A growing family of furbys

I am pleased to announce that we are now the proud parents of 9 Macdonald’s happy meal furbys, yes I know this is slightly more Furbys than is necessary it appears to be a very fast growing family, and this is the story of how they keep multiplying. 

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Last week Charlie came home from school with a note saying that for their Christmas outing they would be going to a soft play area in the morning, Mcdonald’s for lunch and then to another afternoon activity. I knew he would have a fantastic day. I am finally beginning to relax into the idea that the school he is in is meeting his needs really well. I sent in a note explaining how we normally handle trips to Mcdonalds and telling them that if they were going to handle things differently that they should tell him before getting there what their expectations of Charlie were going to be.

My mum collected Charlie from school that day and texted me to say that there was good news waiting for me. This was the note that came home in his link book.

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This my friends is no small thing, whilst some may disagree that what is in Mcdonald’s chicken nuggets is actually meat, this is the first meat of any kind Charlie has eaten for 4 years. The previous time was the one serving of cottage pie he ate when he was 7 months old. Also this is the first time in his life that he has ever eaten chips.

I was so happy I actually wanted to cry.

So we were left with the question of where to go from here, how to reenforce this progress, and whether or not he would be able to generalise eating with the school staff to eating with his family. We have been told that generalizing is hard for ASD kids, they will learn to do something in one place and then only be able to do it there. But we decided that 2 days later we would have a go anyway, so we returned to McDonald’s and tried to recreate the magic.

I wasn’t holding out much hope that it would work, but I did explain to him that we would expect him to wait for his ice cream until after the Lillie and her cousin had eaten their nuggets.

We bought him his own Happy Meal as we have done a million times before, placed it in front of him and got on with eating our food. He did a great job of ignoring the food, playing with his furby and asking at least 100 times when he would get his ice cream, each time I told him that as soon as the girls finished their food then they would all have ice cream.

I asked him if he would like to try a chip, he said no, I asked if he would like to try a chicken nugget, I got the same answer.

I was kind of disappointed but not at all surprised that he wasn’t able to eat with us. I was right at the point of giving up the game when I looked up at the door and who was walking in but Charlie’s teacher. Not just any teacher but the very one who has been tasked by the Head of the school with working one to one with Charlie on developing his eating.

She looked at him and said casually “Hi, Charlie, are you going to eat your chips now?”

Like magic, just like that, he picked up his chips and started eating them. Like an angel, she and her family sat on the next table to us and she gently encouraged him to eat and he did, he had fun and we even had races to see who could eat their Chicken nugget the fastest.

It was hard to believe my eyes, having not seen him eating these things ever, hard to pitch my praise for him at the right level, and even kind of hard not to want to kiss his teacher. (I didn’t do it, I promise!)

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Today we decided to try again, I figure we need to get to a point where he will eat the food consistently in McDonald’s before we attempt to generalise it to home or another location, to do this we need to give him lots of opportunities to try, hence the growing family of furbys.

We all ordered Chicken Nuggets Happy Meals, even the adults.

Charlie tried the chips but they were too hot and he got upset, so we decided that he could have his ice cream while he waited for them to cool down.

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After the ice cream he was a little reluctant to try the chips so we turned it into a game and played races to see who could eat them the fastest, he loved this idea.

We were drawing quite a lot of attention to ourselves with the cheering, the Staff found it very amusing and when we explained the situation even came along to support him.

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After the chips were eaten and he was struggling to eat a nugget, Lillie was beginning to struggle with the length of time it was taking. Then once again the most wonderful thing happened, and another angel came to our rescue.

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In an effort to encourage Lillie to wait and Charlie to eat the restaurant staff brought out the face paints.

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For a good 20 minutes, while lillie had her face painted Charlie tried so hard to eat his nugget…

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and to reward him for his efforts he had his face painted for free, and Mummy had a Mocha with cream on top!

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And we all brought a Furby home to add to the growing collection.

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That’s why I fear (love) IKEA

If you have ever been to IKEA and never heard this song, listen now

“I fear Ikea” by the Lancashire Hotpots

Go on, I promise it will make you smile. It will really… I have put the lyrics at the end of the post for those who are not from the north of England and might struggle with the accent.

The first Ikea in the UK was built just 20 minutes drive from our house, 26 years ago in 1987. Ikea originally wanted to open near London, but chose this location because the Warrington and Runcorn Development corporation invited the retailer to be part of its regeneration plans for the area. So we have pretty much grown up with Ikea and Ikea furniture as part of life.

Ikea is a great day out for kids, there is loads of cheap food, places to play and run around like crazy little monkeys, Its almost entirely indoors, which is very important in the north of England where it rains 6 months of the year. And best of all because they don’t actually sell their display furniture the staff never ever ever complain if your little monkey decides to climb all over it. It’s like one enormous playground.

They even sell ice cream strategically placed right after the check out tills, so just as the kids are really starting to lose the plot there is something to bribe them with “Just 5 more minutes, let mummy just pay for this stuff (that I never intended to buy, but couldn’t help myself) and I will get you one of those lovely ice-creams”

Whoever came up with a business plan that involves an ice cream bribe is a genius.

