Friday 31 March 2017

Our Journey with Global Developmental Delay

Young Mum

I'm under no illusion that people look at me and they see just another 'Young Mum', they see me rock up in my sports kit at the school gates and think I'm just another 'young Mum that doesn't work'. It's easy to form a quick judgement on how you expect someone to be, from how they look and dress. Now I am not saying that everyone does this, but we all know that it happens.

What most people don't realise is, that i'm self employed. I work from home. I'm a blogger, A freelance writer if you will. I might not always look like I'm overly articulate, but I have been known to be able to string a few words together.

I have always had to fight to get Leo the support he needs in order to learn. Being the baby of the year and having been let down in the past by a certain health visitor who will remain anonymous, I guess you could say that I'm a little bit over protective when it comes to my boy, and my trust in people who are supposed to help us has of course lost its sparkle.

Global Developmental Delay

We attended Leo's parent's evening at the start of March, and it was something I had been genuinely dreading. I know it sounds crazy to feel so anxious about meeting with your child's teachers, but when you know you are going to walk away with more concerns, sometimes you just feel like burying your head in the sand.

This year the parent teacher meetings were taking place in the school hall, I sat and watched all of the Mum's and Dad's smiling and rejoicing in their little Einsteins. They all seemed to be sailing through their Year 1 goals. Now don't get me wrong, Leo's report was good. Leo is progressing in his own way in his own time, his classmates are progressing on one line steadily together, and Leo is on another line progressing steadily on his own.

I have said all along that my one priority above anything and everything else is, that Leo is happy. That Leo continues to be happy and everything else comes when he is good and ready. We have made progress with our letters, with our writing, with our numbers and counting, we have made progress with our confidence and Leo is always incredibly well behaved and a joy to have in the classroom.

He might not be where the other children are, but that little man of mine is an absolute credit to me. At the same time as celebrating the steps forward Leo is making, you are also listening to the ways in which Leo is different to his peers, how they won't be submitting him for his phonics test, because it might stress him out unnecessarily for something that he won't pass anyway. How he is spending his mornings in the reception class in an attempt to help him get to grips with what all of his peers achieved last year. How now even in that situation, Leo is still working to the lower end of the abilities in the reception class.

Global Developmental Delay

I left that meeting torn with pride for just how amazing and resilient Leo always is, and worry. Pure gut wrenching worry, because if their is such a noticeable divide between Leo and his classmates now... How on earth is he going to be able to move into Year 2 next September?

Following that meeting my mind was racing. I reached out in a Global Development Delay Facebook group. I needed to speak to parents who might understand, and who may even have advice. It was here that I learned about a EHCP - Educational, Health and Care Plan.

It was a Friday afternoon in March that I first heard about the EHCP, and I found it rather hard to believe that no one had mentioned it to me within the nursery, school or SEN environments. Everyone has always been very quick to point out that Leo works below the levels of his peers, that he is globally delayed across all areas of his academic life, but no one has pointed out that I could apply to get Leo additional support in place.

I sat down and began writing a number of emails, emails that I hoped would ultimately help me get additional measures in place for my little man moving forward. I spent hours writing, hours sourcing and scanning the documentation, the evidence that I wanted to include. I fired an email off to our local educational authority and another to the educational psychologist who had met with Leo back in June 2016.

I left no stone unturned, no detail was left out. I was determined to fight for my boy, when we have had so many downfalls and letdowns in the past. I am a firm believer that if you want something done, then you best get to doing it yourself.

Global Developmental Delay

Timeline of events

Leo's 2 and a half year assessment - 3rd January 2014
We met with our health visitor for the standard check up. Red flags were raised in regards to Leo's development. I was advised that Leo was delayed in multiple areas and the health visitor asked to see him in 2 months time in order to repeat the assessment. 

Nursery - Start date 20th January 2014

Following the assessment I got Leo a place at Nursery in order to socialise him and hopefully help him catch up on the areas of concern. They highlighted their own concerns in regards to Leo's development: 

- Leo didn't give eye contact. 
- Leo had poor facial expressions 
- Leo was globally behind in all developmental milestones

Speech Therapy 

Leo was on the speech therapy books from 2014 through to 2017 when he was discharged. 

No contact from our health visitor - December 2014 - December 2015

2 months passed and I heard nothing from our health visitor. I called up the main office multiple times leaving voicemails and no one ever returned my phone calls. I booked Leo in for a hearing test independently, I wanted to get the ball rolling and eliminate potential issues hindering Leo's development from the list. Leo's hearing was confirmed to be fine. 

