Tag - Special Needs

1
Chicago: Part 2 (Attractions)
2
SWAP Socks: Mismatch for a Purpose
3
The Eye Surgery Decision: For Now…
4
Christian Alliance for Orphans Coming to Hendersonville!
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REVIEW: Wilderness At the Smokies Resort (Gatlinburg, TN)
6
Sledding
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Chiropractor: 12th Visit Update
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The Chiropractor: Popcorn Back
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REVIEW: Disney’s Disability Access Service Card
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The Chiroprator: Lola’s Journey

Chicago: Part 2 (Attractions)

Oh Chicago… it seems everyone loves you! I’ve had countless conversations since our visit and everyone shares how much they enjoy their trips to the Windy City. I’m sure that has something to do with the vast amount of entertainment choices the city has to offer. We weren’t able to do it all but here are a few attractions/activities that we enjoyed on our visit:

Blue Man Group: Dare to Live in Full Color –  I was somewhat skeptical about Blue Man Group. Silly fun isn’t my favorite. I don’t enjoy comedians or gimmicky things. I also had this idea that they just played drums and splattered paint on things. Well folks, there is a reason this show has been going strong for nearly 25 years. It has strong theatrical influence, it’s interesting, it’s hilarious, it’s heart warming, it’s FUN… it’s very different from anything I’ve ever seen. Three blue men take you on a quirky little journey through music, discovery and connection. Audience participation is huge as the show takes over the entire theater… not just the stage. I’ll never forget moving it to some bizarre song about shaking my “can” while playing toss up with ginormous glowing beach balls in a black-lit, neon glowing auditorium with hundreds of other adults-turned-children. If that’s sounds ridiculous to you, you probably just need to get over it and secure some tickets to see the show. You won’t be sorry.

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Current Deals: Upon purchasing a ticket for Blue Man Group, guests can receive a free ticket to visit Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck (where they can step out onto one of the building’s “Ledge” glass boxes) or 360 Chicago (for unparalleled views of Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan.) College students who are studying in Chicago or home for the summer can enjoy the thrills of Blue Man Group for a discounted price. Upon presenting a valid college ID, they can get a discounted ticket for $35. Student tickets are available two hours prior to show time, based on availability.

Special Needs Accomodation: In 2015, Blue Man Group is supporting Austism Speaks. They will donate a minimum of $25,000 and are doing specific autism-friendly shows this year. Even if you can’t make one of their specific shows, individuals with autism are still encouraged to attend the show at any time. Noise cancelling headphones available. Parents of children with autism need to know if the children crave the heavy sensory input or prefer to avoid it.

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iFLY: Ever Dream of Flying?
Let’s just say I spent a lot of time being skeptical on this trip. But isn’t that why we travel? To challenge ourselves, discover new things… iFly was one of these new things. There were people of all ages packed into the Chicago iFLY building. Some watching others fly, some suiting up to prepare for their skydiving experience. We watched a short video with our group, listened to the instructor and learned some hand signals we would need during the flight. Then it was time to put on our goggles and earplugs and head into the chamber. The instructor remains in the chamber with new flyers, like us, and gives instructions and tips with hand signals.

It really was an amazing sensation, totally weightless and flying. And you can’t help but smile like a crazy person because if you don’t you’ll just drool all over yourself. Flying with a group is also a lot of fun, even as strangers we were excited to watch our new friends figure out how to fly and stay balanced in the chamber. There were also some locals who obviously visited on a consistent basis to work on new maneuvers. In the end, our trainer did a demonstration for everyone to enjoy.

The location in Chicago was a little far out for us but there’s outdoor shopping and an outlet mall nearby so anyone could maximize their trip that way. Also, there are plans for an iFLY location in Lincoln Park which would be very convenient. I’m sure this would be even more entertaining with a group of people you actually know. We are looking forward to visiting iFLY with our kids in tow next time!

Special Needs Accommodation: We are always asking questions and watching for companies that go the extra mile to accommodate children and adults with special needs or disabilities. We were happy to hear, from the iFLY representative, that they have a program for children who are autistic. Alex, with emotion in her voice, told me some amazing stories about what flying does for these awesome kids on a sensory level. She also explained how they accommodate for other guests who have additional needs. Very exciting to hear, great job iFLY!

