Saturday, 16 August 2014

Ahoy matey....Adaptive Sailing

We recently had 2 of our children try out "Adaptive Sailing"  and they had a blast.  They went out in "Martin 16 sailboats", these sailboats apparently cannot capsize or sink and are supposed to be safe in any wind or sea condition which made me more confident encouraging them too "set sail".  In each sailboat there was a volunteer instructor with each "sailor" and then there was also a powered "support" boat with an instructor that was giving direction to the entire group.  

Sailing, for people with disabilities, gives them sense of freedom and independence.  With the use of adaptive technology, people with significant physical limitations or cognitive limitations can compete equally with able-bodies persons.  This program was open to adults and children with visible or non-visible disabilities at a very low cost of $15 per 2 hour lesson.  This was the first time experiencing sailing for my children but with this program they can participate just to experience sailing, to become independent sailors or refine skills for competitive sailing.  

The weather for today's sailing was not ideal as there wasn't much wind but they were able to get out in the boats and the power boat towed them around the bay.  They also met some new people and experienced something different.  

We have tried out a few "adaptive sports" and I highly recommend them.  A lot of these programs are supported by very knowledgeable volunteers and I am thankful that they take the time to support individuals in these programs.  My children have been able to try new sports that we wouldn't be confident teaching them.  

Another benefit of participating in these types of programs is that it gives the family a small, often well needed, break.  We were able to sit on the beach and relax as they participated in this fun program, a win for all.


Friday, 15 August 2014

Life with friends is hard...a life without friends is tragic

Friendships can be difficult, for some our our children with special needs it can seem almost impossible.  Our children with special needs have unique barriers that make building friendships extremely hard.  As a parent it is our job to teach our children how to interact with others and having meaningful relationships.  It is also important for us to understand what we think a friendship.relationship should look like may not be the same as what our children need.

A few of my children have a very difficult time with relationships so we need to step in and assist them in learning these skills.

In order to make friends you need to be around people.  This can be a challenge if the majority of your child's time is spent at medical and therapy appointments.  It takes added effort ensuring your child has the time and opportunity to make friends.

Your child needs to be able to communicate with people to make friends.  Depending on your child's challenges this can be difficult, we have children with severe speech challenges so it has been important to give them the skills to communicate.  Our children use augmentative communication as a form of communicating but they need to feel confident with this method to communicate with peers.  Other children in our family have autism so role playing has been helpful in building communication skills.

The social skills of your child should be comparable to their potential friends.  Many children with special needs also have challenges with their social skills so it is important to work on these skills to broaden their friend pool.  We have used the Michelle Garcia, Social Thinking program to help teach our children these skills and have had them participate in social skills groups.  Being involved in activities and social situations also builds up these skills.

Your child's interests and physical abilities should be similar to their friends.  The 10 year old's in our neighborhood spend a lot of time outside riding bicycles and climbing trees, our daughter does not have the ability or strength for this which leaves her out.  Our 19 year old stills enjoys playing with dolls and the majority of her peers are going to college or out working.  When the interests and abilities are limited it may mean pushing the child and/or finding others with similar limitations. We had the children join some activities that helped match the abilities - for example our younger daughter joined a first aid group where they were all learning new skills and our older daughter joined Special Olympics which put them both in situations to meet potential friends.

The skills of being and making friends are just as important as walking, dressing and personal care so take the time to support your child in learning this valuable skill.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Puppy training as a method of raising children?

This week we started puppy school, we are taking a class that focuses on "clicker training and positive reinforcement".  Sitting through the orientation really reinforced the parallels between animal training and child rearing.  It also had me thinking about the added challenges when raising children that are adopted at an older age with behavioral challenges.

During this beginning stage of puppy training, we are not to use verbal commands with the animal and we "click" the clicker when the puppy does the desired behavior and give him a treat.  The idea is that the clicker will "mark" the desired behavior and the treat will reinforce the behavior.  This will encourage the dog to think about what it is you are wanting him to do and he will do it for you because he wants to please you.  At first I thought this was crazy (and still kind of do) but as I thought about it I can see where they are coming from in this approach.  With infants we spend hours cuddling and caring for them building up a relationship.  They are not verbal as an infant, yet we are able to learn what they want from their behavior and they learn from our behavior.  This type of approach isn't very feasible with an older child, in fact they would probably think you were nuts if you didn't verbally tell them your expectations.  Some may appreciate you not telling them what to do but they probably won't respond in the way you were hoping.

The second part of this method of puppy training is we do not discipline the puppy we are only using positive reinforcement.

The adding of a result or consequence that the animal (or child) finds pleasant, dependent on the occurrence of a certain behavior or response by the animal (or child), which results in an increase in likelihood of that behavior or response in the animal (or child), because of the added result or consequence.  

When you have an infant that you are raising this method also works well because the infant hasn't learned any negative behavior yet.  The challenges are more difficult when you adopt an older child that may have many negative behaviors that go with some challenging diagnosis.  With the older child you do not have that time you would have with an infant building up that relationship in a nonverbal way so the "want" and "know how" to please you.  Quite often the older adopted child has mastered getting what they want/need as a means of survival and it typically isn't always in a positive manner.  With older children it is extremely important to find things that they do that please you and positively reinforce them.  You need to ensure that you don't get in a negative rut of constantly disciplining and correcting them.  Finding that positive behavior can be extremely difficult with some children but is so very important.  With a couple of our more challenging children we joined classes together learning skills neither of us knew.  We had an instructor teaching both of us so we were both starting from a similar position and were able to support and encourage one another.  This new skill was a basis for learning about each other and building our relationship in a positive manner.  We also had to spend a lot of time directing their play so they were doing something positive that we could truly "reinforce" in a positive manner.  When adopting an older child you need to find alternative ways to bond so you are able to learn what makes one another happy and  hopefully come to a place where you are wanting to make each other happy.

