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

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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

Highschool – ADHD milestone

The last couple of months have been hard work. Having a child transition to high school is daunting enough when they don’t have special needs. Having a child that does have additional needs puts a whole new perspective on the transition for me. Having been in this situation twice before I thought I was prepared for my third daughter to start high school. How wrong I was….

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My daughter 11 years ago 

With so many meetings, notes, letters, forms, questions it has taken me this long to just sit and appreciate that this is a huge milestone in my daughters life.  Having a child with hearing loss and ADHD, learning difficulties worries me no end I struggled with her being in primary school how the hell I am going to cope her being in high school!! I seemed to have spent the last 7 years in a bubble which sadly has now popped as high school is such a different ball game

  1. They are expected to be independent
  2. Remember what they need each day
  3. Organise themselves and get to lessons on time
  4. Get their own food and Eat at lunchtime
  5. Be responsible
  6. Do the work set or have the confidence to ask for help

While for most children going into year 7 may not have as many problems with some or all of these for my daughter these are all milestones she has not yet reached. This is not through a lack of trying to get her to be independent, and trying as many helping strategies as we can to enable her to function as expected by society and peers. Its just some days this holiday it has more added stress and upset on top of everything else that we as a family have to try and overcome. Six weeks is such a long time for a child to be out of school, out of routine, away from their friends and peers. I worry…..

To prepare for high school we have

  1. Chatting daily about high school, familiarising her with talk of high school, answering any questions that she has
  2. Pinning up her school timetable so that she has regular access to it to try and familiarise herself with the sorts of lessons she will have
  3. Taking lots of photocopies of the timetable, I would advise doing this for any child starting high school as they will all loose it at one point or another
  4. Keeping the school uniform out and visual – its hanging in her room with her bag, shoes, pencil case so that she gets use to them, sounds silly to some but having new items can be daunting making sure my daughter is comfy with her new stuff is just as important
  5. Next week we will start getting back into the school routine in regards to times. When school starts we will need to leave the house at 8.20am so in preparation I’ll start getting them in the routine of up, breakfasted and dressed by 8.20am

Its also important to try and not project your own insecurities about your child starting high school. I am finding it really difficult to not become anxious, worried and over protective about how she will cope. I know its my job to worry and to make sure that she has what she needs but she also needs me to be positive and reassuring. I need to let her be as independent as she can be but as a parent and a carer I also need to make sure that she has the support from us as a family as well as the school.

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This is where trying to build a good relationship with new teachers and heads of departments is key. I have spent time worrying that I may be seen as that annoying parent who email’s questions and has had numerous meetings with the senco, but for us this has allowed my daughter to familiarise herself with the school. Its during these meetings that I was put at ease and told I could continue to email if I have any worries or concerns. We all hear the terrible stories where schools don’t communicate with parents and there is no support, teachers don’t receive training in special needs, there is no money, EHCP’s are notoriously difficult to get – we have tried twice and it boils down to being in schools that meet her needs. Parents are left feeling angry, upset and disillusioned with the whole education system. I know at times I feel that way.

High school is the next step up, the next milestone and the fact that there is no playground and no parent – teacher interaction first thing in the morning and last thing at the end of the day in my opinion shouldn’t matter, as parents we should be able to get the support we need and be able to speak to those that care for our children in our place. My advice don’t keep quiet, fight for your children, like I said its not another planet its just high school and lets face it high school is difficult enough for any child.

Good luck to all those taking their first steps into high school in the next few weeks parents and children alike

x Leanne X

Story Massage…..Imagination, Fun for All

Story Massage…… a wonderful massage therapy based activity that can be shared by the whole family. Wether we are singing songs, nursery rhymes or just telling stories for the last two years Story massage has given my children so much joy for the spoken language as well as becoming the staple relaxation method used in our house.

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Story massage was created by its founders Mary Atkinson and Sandra Hooper since 2007 to promote activities using positive touch within the home, school and wider field. These two amazing ladies run a training course which is where I first learnt how to blend 10 simple massage moves with stories. Story massage is used within some schools curriculum, care homes, respite, therapy session’s and by parents all over the world. Being such an adaptive skill set to have it can be used in any language and is especially wonderful to use with special needs and disabilities.