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Brookefield Zoo –  There are two zoos in Chicago. Lincoln Park and Brookefield. Lincoln is free and Brookfield is not. However, Brookefield does offer a wider range of attractions. Dolphins, polar bears and the butterfly garden are just a few of the additional attractions at Brookefield. We made time to watch the Dolphin show at Brookefield and we felt it was really well done and educational. There was a baby dolphin being adorable and playing with his trainer… so of course we couldn’t help but love the whole experience.

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Brookefield is simply bigger and more like a theme-park experience zoo. BUT… it is very far away from everything else you might want to do in Chicago.

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So plan ahead, if you want to take your family there, and make time to spend the whole day there enjoying what the zoo has to offer. It’s also a better deal to book your tickets online. You are allowed to choose 3 extra attractions while saving about $5 per person.

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Chicago Cubs Calvin loves baseball, so of course we headed to Wrigley field (bricks and ivy!) to root for the home team. There’s not much to report here, Wrigley is just one of those parks that you must check off your list. Unfortunately we got caught in a rain delay and ended up leaving before the game is over (even worse, they had a walk-off run in the 9th inning). Calvin purchased our tickets on StubHub so here’s your money saving tip of the day: Our Kroger gives 2-4x gas points on all gift card purchases. We purchased a Stubhub giftcard from Kroger and racked up some points! Saving on gas purchases in the Summer is always a good thing with all the extra driving we do. Also, unless you’re going to a popular game, you can usually get tickets at the cheapest price about a day or day and a half before the game. Here’s your funny story from the game: I was waiting in line for a pretzel and a friendly, grandfatherly PURE Chicago kinda guy struck up a conversation. He asked where I was from… Tennessee…. with the biggest smile he exclaimed “well you’re the only 10- I- see. Here’s a drink on me, welcome to Chicago!” and offered to buy me a beer from the cart. He was completely adorable, just happy to be watching the Cubs on a Saturday night.

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Sight Seeing – We made sure to hit all the major tourist areas. Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile and of course Millennium Park (the Bean). Navy Pier is currently under construction and is always very jam-packed with people. This combination made the whole experience mildly annoying. However we still enjoyed the lake views and a Chicago style hot-dog. I would hate going there with kids, it’s a glorified version of a tourist trap with pricey junk food and souvenir stores. Sorry Navy Pier. Now… Magnificent Mile? I loved it. Great shopping, great restaurants and fun street performers all in one area. That pretty much sums it up! Millennium Park was also a favorite. A beautiful park with great art, surrounded by the gorgeous Chicago architecture… definitely a hit. And we did the fun touristy thing and took a picture in the the reflection of the giant silver bean. Hint: Watching people taking their picture in the bean is way more entertaining than actually doing it yourself.

So yes, dear Chicago, we love you. Thank you for treating us to a great weekend. If you missed part 1 (lodging, transportation, food), you can catch up here.

Disclaimer: Blue Man Group, iFLY Chicago, and Brookefield Zoo kindly provided us admission for this feature. As always, the opinions are my own.

SWAP Socks: Mismatch for a Purpose

WHAT ARE SWAP SOCKS?

SWAP Socks are purposely mismatched socks that come in packs of 4. They serve as an eye-catching, wearable statement and reminder to support the movement to end preventable blindness. In the process, they spark natural conversation about the privilege of sight, which so many live without. Each (HIGH QUALITY) pack gives you the freedom to swap styles around, and create 6 unique pairs to choose from. Each pack sold funds an eye care service for a person in need.

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WHY VISION?

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HOW?

SEVA, SWAP Socks’ partner organization, works to build local eye care personnel and partnerships to provide comprehensive eye care services in 22 countries. This is completed through eye care exams, low-cost eyeglasses, medication for eye infections, and eye surgery. Restoring vision is more than just seeing clearly, it allows a quality of life that will lead to heighten economic productivity across many communities.

WHY WE LOVE SWAP SOCKS

1. I got to speak to the founder of SWAP Socks and hear about the first-hand experience he’s had with helping treat blindness. Their mission is noble and their passion is great. You can even follow some of their more recent adventures on the SWAP Socks blog.

2. If your husband is like mine (or you are like me!), finding a matching pair of socks is nearly impossible. No more wasting time on looking for a matching pair. In fact, there’s no matching sock to throw away when one goes MIA to the couch cushion or behind the washer and dryer.

