Back To School Gift Guide 2021

With 4 children ages 10 to 17 going back to school and college in just a few weeks I have been getting bits and pieces for the last few weeks. When you factor in uniforms, footwear, packed lunch bags and stationary the cost mounts up quickly. I have teamed up with some brands I love to bring you some items you might need for your brood this back to school season, I have also added some items I have personally bought for the tribe myself.

For The College Student

My eldest starts his second year of college in a few weeks, hopefully, this year he will have more face to face lessons, but we know that some lessons will be online for part of the year.

Edifier G2II Headset - £66.95

Edifier® International, a prominent designer and award-winning manufacturer of consumer audio electronics for both the lifestyle and multimedia markets announce its latest offering to the gaming headset world – the G2 II headphones. Featuring virtual 7.1 surround sound, the G2 II headset offers full 360° surround sound effects for a totally immersive gaming experience. With accurate sound positioning, pinpointing exactly where the sound is coming from these are perfect for gaming and taking part in online lessons. The high-performance, the noise-cancelling microphone features a detachable 6mm, electret condenser microphone with omnidirectional reception, vital for making sure your teammates can always hear you despite your surroundings.

Smart Screen - £11.95

Smart Screen’ is a designer cleaning cloth and pouch tailored to neatly fit into any pocket, heavier weight than most microfibre glass cleaning cloths making it easier to handle. This premium product has been specifically manufactured with the current heightened awareness of cleanliness in mind, with a silver ion antibacterial liquid treatment applied during the weaving process. The ‘Smart Screen’ boasts a durability that ensures antibacterial properties lasts for up to 15 washes. This lifestyle accessory, though produced predominantly for phone and tablet use, can also be utilised for reading glasses or camera lens cleaning thanks to its’ versatility. Created for a mass-market audience, the cloth fits into any everyday scenario – from removing screen smears before entering a meeting, eradicating dirt picked up from the bottom of a handbag or getting rid of greasy finger marks on the family-shared tablet.

Educational Items

I love to get the children items that are both educational and fun at the same time, who doesn't like having fun and not knowing they are learning!

Teacher Play - From £5

These books have been created to support children in their understanding and learning of phonics. The teaching of phonics is essential in a child’s early development. By introducing letter-sound relationships, you’re helping to build the foundations of a child’s literacy skills. At this stage, children should have already been introduced to some sounds, therefore these books should be used as a resource to help implement the learning and ensure successful progression. Teacher Play 0 to 20 Number Cards offer children a fun and easy way to practice their numbers. The set features 21 double-sided cards with illustrations that help with correct formation. All cards are wipeable when using a dry wipe pen. Teacher Play a to z flash cards offer children a fun and easy way to practice their alphabet. The set features 26 double-sided cards with illustrations that help reinforce letter formation.

Tackling Tables - £11

Tackling Tables is the fun cards game for times tables success. Play for just 5-10 minutes a day and see a difference! It’s a teacher-developed, game-based method that’s widely used in schools to help students learn and understand their 1 to 12 times tables and corresponding division facts off by heart. Student Set is ideal for home learning or classroom environments to help boost maths fluency. 

Numberblocks Mathlink Cubes - £25

This special edition MathLink Cubes set brings Numberblocks learning to life as children see how numbers work and master key Early Learning maths skills through hands-on discovery and play. Now children can build their own Numberblocks characters using award-winning MathLink Cubes, follow 30 hands-on activities linked to the episodes, and play along as they watch episodes and learn. The 30 activities on the 15 write-and-wipe activity cards feature fun ways for children to use MathLink Cubes to develop early maths skills. The activities have been developed to help children recognise numbers, learn to count, add and subtract, discover division and multiplication, and develop problem-solving skills.

Pack Lunch Essentials

We have 3 on packed lunches as they absolutely hate school dinners!! I have already started to buy pack lunch fillers and water bottles.

