Adding luxury to your home

15 June 2018

Dear friend,

Hubby and I have been very busy painting our house and updating the interiors. It has been quite an undertaking and one that was badly needed. We all want our homes to be as comfortable as possible. But when you are working with a fairly tight budget you have to be pretty careful about what you buy for your home.

It is easy to dismiss the idea of buying items for our homes that are not absolutely essential. Often, that is the right call, but sometimes those little luxuries are worth it because they can greatly enhance the quality of your family´s life.

Ways to add a bit of luxury to your home...

A heated towel rail: Trying to dry your hands on a damp towel is never nice. My IBS means that some days I am a frequent visitor to the bathroom so my hand towels are constantly damp. A heated towel rail makes sure they do dry out completely. Plus, of course, getting out of the bath or shower and wrapping yourself in a big, soft, fluffy and warm towel feels like heaven. Fortunately, you can now buy a heated towel rail for about the same price you would need to pay for a newbathroom radiator. So, in reality, they are not actually an expensive luxury.

A coffee maker: I love my coffee and would even argue that this is an essential rather than a luxury. Being able to drink decent coffee, while at home is always nice. Surprisingly, your coffee maker can actually end up paying for itself. If you buy a coffee every morning on the way to work taking your own with you will save you a surprising amount of money. Over the course of a few years, you will have saved enough to pay for your coffee machine.

Luxurious towels: Speaking of towels, a great piece of advice from my nan was to always buy the nicest ones you can afford. Higher-quality towels will continue to look good for many years, provided you follow the care instructions.

Decent sheets: Good linen always feels nice. So buying good-quality bedding is always worth it. The only problem with this approach is that you can easily end up using the quilt cover for several years. So, it is best to choose classic designs that never really go out of fashion. Something that is relatively neutral should fit in regardless of what style of d├ęcor you choose for your bedroom.

Good mattresses for everyone: Getting a good night´s sleep is essential. The best way to ensure that you wake up in the morning well-rested and feeling refreshed is to invest in a good-quality mattress. They are not cheap. But buying a low-cost one can be false economy. You do need to know what you are doing when buying a matress. If you do not, it is all too easy to inadvertently end up paying a premium price for a mediocre mattress. This mattress buying guide should ensure that does not happen. Once your kids start sleeping in a full-sized bed, consider buying them a good quality mattress as well. It really will help them to sleep better.

What luxury item can't you live without? 

This is a collaborative post. 

9 simple steps to get children to look after their teeth

13 June 2018

Dear friend,

Did you know that record numbers of children are having tooth extractions?

There are record numbers of under-fives having rotten teeth removed in hospitals and even babies and toddlers are having their milk teeth removed according to a report released by the Royal College of Surgeons in March 2017. Milk, fruit snacks, and sweetened baby food is partly to blame. Dentists say that this Health Crisis is wholly preventable and parents should ensure that they monitor children's brushing habits until the age of eight. 

We were recently shocked when our dentist found my boys teeth were stained and recommended that they have a tooth brushing lesson with the dental nurse so I did some research and came up with the following 9 simple steps to get your children to look after their teeth.

1. Start them early
Take your little ones along to the dentist with you so they get used to the room and meet the dentist. Our dentist let the boys ride in the chair.

2. Make it fun
You can get some great tooth brushes now that play tunes or light up. Brush to music or make brushing a game. Read stories about teeth or there are apps which you can use.

3. Have teeth friendly snacks
Most parents know that chocolate bars, sweets and biscuits are filled with tooth-damaging sugar but seemingly innocent, natural foods such as raisins, oranges and dates are also packed with decay-causing acid that can damage your child’s teeth.

4. Get them involved
Let them choose their own brush and try a range of toothpastes until they find one they prefer.

5. Be a good role model
Brush your teeth together.

6. Choose a good dentist
Our son has ASD we had to find a dentist who would understand his sensitivity to smell, touch and taste.

7. Make it part of their routine
Routine is really important to children. Try to stick to the routine. One good tip is not to leave teeth cleaning until too late when children are over tired.

8. Bribery
OK, I am not suggesting bribery (I believe in intrinsic rewards) but now and then a little reward, letting them wear their favourite pyjamas or reading them their favourite story can't hurt.

