My Top Tips for Christmas

Some days I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone and with Christmas now upon us its hard to believe that soon it will be 2019.

Christmas with children can be magical, fun and hectic at the best of times factor in disabilities of hearing loss, Attention deficit disorder, sleep apnea, Reflux and Possible Autism ( now being referred for this) it can be a rollercoaster of an event which often leaves me feeling shattered and wishing for it to be over. With the girls being older I thought it would get easier but it doesn’t, they are just now able to vent and shout at me. So to remind myself and to offer some advice to other parents heres my personal do’s and don’t’s of Christmas.

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  • Do try and plan as much as possible in advance and write it down. Having a daughter with ADD, two with possible Autism and forgetfulness making sure that they know what is going on is always the best way forward. we have a white board on the fridge, plus a calendar and as my girls are now a bit older we have a shared calendar on the phones. Everyone knows what is planned and has time to adjust especially if there is something new. Calendars are also good for noting changes if you are able to in advance.
  • Don’t try not to plan anything to elaborate, save your self stress, tears and frustration. I find that my girls are more than happy to have quiet festivities with people they know and love and trust rather than attending huge events. For some it work’s but for us it’s just more stress and anxiety.
  • Do make Christmas dinner as easy as possible. I always do a help your self meal, yes it means more pots to wash but by being able to choose their own food it takes some of the stress away and reduces the chance of Christmas dinner ending up in an argument.
  • Do have a backup plan – Sometimes things do not go to plan, be it illness, weather or something else don’t beat yourself up about it. Have something easy planned ready in case. For us this is having something that they all enjoy doing be it watching a film, going for a walk. Having a back up plan while still has challenges due to the anxiety surrounding change can sometimes diffuse a potential explosive episode.
  • Register online and have the food shopping delivered or if you have to take the children make an evening out of it and go later. We all know as parents how stressful the food shop can be in December. Put yourselves in your children’s shoes and imagine the noise, the people and your own frustrations when out shopping. If I can manage it I go alone if I can’t we have tea first or choose a supermarket with a restaurant so they can sit and chill while I shop.
  • Don’t be upset or angry if your children prefer their own company and hide themselves away. This is not a failing, I use to get so annoyed that when we go to see family/ friends or family /friends come to us and the girls either stay in their rooms or have their headphones in. You know what does it matter? they are there, they are safe and it allows you time to spend with the people you want to be with Sometimes it can make for a very quiet event.
  • Do take some time for yourself, wether its a bath, going out with family / friends or just going for a walk. Our health is just as important as the health of our children.

I would like to wish you all a (fingers crossed) happy, healthy Christmas and a happy New Year. You, Me and ADHD will be back in 2019 with fresh antic’s, more tried and tested activities and more insights into life with Children.

Take Care

XX Leanne xx

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Play – What affect does this have on you as a parent?

Play – Every child develops through play from Building Bricks where they can hone those fine motor skills to the make believe play where they make sense of the world around them – I have just learnt to stop wasting money on puzzles, board games and any toys that need putting together!!!

Having children with varying disabilities has sometimes made this aspect of childhood difficult. Though three of the girls are very close in age they have never been into the same toys. My hearing daughter has always loved muscical toys and toys that she could interact with but these toys were sometimes unsuitable for my threee girls with hearing loss. These three girlies are more about the touch and the sensation of the toys and were much more into the toys that didn’t put pressure on them to listen, sit still and concentrate. Toys such as lego which we love, Teddies and Dolls, Tea sets, Kitchens item’s that they could get their hands on and were not sitting there trying to hear what it was saying. Now of course my eldest two are 14 and 13 years toys are now a thing of the past and its all about their mobile devices which I find really sad.

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For my younger two with their hearing loss, although a moderate loss I had difficulty finding interactive toys that were loud enough for them to hear properly and I became fed up with trying. I had to instead choose toys that were not only noisy but had lot’s of visual stimulation, so light’s, moving part’s and even used toy’s that moved by themselves. Books with moving parts were great or ones with puppets attached that could be used to visually stimulate and make them laugh. While this was relatively easy when they were very small, the progression of their development and their interest in particular types of toys has made this increasingly difficult to find toys that hold their attention.

Hence I became that mum that family and friends laugh about – If a toy wasn’t played with for a week it was sold and replaced with something else as it just held no interest to the girls any more.

All four of my girls have had very different interests, likes and dislikes. This meant that they are aways into different things and so hand me downs were difficult. One daughter now 12, has ADD, Hearing loss and is still very much into her dolls and teddies and pushchairs. The make believe world that she makes with them enables her to use the social skills she has been learning, allows her to explore her feelings and helps her to work through them. I very often stand outside the door and listen to the conversations she has, but also I hear the sadness sometimes when one of the dolls feels left out.

