Challenged Hope

Grandmother Raising Mentally Disabled Grandchildren in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


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Removing All Doubt!

During my past two decades of raising grandchildren with mental disabilities, I often wondered if seeking custody had been the right decision. Many people, some of whom I loved, turned their backs on me when I took in my first grandchild. One was a close family member, another who I thought was a good friend, and also a minister whose church I attended when my grandson was first born. Their venomous opinions and haughty judgments worsened the stress I was experiencing, causing me to doubt my decision to raise my grandchildren–would they be better off in foster care?

But now, looking back on those days through these photos, I have to question those negative people’s motives. How can anyone look at the pictures and not smile at the love and childish antics my grandchildren are sharing? Memories are wonderful things and can help a person see their past and the choices they made more clearly and thereby remove all doubt that what they did in the moment was the right thing!

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FASD and Duct Tape!

Hope the title didn’t mislead you! But when a child has FASD it seems EVERYTHING has to be secured to avoid injury.

I remember duct tape being my best friend. One day, many years ago when my grandchildren with FASD were youngsters, on hearing–Mom, come and see!–I went from the kitchen into the living room to see all four tucked neatly into the shelving of the TV unit. They had climbed the shelves and curled up one atop another with the youngest being at the bottom with the door closed.

They were giggling and squirming making the unit shake and creak and look as if any minute it would collapse! After freaking, I purchased cheap plastic panels; those awful opaque yellow ones that were so popular back then, cut them to size and duct taped them over the shelving with enough tape that the panels could not be removed. Goodness, it looked awful–but safe!


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Special Memories

While reminiscing, I came across these two photos of my grandchildren. First, it’s difficult to believe I took these when my grandchildren were still youngsters and now they are all in their teens; the eldest boy now almost 19.

I have to laugh at the contrast of each photo. The first one I took when they were all dressed in their Sunday best ready for church. I remember how long it used to take me to get them looking that way! The second photo was taken seconds after when the youngest grandchild had run off in her usual running-off way, and the eldest boy had just let off an enormous fart causing the other two to collapse in hysterical laughter and fall back on the couch. I couldn’t resist and snapped the event.

I love both photos, the first because it’s one of the rare photos I have of all the kids together plus, when I see it, a million memories come to mind; the second because, despite their struggles with mental disabilities, they are just carefree kids having fun being themselves.

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Time Out

Every grandparent raising grandchildren needs time away from the challenges involved with the task. Just recently I took my first break in almost two decades from raising grandchildren. So I added a Page in the top menu bar called Time Out. There I will post my adventures in discovering “me” again.

1st Adventure: CanWrite! 2014

  • As I love to write, my first time away from home was to attend the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference. If you would like to read my short blurb and see photos of my trip, please click CanWrite! 2014 in the Time Out menu tab. And check often to read about my future adventures.

2nd Adventure: Man on the Moon

  • In 1969, when man first landed on the moon, I saved newspapers covering that event and also the 1970 Apollo 13 mission. But when I came to Canada I left them behind. A few years ago, my mother offered to send them to me and while I have wanted to frame them, I never found the time. I still don’t have the time but I did take Time Out to photograph them and post them in the top menu bar titled Time Out. You will find the pics under Man on the Moon.

 


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Children with Complex Needs Partnership

One of the services available to caregivers of children with mental health issues is CCNP – Children with Complex Needs Partnership. As outlined on their website: http://www.lynwoodcharlton.ca this program …

“… addresses the needs of children and youth with complex needs including those with a dual diagnosis… The focus of the in-home Services is to provide intensive in-home support to families and their children/youth… The Case Management Service provides support for parents in coordinating services, navigating the service system, and in assisting with transitioning between services. Both services are available to families with children and youth between the ages of 0-18 with a complex mental health challenge, or with those with dual diagnosis…”

If you live in the Hamilton, ON, or surrounding area and want more information on CCNP, please visit http://www.lynwoodcharlton.ca or call CONTACT Hamilton at 905-570-8888, email: info@contacthamilton.ca.


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FASD Teens and Substance Abuse

Teens with FASD often struggle with interpreting the body language and expressions of others. This became apparent to me through my youngest grandson’s inability to sense threatening behaviour or, at the least, the depth of the threat; often seeing the behaviour as comical, or engaging. This struggle also reveals itself through his misinterpreting the positive intentions of those in the medical field or police force. Often, in social settings, he mistranslates the social cues of his peers causing strife or offence among the group. Because Teens with FASD struggle in this area they are more likely to be influenced by unsuitable peers and as a result get into criminal activities or substance abuse.

Contacting your doctor for preventative strategies is always a good idea. There are also websites that offer strategies should you need help:

 


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FASD Teens and Directions

As with youngsters with FASD, teens with FASD also struggle with following multiple directions, often saying, and looking as if, they understand when in fact they don’t. Although repeating directions can be tiring, success depends on only one or two directions being given at a time.

My experience with raising teen grandchildren with FASD has been that if the requirement needs multiple directions, for example: tidying their room, they were more likely to succeed if they knew where everything “goes”- those books go together on the shelf; your jeans belong in this drawer (label); the fitted sheet which goes over the mattress is sewn at the ends (show them); etc.

As they struggled to understand, tidying their rooms with them several times at first and repeating where everything belonged helped. The next time I showed them how to make the bed plus ask them to put a few things away. This allowed for the multiple directions to be understood at a slower pace until it was “locked in” and they understood the requirements. I realize it’s all so time consuming, but in the long term single directions will save time and energy and produce successful results both for child and caregiver.

Of course, nothing is ever perfect, but that’s okay because I don’t expect perfection from anyone. And even now I will offer to help my grandchildren tidy their rooms as they have accumulated lots of “stuff” and get confused as to where it all belongs, but that’s okay too, as it’s time spent together and that’s never a bad thing!

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