Tag Archives: additional needs

Holiday Take-Homes

Shake things upHolidays are a good time to shake it up. Normal routine is out. Normal sleeping is out. Normal food is out. So with all this disruption, when could be a better time to jolt our children to greater independence? You take more of a holiday. Let them work.

You deserve a rest. You have more time because, presumably, you’re relaxing as a family. So don’t hurry. You don’t have anywhere to be. Use the time as a slow opportunity to solve ongoing problems/issues that you don’t always have time to address. Start the day by letting them get their own breakfast.

We first did this a while back now with our daughter at the buffet breakfast area of the hotel in which we were staying. She enjoyed the adventure. First the juice – bring it back to the table. Next the cereal – back to table. Eggs and toast – table. Then pastries. We did, breakfast pastrieshowever, quickly realise we didn’t just need to show her how to get breakfast, we needed to also teach her restraint and healthy eating. We aimed for a reasonably healthy breakfast, whereas without guidance she went for the less healthy more sugar option.

After a week of this, when we came home we tried letting her make her own breakfast. We put the cereal out, and a bowl and spoon. Except for school days she has always got up before anyone in the house. So when we came down on weekends we found the scattered remains of breakfast. Bowl on the table, the dirty spoon next to it. Crumbs on the bench and a puddle of milk next to that. We realised then this was going to take a little practice and patience.

We also did some practical things to help her: we bought a small carton of milk. She was still a junior school then, and so a large carton of milk was too heavy for her to control as she poured. This is probably the way to go for all children without a lot of core strength, or even having a pre-poured small jug of milk left in the fridge with just the right amount in.

Another thing we perfected while on holiday was getting dressed. There’s ample time and plenty of opportunities as we change from clothes to swimming trunks and back again. It’s also a chance to teach modesty if your child is not as aware as you would like them to be.

Maybe if you’re camping there’s a chance to learn to ride a bike. Balance issues is often a challenge for children with additional needs. I, or should I say my daughter and I because it was a marathon for her too, spent many hours teaching her to ride. Follow the link for our download explaining the steps we went through to solve this. Learning to ride sometimes takes time and perseverance.

On holiday are other skills older children/young adults can develop too. Going to reception if you’re in a hotel and asking for more towels for example. I think that hotels are a relatively safe environment to let my children wander to experience being away from us alone, but that is your call. Independence can’t happen without us letting go to some degree.

If that’s a bit more than what you feel they are ready for, going across to the café for a cold drink while under your watchful eye from the pool might not be. This could be their chance to stroll , get distracted, take forever so whatever they’re buying for you is cold by the time they arrive back – perhaps it’s better to ask for juice rather than coffee.

But seriously though, holidays are a good time to practice independence skills. You aren’t in a rush. Sometimes we do more than we should, and on holiday could be a good testing ground to see what we can stop doing for them, because we aren’t trying to get out of the door by 3 minutes past 8. The benefits of them developing greater independence skills are for the whole family. Other children won’t feel a sibling is being given more attention. You will have more time.  Your child will feel just that little bit more independent, more grown up. In Breaking Bad Habits I talked about the habit loop. We all get stuck in our habit loops, so let’s use holidays as a chance to break some of them. Good luck!

To easy the stress of the travel, Vicki in this week’s podcast Happy Holidays gives useful suggestions on how to cope.  Vicki is a travel consultant, as well as a mother to a child with additional needs.

No Debt Holidays

dreaming about summer holidayIt’s coming up to the summer holidays for us here in the UK and so holiday planning is in full swing. I’ve been listening to the Dave Ramsey Show podcast  recently, and his golden rule about borrowing.  He believes, ‘Cash is king, and being debt free has taken the place of a BMW as the status symbol of choice.’  And I know what he’d say about borrowing for holidays.

Those of you in North America might already know of Dave Ramsey.  He has a syndicated talk back radio show in which he dispenses money advice.  If you live in other parts of the world look for the ‘Dave Ramsey Show’ on iTunes or Stitcher. More often than not he berates his callers, My personal favourite  ‘Are you sure you want to do that?  That’s like inviting Murphy and his three cousins Broke, Desperate and Stupid to come live in your spare bedroom.’

I must admit in years gone by I’ve often invited Broke, Desperate and Stupid to live in my spare room.  I did the wrong thing of drawing money out of our house mortgage to fund a Cracking piggy bankfamily trip to Australia – my justification? the girls needed to see their mother’s homeland.  But not anymore.  Although I’d already started to come around to Dave’s way of thinking, even before I heard him he just helped confirm my on idiocy.

The problem I had, which maybe some of you can identify with is, wanting the holiday my income couldn’t afford. To quote Dave again I need to remember to ‘Act your wage.’   Off course I told myself it is for the greater good, that the family needs a break. That my daughter with additional needs deserves a fun holiday (which she does). But actually what she really deserves and needs more is a secure financial future.

My solution, not based on rational thought, was to take money from the mortgage or put it all on a credit card.  But it’s at times like these I should have done the maths. I should have taken out the fact sheet they gave us when we signed up for the mortgage; that we skipped Throwing Away Money into a binover because we just wanted to buy the house.  That small print that tells me  something like for every pound, dollar or euro your borrow, you will be paying back to the bank 2.4 times this.  That would have reminded me that the 3,000 holiday was really going to cost me 7,000+ when I had fully paid it back.