Our health visitor never got back in touch with us again.

Chance meeting with the health visitor - December 2014

My Mum knew our health visitor from her year's of childminding, and by chance they ran into each other while my Mum was visiting the doctors surgery. It was discussed how disappointed I had been with how our case was handled, and how angry I was that Leo had slipped through the net. In my personal opinion this is the responsibility of the health visitor, who was supposed to meet us again 2 months later to allow Leo to complete the assessment again. Which of course did not happen, and therefore resolutions and assistance which could have helped Leo hit his milestones were prevented. 

The health visitor seemed worried that we were still having concerns regarding Leo and arranged to come to the family home and visit with him, to finally carry out the assessment again. I told her that I wanted a referral to the pediatrician so that we could finally get the ball rolling  so that measures were in place for when Leo started school in September 2015. (we had visited with the GP in the time frame since the health visitor had last seen us, but no referral had been made, it was in the pipeline).  

The health visitor performed the assessment using Leo's personal objects and not using her own standardised equipment. 

She told me that the issues she had discussed with me before were no longer cause for concern and that he was absolutely fine. The report that she gave me completely contradicted the original report that she had filled out just short of a year ago, she told me she had absolutely no concerns what so ever. No concerns over his speech, she even went on to say that he was a right little chatter box and wasn't even really behind on that front any more. She told me that she wasn't going to be referring him because there was absolutely no need, and that the Pediatrician would laugh at her for putting Leo forward when he was quite obviously developing and happy.

The health visitor read the reports provided by nursery stating their concerns and she disagreed with their professional opinion of Leo being put back so far in his developmental milestones. The health visitor told me that that Leo is not behind at all, he is catching up and is actually operating in the capacity of a 4 and a half to 5 year old. She said that if the nursery are grading these reports as they were (around 20 months behind) then there is something wrong, either Leo isn't as happy at the school as we believed him to be, he was shy, or the staff needed further training. She made me promise that I wouldn't worry, that she was certain that he was just a normal 3 year old boy who was going to excel at school.

Contradictions over the health visitors assessment with nursery

Nursery couldn't believe that the health visitor could have scored Leo so highly when they were charting Leo so much lower because of the delays being displayed in the nursery environment. They asked if the health visitor would visit Leo in the nursery setting, to which she refused and even told the nursery that they needed further training on the matter if they couldn't see that Leo was achieving the milestones expected of him in his early years targets. 

Starting school - September 2015 - Reception

Despite nursery's concerns and us seeking help, Leo started school with absolutely no support measures in place. As Leo was so far behind his milestones before he started school, Leo has continued to fall further and further behind his peers.

That very first year at school was a huge learning curve for Leo, and he has struggled every step of the way. The school do as much one to one with Leo as they can and without this he would find the school situation even more difficult.

School made a referral for an outside educational psychologist to come into school and observe Leo.

June 2015 - The educational psychologist 

In June the educational psychologist came into school to spend the afternoon with Leo. He compiled a report.

Year 1 - September 2016

Leo continues to fall further behind at school, while his year one peers move onto more demanding work, Leo is having to go and work in the reception class as that is where his ability lies. A recent parent's evening with one of his teachers highlighted that even now as a year one pupil, he is working towards the lower end of the abilities in the reception class, and that he could realistically still be charted against the early years milestones. 

Global Developmental Delay

Applying for a EHCP
That Friday evening I spent hours at the computer wanting to capture absolutely everything that could help Leo qualify for a EHCP Assessment. I finally clicked send not short of 1am Saturday morning, and on that following Monday, I called up chasing my email just after I had dropped Leo at school.
At this point I hadn't mentioned anything to the school, as they had never highlighted this as an option for us. I spoke to a lovely lady on the phone, and it happened to be the same lady who had picked up my email. Before I knew it I had the application forms in my inbox, I spent the new few hours putting as much detail down on paper as I could.
Then I got a call from the school...
The educational psychiatrist had called them in regards to my email. and they were now calling me to arrange a meeting. I took the opportunity to bring SENCO into the loop about the EHCP, and immediately I felt that she had taken my efforts the wrong way. It was never about me going behind anyone's backs, it was me trying to do my best by Leo.

