Category Archives: Handy Tips and Advice

Summer activities with little planning

I’ve been thinking a lot about the forthcoming Summer holidays. Usually I go with the flow but this year I wanted to arm myself with a handful of activities that I could pull together quickly when the first ‘I’m bored’ calls begin, so I thought you’d like to see it too…

In the garden:

Garden games – It takes very little to get some garden games ready. You can even get the kids involved with the planning and making.

Make some cardboard spots and mark them with different point values – who can score the most with 3 beanbags? Often the children think about different ways they can play the game and they get inventive. BUT you might need to be clear on rules at the very beginning to make this work.

Trampolining a great activity to help with calming down angry children, regulating hyper children, it’s a sensory experience too.

Water fights – get the water pistols out, buy cheap sponges and cut them up, even use old ketchup bottles as squirters. Good for cooling down on hot days. And it provides a nurturing opportunity when getting snug and dry after.

Invite their friends over – yes you might have to supply squash and sandwiches, but it’s a real eye opener watching your children interact with others. And if they’re in your garden, you get to keep an eye. Provide a few footballs, swingball, skipping ropes or pots of bubbles and even the most cool and streetwise 14 year old, will be running around popping those bubbles with the glee of a toddler!

In the house:

Cooking/baking –  yes this can strike fear into the heart of any parent, but it really is great fun for kids and as long as you don’t mind a bit of mess it can be a lovely bonding experience if you choose the right moment.
Whatever your skill level (and your childs) you can have fun with this…rice crispie cakes to homemade pitta bread pizzas, my son (after some sensory therapy) now loves squishing together homemade veggie burgers, and my youngest likes just spreading butter and jam on a piece of bread.

Movie time – grab a few DVDs, whether they’re old favourites or new surprises, make up a bowl of popcorn and bottles of drinks and chill together. This is a lovely way to snuggle, relax and re-charge.

Crafting – again, not everyone’s cup of tea, but even if you leave a pile of paper, some glue sticks and foam shapes on the kitchen table, the kids will enjoy it. You can supervise with a cup of tea whilst they stick each other together, I mean create wonderful pictures, and even if only for 20 minutes, it’s a fairly simple activity that can be enjoyed by various ages. (My children make loads of pictures, so armed with envelopes and stamps we send them as presents to members of the family and then they don’t clutter up my house too much).

Play – lots of our kids struggle to play. They might need some structure in which case you can put out some useful props and sit nearby for help and support…maybe leaving some paper plates out next to a pile of teddies (picnic anyone?), or a half built lego model that can be continued, even a pile of blankets and pegs so they can make their own den. Sometimes that initial prompt can be enough to get them going. For inspiration search ‘invitation to play’ on Pinterest.

Out of the house

Fruit picking – a simple way to get them out of the house but with an end purpose and a healthy snack (who doesn’t nibble a few strawberries whilst picking them?). You could (if you have the time and inclination) make a whole themed day of it…beginning with fruit themed crafts, ending with jam making, or cake decorating with fresh fruit?

Go to the park – Whether your kids are younger or older, the park is light relief. Swings, slides and climbing frames or even a field with a ball. Take a couple of drinks and some snackage, and get out for an hour or two. Arrange to meet friends there if you like, or take a picnic.

Nature trails and walking games – we make nature bingo sheets, just a very simple list or pictures of things they might see on a walk…ants, blue cars, post boxes, the bakery etc and they tick them off as we go. Sometimes we take a camera and they have to take a picture of each thing too. Other times, the bingo card lists leaves and objects they can bring home, so we take a bag or hat with us to fill. This works well with younger children, but you can adapt it to suit whatever age group. This has helped my hyper child focus on something…a big achievement.

Puddle jumping – even on the wettest days, and in fact especially on the wettest days you just need to get out. So pull on your wellies, grab a jacket and go out to jump in puddles. Have fun with your kids!
Before you go, put newspaper down by the door and a pile of towels and pyjamas on the side, so you can get dry and snuggly when you get home.

What do you think? Will you do some of these with your children? What else are you planning? Let us know.

