Sunday, 7 February 2016

Finding support in the community

7 of the kids and I recently had the opportunity to attend the movie "Kung Fu Panda 3" hosted by the Canucks Autism Network.  The Canucks Autism Network supports individuals and families effected by autism by providing sports, recreational, arts and social programs for individuals and families living with autism in communities throughout British Columbia.  They also promote awareness and training regarding autism and have a library of resources available to support families.

The movie was the first event that we have attended by this network and I was extremely impressed by them.  There was no cost involved for anyone wishing to attend this event, including free popcorn and a drink, but even more importantly they had autism staff willing and available to help with any needs.  The movie was played at a quieter volume, they kept a low level of lighting on during the entire show and they did not play any previews which limited the time patrons needed to sit and watch the movie.  The autism network also includes all family members including siblings that do not have a diagnosis which is a tremendous benefit to us.  In our family 3 children are diagnosed with autism however many others have challenges that benefit from extra support and this is an enviroment where they would not stand out.   Other activities hosted by the autism network do have minimal costs but they appear very reasonable and family friendly.  We are hoping to get more involved with them in the near future.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Santa's reindeer came to visit!

The other day I wrote about the crafts and sales my son has been doing.  Yesterday he decided to set up a table at the end of our driveway with the hopes of selling his creations.  Business started out very slow, so his brother came up with a couple ideas for attracting customers - 1st dress in a Santa suit and 2nd wave and sing to attract attention.  These ideas did attract a bit of attention but not as much as when a neighbourhood elk arrived to check out the crafts and nibble at the center pieces.

The pictures taken have produced even more attention.  The pictures are going viral, our son had an interview with a radio station, a television news station booked an interview and 2 newspapers have asked to use the pictures.  Our son has been so excited by all the media attention and everyone that knows him have been saying its a good thing there were pictures and witnesses or this would sound like another one of his creative tales.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Scarce programing for special needs leads to creative thinking!

For most having a child become an adult is an exciting time with the young adult venturing out into the world and thoughts of an empty nest for the parents.  When your child has special needs this can be a very challenging time, now what are they going to do?  We now have 3 in this category and it's difficult, the schools, clubs and activities they once attended no longer welcome them as a participant now that they are an "adult".  They don't have the prerequisites required for college, university or a job.  Their peers are venturing out, starting their adult life while they are at home wondering what has happened.  With the current state of funding being cut and not enough resources to go around we have needed to be creative and combine options to help fulfill our children's days and our requirements.  We have a rule in our family that you are up by 7:30am during the week and doing something productive that does not include video games, television or naps.

For 2 of our adults we were able to take advantage of the extremely well hidden information in the provicinal education program policy. (I really recommend reading the policies of any program your children are in and make sure you know your rights and options)

 To be eligible, Adult non-graduate students with special needs must be working towards goals set out in their Individual Education Plan (IEP) and:
  • have been reported on the Form 1701 in the prior school year (i.e. they are continuing their K-12 education program uninterrupted from when they were still school age), and;
  • be continuing their program at the same school (i.e. they are continuing their K-12 education program uninterrupted at the same school leading towards a B.C. Certificate of Graduation, the B.C. Adult Graduation Diploma or the School Completion Certificate Program from when they were still school age).

The public schools around here usually fight this policy but being a homeschool family this enables them to continue having a funded education support person (at home), therapies and programs.  The policy doesn't state a time limit and we are currently on year 2 with one adult and hope to continue as adult special needs funding is scarce for other programs.  In addition to school funding we were able to secure a position for one adult in a day program twice a week, another adult was able to gain funding for a support person for 12 hours per week and the third adult we are still working towards funded support.

We have decided to mix up their learning this year to reflect their desire to earn and income and continue learning the K-12 education.  With their support workers/education assistants we are working on income generating projects, for the last month part of the day includes craft making and attending various craft fairs.  With the help of Pinterest I have been able to come up with crafts that don't take a huge amount of skill or expense that have become profitable.  With the speed that our adults work and their limited abilities they will not be able to earn an imcome sufficient to live on however they are able to earn spending money and have a huge sense of accomplishment.  The adults are making projects, working out costs to produce items, figuring out mark up and determining a sale price.  They are also working on their social and sales skills while at various craft fairs/markets and also handling money and making change.  Bread making is another venture we are trying with the hope of selling to friends and family and in the spring we hope to add a gardening unit.

Do you have any business or employment ideas for the unskilled and in need of one on one support individuals?  What are your adult children doing during the day?

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A team of their own!

A few of our younger children have significant special needs and haven't had the opportunity to join any sports teams or clubs until recently.  Our local Special Olympics recently started a program for 2-11 year olds (Active Start and Fundementals) and 6 of our kids in this age bracket have had the ability to join.  The first practice was on Monday and the kids were extremely excited.  Special Olympics set up the group with a "sports team" feel and all the kids received team shirts to wear for each practice.

They now have their own sports team! I was really hoping that there would be many other kids for them to meet and interact with while learning new activities and maybe in the future there will be but unfortunately there is only one other child so far.  One of our teens came to watch her sibling and thought it looked like so much fun she signed up to be a volunteer.  I am always impressed by the support the children show for one another and their various interests whether it's volunteering at their activities or being the best cheerleader imaginable.

