My Struggle with Prejudice and Stigma 

If you have read any of my previous blogs I like any other parent raising children can go through a series of emotions daily. Some are bad days where I struggle with parenthood to the point I feel my emotions are boiling over, my neck and shoulders hurt, I over eat due to stress and I generally feel crap, but other days make me realise how amazing motherhood is. 
I have four girls aged between 13 and 7 and being able to watch them forge their own paths in life is an amazing privilege. We bring these tiny people into the world and are their family, teachers and support network. When they become older these little bundles trust and rely on you for everything still and you know that you will move heaven and earth to protect them. That feeling never goes away…..even now my own children are growing I still feel that sense of protectiveness and love I felt the day they were born. Even more so sometimes, I want to protect them from society and peoples cruel words, from prejudice and judgement.

   While I never thought I would raise disabled children as many parents don’t I have never hesitated in doing all that I can to make sure they get the best and I fight daily to ensure they are raised in a world that does not see them as different and unable but sees them for the amazing people they are and days like today when they learn something new makes me proud. 

All disabilities are different and need care in different ways but we parents become their carer’s and their advocates. In a world that is slowly changing to accept that people with disabilities deserve the same rights that we do I feel my children have more chance of showing the world what they have to offer. This is why I believe in writing and sharing my experiences like other parents out there so that hopefully my children can step in to a world where disabilities are considered but not made to hold those who have them back. 
Having children who have hearing loss is hard. I am forever feeling like I need to apologise for their loudness and their bluntness. My eldest has a mild loss and wears hearing aids and recently was bullied and told to stop staring at people. Yet when she explains why it becomes easier to understand when you are an adult but not when you are a child. You see she is not intentially being rude it’s just as she uses lip reading to help understand conversations around her, she looks at people’s faces and body language. If hearing loss was more talked about I feel that people would understand better. Another daughter with moderate hearing loss faces different issues, she struggles with high frequency words and again uses lip reading and body language to make sense of the world around her. Speech is such an important part of who we are and communication is everything. Not being able to communicate can become a very distressing and upsetting prospect. Relationships can become strained as there are barriers. 
Since the new born screening programme came in hearing loss is is picked up earlier and children can be given the care they need to help them but that doesn’t help others who do not know much about hearing loss. As a parent I tell people and are open with them that my children have a hearing loss. In previous years when my confidence was low this was extremely hard and I would frequently get embarrassed if people stared at us or stared at my children’s hearing aids. After confronting one person once about staring it became apparent that he was just fascinated as he had never seen young children with hearing loss and that he had always assumed it was an elderly person disability.
 After that I became more confident at being able to explain my children’s hearing aids as humans we are very nosy, intrested but most of the time prone to staring as we are afraid to ask. My children are no different and will stare at people in wheel chairs or people who are different from them which I teach them is wrong and that if they are intrested they should go and talk to them. My eldest has done this to a poor lady in a wheelchair. She wanted to know why and after speaking to the lady she assured me she wasn’t offended but rather happy that my daughter would take the time to talk to her. Don’t get me wrong I can’t speak for every disabled person out there but I know that now my children are getting older they would much prefer someone ask than stare. It’s how they learn and share awareness isn’t it?? 

Don’t get me wrong it’s not an easy task to teach any child right from wrong but teaching your child to accept k that has been started and we live in a world where everyone is accepted regardless of their disability.

The ADD diagnosis that another of my children has is the hardest disability as a parent to cope with. I find it extremely challenging as a parent as ADD and ADHD are still viewed by some as just a naughty child and how I must be a bad parent in some way spoiling my child or that it must be because I can’t cope. Having four children is also a no no in some people’s eyes. Thing is I can cope, it hasn’t broken me yet and the worse part is that some days it is not my child that causes me pain but the thoughts and actions of others. I feel I have to explain my child’s disability when meeting anyone new so they know straight away that there is a valid condition that makes my child act out. I feel shame and worry that old prejudices come to the forefront of a strangers mind and that they think I am being silly and I just have a naughty child, a bad apple amongst the four of them. I don’t!!!!!!
Having disabled children does make you open your eyes to the plight of others. I never dreamed I would have children who had disabilities. No one in my family has anything and even the children of my siblings do not have the hearing loss or ADD that my children have. The disabilities my children face are by no means life threatening or emotional as what other parents go through, but for us it can be our own tiny world of emotional turmoil. I still feel occasionally like a failure compared to my siblings. That I must have done something wrong to be the only one with children who are viewed as different. I feel shame when my children do something that is not perceived as normal but can be explained due to their diagnosis especially my daughter with ADD…….but I never fail to feel that love, protectiveness and proudness that I felt when they were younger and free of any labels. 