Today’s guest post is from Hayley, a mum of 4 children, 2 of whom are adoptive. They are 15, 12, 7 and 6. Hayley’s children have lots of different diagnoses (ASD, SPD, Attachment problems, FASD and anxiety) between them which are displayed differently in each so she’s well used to juggling activities to suit all or most of their needs at the same time. We’re grateful to Hayley for sharing this post with us. 

Make a Collage of the Things you Love.

Today’s post is not only a very creative and wonderful tutorial but also a Valentines competition with an amazing prize.

First to make your collage…..

Step 1 Collecting your Pictures Together

Go to the Picmonkey website and from the top tool bar select Collage.

A drop down menu will then appear asking you where you wish to select your pictures, for your collage from.

The source of your pictures should then open. Or you may be asked to connect with the sources of your pictures.

Select your first picture from your sources and click on/open and you should return to the Picmonkey screen. Your shot should appear in a bar on the left side of your screen, as shown below.

Step 2 Creating your Collage

lovecollage

Referring to the image above.

No. 1 – Click here to choose the layout for your collage and the number of pictures you wish to include.

No.2 – To upload more pictures click here and return to your source. All the pictures you select will appear in this sidebar. You then click and drag them into collage layout.

No.3 – Once you are happy with your collage you can either click to Save  as it is or click to  Edit  to add additional effects.

Step 3 – Editing and Finishing your Collage. 

lovecollage2

 

From the editing screen, add text and photographic effects.  If you need help with this, look here.

So here is my finished item. ThingsIlove

How about you? What do you love? What would your “Things I Love” collage include. We would love to see.

So here is the COMPETITION 

Make a “Things I love” Collage.

Email it to us at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com before Friday 13th Febuary.

Share your collages with the #PicMonkeyLove

We will select one winner to receive three months free trial of Picmonkey Royale, full access to all the sites functions.

So get creating, loving and having fun….

Tips on applying for Disability Living Allowance

Top Tips for claiming Disability Living Allowance

Have you heard of Disability Living Allowance? Also known as DLA.
It’s a financial benefit that can be applied for to help with the extra costs of caring for children whose needs are above those of children of a similar age.

In brief, it comes in two parts – Mobility and Care. Care is divided into Lower, Middle and Higher rates. Mobility into Higher and Lower. The rate awarded is obviously dependent on the needs of the child, and mobility and care rates are not necessarily awarded at the same rate. The currents rates are between £21.55 and £138.05 per week. If awarded, you may also then be entitled to additional child tax credits, and you may also be eligible to apply for Carer’s Allowance.

Importantly, a child DOES NOT need a diagnosis of any kind to claim DLA. It is strictly about the child’s needs.

Much more information can be found on the Government website here: https://www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children

Forms are downloadable, or can be sent to you to fill in. And to be honest, they can look pretty scary. They are comprehensive, enabling your child’s situation to be assessed. There are MANY questions, all focussing on the difficult and challenging parts of parenting a child with additional needs. But, help is at hand with those scary forms. I’m no expert, but I applied for DLA a few years ago and was successfully awarded it for my son for a period of 2 years, and I have also recently completed the renewal pack and am pleased that it’s been awarded for a further 2 years. I couldn’t have done this without some assistance from another adopter, and now I hope my tips might help you successfully apply.

Tips for applying for DLA

I cannot stress highly enough that a successful award is NOT based on diagnosis, but based on needs.

Throughout your application:

DO show how your child’s needs are over and above children of the same age.
DO use phrases such as ‘not meeting milestones’ as this is a recognised indicator of development.
DO refer to the guidance notes.
DO use the extra information opportunities.

What information to include:

DO fill in the form based on your worst day and night. The care component is in part based on night-time needs, so make sure you detail these fully.
DO be completely honest – if it takes an hour to settle your child in bed, then say so.
DO not worry about repeating yourself, just be consistent.
DO give examples of the additional support required – if night-time disturbances are toileting issues, then say so. If your child has no sense of danger and needs help staying safe whilst out walking, then say so.
DO be detailed.
DO ring your doctor/consultants to check dates if necessary.
DO include all illnesses and ailments – even if you think they’re irrelevant now.
DO include information about your child’s background and early life IF it is relevant to their needs and behaviours now.
DO include information about other professionals that you are working with.