While this kind of play keeps her entertained for hours it can also make her particularly susceptible to Hyper focus. This is where she becomes very fixated and focused on the particular task at hand and it can make it difficult as a parent to refocus her, get her to come and eat or to join in with family life. There are some activities such as the older activity types like beads, making things, puzzles and board games – especially board games just do not suit our daughter, these are sometimes not even half finished before she has moved on to other things.

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So really its all about trial and error and this can make the whole experience of toys and finding play ideas expensive and frustrating for any parent. The shops are full of toys that look so inviting on the shelves, even the supermarkets have them but with prices creeping up I really don’t want to be paying so much for a toy that may not get played with so I find the best place to get toys from is….. Drum roll please!!! – Carboots and selling sites. These have become my preferred toy shopping venue. There is so much on offer, second hand out there and once cleaned the toys are as good as new.  Sometimes even the toys are brand new toys just released that someone else has paid for and their child is not interested and they have cost me a fraction of the price and can then be passed on to family, friends or charity shops to help others.

What affect does play have on you as a parent?  well sometimes it can be stressful, disheartening, annoying and you feel like throwing the towel in but other times to see the amazing interaction, or the amazing effect a particular toy has on your child is priceless.

xx leanne xx

http://www.leanneihm.wordpress.com

Introducing Max – Special Needs meets Special Bear

A special Item

Many of us know the power we place in objects that are special to us. from special toys as children, to a favourite pillow as an adult. At some point in our lives we all have a special connection to something inanimate, something which can make us feel safe. This is especially true for children who from a very early age can become dependant on those favourite teddy, dolls, toys.

Our children have all at some stage had a favourite teddy from Bessie who has done a few hospital stay in’s to a heatable polar bear who has travelled the length of England and I am pleased to say even my eldest two who are now high school age still need the love and security they get from that special teddy although hidden out of site.

Special Needs, Special Items

Having a child with special needs can make the task of having a favourite specific teddy more difficult. The need to ensure he never goes missing is always paramount and so the best advice if you are able too is to buy more than one of the same ted!! But this blog isn’t all about those first teddies who we keep and love forever. This is a blog about something new. This is about two of our daughters, one who struggle’s with anxiety daily, has hearing loss and ADD (Attention deficit disorder), has struggles and fears about high school and another one of our daughter’s who struggles daily with hearing loss, possible neurodevelopment issues, anxieties about being away from mum, adapting to her surroundings and their new friend Max MindPower from www.max-mindpower.com

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Who is Max?

While waking up one morning a few months ago something caught my attention on the news. The BBC were filming a segment at a toy fair and there was a lady talking about Max Mindpower. It was a very brief report but something struck a cord with me. After quickly jumping on the internet what finally captured my full attention was not only the appeal of a cute bear but more than that was the story of how this bear came into being.

You see Max is a Mindfulness bear invented by Nikki with the help of others. The back story of how he came into being is amazing. The story that Nikki briefly touches on, on her website is one of determination, hope and amazing resilience, All things that I hope my children will have as they walk through life. So Nikki having gone through such an ordeal personally still had the care, compassion and fire to put her own experiences into a beautiful product designed to give back to those who use him using a simple meditation technique and stories. Whats more Max can be used by adults and children alike, with or without disabilities.

Max comes in two sizes

Max mindpower junior

Max mind power senior (who we have)

Both Bears have three guided meditations which are Body scan, Mindfulness of Breathing and Kindly Awareness plus a Neuro-linguistics exercise which is designed to help capture good feelings. Max works through these meditations with you and even breathes with you. His amazing tummy goes up and down which is amazing for those that need a more interactive, visual element to keep them focussed and engaged.

Each bear also come with their cute little jumpers and a backpack in which to keep the accompanying books. For the cost of these bears £29.99 and £39.99 respectively they really are great value for what you get and the after care is brilliant.

Max at Home

We have had Max Brown as we call him for a few months now and he is a wonderful addition to our family. Initially he was used a comfort aide, taken to high school, and brought out when my daughters anxiety felt a little overwhelming. Then we started to work through the story which comes with max, “The story of Max MindPower” which is about how he came to be. This is a special part of who he is and the books are written so that children are fully able to engage with Max and for my own daughters they feel a connection with him.