Everything thing that my children accomplish makes me feel such amazing warmth and awe and that as young as they are they will continue to forge a path through whatever comes and be amazing people ready to help anyone and pass on their strength and experiences to those that are around them.

Children are not born prejudice or judgemental, they are born inquisitive , looking for knowledge and accepting. It’s this that we need to encourage
To follow our story on Facebook search @Leannesihm
X Leanne X

Sibling love, rivalry and life

The love and support of a sibling in my own life means so much to me. My sisters are always there no matter what, on good and bad days. Being the eldest of four, growing up there was no shortage of playmates and no chance for boredom. Now that we are older, there is always a shoulder to cry on, an ear to rant to and support whenever we need it. This bond has been an important part of my life and without I honestly don’t think I could have managed in the early days of having children and going through diagnosis. 

Sibling Awesomeness

Looking at my own four children it’s easy to see the amazing bond that they all share. Even with the range of disabilities they have, they are always there to love, support and annoy each other as only siblings can. Life is interesting to say the least. Each with their own individual needs they somehow come together. They are always there supporting each other when the need arises from cuts, bumps and bruises to just spending some quiet time together reading, drawing and story massaging… well, until the arguments start!

My eldest daughter, age 13, has a hearing loss which she lived with for five years before diagnosis. She is the rock of the bunch, always trying to help her sisters anyway that she can. Sometimes I feel that she takes on the motherly role too much and that she grew up too quickly but she’s always the peacemaker and will spend hours with her sisters playing games and make believe. There is no shortage of imagination in the family!

With two fellow sisters both also having a hearing loss, M is increasingly becoming my own little guru in understanding how my other two daughters may be feeling. As she says, “been there done that mummy, maybe this could help?” She tries to support them in the maintenance of their own hearing aids now that they are older, and takes great pride in being able to show her sisters the correct way to clean her aids. She also loves to cheer her sisters up by baking them cakes and letting her sisters help. This leaves me with an upside down kitchen but the result is always the same: happy, cakey children.

My second eldest daughter, age 12, is your typical teen and finds family life hard. She has no disabilities and can become frustrated with her sisters. I have been told that she has an old head on young shoulders but the truth is that she wears her heart on her sleeve and finds the noise levels and challenges of ADHD hard to navigate. But she is amazing at writing stories, poems and songs and will think nothing of writing amazing Story Massages which she then shares with her sisters. C will spend time using story massage and sharing what she has written with the whole family. C also loves to play on the trampoline with her sisters and they will literally be outside giggling like mad for hours. What she lacks in patience she more than makes up in love and the ability to cheer up people. 

Our third daughter has hearing loss and ADHD. Life is a challenge and having someone who is forgetful, inattentive and impulsive can cause a huge strain on the whole family dynamic. Not to mention the OCD which can see her rearranging her room daily and also trying to rearrange her sisters’ bedroom, but her sisters have now learnt to embrace this side of L as they have realised that they do not then need to tidy their own bedroom up! This said she is our cheeky monkey, who on a good day will spend time gardening with her younger sister, trying to help anyone who needs it. 

My youngest, aged seven, also has hearing loss. This one is the cheekiest of the bunch and she is able to bring a smile to anyone’s face even in the darkest of moments. Life viewed on the outside can seem harsh for my youngest as she has to compete with three older sisters, but she never fails to amuse. Always the prankster she can help diffuse an argument with her funny faces and voices which help to keep us smiling. She doesn’t offer much in the way of support to her sisters as yet but I’m sure as the years progress she will find her niche. 

Life with four children may seem daunting to some but to me it’s awe-inspiring. Living with these little people who overcome so much to get where they are makes me proud. Of course like most siblings there is rivalry, arguments, and full on catfights, but there’s also laughter, love and support. 

