Sunny day’s and Inclusive Play

So Saturday was the first sunny weekend we have had in a while. The big girls were having a sleepover at their Aunties.  Alex was working in the morning and I was home with the Twins. On the way home Alex called and decided that we was going to abandon our boring plans and go to the park instead. The weather was so good and we hadn’t really been out for a while as a family, partly due to the weather, myself being ill in January and now my knee injury (Which is a lot better now, thanks for asking)

We went to my favourite park, the park of my childhood and now the park of my children’s childhood Cassiobury Park in our home town Watford Hertfordshire

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The Lion King Tree

20180217_1401531172133640.jpgA couple of years ago my relationship with this park was under fire. A grant from the lottery was going to be spent making great improvements to the park. Unfortunately at the time the improvements didn’t include any thing inclusive and therefore did not meet my families needs. I found out the original plan to install a Changing Place Toilets was to be scrapped due to budget cuts. Our beloved “toddler” playground with a wheelchair accessible roundabout in along with other sensory play equipment was ripped out without a plan to replace like with like. It was heartbreaking.

So here is where my campaigning journey began, it was personal. It was a learning experience. It was a journey (if you pardon the x-factor type pun)

I have visited the park many times, all through my campaigning, the building works and even visiting after completion. But today was the first time I had fully appreciated the magnitude of my campaigning work. (I have documented much of this journey on my blog before)

img-20180218-wa0001197705541.jpgWe arrived at the park and after putting Owen in his chair from the car realised Owen (really) needed his nappy changing. previously we would have had to either change in the back of the car, on the grass or on the toilet floor. Not today, today we simply carried on and walked towards the newly built Hub building which housed the new Changing Places toilet. In case you go, it is locked but the Lovely “Daisy In The Park” cafe also housed in the hub have the key. This took a matter of minutes to retrieve.

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Thumbs Up For Changing Places

Sometimes when a new Changing Place is opened a Grand Opening  takes place, usually including a picture of whoever has campaigned for it to be open and usually giving the Changing Place thumbs up. But not with this one. Today was the first time while using it I remembered to take my own ‘Thumbs up” Changing Places picture. As you can see it is not entirely perfect. “How lovely” I thought it would be to take a picture of the Twins. Florence did manage to do the thumbs up, But as you can see Flo was having a particularly diva-ish day. On the way to the park she did tell us she wished she could travel by helicopter. Owen wasn’t really in the mood for photos at that moment either. I mean just having you nappy changed is not something to look excited about. I think he just wanted to get back outside and play.

So Play? Another one of my small achievements.

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Using your Twin sister to wedge you in because lack of a harness has become our thing (Which they will soon outgrow)

The council had added on to the current main park with more Inclusive Play Equipment.  The council had replaced the ripped out wheelchair roundabout with a brand new one now placed in the main park. Unfortunately I did ask for a Stay in Wheelchair Swing, but this was not to be in the budget. I have got assurances that if the money was raised there was room left for one to be installed. At the time, way back in June 2017 I was all ready to start a fundraising campaign for one, But that was until the closure of my son’s beloved respite centre Nascot Lawn came to light. My energy was then thrown into campaigning to try to #SaveNascot I started a petition and got a little swept up in it all. At the same time our own home adaptions works were again in trouble. I thought my fundraising efforts may have to go into my own cause rather than a public one. I know us Special Needs Mums are supposed to have unlimited resources, but I didn’t really have the energy to take on something else. (If anyone out there wants to sponsor a Wheelchair Swing or fancies starting fundraising for this please feel welcome to.)

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Look how happy he is…. he loves having fun just a much as any other 5 year old.

I did feel a tinge of deflation while in the park that despite my best efforts it was still not enough. Apart from the Wheelchair Roundabout, the bucket swings and a couple of sensory items Owen was still nowhere near equal in the amount of fun that could be had. Until places plan from a wheelchair users perceptive, till they ask them what is needed this will never be put right. It pains me that the message of inclusive playgrounds still has not got through. It angers me how many parks are still updated but yet still are non-inclusive. As just one Mum I can’t campaign for each and every park, just like I can’t campaign for each and every building to have a Changing Place Toilet, But I will do what ever I can.  My fight for inclusion, accessibility will continue. I hope for some more positive results soon to make days like yesterday simply easy.

 

Let Owen Play!!!! (part 1)

Let Owen Play!!! (Part 2 )

How Things Can Change

Let Me Play – A Summer Of Inclusive Fun

Young Carers Day

Today is Young Carers Day.

It took me a while to truly acknowledge that Owen’s sisters Beth 14, Lilly 10 & Florence 5 were infact Young Carers. In the main this was because I am so determined not to burden them with the task of looking after Owen, that acknowledging they do help care for their brother made me feel like I was failing them. This led to feelings of guilt.

What at the time I didn’t understand was, that in NOT acknowledging them as Young Carers I was failing them more.

