Monday, 21 December 2015

Santa's reindeer came to visit!

The other day I wrote about the crafts and sales my son has been doing.  Yesterday he decided to set up a table at the end of our driveway with the hopes of selling his creations.  Business started out very slow, so his brother came up with a couple ideas for attracting customers - 1st dress in a Santa suit and 2nd wave and sing to attract attention.  These ideas did attract a bit of attention but not as much as when a neighbourhood elk arrived to check out the crafts and nibble at the center pieces.

The pictures taken have produced even more attention.  The pictures are going viral, our son had an interview with a radio station, a television news station booked an interview and 2 newspapers have asked to use the pictures.  Our son has been so excited by all the media attention and everyone that knows him have been saying its a good thing there were pictures and witnesses or this would sound like another one of his creative tales.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Scarce programing for special needs leads to creative thinking!

For most having a child become an adult is an exciting time with the young adult venturing out into the world and thoughts of an empty nest for the parents.  When your child has special needs this can be a very challenging time, now what are they going to do?  We now have 3 in this category and it's difficult, the schools, clubs and activities they once attended no longer welcome them as a participant now that they are an "adult".  They don't have the prerequisites required for college, university or a job.  Their peers are venturing out, starting their adult life while they are at home wondering what has happened.  With the current state of funding being cut and not enough resources to go around we have needed to be creative and combine options to help fulfill our children's days and our requirements.  We have a rule in our family that you are up by 7:30am during the week and doing something productive that does not include video games, television or naps.

For 2 of our adults we were able to take advantage of the extremely well hidden information in the provicinal education program policy. (I really recommend reading the policies of any program your children are in and make sure you know your rights and options)

 To be eligible, Adult non-graduate students with special needs must be working towards goals set out in their Individual Education Plan (IEP) and:
  • have been reported on the Form 1701 in the prior school year (i.e. they are continuing their K-12 education program uninterrupted from when they were still school age), and;
  • be continuing their program at the same school (i.e. they are continuing their K-12 education program uninterrupted at the same school leading towards a B.C. Certificate of Graduation, the B.C. Adult Graduation Diploma or the School Completion Certificate Program from when they were still school age).

The public schools around here usually fight this policy but being a homeschool family this enables them to continue having a funded education support person (at home), therapies and programs.  The policy doesn't state a time limit and we are currently on year 2 with one adult and hope to continue as adult special needs funding is scarce for other programs.  In addition to school funding we were able to secure a position for one adult in a day program twice a week, another adult was able to gain funding for a support person for 12 hours per week and the third adult we are still working towards funded support.

We have decided to mix up their learning this year to reflect their desire to earn and income and continue learning the K-12 education.  With their support workers/education assistants we are working on income generating projects, for the last month part of the day includes craft making and attending various craft fairs.  With the help of Pinterest I have been able to come up with crafts that don't take a huge amount of skill or expense that have become profitable.  With the speed that our adults work and their limited abilities they will not be able to earn an imcome sufficient to live on however they are able to earn spending money and have a huge sense of accomplishment.  The adults are making projects, working out costs to produce items, figuring out mark up and determining a sale price.  They are also working on their social and sales skills while at various craft fairs/markets and also handling money and making change.  Bread making is another venture we are trying with the hope of selling to friends and family and in the spring we hope to add a gardening unit.

Do you have any business or employment ideas for the unskilled and in need of one on one support individuals?  What are your adult children doing during the day?

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.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

It is finally up and running!

The swimming pool is finally up and full of water, it has seemed like a never ending process since taking the pool down last year for our house renovations.  When we took the 20 year old above ground pool down last year we noticed rust at the bottom of the pool preventing it from being reinstalled.  Having had a pool for the last 20 years has been a huge benefit to our family so we decided to replace it.  We were fortunate enough to find a new pool on clearance at the end of last summer that was much larger than the previous pool.  The new pool being much larger wouldn't fit in the same location which meant moving our playground and all the pea gravel and prepping the ground for the pool.  Thankfully one of our sons took it upon himself to move the entire dump truck load of sand and prep the area for the pool.  Setting up the pool did not go quite as planned, my husband has set up a few round pools and felt the oval pool would be similar, IT'S NOT!! The first go around setting up the pool, at a critical part of the installation my husband was attacked by horseflies, in which part of his reaction was letting go of the pool walls and them falling.  The second go around things just wouldn't line up and the third go around the walls were up.  Following the directions for installing the pool liner resulted in the pool collapsing when we had water delivered.  After googling liner installation it was determined the liner was to be installed a different way than described in the instructions.  Not being able to get the liner tight enough and the mounting frustrations we decided to call in a "pool guy".  For starters when you hire a "pool guy" they don't look like any pool guy you ever see on tv.  Secondly although they did a wonderful job of getting our pool ready for water we feel they ripped us off terribly.  They insisted on us paying cash, charging us $200 plus dollars per hour the only fortunate part is that it's up and the frustrations felt by everyone involved are resolved.

The pool has been providing wonderful therapy benefits for the children.  The number one relief is the 7 kids with seizure disorders are able to cool down during the current heat wave limiting their seizures and we are able to closely monitor them while in the pool when it's just us.  Going to the beach or a public pool with 7 kids experiencing seizures and 1 adult just isn't viable.  One of our children with autism has been so engaged when in the pool, interacting and giving excellent eye contact that we have been working on her therapy homework/goals while in the pool and getting tremendous results.  The children with mobility issues have been experiencing great freedom and mobility in the water.  We have multiple balls and toys in the pool encouraging the children to reach for toys, kick or toss balls etc to build strength, enhance body awareness and increase their gross motor skills.    I have read that water provides 30x more pressure on the body than air and we have noticed that it has a huge regulating benefits to our children with sensory issues.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Gotcha Day

This week we will be celebrating the anniversary of 3 of our adoptions, our "Gotcha days" the day we became family.  It just so happens that this week seems to be the favoured week for adoption placements in our home.

