Marks & Spencer launch clothing range for disabled children

The clothing range will be sold exclusively online and is in response to a customer request from a special needs Grandparent.

It is believed that this is the first ‘mainstream’ retailer to launch a clothing range meeting the needs of disabled children.

Marks and Spencer spokesperson commented, ‘We have extended the age range of our bodysuits and sleepsuits up to the age of 7-8 years.

The full range includes 16 styles in white, pink and blue colourways – including a bodysuit that has been adapted for feeding tubes.’

The UK retailer, worked with disability charity Scope to develop the range of clothing for kids with special needs.

The collection is 100% cotton and prices start at £3 for a sleeveless bodysuit and £7 for a sleepsuit.

Within hours of pre-launching a limited selection of the range range, it had already sold out or was indicating low stock.

The full launch of the range is available now.

This is a clear reflection of the need for the range and the lack of affordable alternatives for parents of children with special needs.

The Marks & Spencer long sleeve vest retails at £4 per vest in comparison to £15 per vest sold by Rackety’s.

If you did manage to get your hands on some, we’d love to hear your thoughts – please get in touch!

How to Make a Fidget: DIY Sensory Disorder Toys

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when, a few days ago, my children emerged from the kitchen, with handmade fidgets, configured out of animal-balloons (I’ll get to that), and a bit of water, all tied into a knot.

“Mommy, we made calm-down fidgets!” they exclaimed, pride evident in their voice.

I was pretty impressed.

What a smart idea!

As a therapist with a limited budget, working in the school system, I am always looking for do-it-yourself sensory items.

I have some already made to bring in for the start of the upcoming school year!


– Pack of balloons.

– Your filler of choice e.g. water, rice, play-doh or beads (or anything else you think will be engaging and safe for your child).


– Add your filler into a balloon using a funnel until approximately 1/3 to 1/2 way full. Knot it together.

– Take a second balloon and cut off the neck. Wrap the first balloon in the skin of the second, this will strengthen the surface making it harder to pierce. You can repeat this with a third balloon for extra strength.

– Repeat the entire process with two more balloons and ‘double-wrap’ them too.

– Tie all balloons together.

You’ve got it!

Just don’t poke a hole in it.

Remember that the fidget could burst if bitten or damaged so it’s important to be careful and only use a safe filler.

My kids loved being able to fidget with this, moving between the balloons, and shifting water around from side to side within each balloon.

Have a wonderful day!

Lauren (and the kids- Shayna, Yosef, and Lianna)

Special Needs Family Fun: Keeping Disabled Children Safe in Warm Weather

Summer temperatures in the UK can be a health risk with vulnerable people including disabled children being most affected by periods of warm weather.

The following tips will help you keep your family stay safe in hot weather:

Avoid Dehydration It is extremely important that you make sure your child is kept suitably hydrated during warm weather. Dehydration can cause significant health problems and in extreme cases even death.

All children but especially those with special needs are at risk because they may not recognise that they are overheating or becoming dehydrated or communicate to you that they are feeling unwell.

Make sure your child drinks at least every 20 minutes, water or well diluted fruit juice is best. Drinks at a moderate temperature are better than those that are ice cold. Avoid drinks with caffeine.

Try making some homemade ice-lollies if you are struggling to get your child to drink regularly.

Limit activities like physiotherapy to the cooler parts of the day.

Avoid heavy foods and include plenty of fruit and salad in your child’s diet (if you can).

Always take plenty of drinks with you when you are out and about.

If your child is tube fed, take advice from your feeding specialist on how to meet their hydration needs during warm weather.

Watch out for signs of dehydration: particularly for muscle cramps in the arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems.

Sun Safety

Keep your child out of the sun as much as possible, especially when it is at it’s highest between 11am and 3pm. Babies under the age of 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether as their skin contains too little melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their colour and provides some protection from the sun.

If your child is in a special needs buggy or wheelchair use a parasol to keep them shaded.

Dress your child in loose fitting clothing such as cotton so sweat can evaporate. Make sure your child wears a sun hat with a wide brim or long flap at the back to protect their head and neck.

Use a high factor sun cream on the whole family – using a minimum of SPF 15 making sure it has UVA and UVB protection and is water resistant if playing in water. Apply the sun cream regularly especially if your child is in and out of water paying particular attention to shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks and tops of feet. Always reapply after towelling down your child.

Protect your child’s eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the “CE” mark (check the label or ask the manufacturer).

Remember sitting in the shade or using a sun parasol or umbrella does not offer total sun protection and children can still burn if sun cream is not applied.