This is our family life and no matter how much you try and shelter the harsh truths of it sometimes you can run but you can not hide from it. It will catch you up.

What is amazing is that I never force any of them to help, but they do, out of choice, out of love.

My most guilt and upset comes about how much they have to go through. They were there at the most darkest of days, they have experienced things most adults would crumble at. Even a small temperature can throw them into a panic. But again this is all out of love.

Practically they are amazing, they know how to comfort Owen, care for him and translate his non verbal cues.

They know what to do in most circumstances. A great example of this is ss follows…. Owen has a really scary habit of trying to pull out his feeding tube out whilst on his milk. He sneakily moves his blanket covering/hiding the tube, gets his hands under the tube and forces his body into extenstion and lifts his arms up. He has pulled out his Mic-key button before by doing so, leading me to swiftly but calmly replace his Mic-key button with a new one. Yes this was infront of Lilly. Now Lilly is only too aware he may do this again. Yesterday Owen almost did, his hands were under his feeding tube and in any second he could pull it out. Lilly and I saw this at exactly the same time, both jumping into action. Lilly got their first, move his hands away and tucked in his blanket. I was so proud, but Lilly just told Owen he was a trouble maker and went back to sit on the sofa to watch TV. I sometimes feel bad that I have to ask “Can you watch Owen while I pop upstairs?” “Can you play with Owen while I cook dinner?” but that is our life. Before Owen had his tube Beth witnessed a particular bad choking episode and unfortunately has witnessed many other equally scary things to date. She has also comforted myself when I have been feeling sad or worried about a particular thing. She is not your typical teen, yes she has her teen moments but she has not got that self centred thing most teens have. At times she is completely selfless. Florence, Owens twin has known nothing else. She has from day one (literally) been through everything alongside Owen. I’m sure she will continue to fiercely love and protect him, even if at times she finds him totally annoying. Especially when he laughs when she is having a diva strop.

It is crazy to me how much they understand and how considerate they are. In all honestly the running of the house is centred around Owen and his needs. The house is full with medical and therapeutic equipment. We often have strangers in and out of the house, Community nurses, OT’s, Physio’s etc. Do they complain, No they just see it as the norm, our norm.

I can and do also feel guilty about the lack of time I get to spend with them one to one, That our life is different to that of their friends. Days out, Holidays etc can not be freely made without careful planning. But this is not my problem this is society’s problem. So all I can do to solve this one, is keep campaigning to try and change a tiny bit of the world not just for Owen, but for all of them.

In some ways I hope their experiences will help shape them into the most amazing adults. But for now I really do hope they know how proud I am of each of them, how much appreciate not only their help, but their compassion and empathy. And that all four of my children are all well and truly loved equally.

Slime Factory

As a family we are always into a craze, be it making loom bands, going out for long walks searching for Pokemon and gyms with the Pokemon Go app or in this week’s case making Slime!!!!!

The girls between them were keen to open up our own Slime Factory after watching more than enough YouTube videos of other people making slime.

It was a very messy task, that Owen also loved being involved with. (Especially the farty noises of the glue bottle and the farty noises of the end result when you squish it between your hands) I could point out that it is a great sensory activity and the end result is also a great activity for occupational therapy.

But the best point was that all four of my children  ( the 4th being 14 is camera shy) were sat around the table, all giggling and making slime together.

*** Just a quick note to say this is not editable, so probably not the best idea if you have someone who is likely to put the slim in their mouth.

Here is our recipe and method incase you want to try and open your own slime.

1 cup of PVA glue

1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda

1 cup of shaving foam (optional extra If you want ‘fluffy slime’)

Food colouring

Contact lens solution (Important point the contact solution must contain boric acid)

You will also need a something to protect your table and your clothes, mixing bowls, spoons or something to mix it with (we used kebab sticks) and Tupperware boxes to keep it in.

  • Firstly pour 1 cup of PVA glue into the bowl.
  • Add 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda & mix
  • Add the food colouring & mix
  • Add shaving foam now if you want & mix

  • Now The magic… Add the contact lens solution a tiny bit at a time. It will start to come together and get ‘stringy’
  • Now get your hands in and knead. If it is really sticky keep adding the contact lens solution until you get the desired texture. (Not to much)

  • Now if you want you can add the glitter and knead in.
  • Now the slime is ready to play with.

Good luck with the mess and just have fun.

The Harsh Lessons of 2017

2017 has been a real tough year and I have had to learn some real harsh lessons along the way.
I hope the lessons learnt will go someway to ease the ongoing struggles and face the new challenges of the year ahead.
I won’t go into the scenarios that caused these lessons to be learnt as a) that would be a very long post b) It is not just one episode or event that led to them but various things throughout the year. Below are my lessons learnt or my resolutions if you like which I will try to keep to.

