Friday, 17 October 2014

Tactile Defensive Children & Fall Crafts

School for our younger, less able children and preschoolers has been focused around the fall theme.  Having children with differing abilities we work with them at the level they are functioning at, encouraging and challenging them with the hope of advancement.

 I found these fall themed play dough mats, alphabet  mats and more, that we have been working on.  I laminated the play dough mats and we use play dough, dry erase markers or wiki sticks with them.  As fine motor skills are a challenge we have found this is another way to learn skills and build up hand strength while developing our pre-printing skills.

Being pumpkin season, we have been including them in our play.  Hammering golf tee's into anything is always a hit - this week we have been hammering them into our pumpkins, building our hand eye coordination and strength.  To extend the life our our pumpkin play, we later bring out the Mr. Potato Head parts and decorate our pumpkin over and over.


I found these sewing cards which have been a welcome challenge, building our skills.

 While outside exploring and looking for signs of fall, we found apples that had fallen from the tree, not suitable for eating, so we brought them in for craft time.  Dipping the apples in paint and stamping them was fun for some, the tactile defensive children liked this project as they were able to stay relatively clean.  We have also been stamping with bingo dabbers making a variety of pictures which helps our less willing participants expand their limits.

The weather has been extremely wet the last few days so we set up an obstacle course for burning off the excess energy.  After our energy has been expelled we have been curling up with a stack of fall themed books from from the library.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The messy wonderful life of adoption

A friend recently posted this article and I think it speaks of the realities and ongoing costs of special needs adoption, especially but not limited to FASD, RAD, ODD, etc., that aren't always spoken of.

"We've had the house we dreamed of with the white picket fence.  We've had the kids we imagined and some we didn't.  We've lived and loved more than most.  The past few years have brought us unimaginable pain but in even greater volume, love and blessings that we appreciate all the more for all our losses.  We are embarking on yet another stage of our lives and we know not yet where it leads.  Middle aged (OK, at 56 that  means we plan to live until 112), we no longer own a home.  Renting is not a problem but the instability of it is especially hard on our younger kids.  We also see ourselves continuing to host back at least one of our adult kids with disabilities (as we do now) at any given time.  So we are looking to have more reliable housing (about to have to move a second time in a year).  If you are the praying kind, keep us in mind as we figure out where the path less traveled will lead us next.  We've kind of lived our lives like this line from a Trooper song "Don't let fear and good judgement hold you back".  I think that's what got us into this messy, wonderful life in the first place so we'll try not to let common sense interfere with our next move.  

One thing that is often overlooked is that the child's issues could be so extreme (behavior or health) that 1 or more parents are required at home to manage the child.  Over the years raising our children we have had times were both my husband and I worked outside of the home and other times that one or both of us have needed to be home.  During the time that we both needed to be home we still had to pay our bills so this would come out of our savings or line of credit.  Having to stop working to focus on raising children with extreme issues seriously effects your career and retirement savings over the years.  Leaving your job for a few years or more and then trying to re-establish yourself at an older age can be near impossible.  For example at one time my husband was a career firefighter but leaving that profession and then trying to get back into it in your late 40's to early 50's is near impossible when you are competing with 20 year old's.  

Many starting out with adoption have a family home and are adopting to add to or start their family, it may be the proverbial house with the white picket fence or something more modern.  Your child may arrive with behaviors that you expect will be outgrown quickly but over time the child grows, their behaviors/strength increase and your home begins getting more damaged.  In anger, walls are punched and kicked and things are thrown, windows broken, doors ripped off the hinges, the wear and tear on the house is hard to keep up with.  Maybe your child has issues with toileting and does this wherever they please or they enjoy smearing it.  Your child may also be a hoarder which quite often involves hiding food and other things that rot and smell.  Over the years we have had children that rage, had issues with toileting, are generally klutzy, wheelchairs/walkers that can damage the walls while the occupant is learning to use it, etc.  all which can take its toll on the house.  Your once beautiful home now looks like it belongs in the slums.  

Having adopted kids with special behavioral needs there can be issues with safety and security over the years.  I know of families that have had to pack up and move their families because of safety issues either from birth families or the child's behaviors as they became teens or young adults.  

All these issues can compile and you find yourself not able to afford the home you started out with and your financial future can be looking pretty bleak.  There isn't assistance available to look after the child that you so willingly adopted years ago it is up to you and your family to make things work.  Mental health supports for youth are extremely limited and you might just have to ride the wave making things work anyway you know how.  

So, I really understand when my friend says she has a "messy, wonderful life".  If we had known what we were going to go through over the years I don't know if we would have jumped into adoption like we did, but looking back would we change a thing......probably not. Oh, and yes all of us in the adoption community need your prayers.  

Monday, 13 October 2014

Our Picasso

This morning we awoke to our mischievous 3 year old opening his bedroom door, so very proud of himself for climbing out of his crib for the first time.  Upon walking into his room it was evident that he enjoyed his new found freedom, all the clothing was removed from his dresser and strewn everywhere and toys were dumped.

In the last few weeks our son has also mastered undressing himself and has Houdini like skills at this.  As we want him to stay warm and his dressing skills are no where near his undressing skills we have been trying to keep a step ahead of him, first it was pjs with fasteners, then putting them on backwards, and right about the time he mastered removing backwards pjs he took up artwork with the contents of his diaper.  So then we applied duct tape to the fasteners of the pjs he was wearing backwards and secured the diaper with duct tape, all to no avail.  It is seeming that we have run out of options on the Houdini/Picasso front so hopefully this stage passes soon.