Contigo Products - From £15

The swish auto seal bottle is reusable and leakproof, a sports bottle with Auto seal technology, automatically seals between sips to prevent leaks and spills. Push the button for on-the-go drinking and release it to seal the bottle, whether on the go, in the office or outdoors; wide opening for easy drinking, fits ice cubes. The gizmo flip kids water bottle has a spillproof spout and is easily dismantled to be washed all the way through. The stainless steel food flask is great for cold pasta or hot soups in the winter months. It is 100% leakproof even when it's lay on its side in their lunch bag.

Wax Wraps - From £12

With 8.2 million children heading back to school this September - pandemic permitting, it’s the perfect opportunity to get your kids started early with their eco-education. For those children who opt for a packed lunch, show them how to make environmentally friendly choices and switch to plastic-free options, such as using WaxWrap beeswax wrap which provides a fun and natural alternative to harmful clingfilm and keeps food super fresh.* Perfect for wrapping fresh and cooked food - everything from sandwiches and cheese to fruit and veggies, the colourful wraps are sustainable and reusable, will impress their classmates and might even earn brownie points with their teachers. In contrast, to cling film, WaxWrap comes in a handy bag, pre-cut sheets and on-a-roll format. Made from a perfectly balanced formula of just four natural materials: organic cotton, organic jojoba oil, pine resin and beeswax – which makes them super grippy. Once used, WaxWrap can be washed using cold water and washing up liquid, then patted dry with a clean towel. They can be washed over and over and if used correctly should last for around a year.

First Day Items

There is always those items that you want and need for their first day, whether that be a little treat to say well done, vitamins to keep those bugs at bay or a little packet of tissues to mop away those first-day tears.

Zoobles - £6.99

Experience magical pop-open transformations with Zoobles. The Zoobles and Happitat 1-Pack include one adorable Zoobles Animal character, a matching Happitat with a themed backdrop and a checklist to keep track of your collection. Each Zoobles Animal starts out as a colourful ball and opens up into a super-cute animal when you roll it onto its Happitat. To activate your character’s awesome transformation, simply drop or roll the ball over the metal hot spot on the Happitat — your character magically springs to life, revealing your Zoobles Animal. It’s so much fun! 
Twisty Girlz - £9.99

Introducing the newest way to twist to the playground. These fashionable dolls transform from cute girls into a bracelet you can wear. Each Twisty Girlz features a different stylish outfit and cool hairstyle and comes with a secret Twisty Pet. They are the perfect pocket money purchase for glamourous kids!


ColdZyme® is a mouth spray that treats and alleviates the common cold. ColdZyme® is unique as it works immediately to create a protective barrier between you and the cause of the cold, the actual common cold viruses. ColdZyme® is unique because it acts against the cause of the cold, the cold virus itself. ColdZyme® is easy to use and acts immediately by forming a protective barrier in the oral cavity and throat. The barrier works by capturing cold viruses and deactivating the virus' ability to infect cells so that the body can get rid of the virus naturally. ColdZyme® protects against cold viruses, relieves cold symptoms and can shorten the course of the disease when used at the early stages of a cold. ColdZyme® is available in 20ml and 7ml packs.

High School Essentials

When you reach high school you can be tricky, they want the named clothing, but they have to fit in with the school's policy. Here are 3 items I bought myself for my teenagers in high school.


Gripping the streets for decades, literally!! These were popular when I was in school the Kick Hi with trademark chunky sole, padded collar and all the small details that make them unquestionably Kickers. This pair is finished in matte black leather, all-black matching construction and branded eyelets, ready to tackle the school day in style. They also do these in the patent style, but I thought leather was more sensible! I bought these for Pops and got them from Amazon, they were even available on next day delivery.


This on-trend Adidas 3 Stripe Versatile Backpack is great for school or when you're on the go available in various colours and completed with the Adidas 3 stripe styling. It has the iconic 3 stripe styling, 3 compartments, adjustable straps and is big enough to house a laptop. It fits our school's bag criteria and it also comes in black, but if yours isn't too strict there are some funky colour options.


