Tuesday, 16 December 2014

And the Best Gingerbread House of the Year is....

Gingerbread houses galore around here.  When the years have come and gone, the moments that make your Christmas memories special are the Christmas traditions.  Quickly forgotten are the bright colored toys and the latest electronic gadgets.  What remains is the special times created through traditions.  Our family has many family traditions that we do at home together each year.  Some of our family traditions take into consideration our limitations as a family limiting the stresses that can be put on people at this time of year.

Each year as a family we have a gingerbread house building competition.  Who ever is available, including adult children and grandchildren, attends and we pair off for a friendly competition.  This year, one daughter participated via Skype as she wasn't finished college for Christmas break yet.  Some of our more creative family members modify the original gingerbread house creating unique master pieces.  The younger less able children have the option of pairing off with an older member of the family or they can decorate and eat gingerbread men.  This year 5 decorated gingerbread men with Mom while the others paired off making houses.

After all the houses are complete we have the judging.  Dad inspects all the houses coming up with a unique description/category that each house wins for.

Best rendition of a house fire

Trailer park house, with truck on blocks and gingerbread man drinking from his red solo cup

Best architectural design

Most traditional gingerbread house

Best candy train

Most realistic Santa and house

House that has traveled the most via Skype
and finally 
the house using the most candy

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Crafting away our stresses

Life has been extremely hectic around here with the never ending renovations, Christmas preparations, power outages, flooding basement and the arrival of our adorable but very sick grand daughter.  So the kids and I decided to step away from the stress and spend the day baking, crafting and watching Christmas movies.

Christmas trees and stars made out of popsicle sticks and then decorated with glitter glue and sequins.

Sugar cookies galore, mixing colors of icing seemed like a good idea to some resulting in some unique colors.
Beading on pipe cleaners to make snowflakes and candy canes.  This was excellent for practicing our fine motor skills.
We also used coffee filters to make angels.  The heads were made from cotton balls cover with the coffee filter.
These reindeer were a huge success with hours of imaginative play after they were created.  I don't know if they will survive long enough to make it on the Christmas tree.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Meaningful Employment For People With Disabilities

Recently I attended a workshop called "Employment 101" this workshop discussed the importance of meaningful employment for people with disabilities.  Having a few children in this category that struggle finding and keeping employment I am looking for all the ideas that I can get.

First the Facts
52% of people with disabilities are unemployed while the Canadian unemployment rate is 7.6%

87% of people with intellectual disabilities are unemployed

56% of people with disabilities yearly income is less than $10,000 with women the hardest hit earning 50% receiving less than $5000 per year

People with disabilities can work, if they have the appropriate supports

Why employment is important to people with disabilities?
Work has a central role in most people's lives, offering rewards beyond that of an income.  Employment provides not only a monetary compensation but also social identity and status: social contacts and support; a means of structuring and occupying time; activity and involvement; and a sense of personal achievement.  Work is linked to social inclusion, and gives people with disabilities opportunities to participate in society as active citizens.  The barriers to work are linked to stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

One of my sons works with a landscape company and it has taken years finding the right balance for him.  If he works full time it is too much and everyone suffers from the crazies he presents when overwhelmed, however 2-3 days a week is great.  He puts in his time, comes home feeling he has achieved something, earns some cash and has stories to tell when others are talking about their work.  He recently had his work Christmas lunch and came home with a Christmas bonus, this part of his life feels normal to's similar to his adult siblings and society.

What are the benefits to the employer hiring people with disabilities?
Employees with disabilities tend to be loyal, reliable and hardworking.  Studies show that people with disabilities have low absenteeism rates and long tenures.  Hiring people with disabilities adds to diversification in the work setting, something that leads to an overall positive work environment.

We have a close relationship with the person that employs our son so we get feedback on his work.  Over the years she has commented on our sons reliability and consistency, saying he might not work fast but he is extremely consistent.  She also never had to worry about whether or not he would show up on time and ready to work.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Santa Photos.... Christmas traditions or nightmares?

The Christmas season is upon us and soon families will be taking their darling children to get a great photo with Santa.  Every parent feels the same way, they HOPE it will go well, but can never be quite sure. We had those same feelings when we adopted the last 3 of our sibling group of 7 and their birth Mom had one special request "a picture of the 7 with Santa".  It must have been that new adoption excitement because when I look back a photo with 7 young children aged 1-7 all with high special needs, what was I thinking.   Anyway, I naively agreed thinking that doesn't sound too bad and if that's what is important too her we can do it.  

We spent hours making sure they look perfect! Dressing the kids up in their holiday best, making sure their hair was groomed and they were excited, not nervous, about meeting the big man.  We made sure that each child knew what they wanted to ask Santa for, rehearsed it several times.  Then we were off to meet the big man in hopes of capturing the perfect shot.  Maybe, even one for this year’s family Christmas card! Then it was game time….the kids had rehearsed it a million times in their heads, they knew what they want to ask Santa for and were ready for the big meeting, but something snapped, something went wrong and boom – full all out meltdown.  It took us 4 separate visits with multiple pictures each time to get a picture that looked 1/2 way presentable.  All our various attempts gave close families and friends a good laugh with all the photographic evidence, we may even a photo or two to show at the kids future weddings.  

If you try braving your own Santa photo and your child has special needs, I have some suggestions:

Find the right Santa for the job
Not everyone is comfortable with people with special needs and this includes Santa's so talk with your Santa ahead of time.  Children can sense if someone is not comfortable with them and their behaviors can escalate as a result.  Some malls have a special time for people with special needs to visit Santa and some Santa's will come to your home. Ask questions of your Santa:  Are they in a handicap accessible location? Is their a better time to come? Do they have experience with the type of special need your child has?  Another option is purchasing your own Santa suit which is more economical now with the cost of these suits coming down in price.  

