Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Get to Know KidsCompanions Chewelry

When Kristina was in elementary school, she was very oral, and always had something in or on her mouth. Back then, the main item suggested to us was some sort of pencil tool, with a chewable end. Not only did it sound very pleasing, but the teachers all but gagged whenever it was brought up. Apparently, they become pretty nasty!

Time marched on, and she eventually moved on, as most kids will do. Still, I often think to back then of what worked, what didn’t, and what was lacking. Enter KidCompanions! Oh, how I wish these were available when she was younger! Not familiar with them? Let me introduce you.

Which would you choose? Answer via the poll! --->

KidCompanions are chewable, wearable kid safe items. I received a green heart to sample, and I’ve got to say it has a nice feel and seems the right size, too. The safety latch at the back (when worn as a necklace) released very easily, too.

Want to learn more? I knew you would! I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the owners of the company. Here’s what she had to say:

When my daughter was younger, she was always putting something in (or on) her mouth. I would have loved to have had a product, such as Kids Companions, available! For those who may not be familiar with your product, tell us a little bit about it.
Pink heart worn as a necklace
My daughter, Pierrette, and I are co-owners of the sensory tool line Kid Companions Chewelry.  The KidCompanions are made in Canada and sold at www.kidcompanions.com , Dynavox Mayer-Johnson, FDMT, TFH Canada and others.  They are often recommended by occupational therapists and parents because they are fashionable and age-appropriate chewables/fidgets that allow the user to integrate. Safe, BPA, phthalates, PVC, lead and latex free, KidCompanions are made for those who chew or fidget. They are useful for sensory issues associated with Autism, ADHD, Tourette's syndrome, Down syndrome, FASD, SPD, etc.

When you buy a KidCompanions pendant, it comes either with a long lanyard with a clasp to be worn like a necklace or with an 8 inch piece of lanyard with a clip to be clipped to clothing, pockets,  pillows, bedding, etc. 

Durable and washable, our custom made lanyards can be used for any pendant or ID badge and can all be personalized.  We also sell the lanyards separately in 18, 20 and 24 inch lengths.  NEW and by demand, we now offer our short clip-on lanyards separately also. This lanyard is a short clip-on with a loop at the other end to attach a pendant. It is used as a replacement or as an extra for versatility. Other items or fidgets can also be attached to our clip lanyard version. 

What prompted you to come up with Kids Companions?
Pierrette, mom of three young daughters, also had one child who loved to chew.  This child with sensory issues found comfort by chewing on her younger sister’s nursing pendant made by her mom to amuse the baby while being fed. Pierrette had her “aha” moment and figured many other parents would want a sensory tool that would not be an embarrassment to the child with special needs or a distraction to others. Pierrette arranged to have a market study done on chewable, sensory necklaces and fidgets for children and it showed that indeed there was a need for a safe, efficient oral-motor tool that would bring parents peace of mind and satisfy the overwhelming need to bite, chew and/or fidget that many individuals experience throughout their lives.

What are benefits of it?/What are OT's and other professionals saying about it?
We are extremely pleased with the recommendations we receive from health care professionals and special needs teachers. Many parents find us because they got our contact information from their child’s therapist.  Some IEP’s have the use of oral-motor tools and fidgets included among the accommodations, therefore some schools are buying them.  We are happy to see our KidCompanions  going from our shelves into Sensory Boxes and listed in Sensory Diets. 

·         As a sensory oral- motor tool, it addresses the issues of inappropriate biting, chewing and teeth grinding. For anyone with speech impairment, eating difficulties, Apraxia or autism, KidCompanions  can help develop oral and facial muscle strength and control.

·         As a fidget for children with ADHD who are unable to inhibit the impulse to move around, Kid Companions Chewelry allows discreet fidgeting to help these children to focus better.  

·         As a life-line to home, children with Aspergers who do not like transitions or children with separation anxiety  going from home to school or from homeroom to another class, cafeteria, gym… find security and comfort holding on to their Kid Companions Chewelry as they would holding on to a ‘blanky’.

For those with allergies, and other concerns, what can you tell them about the safety of your product? (Does it contain latex?)
Our KidCompanions Chewelry is made in Canada, in a medical device manufacturing facility that is ISO certified, with medical grade thermoplastic Elastomer (rubbery overmold) and Polypropylene (harder insert mold). All our materials are FDA approved and sourced in North America. We buy our 100% organic cotton lanyard un-dyed. It is made in America and hand-dyed, rinsed and pre-washed in Canada (our office in Nova Scotia). The packages we use are made in America, of FDA approved cellophane. We have a quality management system and knowledge of our chain of supply (sourcing) is a priority.

