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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This is My Life……Mum in Nose Dive

Its me,

I’ve been so quiet lately and its time to admit that I am struggling. I am struggling to work, look after the girls, the husband, the house, the animals. I’m struggling to sleep and function, feeling like I am on the edge of a vast black hole. I’m so tired of fighting to get the best for my family, so tired of being told “no we can’t help” or “no you don’t meet the criteria”, “no we can’t do this” and “no there isn’t anything we can do”. The last month has felt like I have been hit from all angles, medically with my health, financially trying to budget as I haven’t been able to do the job I love as much, housing cause god forbid I live in a housing association house which is too small as we are always outpaced and out priced trying to get a mortgage and then when I had to give up full time work to be a carer well enough said, then theres the girls and their daily struggles with their disabilities, hormones, education and emotions.

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You see my health has taken the proverbial dive and now everyone starts acting like meerkats sticking up their heads offering help when the time comes, waiting like vultures to see what my diagnosis will be at the end of the month and it makes me feel sick. We have never asked for anything, whats the point when there are parents with children who have bigger struggles than ours who don’t get the help and support and having tried to get EHCP’s in place twice I just gave up. Professionals always like to look like they are trying to help and refer you but after waiting months for a reply they come back with “your Childs needs are not bad enough” what the hell does that even mean???? why does everything have to take so long and why do they still never really listen to you?

Council has been at it with “No you can’t have a grant as your daughter already has her own room “- yes but we have two other disabled children in a room with their 3rd sister? “no we can’t help unless you are diagnosed with epilepsy then yes please do get in touch” – really whats the point? now all of a sudden theres a risk I may need help with my children and your willing to help us? no thanks we will manage like we always do.

Its hurtful and painful to be judged at every angle to be made to fit the same tick boxes as thousands of other parents and children who need support. We don’t all fit the same bloody box, we are all individual and its about time that someone in 2018 makes a change, is it any wonder that the mental well being of our children and their parents is taking a dive? I fully admit I am exhausted, I have looked after my disabled children for nearly 12 years with no support and I will be doing so for the rest of my life with at least one of them who will I suspect always need support.

My caring duties have been to learn how to clean and maintain hearing aids ( people go to university to learn this), attend countless appointments, meet with doctors and teachers, deal with behaviours that challenge, memory issues, and more besides. You ask for help and assessments but are told that because she has ADD they won’t assess her as “it won’t make any different” well of course it would, it would help us get the right support that we need to help us at home and in school. All this is going on and then another daughter is having the same issues and breaking my heart every day because she has no friends and no one understands her, she struggles educationally and emotionally, tells me she is rubbish and thats before they all have to stand and watch mummy having absence seizures. Can we get support for them? nope, not until its to late and I end up being diagnosed, then again what if its just stress (hoping it is) how am I going to make lifestyle changes to help reduce stress? Nothing is going to change, no one will help us……

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I really do feel like that abyss is getting ever closer and being housebound for the last couple of months yes I think I am going a little crazy, even without the car I still have to ensure theres food, the girls and husband have what they need, medication is ordered, appointments made, checked and kept, schools updated, work and try to live while feeling like I am sinking a little more each day. Everyone says they understand but they don’t really, professionals like to think they do as they have had to go to university to learn what its like for us. They don’t have to live day in day out with disabled children and guess what most of us parents who have done those parenting courses and have life experience and if like me you do the college courses then actually are we not better placed and more qualified than someone who sees it from the outside?

My friends are brilliant and are always there to support me as much as they can as are my family who are amazing, but I always feel like I am putting on them. My sisters have their own families and lives to live, my husband is amazing and really trying to be supportive but I still feel like crap. He now has to work full time and do the running around and I worry if we are strong enough to overcome yet another obstacle. Can our marriage survive another hit? we spilt up once when it got tough and there was no way out, its statistically more likely that families like ours break up, its even expected…..

Why is it so hard?

xx Leanne xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care of yourselves, be kind to yourselves

Xx Leanne xx

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

Sometimes I cry…Raising Disabled Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

xx Leanne XX

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