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Next came actually using Max to stop, sit down, think about and release those bad feelings that my Daughter was having connected with her anxiety. We use Story Massage  www.storymassage.co.uk as a family to write about our feelings and use massage as part of our routine as a relaxation method but by combining this with Max who talks you through a short meditation routine, we have been amazed by how much he has helped L with her feelings of worry and how when she needs 5 minutes of calm and that extra incentive to relax max is there ready and waiting to do what he was born to do.

He really works, so much so that as a mum I have used him as well. You may think I am crazy, a 34 year old women using a talking teddy bear to help me refocus and relax, but when the kids have gone to school and I am feeling stressed from the school routine and I need to relax before I start work as a Massage Therapist, just 5 minutes with Max and I really feel like I am ready to face the day.

He really is a part of the family and Nikki his inventor is such an wonderful role model for anyone who needs that little bit of help and support and to know that even when bad things happen, with love support and the right tools our children and ourselves can be really amazing.

Check out Nikki’s website www.max-mindpower.com for more information and to start your own magical journey.

XX Leanne XX

You, me, Scouting and ADD

When you have a child with ADD or ADHD how often do you sit there contemplating if your child can or can’t do something as mundane as be part of a youth organisation? Answer is a lot I bet because thats what it was like for us. Having a child with ADD (ADHD without the hyperactivity) can make you feel that your child can not be exposed to the same degree of adventure as another child due to their symptoms, Forgetfulness, day dreaming, anxiety, impulsiveness, irritability. Then there’s the hearing loss so that activities such as dancing and indoor spaces with a large volume of people meant that L didn’t get the right access to instructions needed to develop her fragile confidence. We have tried many groups, clubs and outside activities but nothing ever fit well, L was sometimes left on the side lines unable to join in, unable to follow instructions or got bored and lost interest. After a while I made up excuses as to why she couldn’t attend and by using her forgetfulness symptom I was mostly able to divert her.

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Then how bad does that as a mother make me? how can I sprout that I do the best for my girls when I started to use their very symptoms against them in the fight against disappointments and heartache at not being able to participate, simply put I felt that I was protecting each of my girls. Noisy environments are not great for their listening and concentration skills, and its increasingly hard to find anywhere that can openly cater for my Childs needs and not be scared of by labels that society attaches to them.

My view on this changed though in 2015. Our eldest who has a mild hearing loss wanted to try scouting. I was a little worried about the hearing aids and if M would be able to follow the instructions but I needn’t have worried at all. M came home and loved it with the adventure and being able to have fun with friends she didn’t look back and now 3 years later has become a young leader with the Beaver scout’s.

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L Ready for a Parade

Now I may just be barking up the wrong tree but its possible that the great outcome of M’s participation was due to my husband becoming the scout leader but I don’t feel this is the case. Especially having my youngest (Hearing aid user) who has just moved from Beaver scouts to Cub scouts with no parent as a leader and having gained her Bronze award having fun, learning new skills. After doing some research into scouting at the time, there are not many organisations around that are as Diverse, inclusive and about its youth members. What started as an experimental camp with a group of boys led to the start of the scout movement we know today. Best of all its not just for boy’s!!! All four of my girls are now in scouting and so are me and Dad.Its extremely important that all leaders are aware if there are any special needs so that they are able to work to your child’s strengths. Scouting allows for this to be done naturally with a Wide range of badges and ways to earn them taking into account the individuals own needs. Needs can be catered for with the help of all Leaders in the group.  The Troop night lasts for 2 hours and L is treated as one of the troop and kept interested and stimulated with fun tasks and activities and the programme of activities is just adapted slightly for her if needed. There is a dedicated Unit in Norwich offering scouting to all those with disabilities should we ever need to consider another way of L accessing scouting but at present she hasn’t had any problems accessing group and District events due to her ADD or Hearing Loss.

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She loves it, the outdoors adventures, the campfires, the bush crafts, earning badges, being taught the theory as well as the safety behind skills, she takes a full part in all aspects of scouting. Yes I worry as she is Medicated, what happens when the medication wears off ect but she has managed incredibly well. Scouting also gives her confidence and is excellent at giving her the space and opportunity to use her knowledge and skills and to even make friends.

Finding an organisation that can offer my girls so much in terms of memories, adventures and activities and not make them feel that they are not able is great. Yes we have to risk assess, take in to account the disabilities but labels should not mean that they miss out on great adventures no matter their disability. Small changes can make a huge difference to a child with special needs or disabilities and having a youth organisation that can and will adapt is amazing.

xx Leanne xx

How can you Best Prepare for a Hospital Operation?……You, Me and ADHD

How do you prepare your child with ADHD and Hearing loss for a visit to the hospital for an operation?