I ALWAYS use the Regatta outlet for our back to school coats because there are always lots of fab deals. The Baysea Jacket is made of soft-touch Hydrafort polyester with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish and sealed seams. Cut hip-length with curved side seams and a stripe-lined hood with the Battersea Cats and Dogs Home print for extra-cute style points. With the Regatta Outdoors badge on the left sleeve. Wear this casual mac to weatherproof your commute or weekend walks in the park.

I am still waiting on a few items filtering through, I will add them as they arrive.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
xx

Not Where I Thought We'd Be!!

Let's Start At The End!

I'm writing this as I sit at home watching my daughter recover from 3 anaesthetics and 2 surgeries in just 6 days, it's just not where I thought we would be after entering the hospital on July 17th for stoma surgery! It hasn't been a smooth journey, to begin with, covid cancelled our planned surgery twice and our 3rd try was booked for August 20th, but on July 7th I got a phone call offering her a slot on July 17th and we snapped it up straight away. So Pops went straight into isolation as her doctor requested and went for her Covid test 3 days before surgery.

On the morning of surgery her Doctor called at 8.30am, which I knew wasn't a good sign, he told me there were no individual cubicles available so her operation needed to be cancelled!! He said they could offer her a bed on a bay, which isn't ideal for Pops due to her sensory issues, but we took it on the understanding there weren't babies in her bay. We went to the hospital as planned at 12.30pm to be admitted, we were then left in the waiting room for 90 minutes before we were shown to her room. We had filled in a care plan with the play specialists before admission, so they should have been aware of her needs! By the time we got to the ward, Pops was very anxious. The anaesthetist came to see us and told us surgery would be around 3pm, they had been made aware she requires a pre-med and what the medication was, yet they didn't have any available on the ward for her! This meant she didn't get her pre-med until 15 minutes before going down to theatre, so totally pointless.

After surgery, we were taken to the ward and immediately placed in a bay with a baby!! I requested a nurse in charge and waited for over an hour for someone to come and see us, when she finally came I was told nothing could be done and we would have to peak with the ward manager the next day. Luckily Pops was heavily medicated and slept for most of the night and through to the morning. The following morning when she was more awake she was becoming agitated by the baby, patient liaison came to see me, again explained there were no rooms, and offered us a bay with a 3-year-old and an 8-year-old, the was also not at all suitable, Pops has lots of sensory issues surrounding televisions, noise, toys that make noises etc, so I had to accept that we needed to stay put until a room was available, which they told me would most likely be not at all. I tried to minimise her distress by keeping the curtains closed, making her wear her ear defenders etc and we bumbled through for a few hours. By 8pm tension was fever pitch, the parents of the baby were amazing, luckily knew about autism so I didn't have to constantly explain about Pops shouting out and telling their baby to be quiet. I called the nurse again and told her we needed to move right away, I didn't care if they put us in a broom cupboard or even another ward. Magically a room on the ward was found!! We moved at midnight on Sunday and I was hopeful for a quicker recovery for Pops now her anxiety calmed slightly.

This is when things started to turn, Sunday the day after her operation Pops was sat up in bed eating and getting up to go to the toilet. By the evening she has turned a funny colour and started vomiting, I raised my concerns with the nurse taking care of her and was told just to persevere, encourage her to drink lots and keep taking the medicine. By the Monday her colour had gone, she was grey, there was no output from her stoma, she was now not even keeping liquid down and constantly wrenching even though she was on regular anti-sickness medicine. This remained the same until Thursday when a doctor came and listened to my concerns. Her stoma was examined and they seemed concerned by something as we were sent for a scan.