It was about me worrying after parent's evening, me worrying about his future, and just wanting to finally get somewhere for him.

Global Developmental Delay

The meeting was the first of two, the first with the SEN teacher and Leo's class teacher. The second with SEN and the educational psychologist.
The educational psychologist has been out and spent an afternoon with Leo and has seen for himself that Leo is moving forward with his learning, but confirmed there is a 12 month delay between Leo and his peers. This latest report will go towards the evidence of Leo's EHCP which could bring in additional funding and potentially provide Leo with his own one to one assistance.

Global Developmental Delay

For so long I have navigated my way through this whole situation just hoping it will get better, hoping that putting my trust in the professionals will be enough. I have been scared to stand on anyone's toes, but I have realised the people who shout the loudest always will get heard. Me whispering my thoughts and feelings has got me nowhere, and now I will continue to shout for Leo.

I am not just some young Mum, I am Leo's Mum and even if I do the school run from time to time in my sports kit, it does not deter from the fact that I can, and I will kick some bum with what I have to say in order to help Leo reach his fullest potential.

Monday 27 March 2017

The Panasonic Pet Monitoring Kit Review

Dalmatian Puppy

As regular readers will know, Several months ago we brought home our spotty dog Lux, and what an adventure that has been! People told me so many times how much harder puppies were than babies, and I shrugged it off thinking that these people were crazy. I quickly realised in the weeks and months that followed though... That they were absolutely, 100%, completely and utterly right, and boy how it pained me to agree with them. 

Lux is a whirlwind, he strikes like lightning (but not in the sense that lighting doesn't strike twice.. Because it does...In fact he strikes at every given opportunity.), and he always, always, always keeps us on our toes. The kitchen work surfaces are bare, and there is nothing left within paws reach, and as he has grown the parameters for this have also grown. If it can be pawed then it's fair game. We have lost letters, tea bags, dinner and even money to that puppy of ours.

Dalmatian Puppy

If it can be reached, it can be shredded and destroyed beyond recognition. Not long after we moved into the house I waked into the kitchen and found Lux curled up with Luke's phone and around £300 of cach casually draped around him. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and very quickly picked it all up before the cash became the latest shred victim. Then there was that time he ran off with an entire box of eggs into the garden and smashed them all up just for fun... I was impressed that he managed to get the box down with all of the eggs all in one piece though...

Dalmatian Puppy

I very quickly felt like I needed an extra pair of hands, not to mention another set of eyes. You can't be around your dog 24/7, and although I am at home with Lux the majority of the time, I do have to work and there are times I need to leave the house without a cheeky dog in tow, and even when I am working in the next room, I can hear mischief unfolding in the kitchen as I try to knuckle down with my to do list... It means stopping, wandering through to the kitchen to see exactly what he is up to. 

Then I heard about pet cams, devices that you can use to remotely check in on your pets. This got me really excited because it meant that I could keep an eye on Lux even if I had to pop out for a little while. Our general rule of thumb is that we walk Lux first thing in the morning, especially if we are having to go anywhere that day. 

A happy dog is a tired dog after all. 

We have been testing the Panasonic Pet Monitoring Kit over the last couple of months, and I have to say what a blessing it is.

The home monitoring kit comes with everything that you need to be able to oversee your entire home, and that means keeping a check on your pets.

It comes with:

- Smart Hub
- Indoor Camera
- Door Sensor
- Smart Plug
- Micro SD Card

Panasonic Pet Monitoring Kit Review

Set Up

It was just a case of downloading the Panasonic Home Network app to my iPhone, plugging in the hub and going through the app screen instructions to connect the device.

I found it very easy to get everything set up and it didn't take very long at all, and when I did this I was actually feeling a little bit stressed due to discovering we had received a complaint from our local council about Lux. The complaint was a noise issue and speculated that Lux was barking too much. I found this very hard to believe as I work from home, he get's the walks he needs and he is pretty quiet. So while I was busy setting up our Panasonic Pet Monitoring System, I was hoping this might help me relaxed more about it all.

How we have got on with the Panasonic Pet Monitoring Kit

For the first few weeks we didn't leave Lux at all, because although I was sure that he slept while we were out, I was just too worried to leave him in case another complaint was lodged against him. I was terrified that the complaints would keep being made and the situation would escalate. In true Laura style, I over compensated. I stopped working from home and started working from the parents house instead, that way if any complaints were made... We would have removed ourselves from the scenario and it wouldn't be Lux taking the blame.