Our first anniversary this week is from our first adoption and we are celebrating being a family for 14 years.  These 2 adults are now 20 and 26 and doing a lot of reflecting and questioning what their life would be like if they hadn't been adopted.  Both children gave us "thank you" cards, to our surprise, thanking us for everyting we have done for them.  It was extremely sweet and humbling that they would do this.  We are the lucky ones having the opportunity to raise them into their adult years.  When these 2 were placed with us the professionals that worked with them stated that they would never progress, that they would never have a thought of their own, they would only parrot words, that their challenges were so extreme they had maxed out on their abilities.  Anyone considering adoption I encourage you to listen to the professionals but don't take their word as the gospel.  These two have become so much more than what was expected.  The oldest lives semi independently, works part time, graduated high school, has an amazing sense of humour, is so loving, caring and protective.  In fact sometimes it feels like I have personal body guards between my 26 and 19 year old sons.  The 20 year old has also grown into a beautiful individual, she is extremely social, loves attending her day programs and S
pecial Olympics, and is very helpful around the home.  Both still have their challenges but are so much more than the children that were proposed to us.

Our second anniversary this week was for 4 children from our sibling group of 7, and we are celebrating them being family for 6 years.  These children arrived at 1,3,4 and 5 years of age and all were functioning extremely delayed.  When they arrived many of our friends thought we were nuts (that's still to be determined) because it was like we had added 3 infants and a toddler to our family of 13.  It has been a non stop ride with these children and the progress they have made is wonderful to observe.

Our third adoption anniversary this week we are celebrating 11 years for our 16 and 19 year old.  These 2 were quite the characters when we ment them, in fact both had been banned from the social workers office because of their extreme behaviours which gives both of them a good laugh now.  They are both working towards high school graduation and looking like this is a viable option (one taking a little longer than the other), in their various activities they are frequently recognized for their citizenship, hard work and effort and at home they are a joy to be around.

For all these anniversaries we didn't do anything special.  We do use the anniversary as a discussion starting point making sure the kids, especially the younger ones, remember their story and how we became a family.  This story is discussed year round but the anniversary is a good reinforcer.  Do you celebrat your adoption anniversary?  What do you do?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Perfect day for an openness visit

Yesterday was the perfect day at the park with the former foster parents and social worker of 3 of our children.  We are back on the mainland for more testing at the hospital which brought us closer to the foster parents and social worker so we all met at a local park for an afternoon visit.  It had been a while since we have been able to get together in person, but have had ongoing telephone and email contact, so they were all very surprised at the changes in the children.  The youngest 2 were placed at 1 and 2 years old and neither were walking or talking and their sister was 4 years old.  The social worker has only seen pictures in the last 3 years and the foster parents see them about once per year.  All 3 kids were very busy at the park playing with their siblings and the children the foster parents brought along.  Nobody could believe how big the kids have gotten and didn't recognize 2 out of the 3 of them.

I think openness is so important for kids and families that have been effected by adoption but sometimes finding appropriate individuals for relationships can be a challenge.  For these particular kids they have never had a relationship with their birth parents and that currently isn't a viable relationship, so it's important that they continue their relationship with their foster parents.  We feel by keeping these relationships it gives them a connection to their past, that has made them who they are today.  These relationships will be continued so as they age they will have a connection to their past and people to answer any questions they may have.  We also try and cultivate new appropriate relationships with birth family or extended birth family so the kids can know as much about themselves as possible.  With our various children we have all different types of openness relationships.  Some are fully open relationships, others are more discrete relationships, for a couple we set up a private email address just for them to contact us (with no personal information) and others our contact is in the form of letters and pictures through a third party.  Some of our openness arrangements are written agreements and others are just friendly arrangements.  We have relationships with birth parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, foster parents, foster parents family and social workers depending on what works for the various situations.

Having children, that have now grown to adults, with similar openness arrangements I can honestly say that most have grown up with a strong sense of themselves and don't feel like anything is missing.  Do you have openness arrangements with your childrens birth family?  How do they work for your family?

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Shortest camping trip on record

The first camping trip of the season always seems to take the longest when it comes to packing.  All the bedding that's been sitting over the winter needs washing, the spring cleaning of the trailer and the endless packing for 17 plus people and a couple of dogs is never ending.  Once packed the bedding and clothing stays in the trailer for the season only coming out for washing and directly returned for the next trip, which makes it so much easier for subsequent trips.  For food we have the kitchen stocked with the basics and we cycle through the same menu each camping trip which makes for less planning and prep work as I know the trailer has everything needed to prepare the meals.

We often camp up the island about 3 hours away, near where our son and his family live and one of our daughters is working for the summer which makes it easier for them to join us.  Fortunately provincial camping is no charge for families with disabled individuals so an activity that can be expensive is accessible to us.  Also the campground that we frequent has accessible washrooms and showers which is a huge benefit.

Our first camping trip of the season also became the shortest camping trip on record for us.  We arrived around 7pm as one thing after another seemed to slow us down preparing for this trip.  Our son and his family, and daughter met us there and we got set up.  The younger children and our granddaughter had fun playing soccer, which really means all 8 each had a ball and they were kicking them everywhere which was like a game of dodgeball for all the adults, while setting up camp.  After the younger crowd went to bed we sat around our "propane" camp fire, no real fires due to extreme drought conditions causing a burning ban.  At about 11 the clouds decided to taunt us and suddenly let go, raining down on us for a couple minutes.  Enough time for us to decide its bedtime and get the chairs put away.  Over the night we didn't have any rain until just before we got up and then we had torrential downpours.  We decided that camping in the rain wasn't going to work and packed up before breakfast.  Years ago when we had a different crowd we would tough it out in the rain sitting under tarps playing cards but that wouldn't work with this crowd.

