Category - Special Needs

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Cooking With Kids With Special Needs
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Parenting Exposed (literally)
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Waiting Room Worries
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Small Kids, Big Worries
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Tiny Dancer
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Family Films and Fun: 2016 TIFF Kids International Film Festival AND digiPlaySpace
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Her Special Squad
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When Doctors Make Mistakes
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Avery’s Moment In The Spotlight
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The Bawl Ball

Cooking With Kids With Special Needs

I took Home Ec in high school. Didn’t you? I learned to sew (a little… I made lopsided pillows and a hideously blinding canary yellow duffle bag). I also learned the basics of cooking. We baked tea biscuits, made lentil soup, learned how to cook rice, and even made a pie from scratch. We put together a bunch of other dishes I can no longer remember, but the principles stuck. The other night my son asked how I knew how to make a roux (the base for the sauce in our mac and cheese) and I told him, “My grade nine Home Ec teacher taught me.” He was shocked I could remember that far back and also that he had never heard of this “Home Economics” thing. I told him it was easy to remember since my teacher was hard to forget. She cut her thumb during one lesson and nearly fainted before she was rushed to hospital. Another time she set one of the ovens on fire and we had to be evacuated. I found her antics hilarious and as a result, I got sent to the office more than once. Not cool I know. Even less cool since[…]

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Parenting Exposed (literally)

Parenting makes us vulnerable. We expose parts of ourselves we never imagined we would – emotionally and in some cases, physically. Something happened several years ago that I’ve only shared with a select few. I feel like now is a good time to dust off the details and share it out loud because I can laugh about it now.  Back in the summer of 2011 when my daughter was a spunky five-year-old, we were invited to attend a big outdoor children’s event. I didn’t want to go. It was difficult taking my daughter out back then. She’s a precocious kiddo whose physical and cognitive delays make it tough to rein her in sometimes. But my son who was obsessed with lizards at the time was desperate to see the reptile show at the party. His needs frequently come second to his sister’s—which is often the case of siblings of kids with special needs. He was so looking forward to holding a Bearded Dragon, how could I deny him that (creepy) pleasure?  We were at the event less than five minutes when Avery stuck a sponge covered in green paint in her mouth, picked up a pile of goose poop in her[…]

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Waiting Room Worries

My husband and I have sat in many waiting rooms over the past few years, anxiously awaiting news. It’s scary, and nerve wracking, and lonely—your basic trifecta of darkness.  But thankfully and luckily and gratefully (your basic trifecta of good fortune) our children’s surgeries have gone well. Yes, I said children.  I rarely write about our developmentally typical boy child. He’s a full-on teen now and his stories are his stories to tell. But recently he had to have surgery. He’s the kid we don’t have to worry about or fill out complicated medical waivers for. I actually said something to that effect not long ago so apparently I jinxed it. Anyway, it was fine. He is fine. I asked him if I can share a bit about it at some point because we learned some things from this experience that I know other parents can benefit from. He said, “Sure,” with a shrug. So I’ll get to it one of these days.  But back to the undisputed star of this blog—our developmentally atypical girl child. She has several surgeries under her belt—none as serious as some of the ones friends’ children have gone through. But, there have been risks and[…]

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Small Kids, Big Worries

Anxiety is a pain. Whether we come by it genetically or situationally, it hits all of us at various times in our lives. I’ve written about my struggle with worry—as a parent of a child with a variety of medical issues, I worried about our girl a lot. I looked too far ahead and fretted about the what ifs. I couldn’t stop the catastrophizing.  When you live in the past or in the future, you miss the present, and that’s where all good stuff happens. So I did the cognitive behavioural therapy exercises and it made a world of difference. Don’t get me wrong, I still have moments where I freak the hell out, but I know how to reign it in. This whole being mindful thing is a work in progress.  Adults coping with anxiety is one thing, but what about children with anxiety? Watching your child worry is like being poked in the stomach with a sharp stick.  I’ll unabashedly tell you about my battle with my worry monster, but sharing someone else’s story is offside. But I can say that having a sibling with disabilities can create fear and anxiety for good reason. Watching your sibling choke and[…]

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Tiny Dancer

My daughter is a dancer. Yes, she mixes up the steps and goes in the wrong direction at least half the time, but she doesn’t care one bit. She gets distracted and stops mid-step to wave to me or to watch herself in the mirror. And sometimes she trips and falls, but she always gets back up, smiling. She loves to dance. And lucky for us, she can.  We had been at another dance studio, but out of the blue the owners decided that a class for students with special needs was too time consuming, too much work, just too much effort. It reminds me of this story. So our tiny dancers were displaced and disillusioned.  But we’ve fallen back in step and been welcomed with open arms at our new studio.  Avery’s dance teacher is warmth and encouragement and inspiration. Miss Stephanie treats her special students the way treats all of her dancers. She pushes just enough and cheers them on. She’s choreographed the most wonderful dance for the girls to perform at the spring showcase—on the big stage in pink sparkly costumes, with grown up hair and fancy make-up. They’ll be dancing to Superstar by Love Inc—a perfect anthem[…]