Some of the main reasons for designing the KidCompanions Chewelry were material safety and traceability. Our countries have some rules and regulations, but without testing and efficient control, importing companies too often sell doubtful products to families. Bottom line, KidCompanions  are SAFE, bpa, phthalate, pvc, lead and latex free.

I see that you can order KidCompanions Chewelry with allergy warnings labels! For those with multiple allergies, how many labels can you add per item? Can you add other labels, such as other medical concerns? 

For a small fee, when buying from our online store, parents can get the lanyards personalized with contact, allergy, and /or medical information or even with whimsical logos. This info is permanently fused on the lanyard but it does not change the comfort of the lanyard. You may have the info on either side of the lanyard...but tell us >> NOTE: Labels are usually placed on the outside of lanyards, unless otherwise noted. http://kidcompanions.com/archives/product_categories/labels

We have eight different allergy logos, however if you inquire, Pierrette usually can accommodate parents who require a logo that is not shown. 
What ages is Chewelry meant for?
Blue Heart Clip
We recommend the use of our chewerly for children 3 years and older.  Our product complies with all the safety regulations for children. The lanyard’s breakaway clasp or clip is not meant to be chewed. The custom made clasp was designed to release at less than 5lbs so that children would never get caught or get strangled and it is made of medical grade polypropylene just like the pendants. If a harder material was used, any child that mistakenly chewed it could damage their teeth.

What's your best seller?
By the number of sales, the best seller is our black circle. At first we only had a black and a white circle and by popular demand we now have a blue one.  All those little princesses out there, prefer the pink heart. If an individual wants to use our product as a fidget even if both shapes have the same appealing sensory materials for hand tactile experience, the hearts are configured to provide a combination of hard and soft, rigid and pliable, curved and concave surfaces as they have a smooth worry stone dip in the front. For older fidgeters, we now have a discreet black heart.

Where is your business located? Do you ship worldwide?
We are located in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Through our online store we mail orders to all corners of the world and we have retail stores also selling our product in Canada, the US, and in Australia. 

What's one thing you love about what you do? :)
One thing I love about helping out Pierrette with our business is getting to know the parents. We have met such wonderful individuals who work so hard to make the lives of their children with special needs better. Some use their experience to help other parents by writing books, blogs and spreading advice and encouragement anyway they know how. Like you, Julie, it has been a pleasure to collaborate with you first by reading and reviewing your interesting book, Asperger’s in PINK. Then working together on an online interview about your book and having you as guest a few times on The Coffee Klatch Tweetchats I moderate Monday mornings. Now once again, we connect through this interview for your blog. Thanks for everything and the best to you and your family.

Lorna, as always, it’s a pleasure to speak with you – you always bring a smile to my face!

For more information, head over to their website: www.kidcompanions.com
Looking for a review? Click HERE: KidCompanions Chewelry review - FroggyPrinceMom - comprehensive review for her blog Unhadicapping the Disabled Life http://unhandicapping.com/review-giveaway-kid-companions-chewlery/
Here are social media links you might want to check out, too!:
Twitter: @Chewelry        Twitter: @PAdEntremont      Twitter:@ lornadEnt
Twitter: @chewelry   https://twitter.com/#!/

I'd love to hear from you if your child tries KidCompanions!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Putting a Contingency Plan in Place for the Family

As my regular readers know, several weeks ago my husband suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding on the brain). In a matter of a handful of hours, we went from a quiet morning together to a sleepless night in the Neuro ICU, scrambling to make sure our daughter and catdog (that’s what we call our Yorkie. I mean, really, is he a dog or a cat trapped in a fluffy dog body?) were taken care of, beginning a week-long commute to and from the not-so-nearby hospital, as well as several weeks of recuperating.

Or, as someone put in a note to my husband, “cooperating.” (Not sure if that was a misspelled typo, or written on purpose!)

I want to share with you some things learned along the way, and hope that you will share your tips, as well, believing that we learn best when we learn from each other. As stressful as the past few weeks have been, preplanning for a personal emergency really did help a difficult situation flow better.

