I can hardly believe it’s already been over a month since we got the keys to our new home. And at the same time, our life in the caravan feels strangely distant already, as we’ve settled in well here, and this little house now feels very much like Home.
Penguin seems happy with the place too, which obviously is vital to us. We were fairly sure before moving in that he would indeed like it. Still, to increase the odds of him getting a good feeling about the place, I’ve let him take it pretty easy most days, allowing him plenty of time to do things that make him feel happy, stress-free and at ease.
On the day of moving in, Daddy Penguin had rented a van and completed most of the removal on his own, before coming back to the caravan to collect us, along with a few more bits and bobs. In the end, it was quite late in the evening when we finally got to the house, so we didn’t have much time to get used to the place before it was time to go to sleep, which felt a bit funny but still went well. It probably helped that we were all pretty knackered!
In the morning, Penguin seemed somewhat confused about being in a new place, but was very happy to see that some of our old things, which we’d had sitting in storage for over a year, had now reappeared. One of these things is a large rug with a pattern of squares in a multitude of colours, which used to be on the floor in what was Penguin’s main playroom, in the house we had in Sweden. On this first morning in our new house, we spent a lot of time on that rug, and Penguin got well into playing with some strings of beads. You could call it sensory play or stimming or fidgeting, either way the main point is it works well for relieving stress and anxiety. I think all of us, whether autistic or neurotypical, can appreciate the way that immersing yourself in an intense sensory experience can help us feel less worried and more relaxed. Like putting some great tunes on to lift our spirits, or taking a hot bath at the end of a stressful day.
Speaking of baths: The fact that we know have a bath tub is one of top five positives of this new home of ours. Penguin absolutely loves it! And I love watching how joyful and relaxed he is in the bath. For some children with autism and/or sensory processing disorder, having a bath can be totally overwhelming, uncomfortable or even painful, while for others it can be absolutely brilliant. I’m really glad that being immersed in water is such a positive sensory experience to Penguin!
The green bath in the top right picture is Gelli Baff, which we tried for the first time on St Patrick’s Day. It turns the water into a kind of jelly slush, and it’s a hit with us!
Playing with letters, putting them in alphabetic order or writing words or phrases which he’s seen on screen or in a book, is something which has always been a favourite thing for Penguin. Previous to our move, he hadn’t been using his magnetic letters much lately, but since moving into the house they’ve had a bit of a revival.
In the middle right picture above, Penguin’s using the letters in combination with playdough (another firm long-time favourite!), and this time he decided to colour match it all, so using orange playdough for the orange letter M, etc.
He’ll rarely write letters with pen on paper unless specifically asked to do so, but he likes to grab my index finger and use it as a pen on the ipad! I’ve increasingly been encouraging him to use his own finger for that, and sometimes he does, but he seems more confident about writing or drawing new things by steering my finger to do it. It can be quite exciting to see what appears on the screen. Here’s a little bug which Penguin drew recently, using my ‘pen finger’:
I could go on about how he uses the ipad for taking pictures, making pictures, drawing on top of photos etc., but that’ll have to be another post I think.
To get back to the subject of moving into our new house, one thing which has been super fantastic is getting Penguin’s trampoline back in action. It’s been sitting in storage, waiting for us to find a new home with (hopefully) a garden big enough to fit it. And although it’s a bit of a squeeze here, it’s now up and in use. The bouncing boy is back!
The many benefits of having a trampoline is another thing which I could say enough about to fill another blog post. For now I will conclude with that it makes him happy!
As I said at the beginning, our focus during these first few weeks here has been on doing things that make Penguin feel relaxed and happy, to make him feel safe and contented in this new place of ours. Changes can often be more difficult for a person on the spectrum than for most people, so we’re trying as best as we can to make this change feel like a positive one.
Apart from a lot of jumping on the trampoline, playing with letters and having plenty of baths, other things we’ve done a lot of to keep the good feelings flowing are baking (finally a proper kitchen again, yay!!) and sensory play, as well as walks to familiarise ourselves with the surroundings. These activities are also (like most things in life) potential opportunities for learning. Sometimes I sneak it in, sometimes it’s obvious, and a lot of the time it just comes naturally.
If you have a keen eye for desserts, you may have spotted a pavlova being made in one of the pictures above, and that was for Daddy Penguin’s birthday. A few days later we celebrated another family birthday, namely Penguin’s! 🎈🎁
We’re on a super tight budget following our move and the unfortunate failing of our car etc., so it was a bit of a birthday on a shoestring this year. But we made it a special day full of things that Penguin enjoys, and I think that’s the main thing. He had a fun day and I’m sure he felt the love 💝
Penguin was particularly delighted with two ‘vintage’ books he recieved for his birthday: One was a ‘Big Cook Little Cook’ book and the other one was a ‘Shaun the Sheep’ one. He knows what he likes 😊
In fairness, you could say that quite a few of the days have been like little birthdays since we moved in, as we’ve been unpacking a lot of things which have been boxed up for over a year. Penguin’s keyboard for example! There are also a few things which – like the magnetic letters I’ve already mentioned – weren’t boxed up but have still had a revival since our move. Lego is one of them, which I’m very happy about as it’s always been a favourite of mine. (I can feel a lego post coming on…)
Before rounding off, I’ll have to admit that although we’re setlling in well, there are quite a few things which remain to be sorted. One of them is the garden, which is small but still could include much more than ‘just’ the trampoline. I’m thinking a table and chairs, a very small pool (just the blow-up kind, nothing too fancy), and a ‘sensory garden’ with plants for visual, olfactory, gustatory and tactile stimulation. I’ve got a couple more ideas too, but I’m afraid the ones I’ve mentioned are already pushing the limits of what we’ve got space and money for… Hopefully we can still get them done, even if on a small scale. And we’ve already had one very positive garden surprise: Of the bushes which are already living here, one has turned out to be a beautiful magnolia!
Another thing which still needs sorting is a dining table and chairs! We didn’t bring our old ones when we moved back from Sweden, and we haven’t needed a new set until now (since we lived with relatives to start with, and then in the caravan where all the furniture needed was already in place). Again, it’s about finding something to fit both the space and budget. Once in place, it’ll be used all the time, for everything from crafts and baking to using the laptop, writing, reading, painting, playdough, lego building, etc. As well as eating at, of course.
There’s a very nice space waiting to be filled, so if you’re a furniture salesman and would like to show off a couple of your products here, please get in touch! 😉
For now, I’ll just park my coffee cup on the windowsill, look out over the neighbouring fields, and feel grateful for being right here, right now.