Five Things I Would Change

Five Things I Would Change…..

1. This maybe controversial as I know many parents who would not change their child for the world. I would not be without GG for the world, she and her siblings are my everything. However I would fix GG if I could. The core of GG, would 100% still be her, she has a very strong personality! However I would take away the pain and challenges she faces every day.

2. The attitude of others, towards those of us trying to lead a typical family life with a disabled child. It’s not easy, so you staring and tut-ting is really not helping. We should be able to go out for the day or enjoy a meal – offer help instead of judgement.

3. The assumption that parents of children with disabilities do not, or should not work. We are a growing army of working parent carers, it is good for us, good for society and definitely good for our children when we can make it work. However it does mean that I am not at your beck and call, for appointments and I cannot conjure up a fancy dress costume in 48 hours!

4. The crazy inconsistencies between provision in different local authorities / NHS Trusts. It is a postcode lottery as to whether you have access to, or qualify for, much needed support and to not have a standard offering to children with disabilities is beyond ridiculous.

5. Professionals treating us like amateurs when we are experts in our children. We are their voice so please listen and treat us with respect.

 

 

A Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mrs May,

Twelve months ago I wrote to you regarding Brexit and how I hoped that you would protect funding around genetic research, which is so important to those of us who have or care for someone with an undiagnosed or rare disease.  https://theworldofgorgeousgrace.com/2016/07/05/dear-mrs-may

I did receive a generic response from your office, which did not give me a great deal of comfort.

Whilst this remains a concern, I have to be honest that I have worse fears for the future of the country, given what I have seen the Conservative Government do over the past year. Disabled people seem to have dropped off your radar (maybe even pushed) and I want you to put them back where they belong – on an equal footing with everyone else.

Disabled people should not be dying because of inadequate care. Disabled people should not be dying because you have significantly reduced their benefits. Disabled children should not be excluded from school because of insufficient funding. Disabled people should not be suffering unnecessarily due to the state of the NHS. Disabled should not be subjected to undignified questioning by under qualified people because you want to save a few pounds. I could go on but I think you get the point.

I totally understand that there is less money to go around but you do have choices Mrs May. Businesses must be made to pay the tax they owe in this country. Tax avoidance schemes must be eliminated. An extra penny on the pound for higher rate tax payers would not impact their lifestyles at all. Simply joining up services and reducing bureaucracy would allow money to be redirected into frontline services. There are many choices which would not result in some of the neediest people in our society being further isolated by selfish and needless policies.

I know we have 4 years before another election and somehow we have to find a way to muddle through, survive for some of us. However I think you know that the tide is turning, the reality of cuts in the wrong places is becoming more visible. If you don’t care enough to make a change for disabled people then think about yourself – do you really want the reputation that causing unnecessary suffering to disabled people will bring? I hope you are not that heartless.

Yours sincerely,

GG’s Mum

 

 

 

My Proudest Moment(s)

When I think of moments of pride with my other children, my mind immediately jumps to a milestone achieved – starting to crawl, their first word, learning to write their name or receiving an award for ‘empathy beyond their years’ – a common trait in siblings of children with special needs.

With GG it is difficult to pinpoint those moments in a ‘first’. I cried with joy the day she took her first steps, but actually I was more proud of the resilience she showed as a baby wearing splints for hours on end to help her muscles develop. I was prouder of her ability to persevere through a demanding daily, physio session for 3 continuous weeks which accelerated her physical development. I was really proud of how she adapted to a specialist walker in the months before she took her first independent steps. The ultimate achievement of a milestone is made up of hundreds of proud moments which reflect GG’s determination.

I am so proud of how hard GG tries to communicate – her attempts to sign, verbalise and use communication aids to make herself heard. Last year was the magical moment when she first verbalised her own name – it’s still not a clear pronunciation, but she knows what she is saying and is still proud as punch to answer the question ‘What is your name?’ It cannot be underestimated how hard she worked for that one small, but hugely significant achievement.

I am incredibly proud of how GG copes when she is unwell and particularly during seizures. GG complains so much less than other children but handles so much more. Awful ear infections that we only know about due to a high temperature, huge bruises or blisters on her feet that we are unaware of at the time, and yet she smiles on through her day. The confusion after a seizure and sheer exhaustion it brings – none of it stops her for long. I could not be prouder of how resilient GG is.