Note that for anyone here with Super Special kids, preplanning will be easy for you. After all, many of us have “Black Belts in Autism”, and lists, plans and social story writing are what we excel at.


1.       Make a date to sit down with your spouse and discuss what should be done, should a health crisis or other personal emergency hit. (If you are a single parent, discuss this with the individual who is your emergency contact).
2.      Grab some paper and a pen, and jot down any of the following information that resonates with you, keeping it together in one (safe), easy-for-you-to-access place. (Feel free to print this out and use this as an outline.)


3.      Have a backup plan for your child(ren), in case of emergency. Even if your daughter is an older teen, capable of being home alone, a family emergency is time to call on others for help, not to leave her by herself, worried and, well…alone. If you have family out of town, be sure to have a friend/neighbor or two you can call on to keep her company until family arrives. And, of course, they really should know ahead of time about Asperger’s and how it may manifest itself during such a time.
4.      If you have any pets, ask a neighbor to check in on them, or be prepared to board them, if necessary. Explain to your child, if they will be staying apart from her pet(s), that it’s only for a time, and that they are being taken care of.


5.      If your child attends public or private school, do not forget to notify them of any absences. For kids considered “special needs”, be sure to notify your key people at school, as it will help them to know things at home have changed. This is one area where a preexisting, positive relationship with the school is a huge benefit!
6.      Depending on the severity of the situation, it may be beneficial to request homework assignments.


7.      Decide whom you would contact regarding work, and have that name and number accessible. Have this person be your contact for work, thereby minimizing calls, updates, etc., during the crisis.
8.      Be sure to communicate with work how long, at minimum you (and/or) your loved one will be out, and ask what they need from you or the doctor.
9.      Ask for FMLA paperwork, disability information, or any other information and paperwork that will need to be addressed during this time, especially if there is not enough sick leave accrued to cover days missed.


10.   Have a handle on the bills – what they are, when they are due, how much is in the bank – and make sure they are paid in time. For some of us, this means understanding which bills are paid online via the old fashioned way (check in the mail), and how to access the bank account online. This is not the time to be late on the mortgage. Yes, it’s exhausting, but finances need to be kept in control during this time.
11.    Don’t forget to take the mail in. (Trust me on that one! Oy.)
12.   If you are not in a position to maintain the yard, hire someone to do it for you until life stabilizes.
13.   Set a reminder in your phone for garbage day. (Yep, almost forgot that one, too!)
14.   In general, don’t take for granted you will remember daily or weekly tasks when life throws you a curveball covered in spikes. Lack of sleep does “wonders” for remembering what day it is, let alone what’s due when.


15.   Asperger’s and Sensory Processing Disorder go hand in hand, and hospitals are a terrific place to push those limits! Each person is different, but keep SPD in mind when bringing your Asperkid to visit her loved one.
a.      If your child will be visiting in the ICU (which is permitted under some circumstances), draw up a few social stories regarding what she may see, and which behaviors are and are not acceptable.
                                                              i.      Visual - For instance, dad will likely be hooked up to a monitor with all sorts of cords and things “stuck” to him and in him. Don’t forget his new bed clothes, either.
                                                            ii.      Tactile - He will not be able to have a “smooshy” hug. The chairs may be hard and awkward.
                                                          iii.      Sound - We will have to whisper or not speak if we cannot use quiet voices. (In our case, Kristina did very well visiting Dad in the ICU!) Sounds will be frequent and odd, mostly due to monitors, but other patients may cry out, which can be disorienting.
                                                          iv.      Taste – Mom’s hospital food is…hers. She needs the nutrition. If your child is persistent, offer to visit the cafeteria for similar options. (Yes, my child requested hospital food. Admittedly, it really wasn’t that bad. Or maybe it was the stress…?)
                                                            v.      Olfactory – There’s the term “hospital smell” for a reason.
                                                          vi.      Let the nurses nurse. Respect the staff, give them all the space they need and leave when it’s time.
b.      For regular floors, similar rules apply. Also, the patient is in charge of the TV as well as the lighting. In our case, the lighting in the “regular room” (yep, fluorescents) really threw Kristina for a loop, and she immediately developed a “case” as to how her SPD should “have priority over” Dad – which brings us to…
c.        Have a pre-designated place for taking your child for a chat in the event her behavior becomes a bit overwhelming.  (Yep, be prepared for more of “those glares” by others.)
d.      Consider giving your child a little tour before settling in to visit the patient. Kristina wanted to see the gift shop and cafeteria, and settled down once she was able to get a feel for the place. And, honestly, after that she was able to find her way around a very convoluted route, with no wrong turns! Amazing! (Maybe trail guide is in her future, after all?)
e.      Keep an eye on the patient and be prepared to act. As much as we love our family, sometimes a very brief visit is best, but the patient may not indicate he needs rest, in order not to offend. Take the initiative to give him a break.
f.        Honestly assess your Asperkid in light of the situation. As much as the patient may want to see the child, it may not be best. Weigh the costs before jumping in the car.


