impressed that the staff were thoughtful enough to bring them each a plate of pasta - usually we are presented with one dish between the two of them. James isn't a big fan of pizza but he loves pasta so we went for the polpette (mini meatballs) which were devoured. I was glad he ate happily as he refuses to eat pasta with a sauce at nursery. Bea was delighted with the banana split - she has a bit of a penchant for ice cream! Just like Jack Sprat and his wife, Bea ate the ice cream and James ate the banana, and the dish was licked clean.

Our afternoon has been less blissful - the children have been quite active and my husband has been searching for his credit cards which he has managed to misplace. Of course, this is somehow my fault and we've ended up having a rather heated row and have both said some pretty unpleasant things. In addition, Bea managed to hit her mouth on the corner of our futon and was covered in blood - I thought she was auditioning for a part in Dracula.... I'm sure my husband and I will kiss and make up later but right now I'm the one spitting blood......

Saturday, 23 February 2008

The man called U.N.C.L.E

I realised this morning that I hadn't even mentioned that my brother had come to stay this week. It has been over three years since he last stayed with us, although I have been back to stay with my parents many times since then. When he last visited us, I had an 18 month old happy, active, chatty toddler who doted on his uncle and showed no signs of autism. How much has changed in three short years....

James has always been quick to seek out contact with male carers - he used to run up to men in the park, pointing to himself, saying "James, me James, me Jamie!" and look straight into their eyes. Many of my tube journeys were spent hiding my face as James sought out eye contact with men who were trying to mind their own business! If it was a particularly good looking man, I'd flash him my best smile but more often than not it was some rather unkempt, old man with several bags full of goodness knows what. Often there would be delighted comments on how charming he was and how happy he seemed. Nowadays I still get comments on his looks but more often than not I can feel people looking and wondering why he doesn't talk to them, why he's wearing a backpack with reins, why he's screeching and tsking to himself (these are his stims which help to calm him). If they start up a conversation I am usually quite open about his autism but it's not always appropriate to talk about it. Anyway, I digress. The point I was trying to make is that he has developed a strong relationship with all the male members of our family - my brother and both of his grandfathers. He is always pleased to see my mother but his face lights up when he sees my father. So you can imagine how excited he was to see my brother.

Having an extra pair of hands around in the daytime during half term was a godsend. I was able to relax a lot and Jason really bonded with both children. The last time he saw us was in August, and Bea was only just learning to walk and had a handful of words - he was most taken by the chatty, jumping bean she's become. As for James, he couldn't get enough of his favourite uncle and they had plenty of fun running round the garden, playing tickling games, doing jigsaws and basically just hanging out together. We took the children to Cassiobury Park to the lovely playground there and to ChaChaCha, a borough supported cafe in the grounds. I think Jason found ChaChaCha a bit overwhelming - for the first half hour he was the only male in the packed cafe, and the noise was a bit much for him. He has told me that the last few days have been exhausting and fun but have put him off having children himself - I hope that he rethinks this as he will make an excellent father (don't tell him I said that - it's an unwritten rule that we never compliment each other in our family).

Not only did he help me out during the day, but he and David have managed to paint the playroom! Yay! We just did a quick two coat job with the Dulux Endurance range (we have developed a bit of a thing for Farrow and Ball paint but I didn't think it would stand up to the (mal)treatment it would get in the playroom) and the room looks so different now. It is bright and light and actually quite pleasant to sit in. I know we'd never have got round to it without the help from Jason, so let's hear it for the best uncle I know.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Love yourself

Making time for myself is something I've never really been that good at doing. When I was a junior doctor my life revolved around two things - work and sleep! If I got to sit down and watch a film then that was a huge plus. Socialising was integral to work - I was living in hospital accomodation and my friends were my colleagues so nights down the pub were an extension of our working day. I tried to keep up with my hobbies - I took singing lessons and sung in the hospital choir, but it's quite hard to practice singing when your neighbours are asleep after a night shift. My next few jobs involved long commutes so I hardly had time for any non work activities and then I started revising for exams. I finally passed my membership exam in 2001 but kept myself busy organising a wedding! It wasn't until I was pregnant and looking for simple, colourful knitted garments for the baby I was expecting that I took up knitting. The sea of pinks and blues was what spurred me on - we had decided not to find out the sex of the baby and so I was looking for gender neutral colours (browns, greens, beige) and all I could find was white or cream. Oh, and a few bits in yellow but I'd spent too many days on neonatal units sniggering about jaundiced babies dressed in yellow with fellow colleagues to inflict that on my offspring....

