Thursday, 3 April 2014

Perfect Pitch

Quite by accident, I discovered that my autistic son has perfect pitch.

Perfect, or absolute pitch is when a person can sing or play a note without any external reference. For example, if I ask my son to sing a C note, he can do it exactly.

This is very rare in neurotypical people, but autistic people are 500 times more likely to have perfect pitch than the general population.

The way I understand it is that he sees musical notes similar to the way we see colours. We wouldn't confuse blue with red in the same way that he would not confuse a C with an E.

It was quite odd how I found out he had perfect pitch. We were watching a DVD of Disney's Frozen when my son remarked that the soundtrack was higher on the DVD than the cinema version. I didn't believe it, but when I played an audio recording of the Frozen soundtrack, it matched his singing exactly and when I compared it to the DVD I found that his comments were, indeed, correct.

I am interested to explore where his musical abilities will take him. He is interested in learning to read music, which is what we are doing right now. Whether this translates to the ability to play an instrument well remains to be seen, as his motor skills and coordination are quite poor.

Autism is AMAZING and my son is a musical superman.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Birkbeck Babylab

Back in January of this year, I received an email from a very nice lady called Bryony inviting me to the launch of an exciting new project at Birkbeck university: The Babylab. Although I wasn't able to attend the launch due to prior commitments, Bryony was kind enough to send me a press release about the project, as well as links to further information. It made for fascinating reading.

The Babylab project launched in January as part of a £2.5 million Autism study calles STAARS (Studying Autism and ADHD risk in siblings). The project will involve over 400 families from Europe and the UK.

The aim of the project is to study infants who have older siblings with autism and ADHD and to monitor them from birth, as they have an increased risk of developing these conditions. With earlier diagnosis come earlier intervention and improved outcomes for families.

The research team are currently looking for families with infants ages between 3-10 months old who have an older sibling with autism or ADHD to take part in the study.

Professor Mark Johnson, who is leading the study, says: "
We are very excited to be embarking on what is one the most innovative collaborative research projects into early markers of autism and ADHD to have been carried out to date.  Combining the data and expertise at the Babylab in London with that of our partners across Europe and North America will enable us to drive discoveries that will make a real impact on the lives of people with autism or ADHD and their families.”
The research will involve cognitive tests, neuroimaging and behaviour tests to study babies and toddlers as they play. The families involved in the project will participate in questionnaires and interviews in order to give the research team a fuller picture of the child's background and influences. 
For more information on the project, visit the research team blog, or view the Babylab podcast.
If you are interested in taking part in the study, you can contact Janice on 020 7079 0761 or email

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Overload at School

OVERLOAD!!!!!! Too.....much...stuff....

Ok, yesterday we had to take in:

Reading bag
Reading Record
Weekly Planner
A cheque for a museum trip
PE kit
Fruit containers provided by school (one for fruit, one veg and the kids have to tick a card to say they have had their fruit and veg that day).

So I gave the teacher the cheque, because I knew it would get lost otherwise and I told her to make sure my son took the homework out of his bag and handed it in with the reading record.

When my son came out of school he was carrying:

A letter (swimming starts soon, another thing to remember...)
His bag containing his homework, reading record and planner
His lunchbox and empty fruit containers.

So then I say to the teacher:

"How come he hasn't handed in his homework and reading record?" (like I asked her to check)

and she looks at me as it to say "I haven't possibly got time to do that"

and he says "I have handed it in".

and I say "No, you haven't, its in your hand"

and she says "Yes, its in your hand"

and he looks puzzled.

and I take it from him and give it to the teacher. And I also mention this weekly planner, which they gave the kids weeks ago to write in and so far, ours is blank because my son doesn't know what to do with it.

and then we trundle home, overloaded with our glut of letters, lunchboxes and bag and fruit containers...because we walk, even when it's raining, which incidentally, it is.

And sometimes, I think I look like a bag lady or a one man band with all of this stuff hanging off me.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Thinking About Homeschooling Again

Last Friday I went to collect my son from school, only to find him wandering on the playground...again. Apparently the classroom assistant had asked him if he could see his mom before she sent him out, but he carried on past her anyway.

It was a good job I wasn't running late that day and I saw him and grabbed him quickly before he got lost in the crowd of waiting parents.

This is the 6th time that something similar has happened since he was in year 2. he is now in year 4 and despite several meetings with senior staff, these incidents are still happening.

I think the main problem is that they are trying to treat him like all of the other children. Which, for the most part, would be a good thing, but sometimes he needs to be treated differently, especially when it comes to his safety.

Later this year, the class will be going on a trip where they stay overnight in a youth hostel. The teacher assures me that my son will be fine. Seriously? The same child who is not all that reliable at going to the toilet and struggles dressing himself will be fine managing a suitcase with all his stuff in it, making his own bed and managing his own self-care whilst away from home? Really?

Square peg, round hole. Maybe instead of forcing the square peg to become round, we should be celebrating his squareness; all four corners of it.

So...I'm thinking about homeschooling once this school year is done. it will be a natural break, as my daughter leaves at the same time and maybe it will be the right time to cut my ties with the school once and for all.

I have a lot of thinking to do first. It is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Food Dudes

My son has been doing Food Dudes all week at school.

It is a healthy eating scheme designed to get more kids eating fruit and vegetables.

The kids have to sample a fruit and vegetable at school and they get a prize. They also have to log all fruit and veg eaten at home.

This can be slightly problematic when it comes to autism, as kids with autism are hypersensitive to tastes and smells.

He gives most things a try, but a couple of days ago, the teacher tried to give him a red pepper to try. he had a nibble, but it was too strong for him. The teacher said that in order to qualify for his prize, he needed to eat a bigger piece. He refused, so he wasn't given a prize.

I am incredibly proud of my son for being brave enough to sample a strange food. I'm just disappointed at the teacher for not showing him a little leniency in this situation.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

King Long Arms Live Episode

My son has been having lots of fun with his story blog: King Long Arms, so we decided to make a live action episode with some paper cutouts of the characters.

It's probably going to be the first of many....

You can watch the video here.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Pragmatics Group

After a long break, due to lack of funds, the pragmatics group started again yesterday.

My son has been attending this group since he was about 4 years old.

My son was so excited about going, but this may have been due to the fact that he got to miss an afternoon of school and get a McDonald's for lunch!

The group is all about helping kids with their social skills and understanding of emotions. The speech therapists look at the way the children in the group interact with one another and whether they are listening and interested in what others are saying. They play games to get the kids to break the ice and start conversing.

When we went to the group, we sat in the waiting room and all of the kids were playing in a ball pit. My son seemed a bit intimidated by them and kept his distance. One of the boys wanted to talk to him and came over and politely said "Excuse me?", but my son thought he was telling him to move out of the way, so he ran off! The boy kept following him, saying the same thing and my son kept running away.

He really enjoyed the group though. In one of the games, they had to have an item on their head and ask the other kids questions about what it was. One of the kids had a sausage and asked if it was an animal. My son got quite upset that the others said it wasn't an animal, because in his mind, it used to be an animal!

I look forward to seeing what the next five weeks will bring and what the results will be from this block of therapy.