Monday, 28 November 2016

Autism in the Media - Part 1 - The Rain Man Effect

Autism is in the media a lot at the moment and I felt that I needed to write about my viewpoint of autism in the media. I think there's a lot of points to cover so I'm creating a series. You may have read my reaction to the recent viral blue cup in my post But What About My Child? and this is sort of an exploration of how autism is presented by the media and the positive and negative effects it has.

Like most people, my first experience of autism in the media was Rain Man. If you are too young to remember Rain Man, it was a film starring Tom Cruise looking after his severely autistic brother, played by Dustin Hoffman, who had extreme abilities and could memorise the Yellow Pages and count a load of matches that fell on the floor in seconds. That really shaped my opinion of what autism was. This was furthered by various documentaries on autistic savants. The effect of these portrayals can still be felt today as most parents of autistic children will at some point be asked 'what is his/her special talent'. I tell people that my daughter's is climbing and then mention the last time I found her on the roof of a building. But truth be told, autistic savants are a very rare part of the spectrum. Most autistic people do not have a special talent. A special interest, yes, and they may be able to talk to you for hours about Minecraft or Thomas the Tank Engine or the solar system or Kelly Clarkson, but this is the result of intense focus on a subject, not an almost supernatural ability. 

The other problem with the Rain Man effect, was that it has become a by-word to refer to someone who can recount statistics or shows a slight autistic tendency. And it's very rarely in positive context.

The next mention of autism in the media that sticks in my mind was one of the Extreme Makeover Home Edition shows. There was a family with several autistic children, and it was the first time I was introduced to the concept of a spectrum. The children varied on the spectrum from non verbal to Aspergers, as I recall. It was the first time I was aware there was variety within autism.

After that, I can't really remember having much awareness of autism in the media. It was there I suppose but not something that held my attention. I didn't become expose to autism until I found myself facing it within my own family. And it turned out to be something completely different to what I had expected. And nothing like Rain Man.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Nim's Fruit and Vegetable Crisps

When you're a parent, you know how hard it is to get your kids to eat healthily. They want all the rubbish, sugary, highly processed, awful stuff. And I keep it in because it saves arguments and it's easier. I try not to give them sugary stuff because it sends Boy and Missy completely loopy. But they are quite often to be found munching on a bag of crisps! I do have a saving grace in that they love their fruit and vegetables. Well, when I say vegetables, I mean carrots and cucumber. So when I was given the chance to review a new product of air dried fruit and vegetable crisps, I jumped at the chance.

Nim's Fruit and Veg Air Dried Crisps range

I was sent a box of 8 packets of fruit and vegetable crisps from Nim's Crisps. Created by a mother, they advertise the following benefits:

Nim’s is the original fruit crisp brand that ticks all the boxes!
- They’re delicious.
- They’re nutritious.
- They’re 100% natural.
- They’re high in fibre and Vitamin C
- They have a great authentic taste of fruit and veg (because they are made only from fruit and veg!)
- The texture of crisps married together with the goodness of fruit and veg. 
- We’re even licensed by the Department of Health with each pack counting as one of your 5 a day!
- Our entire range is gluten-free and suitable for Vegans, Vegetarians and Coeliac sufferers. We are also Kosher certified.
- In fact, they are the perfect ‘grab and go’ snack making it easy for everyone to get one of their 5 a day!

This pretty much covers all the things I want from a snack for my kids. I love the fact that one packet counts as one of their 5 a day! We were sent the following flavours: Pear, Pineapple, Pineapple and Kiwi, Apple, Melon and Orange, Beetroot and Parsnips, Tomato and Cucumber, and Peppers and Courgettes.

Nim's Fruit and Vegetable Crisps we were sent to try

On opening each packet it is pretty obvious that the crisps are purely dehydrated fruits and vegetables. The kids were pretty bemused by the shrunken dried up fruit but tucked in with gusto. You can see some of the flavours below.

Nim's Melon and Orange Fruit Crisps
Melon and Orange

Nim's Tomato and Cucumber vegetable crisps
Tomato and Cucumber

Nim's Apple Fruit crisps

We all loved most of the fruit crisps. The apple, pineapple, kiwi and pears were very tasty and the kids would definitely eat them again. I think overall the pear was the favourite. They had an almost caramel taste to them. All the crisps were sweet and crunchy, Boy's favourite combination! I was worried about the high sugar content, albeit natural sugars, but they certainly didn't seem to have any negative effects! 

