Poor Nel.

Poor Nel hasn’t had much fun lately.

Her work escorting a child to school has been stressful lately as he has some issues which make life tricky – though at least there is now some help to try and address them, including her being sent on a course to give her some training in dealing with the specific problems. Her dog walking is enjoyable still, except that another dog-walking business has been pinching some of her existing and potential clients lately which is rather galling for her.

Then Lev, one of her Roborovski hamsters has died πŸ™ She just found him in his bed, though has no idea why. She did say she’d noticed he had been a bit hyperactive a couple of days before – and in hamsters this CAN be a sign that they are in pain – but you can’t assume every time they are running around they are in pain. We think he must have had an illness or disease that we could not detect, and his brother seems absolutely fine. Lev is now buried in a pot in the garden and we’ll buy a plant in the spring to commemorate his little life.

She then came down with a very heavy cold – I did wonder if it was flu as she was so poorly, and to top it off, this set off her nosebleeds. She had several bleeds, including one whilst in the bank when she had to grab some tissues and run for her bus to get to work, and then when I came home from work last Friday, she’d had a couple of bleeds including one that was still going after 30 minutes. Over the course of the day she’d got through a box of tissues, and one and a half loo rolls! I asked if she thought we ought to take her to casualty, which she didn’t much fancy as last time (8 years ago) they’d stuffed a giant tampon-like wedge up her nose, she’d almost passed out and we ended up being blue-lighted to Newcastle for clotting tests etc. The poor child had “merely” had flu, got dehydrated and had a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop. Naturally she wanted to avoid a repeat if possible – so what did we do? We found a tampon that’s what! πŸ˜€ And it did the job. For a bit. At 7.00pm we ended up heading to casualty after all! πŸ™ Billy passed on my apologies to the darts team and I spent 2.5 hours waiting with Nel – whose nosebleed stopped as we arrived! Naturally! What was frustrating was that we waited all that time without knowing for what we were actually waiting! We didn’t know if it was to see if the bleeding resumed or stayed stopped, or to see a doctor, or what. No-one pointed out there were magazines in the corner of the room (we discovered them 10 minutes before we left!) or where to get a drink of water or find the loo. Eventually, a doctor who looked Stephen’s age (no disrespect to him though – it just made me feel ancient πŸ˜‰ ) arrived and looked at Nel, said that he could see some very fragile blood vessels in her nose, and told her how to stop nosebleeds by pinching her nose for 20 minutes. That was that and we came home! Very helpful!We were exhausted and both went straight to bed. When I called Billy to tell him, he was relieved all was OK, sorry for our wasted trip and said he’s pick up a box of tampons on his way home. Bless him! (And he did – they were in the bathroom when we got up in the morning.)

Poor Nel, she’s not been having a great time.

Forced to a halt.

The next morning I felt dreadful. My sinuses were still agony, my head was throbbing, my jaw ached, my teeth felt loose in their sockets, my ears were sore and swimmy, and I was wiped out. πŸ™ I staggered downstairs and got an industrial strength dose of anti-inflammatory herbs (don’t try this at home folks!), my breakfast and a coffee but it was no good. I had to give in and return to bed.

I dozed, floated, groaned, sneezed and snuffled the day away in bed with the curtains closed to exclude as much light as possible as it aggravated my nose and eyes. I had a fever and my thoughts were very jumbled and bizarre but I just drifted with it. My trusty student dispenser, Billy, got me some more herbs – understanding my garbled instructions/measurements/Latin names of herbs was no easy feat anyway, but one of the herbs is a legally restricted one with a maximum weekly dose of just 8mls so he had to be very precise.

The next day was also spent in bed though I felt I’d turned a corner and managed a bath, change of PJ’s and having the window open for some fresh air. I was very tired still but able to watch a bit of TV, read a magazine and cope with the light. Liberal use of sinus cream and herbs continued and I had to send Nel out for more Balsam tissues as I’d unbelievably got through two boxes of them!

