Aug 09 2014

The Sensory Experience Of A Lifetime

As part of CC’s diagnosis, like so many others on the autism spectrum, he has a number of sensory processing challenges. However, in saying that, we try to do as much as we can to allow him alternative ways to manage the way his body feels.  Generally CC experiences sensory over-responsiveness except when it comes to his proprioceptive and vestibular needs.  These are both areas where he is sensory seeking, so one of the things that he loves to do is jumping on his trampoline in the backyard.  The trampoline has, more times than I can count, been a life saver for us… and him… when it comes to his ability to help him self-regulate.

4AFB1973-190-190-fThe other day we enjoyed some time at Playdium, where we not only enjoyed some incredibly interactive and entertaining video games, but also some great outdoor activities.  I knew that they had a Bungee Trampoline – a trampoline where the individuals were put in a harness attached to bungee cords, allowing them to bounce higher and attempt flips much easier than on a regular trampoline – but I didn’t share this information with CC because I wanted it to be a surprise.  When we walked outside and he saw the trampoline, the excitement and joy that he experienced before he even got on the trampoline was priceless.  I have shared previously about how much I enjoy seeing CC and his ‘excited stims’. It is him expressing pure and absolute emotion.  It doesn’t get any more real than this and it makes me smile every single time I see it!

Once I saw him, I knew that I didn’t even need to ask if this was something that he wanted to try.  It was so very clear that he was beyond excited to give this a go!

Wandering over to the trampoline, he politely checked out the name tag of the gentleman that was helping him, introduced himself and, in true CC form, he started asking a million questions!  Isaac suited him up while patiently answering many of the questions, as well trying to give him instructions on how to do a back flip – which is what CC really wanted to do!!  Not giving it a second thought, he was quickly in the air shouting ‘woohoo’ and ‘yeeeaah’!  This was obviously going to be the highlight of the day.

trampoline 1

 

trampoline 2

He never did figure out the back flip, but that sure wasn’t for lack of trying.  And now, I have a 10 year old that wants one of these ‘contraptions’ installed on his trampoline in the backyard!  Just so he can learn to do flips… and who knows what else!  Yeah… I’ll get right on that buddy!

I guess however, as much as he loved this, he was still hungry for more… so off we went to the spinning bumper cars, which I have to admit was the highlight of MY day!!!  So much fun!!  Yes, I am still kind of a kid at heart!

Here is CC… doesn’t he look innocent?  Yeah… sure he does… don’t let the smile fool you!  This was right before he tried to basically run me over and ‘bounce’ me out of the ride enclosure!

spin zone bumper cars

CC has done some different things this summer as he is experimenting and exploring a lot about body mechanics and how different actions work and make him feel.  He has discovered some Yoga moves that he finds very calming if he starts to feel stressed, and the thing that I love about that is he will do them anytime… anywhere… doesn’t matter who is watching, which is a very different way of thinking for him and one that makes me very happy.

I hope that everyone is having a great summer!  It’s hard to believe that we are almost half way through August and back to school for many is just around the corner.  But, in saying that, we still have some good summer fun ahead of us and I, for one, plan to make the most of it!

Until next time…

Jen

 

 

Jul 23 2014

Peter Senese Testimonials: Helping Rescue Children

wish21When I think of the world today it sometimes scares me to think of the direction we seem to be heading. Many seem to have forgotten about acting in kindness… acting selflessly with no other intent than to help someone else or make the world a better place.  Sometimes acting in kindness entails more than a simple gesture and, in fact, needs individuals to exhibit bravery as they stand up against others that may not agree with what they are doing.  When we act in kindness toward others, it’s an act of love and one that says “I care”.  The truth is, we can’t really expect kindness from others if we don’t practice it ourselves.

Now, when I think of acts of kindness toward others, the I CARE Foundation‘s Executive Director, Peter Senese quickly comes to mind. Peter Senese is an indefatigable defender of children and families that are victims of international abduction, but this is not where his humanitarian work ends. Peter is also very involved with helping children who are battling cancer and other illness. His involvement and support of hospitals that provide care to children fighting the worst scenarios has occurred for many years.

In saying this, I would like to share a link to some sworn testimonials that have been written in regards to the work that Peter has been involved in: recovering and bringing home children who have been abducted or who were targeted for abduction, as well as some letters which will provide some insight about the work that he does helping those with medical challenges.