The bond that they all share is one I hope they will cherish for life. 
XX Leanne XX

Routine….Where’s the Spontaneity in That?

Routines

Routine for us as a family is the basically the difference between a good day and a bad day.  There is no flexibility, there is no common ground, its the routine or the highway as far as I am concerned.

IMG_3095
Helping to cook encourages eating

Routine is such an important part of my daughter’s life, from the way she sets about her morning to how she copes with planned events, holidays and general everyday life. Without a routine my daughter can be left feeling bereft and disjointed in an already confusing and sometimes overwhelming world that she lives in. Being able to do anything in a way that helps her to stay connected to the rest of the family can mean the difference between her being happy and contented to being frustrated and generally unable to cope. Trying to balance this need for routine with three other children can at times cause strife and I am on lots of occasions accused of favouritism, but this is not the case. As children they do not see the struggle it is to try and keep everyone on an even keel. Having your life to an extent ruled by routine is difficult and frustrating but having a daughter with ADHD means she struggles with memory problems, impulsiveness, concentration and being able to adhere to a routine can mean the difference between her being able to function or having that meltdown that all parents dread.

In some form or another we all have a routine of some kind in our daily lives. From how we get ready for the day to how we move through it and how we end it. For me routine starts when I open my eyes getting my self ready and the girls all ready for the day ahead takes the same form everyday

  • wake up then wake the girls up
  • washed and dressed
  • breakfast
  • hearing aids in, hair brushed
  • coat and shoes on bags on

If I have managed to get the children all ready to go by 8.20am its a good day and means that having a routine in place has worked even if for me it feel’s like I have crammed a weeks worth of stress into 2 hours.
Never let it be said that the job of a mum or dad is easy. First thing in the morning until the children are all safely behind the school doors is the most stressful time of my day. Four children each trying to go about their own varying routines while co habituating in a small house brings that sense of cold fear when I open my eyes. There are days when I just want to bury myself under the duvet and pretend that I have no responsibilities, no reason to wake up and get going.
Having a young family is not all plain sailing even when you have great well thought, well meaning routines in place. This is never more apparent than in the school holidays. The effects of not having a routine during holiday’s is amplified because my daughter with ADHD relies so heavily on a routine and of course when there is no school day which is structured this can cause Anxiety and panic, a whole lot of shouting, fighting and stress for the children as well as me. How do I cope erm lets say on a bad day I don’t, I struggle hugely to get the motivation to carry out the same routine over and over. Its like my favourite old saying of “ground hog day” over and over. Everyday has to start and finish in the same way. It drives me crazy sometimes, wishing that for just once we could do something spontaneous.

IMG_3247
Not at all Happy at being took out

So basically for me routine is the difference in being a crazy, out of control frayed round the edges mum to a semi calm and collected mum who after a strong cup of coffee and 5 minutes of quiet is ready to face the day after the school run. Until the end of the day that is. I love being a mum, I thrive on their happiness, watching them grow and learn and if I have to live with routines then so be it.

XX Leanne XX

Transitions, EHCP Ramblings…..Sloppy Life in Realtime

The last few days have been the hardest I think I have had for a long time. My brain feels like its on auto pilot, its on a non stop rollercoaster and I can’t see the end. I am screaming on the inside while trying to look normal for my children, family and friends. So sorry but here is as good as it gets my brain is fried, here are my ramblings…..

Why….

EHCP’s, Transition to high school, impending residential trip, family holiday’s, work, hospital appointment’s, general life……

img_1295
holidays planned

As a parent of children with disabilities life is never quiet or simple or normal…… there is no getting away from it watching my sister’s I envy them some days because everyday there is something else I need to remember, something else I need to do, to tell, write, ring, order, the list goes on and on. To have a bat shit crazy couple of days feeling like a legless jelly baby who hasn’t a clue what they are doing is normal right? Life gets to us all so if you see me in the street with a bright red face, unbrushed hair, no makeup and looking like I walked of the page of a 70’s catalogue its because I am trying to be a mum, carer, advocate, researcher plus everything else. I go to sleep dreaming of the printer and what its going to spew out next, I wake up to the face of my 10 year old daughter grinning at me before commencing with the first of many rude words, screams, shouts, tear’s or just plain crazy bouncing of the walls until the medication kicks in and she can calm down and concentrate on getting ready for school.

