Saturday, 14 November 2015

A team of their own!

A few of our younger children have significant special needs and haven't had the opportunity to join any sports teams or clubs until recently.  Our local Special Olympics recently started a program for 2-11 year olds (Active Start and Fundementals) and 6 of our kids in this age bracket have had the ability to join.  The first practice was on Monday and the kids were extremely excited.  Special Olympics set up the group with a "sports team" feel and all the kids received team shirts to wear for each practice.

They now have their own sports team! I was really hoping that there would be many other kids for them to meet and interact with while learning new activities and maybe in the future there will be but unfortunately there is only one other child so far.  One of our teens came to watch her sibling and thought it looked like so much fun she signed up to be a volunteer.  I am always impressed by the support the children show for one another and their various interests whether it's volunteering at their activities or being the best cheerleader imaginable.

At their "team practice" they do a warm up, then play games building different skills which nicely align with the goals their physical therapist has for them, have a healthy snack and then a bit of free play.  Yesterday they did circuits with various jumping skills, practiced throwing, catching and kicking balls, and played games with simple rules like duck, duck, goose, what time is it Mr Wolf and a variation of tag.

I am so impressed with Special Olympics we have adult children that have been participating for the last 2 years and now the younger children have a group for them.  The skill and dedication of the volunteers amazes me and I am truly thankful that these people include my children.

Friday, 9 October 2015

An Ounce of Prevention May Save Your Life

With October being fire prevention month it is a good time to look at your families fire safety plan.  For families with people with special needs it is important to look at how you and your loved ones will react in the event of  a fire.  Are all members of your family physically capable of getting themselves out of the house?  A person with mobility issues may not be able to get out through a doorway during an emergency, do they have the physical ability to climb out a window?  Does your child freeze, hide or panic in stressful situations?  What would that look like for them in a fire?

Prevention is your best option and early detection buys you time in the unlikely event that you have a house fire.  Working smoke detectors save lives, install and then check monthly to ensure that they are in good working condition.  As a large family with multiple special needs we have installed a smoke detector in every room of our home.  If we have a fire we want to know as soon as possible, since a large majority of our children would be unable to get themselves out of the house, thus giving us, as parents, time to get everyone safely out of the home.

Having a plan is extremely important.  Your plan should include a couple of escape routes from each room and should also include a meeting place when you are out of the building.  For our family we have made our meeting place in the backyard far enough from the home so we don't get in the way of any emergency personnel.   As our plan includes us as parents helping the children out of the home we have ladders stored in a convenient location that if need be we could access all of the childrens bedroom windows.  You may want to practice the plan with the fire drills depending on the abilities of your family.  For a couple of my children any discussion of fire safety planning would have them overwhelmed and convinced they are going to die so we need to keep it simple and matter of fact.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

One persons dream can be another persons (or cats) nightmare!

Oh why do I torture us, one of our daughters has visions of herself being a professional singer/song writer and another daughter has been in one theater production and would like to continue with other productions which has resulted in them both being signed up for voice lessons.  Both girls are beyond excited about their singing lessons with the oldest (our wanna be singer/song writer) telling everyone "she can't believe it, this is the best day of her life and her dream is finally coming true".  One of the challenges we face with this daughter is her lack of insight to her abilities, this girl can't all.  When she sings at home the cats run from the room, then avoid her for days and while I was waiting for them at their first lessons all the neighbourhood dogs were howling.  I know many people can't sing, myself included, but most people realize the fact they aren't skilled in a particular area and don't plan their life goals around said activity.
When looking for a teacher we needed someone skilled at working with individuals with special needs, encouraging but able to set realistic goals and skilled in voice training.  It is extremely hard working with someone that has such grand visions for them self.  If friends or family say anything about her lack of ability she gets upset, cries and tantrums because she feels everyone should be encouraging and how could they possibly be that rude.  We have recorded her singing and played it back hoping she might "hear" what we "hear" but that hasn't worked.  Frequently we have general discussions how sometimes we have hobbies because we enjoy doing a particular activity, also just because we enjoy doing something doesn't mean we have the skills to do it as a career.  We have also tried the approach of having her consider her friends and asking what type of careers they have?  As they don't have careers (most are in day programs like her) would they still be as close of friends if she went of and became a famous singer.