I am sure, in sharing these letters, what Peter’s wish would be is for others to realize the importance of using their voice to stand up for and help others, thus making the world a better place.  This is what he does day in and day out… this is what he has taught me and in doing so, he has, in his own way, made an incredible impact on my life.

Click here to read the sworn testimonials

testimonial

Jen

 

 

Jul 15 2014

The Lighter Side Of My Biggest Fear

fearFears… those who know me, know one of my biggest fears in the world is… SPIDERS!  It’s actually become a little bit of a joke in a lot of cases, but I’m OK with that!  But as far as spiders go, there is nothing that I like about them. They are creepy… ugly… and down right terrifying!  Funny how something that is so small can be such a fear for so many people. I remember growing up, seeing a spider, screaming and then hearing, ‘Oh c’mon, you’re bigger than he is‘, or ‘He’s more scared of you than you are of him!‘  My response was usually something like… ‘Oh really?  Shall we test that theory of yours?‘… as I was running the other direction!

Maybe my fear has to do with having two older brothers that did kind of like to torment their little sister at times!  hmmmm… Nope, in this case, I can’t blame them. I have a very vivid memory of riding my tricycle with my neighbourhood friend, only to look down and see a spider crawling on my leg.  Not that I had much life experience at this point, but I had never seen a spider as big as this – I swear it was the size of a soccer ball!  It was black and yellow, and well, I think it traumatized me for life!  I don’t think I have ever screamed so loud in my life and back then, when a child screamed, the reaction time I think was slower than it is today! This thing was on my leg for so long I thought it was going to take up residency! ugh… Ever since that day, my fear is one that, I admit, is perhaps a little irrational – but very real!

However… a couple of weeks ago I had taken CC to Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, which has easily become one of our favourite places to visit.  They focus on demonstrations that teach general information regarding different reptiles but also include feeding demos, which the kids always love to watch. The staff is amazing with CC and every visit we come away learning something new.  This visit was going along well and we were enjoying the highly interactive demonstration that Kevin was putting on… and then it happened!  Kevin brought out a ‘creature’ that was enclosed in his hands… encouraging the kids to guess what he was holding.  Now, in the time that we have been going to Little Ray’s, this was different than other ‘introductions’ and as I looked at Kevin’s hands I felt a shiver go down my spine. As the kids were laughing and guessing what he was holding… I knew… and slowly started to tense up. As he opened his hands, he held a tarantula!  OMG… if I could have run at that point I would have! If I could have screamed… without looking like a complete moron…in this room filled with children… I would have!

Now, the key to this whole experience is that CC knows all too well my fear of spiders.  So, as Kevin is educating us about this eight legged creature that terrified me beyond belief, CC jumps up and says… ‘My mom wants to hold the tarantula!!!‘  Nooooooo… CC…. you didn’t just say that!!!  Kevin smiled and proceeded with his demonstration.  Well, once he was done he asked if there was anyone that wanted to hold the tarantula.  Of course the kids were generally pretty excited to be able to do this.  And then there it was again… CC calling out… ‘My mom wants to hold the tarantula!‘  This child of mine… what was he trying to do… cause me to have a heart attack right on the spot so that he could collect on the insurance money?!?!  I tried to reason with him, but that wouldn’t work.  I watched as these little kids, who had no fear, held this creepy, crawly, furry thing… I took a deep breath and for CC, I decided that I would give this a try.  Kevin walked over with this grin on his face… asked me if I was sure… I nodded (unable to speak)… closed my eyes and put my hands out.  I felt something crawl across my hands.  I had to assume it was the tarantula, but I wasn’t going to look.  Then I think I actually squealed, but I can’t say for certain.  Though this ‘thing’ was only in my hands for probably 10 seconds, it was the longest 10 seconds of my life!

I couldn’t believe it… I did it!  I held a tarantula… and didn’t have a heart attack while doing it!  Does this mean I like spiders now?  Heck no!  I still freak when I see most of them.  Yes, I have been known to use hairspray to try and kill them… which never seems to work.  I have drowned them in the shower… then wonder if they are going to crawl out of the drain and then try to kill me in the night!  If I had a bazooka, I would use that to kill them, but realize then I would have a bigger problem on my hands! Losing track of where one is in the house means that I start packing, preparing myself to move!  Yes, I still HATE spiders!  And, funny enough, CC still pushes the whole ‘me holding a spider’ thing every time we go to Little Ray’s. The other thing that came out of this is that my friend has a similar fear… though not of spiders… but of snakes.  So, it seems to have turned into a contest with CC to see which of us will ‘suck it up’ and overcome their fears more. Seeing as my friend held not one, but two, snakes the other day, I have a feeling that I have another spider ‘incident’ in my future!  ugh What we won’t do for our kids!