Finally on the 30th I was able to leave my bed though my chest felt tight (no signs of infection fortunately) and it felt good to be back on my feet. I did the essential jobs in the morning (with plenty of rests in between) and then retired to the living room for the afternoon with tree lights and fire on, a film and my laptop for company. I even managed some bucks fizz – slightly flat from Christmas Day, and purely for the vitamin C you understand … πŸ˜‰

So here I am on New Year’s Eve, still a bit sniffly and very tired with a tight chest, but definitely better. I don’t know if this bug was a very severe cold, a nasty bout of sinusitis or a mild dose of flu. I don’t know if my herbs got me better any quicker, but they certainly made it slightly more bearable, but I do know that given how busy I always seem to be, it’s no real surprise that my body forced me to take a break.

Boxing Day – have Kleenex, will travel.

Billy, Nel and I were visiting mum on Boxing Day and staying for one night – Raji and Stephen were working, sadly, so couldn’t join us. We planned to leave by 9am and I was up early as usual. I soon realised I had a coldgreat! πŸ™ I seemed to recall that the last one I’d had, I’d caught from Stephen and that he had then had it back again a few weeks later so I assumed this was phase 2 of the same bug for me too. Still, it wasn’t going to stop me seeing my Mummy, so I applied my sinus cream*, took more herbs and got out my box of Kleenex Balsam – the 3 things that help get me through a cold and without which I’d be thoroughly miserable.

We left at 9am as planned and had a really smooth drive down – the only difficulty being the very high winds in places causing me to fight to keep the car on course. We arrived in time for lunch – a proper Boxing Day lunch of home-made chips and cold meats, sausage rolls etc, accompanied by a very nice red wine πŸ™‚

In the afternoon Nel went for a nap, Billy fell asleep on the sofa and mum and relaxed with Gillette Soccer Saturday (on Monday πŸ˜‰ ) to get the football updates. Palace had played earlier so their result was final – sadly a loss to Southampton (away) but no more than mum expected really. Newcastle and City remained at 0-0 for so long that it was a good job we had other games to keep us entertained really πŸ˜‰ Finally Newcastle broke their deadlock and went on to win, but City were held to a 0-0 by West Brom. ManUre’s 5-0 win took them level on points with us but held to 2nd place by our goal difference – the second half of the season will be interesting indeed!

As the afternoon went on, I was sniffling more and my cold seemed to be developing apace. Nel reappeared and watched the TV programme mum had recorded for her – and Billy went upstairs for a nap. We nibbled for tea rather than having a proper meal but my appetite wasn’t great so this suited me nicely. After eating we watched some more TV and then I had to give in at 9pm as I was so very tired I could hardly think straight. So it was my turn to disappear, leaving Mum and Billy to watch Hercule Poirot and Nel to play on her laptop. Apparently Rocky appeared, cautiously, having avoided everyone since our arrival, and he tried to settle on mum’s lap but was wary of Billy (he doesn’t like men for some reason) – then as soon as Billy spoke, he was off!

I slept deeply, but woke every hour or so through the night, falling into a deep sleep again and in the morning my sinuses were very painful, my head ached, my glands felt solid, my throat scratched and my teeth tingled. Argh! In the absence of anti-inflammatory herbs (though I did have my regular mix of St John’s Wort, Echinacea and Withania with me and took my usual daily dose of that) I asked mum for a couple of aspirin and she even managed soluble ones πŸ™‚ When Nel was up, I suggested a mooch round the retail park as I really felt the need for some fresh air and they liked the sound of that. Billy declined to accompany us once he got up so we girls took ourselves off – me with Kleenex to hand as I was still sneezy and sniffly. The fresh air was wonderful and we commented that the weather was so mild that it was like a soft spring day in march rather than Christmas time. I couldn’t really get into the browsing but was happy to follow mum and Nel – I didn’t really feel with it but didn’t want to spoil it for them and I WAS enjoying the fresh air between shops.