  • Keep going. This year has proven that one person can truly make a difference. Surprisingly I have found that person could infact be me. My campaigning has led to new local Changing Places and a push torwards inclusive playgrounds. Next year I have to be braver in my campaigning and to really put myself out there more. When i do achieve something I need to stand up and be proud in all I have achieved. I promise myself I will be louder in celebrating those achievements. Deep down I know I have made a difference and I can keep doing so.

  • Wrap yourself around those who truly care.

Sometimes you find out that you care for people far more than they actually care about you.
What do you do? Do you try and care less about them? Not caring is not in my nature so I have been finding this hard. Or do you just try and let go.
You can lower expectations of others to save the constant feeling of being let down. You got this anyway you always had done.
You can’t make people who have done you wrong say sorry. And you can’t keep forgiving their continuing mistakes if they have not yet realised the impact of them thereselves. Sometimes kindness comes in the most unexpected places. In life you will come across a few gems and you will be so happy have such people in your life. Some people are just toxic, these are not your people and not worth your energy.

  • I need to make more time for those that truly matter.

Continue to make time for each of my children individually. Not to let them get lost in all the chaos. Value each one as they grow into theirr one wonderful person.
Remember to be a wife not just a mother and carer. But mostly remember to find some time to be me. I have promised myself to take some risks this year. Also to keep learning new things.

  • Don’t feel like you have to change for anyone, But be prepared as sometimes change in yourself will just happen, and sometimes people won’t

Trying to toughen up to match up to others just didn’t work. They say nice people finish last, this maybe true, but I rather be last in the race, then storm through life with a heart of stone and a cruel tonuge.
Do what feels right in your heart. Also Don’t expect every one else to have the same view point of the world as you.

  • I need to make more time for those that truly matter.

Continue to make time for each of my children individually. Not to let them get lost in all the chaos. Value each one as they grow into theirr one wonderful person.
Remember to be a wife not just a mother and carer. But mostly remember to find some time to be me. I have promised myself to take some risks this year. Also to keep learning new things.

  • Listen to yourself more.

Take your own advice. I tell my children to

Be kind, Always try your Best and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Then it is simply; Cry Less – Laugh More, Be more organised and learn new things.

Also to be more consistent with writing and learn the art of blogging. I promise my next few posts won’t be so sour. Infact I am already planning my next one which will be a round up of 2017 in a far more positive way. It is just that if I only celebrate the good, I don’t think it will be truthful.

Thank you for bearing with me while I get this one out of my system. Thank you also for all your support. I really do hope you all have a Happy New year and in harsh times you also can draw upon past lessons learnt.

The Boy Who Loves Christmas

20171202_18171952637055.jpgOne of the things we always wonder and worry about is how much of the World does Owen understand.  Over his 5 years of life he has taught us despite his severe disabilities  he understands the world so much more than he is able to express, because of this we never assume that he will not understand something and try our best to make sure he is included in everything we do. With Owen we are very much the experts of thinking outside the box, planning and researching and adapting things that we do.

 

Owen loves Christmas, he really does. The word Christmas makes him cackle with delight. Owen loves the sensory experiences Christmas can bring. Christmas Lights are of course a huge hit. a room full of lights is his happy place so Christmas means lots and lots of happy places. Another thing Owen loves about Christmas is the get together’s and the attention he will get, Owen is a real sociable little boy and of course a flirt.20171209_1738181740588356.jpg

20171205_141542501911686.jpgOwen took part in his Christmas play (I remember being concerned when I knew Owen was going to have to go to a special needs school that he was going to miss out on all things like A Nativity Play and Easter Parades, how I was so wrong) Owen was a carol singer, he danced along to the music and then his part came up during his now favourite Jingle Bells. Owen was to push his switch to activate it to say “hey”. Unfortunately he was so excited about the song his arms were in full extension so his timing was off when he eventually found his switch button. Though when he found it he made great use of it, constantly pressing it from the sidelines throughout th e rest of the play. He thought he was very funny.

20171212_1539311238825379.jpgRecently in the run up to Christmas we had snow. Owen did enjoy coming out and watching his sisters build a Snowman for a limited time, before he got too cold  But what Owen enjoyed the most was the ride in his chair after picking his sisters up from school. (Owen had another snow day) It was really icy. This led to some very tricky and tiresome driving from mum but a very bumpy ride for Owen who squealed and full belly laughed all the way home.

One thing Owen can not do is eat Christmas dinner due to being fully tube fed. We make sure he does not miss out and always has a place at the table, like I said he is very sociable so wants to join in with that side of it. Owen has toys to occupy himself with while we are eating. Sometimes guest feel a little awkward eating in front of Owen, but I really don’t think he is worried about that side of things, he would most definitely feel more left out away from the table, Crackers though are a work in progress, Last year we had to do all our crackers at the same time while we put Owens ear defenders on.

