Sunday, 5 May 2013

Why blog?

Ever wondered why you blog? As a brand new blogger, without any actual readers (except for my sister bless her cotton socks) I find myself questioning;

1. What is my blog actually "about"? (This uncertainty has led to a few name changes already!)
2. What do I want to achieve with blogging?- (writing skill?, blog friendships?, world domination? )
3. Do I want to connect with other people or keep things private? ( and how would I get anyone to read it anyway?)

After some thought, I have decided I really only have one goal for blogging at the moment;

To be writing on a regular basis.

I also have a "non goal" goal of;

Being open to possibility.  

Sounds too simple doesn't it? Well perhaps for most people it is, but I know myself. I have a habit of beginning tasks with incredible enthusiasm, energy and even obsession, only to "burn out" within a short space of time, task never to be carried out again. I am not keen on this pattern. Unfinished business lacks satisfaction.

So I will write and I will write at least once or twice a week. I hope this process will help me find my "voice" as a writer, will help me develop a "direction" for my blog and will improve my blogging and writing skills.

All the other bloggy "stuff"
can wait for the moment :).

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Pet rocks and Productivity

On this glorious autumn day I find myself having to sit at home to write a PowerPoint for a conference paper. Tedious as it sounds I must confess to actually enjoying this type of stuff- I think it is the "writing" that appeals to me most- or is the opportunity to voice my opinion? Anyway, all would be well except for the fact that I have to have this finished today but I am also at home with Miss Muffin and she needs to be parented! Muffin is a very energetic little thing and only takes the barest minimum of daytime naps so juggling my responsibilities is the order of the day.
I had planned to wake at the crack of dawn and get in a good two hours of writing before she woke. Unfortunately last night Muffin decided a three a.m party would be a good idea which meant I was so exhausted I actually slept in! What to do? Well I have taken a deep breath and this is how I have tackled things so far;
1. Pretty much given up on perfectionism with this project. This pains me no end as I love a creative presentation! Sigh. There will be no pretty fonts, fancy animations or inspiring music on my PowerPoint- just cold, hard written content. Perhaps on the day I can muster some amazing charisma to keep everyone interested?

2. I am writing in "blocks"which is a fancy way of saying I am grabbing five minutes at every opportunity to type out a sentence or two. There is simply no hope for the luxury of uninterrupted thought.

3. I have quickly thought up a few activities which I hope will capture Muffin's interest so she remains cheerful throughout the day. So far we have filled an old metal tea pot with water and transferred the contents to a cup multiple times, played with some bubbles and made some pikelets together (which she refused to eat!). However, the best activity was making pet rocks as it kept her entertained for a good twenty minutes or so. I must say it was very cute as she collected enough rocks to represent our entire family. Bless.

A little while later...
Believe it or not this routine of writing, then playing, then changing nappies, then writing, then repeat has resulted in a completed, albeit "minimalist" presentation! I now have a happy boss and a happy child- who knew that could be possible? Admittedly the breakfast dishes still haven't been done but, hey, you can't achieve everything!

Are you someone who works from home with children? Any tips to share on getting stuff done to everybody's satisfaction?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

How to play when you don't really feel like it

You and I both know that play is critical for helping our children develop right? I'm sure this is not "news". After all, T.V shows, books, websites, blogs and Pinterest boards are devoted to the topic- so really it is pretty hard to escape the message!
This is all good news- it's good for children and it's good for parents. Except for one thing- not every parent likes to play!
stop reading and come and play Mum!
I can relate to this, surprisingly, even though my whole career seems to revolve around play. Admission- Sometimes (O.K.maybe even often) I just don't feel like playing with my children and struggle to be properly "present" during the process. I find it so hard to truly focus on the moment when I know that there are a million and one things that need to be done around the house. And don't get me started on the thought of "crafternoons" Uggh just another mess to clean up!

And do you know what? I don't even need to apologise for that because those sorts of feelings are so common and normal for parents. But (there had to be a "but"), my kids still need to play- and for part of that play, they need to play with ME. Luckily, over the years, I have found a few strategies that are really helpful in meeting both my needs and the needs of my children for play with me. Maybe they will help you too.

