Happy New Year!

imagePainting of several animals with the quote Happy New Year.  Painting taken from Internet.  The painting is not my own, and if you recognize who painted this, please let me know!


New year reflection


I wasn’t going to do a new year’s eve post but I changed my mind! This will just be a short piece looking at what I learned this year and my plans for the future.

I had an amazing year in many respects. It was easily my busiest year to date. Alongside all my autism advocacy work – which was significant – I worked four days a week in my day job and started in a new team in January where I only knew one person. This took some getting used to by in hindsight it has gone really well.

I think it was a year of resilience and stamina and managing a huge workload while trying to be kind to myself. Whimsy Manor remains wonderful as does its furry inhabitant Mr Kitty. 2018 was the first year where I have realised that I have a very large profile, which…

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Review: Pick of the Litter

The Joy of Movies

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

There are eight hundred dogs born every year at Guide Dogs for the Blind, only three hundred of which will actually make the cut as working guide dogs.

The stories of five of these adorable Labrador puppies, and the humans who help raise them, are told in Pick of the Litter, a thoroughly satisfying new documentary that takes us through the entire process behind choosing a guide dog.

Directors Dana Nachman and Don Hardy Jr., who also made the similarly sentimental and crowd-pleasing documentary Batkid Begins, follow these five puppies right from birth, and take us along for the journey as they are placed with trainers, put through a rigorous testing process, and finally placed with their human companions, if they make the cut.

The dogs that aren’t able to become guides get “career changed,” and end up either as breeders…

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10 tips for choosing a gift for an autistic child By Jim Walter

Posted on Art of Autism here: https://the-art-of-autism.com/10-tips-for-choosing-a-gift-for-an-autistic-child/#comment-168095

A repeated theme in the autism world, we can’t expect traditional or typical. We should adapt, and shoot instead for exceptional.

My daughter can’t tell me what she wants for Christmas. Here’s how I figure it out.

If you’re a caregiver for someone living with autism — particularly a child — one of the biggest stressors around the holidays can be figuring out what kind of gift to get them.

Autism sometimes includes unconventional or sporadic communication, so developing a gift list is typically more labor-intensive than saying, “Hey, make a list of what you’d like!”

My daughter, Lily, lives with autism. And this year (as last), she wants nothing. Whether the holiday season (in our case, Christmas) is more for her or for me is a no-brainer: It’s for me.

I’ve given up all pretense that my desire for her to open presents is bringing her joy. I’m satisfied with just making the holidays as stress-free for her as possible, still enjoying the traditions I grew up with and am unwilling to leave behind, adapting those traditions to fit her neurology, and also meeting the expectations of my older, neurotypical daughter, Emma.

It’s challenging at any time to find out what Lily wants since she doesn’t necessarily respond to questions like “What do you want?” regardless of the topic. This makes meeting her needs and wants challenging under any circumstances, but significantly more stressful when asking not just for one or two things, but dozens (Lily also has a birthday in December).

This challenge isn’t uncommon on the autism spectrum, though it — like most things in the spectral world — isn’t a universally shared trait.

So how do you know what to buy for that special someone you love when communication is less straightforward than “Make a list”? Here are 10 suggestions I hope help you.

1. Ask

OK, OK, I know I just premised this entire article on what to buy when you can’t get easy answers, but I think it’s still important to ask.

I ask Lily every year, as many times as I can remember, in a lot of different ways. Lily doesn’t often respond to my questions, but sometimes it’s because she doesn’t like the way they’re phrased.

Changing the way I ask will sometimes allow her to better understand. Some different ways I ask are:

“What do you want?”
“What do you like to play with?”
“Does [insert toy] look fun?”
“What is your favorite toy?”

And this one succeeds for me sometimes in a way I don’t understand but that makes me happy: “I wonder what Lily would like for Christmas.”

Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not. But if you can find out straight from them, that’s obviously the quickest and easiest solution.

2. Remember: Not all communication is verbal

Anyone who’s cared for someone who communicates in a nontraditional fashion has heard this phrase, and it applies to the holiday season as well.

Lily communicates her love for certain toys or activities by virtue of sheer repetition. So, what does your loved one enjoy doing?

Lily loves to play with her iPad, turn the pages of books, listen to music, and play with her princess castle. Again, it may be obvious, but I look for ways to supplement those things I know she loves already.

Streaming music may have made buying CDs all but obsolete, but perhaps a new Bluetooth speaker or headphones is needed. Or maybe new princesses for her castle, or similar playsets, like a farm or amusement park set, that allow her to play in a way similar to something she already enjoys.

