Isla’s Device Fast – The First 4 Weeks (uncut)

Day 1

Luckily Isla slept in until 6.30. Normally upon waking she grabs her iPad and disappears into a virtual world catching up on the latest Stampy video. This morning she scoured the house for a device. Ran down to check the computer but the cord had been removed ! Looked a bit panicked for a while but finally settled to read and listen to a Billy Goats Gruff CD book that we bought the day before. Ate her breakfast, got dressed and helped peel a carrot for lunch. Got lots of praise and happily went off to school calmly with Bo and Nana while I took her sister to her new school.

Had arranged for some help after school but before her Carer arrived she once again went looking for a device removing all the cushions from the couch. I told her that they weren’t in the house to avoid any further climbing or emptying of drawers. We had been talking about why we need a break for our brain and she seems to have accepted it really well.

Isla is always happy to play with one of her carer buddies and knows that there are no devices allowed so they spent the afternoon playing babies. Normally after her carer leaves this is iPad time so Isla again started looking for a device. When she had no luck managed to turn on the TV without a remote! After dinner she came into the garden, she played hide and seek with her sister Carys and then went for a scooter ride to the park. This NEVER normally happens with Isla out rightly refusing. She then sat read a book, had a bath then sat down and browsed through some photo books unprompted and on her own.

Settled into bed well and is now listening to nursery rhymes CD.

A very successful first day!! She seems calm, more engaged, less drained and happy.

Day 2

Isla slept into 7am. Normally up at 5am!!! Is so nice to see her out of the virtual world and in the real world. Am making sure she is kept busy. She’s still looking for her iPad and trying to turn on the TV but not one meltdown yet. Have booked in outside help all this week to keep Isla occupied. One of her carers came after school from 3-5pm. We agreed on a family movie night as was the weekend. Chose Little Foot instead of the Emoji Movie that she had already seen. This caused an hour of crying and distress. We finally managed to convince her to give it a go and watch the Emoji movie the next night. She quite enjoyed it I think.

Day 3

Wasn’t happy when woke up and was asking consistently for the iPad and laptop. Started climbing looking on top of book shelves and usual hiding places. She found her Leap Pad that had been tucked away for years but this was promptly removed. Explained to her that we weren’t taking away all these things to punish her but to help her brain. She seemed to calm down a bit by this and then we distracted her by taking her out for a bit to get some milk to have on her breakfast. She then went back to sleep for another hour.

Settled into the day. Went to Museum with Bo and Dad and then a trip to Special Olympics Athletics but she didn’t want to participate. Then went to shops with Carys and I.

Am finding we are filling gaps that are usually spent on the iPad  by looking and reading her photo books together. We also started reading a chapter book. This is something she would have previously refused.

She made pancakes with Dad for breakfast. Watched the Emoji movie. She immediately started stimming from excitement. Her vocalising “EEEE” while biting her hand. I realise I haven’t heard this for a few days.  She then asked to go to bed!!!!  Seems calmer, more balanced.

Day 4

Up at 5.30 this morning again. Tried to turn on the TV numerous times. Went through asking for iPad, laptop, computer. Says she’s missing watching things and playing games. Even resorted playing with the home phone as it has a small screen. Took half an hour to realise we weren’t giving in and moved on to breakfast. Mornings seem to be the hardest time. TV would be an easier option but don’t want to introduce it just yet as still is a screen and addictive for her. Made a plan for the day. Finally played with her toys a bit. Went out and got some arts and crafts and made some Valentines Day cards, decorated letters for her door and some rocks with her carer who visited in the afternoon.

Went for a bike ride and to playground at 5pm. She doesn’t seem as tired. She helped with dinner, set the table, made name tags, played guitar, bounced a ball.  Unbelievable!!!!!

Day 5

Woke up and no mention of devices today. Progress!! Slept to 6.30am. Came into my bed and we read another Rainbow Magic Fairy chapter book. Got up had milk, breakfast, helped make lunch, put on some washing for me, used the Dustbuster to clean the front entrance. Did therapy exercises. Topped up dogs water. Cleaned own teeth for longer than she ever has. Walked Bo to school on her own (with me alongside of course). Still anxious going into class but I texted her teacher to make sure was there and then she was happy to go in.

After school we did some writing until her carer arrived. We don’t usually have help this often but is totally worth it this week. Played babies. Read another Rainbow Magic Fairy Book and school readers. Had dinner and helped me clear and do the dishes (who is this child ????!!!!) She then did some arts and crafts with Carys. Bath then bed.

Seems calmer, more engaged, less manic and hyper not trying to rush everything to get to iPad.

Sort of feels like she is on best behaviour so we will allow devices back. Surely this can’t last!!

Talked about her getting Nintendo Switch back after the 4 weeks. I made it clear that it will be only on weekends and for one hour only.

Day 6

Up before 6am and snuggled in bed. Quite keen for me to read a Rainbow Magic Fairy Book but I need a coffee! Went and read another book on couch. Helped put on another load of washing, walked Bo to school. No asking for a device.

