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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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

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

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

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

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……

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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.

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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.

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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