What to send with your application:

DO send as much supporting evidence as possible – therapist reports, copy of your child’s IEP, educational psychologist reports, CAMHS recommendations, and anything else you have.
DO ask a professional to add a supporting statement – our Post Adoption Social Worker helped us in our original application, and we also sent a short email from our CAMHS therapist.

More tips:

DO keep a copy of your application so you can refer back to it at renewal time.
DO remember that you’re focussing on the negatives and that’s hard, but it’s only for a short time.
DO call the DLA helpline if you have specific questions – 0345 712 3456
DO remember that you don’t need to justify what you spend the money on – it’s your business.
DO get in touch if you need support with filling in the form – we’re happy to help.

Good luck!

Something different for stockings

Christmas is coming. It might be around a couple of corners just yet, but many are starting their shopping and so we hope this post will give you a few ideas if you need them.

Of course our children have lists like most children and enjoy a whole range of traditional stocking fillers, but I thought I’d share a few ideas that you might not normally consider, but could sneak in without your child realising how useful and important they are…

Chewigem Dog Tags
This site offers necklaces and bangles in a variety of designs – this is a link for some great looking dog tags.

Tangles
These are available in different colours and sizes. This is just one link to a basic junior tangle.

Twist and lock blocks
My own son loves his twist and lock block. It’s one of those things that he can move around and fiddle with when he’s anxious or stressed. He also uses it when watching TV etc, rather than scratching or picking at his skin.

Stress balls
There are a whole host of stress balls on the market – there is a great selection here of different shapes – some to suit children, others plainer.

Recordable Thought Cloud
A great way of expressing a thought, record and playback your thought or emotion, and you can write it too on the wipeable surface.

Mohdoh
Scented play dough – using aromatherapy for different effects.

Massager
Create a nice calm time with a massager (which come in a range of shapes and sizes, from a range of suppliers). These are a good idea for children who can’t manage skin to skin contact, but still allow the relaxation of a massage.

Worry Eaters
My son doesn’t use his very much at the moment, but probably because he dislikes writing. The idea is that you write down a worry and the monster eats it. Fun for some, but not everyone’s bag.

Glitter Tubes
Regulate and calm whilst watching the glitter settle. You can make these yourself, but for a handy ready-made stocking filler this is perfect.

Superhero cape
What a great way to boost your child’s self esteem! Grab a personalised superhero cape and make them feel confident in their abilities.

Play tent
OK, so this one is a little large to be a stocking filler, but nevertheless, I’m including it as it’s a great gift (especially if they have a favourite character, as there are plenty of designs about) and creates a safe space or den for a child to hide/calm/scream in.

Sleepykids bath additive
A fun way to encourage calm, and therefore sleep.

Feelings Cards
We especially love these Todd Parr cards – hardwearing and durable, with opposite feelings on each card. A fun way to introduce emotions.

Hopefully these might give you a little inspiration with your Christmas shopping. I’d like to think that all of these items would be seen as fun, and not a therapy/special needs/disability aid. If they’re not seen as ‘special’ toys, then perhaps they might be used to better effect.

Have you got any other ideas? Add your own links in the comments section…

 

 

Creating down time during December

Today Vicki from The Boy’s Behaviour shares a tip for finding some calm time with younger children through December…

I want to start by saying yes, I know it’s a bit early to be thinking about Christmas, but this one requires a bit of organisation and time hence the little bit of notice. And I was in a shop yesterday that was playing Christmas music – if they can do it, then so can I!

Christmas can be a difficult time for our children – lack of routine (or certainly a change), excitement, difficulty regulating feelings, missing birth family, preparing for school plays, the pressure of being good so Santa visits, along with a whole host of other reasons.

I want to share something that we do in our house during December that acknowledges Christmas every day, whilst allowing us to take 15 minutes out of the hectic schedule to sit and connect with our children.
Lot of us read everyday with our children anyway both for school and bedtime stories; this activity can be done in place of a bedtime story if you like, however and whenever you choose. And if nothing else, it creates a traditions – and I found that making some of our own traditions, together, has been important.

