Making life more fun

In our latest guest blog Caroline-Louisa talks about her experiences of working with young people with special needs. She talks about how her experiences have inspired her to make age appropriate, fun, and interesting accessories for the medical equipment these children often have to carry with them.


You can follow Caroline on twitter @carrieloucrafts

Please note: all opinions expressed in our blogs represent those of the author only. When I was 16 I chose to do my work experience in a local school for children aged 2-11 with severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities. (Find out more about curriculums for SEN schools here.) If I’m honest and thinking back to my 16 year old self, I remember my first few days being daunting, strange beeps, new words to learn, and how on earth did I communicate with some of these young people?   Fast forward a few years and with a degree in Childhood Studies my dream was to teach, but I wanted experience first, so a teaching assistant job at a local special needs school it was! I went in at the deep end, working firstly within a Further Education Unit and then at local secondary school with some fantastic young people.  It was certainly a quick learning experience!  Within a few months I could juggle feeds, changes, communication, fun and learning, although not all at the same time!  The more young people I worked with the more aware it made me of how hard it was to find age appropriate, fun, and interesting accessories.  So an idea was born - I wanted to make life more fun for these young people - what teenager wants a boring black bag hanging from them, or a plain bib? Working with a fantastic young lady last year who expressed a love for all things Hello Kitty and Hannah Montana I made her up some waterproof bandanas- she loved them and they looked much better than some of the plain flannel bandanas.   From here I became more interested in what could be done, either as a talking point for a child, or to help them, or maybe even both.  Then I came up with some ideas like shaped feeding tube pads - who can resist a smile and a chat with someone who has a monkey around their feeding tube?  There are so many things you can do at home such as converting a rucksack into a feeding pump bag which is surprisingly easy and quite cheap too. Here's one idea to create a customised feed bag:
You will need:
  • A backpack (one with as soft a back as possible is best)
  • Webbing
  • A hook
  • Two snap together curtain rings 
  • Elastic
  • Sewing machine or a wish to hand sew!
  Step 1  Decide where your pump will sit- either in the front pocket or in the main bag itself.  Some pumps will sit nicely in the bag without being secured (the Nutricia Infinity fits beautifully in the front of the penguin bag!) others may need an elastic strap or webbing with velcro attached to be sewn across the inside of the bag to secure the pump.  The following pictures show both options!   Step 2- for a pump going in the front pocket  
If you are using a bag with a front pouch to put your pump in-using one of your curtain rings as a template for the hole you want- draw round the centre and cut out the fabric from the centre of the hole.  Then pop the curtain ring on and clip both sides secure.  If you are securing your pump inside the main bag- skip this step!     Step 2- For a pump going in the main bag 
  If you are securing your pump inside the bag use either webbing or elastic and, after measuring your pump stitch the ends of the webbing or the elastic in the right place in the bag Low down is probably the best place.  In the picture below I used webbing and sewed some Velcro on beforehand to make it adjustable.   Step 3 Securing the feed bag - most feeds can be hooked onto the top of the bag using a piece of webbing and a hook, and sew to the top of the bag- top tip- measure the length of your feed bag plus the length of the hook and webbing to ensure the bag is big enough.
  Step 4 Finally as per step two add a hole out from the outside of the bag to allow the tubing to be fed out, and that’s it- one funky pump bag done.

You can see more of Caroline-Louisa's fantastic ideas and purchase her creations on her website here.

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