3. Great quality.

4. SWAP Socks makes buying socks for Father’s Day cool again. (Use code 25OFFNEW for 25% off new orders!)

5. Girls can enjoy them, too!

6. Lastly, our obvious connection with blindness/visual impairment softens our heart to this issue.

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How to Find SWAP Socks:
swapsocks.com

facebook.com/swapsocks
instagram.com/swap_socks

The Eye Surgery Decision: For Now…

For those new to Goodbye Normal I’ll give you a quick run-down on our oldest daughter. Lola is blind (or severely visually impaired). In the blind community there is a movement to move away from the distinction between these two things and just use the word blind. Typically I do say blind but it can be confusing to people when they find out that she can see light and color. Lola has always been blind and came home to us almost two years ago. With lightning speed she learned English (like a boss) and is doing very well with her Braille studies at school where she is integrated into a regular ed classroom. She has overcome sensory issues and is currently under the care of a chiropractor for her ADHD diagnosis. We have also avoided medications by using natural supplements and oils.

So on to the update now that you are completely filled in. As some of you know we have gone back and forth about whether or not to pursue a cornea transplant for Lola. Recently we even went as far as considering scheduling that surgery for the last week of school. After a tremendous amount of research, meetings and calls with doctors and praying for wisdom we have decided NOT to pursue surgery. There are many whys that led us to that conclusion. Lola’s eye condition is currently stable, she goes to Vanderbilt twice a year to check on that stability. Eye surgery would open up the door to repeated surgeries, treatment for the glaucoma that would develop and monthly eye exams under anesthesia. She would experience continued pain and tenderness in her eyes, she has no pain currently. The surgery has no predictable outcome. It could fail completely and leave Lola with worse vision than she began with. Cornea replacements have an almost 100% failure rate in pediatrics. After all is said and done it was predicted that the new corneas would, if successful, improve her vision in only an extremely minor way.

So we have stepped back and put this decision in our daughter’s future hands. When Lola is older we will give her the opportunity to consider the surgery. When her risks are lower and she fully understands the discomforts and medical dependance that will enter her life.

You see… Lola is happy. She uses what she has and does well with it. She has no limits, she can climb mountains if she chooses. Vision plays no part in who she will become and what she can accomplish.

Christian Alliance for Orphans Coming to Hendersonville!

Tennessee friends, we have a wonderful opportunity coming our way. The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is coming to Hendersonville, TN this year! The Summit is being held at Long Hollow Baptist Church, where we attend, and there are many ways to get involved. You can volunteer, attend or become a host family. In fact… PLEASE click that link and volunteer. We need you. And guess what? Volunteering = Free Admission.

What will you see and do at CAFO?

The Christian Alliance for Orphans’ CAFO2015 Summit inspires and equips Christians to care for orphans with wisdom-guided love. The CAFO Summit has become the national hub for what Christianity Today called, “the burgeoning Christian orphan care movement.” Last year’s conference drew 2,600 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and leaders from 35 countries. Together, we explore effective foster care, adoption, family preservation and global orphan ministry. CAFO2015 will include unforgettable plenary sessions with top national and global speakers, stirring music, more than 100 workshops, and an array of one-of-a-kind experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

If you are thinking about adopting, fostering or going on mission to serve orphans this is the conference for you. If you know families who have built their families through adoption this is the conference for you. And if you are a church leader wondering how to respond to the rising interest in orphan care this is the conference for you.

Hope to see you there!

REVIEW: Wilderness At the Smokies Resort (Gatlinburg, TN)

It seems so appropriate, on this very snowy day, to share what we did on the last Nashville snow day. We Nashvillians aren’t really snow people. So after enduring days of school cancellations and snow and ice accumulation the kids and I jumped at the chance to get out of town once the roads were cleared. We live about 3 1/2 hours from Gatlinburg/Sevierville so it has definitely become our weekend getaway choice whenever the opportunity presents itself. There is so much to do and see as a family. We have our favorite spots like the Donut Friar, located in The Village Shops, and after this trip we have a new favorite place to stay, Wilderness at the Smokies.

Wilderness at the Smokies is a water park resort. They have both an indoor and outdoor water park area. The indoor water park area features 3 raft style water slides, a wave pool, regular pool, toddler water play area, washout mountain kids water play area (our favorite!), surf rider and a huge indoor/outdoor hot tub. The kids and I enjoyed swimming in and out of the hot tub area while the snow fell on our heads.

We left daddy at home during this spur-of-the-moment “cure our winter blues” trip and while it felt a little crazy managing the four with water around we still had a wonderful time. Because our kids ages range from 3-7 we spent most of our time at the Washout Mountain attraction. It has two kid friendly slides, waterworks, climbing structures and exploding geysers. I was able to position myself at the front while my kids ran wild. It was very safe for all of them. Wilderness does furnish life jackets so we took advantage of those as well.

