Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Already lying about her age

The latest birthday brought us bowling which was a fun activity enjoyed by all.  We are fortunate to have a very small bowling alley near us which you are able to rent at an affordable rate.

We went with only the members living at home as the birthday girl isn't generally very social.  Having just her siblings at the party she was able to focus on having fun bowling rather than the challenging social stuff.  She did venture over and tell the bowling alley employee that "it was her birthday and she was 10".  We were so impressed that she spoke that it didn't matter that she was wrong about her age, she just turned 6.

For our bowling party we had access to the bowling alley plus the attached gymnasium however the children were so excited about bowling that they never ventured into the gymnasium.  Not being regular bowlers our abilities definetly proved that fact but we made up for it in enthusiasm.  If you heard the cheering from the children you would have thought we were all pros - at the beginning of the game they were so excited if the ball made it to the other end of the lane and as they progressed and someone knocked down a pin the sheer excitement was over the top.  The older kids were extremely helpful teaching the younger ones how to "roll the ball" instead of lobbing it down the lane.  As the skills progressed the ones capable of throwing the ball with one hand added to the challenge by using the opposite hand, facing backwards or closing their eyes.  None of these tactics seemed to improve their abilities but did add to the entertainment.

After the bowling we had hotdogs, chips and juice followed by birthday cake at the bowling alley - 2 bonuses to this, dinner was taken care of for the evening and they cleaned up after us.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed this dinner as it isn't something they would normally have so everyone was happy.

Another successful birthday celebration and a very nice comment from the employee at the bowling alley  "your children are so well behaved and polite, I always dreamed of having a large family like yours but it just wasn't in the cards for me".

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sunday, Monday Happy Days, Tuesday, Wednesday Happy Days.......What our schooling looks like

A lot of learning and fun has been happening with "homeschool" back in session.  We have had to get creative with how we squeeze schooling in along with all the therapy and medical appointments but have managed to make it work over the last couple years.

Mondays we are typically home doing our learning  - mornings consist of the basics reading, writing and math.  For us getting this done first thing ensures it gets done before anything else might disrupt the day.  Having multiple children with varying abilities we have had to be creative with how we do our learning.  We have found the Lexia program that is available as an app (and on computer) very helpful for our children that have challenges with their motor and articulation skills.  This program has really helped them progress and given them a way of demonstrating their learning.  We also use other preschool rated apps for our lower functioning children.
After lunch we have time for a walk or play outside before it is nap time for the youngest 2.  While they are getting settled the others practice their sign language - the younger functioning children really enjoy the "Signing Time" dvd series.  Adding sign language to their struggling speech abilities has been a benefit as it gives us one more clue as to what they are saying.  We then focus on science, social studies, therapy homework and art for the remainder of the day.  Some of the teens are using the See the light dvd series for art lessons.

 Tuesdays we school on the road - the majority of the day is therapy appointments in a neighboring (100km away) community.  We average 20-30 appointments every Tuesday but the one saving grace is that they are all at the same location.  Arriving first thing in the morning we sit in the vehicle or at the park down the road alternating the children, depending who has an appointment at which time.  In between appointments we do our schooling, play at the playground or walk on the nearby trails.

Wednesdays the teens meet up with their EA (educational assistant) for schooling done in the community.  They will work on social studies, english at the library in the morning and then in the afternoon they focus on life skills and social skills. It is important to us that our children learn how to access resources in the community and know how to relate to people, with their special needs this takes more work than your typical child so we practice these skills regularly.  A couple of our children have extreme anxiety and are scared of people, by schooling in the community once a week this is helping to reduce this anxiety.  The other 6 children participate in therapeutic horse back riding in the morning and then we go home for afternoon schooling.

Thursdays is a home day for most of us with schooling similar to Mondays.  The one exception is that 2 of the teens are taking a Car Maintenance course that is instructed by Dad so they are away for 1/2 the day.   This course is open to anyone who home schools in the community and has been a huge success with many teens enrolled in it and gives the teens an opportunity to school with their peers.  During the afternoon we have also been doing some sewing and/or cooking which is always fun.

Fridays is also a home day for some of us similar to Mondays and Thursdays.  Some Fridays the school we home school with has field trips planned for the high school kids.  In the last month they have participated in an internet/social media safety course and gone for a hike up a mountain to the cross.  The field trips are a great supplement to their learning.   3 of the younger children also have their vision therapy appointments each Friday.

shared at

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

To Fly, or not to Fly....