Armed with a few Debbie Bliss pattern books and a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch (the definitive knitting self help guide!) I set about teaching myself to knit. My mum had tried to teach me when I was at school so I had the very basics, but her patience (and mine, in all fairness) was not sufficient to keep me on track and I never grasped the important stuff like casting on and knitting two stitches together. Fast forward 5 years and I'm pretty confident, if not particulalry adventurous. My love of knitting has taken me to a rather fun website called Ravelry, which is a set of forums dedicated to all things yarn based. I have been trying to learn to crochet for about a year now, but last night I cracked it - Vic and I have been talking about her teaching me to crochet for ages now and we finally got together for a teaching session at her house yesterday. I am now inspired to make Bea a blanket for her bed from granny squares - if you don't know what I'm talking about look at this blog! Vic is a very bad influence on my yarn buying habit - and soon she's going to be a constant source of good quality yarn. Have a look at her blog and see what she's up to....

All this knitting and crocheting doesn't leave me a lot of time for much else but I have vowed to start making more effort to look after myself. I am going to enrol in a local pilates class and try and find a decent local swimming pool. Last Friday I went to a fundraising evening for our local ADHD support group and the remit was that everyone had two taster beauty or alternative treatments. I had a mini reflexology treatment and it was so wonderful I've vowed to go again soon. Next time I sound a bit harrassed and exhausted remind me to love myself.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

When you least expect it....

I am often offered help and advice about autism and its causes and how I ought to manage James and what I should do to help myself and why it has happened to us and that there is this amazing new diet that cures autism and - well, you get the picture. I have learned to take it all with a pinch of salt, decide which pieces of information I want to filter in and then set off researching on my own. As soon as you have children it seems that it is an open invitation to people to start commenting on your parenting skills and giving you advice that you haven't even asked for. A recent post on a forum I frequent linked to these rather amusing baby t shirts, which I would love if the slogan could be altered to "please don't give my parents unsolicited advice - I'm autistic. Google it". Apparently the National Autistic Society used to sell a slogan t shirt that said "I'm not naughty, I'm autistic". I have toyed with the idea but whilst I have no problem labeling James as autistic I don't feel comfortable labelling his behaviour as "naughty". Even though his challenging behaviour is all a result of his autism very little of it is truly "naughty" and I'm not sure the slogan will help. Will people just think I'm making excuses for unacceptable behaviour and still proffer me advice and criticism?

It's very rare that I get any positive affirmation of my ability to deal with James and his difficulties. I do have a very close support group at my local branch of the National Autistic Society and occasionally turn up to our weekly coffee mornings to be told I've been "spotted" somewhere and how well we were all doing. Days like that make my week. Perhaps the most meaningful encounters are those times when an innocent bystander with no knowledge or understanding has made a positive comment about my children - often at the supermarket the assistants tell me how well behaved they are or how attractive they are.

Yesterday I was lucky to have a few hours to myself - James was at the special needs playscheme at Kids Can Achieve, a local charity that was founded by parents of children with special needs to provide the sort of support and assistance they needed. Bea was with Charlie. So I took myself off for some retail therapy and peace and quiet. I was standing looking at chopping boards when I heard a voice I recognised - you know the type of voice that is unforgetable and makes you sit up as soon as you hear it, well that's what I heard. It didn't take me long to place the voice and it was a colleague from my most recent workplace, before I had Beatrix. We had a long chat about life and James - she was not aware of his diagnosis as it only became apparent after I went on maternity leave. I discussed my concerns about going back to work and how it would be difficult to remain entirely detached when seeing parents and their children and breaking the news of diagnosis to them when I am still coming to terms with it myself. I even talked about my idea for a new role for myself, as a family advocate around the time of diagnosis and she thought it would be an excellent idea. I am now going to persue this as a realistic possibility. I doubt I would be able to get NHS funding for this sort of role, but I am sure there must be charitable organisations such as Contact a Family who may have a caseload I could take on. So watch this space....

After I had picked James up I took him for a drive (he loves the motion of the car) and just as I was about to head home he fell asleep. I took my opportunity and pulled over and turned the radio on - to my surprise I found myself listening to a Radio 4 interview with Dame Stephanie Shirley, an amazing woman who has dedicated her charitable work to funding research into autism and has founded a specialist school for children with autism, Prior's Court. My husband is keen for us to get involved in research, particularly if it points to the causes of autism, so I will be researching how to take that forward. Perhaps another new calling for me....