1. Remind yourself of the benefits of play- sure children learn almost everything through play- social skills, thinking skills, emotional maturity, creativity, motor skills, independence skills, the list goes on....but did you know that you can benefit too? Regular short bursts of truly engaged play with your child can help them feel secure and may lead to them learning to play independently for longer periods while you get on with other things you have to do.
2. Schedule play in- Have a daily routine and pencil in play time with your child. Write your routine down or put a reminder in your smart phone- whatever you prefer. Sometimes it is easier to get yourself in the groove if you know when you are going to be expected to pretend to be a princess or get dirty in the sand pit.
3. Set the timer- It can feel less daunting doing things that are a bit of a challenge when you know you have a time limit. Some children respond well to a timer too and it helps them "transition" to their next activity or accept that you need to move on to doing other things.
4. Fit a little play into every day routine tasks. Try to think of the play opportunities in everyday tasks- deliberately choose the "wrong" outfit when getting your child dressed, make slurping noises with your drink and then pull a funny face about how silly you are- it doesn't have to complicated or lengthy- just playful!
5. Fake it till you make it- Playfulness doesn't come easily to many of us but that doesn't mean we cant learn! If you don't know where to start- observe your child and take their cue. Copy what they do, join-in with things that interest them (even if you find it mind numbing), exaggerate your facial expressions and make an extra effort to sound enthusiastic. You may feel ridiculous at first (or even always) but your child will benefit. Who knows you may grow to love play!

What are your tips for getting in the groove of play?

Sunday, 28 April 2013

My highly sensitive child is good for my ego- I think...

There are definite funny sides to being blessed with a highly sensitive child :)
These things can really get in the way of a good time!

Case in point; Monkey and Smiley have been away for the past week staying with my in-laws because, you know, sometimes things happen and a girl needs a break! Luckily for me, the children are blessed with grandparents who have been practically begging me to let them visit. After much contemplation, I eventually agreed to this arrangement. Which of course is code for "I had their bags packed and the car running ready for the five hour trip before I could put the phone back on the hook".
 From what I can gather the boys had an entire week of blissful spoiling and adventure with their every whim being taken care of. "Oh so you want a new Bionical? Let's go buy one". "Ice-cream for breakfast? Not a problem". "Another (insert crap, plastic toy, fad collectible here) is yours if you want it". You get the picture.
In fact the boys wanted to stay an extra day which helped make up for the guilt I was feeling about not feeling guilty re: not having them around. 
Last night was the happy reunion with lots of kisses and cuddles and sharing of stories. I realized I had missed my boys terribly after all- perhaps next time (if the in-laws ever recover) a few days away rather than a whole week would be better.
This morning Monkey looked at me seriously and confided that he missed me more than he thought he would. Awww.... my heart melted and I gave him a big, squeezy cuddle, even though my hands were still covered in dish-washing suds. What a sweet-heart and how lovely he was showing his appreciation of me. "What was the best thing about coming home?" I fished. "Well", he considered, "That would be not having to worry about stepping in Grandma's dog's water bowl. I did that a lot- it was yucky". "Also", he continued, "Perhaps it would be better if you dried the bubbles off your hands before touching me next time- that feels yucky too".
Well, I'm glad he views home as a sanctuary, free from the worries of life- I think.....

Take care,

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

But why didn't the teacher tell me about occupational therapy (OT)?

Recently I had the pleasure of working with a little seven year old boy and his mother who lived interstate from me. Together we discussed their concerns which basically boiled down to confusion about why he seemed to be failing at school but able to do his work successfully at home. His mother said "They tell me he is great at reading but he cant seem to remember anything new from one day to the next. They complain he fidgets all the time and won't pay attention. They just cant seem to keep him on track."
Further conversation revealed that right from pre-school, teachers had commented on such things about this little boy. Once at school he found himself frequently part of school behaviour management plans, learning support programmes and by the end of his first year it was suggested that the parents take him for a psychometric assessment (at their own cost). This ended up showing that the little boy was, in fact, intellectually in the high average range in all areas. There  the investigations stopped. Unfortunately, the second year of school was just as challenging as the first and by this time the little boy seemed to have been labelled by others and also by himself as "difficult".
Don't make me go back to school!