When we got back, I was feeling quite hungry and we enjoyed stew and fresh baked baguettes before putting our things together for the drive home. I took some more aspirin before we left and as we said goodbye felt really bad that it had been a poor visit what with Nel and Billy sleeping half the time and me being ill. Mum said that nevertheless it had been lovely to see us and I’m glad we had come and enjoyed being able to see her, but wish we’d been more with it.

I don’t know how I drove home! I was on auto-pilot and it’s a good job I do that route so much. My sinuses were so painful and the low winter sun didn’t help matters at all. Billy had to have the tissue box to hand to pass me fresh ones, I had the sun visor down and my sunglasses on, but it was agony still. It was a good job we were travelling north as the southbound carriageway was gridlocked for miles and I would have struggled to cope with that in my state.

Once we arrived home, I left Billy to unload the car, I did the minimum necessary and collapsed in to bed, managed one episode of a TV series and some chocolates then went out like a light.

(* Sinus cream: comfrey base; hypericum infused oil; echinacea tincture; lobelia tincture; liquorice tincture; cramp bark tincture; peppermint oil; tea tree oil; chamomile oil. This soothes the inflammation, prevents secondary infection and opens the airways.)

Quiet Christmas at home.

When the children were small I used to have all the presents under the tree but they’d get a stocking from Father Christmas, which he delivered when they were asleep and which they were allowed to investigate when they woke up in the morning – before disturbing me at 6am πŸ˜‰ Of course, as they’ve got older they’ve stayed awake until their stockings arrived and opened them before even going to sleep. Now they’re older still and go to bed way after me, they open them before even going to bed! So I was rather pleased with myself this year when I came up with the cunning plan to leave their stockings in the morning when I woke up – before they were even thinking of waking up! πŸ˜€ But Nel was not amused! She begged, pleaded and finally threatened that I was messing with her autism! So I said “OK. Go and get me your stocking and I’ll fill it now then, as I don’t want to mess with that!” At which point she hesitated. And admitted she’d used it as an excuse. (I’d guessed that.) I said that nevertheless, if she wanted it now, she could have it. So she thought about it and came up with a compromise – since I always get up for the loo in the night, I could do the stockings then. That seemed workable so after she’d closed my door I filled the stockings – well, OK, stocking plus a small bag for Nel and a large gift bag for Stephen as his stocking went AWOL years ago. πŸ˜‰ When I got up at just gone midnight for the loo, I put them outside the kids’ doors – Stephen was out but Nel pounced on ehrs the second I shut my door so I laughed and called out “Merry Christmas” to her πŸ™‚

When I woke up properly at 6 am, I had a pounding headache and my ears were sore so before I had my breakfast and coffee, I took a large dose of herbs* to try and settle it so it wouldn’t spoil Christmas. It took an hour or so before it calmed enough for me to face the day and I had to take a couple more doses during the the morning but it receded enough to let me have my Christmas. Nel was up next and came in to say hello just as I was about to go for a nice bath. We had already agreed that she could open her presents on her own as it causes her a lot of stress opening them in front of other people ( a genuine autistic trait) so she opened them whilst I bathed.

When the men got up and joined us, we all sat together in the living room to open presents together – Nel had the cats’ and hamsters’ pile to open and she had her one from mum as mum had stipulated that we all had to open them together as they were themed. Mum had bought us all a watch each! What a lovely idea and all of them well chosen to suit the individual πŸ™‚

Nel gave the cats their treats and their “cosmic banana – Zara got it first and Nel left it wrapped but she didn’t take long to unwrap it:

The toy had come with a warning that cats go absolutely mad for it so it should be kept well hidden until Christmas and it seemed there had been no exaggeration. All the cats took turns with it, though Zara had had it the most and spent the rest of the day quite literally stoned!