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

An angel at my table...

Half term. A phrase that makes the blood of many mums run cold. Especially at this time of year when it's still too cold to depend on being outside and the purse strings are still tight after Christmas. Add an autistic child who needs constant supervision into the equation and you can imagine how I feel in the run up to half term. The last year has had its fair share of horrors and pitfalls and most of them revolved around holidays. Looking after James is a 24 hour job - I usually wake up in the morning having dreamt about him or an incident that involved him. Our nights are often broken with a wide awake child at 3am or our evenings are taken up calming him down enough to get him to sleep before 10pm. And then there's all the extra housework and cleaning he creates (on a good day he has one change of clothes, today it was three...) So I count my blessings that we found Charlie. She is an angel who has stumbled across our chaos and somehow blinkered her eyes to the mess and helped us in our hour of need. She looks after Bea every Friday and helps me over the holidays. I honestly don't know if I could manage a whole week of half term without her help.

Most mothers of two or more know what it's like to juggle their children, working out whose need is greater and somehow managing to meet the needs of everyone. I remember finding my first weeks after James was born so very difficult and challenging, yet when Bea was born I didn't have time to wallow in the difficulties of a newborn as I had a full blooded toddler to deal with. What I didn't realise was that Bea was always going to have to be second best if I was on my own with them. James has no awareness of danger, no understanding of the world around him and his behaviour is often dangerous and inappropriate. It has now got to the point where I cannot go out with the two of them on my own, unless our trip involves a trolley with two seats (ie Tesco, Ikea and Costco!!!). My idea of hell is taking the two of them to a soft play venue but even just venturing to the local park is challenging. I don't do it any more, although we do have a reasonably big garden so they can both run off a bit of steam there.

But today I had Charlie with me so I took the opportunity to take the children to Ruislip Lido. Charlie walked from the car with James and Bea insisted on walking round the lake too. We were the slower party and by the time we reached the "beach" and children's play area Charlie looked a little harrassed - James had run straight to the water as soon as she took his safety rucksack off and was soaking wet (he had sat down in about 6 inches of water). Luckily, it was a lovely sunny day and he soon dried off and enjoyed the roundabout and swings. I hadn't realised that the train would be running so we will come back soon to use the railway.

It's funny how despite having extra help today I feel more tired than usual. Even with another pair of hands around it's still exhausting having a full week with no let up - roll on next week!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Painting with Pesto...

You just know what I'm going to write don't you? The title's a bit of a giveaway....

When James started nursery in September I remember feeling the tinge of sadness that most mummies feel on the first day they send their child to school or nursery. Except mine was tinged with a lot of worries and concerns that most mummies don't have to contend with - how will they get him to sit down, who will understand him when he does speak, will he let his keyworker change his nappy, how many changes of clothes should I send him with. This last question still challenges me - I find that however many items I send him in with, he comes home with the same number of dirty items. My washing basket is constantly overflowing - at this rate we'll need a new machine before this one reaches statutory school age.... My feelings of sadness were also mixed with guilt - no matter how much time I'm able to give James, it's always going to be combined with the pressures of running a household and looking after both him and his sister. In the months before he started nursery I felt I was unable to give him the amount of time he needed - he needs constant one to one attention during his waking hours and this is exhausting at the best of times. Add in a demanding 14 month old and I honestly felt I needed to clone myself. It was a rare occasion that I could get him interested in anything I was doing - he would rather jump on the trampoline or run up and down the garden than participate in any organised (and I use that term loosely) activity. I would try and get him interested in painting or colouring to no avail. When I brought home his first painting from nursery I sat in the car and cried my eyes out - I felt that it ought to be me who was spending time painting with him and that it was another thing to show me how neglectful I had become. Yes, I'm very good at self flagellation as I'm sure you'll notice as you get to know me....

Over the last 4 months James has shown more and more interest in creative activities - for the first time ever we have a wall of his beautiful and precious art work. OK, so the standard is about the same level as Bea's but it's the fact it exists that matters, not the quality. At a friend's house today the toddlers were playing with an Aquadraw painting mat (a genius invention if ever one existed - it uses water so your walls are safe!) and James picked up a brush and proceded to produce some pretty determined brush strokes. I tried to paint his feet but he dissolved into a fit of giggles when the brush went near his toes so we turned that into a game instead.

