Category: Autism (page 2 of 10)

With & Without: One Month Update.

It’s been about a month now since we made the decision to pull Sno from school and after a period of deschooling, homeschool her instead. After many many years fraught with anxiety and struggle it wasn’t a decision we made on a whim at all.

I’m so happy to report that our home has been like a haven since Sno has been at home full time. She has seriously been a different kid.

Let me explain.


With school, Sno had minimal tolerance for exercise. Any small amounts of physical exertion quickly tipped her from stimulated to overstimulated and then fast escalated into meltdown.

Without school; Sno actually asked me the other day to go for a bush walk. In the last month we have been on at least 4 bush walks together and I have even found her doing skipping and jumping on the trampoline spontaneously which hasn’t then led to meltdowns immediately.

With school, Sno would be arguing with pretty much everyone as soon as she got home.

Without school, Sno is actually laughing and getting along with her sisters.

With school, Sno was not happy. I actually can’t remember a time I saw her laughing and smiling.

Without school, Sno is smiling and laughing and finding joy in her every day.

With school, Sno would overload into meltdown from noise in no time at all.

Without school, Sno has the tolerance for noise to be able to even enjoy listening to music.

With school, any screen time at home meant S would fast get overloaded.

Without school, Sno is using screen devices regularly as part of her learning and daily life without getting overloaded and she’s loving  it.

With school, Sno had minimal social reserves left at the end of the day and would avoid interactions outside school hours.

Without school, Sno is actually asking to connect with peers and is requesting time being spent with others.

With school, Sno was unable to effectively communicate her wants and needs to others, instead resulting in immediate meltdowns.

Without school, Sno is using her words and is able to ask me to stop doing something or telling me she needs to leave, or that she needs help.


Basically, it’s like her system has been completely reset. And it’s purely because her primary environment has changed.

She has the capacity now to manage not only daily functioning really well, but she’s got joy back in her. Because we can control and moderate her environment now, she is no longer being pelted into daily meltdowns for hours and hours on end. She’s now finding things she likes to do, and is doing them, and when she can’t handle something she is able to stop immediately.

I’ve had people ask me how I’ll handle all the “extra work” of educating my child at home and all I can answer to that now is via a scoff of indignance. Because I can tell you right now that having my child at home full-time eliminates at least 90% of her anxiety,  the vast majority of her sensory triggers and it also ends all the back-and-forth following up and communicating her needs to the school, most of which have changed by the time we actually get to talk.

I’m just feeling awful that I put my incredible child through so much stress every day for so long. I feel bad that I forced her to fit into a mainstream model of learning which was completely the wrong fit for her. Asking that she dealt with six hours of school every single day and then expecting her to come home and function was just so selfish and ridiculous of me.

Nevertheless, it is what it is. Onwards and upwards we shall go, and we are all breathing far easier from the change. I’m just sorry we didn’t do it sooner.

After Ten Years; It’s Time for Some Happy.

Sno turns ten tomorrow. Ten years since she burst into our lives and made me a parent. I was admittedly completely unprepared, with no idea what to expect. Our beginnings were very rough; a traumatic birth which induced a double whammy of post-natal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I wish I could tell you all about her first six months but that would be lying – they were a complete blur to me. I was in a very dark place and her cries were often lost amidst the sea of dark thoughts. Eventually we saw the light, and together with the help from specialists I found my way out of the pit of depression and things got easier. We bonded, albeit later than I had hoped – but hey we got there.

I guess why I’m telling you this is because, Sno and I – we have had a hard road together.

around and around and around she goes

And it’s time for some happy.

After Sno got her diagnosis at age 6 (roughly 2.5 years before I began noticing real quirks), her schooling years have been a mixture of mostly tough times with a little bit of good in there. Now at the age of ten, after six years of formal schooling, I can say out of those six years she’s only had about 2 where she wasn’t completely miserable. That’s a long time for a child to be unhappy or struggling, despite support people doing their best to make things easier. That’s a lot of screaming meltdowns from a child who is unhappy and isn’t coping.

Last weekend we made the decision to withdraw Sno from formal schooling, and educate her at home.