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We all did very well – we had fewer presents than in previous years but all of them were perfect and we were happy. Billy bought me a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings; Nel bought me a colour-changing candle, some rose bath salts and bath fizzes and a pretty purple wine glass; Raji bought me a gift set of my favourite perfume; and Stephen bought me a rather fantastic mug:

Stephen rather amusingly, thought he’d had just a key-ring gadget from us and a child’s Thorntons chocolate animal from Raji – we had to tell him he’d missed the money that was wrapped with them! πŸ˜€ Bless him! Billy did well as both kids got him an Amazon voucher which he could use together and get something from his Amazon wish list. One of Raji’s best presents was a huge mug from Nel so he now only has to make cups of tea half as many times whilst still feeding his tea addiction πŸ™‚

After a couple of phone calls to wish mum and Rick a Happy Christmas, we all sat together for Christmas dinner at 1pm – turkey and the trimmings (beef or pork for those who preferred it/wanted it as well as turkey), Christmas crackers (complete with naff jokes, paper hats and a game of charades), Christmas pudding (or syrup sponge pudding/mince pies for those who preferred) with cream or ice-cream, coffee and chocolates. For some reason Billy kept trying to get down from the table and Stephen couldn’t wait to get away either so after a couple of rounds of rather entertaining charades, I gave up and let them go. Nel and Stephen disappeared upstairs, Billy immediately flopped on to the sofa, and Raji helped clear the table. Guess who washed up?! (More herbs helped me through.)

Raji and I sat and watched the Queen’s speech (Billy disappeared for that bit) and I thought she got the tone just right. Well done Ma’am. πŸ™‚

Then at 4pm we all sat together again to watch the last Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 – both the kids had seen it before, Billy and I had seen all the previous films and had read the book, but Raji had never seen any of the films – so at the end, Nel loaned him her boxed set so he could catch up πŸ™‚ Stephen fidgeted a bit and eventually disappeared, which was a bit disappointing as he knows I like to have the family together on Christmas Day, but otherwise I enjoyed the film and the day.

I was tiring fast but Nel wanted me to watch TV with her at 8pm so I went upstairs and got undressed and read a couple of magazines until then, but really could do without it – my headache was building up again and I felt like I could sleep for a week. I just about made it to 8pm but then Nel said she was too tired too and wasn’t going to watch TV after all. Hooray! Oh dear! She was upset at missing her programme though so I sent a text to mum to see if she’d record it for Nel to watch next day when we visited. That sorted, I collapsed thankfully into bed – and went out like a light.

Merry Christmas everyone. πŸ™‚

(* Herb mix was anti-inflammatory and lymph system boosting: Poke root/puke weed; white willow bark; meadowsweet; liquorice)

Liverpool 1 – 1 City

City were playing on Sunday so I had most of the weekend to get things done before stopping to watch it. I had come down with a cold which whilst not severe, was one that made my sinuses raw and painful so I felt a bit sorry for myself sniffling and snuffling as I watched the match.

As might have been expected, it was a very open game and the action was end to end at times, though City dominated for long periods. It took until the break was looming for a goal and happily it was for us, thanks to Komapny after a corner. Unfortunately, just a couple of minutes later, a cruel deflection off Lescott gave Liverpool the equaliser πŸ™

Things got a bit feisty as the game progressed though I didn’t think Balotelli (who had come on as a sub for Nasri) deserved his second yellow resulting his sending off as I didn’t feel he’d deliberately gone in with an elbow. Still, we were left with 10 men and my heart was in my mouth as the game got nearer and nearer to its end – I was kicking every ball and shouting at the TV, but somehow we managed not to concede to keep the scores level. I was very relieved and in the end, pleased to take a point. Phew! I think I’d have given Hart MotM for us as he kept out some likely looking shots.

MCFC’s 60 second highlights here
MCFC’s extended highlights here

Musings of a gym bunny.