One of the greatest pleasures for us is seeing GG interact with others. GG has social skills well above the expected level for a child with a severe learning disability. From a young age, GG has always loved being the centre of attention and will always seek out the company of others. Watching her try and join in games with her siblings and peers, always a long way behind but cracking on regardless. The one in her classroom who likes to make sure everyone is included, regardless of whether they respond to her. I am so proud of how inclusive GG is and how infectious her happiness can be.

I cannot point at one moment, one achievement as being my proudest but if I had to summarise, then overall I am most proud of GG being true to herself and every day being the best that she can be.

 

 

GG’s Favourite Book

 

To be honest, this could be a picture of any Peppa Pig book. This one is a favourite as it has the sound effects, and GG particularly enjoys Grandpa Pigs snoring. We read every day and mostly GG engages but I do wish she would extend her repertoire! One of my favourite parts of the day is a bathed GG, having snuggles and a story before bed.

10 Things you didn’t know about….Challenging Behaviour

  1. Challenging behaviour is very common amongst children with learning disabilities however it is often difficult for families to talk about it – almost a taboo
  2. Challenging behaviour is usually triggered by anxiety or over-kids-1268694_960_720stimulation caused to the child and this is their way of dealing with it / communicating
  3. It is hard to understand what is causing the anxiety as when upset the child is unlikely to be able to communicate, and it is often not easy to identify the triggers
  4. Children often hold in the challenging behaviours at school resulting in an explosion once they reach home and a safe place to express themselves
  5. Using the usual approaches to challenging behaviours with a child with a learning disability has limited to no impact – telling them off, the naughty step, timeout all tend to add rather than help the situation
  6. Often parents of children with challenging behaviour are left trying to comfort a distraught child with little idea of how to help them
  7. Professionals are often dubious about the challenging behaviour described to them as the child rarely displays the behaviour in their presence
  8. Providing video evidence is heart breaking – a dreadful position to have to film your child whilst in a distressed state in order to show others what they are dealing with
  9. It is absolutely exhausting – emotionally and physically – leaving parents, siblings and other family members with little energy to face the challenges of the day
  10. The support for those with children with challenging behaviours is very limited, especially for pre-teens leaving parents and families unsupported and isolated.

 

 

Ten things you didn’t know about….Being Undiagnosed

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  1. It is surprisingly common with c.6000 children born every year with no underlying identified diagnosis – most of whom will have a genetic disorder of some description
  2. This number will drop as the amazing progress in genetics advances with many of us enrolled on studies such as the Deciphering Development Delay or 100,000 Genomes projects
  3. However a diagnosis for GG would now be so rare that it will likely have little meaning in the short term in terms of giving a prognosis
  4. Despite the volumes of undiagnosed children – as high as 100,000 in the UK alone – many professionals are still unaware that this is an issue
  5. In the early years we are often grouped under a generic ‘Global Development Delay’ catch up – even we thought this was a diagnosis to start with but in fact it turns out to be a name given to those with no other label
  6. It is incredibly isolating being the parent of a disabled child, being the parent of a disabled child minus a diagnosis can be even more lonely
  7. We can fall between the cracks – no diagnosis means no pathway and therefore services can be hugely disconnected and difficult to navigate
  8. There is never enough room on the vast array of forms to complete the section titled ‘medical condition’ – our unique array of medical and developmental issues will often fill a page not just a small box
  9. No diagnosis means no prognosis which means no limitations on what our children can achieve – medical professionals will offer a view but our children are fabulously expert in proving them wrong!
  10. We do have our own support network – Swan UK (Syndromes without a name) which for most of us becomes like an extended family, a safe place to go (virtually) and usually someone will have been where you are.

 

 

The Name Behind the Blog

The World of Gorgeous Grace came about after I was writing for myself, finding it therapeutic but feeling like I wasn’t making a difference to the challenges we faced. I wanted to share our experiences and educate others, especially around being undiagnosed and the additional issues that this presented (More info on this can be found here:https://theworldofgorgeousgrace.com/2016/04/27/welcome-to-no-mans-land-undiagnosed/)

However, I wasn’t (and still am not) comfortable with sharing details of my daughter and our family with the wider world. A personal decision, but instinctively it has never felt right. Inevitably this made choosing a name a little more challenging.