The melon and orange flavour crisps were divisive! Missy liked the orange but the other two didn't. It was very tangy, and flavoured the melon. I didn't dislike them but I couldn't eat a lot. It's a very distinctive flavour!

Out of the vegetable crisps, the beetroot and parsnip went down really well and I would buy these again for me to eat, instead of regular crisps. The vegetable crisps were all quite filling which makes them an excellent snack on the go when you need something substantial but easy.

Overall I would buy these again, maybe not all of the flavours, but definitely the pear, apple, pineapple and beetroot and parsnip.

Nim's Crisps are currently running a Crowdfunder campaign to develop a new range of kids crisps at

Nim's Kids Crisps proposed range

The plan is to reduce unhealthy snacking in children, and there are some great rewards on offer for backing them. They haven't settled on the final flavours yet and there is a chance to have some input as part of the crowdfunder.

Rewards for backing Nim's Kids crisps

I received the product in exchange for this post, however all the opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

But What About My Child?

Yesterday, a father's appeal to social media went viral. His son has autism and will only drink out of a certain blue Tommee Tippee cup which has since been discontinued. The man has been overwhelmed by people from around world rooting through their cupboards to find him a replacement cup. You can read the full story here.

I am really pleased for the father that he is getting help. In his situation, the cup could literally make the difference between life and death for his son, as it is the only way of getting fluids into him.

Yet there is a small part of me that gets a little bit cross every time I see the post shared by fellow bloggers and Facebook friends. The same part of me that will get upset when I watch Children in Need this Friday, and not because of the heart wrenching stories.

You see, my children have special needs. I am in touch with thousands of parents with children with autism, and the story about the blue cup is being repeated daily in many autism households. Something precious is lost, something important which gets your child through the day gets discontinued, BirdsEye change the recipe to their fish fingers or Persil add a slightly different smell to their wash powder. Autistic children thrive on routine and struggle with change and a slight difference, which may be undetectable to you and me, can cause them extreme anxiety. This can result in meltdowns, refusals to eat, self injuring behaviour, things that are extremely distressing to the parent and can have serious consequences to the child.

My problem is that although this happens on a daily basis in autism households, where is social media for those parents? Where are the offers of help and replacements in those situations? Why did one parent manage to touch a chord with millions of people yet so many of us struggle with the same thing day in day out, but no one cares?

A group of SEND bloggers recently tried to raise awareness about the lack of suitable changing places for older disabled children. I wrote a post about it and we did our best to raise awareness in the media but it never 'caught on'.  Then again, if we could work out the magic formula to go viral we bloggers would be very happy people!

This is the problem I have with Children in Need. They do a wonderful job and some of the services they provide are fantastic. But where are those services when I need them for my children? Or any of the other thousands of parents with autistic children? 

I realise that by posting this I can come across as a bit of a grumpy jealous old cow! But that's not why I feel this way. I think it's the reaction to the unfairness of the world. And I also think it's something not many would dare to say.

If you don't have special needs kids, the next time you see an article like this, please give it some thought. Ask yourself if it's possible there are other children in similar situations. Please don't forget about us just because we didn't go viral.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Review of Logic Roots Board Games - Ocean Raiders and Cloud Hoppers

I was recently approached by Logic Roots, who have created a range of maths based board games, to review a couple of their maths games and give my feedback. I was a bit dubious at first as Missy struggles with maths and concentration levels but Logic Roots reassured me that their games would be suitable, and even helpful for a child with additional needs.

The two games they sent us to try were Ocean Raiders and Cloud Hoppers, both maths practice games at a fairly basic level.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

How To Survive The Sickness Bug of 2016

If you have children, you will either have had it by now or it is waiting in the wings. It's the reason there has been radio silence from Conflab Corner. I will now present you with my survival guide for the sickness bug of 2016.

I wrote about my first survival strategy of using a body sock to deal with a sensory seeking Boy. These are further tips I have picked up during the week.

Sickness at Conflab Corner

1. Get them to throw up at your sister's house.
My sister provides me respite and has the kids to stop over the weekend. Somehow both girls timed it so they threw up in her house and in her bed - oooops! I did offer to let her have the Boy until he was sick so she could go 3 for 3, but she declined - I don't know why?!

2. Have your washing machine pack up
Obviously when people are being sick what you really want is for your washing machine to pack up. And because nothing says 'mum' like lying on the floor in the utility room trying to unblock the filter of the washing machine 15 minutes after you've been violently sick. Then finding that the machine has probably had it and it's not under any sort of protection plan and having to choose a new washing machine and find the funds to pay for it distract you from all those yukky feelings.