It’s now been 3 months since I started going to the gym regularly and I have stuck to my routine of going before work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday πŸ™‚

My workout has increased a little, though I don’t feel the need to continually push myself to the limit. I stick at a level of exercise until I start finding it comfortable and then when it feels quite easy, I increase the level slightly. Even-so, I wouldn’t say my workout is arduous but it IS enough to get my heart and lungs working (I generally maintain a heart rate of 145 during my cardiovascular workout) and get my muscles moving a bit. Currently I do:

Ò€’ Bike: Level 2 warm-up for 2 mins; Level 3 for 8 mins varying the speed between 65-90 rpm (I confess, I like the bike least)
Ò€’ Rower: Resistance 8, for 5 mins at 32 strokes/min (I enjoy this, close my eyes, and get in to a rhythm)
Ò€’ Treadmill: Incline 7 (out of 14) at speed 6 (fast walk) for 10 minutes, work level 6 (out of 10) followed by a 3 minute gradual cool down to get my heart rate down to 110 (I quite like striding along at a steady pace, listening to my music, on this) I don’t like running on the treadmill and see no reason to do so since the incline gives me a better workout and I can feel that my leg and bottom muscles get worked hard.

Then I do the weight machines at a very low intensity Γ’β‚¬β€œ I donÒ€ℒt want to develop bulging muscles! πŸ˜‰ My favourites are the two hip abductor/adductor machines and I like to do these straight after the cardio part of my routine to stretch my leg muscles out. I then do a quick whiz round exercising my abdominals and a little for my arms Γ’β‚¬β€œ but my arms really donÒ€ℒt have much strength at all so I generally have to use the minimum possible weights Γ’β‚¬β€œ it makes me laugh when I follow one particular man round the equipment as I reduce the weight from 80Kg to my measly 5Kg! πŸ˜€

Another thing that makes me laugh (how appropriate since laughter is supposed to be excellent exercise) is overhearing the men in their changing room/shower as their voices carry very easily into the ladies’ changing room/shower. Some of what I overhear isn’t repeatable, some is rather sweet – I don’t think the men realise how clearly they can be heard πŸ˜€

One thing that baffles me is how few women (can’t speak for the men) that take a shower after their workouts! I always shower after exercising, but am one of only a handful that seem to do so – yet I see women dress for work after their gym session without having a shower! Yeugh!

One thing that has amazed me is the lady who was running on the treadmill next to me a few weeks ago who told me she’d injured her back a few months previously and had been told she’d never walk again!

One thing that’s intrigued me is the size of the person who leaves the bike on seat height 10! I have an inside leg of 31″ and have the seat on height 4. This person must be a giant and I have yet to see one of those in the gym. πŸ˜‰

One thing that’s pleased me recently has been trying out the hairdresser that has taken over the room where I had my clinic. (Now called “The Room” ) She does a wet cut for £18 and as I have long, straight hair which I only have cut once a year or less, and don’t need to style, this sounded good to me. I did my workout then had a shower and washed my hair before having her cut it. It irritates me with hairdressers when they faff snipping a snip here and a snip there taking an hour to take off 1cm of hair and charge £40+ for the pain. So I was delighted when this took 15 minutes and the cutting was done confidently and efficiently. You never know, I might be persuaded to go back in less than a year… πŸ˜‰

One thing that’s lethal is getting chatting! To other gym bunnies, or to the staff – I end up running late getting out of there, but of course I do enjoy the friendship and sociable aspects of going to a gym rather than working out alone.

So, aside from firmer muscles (especially my legs), cardiovascular health, and stress-busting benefits, I get inspiration, food for thought, friendship, a laugh or two and more from my gym attendance πŸ™‚

Tired Expert

When I got back to mum’s at 11.45pm I went straight to bed, but sadly, the cuppucino I’d had in the car after the game proved to be too caffeinated and I ended up falling asleep at 4am so only had a couple of hours sleep πŸ™ Coupled with the later bed-times I have at mum’s, and the stresses of the two Manchester trips, this served to make me very tired on Wednesday morning. Mum and I enjoyed a last breakfast together before going our separate ways – she to work and me to drive home. I‘d had a wonderful couple of days with her and felt I’d recharged my mental batteries if not my physical ones.