16.   Depending on the patient’s situation, things may be different at home for a bit. Although it is often impossible to predict every situation, talk to your child about what she might expect. For instance:
a.      The lighting in the home may be a bit dimmer, and the TV sound a bit lower than she is used to for a while. If this is hard on her SPD, create a space for her where she can watch TV, etc., with full lights blaring, if that’s what she needs.
b.      The patient may be staying in his room for an extended period of time, which means no meals with the family at dinner time, and being extra quiet around that part of the house. (And for smaller houses, the entire house, right?)
c.        It’s customary for folks to drop off a meal during a health crisis. My Aspergirl was aware of this…to a point. I quickly drew up a talk on how these are acts of kindness, not made-to-order meals. Gotta love how the media portrays “how these things are supposed to be.” Darn media.
d.      Just because Dad looks normal doesn’t mean he can watch a DVD, play games, etc. In our case, my husband’s injury is invisible, as it’s on the brain. In all honesty, our daughter has been fantastic, but it is important to remember that, just like ASD’s, if the injury isn’t easy to see, it’s easy to forget difficulties are, indeed, present.
e.      Don’t micromanage your child. She may step up to the occasion and shine! In fact, my daughter was proactive on a few things, and it really made a positive difference.


17.   As I wrote in “Asperger’s in PINK”, you can’t adequately take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. If you don’t draw boundaries, they will be drawn for you. Trust me.
a.      When the crisis hits, determine whom you need to contact – and keep that list as short as possible.
b.      When the dust starts to settle, consider appointing “Point People” (point of contact people), whom you can give regular updates to, point others to, to answer questions, etc. Personally, we had folks for work, family, friends and faith. It just was not realistic to contact and respond to each and every person individually, no matter how much we may have wanted to. In fact, after missing the neurosurgeon by a mere 5 minutes, as I was on the phone updating someone, I decided folks were just going to have to be frustrated with me. (And some were.) The goal is for the loved one to heal, to be supported, and constantly being on the phone or email isn’t doing any of that.
c.        Eat at least one well rounded, healthy meal per day, no matter how low your appetite is. There were days I averaged only one meal, which was typically in the hospital cafeteria, but I made sure it was full of the right nutrients, and that really did help. Fast food is likely going to make you feel even worse.
d.      Take others up on their offers for help, be it in the form of a meal, babysitting, dog sitting, or a ride to and from the hospital. If you are too tired to drive – don’t. Get some rest then return, or ask a friend for a lift.


18.   Most likely, if your loved one is in the ICU, they will need to be kept as calm and stress free as possible. As the primary caregiver, you are on the frontlines when it comes to interacting with others. If there are those in his life who tend to increase his stress, do not allow those individuals to push you to come into contact with him. The goal is for healing, not appeasing prickly people. (Let’s be honest, are prickly people ever satisfied?) This is a very, very touchy subject, but keep your loved one in the forefront of your mind, and make choices in light of healing, no matter how difficult or ill-received those choices may be. Speak with the health care professionals on his floor for advice in this area, and they will be honest with you as to what is being “a controlling wife” vs. a wife who is looking out for the best interests of her husband.
19.   Find someone you can trust to be straight with you, giving YOU reality checks along the way – and be open to them!


