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

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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

Time to Be kind to Yourself?…..It Is for Me

As a Mum of any child it’s important to have time to recharge your batteries, time to breathe, to think, to relax and to be something other than a Mum. For those of us who are carers as well as mums this is even more important for both our physical and mental health.

Well pants I have not taken a leaf out of my own book and now I am at the point where I am exhausted and unwell. I typically try to relax and recharge once a month but with Christmas and work and appointments I just haven’t had time to think about me when the needs of the girls are fore front in my mind. It wasn’t until someone else noticed that I was having absences that I had to ‘get real’ and get myself to the doctors. Stress can do wonderful things to your mental and physical health and it can affect people in different ways. Hopefully and I sound daft I know but I am hoping that that will be the diagnosis as stress I can deal with, I can tackle it and get better. If it’s anything else then no idea, I can’t think that far ahead.

So here is the bump in my road, I now can’t drive pending tests for what I think is stress but not being a specialist, and having disabled children to look after I can not take the risk it may be something else. Now I can’t drive, I’ve surrendered my license and I feel like a failure. I can not get my daughters to school, to appointments, I can’t even nip out and get a load of bread. I’m stuck and for the first time in 12 years I am having to rely on the help and support of family and friends to help me. I feel like I have been firmly put on my arse and that the universe is staring down at me with a critical eye waiting for me to break down.

I have spent so long priding myself on doing the best that I can as a Mum and as a carer that I failed to see the warning signs. Being able to take time out has always been the way I have coped be it nights out, massages or even just a cuppa with a friend or sister. The last few months have been a little more stressful than normal with L starting high school in September, the interruption to routines caused by snow days and having another daughter having tests resulting in more appointments has meant that I like every other parent has had to prioritise time for myself against the needs of my children. Who wouldn’t do the same? I am only 1 person and even with a great support network and an amazing husband who does as much as he can we are still only 2 people at the end of the day. These are my girls, I am their Mum it’s my job to look after them and I feel guilty if I can’t so I give up my time for them.

So universe I am going to get back up and get better. I don’t know how but I know with the love and support of the people around me I’ll get there. I’ll get better and then I’ll make sure I have time for myself in order to look after my own health and well-being.

Take care of yourselves, be kind to yourselves

Xx Leanne xx

9 years of world book day…..ADD-Back to Normal

It’s been a hell of a few weeks. Ever since world book day was announced my youngest has been bouncing of the walls excited to be out of the confines of her school uniform and getting to dress up. Although to be honest she’s a bit of a tomboy and so unlike her sister (L) the usual easy princess dress was not going to cut it.

After careful planning which involved looking around the house for the easiest non crafty, no hassle option I saw Dads flat cap sitting there and was reminded of one of my favourite books Burglar Bill, which E just happens to like as well ( or maybe it’s because I quickly slink into an accent from my childhood which brings forth the giggles) getting my youngest prepared with her costume yesterday morning for the belated world book day I suddenly realised that I have been getting world book day costumes ready for the last 9 years and that I still have another 3 years to go!!!

World book day 2013

That means between the 4 children Reception year to year 6 I will have created, sourced, bartered and paid for 28 costumes all for one day. How crazy is that…….

World book day is great but for the parents out there that struggle with children who have additional needs and routines it’s a nightmare, the constant worrying, tantrums and all out cat fights over who is going as who makes me glad that the high schools do not participate. Plus my children won’t recycle outfits either which I find annoying as L use to fit in the same outfit 3 years running but nope wouldn’t wear it more than once.

Now I love a good costume as much as the next person or at least I live the idea of it!!! but I hate the aggro it causes and the stress all for one day. I hate the arguments in the supermarkets with their massive selection of brightly coloured costumes that scream to kids “you need me now!!!” Yeah cause as a Mum of four I am going to pay £15 per costume per child each year…..erm no which then makes the rest of my shopping journey hell with shouting, prodding, hitting, bribes and anything else the girls want to throw at me. If I had a pound for every bedazzling display placed right at the front doors of supermarkets and the ensuing tantrums that follow I would be a rich women. Saying that as a Mum I have found the convenient, less stressful shopping experience of doing it all online. No aggro no bribery no tantrums and best of all no dedazzing, make Mum feel crappy displays.

Any way back to normal today, outfit that was agonised over for weeks discarded on the bedroom floor there to stay until Mum picks it up…..Happy world Book Day

X Leanne x

It’s a Snow Day for Anxiety…..Yippee

How wonderful…… its an unplanned day off school yippee

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Or not as the case may be for parents who like me are not only struggling with outburst’s, bad moods and just the usual stress of having having children at home with a disruption to their routine but also a child who has Anxiety.  My daughter can have feeling’s of:

  • restless
  • on edge,
  • irritable,
  • feeling sick,
  • mood swings,
  • tummy ache
  • headaches

These symptoms can affect my daughter in addition to her ADHD.  L get’s worried about going to school or in the case of a snow day not going to school. Anxiety can affect a persons relationships with those around them and this affects our family quite badly as L’s anxiety then rubs of on her sister’s and causes tension and strife.

Having children who do not do well to a change in routine can be so bloody stressful, everything has to be planned and written down and two of my girls just can not cope if something changes. Its not like I can even fully prepare them for a snow day, the weather forecast is never foolproof and more often than not forecasted snow misses us, But not today…..