3. Ask those who work with your child

Every year, I ask Lily’s teachers and therapists what toys and activities she loves while she’s there. I don’t always get those types of details in their daily reports, so finding out she loves a specific scooter in gym class, an adapted bike, or a specific song is often news to me.

Lily’s routines vary based on venue, so what interests her at school isn’t typically mentioned at home, because she knows it’s not available. Making something she enjoys at school available to her in a new setting is often a good gift idea for her.

As a parent, it can be tedious to listen to one thing over and over again, but if the goal is holiday happiness, then I’m looking for any way to hit that goal. Even if it means eventually sacrificing my sanity due to Wiggles overload.

4. Expand on a theme

Some children with autism find pleasure in a very specific, focused way. I have friends whose children will adore anything that is Thomas the Tank Engine, Legos, princesses, Wiggles, and so on. Lily’s love is the Wiggles.

I look for ways to incorporate that love into different outlets. Wiggles dolls, books, coloring books, CDs, DVDs, clothing — all these gifts are more likely to be successful because of her love for the Wiggles’ movies.

As a parent, it can be tedious to listen to one thing over and over again, but if the goal is holiday happiness, then I’m looking for any way to hit that goal. Even if it means eventually sacrificing my sanity due to Wiggles overload.

5. Embrace redundancy

There are some niche items for which there’s no replacement. When it wears out, breaks, dies, or gets lost, it can be extremely triggering for your loved one.

Lily has a friend who loves a segmented, wooden toy snake. He uses it to self-soothe and stim. His mother has several duplicate copies of that snake, so if he loses it, he has another.

I have another friend whose son has a very specific favorite Steelers hat. She bought him another identical one for his birthday. Redundant gifts might not seem like “fun,” but they’re definitely helpful and useful.

6. Load up on comfy clothing

Those with autism can be extremely sensitive to touch. Some off-the-rack clothes seem scratchy, and the seams or tags can rub like sandpaper.

When you find clothes that work, you stick with them. But you can’t always find that clothing when you need it, so lots of pairs of identical pants can be more welcome than something “new” that may or may not feel good when it’s worn. Stick with what works… and buy spares.

7. DIY some sensory toys and tools

Many autism schools (or learning support classrooms) have sensory rooms. While creating a full sensory room in your home may seem a bit cost-prohibitive, buying (or building) a component or two is not.

Whether it’s a bubble tower, waterbed, soft-colored lights, or a stereo to play mellow music, you can get some great ideas online on how to create a relaxing, sensory-friendly, and satisfying safe space for your loved one.

Searching for sensory room ideas online will give you a lot of potential gifts or DIY projects to tackle.

8. Be unconventional

When Lily was an infant, she loved diapers. Not so much wearing them, but playing with them. She’d dig into a box of diapers and pull them out, examine them, twist her hand back and forth and watch them, smell them (they have a pleasant scent), and then move on to the next one. For hours.

While it wasn’t a typical present, we got Lily boxes of diapers. We let her rummage through them, pulling them out of the neatly stacked bags, scattering them everywhere, and then putting them back away again. We used the diapers more traditionally later, of course, but what she really wanted to do was play with them, so that was our gift to her. And she loved it.

Don’t be afraid to give something unconventional just because it doesn’t seem to be what you’d consider a traditional toy or gift. What seems unconventional to you may bring immense satisfaction to your child.

9. Get comfortable with gift cards

As kids transition through adolescence and approach adulthood, the almost universal desire to be able to choose for themselves seems stronger and stronger. While many people struggle with the idea of giving money or gift cards because they feel it’s impersonal, it’s often the “favorite” gift.

It’s not just money. It’s… freedom. I struggle giving gift cards to my older teen, Emma, but then I remember the goal with any gift is her happiness.

Lily loves McDonald’s. During some past stretches, Lily’s eating was a major hurdle, and one of the few things we could feed her that she’d tolerate was McDonald’s chicken nuggets. One week during a vacation where all the food from the local grocery store was different and scary and unacceptable, we took her to eat at McDonald’s 10 times.

I frequently give and receive McDonald’s gift cards for Lily, and it’s always a great gift. Almost every major retailer and restaurant has gift cards, so they’re easy to find, too.

10. Invest in therapy tools and toys

Fidget toys, therapy swings, adaptive utensils, and weighted blankets are, perhaps not surprisingly, expensive. They make great gifts that, if not exactly traditional holiday gifts, are helpful and welcome.

Sometimes the benefits of these tools and toys are observed only in a school or therapy setting, but can be used at home as well.

The stress of finding the “right” gift is perhaps less stressful if we allow ourselves to push past the expectations that confuse what’s right for our loved ones living with autism with what’s right for us, or what we ourselves would have wanted in their place.