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This year we braved it and took all the children to meet santa. After many days trying to find somewhere Wheelchair accessible, Where Owen would get some enjoyment from and not over the top expensive we settled on booking Aldenham Country Park,This was a fab (all be it rainy and cold) day. Santa was fantastic with his great big beaming voice who took take pleasure in teasing my teenage daughter who only came in to shelter from the rain. Owen was a little worried as he was so loud and his bottom lip did come out a bit when Santa made us all hold hands to detect if we had been naughty and nice followed by him shouting bang as a joke, A joke Owen didn’t find very funny, but he soon settled down. Owen really enjoyed looking around the farm afterwards, Owen simply loves animals. I really think we will go back again next year. Hopefully santa will remember not to make a sudden loud noise.

So far the build up to Christmas has been great. I really hope Owen and my whole family have a truly magical Christmas. I may have gone a little mad present wise n the Children, mainly because they have had a tough year and some things they have had to experience this year are just to harsh for their little minds. I wanted to creat a point in te year where everyone can just relax and enjoy themselves. So I have better get on with the Christmas Preparations as I am cooking for 10 tomorrow.

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So we all at Flourishing Warriors wish you A Very Merry Inclusive Christmas.

 

Reminders of “Come What May”

Yet again Facebook had thrown up another one of those “On This Day” pictures. Yet again my emotions were mixed.

The now year old photo is a beautiful one. A photograph capturing a lovely moment between Father and Son. The Photograph was taken by myself and at the time exact time I snapped the shot I was truly all wrapped up in the emotion of the moment.

It is just that looking back at the photo it reminds me why this photo was taken, not ‘Why did i take a beautiful photo next to a beautiful fountain’ I mean it reminds me why we were even there?

The reality is that this photograph was taken in Regents Park. We had decided to take some time out and have a walk around the park to try to clear our heads after a very long and stressful hospital appointment. The appointment was at The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital London. We were there due to a newly discovered ‘problem’ had shown up via Owen’s annual hip x-ray.

The majority of children with Cerebral Palsy develop spasticity, in which their muscles tighten involuntarily, causing stiffness. Spasticity in the muscles around the hip places abnormal forces on the hip-joint, eventually causing the hip to dislocate from the socket. It is therefore very common for children with Cerebral Palsy to develop hip disorders over time.

Owen’s left hip wasn’t fully dislocated but had moved slightly out of the joint. This is  called “Hip Subluxation” also called a “Partial Dislocation”. 20171026_164604410829793.pngAfter a day of waiting for a more senior consultant to see us it was decided Botox, or a lesser operation to release the tendons would not be beneficial. Major surgery would most likely be needed. Owen was not in pain and at the time was not affecting his quality of life so they and we agreed to leave it for now as the hip was only slightly “Out” and it may well just stay in the same, slightly “Out” position. They said major surgery is on the cards but not at that present time.

In ambulatory children, hip dislocation can be a detriment to walking. In non-ambulatory children, sitting balance, skin breakdown and diaperring can be hindered by hip dislocation.
We have towards the end of this current year noticed a difference in Owen regarding his tightness in his leg muscles, his legs are crossing more and he just doesn’t look symmetrical. We are really fearful what our next upcoming ‘hip’ appointment will reveal. We are trying to prepare ourselves for the likely fact that Owen will need major surgery to correct this, But I am currently also not trying to think too much about it as it sends me in a complete panic.20171026_1650381087182585.png

This year of waiting, hoping and seeing has been hard. Owen is non verbal and we worry we will miss him giving us clue that he is in pain. Every time he has a period of unexplained crying or seems in pain I fear it is his hips. Recently he has quite a lot of illnesses, At the start of them I never really know what they are about, but I am always on full alert whether he is in pain due to his hips or whether his bowel malrotation has re-appeared (despite having surgery to fix it). It is strangely a relief that it was the beginnings of another familiar chest infection that made him so upset. The feeling of relief is short-lived as you then start to panic that this chest infection will be THE bad one. Despite Owen being out of school more than in school this last term with sickness bugs, chest infections and feeding issues we do feel extremely lucky that all this was treatable at home, especially after hearing some recent really sad news. We are always forever thankful and never take anything for granted.20171026_164919160483415.pngHaving said that the thought of having another hospital stay is playing heavily on my mind. It is a fear that never goes away. Living with the thought that at any moment for many different reasons you child could end up in hospital means you can never fully be free.

I realise to some this blog post is almost a year too late, I have been sitting on my worries regarding his hips for a year now. I sometimes, when I have no answers find it is easier just to keep your worries to yourself. I almost feel like by not telling people I am protecting them. The fact I may need support and comfort does not come into it. My whole focus is Owen and trying to do the best for him.  I hope what ever the outcome of the very near next appointment, it will be what is best for Owen. I fear the truth of what that may mean for him, But I know whatever it maybe I will be by his side every step of the way.  “Come What May”

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Why ASDA Know That Mum’s Are Always Right

So if you follow my Facebook page you will have seen I recently posted a little tease about an upcoming Changing Place local to me.

Well here I can reveal the location of this Changing Place will be…

(Incase you haven’t guessed from my title)

ASDA Watford!!!!!!