Keeping Cool Many prescription medicines can reduce the tolerance of heat so you may need to take extra care to keep your child cool.

Stock up on supplies like medicine, food and drinks so you don’t have to go out in the heat.

Keep your home cool – shutting windows when it is hotter outside than it is inside can help. Remember to open the windows later in the evening when it becomes cooler. Closing blinds and curtains in rooms that get the sun can also help.

Leaving bottles of iced water in rooms can help bring down the room temperature during the night as they defrost.

Turn off non essential lights and electric equipment as they generate heat.

A paddling pool is a great way to keep babies and young children cool. Keep the pool in the shade and supervise children at all times. Or place a cool cloth on your child’s neck or sprinkle water over the face, hands and feet.

Plan a cool bath before bedtime.

Keep nightwear and bedclothes to a minimum.

Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your child’s room – a room temperature of 16°C (61°F) and 20°C (68°F) is ideal.

Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C. At temperatures above 35°C fans may not prevent heat related illness and may cause dehydration. Do not aim the fan directly on the body.

Watch out for the signs of heat exhaustion: including headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, pale skin, heavy sweating and a high temperature.

Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion if left untreated – but it can also develop suddenly and without warning.

The symptoms of heatstroke include hot and red skin, headaches, nausea, intense thirst, raised temperature, confusion, aggression and loss of consciousness.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition.

Remember to keep an eye on the weather forecast so you can plan ahead!

Taking Better Care of My Back (and me!)

She has recently started doing a sort of stylized bum shuffle/bunny hop technique to get across the floor (very exciting for us as it took her a long, long time to develop the motivation to move herself forwards!).

Although she can weigh bear in a standing position pretty well she has only just started taking a few (supported) steps, so is quite a long way from walking – if ever.

Therefore my day involves a lot of lifting, carrying and transfers from floor to chair, in and out of the bath and cotbed, sitting on the floor, crouching down and generally getting into awkward positions to help with her physio and mobility needs.

I’ve always had dodgy posture and a bit of a tendency to lower back pain, but I’ve been noticing the strain much more recently and it has given me a bit of a wake up call.

It’s so easy to ignore your own aches and pains and problems as the children are the priority but, as my husband works long hours, I am on my own with the wee ones most days from morning until bedtime – so if my body packs in our family really would be struggling!

With that in mind, my new year’s resolution was to start yoga and try to improve my core strength and posture….

And (a big surprise to myself!) I actually did join a studio!

I have so far managed to go along once a week (well ok, I have missed a couple of weeks – but I still think I’m doing pretty well!).

It feels very reassuring to be doing something which will help my posture and hopefully protect my back.

As an added bonus, I also get a little bit of ‘me time’ and some extremely useful tips on relaxation techniques.

Life with small children can be pretty stressful and chaotic at the best of times, but with additional needs in the mix – appointments and therapy ‘homework’ to squeeze into our day – it can be extra stressful!

In fact before each class, as I’ve run around trying to get the kids sorted and into bed in order to run out as soon as Dad comes through the door from work, I wonder if it’s actually worth the hassle and if I’m just cancelling out any benefits I might get from the relaxation elements!

So far thankfully not, although I can’t say my mind doesn’t sometimes wander back to random thoughts about home as I’m lying there in the studio….!

I Will Blenderize Anything Once

‘Blenderized trail mix with coconut milk,’ I answered, with a bit of pride shining through over my latest puréed invention.

The little boy looked at me in confusion.

‘I don’t see the raisins in the trail mix. How boring!  What’s the fun of eating trail mix, if you can’t pick out the good stuff?’

And the little boy was half-right—purée can be boring if you let it.

When we started out on our blenderized diet journey, Mia was still at the typical age for eating purées.

I balanced her meals between the store bought luxury of jarred baby food and making homemade versions.

Then she hit the age of two and she still could only handle the jars marked at the store with the six-month label.

Between the limited variety in the store versions and the rut that I was in with the homemade varieties, I realized that Mia’s meal plan was just plain old boring!

Due to the fact that Mia was thriving with the combination of blenderized diet and nighttime tube feedings, we had been given a lot of free rein by the nutritionist to give Mia a variety of foods, as long as she tolerated the ingredients.

So I set out with a new mission to make Mia’s life tasty, colourful, and nutrient dense.

Here are my top five rules that guide my personal purée philosophy:

1. I will blenderize anything once!

Why should my daughter miss out on trying foods, just because the particular food needs to be chewed?

