The treatment jungle...

As a teacher, it is my natural instinct to go into research mode and after my son's diagnosis, that is exactly what I did. 
Overall I have found that there are hundreds of treatments for ASD, all with stories about how their child was miraculously "cured" of ASD by this treatment, (I hate that word "cured" as ASD is not a disease!).  I used to read all about a treatment and go to bed dreaming that I found the right one for my son; that he took the pill or did the therapy and woke up the next day.....fully communicating.

I started, (along with my doctor's guidance), the B6 and magnesium therapy.  This was the first treatment I found.  It was natural / non invasive (to an extent) and easily accessible.  The research/medical journals I read conducted an experiment on children that were weak in school, and claimed that it increased their concentration levels.  Others stated that ASD children had a deficiency in magnesium, or that B6 with magnesium decreased any side effects from the B6, together improving verbal skills, non-verbal skills, and social interaction skills. 
Sounds amazing, right? 
What it failed to tell you was how to get your 5 year old ASD son, who has issues with texture, to swallow the bloody stuff.  We tried everything!  What finally worked was hiding it in a chocolate (B6) and putting it in his juice (magnesium).  Although even that didn't last long as my bright spark of a son soon worked it out, refusing to cooperate.  His concentration did improve but to this day I do not know if it was because of the treatment or due to the intense ABA therapy he was doing at the time.  I like to think it was a bit of both, but to be truthful even when I stopped the treatment after 6 months, (because the battle to get him to take it became too difficult), his concentration levels continued to improve. 

Next I read about chelation therapy (which uses medication or other agents to remove metal,in particular mercury, from the body).  This study asserted that ASD children have decreased detoxification, so have a build up of mercury in their system.  It hypothesized that "If similarities between mercury exposure symptoms and autistic symptoms are so great, could it be possible that, in fact  mercury can be blamed as one of the main culprits in epidemic of autism?".  Now I believe in a kind of providence, and this time it came in the form of radionics.  This form of diagnosis is done through analyzing some of his hair, so it was completely non invasive, a big relief after the exhaustion of the B6/magnesium therapy.  The results found him to be healthy,
his toxin levels were practically zero, so no detoxification needed for my son.

I also read about Animal therapy, but my son is scared of any animal coming at him, so we did not pursue it.  Getting him a bunny rabbit to stroke was the closest we got.  He refused to hold her, and would only stroke her if I held her very still on my lap.  Even then, it was done with trepidation.  He does love his rabbit, but only because she is in a cage and so can't come near him. 
More recently, there has been the broccoli sprout treatment (sulforaphane) which has said to improve irritability, lethargy, hyperactivity, awareness, communication, motivation and mannerisms..  Now my son likes broccoli because he likes eating the "little trees" as he calls them, but he won't eat them everyday...who would?  I bought him the sulforaphane tablets but after the B6/magnesium and a hilarious afternoon trying to teach him to swallow a tablet (in which he kept pushing the tablet forward with his tongue), I have put it on hold for the time being.
So for a long time I have relied solely on his language, occupational and ABA therapy.  They are the ones that have yielded the best results up til now, through good old-fashioned hard work!
But, I never lose hope that one day I will find that miraculous elixir...

So this is as far as I have trekked through the treatment jungle.  There are a lot more treatments out there, some I am willing to try like scuba diving (a form of hyperbaric oxygen therapy) and aroma therapy, and others I am not, like risperidone (antipsychotic drugs) and secretin (used for digestive problems). 

There is a lot out there in the wilderness, and my advice is to continue to walk the safe path of recognized therapies, because time has shown that they will yield the best results.


Looking at Larnaca through a different perspective - Paula Manoli-Gray

I attended a meeting last week regarding Larnaca's unique selling points, where the attendees argued which of them was the absolute defining feature of the region – not because we don't have any, but because we have so many...


For some people, that may be hard to believe! It is difficult to see the appeal of your hometown objectively, especially when it is clouded by the daily grind, bills to pay, bureaucracy, frustration at the things that are not working as they should, and a lack of time to enjoy the nicer elements.


So, what do you believe separates Larnaca from other towns on the island, or other destinations even? We are actually quite a unique destination, and if that has you rolling your eyes in disbelief too, let me tell you why!


Firstly, we are the most ancient city on the island, and we have the culture to prove it. This 'ancient identity' has been retained, whilst we have also modernised. Whilst other areas of the island might have lost their original character due to their attempts to lure tourists, over-development and the like, 'we' haven't.


Secondly, despite being a popular tourist destination, we have not sold out and become a tourist resort, and this is very significant. In fact, most repeat visitors to the region come to Larnaca for this very reason. They feel that they can mingle with the locals and enjoy the town, its restaurants, nightlife, attractions and shops without being sold a tacky, 'tourist only' experience of venues geared towards visitors. What they get is authentic and no different to what we locals enjoy, whereas in certain other towns, there is a very 'you are a tourist here' feel and areas to cater for it. One of the reasons might actually be something we bemoan; our lack of big hotel resorts. Whatever it is, I hope we do not lose this characteristic.


Thirdly, Larnaca is the most compact region of the island. And by compact, I do not mean 'small', but rather, a place where you can find everything within a short or reasonable distance. Our promenades do not stretch for miles with gaps in between, our town centre is close to our coastal areas, as are our cultural and leisure attractions, and even our rural areas offer something different in just a short proximity.


Fourthly, we are a family-friendly region, yet, we are also great for the hip and beautiful! There are some areas of the island that are known for being better for the hard partiers, and there are some that are considered better for older visitors or families. We have it all! I believe this is linked with the point about being an authentic place and not a tacky tourist destination. Instead of trying to sell ourselves to one demographic of visitor by selling out, we are local life at its best, and if people want to come and experience it as we do, they are welcome to, but we don't feel the need to beg by changing our identity for them.