At the scan, a camera and tube were passed into her stoma and contrast dye put in, as soon as they started putting the dye in it was backing up and coming straight back out again, I knew even as a doctor this shouldn't be happening. They called a doctor in to have a look at the images while they were doing them, I could only hear hushed whispers from behind the screen but knew it wasn't good. We were sent back to the ward to wait for the doctors. They came within 30 minutes of the scan and told me it was bad news. Pops would need another operation. When a stoma is created the bowel is cut into 2 pieces, the proximal is brought to the surface and formed into a stoma, the distal is stitched to the inside of the stomach lining to close it off. During Pops operation, the distal was brought out and made into a stoma! This is why there had been no output, nothing was coming into to output! Meanwhile the proximal was filling with gas and any food she managed to keep down and filling, going nowhere and hitting her stomach wall!! to say I was cross is an understatement. Nobody seemed to be able to explain to me why or how this even happened, her actual surgeon was now on annual leave and wouldn't be able to come and explain it to me himself.

She went down for corrective surgery the following day on the emergency list, she was down for 4 hours, her original operation taking less than 2 hours. She had a slow recovery from her 2nd operation and had a morphine pump, she was highly reliant on it for 3 days. Her stoma started working straight away and we slowly started weaning her off the morphine and upping her oral medication so we could get home finally ager 13 days!

We are finally home and we are now learning to live with a stoma! We are stuck in a bit of leaky hell at the moment. Unfortunately due to the repeated surgery Pops has been left with some quite bad scarring, the surface of her skin around the stoma is all raised and jagged. This doesn't make for great bonding of the colostomy bag. We luckily have a lovely stoma nurse who comes to see us every few days and we are trying hard to find the correct product for her.

It's been a whirlwind and an emotionally draining 2 weeks, we plan to take the rest of the summer holidays to rest up and prepare for the return to school. I have made an official complaint to the NHS trust and am awaiting their response to the whole situation, there is a whole lot more to this story in regards to our treatment from the moment we arrived in hospital to the moment we left, but I can't fully go into the ins and outs, but I will be getting answers soon.

Thanks For Reading

Mandy 

xx



What I Want You To Know On Autism Awareness Week

So, let me start off by saying I am all for 'awareness' but I do think an awareness week' is counterproductive! People with autism want awareness every day of the year, not just for a special week or a special day. Also, it's not just awareness they want and need, it's understanding! We don't necessarily want you to understand every aspect of it, but just some understanding would be great. So next time you see someone doing something you feel is unusual, shouting loudly, spinning in a circle, having a meltdown in the street or swearing loudly, don't automatically think it's someone 'being naughty or disrespectful'. Don't get me wrong, before having children on the spectrum if I saw someone as big as my Pops having a full-on meltdown in the street I would probably be one of those who looked and thought, wow she's rude! Having children on the spectrum gives you a different perspective, if I see anything now I don't pre-judge. Now, this is where it gets tricky, some parents say when their child is mid meltdown they would love a sympathetic smile, or the offer of help, in our case it's the opposite. Pops can be quite aggressive when melting down so the last thing we want is someone to try and intervene, but to make out life easier just don't stare and make snarky comments, or worst of all as if you can cope because truth be told no we can't cope, it's hard, and we are just on the edge of melting down ourselves, but we cant, cause we are the adults we are supposed to be the ones in control of the situation. 

Mind dump over with..... I thought the most useful thing could do as a parent of children on the spectrum is share some info, so let's go!