As a mother of four, Supermarket shopping is no easy task. This is made harder with a disabled child and a complete lack of facilities. For both of those reasons this is why I always do grocery shopping online. Nowadays Supermarkets now are like mini shopping centres. You can buy anything from bread and milk, to TV’s and PC’s all while picking up a brand new outfit or having a bite to eat in their cafes. Being restricted to just shopping online or just limited to popping in means you get to miss out on so much of what Supermarkets have to offer and in turn they miss out on your cash.

So how did it all come about???

Over a year ago, I contacted ASDA and sent them my usual information trying to ‘convince’ ASDA that toilet floors are not good enough and Changing Places is far better. ASDA were very pleasant to work with and took my views as a parent/carer on board. ASDA said they were “Very keen” to install Changing Places and were planning to “Roll them out across the country.” ASDA did however state they could not tell me the timeline of when my local store would be getting one.

Fast forward to last month. I went to my local ASDA with my children including my disabled son to get the children’s last minutes bits for school. Let’s just say it didn’t go to plan and we ended up just buying whatever was in the basket and rushing home.

A few weeks after I noticed ASDA were doing alot of building work so I emailed ASDA to ask if they were putting in a Changing Place facility also explaining about my previous trip which left us exiting early. I got the reply they were refreshing the toilets but NO Changing Places were to be installed. Not happy with this, I emailed a formal complaint to the CEO.

I very promptly recieved a reply. It was rather shocking to read the reason why they were not installing Changing Places. It was because The Official Changing Place Campaign advised them against doing so. Can you believe it? ASDA told me they were advised as Watford had a number of Changing Places in town
one being 1.2 miles away ASDA didn’t need to install. How can a campaign like Changing Places, whose sole purpose is to get Changing Places installed, give such damming advice?

As a parent/carer campaigner for Changing Places. I have helped get Changing Places in my local town of Watford Hertfordshire. These include Warner Bros Studio – Harry Potter Tour, Watford Football Club and Cassiobury Park. I do this because I believe Changing Places should be as readily available as much as your standard disabled toilets. I put all of my very rare bits of spare time into campaigning to get businesses, attractions and just basically anywhere suitable to install. I just feel so deflated and that all my previous efforts were going to waste.

I wish I can say this is the first time this has happened, but sadly not. I have had the same response from Tesco and John Lewis. I also know others that have been told the same.

Luckily for me, despite Changing Places advising otherwise, ASDA listened to myself a parent/carer and a valued customer and decided to go against advice from Changing Places and just do the right thing. ASDA now are going to install Changing Places as part of the current building works.

Campaigning for Changing Places takes so much time and hard work. I often think about giving up, But the bottom line is (no pun intended) my son needs them and I can’t just sit back and do nothing, especially after I have seen the positive results of my hard work. So for now, I will take a little break from campaigning while I think what my next steps will be and just look forward to the opening of yet another Changing Place for my town which I know will not only be a great benefit for my son but for the wider community.

I am very grateful that ASDA for just doing “The Right Thing”. ASDA showed a great “Commitment to customer service”

“Making sure we have the correct facilities in place to meet all of out customers needs”

ASDA listened to one Mothers voice whose son needs these facilities, who lives with the upsetting and degrading effects of not being able to access such facilities on a day to day basis. They listened to a Mother over the so-called ‘experts’. You can’t ask for more than that. I hope I have not put any campaigners off from keeping up with their hard work. I hope I have still managed to encourage other Parent/Carers also ask for the “Correct Facilities” despite my difficulties.

Inclusion and Accessibility should not be seen as a extra but as a given.

NHS Nascot Lawn Respite Children’s Respite centre ‘Saved’ as Lennon’s Legacy.

 

