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

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You, Me and ADHD

 

Putting my hand up in class….no way
Going up on a stage to preform….not me
Talking to people I don’t know…is there anything worse
Feeling out of depth in new situations…yep me

 

This use to be me and I bet its a lot of other people out there too. I had the confidence of a gnat growing up and into my early adulthood, and even then I think a gnat would have slightly more. I use to be shy, hated talking to people I didn’t know, would always be the one on the edge of the group, nodding and smiling wishing I was anywhere but. Having children at first didn’t change this. Yes I went to toddler group’s but made sure I went with someone I knew. I hated going to the weigh in clinic and I never asked question’s and I just did what I was told.


To be told that your child has a disability, special need’s and needs regular check up’s, investigations and so forth didn’t really change how meeting new people made me feel. I hated every appointment in the beginning, would nod my head and give permission but it was like there was someone else inside me answering. I would get butterflies on the way to the hospital for hearing check up’s and get myself all worked up, I would sweat, feel sick and then I would break down on the way home, disappointed in myself as there were questions I wanted to ask and I was too afraid to ask them.

For me I realised that this had to change, that I had to become the carer and voice that my children needed me to be. My daughter was 2 when she was formally diagnosed with a hearing loss and 7 when she was diagnosed ADHD. A big change in my confidence, and strength levels was needed.


I started by accessing online forum’s, talking to people online started to give me the confidence to get the answer’s I needed from the people we were dealing with in our daughter’s care. Being on a forum also gave me confidence to talk to people about my experiences and also to offer advice to those just starting out on their journey with parenting a child with disabilities.

One big recommendation would be to have a note pad and pen and jot things down that the doctors and specialist’s say in case you want to research them and keep that notepad in your handbag, coat pocket so that if you think of anything you can then remember to ask at the next appointment. Its easy to forget long words and to in some cases zone out when you are given news to process, and having to wait weeks for the write up letter to come through so you can remember can sometimes put you on edge.

I had to dig down deep but I decided that I needed to put my children first instead of my own discomfort at talking to people. I became my daughter’s advocate, her voice in a world where adult’s make nearly every decision for her. My confidence does still waver from time to time but I remember that I am doing it for these four amazing girls who are all looking to me to be their role model and for the families who are diagnosed daily and are placed in the same position I was …no way am I letting them down.


If you want to know more, please do follow our blog at http://www.leannesihm.wordpress.com

 

Massage and sleep

Does massage encourage sleep?

We were those parents who struggled nightly with trying to get our daughter to sleep. Facing the tantrums, the tears, the heart wrenching sobbing and the ear splitting screams. We faced the ever depresssing ebb and flow of emotions from anger to frustration to just total exhaustion. 

Bedtime hygiene……

As a parent I submitted to the specialists and did everything that they told me to do….religiously 

  • No computers, TV, games console, phone, or any other electronic device
  • Black out blinds
  • No night lights 
  • Same bedtime hour
  • Soothing baths, bedtime strories, classical music, snacks, drinks 
  • Medication


I went on sleep courses where I felt like a failure as the rules never seemed to apply to my daughter. It became frustrating and to be honest I stopped going as nothing was making any difference. Our daughter was stressed out and so was I. 

Next step…

Late one night while my daughter was still trying to go to sleep I was googling for help and advice. Firstly what strikes me is that a lot of the research and information available is based on studies in America. While speaking to parents over the years sleep problems are a significant issue here in Britain so why are the specialists here not better able to help us. Why are we given medication and told to get on with it? Why are we told to attend courses to teach us what we are already doing? When will doctors accept that for some children sleep is a real medical issue and not parents making up symptoms in the hopes of a quick cure to make our lives better??

While researching one sleep deprived, weary night I came across mentions of massage. This is something that I had never considered before but having come out the other side of relationship problems, feeling insecure but determined with the thought of doing something for myself appealing I booked onto an Indian Head massage course. 

My Nephew enjoying 5 minutes of massage

The course took 3 months to complete and with my daughters permission I used her as a case study. Well wow from the very first massage move my daughter was a little less tense, a little less stressed and that night along with her medication she went to bed and actually slept. Well like you I thought it was a fluke but as the course progressed and my skills became more fluent and skilled we noticed a big diffrence in bedtimes. 

Don’t get me wrong massage is not a cure, sometimes it will work but others it won’t. The biggest thing for me is that it encourages the bond between me and my daughter. It’s time that we can spend together, relaxing. Massage also helps to relax me which in turn has a positive effect on my daughter. You see if I am angry and stressed she bounces off that, once I calm down I have noticed she does too. 