3. Make sure you have an amazing mother
I don't know what I'd do without her. She came round, looked after us all, even stayed the night as me and Missy were still quite poorly.

4. Have amazing mother get everyone up an hour early
Because at 5.30 in the morning, after Bug went in for a cuddle, she misread the time on her phone, thought it said 6.30 and got Boy and Bug up for breakfast. Boy then blamed the rest of his bad day on Bug for waking Nana up. And there's nothing like having tired, stroppy kids when you aren't feeling 100%.

5. Invest in TenaLady or lots of towels
I have sadly learned this week that when you have had three kids then not only is trampolining out of the question, but when you are sick you either need lots of TenaLady to hand or some towels. They never tell you things like this when you become a mum do they? "Oh, by the way, not only will you lose all your dignity, but add to the discomfort of puking the fact that you will at this time lose control of your bladder". Nope, never saw that in What To Expect When You Are Expecting. That's why I'm wildly hoping to win MamaVIB's HelloElvie competition in the aim to somehow reclaim some of my dignity.

So that's my tongue in cheek survival guide. How have you survived the sickness bug?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Autism Sensory Feedback - Body Socks

An envelope made from Lycra, otherwise known as a body sock, came to the rescue of my autism household yesterday.

It was one of those days you dread as a single mum to any kids, let alone those with special needs. The dreaded sickness bug had hit! I'd been up half the night with the Bug who had the bug, and I didn't feel much better myself. I'm never actually sick but I felt pretty rough. My usual helpers were steering well clear for fear of succumbing to the plague themselves (understandably), so there we were, all stuck in the house, me pinned to the sofa by a 5 year old who was feeling pretty sorry for herself.

I did what we all do - stuck the TV on, got the iPads out, anything to keep them occupied all day. But as the day wore on I could tell Boy was desperate for sensory feedback. He was spinning and stimming, making strange noises and doing his best to irritate his sisters. It was a freezing cold day so although he tried to go out on the trampoline, he just couldn't face it. Missy was having one of her days when no-one is allowed in her room, so he couldn't even go on the climbing frame.

To be honest, I'd forgotten all about the body sock. You try out so many things to help your kids that some get swept away with all the regular detritus. He hadn't used it for ages and it had been buried in his bedroom somewhere, but Friday night he had used it as an overnight bag, a la Dick Whittington, and it reminded me we had it.

What is a body sock? Well basically it is a large rectangle envelope of Lycra, big enough to fit a person inside, with a hook and loop fastening. When a child who is craving sensory feedback is inside, they can stretch and push against the Lycra and get the sensory feedback they need. It can also provide much hilarity when you have a child wandering around the house in a blue envelope. Alternative uses (but not to be recommended) are fitting yourself inside it, sliding down the stairs and seeing how many pairs of shoes you can knock flying, while screaming at the top of your lungs. The fabric is very breathable and the kids assure me they can see through it when they're inside it. They can use it with their head inside or outside of the sock. It's also a great way of feeling cocooned.

Remembering this wonderful device I sent him upstairs to fetch it. Instantly I could see the affect it was having on my bouncy, sensory seeking boy. He stretched in it and fought against the fabric, then curled up on the floor, enjoying the safe feeling of it being all around him. Once his sensory needs were filled it was then a case of being an average 8 year old boy and trying to work out what else you could do with it, especially if it would annoy your sisters!

Stretching against the material of the body sock

Stretching the body sock against the body

Enjoying feeling cocooned in the body sock

I would highly recommend getting a body sock if you have a sensory seeker, if only for those days where you just can't fill their needs any other way. They can be bought at a range of different places including Amazon. Do be cautious when searching for body socks however, as there is an alternative product with a whole different use! Sensory body sock is usually a better search term!

I hope this post helps someone who has a child like mine, who desperately needs sensory feedback, and is looking for different ways to fulfill it. If there is a product you have found which really helps, please let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

One of the questions regarding makeup I see asked most frequently, is 'how do I clean my makeup brushes'?

I'm quite obsessive when it comes to my makeup brushes and clean nearly all my makeup brushes after every single use. It is necessary to clean bacteria that may be lingering in the makeup brush, and to get rid of pigment stuck in the bristles. I wasn't always this obsessive but it's become part of my routine. I'm also guilty of having lots of makeup brushes so I don't have to clean them every time! 

There are lots of ways to clean makeup brushes, but I thought I would share what works for me.