Oh, and if you doubt me… because I wasn’t sure until I saw the picture… here’s the proof!  I can’t believe I’m putting this picture (that gives me goosebumps!) on my blog… forever!

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Thanks Kevin… and Little Ray’s… for yet another amazing visit that we will always remember!

All I have to say is if you can laugh at things like this, you can live with them too.  Not that I want to live with a spider… but I can usually try to rationalize my fear – and if not, well, as I have done here, I can usually try and find the funny side of it all.

Jen

 

 

Jun 08 2014

The I CARE Foundation: Celebrating One Year Of Protecting Children With The International Travel Child Consent Form

one year anniversary

One year ago today, the I CARE Foundation released their International Travel Child Consent Form.  So, today we celebrate!  We celebrate the lives of the children and their innocence.  We all consider it a blessing every time a child is protected from the abusive and unforgiving world of international parental child abduction.

When I look back over the past year, in relation to international child abduction, so much has occurred.  By far, the creation of this critical abduction prevention tool has made such a difference in the lives of so many families.  The reality is, that as of today, there have been literally hundreds of children around the world that have had parents and lawyers be proactive and utilize the travel consent form.  And, in 100% of the cases, that we are aware of thus far, each of those children have returned home where they belong.

This travel document was created to help prevent abduction due to the wrongful detention of a child abroad.  If you can imagine, these types of situations, which I have written about many times before, make up for approximately 85-90% of all Hague related cases around the world.  And here we have this one document… which is a simple thing for parents to complete… that has the ability of protecting children from the most common form of abduction.  This was the goal… and it’s success speaks volumes.

Recently, at the IAML conference in New York, Hague Permanent Bureau Secretary General, Dr. Christophe Bernasconi, conveyed the importance of creating an official Hague-Oriented International Travel Child Consent Form as an abduction prevention tool.  In fact, during the IAML conference in New York, and the LEPCA conference at the Peace Palace, Secretary General Bernasconi specifically referred to the I CARE Foundation’s travel consent form as a model document.  The form was created to protect children, but to think that it will become the reference point in developing a globally utilized document that will be created within the Hague – this is really incredible!

Lately I have been a little behind in sharing some of the news related to abduction and abduction prevention, and one of the more impressive things is that the Department of State Hague Compliance Report to the U.S. Congress stated that there was a decline in the reported U.S. outbound international parental child abduction rate of 12.23% during 2013… which brings the total decline, over the past four years (2009-2013) to 38.06%.  That’s pretty incredible news, but I have to admit, when Peter Thomas Senese, the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, shared the numbers with me, I had been hoping for something bigger.  But when you look at the fact that not that long ago, the rate of abduction had NOT been declining in the United States, but actually growing – and at an alarming rate – 12.23% is pretty remarkable.  But there is still a long way to go, and until we are no longer seeing international parental child abduction as an issue, there is always work to be done.

An important reminder… to all parents… summer holidays is the time of year when the majority of international abductions occur.  Many times one parent uses summer vacation travel plans to carry out their carefully planned schemes of abduction.  So, when I was speaking about the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form earlier in this post, if you happen to be a parent – especially one that might be in the midst of a high-conflict divorce or separation, a child custody dispute, or if you happen to have a child traveling under a court order (no, a court order doesn’t guarantee that your child is going to return home if they are traveling as part of a custody agreement) – please consider utilizing the travel consent form.  It may not only protect your child from abduction… it could actually save their life.  As well, parents everywhere should be aware of the risks and warning signs of international parental child abduction. Taking a few minutes now to educate yourself could not only protect your child, but perhaps a child of someone that you might know.  It’s simple… education is prevention!

So, on this day, we celebrate!  And as I say that, I am so incredibly proud to be a part of such an amazing organization… and I am so proud of everyone that is involved with the I CARE Foundation.  This is a team of individuals that are so dedicated to making a difference… to protecting the lives of children… to bringing an end to parental child abduction.  It’s amazing what can happen when a group of people use their voices and their ability to stand up for what is right.

But, as there is still so much to be done… our work continues.

On behalf of the I CARE Foundation family,

Jen Cluff
Director of Social MediaI CARE Foundation Call-To-Arms

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