In a series of blogs over the coming months, we'll be interviewing parent bloggers and asking them to share their stories with you. This week, Reneé, known for the blogsite Mummy Tries.
We really enjoyed talking with Reneé and learning her story. Her site is full of fascinating stories, brilliant recipes and advice for parents. She is mother to 3 children, Polly, Clara and Freddy. Reneé regularly blogs about her daughter Polly and living with autism. It is this particular aspect of her life which the following interview focuses on.
eduKidz: Can you introduce yourself and your children to my readers?
As the name of my blog suggests, I'm a mummy trying my hardest to ensure that my children have a good start to life, a start that I didn't have and had no intention of replicating. I've worked relentlessly over the years to ensure that the cycle of dysfunction was well and truly broken before having children, and wrote my first book Become the Best You to help others break their own cycles. My husband and I have Polly who is eight and was diagnosed high functioning autistic in 2015, Clara who is six and Freddy who is four.
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eduKidz: What kind of sensory issues does Polly deal with everyday?
The best way I can describe it is that Polly has heightened senses and experiences life deeper than her peers. She needs to know what is on the agenda for the day/week/month which helps her process what's in store and work through any issues that might arise in advance. There is always a fine line between being suitably entertained and being overwhelmed - P loves new experiences, but also needs time out afterwards to reflect on them. We have to be careful to limit tablet time to around an hour a day, because too much of the small screen is a trigger for her. All manor of things can be a trigger - at one point having a bath was too much sensory stimulation. It's clear to me now when P is feeling overwhelmed, and I'll do everything I can to help her overcome it, usually by diverting her attention towards a structured activity.
eduKidz: What type of resources or toys have been great at supporting her learning journey?
We have a drawer full of sensory toys, which featured daily for around a year, but Polly needs to use them much less these days. We do a lot of play dough and slime making which are great sensory activities, and the children love kinetic sand and LEGO. The pens and colouring books are always out, and there usually at least one masterpiece of art work being created. Other winners for us have been the fidget cube, play foam and mini trampoline which we had in our lounge until the summer when it got moved to the garden.
eduKidz: Do check out our blog about the best STEM activities you can do using LEGO!
eduKidz: You regularly blog about the impact food has had on your life and share recipes. How has this love of food affected raising your children?
I changed my own eating habits dramatically in 2007 after I was told that I was infertile following a PCOS diagnosis. I researched my new condition and discovered the role that sugar plays in it, so figuring I had nothing to lose went refined sugar free without expectations. I fell pregnant with Polly within eighteen months, and I do not for a second think this was a coincidence. I strongly believe that food is medicine, and it's so important to give our children the best nutrition possible to ensure they have healthy immune systems for the future. We eat a mostly organic, cooked from scratch diet free of gluten, grains and refined sugar.
I started teaching myself how to cook when I was twenty one, and over the years I've come to truly adore being in the kitchen. Of my three children, Polly's the one who has the cooking bug, and bakes something most days. She makes the best chocolate cake on the planet, and you would never guess that it's free from.
eduKidz: What has been the hardest thing for you to deal with when advocating for your daughter?
I try not to get too caught up in what other people think, so tend to let general ignorance go over my head. It's when close friends and family don't get it that it stings. As we home educate, we are fortunate to bypass a lot of the fighting that usually goes on with school and services. We've had a very tough couple of years, but there is light finally shining at the end of the long tunnel, and I can see the progress we've made.
eduKidz: What is the greatest moment to date that you have had with your child?
This is a really tough one to answer, because in among the grindingly hard days, we've had a lot of awesome moments. Polly properly swimming without armbands this summer was a big deal, as was starting juijitsu classes at the beginning of the year. She won a prize at our community Halloween party for her fab - and very bloody - vampire costume (up until this year she wouldn't entertain the idea of going as anything but a witch in a standard dress). She also won a prize for her amazing bake at another party - the chocolate cake I mentioned covered in tiny meringues, which took her hours (here's a photo on Instagram). This time last year she was terrified of dogs, now she desperately wants one. So many small victories to celebrate.
eduKidz: Is there one thing that you would love for people not familiar with raising an autistic child to know?
Autism isn't the end of the world, it's a different way of looking at the world, and that can be a truly beautiful thing.