I won’t be writing a post blaming the school, or the teachers, or the support people – because that’s not the case here. They have been wonderful. But despite the supports in place for Sno at school, it just hasn’t been helping. She has been keeping it all together during the day, and then the evening comes and she’s rendered mute and unable to express her thoughts or feelings, so overcome with anxiety that she has been unable to communicate. For the past six months every single day we have had to help Sno through roughly 3 hours of screaming meltdowns. Our house is tiny, so I’m sure you can imagine the impact that her upset has had on us as a family collective not to mention on Sno. That’s a lot of time for a child to be unhappy. It’s not okay.

I will mention here that the suggestion to homeschool is being fully supported by all the medical and health professionals involved in Sno’s life, as well. So this is a journey we will be taking with support from every angle. Which is so wonderful.

A week ago I told Sno of our idea to educate her at home and the look of sheer relief on her face, the way her body softened – just confirmed to me that it was the right decision. We will be taking the rest of the term off to deschool, with no pressure on any formal types of learning at all. The next few months Sno will be decompressing, relaxing and finding joy in her life again. There will be lots of time spent in nature, there will be a lot of time for her to read with the cats in her lap, there will be art therapy and Sno has expressed a keen interest in learning coding. The goal is to allow Sno to be able to heal so that she can be in a place to learn and take on new information. It’ll be slow, slow, slow.

Honestly,  I just want to see my girl’s spark back. She has been so flat, so jittery and on edge for way too long. After holding her in my arms on Monday night where she experienced a trembling panic attack we  just think she needs down time and time to heal. It’s absolutely devastating to see my beautiful, intelligent, amazing daughter so weighed down and so unwell.


Yesterday afternoon we were at the local reserve and she asked to take off her shoes so she could run around. And she did, she ran laps of the grassy area barefoot. There was giggling. So much giggling. Around and around and around she went, one foot in front of the other, at speed. She looked so free, so at peace. I want to see more of that. And I think we’re on the right track.

I Know This Little Empath..

…she’s five years old. I remember vividly the day we were in the car on the way to kindergarten. We passed by a bunch of trees that were being cleared and happened to stop at the traffic lights beside a mulching machine. The scream I heard from the backseat was piercing, ripping through my ears and sending a shiver down my spine.

She watched on, completely horrified as the trees were fed into the machine, trunks first, and then were spat out into the holding cart – now mulch.

“STOP!,” she screamed
“Why are they killing it?!??! They’re hurting her! Stop! STOP!,”

You would think I was making this up. I’m not. That day is forever etched in my memory, painting an accurate portrait of my little girl who feels so deeply. She cried for that tree for days afterwards, sobbing into her pillow about the loss of life and destruction of something so beautiful and perfect.

This is only one example of how I’d describe what living and loving an empath is like.

I could also tell you about the time we forgot her pillow behind at Stradbroke Island, and only realised too late. She had formed an almost personal connection to that pillow, she knew it’s shape and form and she was thankful for the comfort it provided her.

Then there was the time we went for a walk in a nature reserve nearby to our house after a big storm had passed and she was crying into her hands, shocked at the destruction which left trees uprooted and plants destroyed everywhere.

Pillows and trees, huh? I guess it sounds a bit ridiculous. But to my little super-feeling, incredibly intuitive and sensitive Wilding – that’s what life is like for her. She’s in tune with things that we don’t even consider to have feelings or much value at all, even.

The little empath I know is the one who is right up beside others when they fall over or hurt themselves, rubbing their back and quickly offering a hug as soon as she can detect pain for them. She’s the one who gets upset when others get upset, telling me she is bothered by their “hurting face” and she cries when other people cry because she connects to their sadness on a deep deep level.

What I would describe as “referred mood” or “mirrored mood”, my little empath takes on the moods of others around her – seemingly without even being aware of doing so. When I’m sad, she’s sad. When I’m mad – she’s mad. When I’m struggling, I can see she is, too. My husband is like that too. This definitely makes for some fun conversations at times, and some, err.. let’s call them, discussions. Picture me, being premenstrual and slightly umm, snappish, moody, dramatic? And then picture my husband behaving in the same sort of manner, without realising it. Yeah, I’ll totally admit to saying “I’m the one with PMS, not you!,” Hah.

I know many empaths in my life, and they all happen to be autistic. So that whole “autistics can’t display/possess empathy” myth is a whole heap of bullshit.