I had an easy drive home, which was just as well because I really was tired. I arrived at the hospital car park just in time for me to attend the education meeting which was pleasing as I was very interested in the subject and it lived up to my expectations. Next I drove home and unloaded the car before going back out to Tesco and doing the shopping. By the time I’d unpacked it all, I was beyond tired. I felt so tired I felt ill and everything was swimming. I was in bed at 8pm, went out like a light, and slept for 10 hours straight!

I felt slightly better the next morning, but still a bit slow. I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad that I was booked in for a day of IT sessions so that I could sit a mock Excel test and then do the final exam if I felt ready. It seemed so long since I’d last done any Excel training that I found it hard at first. I debated whether or not to sit the exam but decided I may as well have a go – and, like the Word expert one, I found it really hard. I was convinced I’d failed, but no. I am now officially a Microsoft Excel Expert πŸ™‚

I was working with the medical secretaries on Friday and I somehow struggled through the day, yawning as I went but by the evening I was feeling really wiped out again. As we now have plenty of players for our darts team, I gave darts a miss and had an early night. I was sad to miss seeing my friends but it was definitely the right thing to do as, once again, I slept right round until morning. I think it did the trick and I finally felt more like myself on Saturday morning. πŸ™‚ (My clever teammates pulled off another win, 6-5 against the Fox. Well done team πŸ™‚ )

Nel – an amazing diagnosis.

As friends and family will know, Nel is a funny little thing. She hates social situations, shies away from parties or family gatherings, has great difficulty making friends, found school absolute hell, cannot speak on the phone and prefers to spend all her time drawing her amazing anime art. She has recently been seeing a psychologist to try and help her over some of her phobias and this astute lady arranged for a specialist to come from Newcastle and assess her.

This specialist, the psychologist, Nel and I spent an hour and a half going through Nel’s childhood and school days, as well as her current situation and then we went through the diagnostic criteria together to decide if they applied to her. The list was something like this:

1.Severe impairment in reciprocal social interaction
(at least two of the following)
(a) inability to interact with peers
(b) lack of desire to interact with peers
(c) lack of appreciation of social cues
(d) socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior

2.All-absorbing narrow interest
(at least one of the following)
(a) exclusion of other activities
(b) repetitive adherence
(c) more rote than meaning

3.Imposition of routines and interests
(at least one of the following)
(a) on self, in aspects of life
(b) on others

4.Speech and language problems
(at least three of the following)
(a) delayed development
(b) superficially perfect expressive language
(c) formal, pedantic language
(d) odd prosody, peculiar voice characteristics
(e) impairment of comprehension including misinterpretations of literal/implied meanings

5.Non-verbal communication problems
(at least one of the following)
(a) limited use of gestures
(b) clumsy/gauche body language
(c) limited facial expression
(d) inappropriate expression
(e) peculiar, stiff gaze

6.Motor clumsiness: poor performance on neurodevelopmental examination

(All six criteria must be met for confirmation of diagnosis.)

It was decided that all but one on the list which meant that the specialist could definitely diagnose her.

She has high-functioning autism!

Our predominant emotion is relief. This diagnosis explains so much, and reassures Nel that she isn’t some sort of freak, and me that I haven’t been a bad mother just because I’ve never been able to work out how her mind works. So much of her childhood behaviour is explained. So many her strange little ways now, including her need for constant reassurance and the routine of spending time with me each evening. Secondary to this relief, for me, came disappointment that she wasn’t diagnosed as a child, which may have resulted in her getting help and making school less of a nightmare for her. But then I thought about that and decided that maybe we’d have labelled her and fallen in to the trap of seeing only the label and not the person. Likewise, she my not have achieved what she has because she might have hidden behind the label. So I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t bemoan the late diagnosis. We’ve managed to get through the last 18.5 years without it, and as it turns out, much of what I’ve done over the years has been the right thing to do. (For example: I’ve always kept to strict routine, always explained to the children exactly what is happening and when and kept them informed as anything has changed.)