Last year, the day after we saw the paediatrician to get Charlie’s ASD evaluation started, I was feeling pretty miserable, and insecure. It was half term so I was looking for something to do to entertain the kids, cheer me up, pass the time and maybe, just maybe some retail therapy – no I didn’t just say that!

It was the first time we had been to IKEA since Charlie’s 3rd birthday, and so he was finally old enough to be able to stay in the supervised play area. I knew he wanted to do it, and dear God i needed that 45 minutes to sit and have a coffee on my own (Of course the coffee is free, with your family card – because Ikea is actually the best shop on earth).

He was with his sister Lillie and so I knew that there was a good chance that he would make it in there and be able to stay with out me. It was early in the morning so the place was still quiet and although at the time we hadn’t heard the words sensory overload we had seen the results of too much sensory input enough times to know that early mornings in quieter places were easier.

We were there for the first session, and I took the kids up to Lillie-bay the staffed play area, which I found out later is actually managed by Premier Creche services.  While I was dropping them off and registering their details, the lady asked me if either of them had any special needs or allergies etc. I took a deep breath and explained “he is probably autistic and is currently in the diagnosis process”. These are really scary words to say, and this was the first person outside of my close inner circle I had ever said them too. Insecure and vulnerable does not even cover how I was feeling in that moment.

Things really could have gone either way, But the lady’s response was perfect, I could not have asked for anything better.  I wrote later that I was stunned how wonderful she was, she could not have been more helpful. I was offered many reassurances that they would pay him close attention, she asked about his sensitivities especially to loud sudden noises. On that day at that time she was absolutely my angel. The right person in the right place at the right time. As a bonus she even gave me a direct phone number so that next time i can call and PRE-BOOK him a place. Oh and the best bit is that both the kids stayed for the full 45 minutes and I got to have my coffee.

When I got home I posted this on a Facebook page related to autism

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Over the next 2 weeks, every time I looked at my Facebook account someone else had liked the story, or commented, almost 99% of the comments were positive. In the end there were over 11 thousand likes. The manager of Ikea called me to say thank you.

We have been back to ikea lots of times with both kids, here are some of our best moments.

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Oh and Yes and this is Tactile defensive boy getting his face painted, he wanted to have a go but the first time he struggled with waiting in line and having it on his face, so we asked the artist to paint a small spider onto his hand where he could see it. Later we bought some face paints at home and let him try it on himself, one day he allowed his sister to put some on his face, and we went on from there, its hard for him but he is motivated and will try his best to sit for the artist.

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IKEA 5

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Something that I already knew but which we need reminding over over and over again is this…People Really really, love a good news story, far more than complaints. If you have something encouraging to say, speak out, someone needs to hear it today.

The Song Lyrics…

Now let me tell of a shop that fills me with dread,

It’s blue and it’s yellow but I always see red

It’s a furniture store that makes me want to shout’

Cos once you’ve entered, you can’t find your way out!

That’s why I fear Ikea I won’t go there again I don’t want a bookcase called Billy Or a table called Sven

Just don’t go of a Satdee if you don’t want fer queue

And that doesn’t include th’hour sat on’t M62

If you go of a Wednesday, well it just makes you laugh

It’s the size of Belgium but there’s no bloody staff!

That’s why I fear Ikea I won’t go there again I don’t want a bookcase called Billy Or a table called Sven

It’s a good 10 mile walk if you just want a shelf.

Hang on, you want me to go in th’ warehouse and pick it meself?

Well I struggled wi’ trolley I didn’t get very far

And the boxes were that big they didn’t fit in the car!

That’s why I fear Ikea I won’t go there again I don’t want a bookcase called Billy Or a table called Sven

Michael Palin he’s traveled the world once or twice

They said ‘Why don’t you explore Ikea Michael? That’d be nice’

Well the men at the Beeb must have been off their heads

He went missing a week ago between kitchens and beds!

That’s why I fear Ikea I won’t go there again I don’t want a bookcase called Billy Or a table called Sven

Nice hot dogs though…

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McDonald’s ice cream in a cone with a flake

There is not much that Charlie will eat which can be bought in a restaurant, even fast food places don’t sell anything from his limited list of food choices.

If you ever find a place serving Cheerios or passion fruit or gingerbread men, please can you let me know?

But there is one thing on the menu of one fast food restaurant chain that is acceptable and that is this …

McDonald’s ice cream in a cone with a flake.

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This was a treat on the first day back at school

Most of the time we used to just avoid eating out with Charlie. Until we learnt about sensory processing and integration we were clueless, we had absolutely no idea why he simply couldn’t cope. Restaurants became off limits after a few meltdowns we decided it wasn’t really worth the effort.

charlie disowns us in the toby carvery

This shot was taken, right before a meltdown in the local Toby Carvery, during one of our failed attempts to dine out. Before we learnt to read the signs and offer him a way out we just thought he was being naughty.

the calm after the meltdown

This one was taken afterwards, when his poor body was too tired to fight anymore.