Finally,  occupational therapy (OT) was suggested by chance to the mother by a concerned relative during a family barbeque. The relative happened to be someone I knew and the result of this conversation was that the little boy and the mother came to see me.
Occupational therapy ended up being really helpful for this little boy. Even though my involvement was on a consultative level due to the distances involved, we were able to analyse where the breakdowns were occurring for this child in the daily tasks of being a school student, identify his strengths and come up with some practical suggestions for helping him to participate more successfully. We were also able to come up with activities and therapeutic strategies that would help develop some of the areas that he was having trouble with (such as core muscle strength). Perhaps just as importantly we were able to identify further evaluation that needed to occur with other professionals.
After reading my report and talking with me on the phone, the boy's teacher made the comment that she had never seen a report laid out in such a way and which took into consideration such a range of factors. The mother rang me a few weeks later to update me and let me know that things had improved significantly for her son at school and that she felt she now had a definite plan of action. But one thing she said really stuck in my mind...

 "But why didn't the teacher tell me about OT in the first place? I feel like we have wasted so much time and have had such negative experiences that could have been avoided in the first place!".

I have thought about this a lot since then and have come up with a couple of conclusions;
*  The fact that the teacher had never seen such a report made me reflect that in some states in Australia, occupational therapy is still not widely known or understood. Most state education systems do not employ OTs, and there is little in the way of funding for occupational therapy services, unless you happen to have one of a select group of diagnoses.
* If you are someone familiar with how OT can be helpful and you are willing to pay, there is still difficulty actually finding a local therapist, unless you live in a large city. You can't blame the teachers for not mentioning OT when there are hardly any OT services out there in the first place.
* The role of occupational therapy is a confusing thing to explain and OTs themselves often do a terrible job of it. To the un-initiated it can seem that there is a lot of overlap between an OT and other professions such as psychology, education, speech pathology and physiotherapy. People often wonder what the "point of difference" is with OT and what makes us unique.

These issues are not new or revolutionary within our profession but they are still relevant and I plan on reflecting on them further with the hope of bringing to light some solutions.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I have a "highly sensitive child"- now what?

my "HSC" boy as a toddler.

I thought I knew a bit about parenting. After all, I had spent ten years working closely with parents as part of my day job, not to mention the fact that I was already, in fact, the mother to one little boy. I had "planned" my second pregnancy and we were blessed to welcome our second little boy into the world in July 2006. I had a healthy and uneventful pregnancy, followed by a quick, uncomplicated birth. Bliss, right? Well, let me tell you that from the moment he was born (and even perhaps from before he was born), I knew there was something "different" about my little one. He literally did not stop crying from the moment of birth until he fell asleep briefly five hours later! After which he continued to cry and then sleep in short bursts for months on end. This child was irritable, demanding, inconsolable and above all exhausting! But confusingly he could be so engaging and adorable too and developmentally, he always met his milestones early.
Eventually a number of medical issues were diagnosed and treated which was helpful but my husband and I found that just as some issues would resolve, others would develop. In general, our little one seemed to find everything "more" or "extra" than other people and he would simply become totally overwhelmed easily.
As the years have gone by and we have gotten to know our child better, we realize that our little one could best be described as being a "highly sensitive child". This is a term explained in Elaine N. Aron's book called "The Highly Sensitive Child" and reading it was literally like a lock turning into place in my head. Essentially the highly sensitive individual is someone who "notices" more in the environment than others and they process and reflect on things more deeply. Because of this extra "noticing" they can be easily overwhelmed and may seem shy, cautious and controlling. The plus side is that they can be sensitive, empathetic, creative, careful and conscientious individuals.

The descriptors in this book fit our son so perfectly which has served to really help us to understand and support him as he develops. I also think this book helped us as his parents to be able to re-frame our frustrations and anxieties into positives and to begin to celebrate some of the things that make our son so unique.
Has anyone else found this description fitting for their child?