Among gnomes and trolls

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Yesterday my son was back from the group home and it was time for a little geocaching again. I had spent some time trying to find a good cache containing some nice nature and a good hike to walk off a little of the anxiety that lives in his body, especially when he gets back home after a weekend at the group home. Just moment before we left home I decided that we should visit a geocache called Trolltrappan (GC12J2D) that seemed to have a 2-2½ km one way hike that mainly followed an old gravel road. I think the partly flooded forest around here was my main concern. Once at a suitable parking place I could sense my sons growing anticipation as we got prepared for the hike by changing to rubber boots and raincoats. Just better be safe than sorry .as it wasn’t raining when we started our small hike.

WP_000326Whats beyond that?

Our little adventure brought us to a forest that felt just like the forests in John Bauer’s illustrations. John Bauer is a Swedish painter and illustrator from the beginning of the 20th century and if you haven’t heard of him I suggest you look here for a peek at his work. The forest was dense and the rain was hanging in the air. We could follow the gravel road all the way but the last 300 meters where we found a small path that took us to our final destination. The “Trolltrappan”, which means “The Trolls Staircase” was a narrow staircase created by nature by erosion and if it wasn’t for the wet and slippery leafs it could be used as a staircase to climb the 4-5 meters up on the cliff. This was another of those unknown treasures close to home that almost no one knows about.

WP_000322The trolls staircase

Glad over our newfound “secret” place we started our walk back to the car. My son is at his best mood and follows the path in front of me, sometimes rushing along the path for a 5-10 meters before slowing down to normal hiking speed again, laughing most of the time and just letting me know he has a good time. During the drive home we stopped for a few park and grab caches just because they were there and we pulled up at home just as the sun set in the west. A perfectly nice geocaching trip that allowed my son to fall asleep in under 30 minutes instead of the normal 1-2 hours. Now I just have to plan next trip as he started begging for a car trip just hours after he got up this morning.

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Motivation.

I’ve lost my motivation, but the good thing is that he comes back home tomorrow!
Every other weekend my sons doesn’t come home from school, instead he stays the weekend at a group home for youths with special needs. This is to give his family a chance to recharge the batteries and do things that otherwise is hard to manage when he is home, for example me and my wife use to go out and eat. Small pleasure of life that means much more when you can’t take them for granted. Not that I couldn’t live without these dinners but the experience with being served by a waiter, no need to help anyone during the dinner and just leave the table once you are done, that’s a small bit of luxury in me and my wife’s life.
This weekend was one of those weekends and I have noticed how I tend to go into stand-by mode when my son isn’t here to keep me busy. But I did get one thing started, a bucket list. I’m trying to write down all the special places I’d like to take my son before I get to old. I think a list might motivate me to work harder for checking off a few of the items. I think I need to print out that list and put it somewhere where I see it every day.
So there hasn’t been any geocaching this weekend and I think that might be just as well as most of the woodlands out here is flooded at the moment.

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Contrasts

Chilling out at home just isn’t my son’s thing. Yesterday he went back and forth between his ball in his room and the kitchen looking for something to eat even if he wasn’t hungry. Sometimes he stopped walking around the house and started stimming for a while. My son’s stimming usually consists of spinning a ball on the floor and “bouncing” on the floor (not the ball that is), he also enjoys spinning an old leather belt in the air in front of him. And while he is stimming he usually has these grunting noises that are ok for a while but after hours they tend to get on your nerves a bit.

So the decision wasn’t to hard to make when we noticed that it wouldn’t hurt to go to the shop for some extra milk. Going to the shop is a good way to break my son’s stimming buy offering him something better, and more interesting to do. The trip to the shop is a minimum two hour trip unless we stop for some additional geocaching on the way, which we usually do. Yesterday’s geocaching consisted of just 2 small caches, just 5 minutes hiking from the parking, in a minimal forest between a residential area and some farmlands and once at ground zero we had a good 20-30 minutes searching before we found the first hide. This is when I noticed the contrast in my sons behavior between 30 minutes earlier at home and now. I didn’t give him directions in any way and just let him do what he wanted while I searched and he chose to sit down on a rock and admire the view for a good 10-15 minutes. It’s not often we notice this serenity in his posture. Once back home he was himself again but not in the same energetic way, the whole evening got a bit more relaxed for him and for everyone around him.

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And the hide? Yes we found it. Lots of dead branches around and one contained this:

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It’s a mystery!

The mystery caches, or more accurately, the unknown caches are geocaches that instead of giving you the coordinates of the cache they give you a puzzle or a task to solve before you get the coordinates of the hide. Although I’m a bit geeky, and do work with things like steganography, hexeditors and revealing what is hidden, I often don’t have the patience to solve these puzzles. There tend to be a bit too much guessing for me and I’m bad at guessing.

Now if anyone knows of a good site about puzzle-caches, how to do or how to solve them I’d appreciate that since I live in an area where other geocachers love to his puzzles and I’ve reached a point where almost 50% of the unfound caches within acceptable distance is puzzles. The caches are good puzzles and people have fun finding them so I’m not ranting about the puzzles, it’s my skill in solving them that stinks.

