Specsavers KidsFit Disney range suitable for children with Down's syndrome #ad

Specsavers ambassador Natty loves her new KidsFit Disney glasses!

Goodie box from Specsavers

When Specsavers asked if I'd like to work with them* to spread the word to Downs Side Up readers about a new range of Disney KidsFit glasses made especially for children with small faces and low nose bridges such as many children with Down's syndrome, I jumped at the chance. 

I've always been a fan of our local Specsavers. Mia and I have have been regulars for years. But Natty has only just made the transition from specialist hospital eye appointments to mainstream opticians' eye tests and prescriptions and so is a fairly new customer.

Natty entertains with her famous eyebrow wiggle: 

From the outset Natty has been treated like a celebrity when she goes into the store, partly because she schmoozes, flatters and entertains the staff, and partly because last year she and her big sister Mia were awarded British Citizen Youth Award medals at the Palace of Westminster for their work towards education and inclusion. 
Low and behold the event was sponsored by Specsavers!

Mia and Natty receive their BCyA medals from Ashley Banjo

It was a day which I will never forget, one that made me immensely proud of both girls for all their achievements, but I think for them the fact that Ashley Banjo of Diversity fame, was presenting the awards and that the event involved mountains of cake and a tour of London in an open top red bus was the most important matter in hand.

Back to the Glasses! 

I was really delighted to learn that Specsavers have developed a range of glasses ideal for youngsters with Down's syndrome. The low set bridge on the glasses means that children are encouraged to look through the lens rather than peering over it. 

So often tailor-made ranges for our children can prove expensive or difficult to obtain, and with this KidsFit range available free with your child's NHS optical voucher it could represent a significant saving of time and money.

As you can see Natty was delighted to give the samples a try as soon as they arrived, even before I could take the stickers off the lenses! 

Natty models the new Specsavers KidsFit range #loveglasses

Then we popped in to have an eye test and choose 2 pairs for Natty. The whole team were very patient with her and made the eye test fun. Specsavers staff have a good understanding of visual acuity and specific eye conditions that children with Down's syndrome can experience, as well as putting an emphasis on ensuring that children's glasses are fashionable, practical and fit well.

Thumbs up for eye tests!

It's important for all children to have regular eye tests, not just to make sure that they have glasses fitted if necessary in order to see better for day to day tasks and school work, but also in order to pick up on any underlying medical conditions. 

Time to choose 

Natty's prescription is very mild and she often chooses not to wear her glasses, but they do help make her less tired when she's at school. And I secretly think they make her feel more studious and focussed!

Quite frankly she loved all of the vibrant and colourful glasses in the range, which make fun styles more accessible. She loved the Disney characters on the arms (and I liked that they were subtle enough to be stylish). 

Natty took choosing her glasses very seriously

And entertain the Specsavers staff

Not one to ever knowingly under-entertain a captive audience, Natty used the glasses as props for a full show of singing and dancing. After a few renditions of The Greatest Showman, she chose a pink Sleeping Beauty pair and a blue Cinderella pair, one for "bed time reading and the other for my school bag" she exclaimed. 

In her new specs, Natty sings This Is Me! #loveglasses

Designed to fit so they don't fall off #Kidsfit

Once they'd been ordered, we popped back in a week later to have them professionally fitted and checked. Then Natty was ready for action!

We'd love to thank Specsavers for catering for our children's needs so well, and hope that they extend the range in the future, perhaps designing age-appropriate and stylish glasses for older children, teens and adults next.

Susbstantial and stylish. Natty loves her KidsFit cinderella glasses.

The new glasses are certainly substantial enough to withstand Natty's rough and tumble lifestyle... I just wonder how long they will survive her Womble tendency to hide precious objects in strange places!

To find out more or view the full collection go to the Specsavers website here

* #AD We were sent vouchers for 2 pairs of glasses for Natty as well as a lovely Disney goodie bag and I was compensated for my time to write this review. 

Flemish Painting Features Angel with Down's Syndrome

The Adoration of the Christ Child

This oil on wood painting shows a classic nativity scene, and the little angels kneeling at the front on the left clearly has Down's syndrome. Some think the shepherd at the back on the left also has an additional chromosome.

At the time when the work was created it was common for the faces of those who had commissioned the art to feature within it. Perhaps we are looking at the face of the much-loved daughter of a wealthy and proud 16th Century Flemish family here. 

The 1515 Flemish painting, by an unknown artist, depicts an angel (next to Mary) and possibly the shepherd in the centre of the background, with Down's syndrome.

It's wonderful, and it shows that Trisomy 21 has been around for a very long time. The Flemish artist is unknown, but was a follower of Jan Joest of Kalker. The painting resides at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

Super Gifts for the Senses

You'd be surprised how often people ask for my advice about what kind of present they should buy for a child with special needs. 

Birthdays and Christmas only come around but once a year and it's important to make your gift one that will light up a child's eyes and be used frequently, whilst aiding their development in a fun and gentle way. 

Find a present that will delight, educate and develop the senses

Lip Warrior: A no-nonsense balm for cracked lips

Lip Warrior to the rescue for dry lips

Sore, chapped lips cause misery for many

This is the very first Winter of Natty's life during which I feel adequately armed to deal with her persistent dry, sore lipsIt might sound like a minor irritation to many, but for those of us with loved ones whose lip area dries and cracks to the point where it bleeds, we understand the suffering that this condition can bring. 

And if this applies to you or your child, you'll know the cost and time involved in trying out every lip product on the market. Our bathroom shelf could double as a lip balm shop!

Many people struggle to manage chapped lips; those with eczema or psoriasis, those with additional needs who may favour mouth-breathing and be prone to chelitis, those who work outside in the elements and even people on certain medications or with other underlying medical conditions. 