How can I use massage at home….


Massage does not mean that you have to go and train. A massage could be a back rub, twirling hair at bedtime, it’s about positive touch. For those who would like a bit more structure then I recommend story massage. You can learn 10 simple massage moves that you can use with any song, story, rhyme and can be used anytime anywhere not just at bedtime. We use storey massage all the time from camping to the doctors. Massage can help reduce tension and stress, can help to calm and refocus and with the story massage you can have fun with your children creating massage stories and….

Best of all mums and dads your children can share a massage with you!!!

If you would like to find out more or just wants chat please do contact me

Xx Leanne xx

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

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

Perfect Parent, imperfect parent….Really??!!

 Is there any such thing as perfect parenting? Or is it just an outdated way of trying to make parents tick all the boxes and, when we can’t, making us parents feel like failures?For those without disabled children the list of guides, self-help books, factsheets and social media sites are endless. Round every corner there is advice for you to follow and ways to achieve that title of the perfect parent. For those of us with disabled children there is not so much out there on perfect parenting, but as a parent one thing is abundantly clear to me…. not every child is the same regardless of whether they are disabled or not and not every child is the one you will read about in baby books. Why? Because they are all as unique as each other. Having four children really makes you see this. Not one of them has developed at the same rate, according to statistics, or even experience life and their environment in the same way. 

 

I could read a range of fact sheets, views, blogs, and websites and feel that I am a failure as a parent. I can look at the parents around me and compare my parenting skills to theirs and find myself lacking when it comes to being that perfect parent. I have high spirited girls who love to interact with the world around them but because they have hearing loss they are louder, one has ADHD so her behaviour is not the same as everyone else, she stands out but that does not make me an imperfect parent!!! It makes me a parent, a human being, a person doesn’t it? 

How can there be a thing called perfect parenting? Don’t most mums and dads  think they are doing the best that they can? The media, social media, specialist’s and family members all play a huge part in making us feel like we have to conform to the image of a perfect parent when in fact we are all as unique as our children and as a parent of four girls I feel I am learning new ways to parent my children every day by trial and error not by following some guide or book on the subject. 

 The last 13 years have really been a learning curve and it’s been really hard to not compare myself to that perfect parenting idea where your children do what is considered the right thing/way to do something… treading water here as I can honestly say I have not read a parenting book since my eldest was four years old. Saying that, light hearted programmes are now being made such as the recent “Parenting for idiots” on channel 4 showing even famous faces have parenting blunders. This makes me smile but makes me wonder why we still try to live up to expectation which leads us to doubt ourselves and can in some cases lead us parents to feel like we cannot cope!

 Raising our children today is very different from when my parents raised me 30 years ago, more of us parents work, technology plays a huge part in our lives and parenting has changed with advances in knowledge. Surely it’s time to be more accepting and not put people into boxes, classifications or categories. In my opinion there shouldn’t be this pressure to be like everyone else. We shouldn’t feel pressured to conform to a set of ideals which we can be seen as failing in. None of us are failures. Religion, age, personality, traditions; we’re all unique so why can’t our parenting skills be viewed as unique? 

I feel perfect parenting is sneaking into your child’s room at the end of the day to gaze on them sleeping and feeling a huge rush of love for them no matter what has been thrown at you that day, its taking care of them, protecting them even when you have hospital visits and you don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s watching them grow and learn and being there to catch them when they fall.


 Parenting skills and Disabled children……

Having disabled children who are seen as different and challenging really impacts on how society views me. One noticeable trait of being a mum to a child with hearing loss means that I have to speak louder than other mums. This used to be really embarrassing when out with other parents at toddler groups etc., my children are louder than others and the old saying children should be seen and not heard would never fit with my girls. Then there’s ADHD which has so much stigma attached to it mostly due to the way it has been viewed in the past as a naughty child and of course that old philosophy of bad parenting.

Am I a bad parent? Does struggling to raise a unique, beautiful child struggling day to day with memory loss, impulsiveness and a range of associated ADHD comorbidities make me an imperfect parent? I do not view myself as the perfect parent but I am not a failure because of it. I try to remember that I am unique, I am not perfect but I am raising my children the best way that I can with help from friends and family and being the best mum that I can be. 
X Leanne x 

http://www.leannesihm.wordpress.com 

 

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