Friday, 26 February 2016

Is a movie being filmed here

I was out picking up a few groceries and noticed 2 young moms, each with an infant in a carrier, having what looked like an enjoyable evening together getting their groceries while spending time with one another.  The infants were both content in the carriers while the moms shopped and chatted in a relaxed fashion.  This got me thinking how different my life is in comparison and what it would look like if I went shopping with a friend with a similar family dynamic to my own and we each brought our children that couldn't be left at home unattended.

Instead of pulling up in a compact car together we would need either a full sized bus or we would need to each arrive in our indivdual smaller buses.  One or both of us would probably be late because some child emergency would probably delay us.  Once we both arrived it would take a while to get out of the buses between unloading the wheelchairs, finding the socks and shoes and putting them back on the children that felt it necessary to take them off and throw them as soon as they got into the vehicle and checking that all the children (4-6 for me and probably a similar number for her) who wear diapers were clean.  We finally get organized making sure we have someone assigned to push each wheelchair and the multiple shopping carts we each need for a weeks worth of groceries, when the children that struggle with transitions would start acting up as we headed to the store.  A couple with sensory issues would be upset because it is raining or windy or the sun is to bright and it is making them uncomfortable walking to the store.  We would finally herd everyone into the store when the fun would begin.  People would be staring, others would be counting, we would be asked if we are a school group or a daycare and someone would ask if they were all ours.  We would be filling our carts and, being we were 2 large families, we would be clearing the shelves like the "Extreme Couponers" just to get enough to last the week.  The first product sample clerk that sees us is swarmed by the 30+ of us and doesn't have enough samples which sets off a raging meltdown or 2 or 5 from some of the kids.  The other product sample clerks are trying not to make eye contact with us while others are being warned by their manager to shut down quickly.  We continue herding the children through the store, not having that enjoyable time that the 2 young moms seem to be having, barely being able to speak to each other except to ask have you seen Billy, where did Mary get to, Johnny put that back.  Then one child says "I need to go to the bathroom... NOW" so we need to park the carts while we all rush to the bathroom which takes up a good 45 minutes because we are here and everybody better try and go.  While in the bathroom we have more sensory challenges and a few tears.  On the way back to the carts some get distracted and want to look at the toys.  We finally get back to the carts, kids are complaining "I don't like that" others are saying "I want this".  People are still staring, some are shaking their heads while others give us parenting advice.  We finally have what we need for the week or at least enough to get by for a day or two because we are exhausted, so we head to the check out with our overflowing heavy carts.  The clerks all look in horror as they see us heading towards them on mass, we pick our line and all the kids are trying to empty the cart, throwing everything onto the belt.  There is pushing, shoving, crying because "I wanted to do that one", the eggs get dropped, we need a clean up on isle 1.  Our groceries are finally all rung through and it's time to pay, the bill is over a $1000 but that's just life in a big family.  We get back to the buses start loading up the kids, the groceries barely fit and give each other a brief hug while swearing we will never do this together again.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Time to talk?

Recently it seems that there are more and more articles in the news of parents murdering their child/children and then sometimes committing suicide themselves.  I find it extremely heart breaking that people are feeling that lost, overwhelmed, troubled or however you would like to describe it that they feel this is their best option.  A lot of the stories I have seen recently the children have special needs and sometimes one or more of the parents also have health challenges, I totally understand life can be hard, parenting can be hard, parenting a child with special needs can be hard but murder and/or suicide are not the answer.  

In this article  it appears that the mother in question, suffering from a terminal form of cancer, felt she was the only one capable of looking after her daughter.  When she no longer felt she had the health to care for her daughter she murdered her and then died herself leaving the rest of the family to greive the loss of both of these women.  We as parents need to remember that we are not the only one capable or willing to care for our child or children no matter what their challenge is.  It is very true that some children require more support than others but believe me there is always someone willing and able to do what you and I do.  

Another story tells of a mother that may have had mental health challenges or was just completely overwhelmed with the stress of raising a special needs child, being married to man with increasing disabilities and a recent blow to the family budget.  Did this women reach out?  Did anyone notice her struggling?  Could the death of this child have been prevented? 

I would like to encourage everyone to look out for your friends and family.  Be there for them to lean on if they seem to be struggling and encourage them to seek help if life seems more than they can bare. Don't judge, just support, the way each of us handles stress will be different and it doesn't matter as long as we all feel loved and supported.  Some people are affected by stress more than others and what you may think is nothing could be huge for someone else.  