SAVE NHS NASCOT LAWN CHILDRENS RESPITE SERVICE’S PRESS RELEASE

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NHS Nascot Lawn Respite Children’s Respite centre ‘Saved’ as Lennon’s Legacy.
On 28th September 2017, parents of NHS Nascot Lawn children received the welcome news that Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group has set aside their decision to cease funding respite service at NHS Nascot Lawn.
Lennon Ruffles was a patient of Nascot Lawn who sadly died on 3rd August 2017. Lennon and his family played a vital part in campaign to ‘Save Nascot Lawn’. Lennon’s Mum, Nikki said: “We are overwhelmed by the news this morning, had Lennon been able to communicate, his dying wish would have been for Nascot Lawn to stay open, for all his friends.”
A judicial review was due to take place at The High Court, Holburn on 3rd and 4th October. At the judicial review, the High Court was due to decide whether or not the decision made by Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group to withdraw the funding to NHS Nascot Lawn had been taken legally.
Irwin Mitchell, the legal team acting on behalf of parents, are still working through an agreement with Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group’s legal team, but the commissioning group has confirmed that they will now carry out full family and public consultations before they make any decisions about funding in the future.
Parents received letters back in June informing them of Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group’s  decision to withdraw funding to NHS Nascot Lawn and that the respite centre would be due to close on 31st October 2017.
Since then, parents launched a campaign to ‘Save NHS Nascot Lawn’ which gained considerable media support from both radio and television stations, including the BBC and ITV and a great deal of newspaper coverage from local newspapers including The Watford Observer and Herts Advertisers. Parents also received backing from local councillors, including Mark Watkin, Nigel Bell, Asif Khan and Sara Bedford.
15,000 members of the public backed the campaign through a public petition with many more sending messages of support on social media. The campaign was even mentioned in The House Of Lords by Baroness Sal Brinton, who went on to arrange a meeting with parents, Lord O’Shaughnessy, the Health Minister and herself at the Department of Health.
Parents would like to thank everyone involved in helping to turn around Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to cease funding. They also wish to express their excitement and happiness at the decision, but do so cautiously. Parents have still not heard a response from Herts Community Trust – the service provider, and the staff at Nascot Lawn are still unaware of where they currently stand. Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group can of course now undertake public consultation in regards to the position of NHS Nascot Lawn, and if and when that happens, the campaign will continue to need as much support as possible.

#SaveNascot #NascotArmy #ParentPower #LennonsLegacy

Please keep signing and sharing our petition below

https://www.change.org/p/save-nhs-nascot-lawn-children-s-respite-services?recruiter=224336991&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

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Let Me Play – A Summer Of Inclusive Fun

Looking outside it is very clear, that unfortunately Summer is now well and truly over. The early dark evenings have arrived, I have swapped slip on shoes for boots. Ice cold drinks for Steamy Hot Chocolate, BUT before we enter the full swing of the Autmnal months I thought i had better get in there quick with a blog that updated you all on all things inclusive play that I have been working on and as a family we have been enjoying through the Summer months.

As a family we are always looking at ways to make sure Owen is fully included in every day family life as possible.  We are just like any other ‘normal’  family (hate the word Normal… whose normal anyway) We love Family days out together, Be it to The Zoo, Seaside or just to one of our Local Parks.

I have always felt lucky living in my home town of Watford. Many of our parks are of a high standard. Growing up here and also now as a Mother of four I have spent more hours than I could even count having fun in parks.

Owen is a massive Thrill seeker, his favourite piece of equipment at our local park is the Nest Swing. You should hear his squeals of delight mixed with his proper belly laugh as you push him to go very high and very fast. (Much to the worry of his Twin sister Florence) The unfortunate thing is, that this is very popular piece of equipment especially with the older children, so queues often form while Owen is having his much loved turn. Once Owen has had his ‘go’ There is not much else for Owen to do.

In the heart of Watford is the much loved Cassiobury Park. http://cassioburypark.info/  Cassiobury Park has played a big part of my childhood. It is lovely to see that it has become a big part of all of my children’s childhoods too.16681749_10210372724147746_7483984388105075141_n

As you may or may not be aware, Cassiobury park has undergone a big £6.5million restoration project.

The project included;
*Renovating the lovely Cha Cha Cha Café, We have lots of lovely times here. I fondly remember bringing Lilly each week here for her Hartbeeps Music and Movement Class. Also who doesn’t love a Latte while watching there kids play.

*Moving a bandstand from the top of the town centre back to it original position in the park.

* Renovating the Paddling Pools and building a great big Hub Building which now will include a Changing Places Toilet.

* Adding some new Inclusive play equipment to the main park.16864136_10210372726947816_5322957120991351166_n

The above did not arrive with out a little work and push in the right direction

Starting from the early stages of the planning and building more than a year ago. I have constantly been in contact with Watford Borough Council to raise awareness of the need for ALL parks to become Fully Inclusive. My first response prompotted me to believe much work was needed, Watford Council replied stating that  “ALL Watford Parks are already Fully Accessible”

Now seems to perfect time to explain the important difference between Fully Accessible and Fully Inclusive, As the two are totally different things.

 Fully Accessible Playground; All parts of the play space can be reached or entered into. For example the playground surface should be one that a wheelchair or walker can move on.
What this means for us is I can push Owen easily around the park. So you can see why just being accessible alone is just not good enough as what fun to be had, being pushed around watching all the other children have fun and play.
 A Fully Inclusive playground takes in account not only physical equipment but incorporates the emotional and social benefits of play. These types of playgrounds take into account children with physical disabilities as well as learning or developmental disabilities.  In additional to accessible floor surfaces you may find Accessible Swings, Wheelchair Swings, Play Panels, Sensory Walls, and Sensory Gardens

According to Landscape Structures, a leading manufacture of inclusive playground equipment, an inclusive playground “… can offer many opportunities for children to further develop physical, cognitive, sensory and social skills. An Inclusive design includes a balance of play experiences to build all these skills.”

So you can see why I believe a Fully Inclusive Playground is much more important than just being accessible.