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This has always been one of my biggest worries while raising my daughter’s. L who has  ADHD and Hearing loss lives daily with symptoms of memory problem’s, understanding, concentration, then there’s her limited ability for reasoning, awareness of herself and her surroundings, Anxiety, Tick’s and just plain old fear of the unknown.

She is in Freak out mode…..

Having had an operation for Grommets when she was 2 years old our daughter although no stranger to the hospital has never actually stayed in or undergone any other procedures since she was 2. So now she is worrying and her anxiety levels are through the roof. Cue major meltdown’s, tantrum’s, tear’s, shouting, irritability and unable to sleep. Basically what we go through every day just now heightened to major proportions. so we have come up with a plan.

  • To talk about the operation as much as possible – whats happening, how they will do it, how long it will take, where she will be. This has meant a lot of research on my behalf watching online medical procedures yuck!!! so I can talk her through it.
  • Reassure – trying not to get annoyed by the amount of questions being asked, the outbursts and trying not to loose my temper after repeating the same sentence about 20 times
  • Hospital pre op visit – we had this yesterday and I made sure that she had lots of chances to ask question’s , see the ward and I also wrote down everything the play specialist said so that we can go over it again at home
  • At the outset I said that she could have a new teddy who could go to hospital with her. she keeps asking for it now but with another 2 weeks until the big day I am holding off relinquishing it.
  •  Keep her mind focused on something other than the operation. Am sure the bribes will start soon about how she will go if she can have this or I’m not going unless I get this but i’ll just stand my ground as come the morning she has forgotten her demands of the previous day.
  • Keep daily life as normal as possible – no sudden changes, no surprises, everyday is planned and written down to give L some control over what is happening.

As mentioned  anxiety levels have been increasing steadily for a few months. Hospital appointments over and done its been really important to write everything down and try and explain whats happening to L as much as possible. Even so there is no fool proof plan. Anxiety for a child can be a formidable opponent affecting every aspect of their life. Our daughter struggles with anxiety on a daily basis and it can manifest itself in any situation from what to have for breakfast, to whats happening after school to how we spend our weekend’s. Everyday has to be planned and written and fingers crossed that plans don’t change.

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The mental, emotional and physical effects of anxiety can be really difficult for our daughter and its hard as a family living with someone who has this condition. Going for an operation has really ramped up these feeling’s and just today I was receiving text messages about how sick she felt and how she had a headache. At times like this I try to be supportive, but also hard in a way as I don’t want Anxiety to be a ruling factor in her life. I send her love and tell her that she is ok and once she has these she seem’s to feel a little better and the monster’s lie sleeping till sometime.

The next few week’s are going to be really difficult for all of us, especially L. Will keep you posted

xx Leanne xx

Sometimes I cry…Raising Disabled Children

I haven’t written in a while, life has just seemed to overtake me one week blending into the next. I keep going from one day to the next in the same routine as though I was stuck in a ground hog day. Do you ever get fed up of doing the same thing day in day out? Be Honest…..I do it drives me wild to know that when I open my eyes the day will start the same as every other and that by trying to change anything I just make life more stressful for myself. It can at times seem like we are living with a Dictator. Having 4 girls anyway the hormone levels in this house can be through the roof, factor in one who has ADHD, memory problems and other issues and I am surprised the husband hasn’t moved into the shed.

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Now I know what some of you may be thinking, Am I just whinging? Am I being silly? Am I weak? A bad mother? The answer is no…..Anyone raising a child with any form of disability knows that you have to adapt, you have to work around their quirk’s, their behaviour and in most cases you really do have to just make the best of any situation you can. Its really hard to do this and still feel that you are being a good parent. I worry every day the effect that one Childs disabilities is having on her siblings. I also worry that my other daughters perceive their sister as the favourite, the one who gets all the attention wether its good or bad. I worry about the relationship’s my children forge, the way they are at school, I get angry at the stupid things they argue about and at the end of the day I cry. I cry for the things one daughter has lost, I cry about the disabilities, I cry from the stress, I cry and there is no shame in that at all.

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Having 4 children is hard, I am judged for having four children and at times I feel its my fault they are who they are, but is it?  I also feel really anxious when my youngest acts out. I feel certain that its learnt behaviour being 4 years younger than her sister she has grown up watching that one can be naughty and still get attention, but it scares me what if she also has ADHD?

So how do you split yourself and be in effect two different parents at the same time?