9. Be patient
Don't rush tooth brushing to get them into bed. Allow plenty of time.

Autism and IQ tests: Why I am saying no!

6 June 2018

Dear friend,

In the past, nonverbal children with autism were considered mentally retarded, and those who had difficulties in communication were considered intellectually slow. Now it has become more widely recognized that autism spectrum disorder has nothing to do with intelligence, it is a developmental disorder. In fact more recently studies have been carried out to identify the links between autism and higher intelligence. It is fair to say that Autistic people like Neuro-typical people run the gamut of intelligence. 

French psychologist Alfred Binet developed the first modern IQ test in the early 1900s. Its purpose was to find children who needed special education. Common tests now include the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scale, and the Wechsler Scales. They measure skills that are, 'Generally important for success in school.' 

But IQ tests measure only a part of what we often think of as intelligence, which includes a person's ability to solve problems, reason, plan, think abstractly, and learn from the world around him.
IQ scores of children on the autism spectrum may not be accurate reflections of their intellectual potential. 

We recently had an intake meeting with a psychologist. We wanted to find some therapy for our son to help him with the death of his grandpa and we hoped he would be able to join a group for pubescent boys with autism. We left the meeting deeply disappointed as the only help we were offered was medication and an intelligence test.

We turned down both..

Studies have shown that often autistic children who are performing at grade level or above in school, have IQ scores that show them to have below average or even mentally deficient intelligence levels. 
There is...too much reliance on IQ tests that frequently underestimate the intelligence of autistic people... - Simon Baron-Cohen
This was certainly true for us. 

Our big lad was given an IQ test as part of the battery of testing he had on diagnosis (aged 5). We were shocked by the results and dumbfounded when we were advised to enrol him in special education. The results did not reflect the picture of our son that we had at home or school. We decided to ignore the advice.

We were offered another test when our son was seven. The psychologists acknowledged that the original test could have been flawed as our son was tested in his second language. I think they found it hard to believe that he was coping so well in a 'regular' school environment. 

The results showed he had a disharmonic profile. With high peaks in some areas and significant lows in others. But despite improvements, he still presented as 'below average'. School concluded that this wasn't a true reflection of his abilities. And we agreed wholeheartedly. 

When American psychiatrists updated their diagnostic manual in 2013, they acknowledged a difficulty with IQ tests and autism. They cautioned that measuring a child's intellectual ability may be complicated by the symptoms of autism and that a child's score may vary widely over time.

For a child to perform to their ability on a standard IQ test, they must be able to quickly respond to verbal questions and have well developed motor skills. These are areas that are difficult for our son and for many others on the spectrum.

People with autism spectrum disorders are impacted by sensory processing challenges and this can effect test results. The big lad will find it hard to respond in a room with bright fluorescent lights or in new environment or to someone he doesn't know or in a room with a ticking clock.

Many people with autism also have anxiety disorders. My son has significant anxiety around testing and a fear of failure. Why would I choose to put him under stress to get a number that means little to school or to us?

We know that it is extremely difficult to measure the IQ of a person with autism. Their social interaction problems, communication delay, and behavioral issues all work against an accurate measure of their intellectual abilities.

I asked our psychologist why we were being offered a method of testing that is ill-suited to autistic children. According to her the people who administer the test are trained to take into account the needs of autistic people during the testing by for example; giving them more time, taking breaks or adapting the test. 

It is worth noting that the IQ test was never intended to be used as a measure of intelligence. Some scientists have even gone so far as describing IQ as a myth. Dr Roger Highfield and his team concluded that, IQ tests are misleading because they do not accurately reflect intelligence. They found that a minimum of three different exams were needed to measure someone's brainpower.

I am not advising that everyone turns down IQ testing for their children but that you consider it as one set of data and that you take into account the 'bigger' picture when looking at test results. Trust your instincts, you know your child best and communicate with school.

To me my son is uniquely and remarkably intelligent. And as a teacher with over 20 years experience I will always struggle to limit intelligence to one test or one number.

Intelligence is, too complex to capture with a single number - Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man

I am saying no. What about you?

Photography @My_Dutch_Angle

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