If only "positive reinforcement" was as easy as Sheldon makes it in this video clip.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

Impromptu dance parties are a favorite for our family.  We have the different gaming systems with the "just dance" programs but have found the same "dance" videos on You Tube.  Watching them on You Tube is much quicker for us, our TV is connected to our computer so we can pull up videos within seconds.

It is very touching watching all the kids, no matter the age, dancing, singing and laughing together - ability and coordination doesn't matter as they are just having fun.

Today we decided to mix it up and had our dance party while making "Ice cream in a bag"

What you need:

Ice cubes (1/2 fill each large ziploc bags)
1/2 cup rock salt
1 medium size ziploc bag
1 large size ziploc bag
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Optional: 1 tsp chocolate syrup or strawberry syrup, for flavored ice cream.

Combine sugar, half and half, and vanilla in medium ziploc bag then seal tightly.  Add optional flavors if you want a flavored ice cream before sealing.

Place salt and ice in large ziploc bag, then place sealed smaller bag in large bag.  Seal large bag.  Now shake the bags until the mixture hardens (about 5-10 minutes).  We danced while shaking our ice cream making the time go faster.  Feel the small bag to determine when it's done.

When done take the smaller bag out of the larger bag and enjoy your ice cream right out of the bag.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Life Skills Scavenger Challenge

Our summer boredom buster today was a "life skills scavenger hunt".  I spent a bit of time researching "scavenger hunts" and found quite the range of things people scavenge.  Wanting the kids to have fun and practice various community life skills I came up with my own list of ideas.  Some of the challenges were serious skill practice and others were thrown in for fun.

During the week, I talked up the scavenger hunt to build interest and excitement (and maybe a touch of nervousness) I would give examples from the various "hunts" I had researched not ever revealing what they were going to be doing.  I assigned points for each completed task with the life skill tasks having much higher values and told them there would be prizes, as an encouragement to take on all the challenges.  One challenge was to "sing a song in public" and their Dad jokingly threw in his thoughts, saying "they would loose points if the public didn't enjoy their singing."

This scavenger hunt was a lot of fun and really helped build confidence in the participants while  doing the challenges.  They were able to work together on the learning challenges and just be crazy doing the fun stuff. Each person had a camera to document each challenge and came back with some fun pictures to include in their summer memories.  If you need something to break up the monotony of summer edit our "scavenger hunt" to fit with your community and goals then go have an afternoon of inexpensive fun.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Urinals are not "baby holders"

Public washrooms can be quite challenging for children with special needs even after they are toilet trained.  On the surface you wouldn't think it would be a problem transferring skills from your home washroom to a public washroom until you really consider all the differences between the washrooms.  In a public washroom everything is becoming automatic and extremely loud.  You have urinals that aren't typically in homes.  All these things can add challenges to the task of toileting.

Public washrooms are extremely loud and if you have a child sensitive to noise this can be even more frightening.  The toilets that flush on their own are scary for children, heck it can be startling for an adult if it flushes while you are sitting on the toilet. From that scare you move on to the automatic sink where you have to place your hands in just the right position to get the water to run.  Finding the right spot can be a challenge for a child that is coming at the sink from a different angle than an adult.  Then there is the automatic paper towel dispenser or the automatic hand dryers - some of these dryers have such force that it feels like your skin is coming off and the noise is horrendous.

Another issue we recently had is with urinals, having boys that trained extremely late in their life and with the need to sit (and their toileting mainly done with females) they haven't had many opportunities too see or use urinals.  On a recent dinner outing I asked my husband to take our son to the toilet, he said "our son's oldest brother was in there he would be fine".  Our boys come back to the table and our oldest, trying to keep a straight face says his little brother needs lessons on how to use an urinal.  Somehow our son was able to climb himself up onto the (tall) urinal and was seated, preparing to do his business when his brother realized he was there.  Fortunately big brother was able to relocate his brother to the toilet before the automatic flushing of the urinal began and his brother was sprayed down.

We have also had issues with the urinals in port a potty's.  I just assumed that the children (especially the ones adopted at an older age) knew that one part was a urinal and the other part was the toilet.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think a child would mistake the urinal and the odor puck as a sink and a bar of soap or a baby holder or a purse holder.  (All true examples)

It wasn't until we started raising children with special needs that it became apparent that you need to teach things that you would commonly take for granted and you might need to reteach over and over.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Bald eagles, blue herons and an unintended dunk in the ocean

Today my husband and I spent the day with friends kayaking.  Our friends were in town visiting, with their other friends and asked us to join them for a day on the ocean.  Getting out without kids and spending time with adults is very important however quite often is one of the first things to go when busy with children and day to day life.  We were kayaking in a bay which was beautiful with lots of wildlife including bald eagles and blue herons.  Later we stopped briefly on a very small island and then continued on, stopping at the "point" for the lunch.

After lunch we ventured out into the open ocean which was not our smartest move.  The water was very rough between the waves and the wake from much larger boats.  My sweet hubby helped launch the 5 of us and when he went to launch himself a large wave came, dumping the kayak and him into the ocean.  Fortunately he fared much better than his cell phone, that had most of the pictures from the day.  Once he righted himself and the kayak we made our way into the open seas which made for very difficult paddling.

Overall it was a great day and a much needed break from day to day life.