I should have remembered that credit cards aren’t the answer either.  Their annual interest rate is often close to 25%, which again adds extra charges to any holiday costs especially if I don’t manage to get it  paid off in full very quickly.

The answer is, and thankfully I am ready to accept it now , to save gradually throughout the year.  Budget.  Do what my parents’ did.  Put a set amount into a savings account depending on where we are planning to go so that when the time comes to book the holiday the money is there.

To be honest I have always believed in avoiding debt for anything other than to buy a home. But over time I started to ignored my inner voice telling me debt equals interest payments. I completely forgot that  interest payments are money I am not able to use towards helping my family and especially safeguarding the future of my daughter with additional needs.

In the long run, I know that to give my daughter the best I can means looking after myself ladder to the sky and successfinancially.  Before I help others I have to help myself. As Dave tells me very week ‘Live like no else today, so you can live like no else tomorrow’.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that you or I cancel holidays already booked but I am suggesting that we should all think before we put holidays on debt.  I need to think more before I act, to build long term financial security, so all the dreams I have for my daughter, with additional needs, to live an independent life are affordable dreams.

A SMART House Deposit

One of the ways I can secure the financial future of my daughter with additional needs is to make sure those around her are also secure.  That means us, obviously.  But also her sister.  We all love our children equally, and so that means helping them all equally.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean buying them a house!  No.  Let’s not go too

For me it means giving my eldest the confidence to know she can make her own way in this world.  Helping her have pride in her independence.  And one of the ways I can do that is to help her leave the nest.

Like Andy in this week’s podcast, Long Term Goals Built On Small Steps, I’m not sure I want her to leave at 21.  She might be ready; that doesn’t mean to say I am.  Maybe the thing stopping her will be the huge, huge deposit needed to buy or even move out to rent.  One way or another leaving home is expensive.

So I want her to set a goal to make it happen.  To move out to rent also needs financial planning, otherwise lack of it may mean she might move back within a month. (Maybe then my reticence for her to not leave by 21 would have changed, and I might have change the locks too.)  Thus, I’m encouraging her to think along the SMART line.

SMART goals have been around for years.  But as with all goals the key to a SMART goal is following the desire to reach a certain point or thing.  SMART is an acronym, and for the task of saving for a house deposit may look something like this:

The S in SMART stands for specific.  That means a specific goal.  Saving for a house deposit is not specific.  Saving 20,000 is.  20,000 is quantifiable and measurable; therefore, it can be a part of a SMART goal.  We have a number or thing that we can achieve, whereas save for deposit is a bit like a piece of string – how long did you say?

Perhaps more specific would be: save 20,000 for a 2 bed apartment on the south side of the city in 3 years.  This not only tells us how much we want to save, but also gives us an indication of the type of property we want, where we want it located, and when we want it.

Our specific goal above is measurable because there is a specific number or thing we need to get to.  Being measurable is the really good thing about a SMART goal.  Measurable means it can be broken down into little chunks and ticked off as we do each chunk.

In our specific goal of 20,000 we could have a wall chart with 40 boxes of 500 climbing up to our target (40 x 500 = 20,000).  As we save 500 we could take out our pen, mar another box, then we can see clearly how far we’ve come and how much more we have to do.

Achievable is the first in my opinion of the more difficult to define parts inside a SMART goal.  Achievable is to help us decide whether something is realistically possible.  For example, my daughter could have a specific goal of owning a Penthouse apartment in central London.  She could work out the deposit needed was 1 million, and have 3 years to save this.  But the fact of the matter is she couldn’t save this.  It’s beyond me, let alone her.

However, a small apartment somewhere not quite in the centre of London is possible.  She could set a specific goal for how much deposit she would need, and break it down in chunks.  It would be something she could theoretically do.

Realistic is the other hard to define part to check my SMART goal.  Above we’ve established that our goal is theoretically achievable, but we still need to ask is it realistic?  For example, my daughter may have a more modest goal of saving 20,000 in 3 years, but when we think that she wants to learn to drive and get a car in this time also, her goal doesn’t sound so realistic.  Either she has to decide to save less and buy a cheaper apartment or save the same amount but over a longer time.

In effect the Achievable and Realistic are the checkers for the SMART goal.  They tell us whether our specific goal is a pipe dream or not.

Time is quite simply the time frame.  We’ve said in our specific goal that we want to save this money in three years, so we look on the calendar and write down the actual date in three years.  Then we have a specific time we are going to achieve our goal.

In summary, SMART goals are great because they are specific in the goal we want, measurable in chunks, and time-bound.  They also have checkers of whether they are theoretically achievable and realistically possible in our life.

Getting my daughter to leave home early isn’t the point here.  The point is to equip her with some financial skills that will help her to set targets so that she may get the things she wants in life.  Money and financial literacy is not taught well in schools, and so I feel it’s my responsibility to point her in the right direction where I can (and hope she listens).

Maybe the first time she uses a SMART goal will be to enable her to leave home.  To move into rental accommodation these days usually needs around 10 weeks worth of rent.  4-6 weeks deposit, plus the first month in advance.  Then there’s usually agency credit referencing fees on top of that.

In setting out this example of a SMART goal around my eldest daughter I don’t mean to discount my youngest one day buying her own place.  Maybe she will also use a SMART goal for this.  We all hope that our children with additional needs will learn the rules around money, and not be vulnerable to crooks and scams.  I would prefer her to have the security of owning in her own name.  Indeed, that’s always  my ambition for her.  I want both my children to be free of me.