The fortune part of this extremely short camping trip is after everthing is dried out we will be ready for the next trip and with the rain maybe next time we will be allowed a real campfire.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Challenges when raising someone with FASD

Recently my adult children and I were asked a few questions for a university research project on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) which really got me thinking about how much we have learned over the years.  When my husband and I decided to adopt and we were checking off boxes for what risk factors we were willing to accept we spent hours researching the various potential risks.  I remember reading a lot about FASD and although we learned a lot it didn't really give us a clear idea of what life would be like.  With any diagnosis that's a spectrum it's difficult to truly determine what life will be like for each individual.

I thought I would share some of our responses and hope any of you readers might also share any responses you may have in order to help others considering adoption of someone with FASD.

What are some of the challenges for a family adopting a child with FASD?

I think a huge challenge is the lack of support these children receive throughout their lives from society.  The education system where we live does not fund people with just a FASD diagnosis there needs to be a secondary diagnosis also.  We have adopted 13 children with FASD and all of them have challenges with their learning.  Some have very low IQs, others with low average IQs and a couple with high IQs and all have challenges understanding what is being asked of them and need ongoing support to be successful.  In fact the ones with the highest IQs probably have needed the most support throughout their schooling.

As these children grow another challenge is, frequently they can not be left alone and may still need a "babysitter/daycare" when the parents are out even as teens/adults.  This can be a huge expense and inconvenience for families that many don't think of when adopting that cute toddler.  Different agencies that provide funding for respite frequently don't provide support for individuals with FASD.  Also finding someone to care for your adult child can be extremely difficult because the reasons they cannot be left can be overwhelming to many individuals.  Our 25 year old and 16 year old can be left alone individually for short periods of time, however our 19 and 20 year olds cannot be left and need constant supervision (which can't come from the 25 and 16 year old).

Getting support from medical, mental health and legal systems can also be a challenge.  When and if your child's behaviour gets extreme it can be difficult if not impossible accessing support because the different systems don't really have much to offer, so they give you the run around saying this is a problem for ____ but none have any real options.  If it gets to the unfortunate situation that the child can't live in the home due to extreme behaviours there are also limited options and frequently these adult individuals land up incarcinated or living on the street.

As adults they continue to need support becasue many aren't able to hold down full time employment or live independently.  Some qualify for supports for disabled adults and some don't but the need is still present for many.

There are also the many challenges that each individual family lives with however I feel some of these challenges would be alieviated if the support form society was present.  There is also the moral support that each individual going through these situations needs.  When you adopt and are then going through these challenges you are frequently limited by who you can confinde in - many people won't or can't believe what you are going through. You also have people that say "you adopted them what did you expect?" or they tell you to "give them back".  Sometimes when life is hard you just need someone too listen.

The children were also asked, what are some of the challenges they face living with FASD? (These are answers from some of our children)
Making good choices.  Understanding why something is wrong.  How people expect me to feel/act when I do something wrong.  I am gullible which gets me into trouble with some people. School is my biggest challenge it takes me so long to learn everything and then I forget so much.  Bullying.  Trouble speaking so others understand me.  Anxiety attacks.  Depression.  Not being able to do things that my friends can, all my friends passing me. Getting overwhelmed and having to cut back my activities if I do too much, even though it isn't much compared to my friends/siblings.  Learning is so hard.  Life is hard.

What type of challenges do you experience raising a child with FASD?

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Hospital visit anxiety

This week brought us to Children's hospital for more testing, with half of our complex sibling group (the other half have their turn next month).  Having a large siblilng group with multiple challenges has presented quite the puzzle for the medical team working with our family.  It seems whenever we visit a doctor, which seems like always, we leave there with more questions and upcoming appointments than we started with.  The added challenge the doctors face is that the the kids are adopted making it difficult to get birth family information which would be extremely helpful with such a complex mix of medical needs.

For us too get to Children's hospital it takes 6 or more hours depending on how long the wait is for the ferry.  We usually leave the day before our appointments and return the day following our appointments and add some fun into our time away.  Our son has extreme anxiety and was terrified about the idea of going to the hospital yet again.  We are fortunate that so far none of the testing has been invasive however in the past we did have one traumatic day when they were trying to do blood work on all 7 young screaming children and couldn't get veins in any of them which resulted in them giving up and having to try a different day.  This event has scarred our extremely anxious son and no amount of preparation seems to relieve his fears.  We tried social stories, talking about what was going to happen on our visit, talking about why he was scared, we tried focusing on more enjoyable activities while away however nonething seemed to help him even combined with his on going anxiety medication.  Do you have any tips on reducing a child's anxiety?

While on the ferry we listened to presentations by the Naturalists they had on board which was a nice diversion for the kids.  The presentation went well with our planned afternoon activity of visiting the "aquarium".  The last few visits to the aquarium it has been extremely busy but this time was great as the crowds were small.  The kids loved the dolphin show and we were fortunate that the staff recognized the fact that a couple of the kids were in wheelchairs and provided us with exceptional seats.  One daughter was truly amazed and squealed with joy every time the dolpin jumped.  From the aquarium we set off to our hotel and spent the evening in the swimming pool.  This long day with different activites was very beneficial in keeping the kids awake as they needed to be sleep deprived for their testing at the hospital and were only allowed 5 hours of sleep.

At the hospital 3 had sedated sleep EEG's and the good news is 2 actually showed seizure activity.  The kids have seizures regularly and every time they have had an EEG nothing has shown even though doctors have witnessed them having seizures, so seeing the activity on the EEG is apparently a good thing.  Our 5 year old had a lot of difficutly waking up from the sedation and could not sit or stand unassisted until the next morning.  We then met with the neurology and genetics doctors were they decided more testing is in order.....looks like MRI's, spinal taps and cardiology are int the childrens future.