A repeated theme in the autism world, we can’t expect traditional or typical. We should adapt, and shoot instead for exceptional.


Jim Walter is the author of Just a Lil Blog http://www.justalilblog.com where he chronicles his adventures as a single dad of two daughters, one of whom has autism. You can follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/intent/follow?original_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.justalilblog.com%2F&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&region=follow_link&screen_name=blogginglily&tw_p=followbutton

This article was originally posted on Healthline here https://www.healthline.com/health/autism/holiday-gifts-for-kids#1

Hello Again Everyone

Great news! Your prayers have been answered! Thomas is back to health!



I have been undergoing treatment for cancer under the aegis of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge for over two months, and today is the first time sime I started receiving hospital treatment that I have been online (I have done a massive bulk delete of accumulated emails and will now start paying proper attention once again. In the rest of this post I will set out a rough timeline of events over the course of this illness. Unusually for one of my posts there will be no pictures.


On September 29th I attended the wedding of a cousin in Sheffield. This was the last occasion on which I recall feeling truly well. During the following week I became noticeably ill, on on the Friday I left work early (an almost unheard of thing for me) because I just could not go on. On Saturday…

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How To Avoid Turning The Holidays into The Helladays by Dr. Perry

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Originally posted here: https://makeitultrapsychology.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/how-to-avoid-turning-the-holidays-into-the-helladays/

The holiday season is upon us. Everywhere I look I am greeted with reminders that Christmas is around the corner. I have to admit I love the look and smell of a douglas fir completely decorated with colorful and bright ornaments. It brings back wonderful childhood memories. To some of us, the holidays are a dreaded time of year. The bombardment of constant reminders may actually cause anxiety as we look forward to forced family fun time. Family get-togethers may bring flashbacks of past painful interactions.

Of course, we love our relatives but perhaps we also believe the expression “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Having to interact with family, during the holiday season, may feel like you are traveling back in time, to a place where you had no say and personal boundaries were nonexistent. The holidays can be stressful, therefore it is important to set the intention that this holiday season will be different. Use this opportunity for growth. Here are some suggestions to help you through the holidays.

1. Practice setting boundaries
The holidays are a great time to practice setting healthy personal boundaries. It is the perfect setting to speak up and be heard. It is also important to point out that you have no obligation to participate in any holiday event. Allow yourself to not participate without judging yourself.

2. Practice being okay with uncomfortable emotions
During the holidays you may experience uncomfortable emotions that you may not be able to immediately process. It is important to be able to sit with these uncomfortable feelings and avoid switching on the autopilot. By avoiding experiencing discomfort you also tend to avoid anything great in life. If you falter don’t be too hard on yourself. If there is one thing about life, it is that there are always more than enough uncomfortable moments to experience.

3. Create no drama
Even though I recommend that the holiday season is a great time to practice setting boundaries I am not suggesting that you use the opportunity to create an unpleasant environment for all. If someone is disrespectful to you, politely ask to speak to them in private. You are more likely to get your point across if you deliver your message in a calm and respectful manner.

4. Plan your exit
If you do attend your family gathering allow yourself to leave early. It is best to leave on a good note than to make a hasty exit in anger or frustration.

5. Make new memories
Perhaps it is time you start diluting some of the bad memories you have about the holidays by making new positive memories. It’s very easy for us to bring up bad memories when we don’t have anything positive to reflect on.

6. Reframe how you feel about the holidays
It is important to remember to be grateful for our family. Many of us have experienced death and illness this past year and are mourning the loss of a loved one or of our health. Perhaps if we truly realized how quickly life can change it would allow us to be more tolerant of our loved ones. By learning to respect one another’s boundaries we can then enjoy more quality time with the people we love.

I would love to hear how you feel about the holiday season and what do you do to cope with the stress of the holidays? I also want to take the opportunity to wish all of you and your families a very happy and healthy holiday season. From my family to yours I wish you well.

Dr. Perry

Long Nights In the Forest

Long Nights In the Forest

My Altona Forest

This is a poignant time of year – full of festivities and family gatherings and things to do – but it’s also the time when dusk creeps in at 4:45pm and it seems we spend most of our hours in the dark. It’s a time when the blues can set in as our days have more hours of darkness.

Solstice will arrive soon – either on December 21 or 22 – depending on the year. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year; the day with the fewest hours of light. For early people, these were the lean times as their world slipped further into the long winter and the days were short and food was scarce.

They celebrated the ‘sun reborn’ on the longest night of the year since each subsequent day would get a few minutes longer. All through the northern hemisphere, there is history of…

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