In my experience, autistic people don’t feel a lack of empathy – they feel the exact opposite. They feel all the feels, to a large degree. They take on the moods and feelings of those around them, like a big sponge. This can make life really intense for them and also their loved ones.

One thing I am conscious of doing when I see Wilding (and Sno, and Papagirltribe) mirroring moods is to reassure them that whatever mood I may be in, or others may be in – is not their fault, or their doing. I remind them it’s okay, and I reassure them compassionately that things will work out as they should.

And on the days where  my precious little Wilding is awash with emotions invoked from trees or pillows, I hold her space and allow her to process the world around her however she wishes to do so.

Because being an empath isn’t a curse, it’s actually a blessing. And it needs to be fostered with compassion, kindness and understanding.  Because it is very, very real.

Hey, Doctor – Here’s some advice for you about my child.

Recently we ended up in the ER with some unexplained pain for Sno and I have to say I was completely gobsmacked with the complete and utter lack of understanding surrounding autism from some of the health professionals. So I figured I’d break it down. I am well aware that there isn’t always ample time to put all these steps into place but more often than not, it pays to be mindful of them.

Here’s my list of tips for health professionals on how to best support patients who are autistic.

  1. Introduce yourself.  My child doesn’t know who you are, so a simple way of making her feel at ease is simply by introducing yourself. Don’t just come into the room and start questioning.
  2. Connect with my child first. Before you need to start any medical procedures or begin talking in medical jargon – make an effort to connect with my child and build trust. Perhaps you could ask how old they are, comment on their cool shoes or even show them your cool pen – it doesn’t matter what, but take a little moment or two, it helps my child feel at ease.
  3. Explain to my child what you need to do before you do it. Fear stems from lack of knowledge or understanding; hospitals can be scary places for children, autistic or not. But when you explain what instruments are for and how they work, the fear dissipates and you’re more than likely going to have a willing patient, rather than a scared and closed off one.
  4. Ask for their permission before touching their body. This again applies to all patients. Please do not touch my child’s body without their consent. Absolutely do not pull down their clothing without their permission.
  5. Don’t talk about my child with them in the room, as if they’re not there and can’t hear you. Asking me questions about my child that they could probably answer themselves just makes my child feel invisible. They deserve more respect than that. And finally;
  6. Get me onside. I don’t care how many years you’ve been in the medical profession or what kind of awesome doctor you are – none of that matters if you can’t treat my child with respect. Autistic children are complex and their issues may not always be clear to the outside looking in. So, if you want to help my child, you’ll need to listen to them and me. I know my child better than anyone else does, so you would do well to take my lead with how you approach her.

Small adjustments make the greatest impact. So maybe consider dimming the lights, turn the music off and taking a moment or two, if you can. Believe me when I say that a calmer child is more likely to cooperate and be helped by people they don’t know, so even though all of this stuff may seem like a lot of “work”, it’s worth it. Let’s all work together, hey? We all want the same outcome after all- a happy, healthy child.


The One Label I Just Can’t Get Behind.

“How high functioning is she?”
“How severe is her autism?”
“Wow, she can’t be that autistic!”

Oh my god. ENOUGH already!

I have lost count the amount of times I hear people (who obviously know nothing about the autistic spectrum) try and categorise my autistic daughters, attempting to shove them into boxes to better their understanding. I am all for labels, in fact – I encourage the diagnostic process for autism, because I stand by the benefits of support that the diagnosis can bring.

But one thing I cannot get behind is the whole  high/low functioning divide. I just can’t do it, and I won’t.

Why not?

Because this type of label doesn’t help, it hinders. It minimises the struggles an autistic individual can have, and it silences and invalidates them.

Just because someone who is autistic can talk and interact with others, doesn’t mean they don’t have other challenges and doesn’t mean the challenges they do have make less impact on their lives. You just can’t see it, and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. This is the same with a non-verbal autistic individual; just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly intelligent, perceptive and intuitive.

The thing is though, if you box individuals on the spectrum into these high/low categories – you’re the one missing out. You’re missing out on being able to support them through their silent struggles, and you’re also missing out on being able to notice how they can enrich your lives.