The life of any parent is filled with ups and downs….

Its no different for any parent, we all worry the same, we all do the best for our children the same way and we all have good and bad days thats what I keep telling myself.

So why do I feel like I am loosing the plot well the EHCP for example….theres so much conflicting information out there I feel inadequate in my role as a parent in best supporting my child. Anyone who knows what and EHCP I bet knows what I mean. For those of you unsure its the education, health and care plan which is for those aged 0-25 who have additional needs and is there to coordinate your child’s educational, health and social needs and it also sets out any additional support that they may need. To me its a mind field, another obstacle which I have to try and hurdle over but with amazing people behind me and with the right knowledge I will go blindly forth and try and get my daughter the support that she needs to keep progressing and being able to live as normally as she can and be able to access everything there is to offer in this world.

img_0563
Hanging around in her hammock

Then couple this with the impending transition to high school and I feel like a first timer when in fact this is my third child to go to high school. In reality I think I am unprepared mentally in the back of my mind we are not near that stage but in reality we are. This period in our lives has crept up on me so quickly that I haven’t had time to process it never mind my daughter although after a positive look around the school she hasn’t mentioned high school since. With my older two its all they talked about for months before starting year 7. Here in lies my biggest worry as I am unprepared and so is she and it also makes me realise that maybe some part of me has not fully been able to process that my daughter has special needs. Does that make me a bad parent, I don’t think so its just I have tried to stay strong and keep things together and try and make life as normal as I can for my family when in fact I am scared that if I drop a thread our whole family existence will start to unravel like it did 4 years ago.

Raising disabled children is a juggling act. There are so many balls that I am afraid to drop but I have managed to keep them all in the air so far but when there are balls added like high school, the EHCP, new appointments, referrals I am so worried that at some point I am going to drop something and as a parent thats what I have nightmares about.

So tip to myself…..look after myself, take a break, delegate, ask for help, have a massage

take care

x Leanne X

ADHD super Power….Hyper Focus

Sitting here listening to the steady beat of the raindrops outside I am transported to a place of quiet and relaxation and harmony. Hang on a minute its the half term holidays!!!!! whats going on even when my other three children are outside playing my daughter with ADD is always about hanging on my every word, movement, talking non stop, being bored wether she is medicated or not as she does not cope well with the change in routine that is the school holidays.

 Panic stations creep in maybe she has gone outside without me knowing or maybe she is downstairs with the scissors for art and omg I left her unsupervised ARGH

Heart in mouth I literally leg it downstairs and then stop dead. When will I learn….its nothing bad. You see 30 minutes ago I came upstairs while she was starting another one of her art projects. Art is her passion she loves to draw and make and show. Biased mummy that I am I even have some of her pictures on the wall framed. So amongst the turbulent feelings that split second of realisation has caused I realise I left my daughter to do arts and crafts and as far as I know she is still there. Of course this does not stop the panic… having a child who is impulsive means hardly a minute goes by without me worrying what she is going to do next and even though she is nearly 11 that has not changed, factor in the memory, concentration and emotional factors of ADHD/ADD its hard to grasp this alien concept that means she can stay focussed and in one place for more than 5 minutes.

img_0344
Art is definitely a Focus….

Whats this I hear you say….shes’s sitting still, concentrating, focused on one thing instead a myriad of different tasks in a matter of minutes. Maybe the ADD / ADHD is not there? Maybe its a misdiagnosis well no its actually something that is real and quite amazing and known by some as an ADHD super power…. Its called Hyperfocus…

What is Hyperfocus?

A short definition from http://www.healthline.com is

“Hyper focus is the experience of deep and intense concentration in some people with ADHD. ADHD is not necessarily a deficit of attention, but rather a problem with regulating one’s attention span to desired tasks. So, while mundane tasks may be difficult to focus on, others may be completely absorbing”

I can see why this symptom of ADHD could be misinterpreted. Heck I didnt even know it existed until I started a course in ADHD awareness. I was never told by the ADHD nurse about Hyper focus. I spent moments grappling with my decision to medicate and attend appointment’s when this symptom popped up, was I wrong was she in fact fine and not have a neurodevelopment disorder??  I thought she was just being stubborn. Talk about learning something new everyday and giving your self a heart attack. There is no way I would have put Hyper focus as part of the ADHD.