There are many more reasons why Larnaca is unique – we are the most central part of the island, and therefore a gateway to the rest of Cyprus, we are diverse, we are friendly (yes we are!) and, and, and!


So, if the recent crisis and the daily struggles we all face have started to get you down, it is good to remember that there are much worse places to live. Of course, that is not to say that Larnaca is the best place in the universe where streets are paved in gold, but the gold is there – in sunshine and sand, but most of all in the hearts of its people.


First appeared in The Cyprus Weekly, 10/04/15

The waiting game...


All special needs parents know that after denial comes the waiting game.  Waiting for him to settle into his new routine, waiting for him to get used to the teacher/therapist, waiting for his receptive skills to improve, waiting for him to play with other children, but most importantly, waiting for him to speak...

"In his own time" are words that I hear a lot, and say a lot, and although most of the time I mean them, sometimes I just think the unthinkable..WHY? Why does my poor child have to have language therapy twice a week, occupational therapy twice a week and ABA therapy three times a week, to be able to say the simplest of sentences, that my four year old could say at the age of two?  Why can't he be out playing with other children (which he finds difficult because he can't communicate very well verbally) or be in a swimming group instead of having to have a special needs swimming teacher, or be in a sports club? 
Why do I have to wait for these things to happen (or never happen as in many cases)? 
When I see the progress of my younger son, how he has the ability to have all these things, it really makes me sad, then frustrated, and then angry that my eldest has been denied them at the "appropriate age" or "milestone".  That he has to struggle and work so much harder than other children in order to reach so much lower than them!   

But then he smiles at me. And my build up of anger/frustration/misery subsides.  What you don't realise at first, what takes time to see, is that in between the waiting... and the achieving... there is the understanding.

It took me a year to understand that my son sought solitude at school break times not to avoid playing with other children, but to recuperate from the sensory carnival that was his classroom (as he is hypersensitive to sound); or to understand that he is proud of the fact that he can now say four or five simple sentences because it means I comprehend exactly what he wants without him having to point at it or get it himself; or to understand that he loves having one on one swimming lessons because it means the attention is completely on him, and he doesn't have to spend time waiting for his turn. 

I then pass on this understanding to his teachers and therapists so that all those around him know what I know...what he wants and more importantly what he needs.
So even though I hate the waiting game, I try to take a deep breath and wait for the understanding...




Having a ‘cracking’ time - Paula Manoli-Gray




At the beginning of spring, I am always bouncing with joy at the prospect of my favourite season in Cyprus… until my hay fever kicks in, the wet weather continues intermittently and the 'bombings' of Easter begin.

I won't harp on about the dangers of the ridiculous tradition of youths letting off pipe bombs and firecrackers, because we all know that a) it is a crazy pastime and, b) it is inevitably going to happen in the lead-up to Easter.

What I will comment on is the faux efforts of authorities and parents to clamp down on this practise, which – in my opinion – is very half-hearted and just for show. I think that at the end of the day, the island's belief that it is a rite of passage and a right to maintain this tradition by far outweighs the realisation that it is one of the most terrifying and destructive aspects of living on the island.

The truth is, most of us ordinary, law-abiding citizens - who do not partake in the theft of items to burn and the letting off of bombs - are actually terrified, and terrorised by the groups that do it, and they are only kids. In essence, we are being held hostage by mere kids.

I live next door and opposite to a park, and the kids that are trying desperately to blow themselves up are under the age of 13. And they are doing it not only on my doorstep, but on their own too, which means that we are not the only ones who can see and hear what they are up to… ergo sum, their parents, and the local authorities can too. And yet, day after day, night after night it is the same madness, and I cannot let my kids anywhere near our parks for fear an unexploded firework might go off, and I am forced to jump out of my skin every time they let off (what sounds like) the world's biggest homemade pipe bomb. Do I tell them off? I can try, but the likelihood is that their parents will come and have a go at me with great indignation that junior's sacred right to maim himself for life has dared to be challenged.

And as for the theft and vandalism, what kind of country are we living in when a blind eye is turned to these crimes because 'it is tradition'? Sorry, there is no way that the authorities are doing enough or doing it with all their efforts and manpower, because I know of countless people who have called the police to report thefts, illegal bonfires or fireworks, and either no one has attended, or the youths have been mildly told to go away without any follow-up, warning or punishment.

As a parent, I have to be careful what I say about other parents and how they raise their offspring, but I think this is one time when I can confidently say that if your child is hanging around in parks, letting off illegal fireworks, lighting bonfires and stealing other people's property to fuel said fire, then either you know about it and condone it (bad parenting 101), or you need to have a much better handle on your child's whereabouts (also bad parenting 101). There, I said it out loud.

So, who can we lay the blame on? the people that sell fireworks? schools? the ineffective laws, lawmakers and implementers of laws? the police force? parents? or the youths themselves? One thing is certain, we are failing miserably as an island, and will probably do so until an unspeakable tragedy befalls our youth and it is too late.

First appeared in 'The Cyprus Weekly' newspaper, 03/04/15.

Easter Egg Hunt at Cyherbia



When:

Holy Friday, Saturday and Easter Monday (10th, 11th and 13th of April) from 9 till 6. 
Easter Sunday the park will be closed.
It’s that time of year again, when hundreds of Easter eggs have found themselves hidden in the Maze. 
Can you help to find them?
Also, Easter I Spy game in the Herb Garden, find the nests in the Woodland and have you seen the hidden bunnies?
Other games include Egg & Spoon Race, Sack Race and Tug of War. Games are ongoing all day, last admission 4 pm.
Entrance including all games and herbal (ice) tea is 5 euros p.p. Under 3's free.

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