Friday, 8 May 2015


Some days it seems as if everyone has an opinion on how our children should be raised and feel the need to tell us everthing we are doing wrong.  This unsolicited advice comes from strangers, professionals, friends and family but most don't have a full understanding of our childrens/families needs.

Recently one child had to have an ultra sound of her bladder and kidneys the technician requested she empty her bladder, this is something that she does not yet have control of.  Instead of the health care professional accepting that this is our daughters reality she goes into a long rant as to how they are able to retrain stroke victims to control their bladders so why haven't we taught our daughter.  Even after explaining that our daughter also doesn't have the cognitive ability to be trained this way the technician could not or would not let this go.

Therapies are another issue of great concern to the people in our life.  We get the "if only you took them to more therapy they could overcome their challenges" and we also get the opposite "your child (children) need time to be kids, they would make far more progress if you just stopped all the therapy".  The reality is I would love it if they didn't require therapy but they do and we are having it provided for them hoping for positive results.

As parents we also get blamed for their various challenges and I know we aren't the only ones who get this, many parents get blamed for causing their child's conditions.  It's because you didn't do ____ correctly or if only you did ____ differently.

When it's been a particularly long day...week... month... it can be difficult too hear the words of a well intended person without replying in a nasty way.  Sometimes I need to pause and consider where their advice is coming from and are they trying to be helpful or are they just being nasty?  Is there anything I can learn from the information they are sharing?  I also need to remind myself, especially on the stressful days, that they have a right to their opinion EVEN IF THEY ARE CLUELESS.  I also need to remind myself too speak to others how I would like to be treated because others also have exhausting and stressful days.  We need to give each other a break and keep our unsolicited opinions and advice to ourselves.  Telling people that everything they do is wrong or their fault doesn't benefit anyone.  Offering to help or simply acknowleding the effort a parent puts in would be so much more beneficial.  I would like to start by acknowledging all of you hard working parents "thank you for everything you do for your child (children)".

Saturday, 18 April 2015

6 hours on a deserted island

Today we met up with 2 of our adult sons, their lovely wives, our beautiful granddaughters and their dogs and went to a small island that is all parkland.  We were able to access this island by a small boat that transports 24 people at a time.  The plan was to spend the day geocaching, hiking and have a campfire so we could roast hotdogs and marshmallows for our lunch.

For most families this would mean throwing together a picnic and hitting the road however for us it's not that simple.

We were meeting at 10:00 am, an hour from our home, which resulted in a 6:00 am wake up call for Mom and Dad and hitting the ground running.  Each morning we try and get up beofre the kids so we can shower, dress, prepare breakfast, etc. before the kids are up.  On top of the usual routine today we had too pack for the day.

So what's needed for 6 hours on an island, without any amenities, for our large family?

Food....lots and lots of food.  6 dozen hotdog wieners, 4 dozen buns, condiments, 4 bags of potato chips, 6 bags of marshmallows and a flat of water.  Plus daily medication, diapers, wipes, multiple changes of clothes, first aid kit and sunscreen.  A plan of how and where we will change the childrens diapers as public washrooms/outhouses don't accommodate 10 year old "infants".  Hats, sunglasses and hoodies to help with all of  our sensory issues.  We also opted for a wagon and strollers instead of the wheelchairs (our wheelchairs don't do well on forest trails).

Once we had the basic prep for the day done it was time to get the kids up, on top of the regular routine we had....3 wet beds and 1 soiled bed (with added finger painting) resulting in 4 unplanned showers, 4 linen changes, 2 extra loads of laundry and a lesson on wall cleaning for our young artist.  One teen returned for more appropriate footwear, an adult child needing lessons on clothing choices for a warm spring day, a discussion with an adult child on why she must pack sanitary products for a day out and one teen strongly encouraged to eat breakfast.

Once load into the bus and 10 minutes down the road we needed to turn around as I noticed that the 4 year old had 2 left shoes.  We get going again trying to make up for lost time and come around a corner to a complete traffic stand still with vehicles turned off.  Nobody is going anywhere because the air ambulance has landed on the highway for a medical emergency.

We finally arrive at the boat, that was nice enough to wait for us and we head to the island for some fun.  While at the island we explored the shore line, found a nest of snakes (which was exciting for some), a couple climbed a tree hoping to find a geocache, found another geocache, hiked, played and ate.  We were thankful for the first aid kit when our young adult cut the tip of her finger exiting the outhouse, we really don't know how she managed that. Overall it was a very enjoyable day and well worth every minute of work getting there.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


"Oh she is so sweet" have become the words that irritate me beyond belief.  Our daughter has FASD, low cognitive function and seems to be developing some severe mental health issues, doctors are leaning towards a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  As we are the people around her constantly, we get the brunt of her mood swings and it is especially irritating when we have been verbally attacked for weeks from her and then someone who doesn't know us that well says " I was talking with....she is just so sweet".  Comments like these make me want to scream NO REALLY, SHE'S NOT!!!!

It's not that I don't want people to see the nice side of her or to have positve thoughts about her.  It's that we haven't seen that side of her for a long while and would love to have a break from the crazy making.  When you add a mental health low with PMS everyone should run for the hills!  I want to run for the hills but can't get away.

Working with her physicians and mental health team we have been making progress at helping her however it is just as important (if not more important) to help ourselves and the rest of the family.  If the rest of the family isn't strong and well cared for we won't have the strength to support the ones affected by mental illness.

1. Accept your own feelings and know that you are not alone.
It is natural to feel many different emotions when a loved one has a mental illness.  Other people experience the same challenges and complicated mix of emotions.  Let yourself and family feel whatever they need to feel.

2. Learn more
Take time to learn more about mental illness.  This will give you a better understanding of your loved one's experiences and help you see what they may be going through.