It took me a while to feel like I could leave Lux home alone again, especially since I didn't know the nature of the complaint. Was the issue inside the house? Outside? Day? Night? I just didn't know because the details that had been provided to me by the council were very thin on details, and this just made me worry more. I felt very disappointed that whoever had made the complaint had gone straight over my head. I like to think I am an approachable person, and more importantly an approachable neighbor, but instead of talking to me directly about whatever their issue was, so that I could address it head on and know exactly what I was dealing with, they went straight over my head.

We started using the pet cam right away, it was brilliant to be able to keep an eye on Lux while we were in other areas of the house. If I was putting Leo to be and I heard a noise, I could quickly see what Lux was up to and if he did start making a noise, I could intervene and get him to stop as quickly as he started. This is what I mean by over compensating, any noise Lux made, put me on edge. I felt like I was walking on eggshells in my own home all of the time.

Panasonic Pet Monitoring Kit Review

When I finally plucked up the courage to leave Lux at home for an hour, I pretty much kept the video feed open the entire time. As I expected, Lux slept while we were out and was so well behaved. I was really thankful to have the video and sound to put my mind at rest while I wasn't at home. I was even keeping a dog diary so that if there was an issue, I could know where we were during that specified time. I took some screen shot of Lux sleeping to back this up on my phone, the amazing thing is that you can use the included SD Card within the home hub to take pictures and videos. At this point I hadn't got it all set up the way I needed it to be to do so.

I have since spoken the council in regards to Lux, and they confirmed that issue was apparently outside, and this to me still seems odd, as Lux is never left outside alone.. But still that was a much more attractive answer than the issue being Lux within the home.

Using the Panasonic Pet Monitor

Having the monitoring system has been such a help to me over the last couple of months, it has helped me find the confidence to be able to leave Lux home alone again. Last week Luke and I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which is almost 2 hours from us here in Worcestershire. I walked Lux in the morning to make him suitably sleepy, and then we hopped in the car and away we went.

We were gone from 1:30 that afternoon until 9pm that evening, and I really don't like leaving Lux home alone, so being able to check in on him even though we were a long way from home was really reassuring. Every time I checked Lux was still asleep, and he stayed that way until we arrived home.

Panasonic Pet Monitoring Kit Review

Not only can you see your pet on the monitor (even if it is dark!) you can also use the microphone to talk to your pet! I am constantly using this feature to tell Lux to 'Get down' 'Stop' and 'No'. The first time he looked baffled and was searching the room for my voice, now he's just like ' Great... They are watching me again! Busted!'.

Dalmatian Puppy

What we think of the Panasonic Pet Monitor

I absolutely love this piece of tech, being able to check in even when you are away from home is just the most amazing thing, I cannot put a price on the re-assurance that has been provided through the use of the cam and app, and it has definitely made me feel more confident about leaving him in the circumstances that he cannot come with us.

So many friends and family have seen me checking in and seeing what Lux is up to, they have been amazed that I can see what he is up to even when we are not home, and it is something that is really special.

The video footage provided is brilliant, it stays up to date and doesn't lag which really helps make the experience.

Would I recommend the Panasonic Pet Monitor? YES, yes I would definitely recommend this fabulous piece of equipment and I would not be without it now.

The Panasonic Pet Monitor retails at £199.99.

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Panasonic Pet Monitor in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions.  

Wednesday 22 March 2017

New Home: The Living Room

Scandinavian Wall Art from Desenio

I have been in my home for several months now, it really has flown, but at the same time it's been non stop. There is always something that has needed to be done, but at least now most of it is sorted. Everything has been moved in, and everything has it's place, which means now I can focus more on getting the house looking the way that I want it. 

The living room is a room where we spend a lot of our time. It is where I have set my office space and also were we relax at the end of the school/working day. At this moment in time, I haven't really done much with this space in terms of decorating, as it's a new build home, I wanted to give the building chance to settle down before I get to creative with wallpapers and paints. 

I have finally started getting the room the way I want it, I have my Scandinavian Wall Art from Desenio - I adore these prints because they are quotes and images that really resonate with me. They fill that big space perfectly and I love that they have such a big impact on the room. 

Scandinavian Wall Art from Desenio

I have tried to give the room a modern vintage feel, and I picked this shabby chic corner unit up on a local Facebook Selling site, I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. 