Each year I wrap up 24 Christmas themed books – I try to buy around four to six new books each year so there is a surprise for the children, and this allows me to remove those that they’ve grown out of. I’ve also found charity shops are wonderful for finding new festive books.

I buy two packs of identical stickers, and put a sticker on each wrapped book, and then the corresponding sticker on a slip of paper in their refillable advent calendar.
The books sit in a box in the living room and the children take turns to find and open the book each day, then we sit and I read to the children.

When we pack the decorations away after Christmas, the books get packed too until the next year.

We’ve done this for 3 years in a row now and it’s a lovely way to spend time with the children but more importantly that 15 minutes of sitting together, calmly, quietly, cuddling and breathing slowly helps my children chill out.

I can’t tell you what books we have, because they’re still packed away, but here’s a list of some of our favourite Wintery books that you might like to use to create your own readable advent calendar…some suitable for the very young…some suitable for primary age children…

  • Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs
  • Father Christmas Goes On Holiday by Raymond Briggs
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter
  • A Very Crabby Christmas (Cat in the Hat/Dr Seuss)
  • Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps by Nicholas Allen
  • Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allen
  • Aliens Love Panta Claus by Claire Freedman
  • The Smelly Sprout by Allan Plenderleith 
  • The Silly Satsuma by Allan Plenderleith
  • The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett
  • How Santa Really Works by Alan Snow
  • Mr Men and the Night Before Christmas by Roger Hargreaves
  • The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis
  • The Christmas Bear by Ian Whybrow
  • Santa is Coming To <Our Town> by Steve Smallman…perhaps you could find your town?
  • Zoe and Beans; Zoe’s Christmas List by Mick and Chloe Inkpen
  • The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson
  • The Very Snowy Christmas by Diana Hendry
  • How Many Sleeps Until Christmas by Mark Sperring
  • Dear Father Christmas by Alan Durant
  • The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet Ahlberg
  • Dear Santa by Rod Campbell 

It doesn’t have to be an costly thing either. I popped into The Works today, and there were plenty of inexpensive Christmas books – quite a few in their 4 for £5 selection too. It just takes a little time to find a nice selection.

Do you have any favourite Christmas books or stories? What other things do you do to calm the Christmas chaos?

Pixelating a Photo in Picmonkey

pixel pic

We are Re-sharing this post as it is our most popular post on Blogging, so just incase you missed it, here it is….

PicMonkey is a great photo editing website that is easy to use and free. There are lots of great effects that you can use when you are editing pictures and it is well worth having a play with, there are hours of fun to be had. In this post I’m going to show you how to pixelate a section of a photo. What this means is you can distort a portion of the picture, like the face or maybe a landmark, making a person or area unidentifiable. This can be useful if you want to post images on your blog that include your children.

  • So first things first go to the site www.picmonkey.com
  • On the home page click on Edit a Photo
  • This will open your files on your computer and you can scroll to find the picture you would like to edit.
  • Select the photo you wish to work on and click open, this will move the image into PicMonkey and your screen should look like the image below.

picmonkey2

  • Select the second icon down on the left hand side of the screen, the little chemistry bottle representing EFFECTS (highlighted in the red circle above)
  • Scroll down through the side bar of EFFECTS until you reach AREA and click on FOCAL PIXELATE 
  • Your screen will now look like the image below

Pic monkey

  • The normal settings for this effect is to pixelate the whole image and provide one clear area, what you want to do is pixelate a small area and keep the rest clear, so first click REVERSE EFFECT.
  • Hover the mouse over your photo and a circle will appear, move the circle to cover the area you want to pixelate.
  • Slide bars on the left hand side will allow you to change the size of the circle and the size of the pixels. The large the pixels the more distorted the image will be.
  • Once you are happy with the image click APPLY
  • Now Save the image onto your computer, selection the SAVE option above the image.
  • You will need to select where you save the image on your computer and it likes you to add .jpg after the name of the image.
  • Once stored in a file you can now upload the image onto your blog.