We are now at the beginning of a journey to learn about each other. As much as we, her family and friends have to learn about Nel and how she sees the world, she has to learn about us. Both parties have always assumed we think the same and understand the world the same. But we don’t!

What we need mainly right now, is to learn about our differences so that we can best act to bridge them and enable Nel to feel secure in her world. We need to tweak our household rules and routines to accommodate the things that cause her the most anxiety, though in general she is fairly secure at home and I know she is very secure with me, and with mum.

My intention is to add comments to this post as we discover more, but I wanted to get this post up now so that family and friends can share the news an those that spend any time with her can find out what they can do to help her. (For example she is going abroad for a week soon and it would make it easier for her if everyone knew just how difficult she finds socialising and make allowances.)

I have yet to read through all the websites that have been recommended but if anyone wants a place to start, try here. The book we have been recommended to get is How to be yourself in a world that is different which we have on order.

If I was proud of my daughter before, I am even more so now – she is the lovely person she is despite finding the world and its human inhabitants so confusing all this time.

EDIT: Tom, a City friend, used an excellent analogy to help me understand something of the problems faced and has kindly said I can share it with you:

Recognising your physical self in a mirror is a learned skill. As babies we had to acquire this skill by experience, but after a while the process of recognition became ‘second nature’ to us; and we forget that there was ever any skill involved. Once this is the case, we came to think – erroneously – that self-recognition in a mirror is automatic or inbuilt.

It is only when we see an image of a group of people including ourselves on a CCTV monitor, that we suddenly become aware that we no longer have any immediate self-recognition. We then have to re-acquire self-recognition by means of explicit cognition; “the bald, fat guy with glasses and an inane grin’. We may indeed have check our tentative recognition by waving our hand; or even by pointing to the place where we believe the CCTV camera to be.

An equivalent skill is learned by us as babies to recognise our own social identity as reflected in the inter-actions and responses of those we meet. When we walk into a room, or presence is acknowledged by a whole series of physical signs in the people already there ; especially eye expressions, head movements, physical posture. Eventually, our ability to understand ourselves as present in the reactions of others becomes ‘second nature’. If we were to find our presence entirely unacknowledged – if everyone ‘looked right through us’ we would find it extemely disconcerting and stressful. We might wave, point or prod in order to extract a response that acknowledges our existence.

People with autism can read the same social signs as non-autists; but this reading does not easily translated into becoming ‘second nature’. Instead they may have to reacquire their own identity afresh by explicit cognition each time they enter into a new social environment. They may well undertake actions that are equivalent to ‘prodding’ or ‘waving’. Eventually, they may develop a set of familiar ‘signposts’ that they find from experience allow them a shortcut to their identity. It is as though they are trying to shave/make themselves up by means of an image on a CCTV screen, when everyone else has a mirror. Moreover, it can mean that they experience a social environment as dangerously unstable or underdetemined, if their familiar signposts happen to be absent or only partially presented.

This creates a paradox; persons with autism can often mimic the sort of social interaction that non-autists have; and so they can appear to be ‘normal’. But they may actually be relying on social signs in a completely different way. For example, it has been shown that persons with autism tend to ‘read’ facial expression in terms of mouth movements, where non-autists tend to rely on eye movements. And this different way will always imply much greater effort both in acquiring self-identity through explicit cognition, and in maintaining it over a prolonged period; whereas the self-recognition of non-autists (being second nature) requires little of no effort.

To make a different analogy; it is as though persons with autism are riding unicycles in a world of bicycles; they may appear to be doing exaclty what everyone else is; but they will be doing it in a different way, in a way that requires more effort to maintain; and where they are constantly aware of an underlying instability or uncertainty, that other people do not feel.