What I really want to do now is pick up a large mirror to rest on the wall behind the television, I have been looking at the Adagio Large Wall Mirror from Fishpools.

It is such a large space, and it definitely needs something large to fill a large portion of that available wall space. I like the idea of having a mirror there because it will make the room feel that much more open by reflecting the opposite wall.

I have recently upgraded our television (not the one pictured above), as the one that we previously had sitting there looked too small in the grand scheme of things, and was almost 10 years old. It was something that I had to wait to do as there was so much that I needed to do before I could even think about spending money on a luxury item such as this.

I am currently looking at sofas over on Fishpools, we have a lovely second hand sofa at the moment, but one day I would absolutely love to treat myself to a new sofas suite. This Fishpools Fabric Corner Sofas would be absolutely perfect. 

As I said above, I have my desk unit sits in the corner. This desk was originally my Granddad's, but as he moved into a care home last year, it was looking or a new home. I love this desk, it's so oldy worldy and it was nice to be able to keep it within the family. I know that this is something my Granddad would be pleased about.

There is still so much I want to do with this room, but it is going to be a while until I can get it decorated, for the time being though, I do like my living room space. 

Monday 6 March 2017

Confessions of a Former BBG Girl

BBG Girl

Check out my vlog: Confessions of a Former BBG Girl.

I have been documenting my fitness journey just short of 3 years now, when it all kicked off my goal was literally to loose weight and get skinny, as the weight was falling away my goal changed course, I wanted to tone up alongside this. 

So I carried on doing what I was doing, I didn't adjust the calories I was eating in order to compensate for the level of exercise I was doing...which resulted in me continuing to lose weight, and yes grow SOME muscle, but because I was still eating a low calorie diet (with a huge calorie deficit) I got smaller and smaller....

Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide Results
In this photo I was consuming 1,200 calories a day and weight a mere 7 Stone 12lbs.
For a long time this picture above was my ultimate goal. When I looked at this picture I saw hard work, I saw determination, dedication and I saw will power. I was proud of how I looked in this photo and I defiantly did not think that I was 'too skinny'. When I look at it now, I wonder how I ever actually got that 'small', how I managed to stick to such a strict eating regime and how I had the energy to get through the workouts. 

I have come a long way since this photo, I have been so many different weights on my fitness journey, but I am now actively gaining weight and at this precise moment in time I am 8 stone 12lbs. For a long time I held the perception that if I gained weight and ended up weight the same as I did before I started this journey, that I would look overweight and frumpy....again, and this filled me with dread. I did not want to look or feel like the old me ever again. I loved the confidence and the way exercise made me feel inside and out.

Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide Results

It's taken me a long time to get my head around the whole eating side of a 'healthy lifestyle', it's taken me equally as long to work out that the scale is meaningless, because it doesn't matter what digits it displays, it cannot measure how I feel, and even if I end up weighing exactly the same weight as before.... I could look entirely different. 

Weight is NOTHING.

Weight Training Results

I have upped my calories from 1,200 a day to a whopping 2,300+ (usually eating over 2,500+). For me I have learned the hard way that I need to feed my body in order to grow and achieve my goals. Food is fuel, Food is energy. Food helps our bodies recover and it's what we eat that opens the doors to reaching the next milestone.

I have recently turned my workout regime on it's head, many of you know that I used to follow Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide (BBG), but I am now focusing on weight lifting. I am still doing everything from home, over the years I have invested in a lot of the weights that I need in order to be able to do this from the comfort of my own living room. 

The food I am eating (no calorie deficit!) and the training I am pursuing is helping me grow muscle and with that, the scale is starting to go back up again. I no longer look like I could snap at the slightest touch and I am loving how I am starting to fill out. Once upon a time seeing this sort of weight gain on the scale would have shook my very core, but thankfully I have finally come to terms with the fact that what I weigh really does not mean anything. 

Weight Training Results
This before photo was once upon a time my AFTER photo.

I am head over heels with the way that I am now training. I never go hungry, I have 3 meals a day and snack whenever I want. If I am hungry I eat. It really is that simple. If you are going through my old mindset right now, please, please, please take a moment and think about your goals. You don't need to restrict food (we all know that I have learned this lesson first hand), you don't need to diet, you don't need to go to bed hungry. 

What you do need to do is eat nourishing food. Whatever your goals are, weight loss, strength, muscle...You need to eat good food.