Does the fact that someone can talk make them more important or worthy than others? No. Does the fact that someone cannot talk or shuts down socially around others mean they don’t have valuable things to contribute to society? No.

Autistic people are not puzzles that need to be solved. They are not a problem that needs to be fixed. They are not an irregularity that needs to be corrected. They are individuals, unique in themselves just like every other person on the planet.

So this whole high/low functioning  categorisation really doesn’t come into it.

At the end of the day: it is all autism. And the best thing we can do as a society for our neurodiverse community is embrace them for who they are; as amazing individuals.

No, She’s Not Grumpy – She’s Autistic.

If I had to tell you how many times people have commented on my daughter Beans’ disposition as being “grumpy”, well.. I’d completely lose track. It happens daily, really. But the thing is; she isn’t grumpy – she’s almost 3 years old, she’s a toddler, and she’s also autistic.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d know she doesn’t get “shy” around strangers, she actually struggles socially.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d know it takes her a long time to warm up to people.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d realise that trying to get her to give you eye contact or say hello is really distressing for her, and you’d back off.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d know it takes her about half an hour to decide on what item of clothing to wear every morning; and that despite having a wardrobe full of clothes – she only regularly wears about eight items.

If you knew she was autistic, you wouldn’t use the hand dryer right beside her in the public toilet and you wouldn’t mow when she was around.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d understand why she likes her food divided up sometimes.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d be compassionate and understanding when you see me carrying her everywhere – because her legs tire easily, and they hurt.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d know that if the morning routine is deviated from in any large way without warning ; she screams and screams.

If you knew she was autistic you’d know how much thunderstorms terrify her.

If you knew she was autistic you’d know she completely falls apart when she’s itchy.

If you knew she was autistic you’d know that some shoes can take a long time to put on comfortably.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d see how at peace she was when she was playing in water.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d realise that an iPad or an iPod is a parenting tool – not a display of bad parenting.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d realise what an epic mimic and imitator she is, and that she’s processing her world through watching and copying others.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d see that her lining up things and having collections is super calming for her – not funny or odd.

If you knew she was autistic, you’d know that when she’s screaming on the floor and I’m not cuddling her or touching her it’s because she doesn’t like to be cuddled or touched when she’s upset, it’s not because I’m a bad parent.

And finally: if you knew she was autistic you would know that when she smiles – it’s authentic, when she laughs – it’s from the heart, not just there to please you or make you feel recognised. When you see her for who she is rather than what you’re getting out of her, you’d realise that she is so much more than just “grumpy” – and you’d put your judgement aside.


Sensory Tool Box.

I was going through Sno’s room yesterday, helping her sort out all the junk she has hoarded over the last few months and we came across a pretty wide selection of sensory tools, so I thought  (with her permission) I’d share them with you. Sno is happy to share this stuff and hopes that in sharing what works for her, she can help other kids on the spectrum, too.

A little bit of background first. Sno is almost 10 years old, and she received her ASD diagnosis almost 4 years ago. Over that period of time we have found what really works for her to self-calm when she’s having a meltdown, and we also know what aggravates her sensory system. We follow the Zones of Regulation program at home (and at school) and after a bit of trial and error, her tool-kit is pretty perfect now.

Sno loves:
Tactile toys.
Deep pressure.
Nice smelling things (particularly citrus and mint).

Sno doesn’t like:
Excessive visual stimulation.

Sno’s box of tools resides on her beside table, with her chart of Zones and ideas for each section right beside her bed.

Her box contains:
A stretchy caterpillar toy.
Scented gel pens & colouring book.
A strip of soft purple minkee fabric.
Her iPod and noise-cancelling headphones.
A few stretchy animals.
A homemade visual sensory bottle.
A spiky foot massager.
Her Tangle.
A little pouch containing some Arnica healing balm for bumps & bruises, some cuticle cream for “flicky nail skin”, some homemade essential oil roll-ons (lemon myrtle & peppermint scents) and some pawpaw lip balm.
Soft eye-mask to shut out bright lights.
A few hair coils which Sno uses as fidgets for when at school.

What she uses depends very much on that moment, but all these tools get used regularly. On long outings or car-rides or school excursions a few will get chosen and packed into her small backpack, along with a water bottle, book and a snack. That way she’s always prepared and can self-regulate independently. Being prepared like this results in much fewer meltdowns, too, due to much less masking being necessary.

