One Year With Enid

Exactly a year ago today we brought our beloved therapy cat Enid home. Enid is a beautiful, gentle, caring and loyal Maine Coon cat. She really is Neiva’s best friend. We’ve had a wonderful first year with her, she’s grown so big!

I’ve previously written in more detail here just how special Enid is and how she came to be part of our little family. We cannot imagine life without her.

Enid is with us thanks to reading the amazing story of a talented little girl named Iris Grace who formed a beautiful friendship with her Maine Coon cat named Thula. Her story is wonderful and inspiring and a very emotional read. We are indebted to Iris Grace and her family for sharing their story. Without them, we would not have our beautiful Enid.

From the day we brought her home, Enid rarely leaves Neiva’s side and follows her around constantly. Neiva struggles with social conversation in every day life but when she is with Enid she talks non stop to her. Enid faithfully listens to her endless chatter and singing.

They both share a love of water and Enid is a regular bath companion to Neiva. She is totally unfazed by Neiva’s exuberant splashing and sits perched on the side of the bath watching and playing. In fact one of her favourite places to relax is our bathroom sink. The tap has a slight drip and she’ll position herself right under, letting the water run down her nose. She’ll happily sit there for hours.

Enid is extremely affectionate. She likes to be where people are. She has a beautiful chirp when she is happy and purrs readily. When Neiva is at school or if the house is empty, we’ll regularly come back to see she has picked up Neiva’s bedtime toy Foxy, dragged him downstairs and is laid asleep on him. I’m sure that’s her way of telling us she misses her friend.

Enid has an interesting fascination with bottle tops. Her favourite game is to play fetch (like a dog) drop the bottle top directly into our hand and make us throw it again. It has become her party piece, one she relishes in performing.

Neiva has this beautiful habit of tenderly holding my chin if she wants to get my attention and will gently hold it there whilst she tries to formulate her request into words. Enid too has a similar gentle habit. Every morning, she’ll come into our bedroom, hop onto the bedside table and gently tap my cheek with her paw to wake me for food. She really is a lovely natured little being.

In honour of our beloved Enid, I have put together a vlog of her first year with us. The song is very special and dear to my heart as it reminds me so much of Neiva. Whenever I’ve had a particularly stressful day I’ll play this song to remind me just how special she is and how I love to be her mummy.

I hope you enjoy it.

Notes:

  • For more on the story of Iris Grace please click here.
  • For more information on hyperlexia please click here.
  • The black and white featured picture of Enid was taken by Mark Kaye, a photographer and family friend.

 

Song: All About Your Heart – Mindy Gledhill

One Year With Enid…. from L E A N N E on Vimeo.

Five Days In Beautiful Anglesey…. (and a Vlog)

We first visited this beautiful island when Neiva had just turned two and fell in love instantly! We’ve holidayed here in full glorious sunshine and in the gloomy British rain and we’ve honestly loved both contrasts in equal measure. Anglesey is the perfect setting for our nature wandering, outdoor loving girl. We’ve been making regular visits ever since. I hope she looks back in years to come and remembers fondly her childhood holidays here.

For our adventures this time, we stayed slightly inland (although never more than a short drive away from a beach) in a beautiful unspoiled quirky two bedroomed cottage. It was absolutely perfect.

After a particularly heavy rainfall overnight, the weather had brightened up enough the following morning to venture out. We decided to take a trip to RSPB South Stack Lighthouse. The views are spectacular.


The coastal walk is not for the faint hearted and we held onto Neiva tightly as we walked the short distance to the look out. Once we had taken in the glorious scenery we headed back to the visitor centre for some lunch.


On the way back to the cottage we stopped at the beach at Red Wharf Bay. The tide was out and all that remained were large crater like puddles which suited Neiva perfectly. She leapt from pool to pool excitedly and we were happy to let her run around after keeping her on a tight leash earlier at the lighthouse. I don’t think I’ve ever held her hand so tightly!