Truth is 14 years later I still have not found the answer. I struggle day in and day out with how to best be a parent. The way I parent is constantly evolving and changing to adapt with the needs of my children but it is also constantly being observed by those on the outside. Not all disabilities can be seen as is the case with my daughter’s. They do not sound any different, look any different and at times do not act any differently to other children. It isn’t until you look closer that you start to notice the subtle differences, the hearing aids, the slight lisp to words, the forgetfulness of one, the behaviour at certain times of day when medication has worn of, the Anxiety living life. If you passed my children in the street you wouldn’t notice anything other than 4 sister’s.

This is perhaps the hardest part of being their mum, unless you are living the life that I am you can not fully understand how exhausting it is trying to keep everything together. That smile on my face at 9am is one of relief not happiness. The frown at the end of the day is born of tiredness and also stress. That sigh is after another round of upset screaming, or a round of abused hurled my way that makes me feel like walking out. In fact I have come to realise that in trying to raise them, teach them and make sure they get every opportunity to be independent I sometimes need to take a step back, read some of my blogs and realise once again I am not wonder women, I am not a magician I am a mum and one that will adapt, fight and evolve even while feeling like I can’t do it anymore. Its not what I signed up for but do you know what, these children amaze me everyday, there tears but also laughter, theres anger but also love and even on a bad day I will always love and be in awe of my children.

xx Leanne XX

A Little bit Of Technology….At home with ADHD / Hearing loss

I want to talk technology. Its all around us and with the generations who come into contact with any type of technology getting younger how do we as parents decided whats best for our children?

Growing up I remember when our parents bought us a saga mega drive and we played the lion king on it. Thats one of my earliest memories of technology in our home. As I got older and started high school mobile phones started to appear but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I was finally allowed one which then paved the way for my siblings to have theirs. Move on 18 years since then and internet, gaming systems, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, plus many many more are all around us.

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So when you have a child with disabilities and or learning difficulties how do you navigate this huge market to find the best devices to help your family? How do you decide when to introduce technology? How do you try and limit the impact of technology to reduce stress and anxiety.

Many parents on a daily basis rely on the technology that is now available to help them care for their children no matter their disability. For us living with hearing loss and ADHD present’s challenges when it comes to hearing outside, being able to listen to music and using technology to help reinforce learning, engaging with the world outside, schoolwork ect. That said there are so many things out there I wanted to share a few thought’s / idea’s

  • When do you give your child a mobile phone for instance? For us we decided that on starting high school this would be young enough to introduce the mobile phone. I didn’t see any reason for them to have one younger than this. We choose a mobile phone that we could link to our’s and so that we are able to control certain aspects. with a 4 year gap between the third daughter and the youngest this has caused upset but I stand by my guns. children need to learn phone etiquette and this can just add stress to an already fragile daytime routine.
  • Social Media? for Facebook the age is 13? but for me a child with special needs and or disabilities do they need the added stresses and pressure of social media? for my family no I don’t feel that they do, so for this reason my children do not have accounts, not that any of them have ever asked for one.
  • Educational games / laptops? I feel you don’t get a choice of wether you can or can’t introduce these. for a few years now I have noticed that the use of educational programmes on the internet has increased for homework and set by the schools. children are actively encouraged to use these programmes at home and do homework that is set. thats all well and good but for a child with ADHD and no concept of time and who can have trouble concentrating this can cause stress. on the other foot my youngest loves going on educational programmes that help her with spellings and maths.
  • Activity tracker’s? these are all the range at the minute and with adverts on tv showing children having fun it was only a case of time before one of my girls wanted one. we have recently bought the Garmin vivofit Jr. My youngest daughter is 8, has hearing loss and is really into visual items that she can interact with. The watch has an app which parents can use to add target’s, chores and see how active the child is. The chore part is my favourite, this is encouraging my daughter to get up and do the chores I would otherwise be shouting at her to do all by herself as she earns coin’s. you are able to set the coin level and the reward just like reward charts. you can also set reminders which is great.
  • Listening to music? For those with hearing loss / deafness the http://www.ndcs.org.uk which is a fantastic site and well worth becoming a member of no matter your Childs level of hearing loss, have a technology test drive where you can apply to borrow and test products that you would like to see and try before you consider buying. after problems with headphones in our house we were looking around and recently tested some Aftershokz bone conduction headphones, and I must say they were fabulous. having four girls three with hearing loss they were fought over quite a bit but they stood up to the pressures of an 8, 11 and 14 year old using them. Having no lead to be pulled and messed around with added to the appeal. As for the sound and ease of use once the girls had connected them to their mobile phones they found the sound quality really good and for me an added bonus was they could still hear me if I needed to speak to them. The NDCS have a range of products that you are able to try and the service is easy to use.

If anyone has any more idea’s they would like to share please do get in touch I love to share and hear what may be beneficial to my girls.

Xx Leanne Xx