Came home. Did exercises and made afternoon tea. Got changed by herself, played with her carer and then read books I got from library for her. Helped feed Bo. Fell asleep at 7.30pm.

So nice to see her looking at photo books and the holiday scrapbook she made during our trip to the USA.

Fell asleep in our bed with Dad while reading books.

Day 7

Came down in the middle of night asking if I can put her sunscreen on before school! She often comes down and asks me things that has forgotten to tell me in the day that pop into her head at night. Tucked in with me for rest of the night. Woke up and asked if we can have a family movie night with it being a public holiday. I said we could. She is liking her feet massaged so I did this for a bit and she tries to give me one in return which is sweet.

Wanted to read the rest of the Saxophone Fairy first thing. Came down, made breakfast and strummed a bit on the guitar. Have put her name down on waitlist for lessons next term as she really shows an interest. Not sure if she will be able to learn but we will give it a try!

Picks up some more chapter books over breakfast. Books have definitely replaced the iPad and I am so happy about that. Hopefully will help with her reading, spelling and writing. She sits calmly at breakfast and isn’t trying to finish as quickly as possible to get back to the iPad.

We really don’t need another day off after such a long holiday. Went out for a family lunch. Isla sat patiently waiting for her meal. Only calling out “hey” to the waiter once and trying to grab a small boy as he went past. Got a fidget box and she was happy entertaining herself with this. Came home and she was allowed to watch a movie. Again the vocal stimming was loud and really obvious after having not heard it for a while with Isla not being on the iPad. I wonder what the connection is with visual stimulation and stimming!  Afterwards she moved on pretty quickly listening to a CD book in her room and playing with toys.

Nice to see Isla’s sister Carys playing with Isla again like they used to. Carys used to give me a hard time about Isla being on iPad too much. Every time Carys asked her to play Isla would get irritable and tell her to go away and then I’d end up scolding her for aggravating her. Easy to see now she was right and I was wrong although this is hard for me to admit !

Day 8

Been a week already. Back to routine today. Isla came down just before 6am. Her thought for the morning was there were no chocolate Tiny Teddies biscuits at the supermarket when she went shopping with Dad so I need to go and get some for her lunch today!

Got up and looked at some photo books, tried to turn on TV (must remember to hide the remote), then went downstairs to play with her toys that I have just left out all over the house. Is quite anxious about being downstairs alone. I reassure her that she is safe and she can just call out from time to time to make sure we are still close by. She periodically does this and seems to be happy playing.

Riding for the Disabled starts up again today. This is during the school day. It will be good when all her activities are back in place to help fill up her afternoons.

As we were ready early, with no distractions and a later start with RDA, we drop Carys to school and Isla had another snooze in the car.

Isla enjoyed being back at riding today. Has missed it a lot. While there we picked up some books, art supplies and other exciting bits and bobs that a volunteer at RDA had kindly sorted for us.

Picked up from school. Isla comes in and starts playing with toys strewn across the house without a second thought. So nice to see. She sorts Shopkins into fridge and pantry items.

I am sitting here writing this resting after a busy day while she is happy playing with me nearby. So happy we are at this point.

Isla then says she wants to go and get her new glasses. Wait what  Isla suggesting a trip out??? I jump at the chance and we head off to choose some new frames to replace her others. One pair got lost while playing in the sea and the arm is broken on the other. Good to know our insurance covers without an excess! She was patient while choosing her new frames and checked herself out in the mirror. We have moved up to the petite teen range. Still struggle to get my head around she is intermediate age next year.

One of the books was on the Solar System which is one of Isla’s favourite subjects as they cover in school each year. After dinner Carys and Isla made up a 7 minute song about the solar system and recorded it. Reminded me of the early days when they used to do this all the time when Isla was learning to speak. I love it so much. Have been given strict instructions by Carys am not allowed to share ! Isla sure knows a lot about her planets !

A few therapy exercises before bed and then Isla fell asleep with a book on her tummy and others all around her.

Day 9

Early wake up and straight into reading Poppy the Pirate Dog . Got Isla to read a chapter while I had my coffee which is progress !

Had a big training day for a woman’s adventure race I am doing in March so left Isla in with Gareth. When I arrived home they were at the movies. She was keen to have a play date with her friend Samantha still and was nice she didn’t try to disappear with a device while she was here. However a few attempts were made to turn on the TV closing the door behind her which immediately gave her away.

Is pretty constant making sure she has something to do and not getting into mischief but is still definitely worth the extra work. She is so much more interactive with people and in the world.

Day 10

An extra long cuddle this morning as no iPad to rush off with.

We read ALL the photo books today. She loves me reading them all out, especially hers!

Tried to grab my phone a few times.

Went back to sleep for an hour then got up. Was engaged and helped me make her sandwich for lunch.

Her love of books is growing. Went to the library and found some more books for us to read.

I love how she is playing with her toys again.

She even lay still today just chilling out.

Day 11

This morning helped me make a sandwich for her lunchbox. Started exploring the drawers while I unloaded the dishwasher. Started clinking together some ceramic egg cups and exclaimed “There’s music everywhere Mum”. Love the way she sees things.

Helped me put on another load of washing. She is making sure I’m keeping up to date that’s for sure.

I went about getting myself organised and doing a tidy up while Isla happily played with her toys….. or so I thought….. she was playing happily but this involved putting sunscreen on her train minis. “Did you think they might get burnt today Isla” I asked??. “No they are toys mum!” she replied. “Oh right yes”. She had hidden the sunscreen under a pot drying on the side and her minis were all wrapped in individual pieces of kitchen towel. They were numerous cups, bowls and mess all over the bench.

Never mind luckily we had time for a quick clean up, washed off the minis in the sink to get the sunscreen off and then put outside to dry.

We are managing to keep to our exercise, writing and reader schedule. Although takes a little coercing is a lot easier than battling with getting her off her iPad like we would have 10 days ago.

Finished the day with a swim where we played obstacle courses . Then straight onto to picking Carys from school which she wasn’t happy about but we made it . First time I’ve heard crying for a while.

Isla is loving the Rainbow Magic Fairy books. Me not so much. Isla obviously likes the predictability of  the stories but I cannot read another one!!! We opted for Zoe’s Rescue Zoo. However caved in the evening to read Billie The Billy Goat Fairy!!

Day 12

Isla got up in the night and used the toilet! Came down to our ensuite but then took herself back to bed. Hooray! This is another step in self care. She is now brushing her teeth too.

She is picking up chapter books by herself more and more which is encouraging to see.

Day 13

Wow nearly 2 weeks without devices. Heard Isla up in the night. Then heard her putting on her bedtime music to help her get back to sleep. She did call out a couple of times to make sure we were there but didn’t come down.

Had a few fails today as busy life took over. Was distracted and Isla found my phone and fired off a few random texts that don’t make sense that she finds hilarious. She did come and find me and confess which was a good thing I guess. I would change my password but that would probably leave it disabled for an hour so that’s not the solution.

Everything else went according to plan after school and had another nice play date with one of her carers. But then after dinner there was another distraction and Isla found the home computer had been left on as Dad had been working on it earlier in the day. It all went a bit quiet but she must have felt too guilty as came up to confess. Admitted she had looked up Captain Underpants!

Day 14

Great day. Trip to the library, RDA, school, gym bunnies and then still able to go to the food shop with me. Seems way less tired and willing to do things. Has gone off to bed happily after her therapy exercises and reading her home reader.

One thing I have noticed is that when I brush her hair in the morning she does not scream out and cry like she used to. Maybe this is because she is getting more sleep or maybe because her sensory system isn’t over stimulated.

Day 14 – present day

Life has got busy but no devices have become our norm !!!! Books have replaced the iPad and Isla likes to shop for books rather than toys yay!! She reads books on the toilet, reads books in bed, reads books while eating her breakfast.

Isla is especially keen on Captain Underpants Books and has moved on from the Magic Kingdom Fairy books (thank goodness). She is picking up and reading books herself and I haven’t had to read to her much at all now. The CD player hasn’t been used since she discovered chapter books.

She still is trying to grab our devices at any opportunity so we have to be vigilant.

That ACC ad always comes to mind with the lady tripping over the toys left on the floor and falling through the coffee table as there are always toys all over my floor.

She has starting spending more time in the garden, jumping on the trampoline with her toys and playing with water.  She used to do this at 3 years old but as the iPad took over would be quite difficult to get her outside.

I allowed her to watch Captain Underpants series on Netflix tonight but limited the time and she was fine for me to switch off after a couple of episodes. We have a rule we have to watch together and we discuss what’s happening during the show. She is more open to watching movies that she previously refused but still can’t cope with anything that isn’t animated.

I always wondered what Isla would be like without devices. Now I know. She is happier and less stimulated. Loves to chat. Is getting more sleep. She is more engaged and alert. Is more helpful and compliant. Is enjoying reading.  She is still a busy girl and still loves to touch and explore (and sometimes break) everything. She would still like to sit in front of a screen all day long, if she had a chance, but I am so excited we have got this far. Is like a huge weight has been lifted.

I’m not totally sure of the way forward from here. I have to make sure “movie time” doesn’t become too much of a regular thing. Her iPad will not be coming back for a long time that is for sure. She has stopped asking about the 4 weeks so seems happy with the amount of screen time she is getting. We will not be going back!!!

When I think of plane trips, holidays away of how we will cope and get some down time I still get brief moments of panic. Maybe in time we can relax the rules a little once in a while but I do not want to end up how it was before…..EVER!

Published by Sara Stythe

Hi my name is Sara Stythe and I am a mum of 3 beautiful girls. This is a place to share knowledge, resources and information I have learnt along the way on this unexpected journey with our unique youngest daughter. Isla is missing a tiny bit of her 2nd chromosome (2q23.1 Microdeletion Syndrome, recently known as MAND) causing autism, epilepsy and development delay. If you would like to receive my new blog posts by email you can subscribe. Thank you

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