After a quick change of clothes for Neiva who was absolutely soaking wet from her puddle jumping adventures, we stopped for tea and cake at the very charming Old Boat House Cafe nearby after Neiva had spotted the icecream cart outside. The sun was now shining brightly and it was a beautiful end to our day.

The next morning the sun was shining so we made the short drive to Traeth Bychan, a small secluded sandy bay a ten minute drive from our cottage. It was so quiet and peaceful. Neiva adores the sea, so she was in her absolute element chasing waves.


By lunchtime the warm sun had disappeared behind the clouds so we decided to head back. On the way home we stopped at Beaumaris.

Beau’s Tea Shop is a delightful tea room set in a 400 year old cottage with a choice of over 25 different types of tea! The room was filled with the most delicate China tea sets and the most beautiful and rather large cakes made by a local lady in the village. Paul took Neiva to the park overlooking the nearby castle whilst my mother in law and I (we have a shared love of tea rooms) enjoyed a rare afternoon treat.


The next day Paul had some work to catch up on so left in search of a coffee shop and wifi. We stayed behind and enjoyed a lazy morning at the cottage. He returned at lunchtime which gave us the afternoon to explore some more.

The weather had taken a slightly downward turn from the wonderful sunshine we’d enjoyed the day before. It was cloudy but dry so we headed back towards the Menai Bridge to Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens. This for me was the highlight of our holiday. It is breathtakingly beautiful.


We were totally captivated by the beauty and tranquillity of this place. From the cottage garden to the 39 steps, the beautiful waterfall to the lower valley gardens, it is such a wonderful hidden find and an amazing sensory experience for children.


​​We will be returning to Anglesey before the end of summer. We have so many plans for our next visit and so many more memories to make.

Highlights:

  • Our cottage and the beautiful secret garden door
  • The secluded beach at Traeth Bychan
  • Beau’s Tea Shop
  • The icecream hut at The Old Boat House Cafe
  • Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens

Vlog #1: Song: True North (Jillette Johnson)

​​

720p from leanne beardsley on Vimeo.

What Is Hyperlexia (video)

definition:

HYPER (hy-per) pref: over, beyond
LEXIA (lex-see-ah) suffix: Greek: “word” Latin: “to read”

We are excited to share a wonderful video all about hyperlexia featuring our very own fearless little girl. Given that the main characteristic of hyperlexia is an “above normal” ability to read, it seemed only fitting that the narrative is beautifully read by the children themselves.


For such a long time we felt lost. We watched how Neiva struggled to find her place amongst neurotypical children. On the other hand, the autism spectrum is a very broad place to inhabit and navigate through and she struggled to find her place there too.


However, within her hyperlexia community, Neiva has found a home and we have found a group of like minded parents who just “get” certain traits and quirks in behaviour unique to hyperlexia. Unique ways to communicate, to reach and to teach which only a child with this diagnosis can respond to and relate. We are forever grateful to have found this place. It provides an unending source of help, advice and mostly “wow my child does that too” moments!

Why this video? As previously mentioned children with hyperlexia are unique in that they can (and are) communicating through this incredible self taught reading ability.

Regular speech and language therapy does not include using the written word as a form of therapy and is discounted because typically a child of two years old cannot read. But as you will see, these children are not typical and therefore need a different approach to not only speech and language therapy but also with their educational needs.

The key is to base their therapies and learning around their incredble reading ability and intense interests; letters, numbers, maps and patterns and this is the message the video is highlighting.

So, for the answer to the question “what is hyperlexia?” please watch the video below and find out.
Credit: Video: “What Is Hyperlexia” by Jody Parmann/Hyperlexia Parents Network

Screen Time vs Green Time: The Importance Of Nature In Childhood …

It’s important to note before reading on that I am certainly not anti-screen time. Neiva loves her iPad. She plays games and watches programmes and videos. Although we don’t have a TV in our living room, we do have a TV upstairs in our bedroom where we enjoy many wonderful family movie nights.

That said, if Neiva does have too much screen time, there are definite changes in her behaviour. Contrast this with where she chooses to spend most of her time, outside, and she is a much calmer and more cooperative child. 