20.  Did you grab that pen and paper? Yes, a real, live pen that might get ink all over your fingers! And paper – that stuff that the printer loves to eat up? A computer file is great – so long as the computer doesn’t crash, your file isn’t corrupted, or – this is in my case – you forget where you saved it. Also, it really helps to have this information portable. Trust me.
21.   Talk with your significant other and identify who to contact in case your child(ren) will need to stay with someone else overnight. Then contact those people, and ask them if that would be ok. The chance you will need to take them up on their kindness is slim, but, let’s face it, if you have this part preplanned it will ease a burden you never knew you had.
22.  If you have pets, decide a plan of action for them, as well. Is it help from a friend, family or neighbor? Or will they need to be kenneled? Or will you need to drive to and from the hospital a few times per day to take care of their needs?
23.  Write down contact names and numbers for work, school, and a few key people you’d want contacted during a crisis. With Facebook being the main way for so many of us to keep in touch, you’ll likely be surprised to find you have fewer emails or phone numbers on file that you think – especially for friends of your partner! (This was very eye opening for me!)
24.  Make sure you both have all the member numbers, usernames and passwords for sites such as banking, insurances, etc., as well as answers to security questions should the passwords be changed without remembering to update the emergency list.
25.  Get a Power of Attorney. If you have moved, it may not be valid in your new state! There is nothing worse than being asked in the ER if you are your husband’s Power of Attorney, only to be told that as it was filed in another state, it may not be valid. Talk about feeling helpless!
26.  If applicable, make a list of recurring payments, bills, etc., due dates, etc., the mortgage being a biggie.
27.  Revisit the list annually.

If you’ve read “Asperger’s in PINK”, many of the concepts should be familiar, and can be summed up in a nutshell: plan ahead, keep in on paper, establish communication guidelines, follow through, keep focused on the “star” (this case, the patient), stick to the facts, take care of yourself.

Thankfully, my husband is healing, and is expected to make a full recovery.

My wish is that you will never, ever have to put this plan into place, but if that day comes, it really will ease your stress if you are prepared.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Worst Headache Ever Means a Trip to the Emergency Room

If you have “the worst headache of your life”, go to the Emergency Room. If you are stubborn, like my husband, at least go to the doctor’s office or After Hours.


I mean it.

A little while back, my husband got up one morning and, in a split second, experienced his worst headache ever, and nothing either of us tried made it any better. But my husband, like so many men, is stubborn and frugal, and the thought of an ER bill for what might amount to a $500 aspirin pill kept him from doing anything until the After Hours opened at our doctor’s office.

Thank goodness, the Nurse Practitioner who checked him over knows her stuff.

Thanks goodness, somewhere in that, “I’ll do it myself” heart of his, he had the sense to let me drive him there, instead of driving himself.

A few hours later, I was sitting in a chair next to him, in the Neuro ICU, while our daughter was in the care of a good friend and her family.

What happened to my husband we’ve found hard to adequately explain. Outside of those familiar with neurology and psychiatry, many seem to oversimplify what happened, becoming either incredibly nervous or fearful on the one extreme, to nonchalant. (Sounds like an Asperger diagnosis, right?!) The reality of it all is somewhere in the middle.

In plain English, he had bleeding on the brain.

In medical terms, my husband had a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

He’s one of the “lucky” ones. When he entered the hospital, they were 90% sure he had an aneurysm, one of those nasty things that often takes lives or damages its victims in its wake. But testing showed a subarachnoid hemorrhage, instead, which isn’t much better. In fact, many who have it do die, and many have lifelong disabilities as a result. The odd thing is there are some who recover completely, and return to life, as usual, as if nothing ever happened.

In my husband’s case, it’s too soon to tell, but he appears to be one of the so-called lucky ones, and is expected to make a full recovery. We have a few more weeks to exit the danger zone, where stroke and seizure may occur, but we are told his chance of such is very low. Still, he remains in incredible pain, and has limited mobility, as a result. It is too soon to say if there will be any lasting damage, but we are optimistic.

We don’t expect others to grasp what it’s like, especially as he is alert, responsive, and can communicate. Just like explaining “high functioning” autism to folks clicks at times, while with others, not so much, this is something we’ll explain and move on. Like his nurse said, if you have a large bruise on your leg and it hurts, you can see it, and know why you are in pain, as well as show it to others who need convincing. This bruise is on his brain, with the blood painfully circulating through his spinal fluid until it reabsorbs. Although invisible on the outside, it is very real.

So, in case you’ve wondered where this tweeting, blogging, Facebook-ing author and mompreneur has been lately, it’s here. By my husband’s side. Going without sleep for 12 days and counting, as getting him back to health is my current priority. And I’m honored to be able to be here for him. And if that means another 12 days without sleep, so be it.

Have the worst headache of your life? Don't take any chances. Go to the doctor.