Calming Santa fears
Many children are fearful of Santa, so if a Santa picture is important to you work with your child ahead of time.  Read stories, watch Santa from afar, watch videos, play dress up - putting on a beard so your child gets experience with beards and make a social story telling what to expect on their visit. 

What to wear
Have your child wear something they feel comfortable in.  If your child has sensory issues this isn't the time to put them in the frilly dress and/or shirts and ties.  Sitting with Santa is a challenge don't add to it by dressing them in clothing they are uncomfortable with.  

Sunday, 30 November 2014

"Don't take them! It's not going to go well"

We have been making our yearly rounds at the optometrist and most recently it was our youngest 2 children's turns.  The boys are 3 and 4 years old and unfortunately, are very complex with their multiple diagnosis, including extreme sensory issues.  There was a huge voice in my head saying "don't take them!!!! It's not going to go well!!!" But there was also another voice saying "what if there is a vision problem that's causing some of the issues".  So I listened to the second voice and made an appointment warning the receptionist about my "Monsters"and she assured me that they could handle them and they would test them as best as they could.

Both boys have been into the office on a few occasions when siblings have been tested which was a great help at getting them into the office.  Both boys walked nicely into the waiting room and played nicely with the toys...hmm maybe this will be okay.  We brought their adult brother with us too help in the waiting room while I was in the office with the other child.

The assistant came and asked "who would like to be first looking into her machine for a tree".  The youngest and most willing eagerly went and lasted 30 seconds before he had enough of that.  The assistant then asked for the next child, (and he was having none of that) that's when the screaming and head banging started.  She quickly said that they don't have to do that test and he was able to calm down.

Next it was time for the actual eye exam with the optometrist and I do have to say she tried.  The first child was patient for exactly 3 minutes but her flashing lights in his eyes HURTS him and he doesn't have the vocabulary to explain this so he cries, screams, kicks and hits.  Not being able to finish the exam and seeing an astigmatism in the one eye he is being referred to an ophthalmologist.  It was then time for the 2nd child who really did not want to even enter the exam room after his brother had more than warned him with all the screaming.  I had him in my arms, just inside the exam room door, trying to help him get comfortable with the surroundings and he was holding a small toy train when the optometrist comes at him, without warning, with her light that upset his brother so much.  Hurt and upset he throws the very small train and it breaks her specialty eye exam mirror as he continues screaming and wailing.  The optometrist then says she doesn't think she should do anymore and the ophthalmologist might be a better option.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Medicines That Create Monsters

Almost 3 weeks ago our youngest started a new medicine that was supposed to help with his unique behaviors.  The medicine "trial" has been plagued with severe behavioral side effects that gradually snuck up on us since this medicine takes time to get up to full strength.  Which in reality meant after a couple weeks the behaviors got more and more extreme and you could easily be left questioning why, as the medicine started 3 weeks ago and could easily be overlooked as a cause.

We have had non-stop extremely fast talking, going a mile a minute, but, when added to the speech challenges you can not understand a word of what is being said.  Incredible risk taking as he has been climbing on and getting into everything he feels possible, and putting himself at huge risk of injury, not to mention giving me grey hairs.  He has been bouncing from one activity to the next, can't focus and can't slow down.  The moods are off the wall and rapidly bounce from our loving boy to a crazed tantruming monster, with more tantruming monster than loving boy.  All this added to non stop energy that just has him buzzing.

As our children have very complex challenges it is important to document any changes in medications and routines so we can review what has changed when presented with challenging behaviors or health issues.  When giving medicine it is important to know what side effects are possible including the more severe or unique ones as they could explain a lot.  With our children it is a non stop juggling act trying to find solutions for one challenge without setting off another issue so all the information we have available is necessary.

Fortunately after talking to the physician that prescribed this medication we found out that he can come off of it immediately and doesn't need to be weaned off of it.  It will however take about 3 weeks to leave his system before our boy is back.  We were also able to get an emergency appointment to go over the issues and come up with the next plan of attack.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Dog Food, A Balanced Meal For 11 Children???

Today, after our weekly therapy appointments, I needed to make a quick stop at Costco for dog food. Let me start by saying I really try not to take the kids grocery shopping as herding them through the store is a challenge when you have a couple in wheelchairs, 3 sitting in the shopping cart and others so distracted and overwhelmed that they aren't functioning well.  Added to today's feat was the fact that they were all tired from 5 1/2 hours of therapy and it seemed that almost every person needed to make a comment about the size of our family today.

So for the people of Costco today....

Yes there was 11 kids with me and that did not change no matter how many times they were counted by various shoppers (I was personally relieved that I had the same number going into the store as coming out of the store.  It always makes for a more successful day when you don't loose anyone.)

Yes they are all mine

No they don't have the same birth father....but they do have the same adoptive father

Yes I know what causes extensive amount of adoption paperwork (probably not what some were thinking)

Yes my hands are full and I prefer it that way as I couldn't imagine them being empty.

For the person who stated "rather you than me", my children and I agree

And a special thought for the gentleman that followed me through the store making comments to himself in every isle and then feeling it necessary to comment on my dog food purchase.  First, I must say that your comments won for most creativity and something I hadn't heard yet.  Second, although dog food may provide a balanced meal (for dogs), be cheaper than human food, and require less preparation I will not be taking you up on your suggestion of feeding it to my children.