The Bucket Analogy.

All peeps have a bucket, right. Peeps who are neurotypical (non autistic) have an automatic variety, that empties of its own accord whenever needed.  Autistic peeps though, theirs aren’t of the automatic variety. So this means they need to take breaks throughout the day, and make conscious, intentional efforts as their day progresses to empty it themselves.  If autistic peeps aren’t given opportunities throughout the day to empty their buckets, or if they forget to – it overflows.

And when their bucket overflows: this is called a meltdown.


So what sort of things can add to an autistic person’s bucket? Well, it totally depends on the person!

It could be things like:

Itchy clothing.
Plans that change.
Meeting new people.
Music that is too loud.
Really hot days.
Really cold days.
New foods.
The smell of other people’s food.
Social exhaustion.
Hot dishwater.
Hot showers.
Strong perfume.
Being at work all day.
Being at school all day.
Being at kindergarten all day.
Going for long drives.
Going to new places.
Having to make a decision quickly.
Grumpy people.
Loud people.
Other people eating food.
Having a problem but not knowing how to talk about it or not being able to.
Being pushed to a deadline.
Being given too much information at the one time.
Having to sit still and quiet all day.
Background noise.
Light touching.

.. and the list goes on. All this stuff adds up. If we can consider that our autistic child, for example, has been at school all day, has had to be around new people with a change in routine and has had to travel home in a noisy car – it’s any wonder their buckets are overflowing by the time they get through the door – if they even make it to then!

This is why I will emphasise the importance of preventative breaks.

What I mean by this is regular opportunities for our autistic peeps to chill out, recharge and recalibrate.

This can be done through a multitude of methods, all of which will depend on the individual’s sensory profile and preferences.

Maybe it’s lunch alone.
Maybe it’s colouring in.
Maybe it’s time on the iPad.
Maybe it’s using noise-cancelling headphones.
Maybe it’s chilling out in a cubby alone, reading.
Maybe it’s not talking to someone as soon as they get in the door.
Maybe it’s not asking questions as soon as they get in the car.
Maybe it’s a crunchy snack, and a sticker book.
Maybe it’s a prior agreed-upon talk-time limit, and then it’s quiet time.
Maybe it’s playing computer games.

It really doesn’t matter what method it is, at the end of the day. But it’s about being compassionate and understanding.

Let’s be aware of each others needs. It really isn’t about whether you’re autistic or not, it’s about taking everything into account and being mindful and supportive of each other. Life is hard enough, consider the bucket analogy and help others. It isn’t rocket science.


Talking and Communicating are not the same thing.

There’s a reason I struggle with the terms “high functioning” and “low functioning” autism. A lot of this has to do with how autistic traits may appear to the outsider, and how they actually  are for the autistic individual.

People see a child labelled as autistic who is talking with others, giving positive & open body language and fulfilling daily tasks and they assume that they’re a little less autistic than an individual who is non-verbal or who needs support with daily tasks.

This is simply not the case. And it is actually quite judgemental and harmful to assume that it is.

There’s really no need for these “less” or “more” autistic labels. Because they are needlessly divisive. It is all autism and every individual with the diagnosis presents uniquely. Just because you don’t see someone struggling doesn’t mean they aren’t. Autistic people are super clever at camoflaoguing their struggles and these happen silently:

You don’t see their anxiety.
You don’t see their sensory struggles with noise, texture, smell or taste.
You don’t see their social overload.
You don’t see their need for control, organisation & perfectionism.
You don’t see how they hold it all together when out and then meltdown for hours and hours once home.

All these struggles still exist however, but they aren’t always obvious at all to onlookers.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post: communication.

Just because an autistic person can string sentences together, remember the names of people, places and objects and can have face to face verbal interaction with others doesn’t mean they don’t have trouble communicating. Often they may have trouble with receptive speech, identifying & expressing feelings and emotions and working out the nuances within social conduct – the “grey” areas, like sarcasm and metaphors.