Grace is a name that has always been special to me – my Grandma was known, although not registered, as Grace and I love the meaning of the word – wanting my blog to reflect that we try and take everything in the most positive way. My daughter is of course 100% gorgeous, her smile, the way her eyes light up, her giggle – everyone who meets her has described her as adorable or gorgeous – ‘Adorable Grace’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it as ‘Gorgeous Grace’ and therein the blog name was born.

Originally everything I wrote was rhyming – this was never intentional but just how my thoughts formed in the early days. I suspect a result of the amount of made up rhymes I sang to both GG and her younger brother – as much to keep me calm as them. Here’s the first blog I published as an example: https://theworldofgorgeousgrace.com/2014/10/08/introducing-gorgeous-grace-or-gg-for-short/. The blog has evolved since then and the topics I cover within the SEND world are varied.

I have had moments of questioning the name choice. I do challenge the anonymity decision from time to time – it makes Instagram and visuals quite tough, I have almost outed us by careless blogging at times (!) and I do worry people think I am hiding behind anonymity. However it still feels like the right decision and doesn’t seem to stop people from engaging with the blog. I have had a few inappropriate questions – sadly in our society the use of a woman’s name and the word ‘gorgeous’ can attract a certain clientele….these are fortunately few and far between, and have provided a little bit of humour, along the way.

The World of Gorgeous Grace has become part of my life now and I hope it will continue to be for many years to come. Many thanks to all those who have supported me to get this far.

 

‘Prove’ to me that your daughter is disabled

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Sadly, it seems that this is what the world has come to. A simple day trip spoilt by me needing to justify our need for a little bit of extra help.

I was brave and for the first time attempted a day out with my 3 children  – on my own. This may not sound like a big deal to many, however with a learning disabled child in the mix, as well as a toddler, getting out without help is not easy to do. I did it though and we went to a well known attraction on the coast, which advertised itself as ‘fully disabled accessible’.

The day started well, we left home without too may traumas, we arrived in good time with everyone in good spirits and the morning passed with little to comment on, (excepting the usual activities – GG crawling around the floor during one talk and the high pitched shrieking at the appearance of sun lotion).

The venue turned out to be a maze and with no automatic doors (aahh) I found myself battling against the crowds with GG in her buggy screeching for lunch. Trying to navigate to the restaurant was a nightmare, having discovered that the usual access was up a flight of stairs. A kindly member of staff spotted my dilemma and assisted us to the restaurant – guiding us right back to the start to find the lift. Not a great experience, but we made it.

I had prepared for this bit as I knew lunch would not be do-able on my own. GG is incredibly demanding around food (she takes after her mother!)  and without a doubt, the minute food arrives, someone needs the loo and chaos reigns. My sister was awaiting my text to come and join us to help me manage the most difficult part of the day. However completely unexpectedly (and unreasonably) they wouldn’t let her in….

You can picture the scene, GG has screeched until food arrived being in an unfamiliar place and being unclear on where food would come from. Food arrives and toddler announces he needs a wee – quickly mummy! The toilets are back downstairs and through the shop. At this point, my sister is explaining politely the situation and still being refused entry – despite wanting to buy lunch from the restaurant.

In an impossible position, I dash downstairs, quick trip to the loo and explain frantically to a member of staff that I really need my sister to come in. The manager appears and I cannot convey how furious / upset she left me. In the middle of a mini-crisis with my girls being upstairs without an adult, she asks me to prove that my daughter is disabled….the people in the lengthy shop queue are all staring now. My son is looking at me questioningly.

I have already explained that my daughter uses a specialist buggy  and has a learning disability. I have offered for the manager to come and see, given she is sat just upstairs in the restaurant. However, I am told in no uncertain terms that they cannot allow ‘just anybody’ into the restaurant unless they can prove they are pregnant, disabled or a carer – which my sister clearly was in this situation. I was told I needed to go and get my blue badge from the car as ‘proof’. I was speechless. Her staff were visibly embarrassed.