And did you know that some perfumed or medicated remedies can even make the problem worse!

Necessity is the Mother of invention

I became so desperate to ease Natty's discomfort last Winter, that I asked a friend who creates natural products for skin conditions to put on her thinking cap and help me create a pleasantly fragranced, protective and healing balm. One that was free from nasties and one that Natty wouldn't simply rub or lick off after application. This salve had to have staying power.

Almost a year later, and lots and lots of trial and error (balms that were too thin, too thick, that curdled, ingredients that couldn't be ingested, those that heal too fast or are allergens and even a batch that smelt like a damp dog - YUK!), we have lovingly crafted something Natty is eager to use, and more importantly that works wonders. 

We've called it Lip Warrior and we are delighted to be able to offer it for sale at an introductory price of £4.99

Used liberally in combination with some simple Lip Warrior tips for dry lips this all natural, un-lickable salve smells divine, protects and heals thanks to its base of lanolin!* 

All natural Lip Warrior contains protective lanolin and vitamin E

So, without further ado, my friend Sarah the Freelance Naturopath and I are really excited to announce (drum roll please...) the launch of Lip Warrior! 

We really hope it helps heal your hellish lips as well. 

Update: Since launching the feedback has been incredible. Folk are using the balm for peeling cuticles, shapped cheeks, dry heals and even to help lipstick stay put. Lips everywhere are loving Lip Warrior too!

Lip Warrior's Top Tips for Sore Lips

  • Avoid salty and citrus foods
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf when out in the cold
  • Don't rub or pick your lips
  • Avoid any cosmetics, toothpastes or scented lip balms that irritate (but do brush your teeth well and keep your mouth clean!)
  • Chat to your doctor as cracked lips can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or that you might need to change your medication
  • Carry your lip warrior everywhere and use it often! 

* 15ml Lip Warrior contains anhydrous lanolin (not suitable for those with a wool allergy), alkanet, calendula oil, pure grade vitamin E, vegetable glycerin and honey. Not suitable for vegans. Created lovingly in fresh batches in a kitchen that may contain all 14 allergens. Lip Warrior comes with the HerbMark quality of assurance. 

How to Make a Visual Timetable

Mornings were very fraught in our house until I made this visual timetable!

A visual timetable might help your child with the morning routine

Not a morning person myself I would often get impatient with Natty, trying to coax her into getting dressed and having her teeth done, which often resulted in an exasperated meltdown (sometimes from her, sometimes from me, sometimes from both of us!) 
I would despair at Mia who favoured playing the piano or drawing a Stegasaurus instead of brushing her hair or putting her shoes on.

Visual timetables are well know to be useful for visual learners, and those with short term memory processing issues, as children with Down's Syndrome or Autism. Your school should be using one with your child already.
But here's the secret...they work wonders for the whole family! How much easier to point to a chart, rather than think of what your children should be doing and ask them/ help them to do it. It provides a focus for the whole family and brings in an element of play to tricky activities.

So for us, the school mornings became less of a magical mystery tour, and much more manageable.

There are many ways to make a visual timetable, even software that will do it for you. Here's how I made ours.

You will need

Photographs or drawings of the activities you want to concentrate on. (I printed mine free online)
Laminating sheets, adhesive book film or stiff card
A sticky-backed roll of Velcro
A small cloth bag or box


1) Select pictures for the key activities. These could be general stages in the morning routine, after school activities that take place over the week or tiny steps in one process such as using the toilet.
2) Cut the pictures to size then have them laminated if possible as they will last a lot longer that way, or glue onto stiff card.
3) Round the corners of each card.
4) Attach pieces of velcro to the back of each card.
5) Decide where you want your visual timetable to be located. Ours is in the bathroom but others find the kitchen, or near the front door helps.
6) When using the visual timetable, as each step is achieved successfully, the child pulls it down and places it in a small bag that you could hang nearby. This means that they automatically see which stage comes next, but putting the card away serves as a reward.

(Oh, by the way, the wash and brush your teeth cards are currently wedged behind the radiator, so nothing is perfect!)

"I'm off to make one for the days of the week, showing a different activity to distinguish each day..."

Tips and Contacts for School Pupils with Down's Syndrome

It's that time of year when many of you are preparing your children for a new term at school.

Tips for school pupils with Down's syndrome

I think back to the time Natty came to the end of her pre-school years and remember the stress and worry, the form filling and meetings, all mixed together with pride that she was making this huge step for the first time. I remember a lot of tears and late nights and the invaluable support of many professionals.

Whether your child is starting at mainstream or special school, you will want to get through this process as smoothly as possible to ensure the right package of support for your child.
So here are a few tips and ideas that worked for us, as well as some invaluable support groups that you can consult for advice tailored to your child's needs, whatever their stage of schooling.

Siblings, Screening and the Sillier Side of Life: Sally Phillips and Hayley Goleniowska Chat About Down's Syndrome to Challenging Behaviours Podcast

Check us out! At the glowing age of *ahem* the latter part of our 40s, my friend Sally Phillips and I are dipping our toes into the podcast pond! First Sally learnt about 'gaming' wearing 'on fleak' fingerless gloves and a beanie hat, and then we were guests on the cutting edge Challenging Behaviours Podcast! 

Sally Phillips and Hayley Goleniowska chat about siblings, screening
and the sillier side of life with Down's syndrome to the CB Podcast team

I think we are officially 'down with the squad' or whatever the current vernacular is.

In all seriousness though, Challenging Behaviours Podcast is a cutting edge talk show taking the discussion around learning disability and disability into new territory. The programme is run by pioneers Jack, Adam and Tom who bring an ecclectic wealth of knowledge and experience to the mic.