Things didn’t get much better very quickly, During the works on the top park I found the devastated sight that Watford Council had ripped out all the current inclusive play equipment including a Wheelchair roundabout  and replaced with nothing Inclusive at all.

Below is an extract from a previous blog detailing what I found.

As we reached the Cha Cha Cha Café, at first glance I didn’t see it.  Even though it is not finished, I thought How ‘beautiful’ the new Café garden looked. We continued to walk around the fenced off area and my heart sunk. Previously just behind the Café was a park. This park hadn’t really changed that much in years, but was a particular favourite among those with toddlers and younger children.

 *It had two great apparatus with slides, one in the shape of a fire engine which you could pretend to drive.*A little playhouse.
* Baby swings – With the aid of a special adapted seat from Firefly called the GoTo seat Owen was able to enjoy his first  swing. I remember it greatly, such a milestone. Such a special moment to see both the Twins swinging together.
Unfortunately Owen is too big to use the GoTo seat on baby swings. I had a trickly moment a while back when Owen went into full body extenstion and I nearly couldn’t get him out. This is so sad and he really did love the swing. Just look at that little face.Owen also loved the Wheelchair Roundabout,  The musical play panels and the Microphones where you could call down to the other person waiting at the second one at the opposite end of the park.
But all this was now GONE!!!
NOW Instead stood a little Wooden Obstacle course and Standard swings.  There was also a sandpit, Owen loves Sand Play but could not access this.

After an array of sent emails along with lots of research and information, I began to feel rather more positive when The Section Head / Parks, for Open Spaces and Projects at Watford Council got back in contact with me. I felt he really took on board what I had to say.  He really looked in detail to all the points I had made and read all the research and information I had sent. He then came up with a number of suggestions regarding Inclusive Play in Watford.20170601_155545.jpg

  • At my Local Park they agreed to install a more suitable Swing Seat in place of one of many standard seats. Which Owen now loves. Also they took a look at the Wheelchair Roundabout that I reported was a little slow and hard to push.
  • In the Cassiobury Cha Cha Cha café, they said they will make small scale improvements, such as Chimes and Sound Tubes. These small improvements will be all inclusive and can be shared also with a sibling.
  • Down at the Main Park by the pools is where the more dramatic changes took place. The Main Park is where the Pools are being refurbished and where the Changing Places toilet facilities will be built as part of the new Hub building.

I was told….

      “… There may be an opportunity to refresh the play area 
      here and seek funding to expand the offer here. This
      could include a wheelchair swing unit here…”

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Which has well a truly happened… all apart from the wheelchair swing due to the overwhelming price of such an item. They have agreed if money does become available or money can be raised they would be very keen to add the Wheelchair Swing at a later date.

Below is a link to their website all about Playgrounds.  It also gives you an email address for those locally who also want to see some changes or have some ideas.

https://www.watford.gov.uk/directory/11/parks_open_spaces_and_playgrounds/category/72/categoryInfo/3

Also with regard to the new splash pools.20170601_151938.png

As you can see we very much enjoyed these new facilities over the summer.

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I still haven’t worked out the best way to enjoy the splash park without his wheelchair seat getting soaked. So it was a back breaking day for me, but worth it to be able to see all four children having fun.

We also did use the new Changing Place, unfortunately there was trouble with lighting it only flashed on for a few seconds at a time. The pool attendant couldn’t be more helpful and apologetic and stood by the door to keep it open to give me some light and to give Owen some privacy from passers by.  I think we will put that experience down to pure bad luck. I have personally had so much great feedback from other users of the Changing Places Toilet there.

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Nice view behind a bin

Unfortunately not all Watford Council events were as successful. After a Consultant appointment I decided it would be fun to bring Owen and the girls to the temporary big screen on the urban beach at the top of town, it was only a few minutes away from where we had been. The unfortunate part this year, was access was to the beach in a wheelchair was not possible. I did try lift Owen out of his chair and sitting him with me, but then we got a bit stuck trying to get him and myself back out of the deckchair. Owen was then due his feed which he needs to sit in his wheelchair for. It was a shame as Cbeebies was on the big screen and I knew Owen would of quite happily sat there watching Teletubbies during his feed whilst Lilly and Florence continued to play happily in the sand. After a little while of bad views, Owen and myself got fed up and had to cut short the girls time on the beach.

A picture of the girls enjoying the beach and one of Owen in the dedicated Wheelchair Space too far back and off the beach.  I am now worried the ice skating event they hold in the same place annually will no longer be wheelchair accessible as it was last year, we will wait and see.