If I can figure out a way to purée something, then it will be beaten to a pulp.

Sometimes it takes just a bit of inventiveness such as soaking overnight or steaming to get the mushy results I’m after, and so far I haven’t failed yet.

2. Mix it up!

Once I set out to make Mia’s life tastier, it became quite clear, that my little blender was not really cutting it.

I made the investment in an industrial-grade blender and have never looked back.

Depending on your child’s diagnosis and your insurance coverage, you may even be able to have a high-end blender paid for by your insurance, or receive a tax credit for the purchase.

3. Quality is key

I look for high quality, organic, real food ingredients whenever I’m shopping.

Quality is often synonymous with expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

If there is a sale, I stock up.

If there is a surplus in the garden, I freeze or can.

Eating a blenderized meal is a huge undertaking for someone with dysphasia and feeding issues.

By focusing on the quality and nutrient value of foods you can make every single meal and every single bite count.

4. Get creative

I strive to offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, along with plant and animal protein sources at each meal.

Sometimes this means mixing things together that sound a little weird, but actually taste good and have a pleasing texture.

This allows me to fit in some raw vegetables with a sweet afternoon snack.

Breakfast often has some sort of starchy vegetable in the mix.

A dose of the ‘green smoothie’ philosophy works well when you are trying to pack a vitamin punch in your special blend.

5. Keep it simple!

I’ve adapted a cook ahead for the week strategy that allows me to have a refrigerator full of cooked basics for the week ahead.

Not only does this mean that I’m cooking less during the week, but the variety allows me to truly ensure that Mia’s diet is colourful and tasty.

Many meals that I make for our family are appropriate for Mia to eat also, this means a serving for me, a serving for my husband, and a serving in the mixer with liquid for Mia—voila!

Other meals I use the basics to concoct a special mixture for Mia, but the prep time is minimal, since I’ve done the heavy lifting during my cook ahead session.

I obviously enjoy the task of sourcing and preparing quality food for my daughter.

It has become a one of the many ways that I express my love for my little girl, who has proven to be quite the gourmet.

But even if cooking isn’t your thing, with a little creativity you can take boring puréed meals, even those from a jar and mix up some magic with a dash of love.

Keeping Romance Alive

My husband and I always try to find little ways to keep the romance alive.

Sometimes in a hectic and overwhelming week we’ll treat each other to simple gifts just because.

This could include a single flower, to a candy bar, or a hot coffee drink.

Something little that says I was thinking of you and you are loved.

After a hard and long day there is nothing more romantic than a cup of coffee to keep me on my feet!

When you are raising two small children, and one that is severely disabled sometimes there isn’t a lot of you time.

A romantic gesture can come in the form of drawing a bubble bath for your significant other, while the other parent watches the children.

Or giving your partner time to sit down for the first time all day while you clean up after dinner.

Feeling like there is a moment to reconnect with yourself because your partner wants to share the load keeps the love  flowing.

Sometimes love needs no words, a tender look into your partner’s eyes can say it all.

I’m here for you, I need you, I love you. An unspoken code that soul mates just have with each other.

Romantic Dinners can be a huge challenge, especially if you are lacking in respite care.

But we’ve found some great romantic ways of dining in at home.  A well thought out prepared meal at home can look just as fancy as any restaurant could serve and often times be half the cost.

To keep things interesting we even make a point to dine-out on the patio on nice weather or use the dinning room – even if it’s not a special holiday.

Making a meal at home, even with the children present can be romantic and filled with love.

My husband and I will sometimes trade duties or chores.  We’ll take turns with household duties, assisting with the children, and balancing the needs of our special need’s child’s exercises and therapies.

This helps feeling connected to the life we both share, the good times and the more challenging times.

Love notes are sometimes a subtle way of reminding your partner about how you feel.

We get so wrapped up in day to day routines that we don’t always have an opportunity to say what is on our mind.

Post-it notes on a bathroom mirror, or sitting by the computer waiting for you to check your email to say I love you.

Gentle whispers of love to remind you that Romance is still alive.

When I asked another special needs parent how they kept romance alive, the reply was: “The most important thing to remember is reconnecting with each other…

Saying I love you, having cute code words that only the two of you know what they mean, making each other laugh, never going to bed mad.

I think parents stop making time for each other, to just be together, stay intimate, it’s the closest two people can get.”

Wishing you all a beautiful Valentine’s Day filled with lots of extra romance!

Tell us how do you keep romance alive in your life while balancing a child with special needs?