  •  Two daughters who have a mild sensorineural hearing loss and as such the positive touch used in story massage and the contact means that they are able to hear and feel the story.
  • Another of my other daughters has a hearing loss and ADHD and I find that the end of the day s a great way of using story massage to wind down and aide with calming ready for sleep.
  • I also have a daughter with no hearing impairments or disabilities who is just a teenager and she loves to make up stories and show her skill’s.

There is no age limit, no discrimination just respect, relaxation and fun. A great activity that can be shared by all.

For me story massage has enable my children to not only learn to positively interact with each other but to also aide their speech and language skills, phonic’s, writing and story telling skills, their concentration,  the ability to relax and focus, being able to learn about the environment around them and it is a skill that they will go on to use with their own children one day in the very distant future…..

I also find story massage is great to use as a rainy day activity, while waiting in queues, car journeys, talking about new and exciting subjects and at bedtime there is nothing like settling down to bed with a soothing massage to my off key tones of Lavenders blue, twinkle twinkle and other favourites.

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With stories in mind there are some days when my daughter is a little more restless than usual and needs idea’s for a new and interesting story. We have the wonderful book from storymassage.co.uk which has nursery rhymes and stories with something for everyone and the massage moves are there for you which is a fantastic book to take out and about with you. Our’s travelled to Scotland last year where we enjoyed story massage camping style.

So always on the look out for innovative idea’s that I can use I was approached by a wonderful lady at Ignite Imagination’s . This lovely lady create’s wooden story cubes. I was sent a lovely bundle of 6 cubes, hand decorated with a picture on all 6 sides. Well my daughters love them!!!

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  • they came in a handy drawstring bag
  • 3cm cubed perfect for slipping in your handbag and don’t take up to much room
  • you are able to choose which themed cubes you would like
  • they are colourful and robust
  • provide endless material for fun stories

We have fairy tale characters, clothes, food and then three cubes with various object’s on them such as a ballon, car, shield, chair.

When I took them out of the bag my daughters aged 7 and 10 were there within minutes finding pen and paper, rolling the cubes and coming up with lovely stories to share. Here’s a story they made up using the cubes….

A unicorn imagined an egg (circle)

But she magicked a fried egg instead (drums)

Then she magicked some trouser’s and top (wave)

And decided to go pick some flowers ( sprinkle)

When it got dark, she magicked a light (fan)

And sat down to eat her egg ( calm)

Eliza Age 7

Using story massage as a daytime activity with the cubes has been great fun and something that I hope to share with other parent’s and children when sharing Story massage with them.

Leanne

What an ADHD week…..SATS, Family and weekends

So before you start reading a warning, my head is feeling disjointed, please be aware may contain rambling…….

I find more often than not when I come to a Saturday I feel so tired I tend to do nothing if I can help it. It’s not that I am feeling low or depressed but after a week of being on the edge and the whole family tethering on the edge it’s nice to just kick back, watch rubbish on TV, baking and eating cake, enjoy the sunshine in the garden and just not to think about anything isn’t it?


Not possible when you have children and definitely not when those children have disabilities. You see their needs overtake everything. People looking in from the outside do not see. When your child has an unseen difficulty or disability it can be hard for them to understand what they can’t see. Yes I moan to friends and family generally because we have been caught out and they have seen how life can be, I am not ashamed of my child’s behaviour she can’t help it, but I sometimes feel powerless to help her. There is no respite, no down time and at weekends I find myself trying to snatch moments in the day where I can either slob out, breathe a few quick breathes or just try and empty my mind. Weekends are family time, time to be together with no real plans. NO!!! Really it just means Daddy is at home to help……..Going with the flow we try not have anything planned on a Saturday and Sunday which is not always easy as life steps in. 