Previously in another blog I mentioned about Watford Councils controversial plans to knock down two adventure playgrounds and club houses to make way for new adventurous play parks. My local one was a big disappointment, All was built was large climbing frame and slide. My girls were far from impressed. They have had no real interest to go to that one despite being only 2 minutes from our house. The girls also mentioned as there is nothing there for Owen they would rather go to the other park a few more minutes way where there is stuff for Owen to play on.

wp-image-1103570449The other site where the second new Adventurous Play Park has been built is close to my Mothers house. After driving pass it a couple of times I had to admit it looked pretty impressive. I had also been told my the Council this new park had new Inclusive Play Equipment, so on my next visit to my Mothers we all decided to take a walk up there to check it out. It was a lovely warm day and the children hurried ahead in anticipation. As soon as we entered we were met by a little Inclusive Play area, which was great (Apart from a few flaws that i will come on to later)

wp-image-2122925183What I loved best was that the Inclusive Play equipment was also scattered about the various paths that we all enjoyed exploring. We even had an “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here” moment as I dared to push Owen across the “Wibbly-Wobbly” bridge, Owen found the bumpy ride more than hilarious as we chased Florence across.

Now the flaw I mentioned earlier. There were  two pieces of equipment that were designed for children in wheelchairs but just did not work. Owen could just not reach the music beaters to play each of the music boxes. One reason being that the chain they were on was too short and the second was because they were hanging upside down, the angle you would need to position them so the beaters was impossible for Owen and his range of arm movement. This was very frustrating. We took photos in view to email both the council and play equipment provided later.

The equipment was installed by a fantastic company called Inclusive Play .http://www.inclusiveplay.com/ I posted the picture on there Facebook page and they very swift to reply apologising and asking for my email address and for more details. I sent all the details plus photos. Quite soon after I had a reply that that were going back to the designers and see if any thing could be done. A few weeks after that I received a really positive email to say they have come with an alternative design to fix the beaters in a more accessible position and from now on this is how they will be manufactured. Inclusive Play have also said they will retro fit the ones at the park i visited.

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Above is a picture of the new design.

All I want is places, companies and events to do is show that Owen is welcome. Owen deserves the same chances and opportunities as any other child.

All Owen wants to do is what other five year olds do… and that’s PLAY!!!

 

 

 

 

Bittersweet Memories

Today’s picture on Facebook’s timehop was the above one.

The first picture taken of my family as a family of six. Sweet you think. But each time I see the picture I think about different thing related to it.

Firstly it was the first picture of the Twins we put on Facebook… We waited a while after their premature birth at 28 weeks to even announce they were born. We were so caught up in our own little bubble that letting other people in, wasn’t even on our radar. I wasn’t really a big Facebook user then either. Obviously after they were born we let everyone close know, some were watching the London Olympic Opening Ceremony while waiting by there phones eager for news that the twins were safe, to others, also joining the rest of the country watched the ceremony were in ignorant bliss that dramatic events were unfolding woth us during that Friday night in 2012. It was a complete bombshell that they were going to be born soon, we didn’t know until a couple of hours before hand that they were going to make their unexpected early appearance. It was a complete medical emergency situation.

Like I said before after they were born not much else mattered to us, so we were in a complete bubble. To be fair us, As well as us unintentionally pushing people away, many people decided to run for the hills. So for us this picture was a big step in welcoming our babies to the world and welcoming babies back in.

Now taking the picture itself was no easy task. Both babies were relatively settled at this point Owen on CPAP and Florence was doing well on just nasal prongs. It was rumoured that our little time of Florence and Owen being in the same room was coming to an end. Owen stayed in the intensive care room longer than Florence so they had not been reunited in the same room in our nicked named ‘Skelton Corner’ together for long. But Florence was doing so well she would soon be moving from high dependency to the Nurseries. The Nurses had an idea that would be the first chance and maybe a last chance ‘in a while’ that this photo opportunity would and could happen.

Alot of careful planning from many, many Nurses was involved along with the careful moving of incubators, equipment wires and tubes, it took so long that the lunch break of some the Nurses involved were cut into, but they really didn’t seem to mine and were determined to get this photo.

It is a lovely photo, I especially love the pride in the big sisters, Bethany’s and Lilly’s faces. I, myself have a huge amount of pride for all my four children when I look at this picture.

I also can see the worry, sadness, exhaustion but happiness in mine and Alex’s eyes.

The weeks following this picture, were the toughest weeks we spent in SCBU. Florence continued to flourish in the Nurseries, But for Owen as always, more battles were there to fight. We ended up back in the intensive care room. These were the truly dark days. I often wondered during those days and there after whether when the Nurse said it was the ‘First Chance’ we would have to take the photo and maybe the ‘Last Chance in a while’ we would have to take it, whether the ‘in the while’ was just added for our comfort. Maybe the Nurse wanted to take it, just incase the worse happened and this would be are only family of us as a six?

Certain memories and thoughts always plague me, especially around this time of year when we live through the dates of these certain events that shaped how things became.

But sometimes the best medicine is to simply look back, appreciate and then remember how far things have come.

And of course treasure new memories.

We will be forever thankful to the Nurses for taking this picture. More importantly we are forever thankful for all they did for us to enable us to keep taking photos of our family, All six of us.

Much Love.