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Special Needs Accomodation: When booking our room, the staff placed us in the same building as the indoor water park. This allowed us to stay in the building and have a shorter commute to the water park. This was huge! Lola had a great time on on the Surf Rider attraction. Because Lola could not see the boundary lines or navigate if she were to fall off the board they positioned a staff member on each side of her. I was so pleased to see them happily accommodate her and empower her to do the same activities as her sighted siblings.


We stayed in a studio suite and really enjoyed the rustic styling of the room. The ceilings are super high and there is a small kitchen area located in each studio suite. This made the room really functional for us as a family. The resort also has dining options and an arcade area. We did leave the resort one morning for our donut run and a trip to the outlets, which are super close, but it’s definitely a place you can just park the car and stay awhile.

The best thing about traveling alone with four kids to an indoor water park in the winter? They are so tired by bedtime from all the splashing and swimming that everyone sleeps solidly through the night. I didn’t hear a peep and got a great nights sleep! Bliss.

We can’t wait to head back to Wilderness at the Smokies and tackle the big slides and outdoor water park with daddy. It’s such an affordable getaway, as the water park tickets are included in the nightly room rate. If you are ready to cure your winter blues check out their spring break specials, because at this rate it’s still going to be snowing when Spring break rolls around in a couple of weeks.

 

Sledding

Healing can be really difficult to see when you’re still in the middle of it. When you’re parenting a child with sensory issues the progress is slow and often frustrating. And then there are days like today, where you wonder if all the work you put in throughout the year made a big enough difference to take part in a “normal” family activity.

Last night we received a surprise. A thick white blanket, just thick enough for a little sledding covered our neighborhood. After a quick morning visit to the chiropractor and a few throw-downs in response to winter gear we were finally dressed warmly and headed into the snowy morning. With two clearance sleds, scored on last year’s Target shelves, we crunched through the yard to the perfect spot. I waited for the screeching. I waited for the I need to go back inside cries that  dominated last year’s snowy adventure. The fear of the crunching underfoot, the fear of the glare coming off the snow, the fear of the sled’s motion.

Instead, we witnessed first hand what a year of healing really looks like. In a word. Joy.

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Lola Sledding from Calvin Ho on Vimeo.

Chiropractor: 12th Visit Update

If you have been following our quest to help Lola heal you’ll know that we’ve started seeing a chiropractor to help with her ADHD and impulse issues. Last night was our 12th visit. On the 12th visit you typically review new x-rays to check for progress, review symptoms, talk about nutrition and determine whether the care is beginning to help. In our case we were able to report a huge decrease in nervous movement and better sleep patterns. Lola is eating well so we did not need to address nutrition issues but Dr. Ben did advise to cut bananas out of morning meals as they cause a spike in blood sugar in such a small person. We are focusing on proteins like eggs and nuts. Her typical meals are high protein, green vegetables, low carbs and no dairy. We are also going to add an Organic Chlorella detox that lasts for 45 days. The chlorella binds and removes toxic heavy metal from the body, metals that Lola had high exposure to before coming home.

They say seeing is believing and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the difference in her first and second set of x-rays. The yellow circle highlights the area of improvement.

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 The spinal column is no longer jammed into the base of her skull. Dr. Ben and I were both pretty excited to see such quick results. She is responding really well to the adjustments. The earrings showing through on the X-ray are also a nice touch! I’ll continue to update on Lola’s progress and share my thoughts on the care we are receiving. So far we have nothing but love for this new addition to our lives and routine.

The Chiropractor: Popcorn Back

As promised I’m continuing to document Lola’s chiropractic journey. She is now on her third week of treatment and we are seeing some positive things. We have noticed a small change in her motion level. Especially in regards to jumping up and down. In addition to the positive behavior changes, Lola has also experienced some detox symptoms such as lethargy and diarrhea. These did not last long or affect her significantly.

We continue to have a great experience with our Living Well Chiropractic friends. They are great with kids, using phrases like “time for popcorn back” or “I’m going to make you into a pretzel, do you like your pretzels with cheese or salt?” Super cute and super relaxed for kiddos. Our visits are quick and Lola enjoys her time there. Charlotte tags along for appointments and has recently decided to be a chiropractor when she grows up, she gave me a practice adjustment yesterday. Adorable.

I will keep the updates coming! We are hopeful and excited.

