I wrote this piece because I wanted to try and convey what high functioning autism is like through Polly’s eyes. We sat together and read it, and I was fully expecting her to ask me to change some (most) of it. Instead she looked at me and said “mummy, I love it, it’s exactly how I feel.” Needless to say I ended up in floods of tears… 

My name is Polly, and I’m almost nine years old.

I look exactly the same as all the other kids my age, and I mostly act like them too.

I’m not the same though.

I have a neurological condition called high functioning autism. This means my brain is wired differently to most of the other kids I know. 

through polly's eyesSometimes, when noises get too loud, inside my head starts to hurt. I know I should put on my noise cancelling headphones, but I don’t always like wearing them. If my sister is talking or singing in an annoying voice, it upsets me. I want to hit her and make her stop. Mummy says to use my words and ask her to stop instead of lashing out, but I can’t help it. My mind can’t think clearly when there is such a lot of noise going on. 

Sometimes, if I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, and I’m feeling agitated, I pinch my brother. I know I should get my fiddle toys out or pinch a cushion instead, but it’s not the same. It feels nice when I pinch a person, but then I feel mean when he starts to cry.

Sometimes, when we’re eating, I take food off their plates. I know we’ve all got the same, but their food always looks better than mine, and it’s too tempting not to take it. This often leads to fights being started, but I can’t control myself. It feels unfair that they get the nicest food.         

If we’re playing and they don’t listen to what I’m telling them to do, I get angry with my brother and sister. It’s annoying when they don’t follow my instructions. When they storm off to play by themselves without me, I scream “I hate you!” as loudly as I can. I don’t really hate them, but it makes me sad when they leave me out. Daddy says to jump on the trampoline and bounce away my anger instead. 

Sometimes, I get cross with my brother and sister for no real reason. Mummy asks me what’s wrong, but I find it difficult to explain my feelings. When I see them playing together, and being happy, it can make me feel sad. “I wish I could be as happy as they are,” I tell mummy after I finish crying. If I’m in the right mood, I like it when she cuddles me because it helps to calm me down.

When I’m not in the mood for hugs they just annoy me even more. I get angry and start throwing things on the floor and screaming. I get so cross with mummy for not knowing that I don’t want her cuddles, and would rather watch my favourite TV shows. Next Step and Junior Bake Off always helps to calm me down, but I get sad when they end.

If I’m playing nicely with my brother, I get upset when he goes to our sister in the middle of our game. It makes me feel like he loves her more than he loves me, and I get angry and sad. I start lashing out, and then no-one wants to play with me anymore.

through polly's eyesWhen my brother and sister touch my special things, I get really mad at them. I don’t like it when my things have been moved around, and aren’t in the right order. I like to have everything in the same order, every day, otherwise it makes me feel muddled.

Sometimes I cry myself to sleep, because I know I’ve not been a good big sister. I try so hard, but some days nothing I do is good enough. Once I accidentally made a glass lamp drop onto my sister’s head, and she had to go to the hospital and have it glued back together. I felt horrible inside, and was worried that she wasn’t going to come home, like Grandpa didn’t.

It’s hard for me to be a good big sister. I want to be, and I am trying, but I don’t always do the right things. 

Mummy says that my autism makes me a superhero. She says I have hidden powers that my friends don’t have. Such as remembering things like an elephant, and learning things really fast. Or when I walk into a room and work out what all the different smells are. Or how good I am at baking, even though I’m so young.

Mummy says that I’ve got deep feelings, we just need to think of better ways for me to show them.

So I’m making some promises to my family. I’m going to try and walk away if I know a fight is going to start, and keep my temper under control. If I do a quiet activity like colouring or playing LEGO before I’ve got too mad it’s much easier for me to calm down.  

It’s hard to be a big sister when you’re autistic like I am, but I’m trying my best.

Mummy and daddy say that’s all any of us can do.

How to Host a Birthday Party and Actually Enjoy Yourself

photo credit: Le Coin de Mel

My beautiful, sassy, unique, darling firstborn turned seven today. She was promised a birthday party this year, and started planning it in February. Seriously, the second her brother and sister’s birthdays had been and gone Polly set about making the invitations.

We originally thought we had a booking at a large venue, so were free and easy with numbers, and at the peak of collating RSVP’s we had around seventy guests coming, ranging from six months up to seventy years old.

A few weeks ago we discovered that there had been a mix up with the venue, so we decided to have the party at home. I’ll be honest, I did have a little wobble when we first found out, but then I figured that it would all come together in the end. Plus chances are we’d have a few drop outs, which would make the numbers a bit friendlier.