3.  Stay connected
Embarrassment, social stigma and fear can stop many family memebers from seeking help when a loved one has a mental illness.  But that can isolate you at a time when you need the most support from others.  Talk to trusted friends and family and let them know what you're experiencing.

4. Join a support group
Support groups are a good place to share your experiences, learn from others, and connect with people who understand what you're going through.  Find the support that works for you, it could be a group of friends, a support group or a counsellor.

5. Take time for yourself
If you are caring for a loved one, your responsibilities may use up your physical and emotional energy.  It's important to take time for yourself and the other members of the family.  It can help you recharge and give you a more balanced perspective toward any challenges you experience.  Schedule opportunities that allow you to relax, have fun and get away so you can come back to your loved one with a healthier outlook.  You can't care for someone else if you haven't cared for yourself first.

6.Seek help for yourself
Caring for a loved one who's unwell can be stressful.  Seek help if you find your own well-being slipping, and encourage family members to seek help if they need it.  Mental illness can have a big impact on family relationships.

7. Develop coping strategies for challenging behaviours
There may be times when a loved one shows strange or challenging behaviours that can make you feel confused, embarrassed, or scared.  This can happen in public or in private.
- Make a plan as a family how to best deal with situations
- Understand that their behaviour is not personal, even when it feels personal.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Life skills as play

We have been adding "life skill bins" to our home school curriculum.  Many of my children have limited abilities and it takes them a long time to learn various skills so it is important to teach them practical life skills early.  Most recently we added a "laundry life skill bin" - we purchased 2 small laundry baskets from the dollar store and labeled one "lights" and the other "darks".

 We then included 12 pairs of socks, 6 white pairs and 6 black pairs and also a clothes line and clothes pegs.  To aid with the imaginative play we also made a washing machine out of a cardboard box.

During life skill class we practice sorting the socks, darks and lights.  We also hang them on the clothes line with the clothes pegs which is working on our pincher grasp and coordination.

 Matching the socks into pairs and rolling them together is another skill we are working on.

While "playing laundry" we also practice our counting, expand our language skills and have a lot of fun.  Our laundry bin also has a folding option with multiple coloured face clothes for sorting, hanging and folding.  Once these 2 options are mastered, outgrown clothing will be added for practice and eventually the kids will take over doing the laundry....hopefully, years down the road.  We also reinforce their sorting skills every time they change clothing by having laundry hampers marked "lights" and "darks" for their dirty clothing and the adult changing them oversees the laundry being put in the correct hamper.

Stay tune for more life skill bins.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Naomi needs a liver transplant

It has been determined that my granddaughter, currently 5 months, will require a liver transplant before she turns 1. The last week was spent at the Edmonton Childrens hospital.  My son, daughter in law, granddaughter and both grandmothers (myself included) travelled the 2000 km for a week of testing, teaching and information regarding the process required for transplant and organ donation.

We started the process with more testing for Naomi, she had a MRI, CT scan, ultra sound, X-rays, ECG, echocardiogram, blood work....lots of bloodwork, so much that they had to take it over days because they maxed out the allowable amounts to be drawn each day.  After the testing it was appointment after appointment meeting with each medical professional that makes up the transplant team.  The occupational therapist and neuropsychologist both did base line assessments on Naomi so they will be able to determine any loss she may have as a result of the disease progressing or the surgery.

We met with an infectious disease specialist to discuss accelerating her vaccines as her immune systems will be severely compromised after the surgery and for the rest of her life.  After transplant Naomi will be put on anti rejection medication which will help with the transplant however also makes her vulnerable to every virus out there.  The infectious disease specialist also discussed with us the many potentially dangerous situations Naomi will need to avoid, severely limiting contact with anyone with a virus, avoiding contact with birds (including chickens, her other grandmother is a chicken farmer), reptiles (her parents will be getting rid of their geckos), avoiding eating any game, never able to get a "live" vaccine after surgery, etc.

We met with the transplant surgeons to discuss the process, timing and risks involved.  It has been determined that ideally Naomi must grow for the surgery to have a better potential for success.  It is preferred that transplant patients weigh at least 10 kg and Naomi is currently 6 kg.  As the liver disease progresses the ability to grow is severely limited as the body is not able to digest the fats in the food and the body stores fluids around the damaged organ limiting room for food.  We have already been seeing signs of these issues for Naomi so the doctors will need to continue monitoring her trying to determine the optimal time for surgery.  A dietician is also involved to guide optimizing Naomi's feeding for the best growth potential.  In the future Naomi will require tube feeding so she can be fed 24 hours per day but for now she is being breast fed and getting a high calorie supplement that doesn't require bile to break down the fat.

A cardiologist and neurologist both met with us after testing as they both look for any possible risks that might affect the surgery outcomes.  An allergist was brought on as Naomi had a reaction to one of her medications after the last surgery and they need to determine all risks before the next surgery.

We had a teaching session that explained all the steps involved in waiting for a donor, the type of donors, getting the phone call saying they have an organ match, surgery, and the steps to recovery.  When the surgery does happen Naomi will be in the hospital for 4-6 weeks, then discharged into the hospital community for a couple months before she is able to return home.

With a liver transplant there is the option of having a living donor or a cadaveric donor, your liver is the one organ that regenerates and the part that is removed will grow back.  Both of Naomi's parents started the process to determine if they would be an organ match for her.  Meeting with the living donor coordinator we learned that a living donor needs to be 18-55 years of age, have the same blood type, weigh 60kg or less, not be overweight, have a small frame, healthy habits and good health.  The testing for the donor is similar to the testing for the recipient as the goal is success for both parties.  While in Edmonton it was determined that Naomi's father was not a good match due to his stature but they are still testing her mom.  Ideally parents aren't desired donors as they are so concerned about their child that they don't make very good patients and look after their own recovery.  The recovery time for a donor is 3 months, meaning full recovery by 3 months.