The mirror/CCTV bit struck a chord with me, and Nel particularly liked the unicycle/bicycle analogy. Nel does indeed pick up my meaning if I exaggerate my mouth expression – a cartoon style pout or grin. She also needs me to specifically greet her verbally and to say goodbye/goodnight when leaving her company. However eye contact is a no-no, as is trying to constantly engage her in conversation. These things I sort of knew before – but now I have an explanation for them πŸ™‚

Aquafresh Ultimate Review

I had a free tube of Aquafresh Ultimate and we’ve been using it for about 2 weeks now.

I confess to pretty much being of the opinion that toothpaste is toothpaste is toothpaste…. As long as it has fluoride in it and tastes minty, that’s good enough for me. As a former dental nurse, I know that it’s the brushing that matters more than the toothpaste, and that activating the acid-attack as few times a day as possible is also a big help. (i.e not eating between meals.)

I happen to be blessed with good teeth thankfully, and I do only eat my 3 meals a day with no snacks, and my drinks are unsweetened coffee, tea or plain water. However, I like my coffee black and strong, and I enjoy red wine – great for staining teeth!

I do like this toothpaste and find it makes my teeth feel really clean and the minty fresh taste lasts for hours, which I love. Nel says she’s found her teeth less sensitive after using it too.

I don’t know about all the hype, but I like this very much and if it isn’t ridiculously expensive, will consider buying it in future. Give it a go – you can request a free sample on their site πŸ™‚

A sixth win! (Darts)

Friday night arrived with Billy in bed for the second day with some sort of viral illness that had knocked him for six, and Paul stuck at work, unable to get away to play darts. AGH! Stephen was busy, but Raji had a night off work and said he would be happy to play. Phew! (Of course, this meant he also had the dubious pleasure of being my escort for the evening – though it least we were at home so it was not far to go.)

We played against the Ex-Service B (Roger Senior and Junior’s old team) and they are doing quite well in the league. The random order was: Junior; Raji; Senior; me; Simon; and Claire.

We won both trebles but lost all the doubles. I felt sorry for Senior in our doubles because my darts were dreadful and I just kept hitting 1’s – even when I switched to 19, I kept getting 3’s! He’s a really good player but there’s only so much he can do! πŸ™

So, it was on to the singles and we lost the first two, though the games were close. Senior won his fairly comfortably, taking his individual points tally for the season to 104 now πŸ™‚ It was me next and the score was 3-5. Given my poor darts all night and the steadiness of my opponent, I didn’t fancy my chances, and I did trail a bit throughout the game, though my darts were fairly steady at last. I needed 53 and aimed for 13 – hitting x10! Oh dear! Second dart was 3, as advised by Senior. That left x15 and as soon as the dart left my hand I knew it was on target πŸ™‚ YAY! Poor darts all night, but I’d won my game – though I apologised to my opponent as he’d been robbed. (He was very magnanimous about it.) 4-5 now!

Simon was trailing all through his game, and was 300 behind at one point! His opponent couldn’t finish though and allowed Simon to get to needing x16 to win. He hit x8. And somehow, despite the odd angle of that dart, he got around it and hit another x8! We were delighted – 5-5 the score and we thought even if we now lost, losing by one game was a good result against a strong team.

Now it was all down to Claire’s game, though she later said she hadn’t realised this, which she thought was a good job. She was steady in her scoring and there was some happy banter with the two A league teams and our opposition all joining in supporting Claire πŸ™‚ They got down to both needing x1 and to out absolute delight, Claire hit it first.

We’d won 6-5! This was our 6th win this season which is unprecedented.

It was a really good result and had been an enjoyable evening all round. Raji appeared to have enjoyed himself too, and it was nice to spend time with him relaxing, as well as good to catch up with friends on the other team. We have no game next week, so anything could happen after the break. πŸ˜‰

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