How do you deal with people in your life with grandiose ideas that don't come close to reality?  Today we will continue with singing lessons because they both enjoy singing and that is reason enough to continue.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Crooked Teeth - Paying it Forward

With a family as large as ours, comes the increased need for orthodontic treatment.  Most recently our 11 year old with an extreme overbite is in need of dental treatment.  Braces are expensive and for a large family, with multiple mouths of crooked teeth, the costs can really add up.

A family member was telling us about their dentist, how as a child he had extremely crooked teeth, his family struggled financially and were unable to afford orthodontic treatment.  As a young boy his neighbour, an orthodontist, corrected his teeth at no cost hoping he would "pay it forward" when he was able.  He eventually went on to dental school and then took additional courses in orthodontics.  As a dentist he is now able to help clients with their orthodontics while running his dental practice.

For us the benefits are:

- a dentists rates are less expensive than an orthodontists rates
- some of the fees charged by the dentist can be billed to insurance coverage for dental care even though we don't have orthodontic coverage
- 4 kids (and counting) that had very crooked teeth now have beautiful smiles

The 11 year old in question should have straightened teeth within a year, the cost should be no more than $600 and the payments are payable as treatment occurs.

Having looked around for options it is my understanding that there are many dentists out there that can help with crooked teeth, whether it's removing teeth due to extreme crowding or doing orthodontics.  Another option if you are fortunate to live near a dental college, is getting treatment at the college.  All these students need mouths to practice on, are supervised by licenced professionals and charge a reduced rate.  Orthodontic insurance is also another helpful way of reducing costs if you are fortunate enough to have this benefit.

What have you done to help afford the cost of orthodontics?

Friday, 18 September 2015

The missing piece

As another year of homeschooling starts we take the time to discuss plans, hopes and dreams with each child.  We haven't always been a homeschool family and want to ensure that this method of schooling is working for each child.  This year 2 of the teens are taking a combination of "face 2 face" classes and homeschooling.  One of our teens came "home" for school 3 years ago after struggling with bullying, extreme anxiety and academic challenges.  When we were considering whether or not homeschooling was a good option or not, we feared that her anxiety and ability to handle social situations may worsen if she wasn't exposed to social situations.  It is a common myth that home schooled children aren't exposed to enough social situations and therefore struggle socially.  For this particular teen homeschooling was the key to overcoming many of her challenges.  With the help of an education assistant at home and "face 2 face" classes her academic challenges are being worked on (at public school she qualified for an education assistant but the school reassigned the assistant).  Working at home and in small classes (5-8 students) has reduced the anxiety and bullying, giving time for confidence to be developed.  The reduced anxiety has also freed up energy so she can more actively participate in youth activities.  In the last year she has successfully taken on leadership roles at St John Ambulance as team captain for various competitions and leadership roles at Air Cadets.

As parents we were happy with the progress being made and our teen is happy with the homeschool option.  There is only one thing that she wished she could change, she missed the idea of being on a high school sports team.  Her older siblings had been on school teams and watching them she envisioned herself doing the same.  We looked for recreational teams in the area to no avail but after contacting a local private school we were able to have her join their school team.  Volleyball practice started on Wednesday and our teen is beyond excited.  At practice she also met up with a couple other homeschoolers that had the same goal of playing on a team.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Busted...Wardrobe Malfunctions

Some things you expect will improve with age, ones that you take for granted like knowing whether or not a piece of clothing fits.  For one of our adults this has been an ongoing struggle and today's clothing issues are with undergarments. The last bra was purchased independently and there have been increasing wardrobe malfunctions - you know the type were younger siblings are forever scarred when the older sisters exposed body part escapes.  Something needed to be done and fast.