 

 

First aid, audio CDs and other things to keep close by in the Summer

Are your children accident prone?
One of mine is. Sometimes he falls over accidentally – he has hypermobility in his ankles so that doesn’t help, but often he hurts himself in the middle of a meltdown, and sometimes he hurts himself on purpose – yes, he’ll throw himself into a pile of stinging nettles, or headbutt a wall repeatedly, and there are the days where he’ll punch something hard, and end up slicing open his knuckles. We’re having therapy at the moment to help, but in the meantime I have to be prepared for many eventualities when at home, or out and about.

So with Summer approaching and days out planned, I thought I’d share the contents of our first First Aid posteraid kit with you…just in case.

At home, I expect most of you have a first aid kit. I have two more – one I keep in the car at all times, and a smaller one that I chuck in the backpack for days out.

  • Tweezers
  • Lanacane for itching/bites
  • Plasters (various sizes)
  • Calpol
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Safety pins
  • Individual square non-stick dressings
  • Bandage
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Triangular Bandage
  • Micropore
  • Small scissors
  • Piriton/Piriteze syrup

I don’t always take Calpol or Piriton, and when I do, sometimes leave them in the car. Bit bulky to carry around with me.

Of course, use your common sense and judgement. If I had other people’s children with me, I’d make sure I had parent’s permission to administer medicines, and check that plasters are OK too.
In the car, I also keep a few bits that make my life easier, and I know then that wherever we are, even if on the spur of the moment, I have what I need:

  • Change of clothes for the children (several pairs of pants for the serial wetter)
  • Suncream
  • Sunhats
  • Clean towel
  • Picnic blanket/doubles up as a warm blanket for in the car
  • Small box with baby wipes, tissues, plastic cutlery, rubbish bag

The boy is now in just a booster seat, with no back, so nowhere to rest his head – he has a beanbag filled ‘pillow’ for leaning on, else he contorts into weird positions to rest, most of which involve the seat belt no longer being where it should be!

And, in the back between the carseats, I keep clipboards with paper and pens, colouring books, some travel games, children’s binoculars, and sticker books to help keep the kids occupied during travelling – even just 10 minute trips.

I also made a CD that has songs on that EVERYONE in our family likes – this helps stop the bickering.
And we also have a couple of story CDs in the car. They’re a bit young for the boy, but sometimes after a long, tiring day out, a little bit of The Gruffalo is just what’s needed.

Travelling with children is a whole other post, so just thinking about days out – what else do you take other than picnics, buckets/spades for the beach, footballs for the park, or bikes for the woods. Any tips?

How to start a blogger blog

Last week we showed you how to create a blog in WordPress. The other popular alternative blogging tool is Blogger/Blogspot. So here’s how to start a Blogger blog…

Step 1

Go to the website www.blogger.com. Click on Create Account. Blogger is tied into google/gmail/google+ and much more, even if you already have a gmail email account, I’d suggest that you don’t use that with your blog, and create a blog specific one.

starting on blogger

Step 2

The next page will require you to create an account. Consider your own security here, you might not want to use your real or whole name.

You will be required to verify your account by phone/text message. But your number won’t be public.

You’ve made a google account – you now have a new email address and can connect it to your blog.

Step 3

Now you need to confirm your profile – I suggest selecting a limited Blogger profile rather than a Google+ profile. Safer for adoptive bloggers who might need to consider safety and security more than other bloggers.

Select your profile name – this is how you would like your name to appear. You could use the blog name you hope to use? Continue on…

Step 4

The next page will take you to your ‘dashboard’. Here you’ll see any blogs you’ve created, and a few basic statistics about them.

Now you can create your blog. Click on the NEW BLOG button on the left.create your blog 2

Step 5

Here you’ll choose your blog name and web address. Your web address will be unique – but your blog name and web address don’t have to be the same.

As you type, you’ll see whether you’ve picked a unique name or not.

You can choose a template on this screen too, but don’t worry – you can easily change this later.

That’s it, your blog is create. Blogger is very helpful at getting you started – just click on the prompts that appear. If you want to return to your dashboard at any point, then click on the B icon in the top left corner.

setting up blogger 3

Next time I’ll talk you through design a little bit – and how to change the look and style of your blog.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, do drop us a line at theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

How to make the most of 140 characters

Twitter.