There is a first time for everything…

…and today the time had come for CITO. CITO is a geocaching event designed to clean up an area from trash, meet other geocachers, and perhaps log a geocache or two. CITO stands for “Cash In, Trash Out” and has been a part of the game for as long as I can remember. Many geocachers practice this at every cache they reach but sometimes a fellow geocacher feels an area could need and helping hand and organizes and CITO event, and this time it was close enough for us to attend.

The event itself was a quite relaxed. Everyone got there and then a small briefing about the area and where to bring the trash was held. The trash-picking was for about an hour and after that there was barbeques lit for those who wanted warm up a few sausages. Judging from the heaps of trash I saw towards the end I think the event was fairly successful and wish to thank Geocaching Uppsala for hosting the event.

Something less geocaching related but much more autism related is this thing that we experienced once everyone was gathered. Since my son is a bit sound sensitive he feels “protected” when he wears his hearing protections and as a bonus they usually works well to keep him calm in unknown surroundings as well. And he has his sounds that I have told about before, today they were happy sounds. Today it seemed that his sounds and hearing protections was something out of the ordinary for some geocachers at the event and I saw how they stole glances at my son. This is not bad in any way, in fact I welcome curiosity, I just wished that they wouldn’t feel guilty or what it is that makes them instantly break eye contact and stare at their GPS or smartphone once they realize that I’m looking at them. A smile or nod as a “hello” would be much better for the atmosphere.  This has really nothing to do with the geocachers we met today; it’s just the way people usually react to something that doesn’t match previous experience they have. Since past experience is invaluable for decision making I guess that’s why people chooses the easiest way out of the situation even if I can feel that it’s in no way the best way out. Don’t take this as a rant about the people I meet, it’s just a rant about how the human mind works.

Tales from the trail II

Today we had a wonderful seven km hike in Carl Linnaeus footsteps. The hike we did was one that Carl Linnaeus used to do with his students while he was lectures at Uppsala University in botany, there is a few of these trails around here and almost all are worth the time and effort. We had a stunning spring weather, cold enough for you to freeze if you stand still but perfect while in movement. We had to zigzag between flooded croplands and you could feel that winter finally has lost its grip. The cache itself was all but subtle as it looked like a birdhouse, large enough to house a bit owl, and painted in completely in gold. As usually my son noticed when we arrived to the cache and sat down to admire the view and rest his legs for a moment. He normally does that when he sees that I’m login a cache or start going in circles searching for something to log.

A lot of pleased noises and a few giggles while hiking and a son in a content mood after were the results from today’s adventure. Totally worth it.

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What we’ve got here is failure to communicate

I have told you readers a few times about the lack of communication skills that my son suffers from and thought I should elaborate this a little more.

My son has sounds that often are connected to his mood. As parents we can hear if something is bothering him (hunger, sleepiness, need to go to toilet) or if he is content at the moment. He does listen and understands simple communication like come, wait, sit and, shoes. Up until now we have tried different things to boost his communication skills but nothing has worked as good as we hoped it would. Sign language is to complicated for him, we tried PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) which worked but was very restrictive due to the number of pictures one could carry around. After PECS we tried a small HP Ipaq pocket-PC with a program for pictures and speech synthesizer that didn’t work very well but it was what was available then.

Now times have changed. We have used a new app for iOS devices for about 6 months that is called Grid Player and it seems to work really well. Grid Player (no, the name has nothing with geocaching to do) works on most iOS devices and my son uses it mostly on his iPad. Ha also has an iPhone as a more portable version. My wife has configured Grid Player to contain pictures in categories for my son. The pictures are representation of sentences starting with “I want to..”, “I need to..” and, “I am..”. I need to give my wife credit for all the work she has done in order to get this working as for a while I had given up the hope to find anything that works well.

One moment I’d like to share is a few months ago when we were flying back from Thailand after 2 weeks of vacation. The flight is good 12 hours and that puts a bit of strain on both my son and the parents as the situation is a bit out of our control. He was sitting next to me playing around with his iPad, and looking at cartoons when I suddenly heard “I want to go to the toilet”. At first I thought he might have been pressing the button without meaning anything but I followed him to the toilet anyway. Normally he is afraid of the toilets in aircrafts but this time he didn’t hesitate, did what he needed to do and we went back to our seats. Two more times during the flight he swapped from cartoons to Grid Player and asked for the toilet. I didn’t think of it at that moment but a day later I realized that it was the first time my son “talked” to me in long, long time, if not for the first time ever. Today he talks to me almost daily when he pushes the “geocaching” or “car trip” symbolWP_000271

 

Another gadget I just found out about in the PodCacher podcast number 406 is something called StickNFind. This is a small bluetooth button that is attached to things you don’t want to misplace. Immediately I thought of another use for the StickNFind and that to stick it to my son when we are out geocaching. As he doesn’t have a verbal communication it’s easy to lose track of him even if he’s just 20 feet away but stands so I can’t see him. This StickNFind would tell me if I get closer or further away from him when I look for him and it also has a virtual leash function that will tell me if he gets more than, for example, 50 feet away from me. Too bad it’s only available for iOS and Android devices at this moment as I really like the Windows 7.5 and 8 mobile devices and, hopefully that will change.