Along with back to school comes back to clubs and groups - this weekend a couple of the teens had the opportunity to go flying with the Air Cadets.  It was a beautiful sunny day and a group of 25 cadets went to the local air field for gliding (an airplane without an engine) and flights in the tow plane.  Going up in a glider is an amazing experience, you are towed up into the sky by another plane and then the tow rope is released leaving the glider to soar on its own.  There is nothing like the feeling of soaring in a glider, it is so quiet and peaceful.  The teens flying the glider and tow plane with licensed pilots that teach the children basics about flying and give them an opportunity to take control of the plane while in the sky.

As Air Cadets the teens are also given the opportunity to apply for scholarship summer courses for the opportunity to get either their glider pilot licence and/or their private pilot licence.  One of our sons was able to obtain both licences wile a cadet and has continued on with Air Cadets now as a volunteer.  Obtaining a pilots licence at 17 years old has served our son well as he became an Air Craft Maintenance Engineer as a young adult and still fly's for recreation.  This year our daughter is interested in applying for the glider scholarship and has currently been studying for the qualifying exam.

For some of our teens the interest in becoming a pilot isn't there and that is okay, they can do many other things at Air Cadets.  While in cadets some have focused on band, wilderness survival, fitness, leadership, range or instructional techniques....and some have tried everything.  For one he met his wife through Air Cadets that led to our beautiful granddaughter.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Social Devaluation and a Universities Thoughts

My daughter just started her third year of university and had to take a mandatory course on "social devaluation".  Social devaluation can happen for a number of reasons including, but not limited to race, religion, appearance, income, but this course specifically focused on individuals with special needs.  On the surface this course sounded like a great idea, teaching the soon to be professionals how society devalues individuals with special needs.

Social Devaluation - when a person or group is considered to have less social value than others.

My hope as a parent and advocate for people with special needs was that this course was going to educate these students on "social devaluation" and ways that they, as the upcoming professionals, could advocate and best support these individuals.  This was not the case, during the course it was discussed how people with special needs set themselves up to be devalued and we as parents, advocates, and professionals must expect more from these individuals.

In this class it was discussed how individuals with special needs, need to do things that their "typical" peers would be doing.  As wonderful as this sounds it is just not practical, for example we have two 18 year old's, one is off at college and the other is still playing with Lego and Hot Wheel cars.  For the second child he would be lost at college as he wouldn't be able to keep up academically or socially.  If we were to take away the Lego and Hot Wheel cars he would also be lost and as this is where he is developmentally, so why shouldn't he be able to play with them.

It was also discussed how people with special needs wouldn't be devalued if they dressed like their peers.  I agree that dressing their age is important however there are other considerations to be made. Some of our children have coordination challenges that make dressing a challenge so finding clothing that they are able to manipulate is more important than keep up with fashions.  There could also be other considerations that are musts in clothing accommodations for example diapers, braces, feeding tubes, sensory issues to name a few.

Another thought in this course was that if people would "act" like others then they wouldn't be devalued.  I don't know about the people with special needs that are in your life but I know the ones in my life with special needs aren't "acting".  This thought really made me question the professors at this university, do they not realize that the diagnostic criteria for various special needs is based on behavior.  

We as parents and advocates for people with special needs, need to step up our advocating skills.  I encourage you to get out and advocate. Also if you have an opportunity to speak at your local university get in there and educate them because I am guessing the university my daughter is attending isn't the only one with these thoughts.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Birthday Cake, Race Cars and.........Seizures :-(

With a large family, birthdays are never ending and this weekend was no exception, over the next 2 weeks we have 4 birthdays and we always make a point of celebrating each person individually.  We will do large extended family, family dinners and combine occasions but we also have an individual celebration with those living at home.

For some of our children we do a special family outing instead of a "friend" birthday party.  The type of celebration is dependent on the child's wishes and circumstances, not all our children enjoy or can manage peer friendships and their birthday should be enjoyable for them.

This weekends birthday celebration brought us to the car race track to watch demolition racing.  We haven't been to the track in a couple years as the triggers for children with sensory issues are extreme at the track.  We left our youngest 2 with a babysitter and the rest of us went armed with sunglasses, earplugs and blankets.  It was amazing the progress that the children have made in 2 years in regards to their tolerance at such events.  With ear plugs in, sunglasses on and blankets on their laps (cuddling with their blanket and covering their nose with it when the smell of burning rubber was too strong) we were able to sit and watch the races in a strategically chosen part of the bleachers (leaving a quick escape route if needed).

While in line to pay we were very blessed, when a stranger noticing our large group came up and offered us a free ticket to admit 1/2 of our group.

The children managed incredibly for the majority of the races, when it came time for the final demolition the shock of it all was too much for one child, triggering seizures.  Fortunately she was on my lap when they started and as they weren't letting up, I was able to escape through our pre planned route with her to get her the help she required without causing a scene.

