Sunday, January 22, 2017

What not to say to a special needs parent

We've all had some unwanted advice, reactions, and opinions regarding our situations  and here are some of my *not-so* favorites...

1. "Oh but they look so normal"


ummmm... thanks?

2. "I never would have guessed!"



3. "Have you tried changing their diet?"


Thank you but assume we have tried it all!

4. "They need more discipline"


right... I hadn't thought of that...

5. "vaccines can cause autism"

please just go away.

6. "They never had any of these disabilities when I was young"


They did. Only people were institutionalised for it, labeled as "problem children", shunned from society, and symptoms of many disabilities were unknown to many doctors until recent years.

7. When someone apologises for your child's disabilities. 

While I know many peoples intentions are good, it's not the greatest things to hear when we are a special needs parent.  I would love to hear some of your alternatives!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Self Regulation

Dealing with emotions can be so hard for our babes on the spectrum.  Helping them understand what each emotion is and offering some coping strategies is one of the biggest gifts we can give them.  Understanding emotions in critical with helping their social skills and with self regulation.

Self regulation is basically the ability to calm yourself down and to recognise when you need to.

My daughter did a 6 week self regulation course in late 2014 through her speech therapist.  It was conducted with a group of 4 girls around her age and they learned different techniques each week.  It gave her a small insight but it helped me greatly in knowing what I could be doing as her mum to help encourage this.

Her emotional age is between 4-6 years of age (she is 9 years old.)  My neurotypical son is 5 years old and the techniques I use with her are also fun for him too.

While on Pinterest (a.k.a the bible) I stumbled across an amazing blog Teach Mama which had a brilliant FREE printable for emotion activities based on the movie Inside Out.   I quickly printed the cards out and I wrote on the back of each card some strategies for each emotion tailored to my daughter specifically.  for example a strategy for Anger was to take 5 deep breaths, count backwards from 10, sip on some cool water, punch her punching bag, eat some crunch foods.  I also added a new emotion jealousy as that is something she really struggles with.  I laminated a set for a key-ring for her and I also made a set to play memory games etc.

If you haven't watched the movie Inside out yet, I strongly recommend it.  Make sure you watch it with them so you can look for talking points for later on.

Talk to your kids about their different levels of emotions.  Draw a scale or thermometer and write down with them or draw if they can not read how they look or behave when they are 'cool' or 'calm' then work your way up the scale/temperatures.  Mark on the scale where they think they need to implement their calming techniques.

We are no strangers to calming techniques in this household.  Some that I would suggest are:

  • crunch foods
  • jumping on a trampoline
  • jumping into a crash-mat
  • meditation/calm music
  • a shower
  • ear muffs or eye mask
  • talking it out
Each technique would be used in different situations and its best to use your discretion when suggesting what would suit the scenario best.   For example: trying to get a child to 'talk it out' when they are seeing red would probably not help at all, that's when calming senses is needed.

For a small calming boost I have been using Doterra lavender oils on her pillow and around the house too.

I'm Back!

I’m afraid I have been a terrible blogger.  When my daughter received her formal autism diagnosis 18 months ago it was like I fell down the rabbit hole.  I became so consumed in research, therapies, and basically just attempting to cope through it all that the only blogging I have really done since then is all in my mind.  The funny thing about only blogging in my mind though is that no one can actually hear my thoughts, so now, I promise to you all, I’m going to do my best to attempt to actually type it out to share with you. 

For 18 months now we have been essentially stuck in survival mode as her development continued to regress but regardless of the bloody hard time we have been having, I will still endeavor to show you the brighter side of special needs.  

Her complete diagnosis now is:
Autism Spectrum Disorder (level 2)
Opposition Defiance Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder
Anxiety and Depression 
With her unique diagnosis comes very complex treatments making sure one doesn't contradict the other.  Each special needs child is different from another.  What I try/do for my daughter will not necessarily work for another however our experiences may inspire some ideas for your family.