REVIEW: Disney’s Disability Access Service Card

  • Hollywood Studios Light Display
  • Carribean Beach Resort
  • Frozen!
  • Mine Train!
  • Gaston's Tavern
  • Tusker House Breakfast
  • Everest

After one year of planning, making reservations and saving money our family made a grand visit to Disney World. We knew this would come with some challenges so we did our best to plan ahead, especially where Lola’s needs were concerned. She really had a great week and we were impressed with how the Cast Members (Disney employees) responded to her.

We were given a Disability Access Card, which I will refer to as the DAS card. This is a new system for kids and adults who aren’t able to wait in lines without great distress. Lola’s blindness and sensory issues make waiting in line very difficult, meltdowns etc. Trust me, we did the 40 minute wait for Buzz Lightyear without the DAS and it was a quasi-disaster.

The DAS card is basically waiting in line while out of line. To acquire the card you simply stop by the customer service area at the front of the park, explain the disability and why it makes lines difficult. We were asked very little questions and it was a very smooth process. They took Lola’s picture and printed out a little card with her name and photo on the front.

To use the card you simply hand it to the cast member at the front of each ride and they write a return time on the card. The return time is the current wait time minus 10 minutes. So if the Mine Train wait was 70 minutes our return would be an hour later. We were able to ride other rides with short wait times, eat a meal, take in the Christmas decor or rest a little. We also utilized fast pass so DAS wasn’t necessary with all rides. The cast members were always friendly and although the pass was only for 6 people they had no problem allowing more family members to ride with Lola. We were also allowed to sit in the very front for events like the Frozen Sing Along.

In addition to finding success with the DAS card we also found the characters and cast members quick to pick up on Lola’s extra needs and respond appropriately. For example, the characters recognized Lola’s need to get super close and to touch their costumes. They would take her hand and put it on their nose (Mickey) or bend down toward her face. We typically didn’t mention her eyes, but it was clear they realized that her experience needed to be slightly different.

Lola was also chosen to take part in a few shows. We were hesitant at first but once we informed the cast members they were sure to guide her and give her extra cues, no problem. Lola even played the part of the Beast, dancing with Belle as the story was told.

IMG_0538We had a great week at Disney, celebrating our family and spending time with extended family. We hope to return again in a few years to relive all the fun and excitement. Despite the changes to the disability system I still give Disney a thumbs up in this department.

The Chiroprator: Lola’s Journey

Our Lola came home from China just over a year ago. She is legally blind due to sclerocornea which causes opaque corneas. Additionally, Lola struggles with ADHD and impulse/mood control. While Lola’s blindness doesn’t hold her back, her ADHD presents issues for her in daily life. We have used many natural items that help her significantly, like Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Natural Calm and most recently L-thiamine in the form of these cute little Dinosaur Chewables.

Additionally we use sensory therapy items like trampolines, balancers, chewable jewelry, you name it. We did try medication for a time but that sent her mood swings into overdrive. Diet and the supplements listed have been the most significant thing we’ve done to help Lola.

Recently Lola began to complain of headaches. Terrible headaches, that caused her to cry and scream out in pain. She doesn’t sleep well and her bathroom trips are not regular. I was really starting to worry. There had to be something else we could try.

The Chiropractor.

People have their own opinions about Chiropractors. I have personally utilized chiropractic care on many occasions. During pregnancy for sciatica, after pregnancy when everything was out of alignment and for the time when I bent down to pick up a kiddo and got stuck that way. Each time I’ve been cared for well in an education-driven environment. So yes, I love the chiropractor. But honestly I had not considered how it might help with other ailments, or how not being aligned could cause a mass of symptoms throughout your body.

I want so badly to launch into everything I’ve learned about chiropractic care and ADHD but I’m saving that for part 2 of the journey. I know there may be readers out there who are struggling with the same issues and I want to walk you through this whole thing. I plan to share our weekly visits and update on Lola’s progress while sharing every single thing I learn along the way. As a starting place I will share that at this point Lola has had her first set of x-rays (I included them below, because it’s fascinating) and had one adjustment. I’ll also tell you that with one adjustment she made a trip to the bathroom. Even more impressive, Dr. Ben said that would happen. Congrats Dr. Ben, you called it. For the first little bit we will be hanging out at Living Well Chiropractic 3 days per week.

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By the way, Lola calls the adjustment “popcorn back.”

I’ll continue to share and update and educate about our chiropractic journey once a week. I hope you’re riveted…because I am.

 

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal