Sunday, May 13, 2012

Camping with Autism...

Joel is a good looking happy five year old boy who loves animals and being outside. To look at he appears no different from all the other children in the park except if you talked to him he would never speak back and probably just ignore you and run off... Yes Joel is Autistic.
  Autism has a very wide spectrum of symptoms and indeed no two Autistic people would show the same characteristics and yet one in a hundred people are thought to have Autism in one form or another. So you see it's quite probable you've met some one with Autism and either not known or just put their behaviour down to a personality quirk.

  Back to Joel though. Joel was diagnosed with Autism aged three when certain characteristics were noticed at his preschool and thankfully with their support and now with his Infant schools help Joel is happy and making progress. One key factor with many forms of Autism is that the individual relies on routine and order in many aspects of daily life and if things are different they can become unsettled and upset.  So as you can imagine going on a camping trip can seem fraught with potential upsetting scenarios that would put most parents with Autistic children off the entire idea.
 Thankfully this is where the Campervan is so useful. Because we use the van all the time even for shopping trips, Joel is used to being in it. Also when we first got the van we spent time playing in it with his toys and older sister and so after a while it just became an extension of home. The big test came on our first camp out just a few miles from home. We packed his favourite food (very important for children with Autism) his favourite toys and with a little trepidation set off....He loved it..especially the freedom of being outside, it even helped him to socialise with other children. It was quite touching when his sister Erin who is only 18 months older than him was explaining to the other children that Joel couldn't speak because he was Autistic.

 Each camping trip we've gone for longer and longer expeditions until last year we spent three weeks touring France and Joel loved it ( so did we).  In many ways our camping expeditions have made Joel more able to cope with different routines and even encouraged him to try new activities and foods. So much so that now all Joel wants for breakfast is croissant's.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homebrewed Campervan.....

Lets get something clear when we mention a homebrewed Campervan, that we aren't talking about any illegal moonshine still in the back of a Camper, that's produce would send you blind. Rather we're talking about converting a humble Van or minibus into your home from home on wheels. As a couple we've always enjoyed camping with family and friends and so when Erin and Joel were born we sort to introduce them to the joys of living outdoors. About four years ago we splashed out on a new "family" dome tent and set off to our favourite destination of Anglesey in North Wales.Though we were well equipped that first night a "summer" storm rolled in and we endured the worst night in our camping lives as the wind and rain battered our tent. Needless to say we got no sleep that night and we looked on in envy at the Campervan pitched near to us that rode out the storm with ease..That day I vowed that the next camping trip would be in a Campervan. The trouble with campervans especially VW ones is that they are highly sort after and so that is reflected in the prices. Our budget was small and so the only one we could afford was a VW T25 Danbury conversion that we got off Ebay for £1400..To say that it was rusty would be an understatement, but undaunted I vowed to restore her back to glory over a year or so (rolling restoration) Alas it quickly became clear that the rot was deep and my pockets were shallow and after four months I sold her on. Despite this setback we kept searching until one day we sported a "Ex Taxi" late model VW T25 on Ebay. Clearly unloved but solid she was crying out for some TLC. After parting with £900 and a long journey home at 50mph she sat outside our house and I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.We drove her around for a while, as we drew up our plans to convert her into a camper After about a month our plans were drawn up and We set about sourcing the bits we would need to build our "bespoke" camper on a paupers budget. Many of the bits came off Ebay ,like the hightop roof , flooring, seat cushions ,sink fridge ect ect. The units and cupboards were modified "Ikea" kitchen units and the front seat were from a VW club member. So as you can see I cast my net far and wide often travelling 100s of miles to collect items. The key to success in building your own Campervan is research and patience, as building the camper had to fit in with every day life's demands. It was nice to involve the family in building her and it was scary at times (cutting a hole in the roof)but the sense of achievement was immense as it was all my own work. In took about 6 months to initially finish the Camper which it included painting her using a roller and special paint (I'm serious). The best bit about doing it yourself is the cost..£900 for the Van and then another £1400 over 6 months to convert her. So for £2300 we got our homemade bespoke budget camper and no more storm ravaged sleepless nights. So if you fancy your own Campervan but can't afford the mega bucks they demand these days, role up your sleaves and have a go yourself. Then one day you will peer out of the the window of your snug Campervan at the poor souls trying to pitch their tents in a howling gale and a warm smugness will make you smile from ear to ear....