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Family Films and Fun: 2016 TIFF Kids International Film Festival AND digiPlaySpace

I think I may have given birth to the next George Lucas. My son has been making videos since he was little. #toddlersandtripods From early on he’s scripted mini movies, created stop motion animation and made documentary style shorts about topics he cares about like animals and basketball and Star Wars. His films have become more complex and creative. For now it’s a hobby, but perhaps it will turn into a life passion? C’mon kid—mama wants to rub elbows with Tina Fey and her squad. When we were invited to preview this year’s digiPlaySpace my son actually passed on a basketball game so he could come along. He has big hoop dreams, so this was clearly something that piqued his interest. If you live in the GTA and have children in the 3-13 age range, The 2016 TIFF Kids International Film Festival and digiPlaySpace are a must-see-must-do! I had no idea all of this family-centered entertainment was right in my back yard. If you’ve never been, here’s the scoop: The TIFF Kids Film Festival will be presenting 139 films from 35 countries. All the screenings and events take place at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, April 8 to 24, 2016.[…]

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Her Special Squad

Kids can be cruel. They can sniff out “different” from a mile away, and sometimes they tease or isolate anyone who doesn’t fit in. As a teacher I’ve seen it. And as a parent, I’ve worried about it. But so far we’ve been blessed. I’m not a religious person so using the word blessed seems hypocritical, but it’s a fitting way to describe our experience with our daughter’s peer group. Our child stands out in class—her delayed speech, the EA who shadows her around school, her struggle to keep up, and her inability to understand—these all set her apart. But instead of shutting her out, her classmates circle around her and make her feel special in a “you belong” kind of way. Her teacher told me her friends actually bicker over who gets to take Avery to the office or who gets to partner with her for a project or stand beside her in line. I know Avery feels it. She adores her friends and talks about them with such love. As a mum, I am grateful for these compassionate kids. Their parents are obviously teaching them to treat others with respect and kindness. For that, we (personally but also[…]

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When Doctors Make Mistakes

A question in a Facebook group and the memory of that doctor and what she did, or more accurately—did not do—came flooding back. And now I’m raging. Unlike another doctor in our past whose negligence also put our daughter’s life in jeopardy, I never got closure with this doctor. Let me back up. When our daughter was a few months old we knew something was wrong. In addition to her missing key developmental milestones, she stopped feeding. This photo was taken around the time Avery started refusing to nurse. These babies are the same age. Avery is the one in pink. Obviously. She was so tiny in comparison. Little peanut. This picture makes me so sad. But also, it makes me laugh. Hello, Andrew on the right? Breastfeeding was a struggle from day one. Poor suck, tongue tied, persistent thrush—these were the reasons given at the breastfeeding clinic. We eventually switched to bottle feeding hoping it would help. It didn’t. Babies are supposed to grow and thrive. Avery was neither growing nor thriving. She was fading away and we begged for help. Our family doctor who was on our side from the beginning sent us to see a well respected[…]

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Avery’s Moment In The Spotlight

Last summer my brother and his family hosted a breast cancer fundraiser in their yard—”FraserFest” was an outdoor concert with bands and food and fun under the stars. But before the stars actually shone, there was rain—crazy heavy rain, strong winds, and even a tornado sighting. To wait out the weather, the adults huddled under the porch while the kids hung out in the basement. When I came downstairs to see what they were doing, I found my daughter encircled by a group of the kindest kids you’ve ever met. Only an hour earlier Avery had been in tears—she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t perform on the stage with the band. “Puh-lease!” she begged. “I want to sing on the stage.” Now, thanks to these big hearted kids, it was her moment and she basked in the glow of the spotlight. Thanks kids. You made this kid’s heart swell. 🙂

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The Bawl Ball

Sometimes our expectations don’t live up to reality of a situation. This is why I try to keep my standards high, but my expectations low. This is a strategy shared with me by a friend. In her case, she’s referring to dating in her forties, but it applies in most life situations—essentially, don’t ever accept being treated as “less than”, but also readily expect to be disappointed. Sometimes reality bites. I forgot this lesson recently and it wasn’t pretty.  But you know who IS pretty? This girl. A friend generously offered Avery a pair of tickets to a Father/Daughter Charity Ball. Her family couldn’t use the tickets and the mom, who is kind to the core, knew how much our girl would love the spectacle of it all. The evening is sparkly and pink and musical and magical. Plus, dancing with daddy. All the things she loves. As the ball approached, we shopped for a dress and shoes. Avery spun around in the store and used the twirl test to choose a pretty black dress with golden flowers. We did her hair and make-up, she wore jewelry and fancy shoes, and her dad matched his tie to his little girl’s dress.[…]

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