During my time away from this blog I have learned so many great things through trial and error, (more) research, and from our incredible specialists so I will start sharing those things with you all too! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Weight of the World on your Shoulders

Many of you may have heard of weighted cushions, vests, and blankets before.  They are a great calming tool for many kids on the spectrum.  Here is a simple DIY project of how to make your own weighted cushion:

What you'll need: Fabric of your little ones choice, calico or another strong fabric, rice (I used 3kgs), and patience for sewing! 

Step one: So that this can be made to your own specific size, lay out the desired weight of rice along the calico so you can use that as a base for your measurements.  I felt 3kgs would be a good weight for Maddy so that's what we went with (you can make this as big or as small as you desire - within reason of course!)

Step two: Sew up the end of the calico twice to ensure none of the rice sneak out!


Step Three: Fill up the calico bag with the 3 kilos of rice or alternatively to keep the rice spread out evenly fill with 1kg then sew a line to divide and continue with the 2nd and 3rd kg bags of rice sectioning off between them also. 

Step Four: Once you have secured the rice in there with the most extreme end stitching you can do, lay it flat on the table to measure the cover fabric.  Ensure one of the sides of the cover fabric is slightly longer so that you can achive a 'pillow like' close when the cover is put on.

Step Five: Admire how cute it looks!

I decided to make 2 separate covers so that we can remove and clean if there are spills etc.  This also meant that Maddy got to choose more fabric which she will never complain about!

Here is our second cover
It is recommended not to exceed 10% of your child's body weight when getting them used to weighted therapy (which is why I chose 3kgs for my daughter.)  They should use it during such activities like: Start of the day, during written work or homework, during stressful activities (base this on what you child feels anxious about whether it be meeting new people or doing the shopping), at the end of the day, during special classes such as music or art. The time shouldn't be more than an hour and there should be at least an hour break in between uses. 

The weighted cushion that I have created here is suited for her to use at home or at school.  I designed it to be long because I intend to use it three different ways.  The first being when she is laying down on the couch with her feet up and the cushion on her lap at the start and end of the day, the second is on her shoulders when she is feeling anxious, and the third is across her lap when she is sitting at her desk at home or at school.

** Disclaimer** These weighted cushions should be used with direction or advice of a therapist, and should only be used while under adult supervision - in case you didn't already know :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our top 10 Awesome Fine Motor Skill Activities

Fine Motor Skills? What are they? Here is a quick explanation from good old Wikipedia: 

Fine motor skill is the coordination of small muscle movements which occur in body parts such as the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. In relation to motor skills of hands and fingers, the term dexterity is commonly used. When applied to the theory of human aptitude, this is called "manual dexterity". The high level of manual dexterity that humans exhibit can be attributed to the manner in which manual tasks are controlled by the nervous system.

Making fine motor skill activities fun is very important to keep your little one interested and involved.  Here are my daughters personal top ten:

1. Threading beads onto pipe cleaners

2. Making pasta necklaces - don't forget to paint the pasta first for an added fine motor activity!

3. Building a castle with duplo (or lego if old enough and not likely to mouth the small pieces)

4. lacing pipe cleaners through a colander - A good activity for when you are cooking dinner so they are still being supervised by you but sitting safely out of the way completing their activity.

5. Finger painting (you are never too old to finger paint!)

6. Alphabet modeling out of play dough (forming each letter of the alphabet one by one out of play dough - can also extend the activity to make names and words) If your little one is like mine and will eat the play dough make sure you purchase a non toxic version or better yet, make your own.

7. Stacking cups upside down to make a tower (can use the game jenga too but don't have high hopes as this is very tricky for sensory kiddos - who am I kidding, its tricky for me too!)   

8. Painting with water - on the concrete outside down on all fours with a paintbrush and container of water to dip in - this also helps with core strength which in turn can help strengthen crossing the midline.

9. Painting with ear buds (Q-tips) my 3 year old son also loves to do this one.

AND last but not least, my daughters favorite.......

10. Painting nails!! What little girl wouldn't love to do this! (and boy for that matter!) excellent way to practice crossing their midline while exercising a very precise fine motor skill activity.  Let them choose their colour and compliment the great job they are doing throughout the process.  You could even let them do your nails!

