How and when did you first realise your children were different?

With my oldest I knew from young that he was different. He wouldn’t join in the story time in school but instead would be lining up toys or talking to himself. He struggled a lot with potty training whilst I could see accidents coming from miles away. The paediatrician said that he was a bright boy and suggested autism but that didn’t sound right to us.

I was really shocked when I found out that in Primary school he was sent off to different classes because they felt he wasn’t listening. He was repeatedly making funny noises with his mouth, rubbing his own and other people’s ears and stroking arms. When asked a question the answer could really be off topic (e.g. Why did you act so dangerously on your scooter? Because so and so ate my apple) and he struggled to make eye contact. When a psychologist finally suggested (high functioning) Asperger and I googled it I couldn’t stop crying: this described my son! The diagnosis really helped us to get more understanding and help in school.

My daughter didn’t speak until she was three and when she started she wouldn’t stop. She used to love Role plays and involved all of us in her imaginary plays (eg. running a restaurant, working in an office, etc).

My youngest son struggled to speak as well: when he was four he still only mumbled. For a while we thought it had to do with his hearing, but the grommets didn’t help much. He showed a lot of similarities with my oldest: the playing, the avoiding of eye contact. This time we were more aware and managed to get the help earlier. They need more prompts and visual support (e.g. visual schedules) in everyday life.

What do their OE behaviours look like?

All our children are easily overwhelmed and struggle with noise; social situations with lots of people can be a real challenge. They can overreact to everyday situations and experience life intensely. With all the OE’s between us, I can really struggle to meet all the needs. I feel that at home we are safe but outside it is hard: people judge easily. The children’s enthusiasm can be crushed with an off the cuff remark, a change in the routine can upset them for days. The biggest challenge is not being understood and being forced to fit in. They are learning to control themselves.

The flip side of the coin is their never ending curiosity. My children are always asking questions and trying to work things out. They are very aware of my emotional state and pick up on that. On top of this, my daughter has a very rich imagination that she will use to write beautiful stories and resolve conflict in a creative way.

Do you also have OEs? How do they affect the way you parent?

I definitely have emotional and imaginational OE. I can fidget and worry excessively, be fatalist, go into defence mode and think of the worst case scenario. It can be very tiring to feel that I have the whole family depending on me. I help myself by taking care of my baseline, practice mindfulness and tai chi.

How PowerWood has helped

In working with Simone I have learned breathing techniques and ways to normalise a situation. Before I tended to overreact in my response, now I will no longer react when I am not ready. I can see that my children have picked up on this and copy this behaviour (they will sometimes even ask me to calm down before reacting :). I also involve my children in finding solutions, I discuss the situation with them that isn’t working and ask them what we can both do to improve this. In the past I could really beat myself up if I had had a bad day but have learned to focus more on the positive and absorb the positive and learn from difficult situations. I appreciate myself, take care of myself and try to keep an eye on the overall picture. Issues are quickly resolved and we experience a lot more harmony.