We are fortunate to live in an area where (despite living in a noisy little town) we can within minutes easily access a quiet park, take a walk in a local woodland, in a field surrounded by rolling hills and bird song, by a stream, anywhere where we can escape from car horns, percussive drilling and those obnoxiously loud mopeds (a particular pet peeve of mine).

“Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.” – Erin K. Kenny, Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way

I have just finished reading a brilliant book written by a man named Richard Louv who coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder”. His book, The Last Child In The Woods is a frightening read into how children today have lost touch with nature. In his book he relates a story. He was talking to a group of parents who were expressing concern about how their children’s childhood is vastly different to their own.

One man in the group, a quiet father raised in a farming community spoke up and said: “where I grew up a person was naturally outdoors all the time. No matter which direction you went, you were outdoors, in a plowed field, a wood or a stream. Now the park we grew up in is a metropolitan area. Kids haven’t lost anything because they never had it in the first place. What we are talking about here is a transition made by most of us who grew up surrounded by nature. Now nature is just not there anymore”. (The Last Child In The Woods, Richard Louv: page 12)

That sentence stopped me dead in my tracks and I had to read it again! As a child growing up in the 80’s I do remember playing outside for hours with my brothers and sister. Having to be called in when it got dark, my brothers regularly playing in a nearby wood. But Neiva’s generation may never even have those memories. How can they miss something they have never had?

So what are the benefits of playing in nature? The list is exhaustive. However, I read an article by the Child Mind Institute written by Danielle Cohen which beautifully sums up the most important reasons. The following list is taken from her article:

It builds confidence. The way that kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.

It promotes creativity and imagination. This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.

It teaches responsibility. Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant, or pull a flower out by its roots.

It provides different stimulation. Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. “As the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow,” Louv warns, “and this reduces the richness of human experience.”

It gets kids moving. Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping. Not only is exercise good for kids’ bodies, but it seems to make them more focused, which is especially beneficial for kids with ADHD.

It makes them think. Louv says that nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occurs naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.

It reduces stress and fatigue. According to the Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments require what’s called directed attention, which forces us to ignore distractions and exhausts our brains. In natural environments, we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure, not fatigue.

We have experienced this first hand with Neiva. Learning and being immersed in nature is an essential part of childhood. So whilst screen time does have its place in today’s world, it also needs to know its place.

references:

Hyperlexia Awareness Day

2 April 2017 is #worldautismday and over the past week I have seen and read some really heartwarming ‘victory over adversity’ stories and loved reading the wonderful work schools and charities are doing to raise awareness.

What I haven’t read about is Hyperlexia and it’s not surprising. Hyperlexia research is conflicted. There is also an overlap in hyperlexia between autistic and gifted children which often results in a misdiagnosis in both areas.

I want to use this platform and this special day to highlight the three types of hyperlexia and raise awareness generally.

types of hyperlexia

There are three specific types of Hyperlexia:

Type I: Neurotypical child that is just an early reader.

Type II: Children on the autism spectrum that demonstrate early reading as a splinter skill.

Type III: Very early readers who are not on the autism spectrum though there are some “autistic-like” traits and behaviors which gradually fade as the child gets older.

signs of hyperlexia

  • A precocious ability to read words far above what would be expected at a child’s age
  • Child may appear gifted in some areas and extremely deficient in others
  • Significant difficulty in understanding verbal language
  • Difficulty in socialising and interacting appropriately with people
  • Abnormal and awkward social skills
  • Specific or unusual fears
  • Fixation with letters or numbers
  • Echolalia (Repetition or echoing of a word or phrase just spoken by another person)
  • Memorisation of sentence structures without understanding the meaning
  • An intense need to keep routines, difficulty with transitions, ritualistic behavior

Additional Symptoms:

  • Normal development until 18-24 months, then regression
  • Listens selectively / appears to be deaf
  • Strong auditory and visual memory
  • Self-stimulatory behavior (hand flapping, rocking, jumping up and down)
  • Think in concrete and literal terms, difficulty with abstract concepts
  • Auditory, olfactory and / or tactile sensitivity
  • Difficulty answering “Wh–” questions, such as “what,” “where,” “who,” and “why”

 

my child may have hyperlexia what do I do?