Sno lately is struggling with the process of having a thought or a problem/worry in her mind, and getting that thought or problem expressed verbally. This is for both at home and school. When I asked her how it makes her feel, she said it’s like this huge grey jumble of “stuff” in her head and she can’t work out which is which and what is what – it’s all mixed up and tangled. Basically, getting her thoughts from her head into sentences in her mouth that make sense is really hard. So what tends to happen a lot at the moment is lots and lots of screaming meltdowns because she’s so frustrated and with all this frustration, she still isn’t able to express what she needs to. It’s a really tricky situation for everyone.

So we are going to trial a new concept, to help. Yesterday I bought her an empty exercise book which I labelled and I’ve encouraged her that anytime at home where she thinks of a problem at school, she needs to jot it down in her book with the day’s date and then when she gets to school, she needs to give it to her teacher. The contents of her book don’t need to be complex, just words that trigger her memory so she is able to slowly work through them with her teacher and support person at school in a quiet space. We are also going to access a few psychological sessions for her to aide in the process, too.

I’m hoping it helps, even a little bit. My heart goes out to her, and I only hope this simple idea can provide her with a small sort of anchor to keep her adrift and keep going, keep trying.

If you’re autistic and you experience this similar sort of thing, I’d love to hear from you. How does it feel? What do you find helps?

A Letter To Peers & Their Parents – From, Me.

A thing I do every time my girls get a new teacher (or begin kindergarten) is write a letter, and explain autism and what it means and looks like for our family. I do this for a few reasons:

So I don’t have to repeat myself constantly, and to open up the dialogue about autism.

So others that have involvement in our girls lives have understanding, education surrounding autism and compassion.

So that my girls don’t have to constantly justify themselves.

I place a photocopied letter in each of the kids pockets of the class, with a photo of my girl (s). I thought I’d share Wilding’s letter below. Now please bear in mind this is her letter with her individual sensory and learning accommodations listed. Every person on the spectrum is unique and has their own individual preferences.



I am Wilding. I’m five years old, and I am autistic. This can sometimes also be called ASD.
It doesn’t change who I am, it just means that I see the world a little differently to most kids my age and feel things differently, too.

Autism is a neurological disability which affects the way I process the world around me. There are some things that really overwhelm and overload me, and other things that calm me. There are things that I can do better than my peers and things that my peers can do that I struggle with and need support with.

Loud noises bother me. And so does unexpected events. When I know what is happening it makes me feel better. That’s why I have a visual schedule.
Sometimes I will go into my little green tent in the classroom for some downtime. Even though I love being around people, I still find socialising tiring and a bit of quiet time helps me recentre – so when I am in my tent, please don’t bother me or talk to me. Then when I’m done and come out, we can play!

I’m really visually sensitive. So this means if I don’t like the way something looks (for example: food) then I might not want to look at it, or watch others eat. Sometimes this may mean I want to eat away from others because the smell or the look of their food bothers me. I’m pretty literal and I say things how I see them; I’m not trying to be rude. It also means that visual things can help me calm down. You might have seen me watching the iPad or going on the computer in the morning for short bursts – this is why. The iPad is a great tool and helps me keep calm during transitions which is something I sometimes struggle with. Seeing photos of new people or new activities also really help me.

Chewing is something I love too. You may have seen my chewy necklace I wear? Mum and my Occupational Therapist got me it and when I chew that it makes me feel less anxious. It means I don’t chew my hands or my shirt or bag, cool huh? If you see me chewing it means I am anxious and so I chew to self-calm.

I love to move! Moving helps me concentrate and stay on task.  So I use a Hoki wobble stool when I’m sitting at the table  so I can keep fidgeting and I have a cute little weighted penguin that sits in my lap and keeps me grounded with deep pressure when I’m sitting on the carpet.

I am a really bright little sprite and I love to do puzzles and I’m learning how to write and read. I know all the letters of the alphabet already and can spell out short words on my own. I also love making new friends. Sometimes I struggle a little bit with personal-space so I may need to be reminded gently about this, but I’m really caring and loving. Cuddles are the best!

I am the third sister in a family of four daughters, and two of my other sisters are also autistic and so is my Daddy!

I’m really looking forward to being part of school and learning and making new friends.

Thanks for letting me tell you a bit about me. See you soon!

From Wilding. (and Jessica & Cj)



Please feel free to adopt and adjust this idea to use for your child. I find that it really helps with getting the most of out of a learning environment. I usually include a photo of the child the letter is about, too.

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