I’m very pleased to report that it did all work out wonderfully well in the end, and everyone, including myself, had an absolute ball on Saturday afternoon. Just in case you’re planning on throwing a party yourself, and need a few pointers, I thought it might be useful to share our experience and some tips. Hope they come in handy, and best of luck!

The guest list

Just as a recipe is only as good as the ingredients you use, a party will only ever be as good as the guests you invite. My least favourite parties are the soul-destroying-soft-play-hell ones that people usually have when inviting classmates you hardly know. The food is usually disgusting, the kids run around like loonies, and it always, always ends in tears. Our parties are the polar opposite, because we only invite great friends, and you can’t go wrong in any area of life when you’re surrounded by good friends. Over half the people who came on Saturday live in our development, and all know each other really well. The others are the folks we consider to be family – after all friends are the family we choose. It’s always wonderful to get your nearest and dearest under the same roof. 

The food

Regular readers will know that we’ve had a roller coaster ride of it with allergies in our house, and for many years Polly had to take a packed lunch with her to birthday parties. Knowing how awful it is for a child to have to do this, I didn’t want any of the kids to feel excluded on Saturday. We had egg, nuts and wheat allergies to cater for, as well as sugar free families and vegans, so I kept the food super simple. For savoury nibbles I did tons of salted kettle chips (three ingredients) and huge platters of veggie crudities and home made hummus.

Instead of a birthday cake that half the kids couldn’t eat, we had home made chocolate fondue (coconut oil, cocoa and maple syrup) and a table filled with fruit. We gave the kids bamboo skewers, and they made their own kebabs to dip in the choc sauce. They were all thrilled with it, and it kept them busy for about half an hour, which was an added bonus! I did extra nibbles for the adults, as well as beers, and I made a fab gin punch which went down a storm. Rather than make a big deal about the food, we just had it all out from the start and everyone helped themselves when they were hungry.    

 

Polly’s 7th birthday #party yesterday afternoon was a resounding success! As we had various #allergies to cater for, rather than make a cake half the kids couldn’t eat, I did a huge fruit platter, made a #chocolate fondue, then gave them bamboo skewers to make their own #fruit kebabs to dip in the choc sauce. They had an absolute blast, and went home with big smiles on their faces #howtowinatakidsparty Just in case you were wondering, here’s the #recipe. Enough for 35 kids, and a few adults Whisk together 300ml #coconut oil and 100g pure #cocoa powder, then gradually add 100-200ml maple syrup little by little, and sweeten to taste #refinedsugarfree #paleo #dairyfree #glutenfree #healthy Chop into bite sized pieces… 1kg #grapes 1kg #strawberries 400g #blueberries 8 #bananas 8 #mangoes 6 #kiwis 4 #apples 4 #pears 2 #pineapples

photo posted by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

The entertainment

We toyed with the idea of hiring an entertainer, but decided against it to try and keep the costs down, and I’m really glad we did, because we honestly didn’t need one! We had a few outside games set up in the garden, which the kids played with as and when they wanted to. We also set up a craft table, and bought a job lot of wooden keyrings, mini cardboard photo frames, fabric pens and stickers, and the kids decorated their own. These doubled up as party bag fillers too, which personally I much preferred over the usual plastic crap that goes inside them. We did a pass the parcel, which was great, but were rather taken aback by how serious the kids took it, so very political. Some of the older kids did face painting for the younger ones, and between everything going on, there was no boredom, or tears.  

The party bags 

We bought paper goodie bags from Amazon, and in addition to the keyrings and photo frames, each guest got a book (that we picked up from the library in one of their sales for 20p each), a hand written thank you note from Polly, and a bag of Bear sweets. The total cost of the party bags worked out to be less than £3 per child, and everyone loved them. This just goes to show that you don’t have to compromise or spend a fortune to please the children. I’ve heard of parents spending £20 per head on party bags, and I’m sorry but I think that’s just pure madness.  

birthday party excitment

photo credit: Le Coin de Mel

The verdict and top tips  

– a party will only be stressful if you over complicate it, so keep the order of events as simple as possible.  

– ensure you have plenty of help on hand just in case you need it, I do this by bribing the parents with booze and nibbles. 

– our house is a modest three bed, and has a garden the size of a postage stamp, but even with fifty odd people in it, it never seemed too cramped (thankfully the rain held off!)

– buy arts and crafts in bulk to save £££

– if you have healthy food on offer, it will get eaten. 

– seeing smiles on the faces of your guests will tell you that you’re winning.

– if you’re having fun, others will follow 🙂 

I’d like to say a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Miss. Polly, and a big thanks to all who came and made Saturday so special. Extra thanks to my lovely friend Mel for taking some gorgeous photos!