After this week we need a weekend to just breathe and not do anything. The SATS as predicted caused stress and tension, tears and anger, frustration, sleepless nights. When you add in the build up the SATs seem to overtake everything for us from Easter onwards. Now that they are over there is a visual reduction in the amount of tension my daughter with ADHD is holding. She seems more relaxed and more able to focus on everyday tasks. Something she has been unable to do for the last week. Even just being asked to brush her teeth has caused an arguement because it’s something else I have tried to add into her already stressed out Day. The SATs have:

  • Resulted in tears and upset
  • Feelings of failure and that she is not good enough
  • Disruption of routine
  • Short frayed temper
  • Meltdowns at the end of the day
  • Bad dreams

This is on top of the regular feelings that are associated I feel at any age with taking tests and wanting to do your best. Just because my daughter has disabilities and difficulties does not mean that she didn’t want to do the best she could because that added even more pressure. She wanted to join in with the year 6’s, she wanted to do the tests, she wanted to do her best and make me proud. She makes me proud everyday, all of my children make me proud they all do their best and even my older two have had exams in high school and I am proud of their attitude and just generally a very proud mummy. I could ask that they work harder, I could ask that they concentrate better, achieve more but I feel with so much outside pressure they need the time to also just be children. I feel my job is to teach them life skills, to help them feel part of the family, to look after their health, wellbeing and happiness. School is there to teach them academics and while yes we read, I make sure their homework is done and I help them with revision I don’t want it to overtake important family time especially as I already have feelings of guilt about how my other children cope with their sibling. I worry about how me as a mum trying to deal with Hearing loss and ADHD effects the dynamics within my little family:

  • If I shout I have to shout louder if they don’t have their hearing aids in as otherwise all I get is “what?” About 110 times this just makes me a loud crazy mum
  • I feel like I am always referring arguements, and I don’t get it right and get accused of taking side which I try not to
  • I feel shattered by 9am mentally exhausted spending an hour solving disputes and arguments between the kids. Usually I have a least one storm out of the house.
  • The end of school comes and I drag my feet to school for pick up, most days I am already in a bad mood as I naturally start to anticipate the basic hell on earth if my daughter has had a bad day
  • When I feel low we eat more crap food because I can’t be bothered either that or we run out of food in the house bad bad mother


So here I sit with some old Doris day film on the tv, one daughter out on camp for the weekend, the other sat next to me while Dad helps with the younger two trying to keep them entertained while trying to cope with the effects of having no routine as it’s the weekend. Who ever said having children was easy

Take care 

X Leanne X

SATS, stress and Relaxation 

The last few weeks it’s been nothing if not stressed in our house. Our daughter with ADHD is about to face her SATS along with other year 6’s next week and for us as well as I suspect many it’s been a bumpy ride. 


Having ADHD means my daughter has symptoms of inattentiveness, impulsiveness, concentration and working memory problems. While medicated during the day once home the panic of not remembering can cause outbursts of anger and frustration making my job at home all the more harder in trying to keep her calm and in harmony with the rest of the family. This along with Anxiety, hearing loss and the general feelings of stress that taking exams can cause has me counting down the hours to the end of this coming week. 

Today we have done no revision if it’s not in her memory now then the chances are it’s not going to be in there. We have tried to keep her relaxed and calm not an easy feat. Repetition, outbursts and continually checking her bag, her schedule, where she is going and what she is doing is her way of trying to control something. Control is something I think we all look for and without it we can feel displaced. My daughter tries hard to control every aspect of her life that she can. It’s how she feels and even if it’s not always easy to live with her feeling out of control is even worse. 

We all remember exams and how they make us feel. I had an exam in December and I aged 33 was petrified. Afraid of failure, not being up to scratch and generally not believing in myself. To think that my 10 year old daughter is feeling the same emotions now as I did then is heartbreaking in itself. I wish they didn’t have to sit tests at this age. Isn’t it better to let them learn and progress at their own rate instead of pushing them to learn what they need to know for an exam? 

Anyway so no revision this weekend and no I don’t feel that makes me a bad mum. School are their to teach her academics I am here to teach her life skills. I am here to teach all of my children that life Isn’t just about revision and sitting tests. It’s about looking after themselves, working to their strengths and being happy and healthy. Stress can have such powerful symptoms both physically and mentally and do we really want our 10/11 year olds to feel this. 


Today we have had fun, relaxed and used story massage to be creative and to relax. Being able to share massage with my children is an amazing thing. Being able to help relieve some of the symptoms caused by stress and anxiety through fun and stories is great. Being able to talk through how we feel and put Massage moves to our words really brings my daughters imagination alive and helps her to put into words what she may otherwise struggle to express or express through anger and tears.  Find out more at http://www.storymassage.co.uk 

Hopefully by the end of the week we will all be feeling more relaxed. 

Take care

X Leanne x