I ran back upstairs, toddler in tow to my amazing 9 year old who was, as always, doing way more than any 9 year old should. To the gorgeous GG who fortunately was oblivious, tucking into her lunch with gusto. My sister determined to help me out, took a photo of the blue badge through the car windscreen and without hesitation, an apologetic member of staff allowed her in to join us – the manager had disappeared from sight.

It seems to be an increasing trend that disabled people and their carers are thought to be taking advantage of the ‘benefits’ available. Whether it be the dreadful PiP process that demeans disabled people and accuses them of scrounging off the state, or stories of disabled people in the workplace being told that ‘reasonable’ adjustments to enable them to work to the best of their ability are in fact ‘unreasonable’. This was just another example of being treated unfairly and quite frankly, inhumanely.

We went on to enjoy the rest of the day, we even managed half an hour on the beach in the sun, but needless to say, it certainly diminished the pleasure of having ventured out on my own.

Note: I have not named the tourist attraction we visited however I will be sharing this blog with them privately, and offering support with staff training.

Spectrum Sunday

EMPLOY A CARER – WE ARE WORTH IT!

carers week

To employers of all shapes and sizes, all sectors and markets, employing a carer can be a fantastic step for your organisation. Your success is based on good people and that is why you should open your eyes to the potential of employing people in the caring community. It can work for you, I am living proof of that, it just requires a different way of looking at how we work.

Let me tell you a little about me. I am mum to three kids, highly ambitious and was never going to step down in my career when I had a family. Baby no. one arrived and after six months I returned to work, no hassle at all. Then baby no. two arrived and my world turned upside down. GG, my Swan (Syndromes without a Name) remains a conundrum to this day, undiagnosed and nearly 7 years old. Suddenly the tried and tested return to work plan became a mountain to climb.

However, I did it and my employer worked through it with me. 7 years in and I remain in a demanding role, I am valued by the organisation and I manage my caring responsibilities. (I will also point out here that I have a husband, he too does his share, so don’t assume that only mum takes the responsibility).

So how did we, my employer and I, make it work? The answer is flexibility on both sides. I will be totally honest about it, childcare with a disabled child is a nightmare but it is not impossible, hospital appointments are a norm, we have daily therapies to fit in at home, we have to spend more time in school settings than with mainstream children and sometimes our children are hospitalised, and we are unavailable for a period of time. This is the time when we need you most.

I accept this means that you cannot give us sole responsibility for a job that needs a high level of presence. It needs you to think differently. In my role, it works well to have a strong deputy, ready to step in as needed – investing in another employee’s development whilst ensuring business continuity, a win-win situation. I have settled into a working pattern of 3 days a week which allows me to flex my days according to appointments and meetings, but ensuring I have chance in my week to deliver my job to a high standard and with cover in place when I am not there. In reality I am almost always there remotely, frequently taking a quick call or managing emails on a non-working day.

I recognise that I am asking for a lot from an employer and whilst I know I am fortunate to be supported, it is my employer who says they are the lucky ones. I have worked my socks off to demonstrate that I am 100% committed and can make this work. My manager describes me as highly productive, I have no time at home or at work to dither, I get the job done efficiently. Being a carer has taught me a whole host of new skills. A situation that would previously have me in a panic, I deal with in a calm and pragmatic way. When you have watched your child have a seizure, nothing work wise will phase me.

My planning, organisation and negotiation skills have been enhanced beyond recognition – negotiating the early years of the special needs system and the NHS is tough and makes us carers resilient and persistent. I have learnt skills I did not ever consider I would need. I can use sign language, I am a physiotherapist, speech therapist, campaigner, advocate for my child – all of these skills I learnt on my own and fast. Nothing my employer throws at me will phase me, I will find a way to make it happen.

The CV of a carer applying for a job may not be typical of the experience you are looking for but please think beyond the ‘job title’ and look at the skills they have to offer.

I am not alone in being a working carer. My organisation is not the only one to successfully employ carers. However we do remain a minority. Every day I hear carers who are desperate to get back to work – will you give them a chance? I hope so.