Some of us love it, some of us hate it. However you feel about it, there’s no denying that many use it for support.
For bloggers, it provides a useful way of sharing our posts. Simple – copy and paste a link to your blogpost, tell people a bit about what they can expect from the post, then hit publish right?

Except for some of us the blog post’s URL is so long, there’s not much left of those 140 pesky little characters that Twitter allow us. That’s not something to complain about, because quite frankly if Twitter allowed longer tweets, they wouldn’t be tweets would they? They’d be full on birdsong. However, if you have a blog with a long name, a category name, then a post with a long title, 140 characters is just not going to give you enough space to tease your readers, grab attention or even add a hashtag.

So what to do?
Today, I’m going to tell you about link shortening. There are quite a few websites out there that offer this service and a quick search online will give you lots of results. However, the one that I prefer is Bitly. And that’s because it’s easy, free, and I can see how popular a given link is.

It’s free and simple to shorten a link. Head to Bitly.com, paste in the long version of your link, hit ‘Shorten’ and voila, you’ll have a short link that you can copy and paste, using up less of your precious character allowance.

For statistics, and when I say statistics, I mean you can see exactly how many people have used the shortened link to visit your post, you’ll need to create a free account.
For the purposes of this post I’ve opened a new account for The Adoption Social. To do the same, simply head over to Bitly.com, click on  ‘Sign up For Free’.
bitly homepageThen you’ll see a screen like this, where you can register either by email, Facebook or Twitter. I used our Twitter account, because it seemed as easy as any other, and because we’ll mostly be using shortened bitly links on Twitter.

Screenshot 2014-04-04 13.54.57

After following the instructions (i.e allowing access to your Twitter account, and inputting your email address) you’ll go to your Bitly homepage. It’s a bit like a dashboard of all the short links you’ve made. You can search through them here – useful if you create lots.

As with those without accounts, simply paste your long link in, and Bitly will convert it to a short link for you. Just hit copy to copy the link onto your computer’s clipboard, then hit Ctrl+V to paste into your tweet. So simple. (From this dashboard though, you can not only copy, but share and email your Bitly links too).

Under each Bitly link you’ll also see the number of clicks that link has had. See below – I only created these links a couple of minutes ago, and haven’t shared them, so you’ll see they’ve had 0 clicks. This will help you see which of your links have been most popular. Screenshot 2014-04-04 13.58.21Here you can also change the privacy of your links from public to private. You can create bundles of bitly links which you can keep private or share with friends. You can add notes against each link. You can even develop a network of your own.

For me though, just being able to conserve some of my Twitter characters for some interesting text is a good enough reason to use this site.

If you use other link shortening sites, please do share them below – tell us your favourites and why.

Adding keywords to your blog

Keywords, labels, tags – call them what you will, they’re important in blogging. Keywords are usually a word, or short phrase, that relate to the content of your post.

If you think of your blog as a filing cabinet, then think of keywords as the labels on the top of the files that allow you to organise and re-find a post, and also help anyone else that visits your blog to find relevant posts too.

Not only for you, and your readers, but also search engines.

Adding keywords in Blogger

As you write your post, you’ll see the ‘labels’ box on the right hand side. Type in keywords, using commas to separate them. Use one or two-word keywords, perhaps using details like ‘gingerbread recipe’ or ‘attachment counselling’ rather than general words like ‘food’ or ‘therapy’. Though on most of our blogs ‘adoption’ would be general, but fairly useful.

Press ‘Done’ once you’ve entered all the keywords that are relevant.

Keywords in blogger

Adding keywords in WordPress

After writing your post, look for the ‘Tags’ box on the right hand side. Type in the tags you want to include, using commas to separate them. As above, use detailed keywords rather than general words.  

Hit ‘Add’ and then ‘Publish’, and your post will go live.

tags in wordpress

On both WordPress and Blogger, a list of keywords will appear under your published post. And in both, you can search your posts by keyword from your Dashboard (that’s the back-end bit only you can see, where you can edit/delete/publish posts).

Only you can choose which keywords are relevant, but have a think about the most important points in your post – and use those.

If you have any tips or hints on using keywords or tags in posts, do let us know in the comments…