We finished our week with a visit with a social worker who was there to share what resources are available and things to consider.  Naomi and her parents will be moving to Edmonton for 3 plus months, her parents will need to be available to support her limiting their ability to work, they will need to set up a temporary home in Edmonton while maintaining their current home, if Naomi's mother is the donor she will also need support to help her recover.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hockey, swimming and Special Olympics

With the close of this season of sports, our young adults involved in Special Olympics have been participating in the end of season competitions.I really like Special Olympics, all the people there are so loving and accepting, having been too many local practices and then competitions with multiple teams I believe this is the way most of the groups are.  This applies to the many dedicated volunteers and the athletes alike.  There aren't to many places that you can walk into that everyone, even strangers, are excited to see you and will come up and give you a hug.

Ring hockey recently had a tournament and then a fun game against our local junior hockey team.  At the tournament they played against multiple teams unfortunately the teams were all ranked higher than them and they didn't really have a chance.  The wide point spread didn't seem to deter any of their effort or enthusiasm while playing.  The week after their tournament they had a game with local junior hockey team as a fundraiser to support their team.  The young men from the junior hockey team were amazing with our athletes.  They played to the teams level, maybe even slightly under, yet didn't make it obvious, engaged our team team and thoroughly seemed to enjoy playing against our team.  When either team scored a goal, which didn't happen often for the guest team, everyone (didn't matter what team you were on) was giving high fives, much to the surprise of our guests.

The kids also participated in a swim meet recently and we were completely surprised when our daughter came home with a 1st and 2nd place ribbon.  Each athlete had the opportunity to sign up too race in what stroke and length of swim they felt able to compete in.  Everyone that attends practice for whatever sport is able to participate in the competitions and everyone has the opportunity to participate the same amount.  The cheering was incredibly loud for every swimmer as the other participants encouraged one another.  It was amazing too see athletes that really seem to struggle with their limited mobility on land, get into the water and enjoy competing no matter what their ability level.  It did not matter whether they won or lost they participated, everyone cheered for them and they were proud of their accomplishment.

In our area some of the athletes participate in every sport available but for our young adults we limit them to 2 per season as we try to keep a balance with everything in our life.  I strongly encourage you to check into Special Olympics if you have someone in your life that would benefit from joining or if you are sports minded and willing to volunteer your time.  For now we are heading into softball and soccer season so you will see at the fields.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Reducing frustration, 1 ball at a time

When we adopted our son 2 1/2 years ago, at 2 years of age, he struggled with almost everthing and many of our friends and family thought of him as difficlut to love.  With severe sensory issues, autism, epilepsy and a chromosome deletion everything in his life triggered screaming, raging and head banging.  Our sons abilities were extremely delayed, he wasn't walking or standing, could only sit when propped up, he could not speak and his feeding was similar to a 6 month old.  Existing took major amounts of energy and he slept the majority of the days and nights only waking for nourishment and a limited amount of interaction before the screaming, raging and head banging returned and the need for more sleep.

This little boy only had one thing that made him the slightest bit happy, so we knew that we had to work with this interest if we ever hoped to have a happy boy.  The slightest bit happy meant he wasn't screaming, raging or banging his head for a couple minutes while we tried to interact with him.  We needed to meet our son where he was at, and progress from there.  He was able to hold a ball and enjoyed watching us play with a ball.  We would have mutliple very short sessions throughout the day playing with a ball building slowly and steadily on skills and language.

Speech increased as we described everything, starting with single words, and increasing the number of words.  Ball, roll, throw, roll the ball, etc.  We used "picture cards" and "sign language" while verbally speaking hoping to make a connection.

Strength and coordination increased as he went from holding a ball, to moving to reach for the ball, to rolling, throwing, catching and kicking the ball.

We varied the balls, shapes, sizes, weights, textures and colors which built on the strength, coordination and topics for speech.  We encouraged him to play with siblings and pets,  with the balls.  When we attended therapies we had already started developing a pathway for the therapists to reach our son which they were able to work from.

From starting with a simple ball 2 1/2 years ago he is now able to play with many other toys and work through his therapy sessions working on a variety of skills.  He is still substantially delayed but he is making huge progress from the little boy that spent the day screaming, raging and head banging.
We will still resort back to that ball whenever we are working on a particularly difficult skill.  Most recenty we took 2 soccer balls to the playground hoping to work on social skills with peers.  Today there were 3 other young children and when they saw us coming with 2 balls they came over (with their adults) wanting to play.  All the adults encouraged the children to take turns and they all enjoyed playing together.  Having 2 balls made it easier so each child had more turns so nobody lost interest too quickly and if our son decided not to have anything to do with sharing at least the other children could use the 2nd ball.

All the hard work from therapists and family, that started with a simple ball, is paying off.  People regularly comment on what a happy little boy he is and the head banging, raging and screaming has dramatically decreased.   Finding that interest to build on took time but was well worth the effort and throughout his life I believe we will be looking for more interests to build on as we develop more skills.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Substituting art for therapy

We have been working our way through the kindergarten level of the Home Art Studio.  I like when we have activities that incorporate many of  our therapy and educational goals so the kids don't realize they are working and this weeks art project fit right in (with minimal modifications).  Today's project was a Van Gogh inspired Sunflower picture.

Before starting this project we went for a walk and discussed the seasons.  We made a point of noticing that spring is coming and plants are starting to sprout.  When making our picture we discussed how the sunflower seeds that we eat are actually the seeds for the plant to reproduce.