My daughter is 7 years old so these are good activities for her age group and her low level of fine motor ability.  They can be done by preschool age an above! As she progresses and grows up we will extend her activities to things such as sewing and baking.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

DIY Crash Mat - OT

For tumbling, squashing, jumping or just lounging around, Crash mats are the ultimate sensory play tool when it comes to OT.  Crash mats don't come cheap so here is a quick step-by-step guide to how we made our crash mat.  

Step one: What you need - a bag of foam offcuts (can be purchased from Clark Rubber for $30) You can also cut up an old foam mattress etc.  2 single bed quilt covers, scissors, a chair to hold it open.

Step two: Cut up the foam into cube pieces, its not as easy as it sounds so to save time I would cut half the piece then continue to rip them apart - it doesn't have to look pretty.

Step three: Hold the first quilt cover open by hanging it on the back of a chair and begin to fill with the super pretty cubes of foam.

Step four: once its full, close it up and then stuff it backwards into the second quilt cover so no foam will be exposed or fall out.  Its a bit tricky stuffing the full quilt into the empty one so may require a second person to help or to keep you calm while you do it haha

Having the two layers of quilts keeps all the foam in and it also makes cleaning it much easier.

I was able to be given some hand-me-down quilt covers so they didn't cost me anything but I did check at the local op shops and single quilt covers are usually no more than $5 each.  Therefore this whole crash mat cost $40 or less which means a saving of roughly $80 compared to a bought sensory crash mat.

Maddy's OT has several crash mats made from this same technique!
There isn't a day that goes by where the crash mat isn't used at home.  The activities that it can be used for are endless.  A quick one to start the day is if you have a trampoline, pop the crash mat on there and get your sensory kiddo to 'splat' on it like a star fish a few times.  Its fun for them but it also the 'splat' restarts their senses when they are having sensory overload by jolting deep pressure into the muscles and joints.  Another way to use it is to squash them by folding the crash mat around them (like making a Maddy burrito!)  I think my personal favorite is to lay on it and watch a good movie! :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Super Awesome Sensory Rooms!

Sensory rooms! Aren't they just amazing!? Imagine being able to do OT whenever you like with complete ease!! 

A sensory room is a luxury most families can not afford but don't let that put you off, there are so many little sensory tools that you can have in the home.  I am a renter so I can't have anything major for OT like a suspended swing or hammock from the roof or the walls painted a certain colour but I can however have a trampoline in the back yard which is a brilliant OT tool, there is also a possibility of a mini trampoline for indoors (the type your mum used in the 70's and 80's for really cool aerobics) They are around $50 at Big W or Kmart and are great for fidgeting kids to burn off some energy. We have one in front of the television so my daughter is able to watch a movie while moving around.  I've been looking around on Pinterest at sensory rooms and found some amazing ones I just have to share with you!

The first one is my personal favorite with the padded floor, so many climbing options and a great sized suspended platform swing.  I could just imagine my kids spending all day in there and loving every second of it! 

For the rest of us that obviously can't have something like this in our own home (I'd assume none of these are in an actual house anyway!) its a great idea to still develop a 'safe space' for your child.  When its all getting a bit too much for them they have somewhere to retreat to while they calm down their senses.  This can be as simple as a pop up tent or a structure made out of PVC pipes to form a small room within a room (fabric would make the walls around the PVC piping).  Some of you may have seen the black pop up tents for sale at many sensory shops which are used to block out the sensory overload, here is a link of what I mean:

As a cheaper alternative, Crayola came out with a glow tent a couple of years ago which was never intended for sensory help but its a much more affordable option.  Its also a black tent (slightly smaller) where they can draw inside with glow pens.  This is an ideal calming activity for a fraction of the price. Here is a link:

If you are looking to spend even less, I did a quick search on gumtree and ebay and they are also available there second hand.

So basically, Although you may never have a sensory room as such, you can still find affordable and fun ways to provide excellent OT/Sensory input with some simple DIY and research! 

What would you have in your sensory room???