As much as it is a challenge keeping up to the newly acquired skills of our three year old we are also very thankful that he is making these progressions.  And although he has some special needs he has surpassed his 5 siblings closest in age to him on many accounts.  Not all of his newly acquired skills have been negative, he has mastered using the potty, he can climb in and out of his car seat, and he is helpful to his older, less able siblings.  His creative skills will be tamed into more functional and appropriate skills hopefully sooner than later.

When raising children with special needs you can get stuck thinking of all the functional things that they aren't able to do and you forget along with mastering these skills come some negative skills.  So we will focus on the positives as we are sending him back to bed for the umpteenth time and cleaning the walls from the latest artistic creation.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Can't be put off any longer

I have been putting off  "fall closet/dresser cleaning" as the temperatures outside have been unusually warm.  Having a large family this is a daunting task but I have come up with a few methods that help.

I start with the largest child's dresser/closet - I work my way through all of one gender of children from largest to smallest so anything that can be passed down, is during the process.  Picking what looks good, coordinates, the child is able to manage and ensuring what we keep fits comfortably in their dresser.  Some of our children have difficulty dressing so they only have clothing that they can dress themselves independently with.  Others in the family have difficulty coordinating an outfit so we reduce the frustration and clown like combinations by having only matching options in their dressers.  For these children we pick a color theme and ensure all combinations coordinate and any special occasion clothing are stored elsewhere.

The seasonal clothing change is also a great time for a deep clean so when all the clothing has been removed I wash down the dresser/closet and vacuum under and around.

When removing the out going seasons clothing from the dresser/closet we store any that is in good condition, we think will fit next year, or can be handed down to a sibling.  I will store clothing for the next season in similar size groupings for children close in age/gender.  With the summer clothing we tend to keep a little more than we would for winter as we like to pack a separate set of clothing for camping (makes getting away easier for us by only having to pack once each season).  I also use the clothing season change as a time to change our emergency change of clothing stored in each vehicle.  We keep a change of clothing in the vehicle for younger kids in case of toileting issues etc.

Any clothing that doesn't make the cut is then divided between the re homing box and the beyond repair might make it as rags box.  Where possible we pass clothing on to family, friends or a thrift store.  These boxes are taken immediately to the vehicle so they can be dropped off on the next outing so nobody gets into them feeling they need to save a certain item.

Last but not least any clothing that is hiding in the dirty laundry is retrieved when the laundry is done and stored as required.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Myth Busting Large Family Style

While in line at the grocery store yesterday my husband hears "there's that moron with 19 kids", not recognizing the voice and feeling extremely defensive he turns around slowly and realized that this stranger was holding a tabloid magazine, and referring to Jim Bob Duggar, not him.  This lady kept on spewing all kinds of negative comments to her adult daughter who was definetly trying to get her mother to stop.  My husband shockingly did not join the conversation as he was in a hurry.

We regularly get compared to the "Duggar" family and years ago when the "Cheaper by the Dozen" movies were popular we would be compared to them.  If you have watched either you would realize that these shows are polar opposites.  It seems when people don't have first hand experience with large families they quite often make a lot of assumptions about what it must be like based on whatever is current on television.

It is time for some myth busting

Our children are individuals - it is a common misconception that our children are all clones of one another and they don't have their own likes, opinions and interests.  Yes some of our children are involved in the same activities as their siblings but they each bring their own strengths to the activity.

No the older children aren't responsible for raising the younger children.  Everyone in our home is expected to contribute to the running of the home, each child has to maintain their personal space and has one 20 minute chore daily.  The children are also expected to be part of each other's lives as we are a family not a boarding house.  We laugh, cry, play and work together....striving for more laughing and playing.

Yes we know about birth control and don't need strangers to tell us the merits of it.  Technically we adopted most of our children so us using or not using birth control isn't the issue.

Our children regularly get lots of one on one attention from us.  As parents we make a point of ensuring everyone gets plenty of attention.  We do have never ending love for each of our children.  In fact our children also benefit from the love of their siblings and there are a lot of them.

Our home is not chaotic and yes Christmas is fun but it was fun when we only had one child also.

No we do not want our own television show and we aren't competing with the Duggar's.  I think it is wonderful that the Duggar's are putting there lives out there for people to see but it's not something we would be interested in doing.

My children aren't missing out on life experiences because they have so many siblings.  I actually think the opposite is true for this statement as there are many activities that the kids wouldn't have tried if it wasn't for a siblings interest or support.  Our eldest daughter recently commented that when she has been speaking with various people in her life they are shocked at the numerous and varied activities she has participated in.

Our children's special needs are NOT because we have so many children and we are NOT child hoarders.  We specifically adopted children with special needs because the child welfare agencies have a harder time finding them a forever home.  We have only adopted when we have felt confident that we had the ability to parent the new child and the existing children well.

We are educated and education is important to us.  With all the special needs that are present in our family we would not survive if we weren't educated when dealing with the sheer number of medical professionals alone.  Currently 3 of our children are in university, one in college and another has graduated from college.

We are not wealthy and we are not poor.  We work very hard for everything we have, sometimes it has been more of a struggle than other times.  Sometimes both my husband and I have had to work outside the home and other times just one of us.  Sometimes my husband has taken on multiple jobs.  As circumstances/family needs have changed we have had to change with it.

What comments do you get most often about your family?