If you are struggling, overwhelmed, feeling lost or hopeless please reach out and get help!  Murder and/or suicide are not the answer. Talk to your doctor, talk to a family member or friend, contact your local mental health clinic, talk to anyone willing to help, if the first person you speak to doesn't help find someone else and keep talking.  Seek a safe place for your child/children until you have recieved help and you feel that you can carry on.  Maybe you need a small break in the form of respite or maybe parenting is just to much for you, that is okay. Ask a friend or family member to care for your child, go to child protective services, just find someone to care for your child until you are able to carry on.  There is no shame in admiting you need help and then getting the help you need! 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Modified or adapted, decisions to be made

Recently reviewing our children's school progress we had to make the hard decision of changing one of our daughter's from an adapted school program to a modified program.  We have had to make this decision with other children in the past and trust me it doesn't get any easier making this type of decision.  When a student works on an adapted program they still have to meet all the same learning outcomes but they can be presented in different ways.  If a child can't complete the work with adaptations then they can be on a modified program.  School work that hasn't built on what was learnt the previous year is easier for the child to complete in an adapted manner as there isn't any real concern from some teachers whether or not the student is retaining what is taught.

Having spent many years with children in the public school system, where it was drilled into us, if we switched our child to a modified program they would never be able to go back to an adapted program and they would never be able to graduate from highschool added to the fear of making this type of decision.  The feeling of making a permanent and life altering decision regarding our child's education made it feel like if we decided modified was their best option that we were giving up on them.  Over the past few years we have been homeschooling and I have learnt that you can switch back.  In order to graduate from high school you must obtain a prescribed number of grad 10-12 credits or to obtain an adult diploma you need an even smaller number of credits.  This means there is still the possibility of graduating in the future even if a modified program is best today.  When you decide on a modified program at public school that usually means the child is placed in the resource room and their focus is on life skills (which would make it extremely difficult to switch back as they wouldn't be learning academics).  As a homeschool family when you decide on a modified program you have more say in what their curriculum will look like.  For our children on modified programs we want a combination of academics and life skills.  For them it takes a very long time to learn and I would prefer for them to slowly master skills rather than breeze over things with nothing sinking in.  With a few of our children we have been working on kindergarten to grade 1 learning outcomes for 3-6 years, we use a variety of approaches and are seeing slow steady progress (minus the seizure setbacks).  The most recent convert to a modified program can read quite well but struggles greatly with comprehension,written work and mathmatics, by focusing her work to her level we are hoping for steady progress.  It was a harder decision on whether or not a modified program was in her best interest because she does have more areas of strengths than some of her younger siblings but having some older children with gaps in their learning from being pushed through we decided this would be best for her.  For academics her focus will be on language arts and math bringing in a bit of science and social studies as a means of learning these subjects. Her academics will be much lower than her peers but I am confident with time she will be able to graduate with an "adult diploma".   Singing, piano, trumpet and drama will continue as these are a passion of hers.  Life skills will fill up the remainder of her school day not be the focus of her modified program.

A modified school program can be tailored to your child it doesn't have to be all or nothing approach. Some of our  modified children likely will not graduate but they are still given the opportunity to learn academics along with their lifeskills and hobbies.  Learning should be fun and ongoing not limited because you couldn't master a skill within someone else's timeline.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Finding support in the community

7 of the kids and I recently had the opportunity to attend the movie "Kung Fu Panda 3" hosted by the Canucks Autism Network.  The Canucks Autism Network supports individuals and families effected by autism by providing sports, recreational, arts and social programs for individuals and families living with autism in communities throughout British Columbia.  They also promote awareness and training regarding autism and have a library of resources available to support families.

The movie was the first event that we have attended by this network and I was extremely impressed by them.  There was no cost involved for anyone wishing to attend this event, including free popcorn and a drink, but even more importantly they had autism staff willing and available to help with any needs.  The movie was played at a quieter volume, they kept a low level of lighting on during the entire show and they did not play any previews which limited the time patrons needed to sit and watch the movie.  The autism network also includes all family members including siblings that do not have a diagnosis which is a tremendous benefit to us.  In our family 3 children are diagnosed with autism however many others have challenges that benefit from extra support and this is an enviroment where they would not stand out.   Other activities hosted by the autism network do have minimal costs but they appear very reasonable and family friendly.  We are hoping to get more involved with them in the near future.