What does Hyper focus mean for my daughter and us?

Firstly hyper focus affects us all. This peculiar symptom of ADHD can cause arguments and stress within the family. My daughter is so focussed on the task at hand that sometimes its a real struggle to get her to move onto something else. In the case of art work this is fine I don’t mind her doing art for as long as she likes as she is expressing herself and learning from the environment but its when the hyper focus gets stuck on things like the maths games on the laptop. Again you would not necessarily think that would be an issue but when she is so focussed on finishing first one level then the next and so on and so on it is very difficult to try and get her to relinquish the laptop so that she can do reading which is just as important for her to do as it builds her knowledge of language and aides her language skills. Plus she becomes completely shut of from the world around her and as the definition says very absorbed, yes she is quiet but she also can’t answer questions and can become angry and frustrated if the laptop is taken away as it is every evening at least an hour if not more before bed.

Hyper focus can be viewed by some as an amazing ability and it is when its in the right context and its something that empowers my daughter. The amazing confidence and love that she has for the art that she does is an amazing thing. There are times that I love to sit and watch the magic take hold of her. Watching a picture emerge and seeing the focus and dedication she gives the project to make it the best she can is amazing. But for those of us around a child or adult who has it its also frustrating, annoying, upsetting, it winds up siblings, it quite frankly winds me up sometimes. Nasty arguments that can start as a result of someone trying to join in with my daughter are not for the faint hearted. Its almost like she is startled out of a trance and that invokes all sorts of feelings to bubble up due to the interruption, her concentration is broken and it can feel like hell on earth.

So Super power or not?

I think that it is a super power if it can be directed in a positive way but as with everything there will be days when the super power strikes and its the villain not the hero who has come out to play and to be honest i am not sure how I really feel about that…..

take care

x leanne x

 

 

Christmas Magic… ADD Mayhem

So Christmas is coming…..we started elf on the shelf mid November and been counting down since 98 sleeps till Santa. I feel all Santa’ed out already and we are only on the 1st December. How do I have a child who lives with short term memory problems but can remember every day that santa is coming soon? If I believed in magic I would say it’s magical but it is more down to obsession than it is fairy magic.

p1030754
Christmas Magic

What I do love about this time of the year is the enthusiasm and the magic that Christmas still holds for my daughter who has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) . She is 10 and still a firm believer that the elf comes alive at night and that santa brings her presents Christmas Eve. We have written and sent our Royal Mail letter to santa and she is eagerly awaiting a reply which in itself causes problems as she gets upset that the letter hasn’t arrived yet and very day I we wait I wonder if it was worth telling her and sending the letter.

In a society where most children grow up very fast I love that she is still able to hang onto a little childhood magic even if it does drive me mad. So top tips for managing a super excited ADD child 😊

  • Try not to curb their enthusiasm yes it’s only December 1st but if Christmas is something they are excited about I have discovered that it’s also a big motivator. Early elfs on the shelf truly can be magical especially if the elf does something naughty which the child relates to and it can even for a second make them realise a particular thing was naughty for example our daughter wrote on the wall so the elf wrote on her drawers in flour. She immediately told the elf off and so I explained that this situation was similar to what she had done. It’s baby steps to helping understanding.
  • Countdowns are great. Most phones can now down load sleeps to santa apps and these are great for ADD/ADHD for giving them a visual countdown. My daughter checks it several times a day but is comforted by the visual countdown.
  • Advent calendars we don’t tend to have. Tried them a few times and they got eaten in one day. This year I have decided to buy them one and use it as a reward but we shall see if it works otherwise it may be a case of mummy gets to eat lots of chocolate.
  • School holidays for us the kids break up on the 16th December this leaves a whole week of disturbed routine which will have an effect on how my daughter thinks and feels. This is when….”is it Christmas? when is santa coming?” Will start. I plan to have lots of activities and making days with them this week leading up to Xmas day. Yellow moon have lots of amazing craft sets that are very reasonably priced. This won’t solve the issue but will hopefully keep the kids entertained long enough for daddy to get home from work 😂
  • Wrap up warm and go for walks when the sun shines. Break up the monotony of a boring routineless day by getting out for even just a 10 minute walk. Remember when in school they have 15 minute break times. Try to emulate the structure of school as much as possible as this may help with the anxiety of them being at home and in close quarters with siblings.