At their "team practice" they do a warm up, then play games building different skills which nicely align with the goals their physical therapist has for them, have a healthy snack and then a bit of free play.  Yesterday they did circuits with various jumping skills, practiced throwing, catching and kicking balls, and played games with simple rules like duck, duck, goose, what time is it Mr Wolf and a variation of tag.

I am so impressed with Special Olympics we have adult children that have been participating for the last 2 years and now the younger children have a group for them.  The skill and dedication of the volunteers amazes me and I am truly thankful that these people include my children.

Friday, 9 October 2015

An Ounce of Prevention May Save Your Life

With October being fire prevention month it is a good time to look at your families fire safety plan.  For families with people with special needs it is important to look at how you and your loved ones will react in the event of  a fire.  Are all members of your family physically capable of getting themselves out of the house?  A person with mobility issues may not be able to get out through a doorway during an emergency, do they have the physical ability to climb out a window?  Does your child freeze, hide or panic in stressful situations?  What would that look like for them in a fire?

Prevention is your best option and early detection buys you time in the unlikely event that you have a house fire.  Working smoke detectors save lives, install and then check monthly to ensure that they are in good working condition.  As a large family with multiple special needs we have installed a smoke detector in every room of our home.  If we have a fire we want to know as soon as possible, since a large majority of our children would be unable to get themselves out of the house, thus giving us, as parents, time to get everyone safely out of the home.

Having a plan is extremely important.  Your plan should include a couple of escape routes from each room and should also include a meeting place when you are out of the building.  For our family we have made our meeting place in the backyard far enough from the home so we don't get in the way of any emergency personnel.   As our plan includes us as parents helping the children out of the home we have ladders stored in a convenient location that if need be we could access all of the childrens bedroom windows.  You may want to practice the plan with the fire drills depending on the abilities of your family.  For a couple of my children any discussion of fire safety planning would have them overwhelmed and convinced they are going to die so we need to keep it simple and matter of fact.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

One persons dream can be another persons (or cats) nightmare!

Oh why do I torture us, one of our daughters has visions of herself being a professional singer/song writer and another daughter has been in one theater production and would like to continue with other productions which has resulted in them both being signed up for voice lessons.  Both girls are beyond excited about their singing lessons with the oldest (our wanna be singer/song writer) telling everyone "she can't believe it, this is the best day of her life and her dream is finally coming true".  One of the challenges we face with this daughter is her lack of insight to her abilities, this girl can't all.  When she sings at home the cats run from the room, then avoid her for days and while I was waiting for them at their first lessons all the neighbourhood dogs were howling.  I know many people can't sing, myself included, but most people realize the fact they aren't skilled in a particular area and don't plan their life goals around said activity.
When looking for a teacher we needed someone skilled at working with individuals with special needs, encouraging but able to set realistic goals and skilled in voice training.  It is extremely hard working with someone that has such grand visions for them self.  If friends or family say anything about her lack of ability she gets upset, cries and tantrums because she feels everyone should be encouraging and how could they possibly be that rude.  We have recorded her singing and played it back hoping she might "hear" what we "hear" but that hasn't worked.  Frequently we have general discussions how sometimes we have hobbies because we enjoy doing a particular activity, also just because we enjoy doing something doesn't mean we have the skills to do it as a career.  We have also tried the approach of having her consider her friends and asking what type of careers they have?  As they don't have careers (most are in day programs like her) would they still be as close of friends if she went of and became a famous singer.

How do you deal with people in your life with grandiose ideas that don't come close to reality?  Today we will continue with singing lessons because they both enjoy singing and that is reason enough to continue.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Crooked Teeth - Paying it Forward

With a family as large as ours, comes the increased need for orthodontic treatment.  Most recently our 11 year old with an extreme overbite is in need of dental treatment.  Braces are expensive and for a large family, with multiple mouths of crooked teeth, the costs can really add up.

A family member was telling us about their dentist, how as a child he had extremely crooked teeth, his family struggled financially and were unable to afford orthodontic treatment.  As a young boy his neighbour, an orthodontist, corrected his teeth at no cost hoping he would "pay it forward" when he was able.  He eventually went on to dental school and then took additional courses in orthodontics.  As a dentist he is now able to help clients with their orthodontics while running his dental practice.

For us the benefits are:

- a dentists rates are less expensive than an orthodontists rates
- some of the fees charged by the dentist can be billed to insurance coverage for dental care even though we don't have orthodontic coverage
- 4 kids (and counting) that had very crooked teeth now have beautiful smiles

The 11 year old in question should have straightened teeth within a year, the cost should be no more than $600 and the payments are payable as treatment occurs.

Having looked around for options it is my understanding that there are many dentists out there that can help with crooked teeth, whether it's removing teeth due to extreme crowding or doing orthodontics.  Another option if you are fortunate to live near a dental college, is getting treatment at the college.  All these students need mouths to practice on, are supervised by licenced professionals and charge a reduced rate.  Orthodontic insurance is also another helpful way of reducing costs if you are fortunate enough to have this benefit.

What have you done to help afford the cost of orthodontics?