Another tradition in our family is the birthday person gets to choose dinner.  Some requests are not necessarily what I would consider dinner and need to be supplemented, for example one birthday someone requested toast so I added eggs and sausage making everyone happy.  Tonight's supper is "2 noodle casserole" (tuna noodle casserole), cesear salad and chocolate birthday cake.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Working together....back to routines

We have been busy getting back into the routines that come with school and all the added after school activities as we say goodbye to summer.  September is a good time to review the progress over the last year and make new goals for everyone.  With our children that have additional special needs we take an extra look at their therapies and schooling ensuring we don't get stuck in a rut and are still moving forward.

Every September and then again in January we request a progress assessment from our therapists.  The speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and behavioral consultant have all been busy with our children determining their current levels.  Having these assessments, aids us in setting goals for the next months.  We are determining if the therapies and therapists are effective, what we should focus on and/or if we would get more benefit elsewhere.

We also take a serious look at their educational needs.  September is a great time for setting academic and/or life skill goals for the year, choosing curriculum's and methods to suit everyone's abilities.  As a homeschooling family of multiple children with special needs we have the benefit of educational assistants that support our children.  We have been busy training our educational assistants so they can support our children in meeting this years goals.

After all the assessments are complete and our educational assistants have had sometime to get to know the children and their needs we plan a team meeting/IEP (individual education plan) meeting.  For this team meeting we invite all the therapist and teaching staff, we want everyone on the same page working with the children so they can have the most productive year possible.  Working our way through the family discussing everyone's needs, brainstorming ideas and making an action plan for school, therapies and any extra curricular activities that may benefit each child (on top of the extra curricular activities that meet their interests).

Monday, 1 September 2014

Time saving meal prep ideas and a delicious dinner recipe

Preparing meals and feeding a large family is a never ending task.  As we are extremely busy with everything involved in raising a large, homeschooling family with multiple special needs we need to use as many time saving ideas as possible.

Our time saving starts with a menu plan.  Menu plans are a common practice of "thrifty or frugal" people. Meal planning has become more popular with people struggling financially but is also beneficial as the basis of a time saving plan.  Having a menu plan can also be a stress reliever as there is no more last minute panic of "what's for dinner?" and when you are feeding 15-20+ people not knowing can be stressful.  When we are preparing our menu plan we start by considering what the weeks activities look like.  Are there any "special meals" for the week?  ie birthdays, outings, etc.  We then consider the amount of time available for preparing meals each day which determines the type of meal.  If we have a day with multiple appointments then dinner is either cooked in the crockpot or something re-heated.  Next step of planning is considering what food you have on hand.....then plan away

Multi tasking is a necessity when trying to save time while preparing meals.  When it comes time to prepare dinner I am always considering what can be done today to make tomorrow easier.  Instead of sitting idle while waiting for a pot to boil or something to cook, I prep the next meal (I know what it is because I have a menu plan) and/or clean up.  If today's meal and tomorrow have some of the same steps I do them both at the same time.  If the meal doubles easily I do so as this makes lunches for the week or can be frozen for another day.  Today when making dinner I doubled our "Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad" so we have some lunches for the week and I prepped tomorrow's "Crockpot Beef Stew".  I also always have a sink of hot soapy water so I can wash dishes as I go.

Another thing that made a huge difference for me was the realization that dinner can be prepped at anytime and most days needs to be prepped at the first available time.  Some days the meal is prepped the day before, other times it's first thing in the morning, when the kids are napping or just before dinner.....whatever works that day.

When it comes to clean up after dinner I put the leftovers away in "lunch" sized portions.  By doing this at clean up time the leftovers only need to be handled once and this saves time.

Having an emergency meal or 3 or 4 also tends to be a lifesaver.  Having something in the freezer that can be warmed up quickly can be my saving grace on those days that nothing goes as expected.  These meals may be a meal we previously doubled or frozen pizza.

Here is today's dinner Peanut Sesame Noodle Salad which has been a favorite this summer and as an added bonus it is fairly inexpensive to make.


1 package spaghetti
1 grated carrot
1 large red pepper, sliced thin
1 lb sugar snap peas
1 lb broccoli florets
2 tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 cup dark sesame oil
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red peeper flakes
2 tsp ground ginger


Bring a large pot of water to the boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook according to directions on package.  Drain and set aside, run the noodles under cold water to cool faster if you don't have time to refrigerate before eating.

In another pot, bring water to boil, add sugar snap peas and broccoli florets, return to boil cooking for 3-5 minutes, and cook until crisp tender.  When cooked drain and cool in cold water.

Put all dressing ingredients in blender and blend thoroughly.

Pour dressing over cooked noodles and toss until well coated.  Add vegetables and sesame seeds tossing gently.

Refrigerate, serve cold.

Optional:  also tastes great topped with cooked chicken.