Don’t get me wrong this holiday like any other will have me likely tearing out my hair with sibling arguements, behaviour issues, frustration and just down right anger but as always and as a mum I will do my best to keep the peace and try and ensure that everyone has a great Christmas. By the end of it I will need some serious pampering and so really need to get my massage treatment booked in ASAP 💆.

IMG_0482

You see there is no day off when you raise disabled children. The problems that are there don’t disappear on Christmas Eve. You still have to be a mum and dad and teach your children and comfort them and care for them. Supporting them in school, trying to get the right care for them, doing your best as a parents. If I was Scrooge I would say that Christmas just adds to the stress, anxiety and frustration especially for us parents. I haven’t even started wrapping presents yet and I have usually finished them by November. I have just been so caught up in my children’s needs and care, work and family that I just don’t have anymore to give at the minute. This makes me look like a miserable cow, someone that lets people down last minute but I just feel so weary and like I am holding my head just above the water. These are the dark days that I talk about in previous blogs. These are the days where I need my arse kicked by someone like my husband or sister. These are the days that are alright to feel, they are not wrong, they are not taboo but neither are they novel. It stinks to feel so crappy one minute and ok the next. But it does not make you a failure, it makes you stronger and it makes you a better parent.

Take care

X Leanne x

Be An Angry Mother Bear

Having a child with a disability can add strain to family and friend relationships. You’ll need patience, resilience and sometimes an iron will to get you through the day. You will get angry, You will cry and some days you will feel at your wits end with comments said, looks given and you will feel some days you have no support what so ever. Support is a two way thing I have fond you have to give and receive even when raising disabled children. People can’t support you if they don’t understand what is going on.

img_0840
families

One thing is for certain I have learnt this the hard way. As human’s we need a support network around us, we need people around us who make us feel safe, loved and cared for and who can at times share the burden. This can be friends, family and even the professionals involved in our children care. For me personally building this support newtwork has taken years and I could only do it once I had accepted that my children are different and that their well being and happiness is more important than how I feel others perceive me. Don’t push people away like I did and don’t hide, be proud of who you are and who your children are.

From my experience raising a child with disabilities can take a toll on you, your relationships with partners and family and can also affect friendships. This is especially true for those who come up against prejudice and ignorance from those around them, harsh I know but its true. People may have a tougher time in understanding and accepting that your child has a disability.

  • They just do not understand and its this lack of understanding that in some cases can cause strife and upset.
  •  ADD and ADHD  used to be termed as a naughty child. It is now slowly getting the recognition that it is a real unseen disability but that change is not quick enough.
  • They may feel as awkward and unsure of what to do around you and your child as you do. I still feel I don’t understand what is going on inside my child’s head some days how can I expect her aunt or grandparents to?
  • I know people who don’t really understand what ADD is and it is not confined to a particular generation either. It is hard to try and explain and we are not medical professionals so my advice would be to speak from your heart. Let them see the good and the bad and make up their own choice.
  • There is so much media on ADD and ADHD with everyone having a say its sometimes difficult and confusing. I find getting people involved and not being afraid to show the harder side of parenting ADD much more effective. Let people in and their empathy will show through.

Don’t listen to the negative though, it’s your child.  Be an angry mother bear if you need too but just remember not all people think the same and that although some people are just ignorant, that there are others who genuinely just don’t understand….

For a long time I tried to cope alone!! I felt embarrassed that my children were different, I felt anger at the world and it has taken me a long time to not only accept that my children have disabilities but to also accept that I am in no way a failure and that they are each a bright burning star who will forge their own paths and be amazing.  Going through the motions of going to hospital appointments and caring for your children can at the beginning fill the void of family, friends and a support network but there is no substitute for that support.

Its hard yes and its frustrating and sometimes its down right annoying when people comment or do something you don’t expect. I get angry, I cry and I get stressed. Its natural but instead of hitting out I find myself just smiling at them and reminding them what amazing children I have.

I hope the people in my life accept me for who I am and if they don’t then tuff shit because I  am going to be the best mother to my children and to cope with what ever life throws at us regardless.

X Leanne X