Occupational therapy
Cutting straight lines and circles
Tearing paper to make leaves
Glueing and working on hand strength by squeezing the glue
Using our pincher grasp picking up sunflower seeds and placing them in the center of the flower

Speech therapy
We worked on "prepositions" when discussing where to place the various parts of the picture - beside, next to, in front of, under, etc.
Also we worked on following directions from 1-3 steps depending on the child

Shapes - circles and rectangles
Length and size (in relation to the stems and circles)
Counting (circles, flowers, stems, and sunflower seeds that we placed in the center of the flower)
Patterning when painting the background

We have really been enjoying the Home Art Studio as a way of creatively working on our goals and the kids are extremely excited whenever they see "art" listed on their daily schedule wondering what this week project will be.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Success at Swimming with Sensory Stimulation

Shopping at Costco recently I came across swimsuits that are perfect for my daughters who have sensory issues and still wear diapers.  The best part is they only cost $15, not an extreme "special needs" price.  Finding swimsuits that work for special needs can be a challenge and coming across these for such a reasonable price was enough to make me do a "happy dance".

I love these swimsuits because they are 2 piece making it easier for the girls to pull the bottoms down when we are working on toileting and the fact that the shorts style modestly covers their diaper.  The short sleeve surfer style shirts are snug and calming, stylish and also provide UV protection when in the sun, which is huge for my very fair skinned children.  The boys also wear surfer style shirts to help them with calming along with their swim shorts.

The new swimsuits got me thinking about swimming and the many challenges for children with sensory issues and other special needs.  It seems like my bunch want to make sure we experience it all when it comes to swimming challenges so I have had to come up with some ways to deal with things.

So much motor planning is required for swimming and when this is a difficulty you may need to find an instructor who can break down the strokes and teach in a way that your child learns.  Private lessons may be required as a group lesson may just be too much.  For us we have been doing weekly private lessons for the last year and a half and for some the progress is extremely slow.

I don't know about you but I find swimming pools to be extremely loud quite often and the experience can sometimes be overwhelming.  The running, squealing, splashing and the noise of all the water features can be a lot for people with auditory and visual processing challenges.  When we go swimming we try to find quiet times to avoid a lot of the additional stimulation but have found ear plugs for swimming and goggles that are tinted can also be helpful for these situations.

The temperature of the water can also be a challenge, quite often my kids are happy in the tot pool as it's warmer than the main pool which is often too cold for them.  Also getting their face wet is a big challenge for a couple of the children, so we play a lot of games working up to this and hoping to desensitize them both at the pool and in the bathtub at home.

If we are swimming anywhere but the pool, water shoes are also required, if I want the child to move at all.  I confess, for my child that is extremely busy and likes to run, it is a benefit him having these issues as it tends to slow him down.  The textures on their feet walking on sand or rocks is enough to put an end to the day for the others.

Another issue can be the chlorine that they treat the water with, the smell and the way that it effects their eyes can really make some people uncomfortable.  One solution is finding a pool that treats their water with ozone as opposed to chlorine.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tonight's evening has a "Publication Ban"

The balancing act of parenting seems to take more effort for our family as the gap between ages and needs becomes more evident.  Having a large family comprised of both adoptive children with many special needs and birth children the gaps between their abilities seems to increase over the years. 

13 years ago when we adopted for the first time we had 5 biological children ranging in age from 5-12 and the 2 we adopted first were 6 and 11.  At that time both presented with delays but the 11 year old was functioning higher than our then youngest and the children and their differing abilities blended together.  As life evolved we adopted multiple times and the differing abilities tended to blend together up until we adopted our youngest 7, and around the same time that our older children were becoming adults. 

Now that some of our children have become adults the gaps have really become evident.  We have adult children that have graduated college or are attending college/university, ones living on their own, married and with children.  We also have adults that live at home, need a care provider when we are out, need reminders for....well almost everthing, have extreme behaviour challenges, developing mental health issues, etc.  We have adult children that require more supervision now than when they were adopted, due to later onset mental health issues, and they require more supervision than our 3 year old (with significant delays).  We also have our youngest sibling group which have abilities that you would expect for children 10 years old and younger. 

One challenge we have been finding lately is when we are planning an activity with the adult children, not everyone functions as an adult.  Sometimes we want a drama free adult evening or activity were we can all have fun together.  We don't always want to deal with the constant stress and mental health challenges.  Sometimes the adult kids want their Mom and Dad, sometimes they want an activity were they are the center of attention, sometimes we just all need a break.  Don't get me wrong, we truly love all of the family, and the majority of the family activities include everyone, however sometimes not everyone is invited.  We also understand that the individuals in the family with these extra challenges don't have control over some of their issues and if they thought that they are causing stress for us or that we needed a break from them it would upset them.

Recently we had a group gathering with some of the family and everyone that was attending was discrete about attending.  Everyone that attended left home at different times, with different stories about where they were going, the babysitter didn't even know that everyone was together.  We imposed a publication ban on any pictures that were taken.  We feel bad that we need to sneak out but also need to consider everyone else's feelings.  How would you handle this?  Would you have an all or none approach, risking adults refusing to attend?  Would you add further stress to the adults suffering already with special needs and mental health issues and tell them the family needs a break from them?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Homeschool wrap up

We have been continuing along with our schooling and are wrapping up a few of our courses having completed and met the curriculum goals.  Each homeschool year we put a heavy push on the academic courses at the beginning of the school year with the goal of finishing some early so we can switch our focus throughout the year.  Language arts and math continue for the entire school year as they tend to be a challenge for some and my thought is if the kids can be stronger in these then learning in other subjects will be made easier.

We start the week with swimming lessons for some, we have 3 instructors and 1 assistant teaching 7 of the children and an added bonus they have the whole pool to themselves.  We are very fortunate to have this set up and we are seeing some nice progress.  With the more compromised children there is a heavy focus on safety which is really important as we live so close to the water.  2 of the girls have been making great progress and are now swimming lengths of the pool.