Let’s Talk About Our Mental Health…

Did you know about 25% of the UK population will experience some kind of mental health problem this year – it most likely to be a combination of anxiety or depression.

Statistics also tell us that more women than men are treated for a mental health problem each year.

Does this sound familiar? Yeah I bet it does.

I’d say our chances of falling into that 25% are a good bit higher than the average mum – wouldn’t you?

I want to talk about this because I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.

Shortly after finding out that our much wanted first born son had special needs and would need life-long care, I began to experience mental health problems.

I know what they are now, at the time I didn’t have a clue what was happening to me.

I HAD to be the strong one, I had to answer everyone’s questions, reassure everyone that it would be OK, that we would cope – so outwardly I think I put on a pretty good front.

No one ever asked if I was OK, so I’m assuming I did a good job at pretending. Inside, I wasn’t doing just as well.

I felt like a horrendous weight was dragging me down, I was constantly fighting through a thick cloud of fog – even the simplest of tasks felt like I was climbing mountain.

I think I spent more time crying than not.

I stopped going out, I stopped seeing friends and I stopped doing the things I enjoyed.

But I absolutely did not need any help. Asking for help would be a sign of weakness, taking medication would be a sign that I was not coping, I was sure no one would want to listen to how I was feeling.

In hindsight, now I’m in a brighter and better place, I wish I could give my old self a good shake.

I recently hurt my back, I immediately went to my GP, started a course of anti-inflammatory medication and spent a small fortune on physiotherapy treatment.

However, when it came to my mental health why did I think seeking the same help would be a sign of weakness?

Please don’t make the same mistake I did.

I managed to climb out of a deep dark hole very slowly, but it took far longer than it should have.

How much time did I waste by not asking for help?

I’ll never know now, but what I do know is that if I should ever feel myself sinking into that place again, I will most definitely be asking for help.

Time to Talk is urging us all to Take 5.

Take 5 with a friend to find out how they’re doing, watch and share their film or have a conversation online – these are all small things you can do to make a big difference.

Why not introduce yourself in the Firefly Garden, you’ll find a supportive group of parents, therapists and carers. It could be the start of a better and brighter future for you too.

Three Books That Teach Other Children About Disabilities

Sometimes, we simply don’t have the right words to explain difficult subjects to our children.

Talking to our kids about people with special needs and disabilities can be a daunting subject to tackle, especially if we are explaining the needs or disabilities of a sibling, friend, or relative.

Luckily for all of us, there are some great books out there written to not only help explain and encourage children to embrace people with disabilities, but to also help kids with special needs interact with their peers.

Here’s a look at three top-rated books available right now on bookseller sites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Special Brothers and Sisters: Stories and Tips for Siblings of Children with a Disability or Serious Illness by Jessica Kingsley

In this touching book comprised of real-life accounts from siblings of children with special needs or serious illnesses, kids from age 3 to 18 tell in their own words what life is like living with their special sibling.

These stories chronicling the tales of 40 different families share a lot of advice for parents and siblings on how to deal with the things happening in their families.

Kingsley also provides a child-friendly glossary to explain the many different disabilities and medical conditions mentioned throughout the book including words like ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, cystic fybrosis, and more.

Many Ways to Learn: Young People’s Guide to Learning Disabilities by Judith M. Stern and Uzi Ben Ami

This guide uses a positive, friendly approach to define and illustrate the different types of learning disabilities as well as their origins, while providing reassurance to the child about their disability.

The book also describes the effects learning disabilities may have on emotions, behavior, and academic performance while offering proven coping methods for home, school, and friendships.

In addition to featuring a first-person account from a child with learning disabilities, the guide also includes a chapter on computers and an excellent resource list for parents.

The overall message in Many Ways to Learn is having a learning disability doesn’t make a child dumb—they just have to work harder and find different ways to learn.

Friendly Facts: A Fun, Interactive Resource to Help Children Explore the Complexities of Friends and Friendships by Margaret-Ann Carter and Josie Santamauro

Every child longs to make friends and get along well with others, but for kids on the autism spectrum, this doesn’t come easy.

This interactive workbook, aimed at children ages 7 to 11, teaches kids a range of strategies directed at broadening their social understanding skills through fun activities meant to be appealing to today’s youth.

Children will explore and put to  real-life tests with activities that explore five different themes including “What is a Friend?,” “Being a Friend,” “Making Friends,” “Real Friends,” and “Staying Friends.”

By targeting the specific ages of 7-11, this workbook teaches ASD children how to participate in successful human interactions during a time in which friendships and peer acceptance are crucial.