Rock pool therapy

Clammy wet sand underfoot, blustery salty air, the roar of the ocean and a warm blanket of sunlight seeping through the early morning sea mist. Hallmarks of a North Cornish beach in Spring. Comforting and invigorating, the seaside is a wonderful tonic. All senses sated, most of us come away from a day at the beach feeling calmer, happier, centred. 

For Orange, a North Cornish beach is about as close to perfect sensory therapy as it gets. Mashing a handful of wet sand granules between his little fingers, the constant roll and rumble of the waves on the shoreline ringing in his ears, the visual spectacle of marbled rock formations and steep, dark cliffs all around. He was particularly taken with this little rock pool. We splished and splashed in the warm sea water for at least half an hour. For a boy who cannot bear the feeling of anything at all on his feet, his willingness to let his little toes dangle in the water and dig into the wet sand was a sight to behold.

Calm and happy, it was wonderful to see him so at ease with himself. Orange often struggles to identify with where bits of his body are in space. This is a very hard concept to understand if you don’t suffer from it yourself, but that grounded feeling we get from gravity just isn’t the same for Orange. He feels unsteady, unsure of where his limbs are in relation to the rest of himself. But on the beach that day, toes squirming about in the salt water, bottom firmly planted on a rock, he felt steadier, with a stillness and confidence I haven’t seen anywhere else.

There isn’t much documented about the power of ‘beach therapy’ but given that it feels so darn good to be on one, I’m going to spend as much time as I can with the kids doing just what you see us doing here in this photos. Sitting, splashing, singing, squelching, sunbathing.

Generations of my family have played on this particular beach as young children. As fate would have it, it is one of the few beaches in the South West that you can actually just drive straight onto, park on the sand and walk across miles of flat, firm sand. Unlike many places, this beach will be accessible to Orange his whole life, whether he is in a buggy, walking frame or a wheelchair, I will be able to bring him here as often as we like. This is one of Orange’s therapies that we can all benefit from. It often feels like very hard work indeed, helping Orange with his daily needs, but this? I feel lucky to have an excuse to make ‘beach therapy’ a regular part of our lives. The Beep is pretty happy about it too…


Cheerleading, the antidiet and space blankets

I’ve been thinking a lot about how best to contribute to the brilliant Define Normal challenge initiated by the author of one of my favourite blogs Just Bring the Chocolate. In many ways our lives with Orange are just like that of any other family with a three year old and a one year old. There is too little sleep and rather a lot of wine and coffee, earsplitting renditions of Baa Baa Pink Sheep, lots of prancing about in fairy costumes, throwing of food and a fair amount of squealing. Laundry. Duplo. Peppa Pig. You know.

In other ways life is very different. Like many families who have a child with special needs our days are filled with physiotherapy, hospital appointments and more than a reasonable amount of worry and stress.

But the Define Normal challenge got me thinking about the funny and unusual aspects of life with Orange. Things I never thought I would do, say, or be involved in.

1) Cheerleading

I am now quite possibly (acrobatics notwithstanding) a world class cheerleader. As is Orange’s sister. You see, Orange needs truck loads of over enthusiastic encouragement and praise when he’s doing something new. Honestly, when he first grabbed a spoon out of my hand and fed himself a mouthful of Pasta Italienne (thanks Hipp) the neighbours must have thought we’d won the lottery.

And I have developed a particularly irritating high-pitched kind of a voice, paired with manically clapping hands and cheesy grin, that get trawled out at least 20 times a day when we have a moment. These moments are typically the sort of things that most children just one day start doing, with absolutely no input at all, like reaching out for a toy, rolling onto their tummies, bearing weight through their legs, saying ‘babbabbababab’, but for Orange have probably taken weeks, if not months, of painstaking daily practice and support.

2) The antidiet

This one isn’t quite so much fun, although has become such a large part of our ‘normal’ that I had to mention it here. Orange is on the small side and, true to family traits, is also allergic to dairy. To keep the scary health-visitor-with-scales wolf from the door I have put Orange on an antidiet. This basically means he eats everything that I shouldn’t. I am carbo-loading him with every meal (insulin makes your body hang on to weight don’t you know), and topping up every dish he is served with an appetising blend of rapeseed oil and olive oil. I double his calorie intake this way. Menu planning for Orange requires a little thought, and with an older child to consider (and my own low calorie needs to consider – got saddlebags to shift dontchaknow), I typically end up cooking 9 different meals per day. Thank goodness for the enormous range cooker I say.

3) Space blankets

Nobody in our house has ever run a marathon, or travelled into outer space, but we have two space blankets in the playroom. They are quite possibly the most popular and well played with items in there. They are brilliant for Orange from a sensory perspective (rustly, tactile, sparkly) but Orange’s sister also likes to make dens with them, that then get taken over by the cats. Meanwhile, boxes and boxes of toys (for children and cats) sit unopened, of course.

So there we have it. ‘Normal’ Chez Orange & Co. Pretty normal I’d say?