We started with the shirt being removed and some measurements being taken.  When we got to this layer it was know wonder so many people have been scarred, the straps were loosened as much as possible and just draped over her shoulders and the cups were hanging next to the breasts like curtains waiting to be drawn....the bra definitely did not fit!!! After taking some measurements and contacting some large busted friends it was determined a specialty store would be required.  As the bra fit was so far off I felt the panties probably had the same issue.  Being there was no way I wanted to expose myself to that fright I felt it would be best to trust the tape measure and measure over the pants.  It was confirmed that the panties must have been hanging on by a thread,  literally,  as the new ones purchased were 4 sizes larger than the ones currently being worn.

We were at the store for 2 hours learning how to put on a bra and determining the best fitting one.  I picked out 3 possibilities to start and had our young lady go into the fitting room to try one on and then call me.  The first one was done up to the loosest size leaving enough room for another person and twisted on an angle so only one breast was contained.  Lessons on how to wear a bra....something she has been doing for 8 years and then time to try on the next one.  This time the bottom band was tight but it was across the breasts making it appear that she now had four boobs.  More lessons and the process continued for 2 long excurciating hours.  The younger sister that came with us was laughing and rolling her eyes discretely, so her sister didn't notice.  The sales clerk kept asking if we needed assistance, explaining they have dealt with customers with similar challenges but I do think we may have been their entertainment also.

We finally escaped the bra store and we are still continuing with the lessons on how to wear the new items.  We have been trying to have her dress in front of a mirror and hopefully observing how things look.  She has been given picture cues for how to wear a bra and we go through the steps daily (in front of the mirror) hopefully in the next 8 years this will be mastered.  The fortunate part is we haven't had any wardrobe malfunctions since the purchase of the new undergarments and no scares to the siblings.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Are you speaking a different language?

Have you ever been somewhere that everyone speaks a different language?  What if you could speak the language but you didn't know what you were saying?  What if you said things that got you into trouble?  How could you get yourself out of trouble if you didn't know what you said?

This is a common problem for people with "social skill challenges" and for one of my daughters it is a huge issue.  My daughter is an extremely attractive, charming, naive young lady who does not present, on the surface like she has any special needs, yet the special needs she does have are getting her into serious trouble.

When hanging out with friends, in groups with peers, watching tv or movies people say things and everybody laughs.  This is one way we learn what kind of reaction we will get when we say something, and then we typically judge whether or not it's something to be said in other situations.  People also use slang phrases or idioms that can mean something completely different than what is being said.  For a lot of people with social challenges they take things very literal and may not understand what is being implied in many circumstances.  My daughter will hear a phrase or joke and then repeat it in another situation because when she originally heard it said everyone laughed, so it must be funny.  Too many times she will say something, in a family situation and we will need to take her into another room and tell her what she just said acutally means.  In the family situation she is fortunate because we know her challenges and try to help her through these social blunders.  In public, at school, at work or with peers people frequently don't realize that she doesn't understand what she says or hears and then they have differing views of her.

Most recently one of her olders sisters had to try and clear up a huge misunderstanding from something that was said.  An adult gentleman from an organization our girls are involved in approached our adult daughter, obviously feeling very uneasing saying he needed to speak with her regarding something said by the younger daughter.  This man felt our daughter had offered him sexual favours, in front of the entire class (which was a relief, keeping both parties safe but also extremely embarrassing for both) our daughter (after discussion) felt she had told a joke, ONLY A JOKE.  We used this situation to educate the gentleman about her special needs and I am hoping others can learn that just because someone says something doesn't mean they know what they are saying.

Our daughter has been working on social skills her entire life and we will continue educating her while trying to keep her safe.  Unfortuanetly with social skill challenges there isn't a list of, learn a,b and c and you will be fine.  Social situations are ever changing and never ending which presents more opportunities for social blunders.