While we swim 2 of the others are focused on language arts and math with their education assistants.  The teens are also wrapping up science and car maintenance just studying for the final exams and will be so relieved when they are complete.  Car maintenance was a community class with their peers and is being replaced with interior design another community class which hopefully will be just as interesting.  The teens have also been taking a variety of one day community classes with their peers including food safe, WHMIS, science labs, snowboarding etc.

4 of the kids have been learning to sew and just finished making boxer shorts.

Tuesday is therapy day which amounts to an insane amount of therapy appointments, schooling in the vehicle, walks through the forest and playing on the playground at the park.  Each day at home we are also working on our therapy homework with the help of the kids education assistants.

We have been working on our baking skills and enjoying the added snacks we have created.

We are studying the life cycle of salmon again this year as we raise 100 salmon eggs to the fry stage.  Our salmon eggs have been hatching in the last few days and are now at the alevin stage.

For art the younger children have been working through the Home Art Studio program and thoroughly enjoying it.  They have been learning about prime colours and mixing them.  Also they have been learning how to handle a paintbrush and how to get different effects while painting - straight strokes and swirling strokes.  The art work they have been doing is also helping to reinforce some of the scissor skills that their occupational therapist has been working on with them.

All of the children have been learning sign language at varying levels dependent on their abilities.  Sign language is also very helpful for the children with speech challenges as it is another clue in trying to understand what they are saying.

The bulbs that we planted in the fall have sprouted and have encouraged us to plan our spring gardening program.  We recently bought some seeds to start inside and have ordered seed catalogs to plan our garden.  The teens will be working with Dad building more garden beds and designing a sprinkler system while the younger kids will be focusing on planting.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Creepy Crawlies, Gymnastics, Billiards and Seals

It's been non stop birthday celebrations around here with 6 birthdays in 4 weeks.  To celebrate, the birthday girls and boys, have been wanting to try something different than what they would normally do.  With so many birthdays so close together I have been trying to be creative coming up with ideas and to stay within budget as that is always an issue especially with a large family.

I was pleasantly surprised when researching a few ideas.  I found out that as a "birthday party" the admission was cheaper than the regular admission at some locations.  For example the "Bug Zoo" would have cost us $144 (regular admission) for the 18 of us, a birthday party with an extra hour in the party room for cake (that we provide) would have been $130 and we got in for $68.  Our cost covered the entrance fee and a guide for our visit.   The guide described each insect and let us hold a variety of them.  We did not require the party room as this party was our family and we planned on going for dinner later so they did not charge us for this.  After the Bug Zoo we took a walk down to Fisherman's Wharf and watched the seals being fed at the request of an adult son.  He missed out the last time we went and after seeing pictures he really wanted to go. As it was so much fun last time everyone wanted to go.

For another party we rented the local gymnastics club, gym.  For 10 people that would be on the equipment and as many support people as required (Grandparents, parents, adult friends) our admission cost was $65.  This was $65 cheaper than the full birthday party cost ($130) because we opted out of the 45 minute party room for cake.  We had free rein of the gym to play on all the equipment.  1 hour was plenty of time to exhaust everyone and was so much fun.  We have decided that we will definitely be renting the gym more often as it was something that we could do to burn off excess energy on those raining days.  Many typical family activities like swimming are a challenge for us with our children's special needs but the gym was so accessible for us.

For our teenagers party we decided a more mature outing was in line so we hired a babysitter for the youngest 7 and the rest of us hit the billiard hall.  Adult siblings, Grandparents, and friends were invited and we rented the party room at the billiards hall.  This room included 2 pool tables, ping pong, foosball, air hockey and darts for $40/hr.  This part was such a hit that Dad and a couple siblings have requested their birthday parties be held at this location.

After having these successful parties I asked if these prices were only for birthday's or if any group could book an event at these prices. I was pleasantly surprised to find that these were the prices for pre-booking and it didn't matter the reason.  This has now made me think as a large family we need to plan our outings differently in order to save money.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Together, We Make a Family!

Over the last week we have had a visitor staying with us - the former foster mom of 3 of our kids.  For these 3 kids she was/is their family, they were apprehended at birth and never had a relationship with their birth family.  The children lived with her for 2-4 years depending on their age at placement, she was their Mom.  Now referred to as "Gramma" she also has been a great friend and resource, especially when working towards a diagnosis for their many challenges as she was there for all the milestones.  For us openness in adoption varies depending on whom the important relationships for the children are with.

With our many adoptions we have formed varying relationships with members of the children's birth families and foster families.  Some of these relationships have been great from day one and others have taken a great deal of work.  Some have been completely open relationships where we have the people to our home or visit their home, some we visit in a neutral location with them not knowing where we live and others involve letters and photos being mailed through a 3rd party.

Openness can be extremely difficult as you are trying to have a forced relationship with a person you might not particularly like or be drawn too.  It may be a person that has hurt your child greatly or wasn't there for your child.  I recall meeting the birth mom to our first adoptive children and I was terrified, I had lived a very sheltered life and she was extremely rough.  For another adoption when meeting that particular birth mom she was so nervous and scared she was physically ill.  Yet another relationship, that was strongly encouraged by the social workers, turned out to be continuing the abuse that they were originally apprehended from.  We have also had our child speak highly of someone from their past and we have searched out that person and formed a relationship.

Over the years, with many experiences both good and bad, I can honestly say that openness in general has been a good thing for my children and myself.  The way we responded when negative things happened proved our commitment and love to our children, ideally the negative things wouldn't have happened.  The relationships that grew over the years have added to our family.  Being around various members of their birth families has strengthened the children's understanding of where they came from and why being placed for adoption was their path.  Time and circumstance has also changed the relationships when kids are young, the relationship tends to be what the adults make of it but as the kids become adults they have taken the lead on what they want the relationship to look like.