How To Support Someone With Autism
  • People on the spectrum take things very literal, so avoid using words, phrases and humour that can be misconstrued. My funniest memory of this is me saying to Dj "wow, it's raining cats and dogs out there" after coming in from the rain, only to find him stood looking out of the window in horror at the sky, waiting for cats and dogs to fall from the sky!!
  • If you're unsure how best to support someone with autism, ask their parent or carer, they are best placed to know what makes them happy and sad.
  • Sensory perception is key, people with autism have so many sensory sensitivities, so the environment is important. They can be sensitive to light, movement, sounds, smells and touch, we have pre-agreed places that they can and can't go to, for instance, we go to the park at 8am or 7pm before anyone gets there or when everyone has left, as being there when there are other children is just too much.
  • Try and stick to the plan, sudden changes aren't greeted very well, explain things every step of the way. People with autism like the reassurance. just a simple trip to the shops with Pops is exhausting. It's a 5-minute walk and she will constantly ask where we are going, what we are getting, who will be there, she needs the reassurance of those answers.
  • Allow them time to process when given instructions or asked questions, don't badger them for a response straight away. It usually takes time for them to digest the question or request before they can act on it.
  • Makes questions and directions clear, avoid being 'wordy', Pops works better on short commands. Her SALT told us if you give her a whole sentence of instructions she is only hearing 2 or 3 keywords and will switch off. For instance, if I want her to get her cup out of the lounge, I will say "Pops cup please" rather than saying " Pops can you go get your cup from the lounge"
  • DO NOT STOP their repetitive behaviours, obviously, if they are dangerous that's different. But repeating things, doing things in certain ways, lining up cars, walking around with 10 felt tips etc are all coping mechanisms, so please don't prevent them from doing them. At the moment Pops goes to school with 28 Stabilo pens in her bag and 2 Instaglam dolls, shes never takes them out at school, I've asked, but she needs to know they are in there and checks several times throughout the day.
This list could go on, but I think these are a few key facts that would help should you need or meet someone on the autism spectrum. Are you a parent or carer for someone on the spectrum? Is there any you would add?

Autism - Facts vs Myths
  • People with autism cannot talk - This is incorrect, some can talk from day one with no problems at all, some will require some form of assistance. L was an early talker but didn't seem to understand spoken language. Pops didn't say her 1st word until was 5 years old! and it was bubbles... She used a combination of picture cards and sentence strips to communicate.
  • People with autism AVOID social contact - False, I have 1 who avoids social contact at all costs and prefers his own company. I then have one who seeks out company and doesn't like to be alone at all.
  • People with autism do not make eye contact - This is also incorrect, again I have one who does avoid eye contact and one who insists you look at them in the eye when you speak to them. Their eye contact is fleeting and on their terms, but they do give it.
  • Autism is the result of bad parenting - Not even going to dignify this myth, with a response! But safe to say it's false! Autism is a developmental disorder!
  • People with autism are like 'rain man' or have a special talent or skill - This is not technically true, there is a small majority of people on the spectrum, around 10% who have a special ability. 
  • People on the spectrum cannot live alone and live independently - This is false, with the correct support and guidance they sure can! I remember when L was little the thought of him doing anything on his own seemed impossible. He is now 17, goes to college, can manage his own money, travel independently and is looking to the future and living alone.
  • There is no 'cure' for autism - There is no documented cure, but with the correct early interventions they can live pretty 'normal' lives. I hate using the word normal, cause what is normal anyway. I think early intervention is the key! I have 2 who had it and 1 who didn't, as they thought he has ADHD, so he missed out on that key intervention, so he now struggles massively.
I think the main thing I want to point out to everyone is Autism is a spectrum, if you have met 1 person on the spectrum you have met just 1 person on the spectrum as they are all so wonderfully different. I have 3 children on the spectrum, 1 who goes to college, independently, 1 who attends a specialist autism school and needs LOTS of support and 1 in the mainstream with an EHCP and accessing about 50% of the mainstream classes. If you think who much of the spectrum we cover as a family, just imagine how big that spectrum actually is!
If you want to share for awareness or support then please do, but don't just save it for 1 day or just 1 month. If you see a blog post, a picture, a comment then like it, share it, do it all the time, as they need support all the time and we love to know someone is listening.
Thanks For Reading
Mandy
xx

A-Z Of Autism - D Is For....