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So yes the news has been forecasting the weather, talking about the “The Beast from the East” for the past few days at least, the kids have been asking Alexa when the snow will arrive and while there is definitely an element of excitement at having proper snow there is also the constant questions ‘what if we can’t get out mum?’ ‘when will we go back to school?’ ‘how long will the snow be here?’  For most this wouldn’t cause upset but having a child that feels anxiety no matter how much I try to prepare them just makes a snow day a headache day for me. So much so I just want to go and hide under the cover’s and shut the curtains and pretend there is nothing going on.

You may judge me for it, call me a Scrooge, a misery but yes when its a school week I would much rather that my children were in school and not just because it’s easier, less stressful but because its routine. They know what they are doing, when they are doing it and how their day will pan out. Having unplanned days off especially in the middle of the week can be upsetting and confusing for them. They want to be in school with friends but they also want to be at home playing in the snow. They can become worried about family and friends who are out driving in the snow, They become over worried about pet’s. Eventually as the day draws on they become irritable and angry with themselves and others in the house. Having 4 children with different needs is interesting to say the least when confined to the house (which is a little on the small side).

So there was me this morning becoming emotional at my husband as he was getting ready to attempt the drive into work while I was on the bloody website this morning from 6am constantly checking the school closures hitting the refresh button while constantly being asked “am I gong to school?”. I can honestly say I was hoping that our’s  would open, alas it wasn’t to be and at 7 am this morning the girls were hooting and hollering because they were having a day off while I pulled the duvet up and cried.

The funny thing is that we soon slip into a sort of weekend routine where by the kids have breakfast, get dressed, scream at each other, then make up before getting ready to be out of the house at 8.30am in the snow. For me on a snow day I get 30 minutes of fun running around in the snow before I am left with the bedlam of great drafts of wind whistling through the house due to open door’s, wet clothing and puddles in the house, clothing changes every 20 minutes due to be wet and cold and thats before they then come back in again and are bored, yelling at each other and me.

I love the snow, I love as a grown up being able to watch the snowflakes and as a mum listening to the shrieks of laughter from my girls. What I hate is the extra challenges that our family faces even in the face of just having fun.

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Fun before the Bedlam (LeanneBrown)

 

Have fun in the snow, stay safe, stay sane

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

We Have to Believe in ADD Magic

Its that time of the year again, it’s December nearly the end of the year and as I sit here writing this I am starting to realise how shattered I feel. My whole year has passed in a flurry of hospital and check up appointments. living our lives from one appointment to the next is really starting to annoy me, it feels like I am losing time and year’s living a life based around my children disabilities. Do I sound selfish? Am I not better to spend my time thanking my stars that my children do not have more severe  need’s? in fact should I even be thinking and feeling this way at all, after all I decided to have children………

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Having three girls with varying needs is exhausting no matter what those additional needs and disabilities are. Any parent who has to spend most of their time worrying, stressing, upset, nervous, anxious and being on that emotional rollercoaster should be damn proud of the things that they achieve daily, even if its just managing to see friends or tidying the house. Living, working and making a life for ourselves and our children can at times feel like an empty black hole. We don’t get thank’s for what we do, I feel like at times I am my daughter’s battering ram, they can’t take out their feelings on anyone else so the but stops with me.

Christmas is a magical wonderful time of year isn’t it? No Not all the time, sometimes it’s hopeless, energy zapping, bury your head in a pillow type of magical. Christmas does not herald the end to your daily routine’s in fact it makes these harder. I have to worry about medication and if we will have enough, I booked a Christmas food shop weeks ago…. did I order everything I need or am I going to have to go out and get it with the kids in toe? They break up from school on a Tuesday….a bloody Tuesday like thats not at all confusing for a child who is so use to routine is it….there’s going to be fall out from that I can tell you, I have booked tickets for a show which I dithered about doing so I settled on spending the money and making sure we are at the back near an exit just in case we need to leave…will it be worth it with the crowd’s and the change of routine? who know’s  Christmas can feel at times like a waste of time and so disappointing for me at least the children never seem to think so which is amazing.

 I just feel so sad that my year, and my children’s year’s can be counted down by the appointments my girls attend, from Audiology to paediatrician to ADHD Nurse to even school meeting’s. They all add up and whats even worse is its never ending and I am already booked to next August with Audiology appointments. There is no getting away from the fact that our family life is a plethora of hospital appointments intertwined with birthdays and that I am getting older and more cynical as time goes by.

BUT……….There is one thing that this family has not yet outgrown and that is the magic of Christmas. My 13 and 14 year olds love the magic even though they know there is no Santa and its nice that they are now starting to take part in the xmas shopping. As for the younger two 11 and 7 years Santa still very much exists and we have been having some great fun (me and dad that is) helping those naughty elves to get up to lots of silliness. In a world that can be dominated by the symptom’s of ADHD, the lack of concentration, the memory issues, the anxiety, the inattentiveness, the daydreaming, plus the hearing loss, and other medical concern’s, the worry of appointment’s that are still to come around, this little bit of fun and laughter that we all have down to a couple of little elves may seem to the on the outside desperate and silly but to us it is a break from the norm and it is something that I can do at the end of the day and know that come the morning my children will wake excited and happy at least until the elves are found and then the drudgery of the normal day comes back full force.

Here’s a hug for all the parent’s this Christmas time where ever you may be and how ever you spend this Christmas remember you are amazing……….

For more tip’s on how I cope at Christmas see our previous Blogs x