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

To remind me to clean my dirty makeup brushes I store them in a pot in the bathroom. It also ensures I don't reuse them once they are dirty and so that they are handy when I do decide to clean them.

Dirty makeup brushes
Just look at all those dirty brushes!

Supplies You Will Need to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Rumio Makeup Brush Cleaner Mat
Rumio Makeup Brush Cleaning Mat
There's a few supplies you will need to clean makeup brushes. One is a silicon mat with a raised and varied texture, which will get all the muck and makeup out of the brush. I like this RUIMIO Makeup Brush Cleaning Mat Butterfly Shape (Silica) from Amazon. It's £6.99, which makes it much cheaper than other brands like Sigma, but it still does the job. Alternatively a textured silicon oven mitt would work, or Popsugar have a video which shows you how to create your own out of a plastic clipboard and a glue gun. I used to just use the palm of my hand, but it isn't textured enough, and my hand gets really sore after a while!

Solid makeup brush shampoo
Hard Brush Soap
Personally I prefer to use a hard soap to clean my makeup brushes. This Clean Brush Shampoo is my favourite makeup brush cleaner but it's difficult to find a UK stockist so I have to import it. However, any hard bar of soap will work as long as it lathers well. A hard bar of soap gives some resistance to your makeup brushes as you lather them up and it starts the cleaning process. There are lots of recipes on Pinterest etc for using washing up liquid and a bit of oil on a plate, so use what works best for you.


Method to Clean Makeup Brushes

Firstly, run the soap and the makeup brush under warm water and swirl the brush against the soap to create a lather. Sometimes you get a residue of makeup on the soap but that is easily rinsed off.

Wet makeup brush swirled in the hard soap
Swirl the wet brush around on the soap

Next, rub your makeup brushes on the silicon mat so that the bumps and ridges can clean all the makeup and bacteria out of the bristles, making sure to use a fair amount of pressure so that even the deeper bristles are cleaned. If it is a particularly manky foundation brush it can take a bit longer or need a bit more soap to get right down to clean the bristles near the finial. I rinse the excess soap as I go so that I'm not rubbing dirty makeup water into the clean bristles. This butterfly mat has lots of different textures to help you get all the dirt and muck out and leave you with beautifully clean makeup brushes.

scrub the makeup brush on the silicon mat

When you are satisfied you have all the makeup out of your brushes and there is only soap left, make sure to rinse out all the soap until the water runs clean. You don't want soap residue on your nice clean makeup brushes as it can affect makeup application.

Drying Clean Makeup Brushes

The worse thing you can do, after getting your precious makeup brushes nice and clean, is leaving them to dry, bristles pointing upwards. The bristles are held in the finial (the shiny bit metal bit between the bristles and the handle) by glue, but water will dissolve that glue, and if you dry your clean makeup brushes upside down, the water will run into the finial and destroy your brushes. Especially if you have spent some money on getting decent brushes, you want them to last as long as possible.

There are various techniques for drying brushes so that the bristles point downwards, without also deforming the clean makeup brush in the process, but my preferred method is to use a smalls dryer, the type that comes with lots of little pegs. I hang it from my shower rail so it's always to hand when I have cleaned my makeup brushes. I attached some larger pegs to the smaller pegs to hold the bigger handled brushes. I can't always hang them straight down but they are mostly pointing downwards, so the water will drain away from the finial. It also ensures that as long as you shape the brushes before hanging them up, they keep their shape whilst they dry.

Makeup brushes hanging to dry on a smalls dryer
Lot of lovely clean makeup brushes

Quick Ways to Clean Makeup Brushes

This is a really effective way to deep clean makeup brushes and it doesn't take me too long to do 15 or so at a time. But what about when you just don't have time to clean your makeup brushes, or you only have one of that particular blending brush and you need it right now, but it's got a darker shade on it and you want to use a lighter shade?

There are various quick brush cleaners on the market where you spray and wipe but these have the disadvantage of leaving your makeup brush damp, which can affect the application of your eyeshadow. Thanks to one of my favourite YouTubers, I discovered Shadow Switch Dry Makeup Brush Cleaner which is an incredible product for cleaning your eyeshadow brushes on the go. It's a rough textured sponge in a tin and by simply swirling your makeup brush round on top of the sponge a few times, it cleans all the pigment off your brush ready for the next shade of eyeshadow. This product is such a time saver for when you are in a rush in the morning.

Shadow Switch sponge Dry Brush Cleaner

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to clean makeup brushes and you have picked up some helpful tips. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comment box or if you have an idea of another tutorial you would like to see, I would love to hear from you.