Firstly, read read and read some more! Gather as much information as you can find on the subject. Yes, you will realise very quickly that information on hyperlexia very sparse, so here are a list of books and web links that have helped me on our journey so far:

Hyperlexia Overview: Judy & David http://judyanddavid.com/cha/strategies.pdf

I would start with this one. This is where everything really clicked for us. The generic strategies we were then using for autism were very hit and miss. Some traits related to Neiva when others didn’t and it felt like we were looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The day we started these specific strategies for hyperlexia was the day we saw real results, right from the start.

And Next Comes L: Dyan Robson www.andnextcomesl.com

Dyan is a real trail blazer for hyperlexia. When her son received a hyperlexia and hypernumeracy diagnosis in 2014 she knew nothing of the subject and had to study and research everything herself. Her website has really been a lifesaver in terms of information, strategies and practical help to improve communication between parent and child. I visit her website almost daily and it has really been a source of real encouragement for me. Dyan also has a support group on Facebook which again has been a huge help and, despite the time difference between here in the U.K. and Dyan in Canada, she responds to any questions we may have.

Books on Hyperlexia

  • Reading Too Soon – Susan M Miller
  • When Babies Read – Audra Jensen
  • The Anti Romantic Child – Priscilla Gilman
  • The Einstein Syndrome – Thomas Sowell


Complete List of Online Reading/Groups


Raise Your Concerns With Your GP: You may be one of the lucky ones that walks into the GP’s office and he is familiar with the term Hyperlexia. However, most likely, prepare for the realisation that the first time your GP hears the word will be from you. This is ok. It just means that you will have to ensure that you are well read up on the subject. If you can, take copies of the above strategies with you.  This applies to any health professional you are currently dealing with. It also applies to school teachers. The more informed care and health professionals are, the more they are able to help.

view hyperlexia as the gift it is

One of my favourite sayings is “when you look at a field of dandelions you either see a field of weeds or a field of wishes”.

True, there are days when a one sided conversation takes its toll, there are days when I repeat myself over and over again only for her to do exactly what I asked her not to do 10 minutes later. There are days when I avoid social situations because I’m not strong enough to protect her from the frowns and looks. There are days where I question my ability to be her champion. There are days when I know I can’t reach her she’s away in her far away place and I have to wait for her to come back. There are days when my patience is tested to the absolute limit only to look into her confused eyes and realise she isn’t understanding my question. There are days when I just go to bed early exhausted from the day wishing it was over, wanting a next day to start a fresh. But….

Then there are the days when I look at my beautiful girl when she gently talks to a ladybird or is beckoning a bee to be her friend. Then there are days when she does get that faraway look and we are suddenly transported away into space, under the ocean, jumping over clouds, on the most amazing train ride with Enid, singing round a campfire, her imagination knows no bounds. Then there are days when I hear her beautiful soft voice mimicking voices she’s heard somewhere only once and stored it away perfectly when she feels like a little humor. Then there are the days when she sings, oh my – her singing…. and my heart melts. Then there are the days when she needs just another story and gently holds my chin to get my attention. Then there are the days where she lets out a relieved sigh and gives me a huge smile when she is in nature, in her happy place away from the noise pollution that hurts her eyes and ears so much. Then there are the days when she reads a book for the first time like she’s read it a thousand.  Then there are the days when she recites her two times table with ease or sings the alphabet backwards because she’s bored of singing it forward.

I love that she is gifted in areas far advanced then her peers;

I love that she makes me forget to check my phone;

I love that she counts the stars and instinctively knows where the moon is each night;

I love that she treats everyone the same and has no concept of meanness in the playground;

I love that she sees the beauty in nature, a caterpillar, a leaf, a cloud;

I love that she has made me slow down and notice these things:

I love everything she is and everything she will be. The world is a better place for her being in it.

Neiva, we love you to your beloved moon and back.

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