This creative bug has got some drawbacks, however, and we had another of our "incedents" this evening. I had left the jar of pesto next to the hob after I made the children their supper. After supper Bea wanted to watch her favourite programme, In the Night Garden, so I went to the playroom and turned on the television for her. I thought James had followed us but then realised he was rather quiet - I don't need to tell you the rest do I? Thankfully my husband got home a few moments later and after a bath and a mop you wouldn't know anything had happened....

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Family day trip

It's days like today that reinforce just how different our life as a family really is. When we decided to start our family (just over 5 years ago now - how time flies!), neither of us ever imagined that this is how it would turn out. I knew it would be challenging, hard work, rewarding, frustrating and difficult but never realised HOW difficult it might be. 15 months ago the life I'd imagined was taken away and replaced with a completely different one - the day James' consultant confirmed my suspected diagnosis of Autsitic Spectrum Disorder shattered my very being. The last 15 months have been an incredible challenge, and I would be lying if I said that I feel things are completely back on track. Parents of children with ASDs describe life as a roller coaster at the best of times, so it looks as if we're on this ride for a long time yet.

We woke up to beautiful sunshine and I took the spur of the moment decision to go to Willows Farm Village for the day. So we bundled the brood into the car and set off for a family day trip. This was our second visit and I have to sing their praises - they really do accomodate disabled visitors - there is a discounted entrance fee and one adult carer can accompany the disabled person free of charge. All areas are wheelchair (and buggy!) accessible and there were plenty of disabled facilities.

Most families see weekend trips like this as an enjoyable part of family life, bringing everyone together and spending some "quality time" together. It's a bit different for us. We spent most of the morning preparing James for what was going to happen - most of the journey was spent telling him we were going to see some animals (and I was praying that the animals I'd mentioned would all be there - autistic children don't like surprises and don't cope well with change, so if I said there was going to be a horse, there had better be a horse there!). I wonder how much of this really helps as James never really acknowledges what we say, but I'm so used to doing this now I don't even think about it. Maybe one day I'll be brave and not give him any preparation, but I'll have to be prepared for the consequences.

Walking around the farm my daughter was pointing out all the animals, stroking them, saying hello and generally being a very typcial 20 month old. James on the other hand would have wondered around without actively noticing anything if we didn't point each little thing out to him. We must have been the only family pointing out the yummy newborn lambs to our four year old. But it was worth it - for the first time in a long while he actually made the appropriate animal noises - to hear his "baa" "moo" and "neigh" was like music to my ears. Not only that, but he even pointed - he stopped finger pointing at around 24 months so this was incredible. My heart was melting and I was truly ecstatic as I gave him a "high 5" and hugged him close, saying "great pointing James!".

Today was a huge success, and James has been more communicative today than he has been for months, so it looks as if family day trips are going to become a regular occurence.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Locked in...

My first post and it's the first of many honest admissions. Yesterday, my son decided to make his escape into the big, wide world. Out the front door, before I'd even realised he'd gone. My heart was in my mouth (I always thought that was a cliche, but it's not - it describes that moment where you think your world has ended and life will never be the same again) and I felt sick. At the same time I was running into the street, screaming his name at the top of my voice (knowing full well this was totally futile - he doesn't answer to his name when I'm calling him on a good day....) looking like a lunatic. No, honestly, I was in my slippers, with my knitting tucked under my arm - heaven knows what the neighbours thought. I looked up and down the street, screaming like a banshee and was about to start crying when I heard a familiar "tshk, tshk, oooh aaah" sound. There he was, behind me, standing in front of the garage and stimming away as if nothing unusual had happened.

So today my husband was sent off to purchase a chain for the front door. I can't risk this happening again especially as I may not be so quick to notice his disappearance and he may wander a lot further next time. It has made me wonder what would happen if he did wander off - James is completely non verbal and has such a limited understanding of language that he'd never be able to make his way home. I also wonder whether in this day and age anyone would even bother to stop and try and help him, fearing they would be accused of abuse or worse. The irony is that this sort of attitude leaves him more vulnerable to exactly that. The media has a lot to answer for.

I often think that James is "locked in" within his autistic world, somewhere he doesn't let me visit, and now we're all going to be "locked in" together.