So if you read C is for then you will know what all of this is about, if not here is a little recap. I'm a Mum of 3 autistic children and way back 13 years ago when my eldest was diagnosed I really struggled to find real-life info about autism. So here we have the A to Z of autism, I'm not a Doctor or health care professionals, these are just some words on what autism means for us. Each fortnight (life stress dependant!!) is the next letter of the alphabet, do head over and check out C (highlighted above) and let's get on with D!

Delay

What I am hearing from other SEN parents recently is a lot about delay, global development delay. There has been a rise in autism diagnosis of children of preschool age, 2 of my 3 on the spectrum were diagnosed at just age 3. There a lot of parents now whose children are being diagnosed as having a global developmental delay, rather than autism. They seem to think it's because CAHMs don't want to rush into an autism diagnosis, so a GDD gives them time to observe. Ultimately this means that the child misses out on those crucial early interactions they need with an autism diagnosis. Look out for my future post, on what to look out for and note down!

Distraction

My boys specifically get massively distracted and find concentration difficult. Their distractions can range from someone clicking a pen behind them to a squirrel running past a window. It makes school a little difficult especially for Dj, he is massively distracted by other pupils and finds concentrating on his work difficult when it's too noisy. 

Dyslexia

We are in the process of getting Dj retested for dyslexia, he was tested in year 5 and we were told he was borderline. I am unsure how you can be borderline dyslexic? But I am not a Doctor... He struggles massively with English, spelling, writing and tells me words float off the page when he is reading. The common signs your child may be dyslexic are:

  • May talk later than other children
  • Adds words to their vocabulary slower
  • Have difficulty pronouncing words
  • Have difficulty rhyming
  • Unable to follow multi-step directions
  • Has trouble reciting the alphabet, days of the week and months of the year
  • Slower to develop fine motor skills
  • Had trouble sounding out or blending words
Dj certainly fits all of the above criteria, so we will just have to wait and see what the test says, if it comes back he is then we will get more assistance in school.

Dyspraxia

Similar to dyslexia, Dj is also waiting to be tested for this. Dyspraxia affects fine and gross motor skills. Dj has poor balance, poor posture, poor hand-eye coordination, he loves to dance, but has no rhythm! He is very clumsy and always walking into things, tripping over and has very over-exaggerated hand and arm movements when he walks. He tells me it helps to keep him upright. I am inside if it is associated but he also has terrible vertigo and struggles on stairs and near glass windows where he can see how high up he is, a aeroplane or glass lift is his worst nightmare.

Dyscalculia

Again we are awaiting tests for this. Dyscalculia impairs an individual’s ability to understand everyday math concepts, make sense of numbers, and memorize formulas. Dyscalculia looks different in everyone who has it. One of Dj's biggest cause of anxiety is Maths, he says he just doesn't get it, no matter how much it is broken down for him.

Decisions

I think this a broad spectrum word in the D category. when it comes to making decisions my 3 can NEVER make up their mind, they constantly go back and forth over their decisions. Even if it's only just about what they want for their tea, the whole anxiety of making decisions is too much for them. As a parent of a child with additional needs, the weight of making decisions for them is heavy. Whether you are making the right decisions for their now and for their future. Its a tough one as we can't see into the future so we just work on a what works for right now basis.

Diversity

The autism spectrum is just that, a spectrum, each person on the spectrum is different. There are a diverse range of people diagnosed and some you wouldn't even realise! 

DLA

People on the autism spectrum are unusually entitled to some form of disability living allowance. This is to help pay for the extra thing that they need. Whether that be paying for taxis to get to appointments, additional clothing and adapted items for instance. The amount a person gets is done on a points basis and includes filling out a large form. The form isn't over complicated but some questions may not seem relevant as its just one form for all no matter what their disability.

So that's my D's for this time, I am hoping to have the next letter up in 2 weeks! But in this house, you just never know, but stick with me OK. If you want to catch up on previous weeks check out the A-Z of Autism page which contains links to all previous letters.

Thanks For Reading

Mandy

xx

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