My visitors today

Monday 25 February 2013

Just for a change a bit about the bits-in-between – the snowy bits-in-between!

"Sagging rooftops"

Ten out of ten again for that German efficiency!

Having lived here in Germany for almost twenty years I should be getting used to the way in which the Germans prepare for the bad weather, but today I was really impressed by it yet again.

This morning I was up and attem earlier than usual as I had sensed that it was unusually quiet in the street below, a sign that snow has fallen in the night and therefore a few more minutes would be necessary for the journey to work.

At 06.30 it was still too early for the scritch-scratch of snow-shovels to be heard but there was that snowy-quietness in the air, but I had not quite expected what I saw when I opened the balcony door. The branches that hang over the railings were laden with snow, the roof-tops were looking like they were sagging under its weight and huge flakes were still falling.

I skipped breakfast hoping to buy it underway, quickly wrapped myself up in ski-trousers, boots and jacket, and then with scarf and hat pulled on tight I made my cautious way through thirty centimetres (twelve inches) of snow to catch a tram. By this time I was about fifteen minutes earlier than usual. The only advantage that the fifteen minutes had was that I was at the front of the queue when forty-five minutes later a replacement (ersatz) bus arrived. This first bus, filled with sardine-like-workers, travelled the three short stops to the tram and bus terminal in more than half an hour but we got there in the end. Thanks to the snow plough that we followed.

Children and adults were being picked up at the tram stops by taxis that this morning were working for the city and had stepped in, like the buses, to replace the tram service. The buses were still running, a bit less punctual than usual but they were turning up eventually. 

"At the tram-stop"

 And it was still only 08.00am!

Just before the bus arrived the team of snow-shovellers had turned up to clear the tram-stop and the stairs to the underground station, of snow. By this time the road traffic was beginning to move more quickly and the thick white snow was becoming compressed and brown.

By the time I reached my place of work, only ninety minutes later than usual and only five minutes behind the children, the best part of the day was over. I was so happy that I had experienced it.

"Above at 07.15 below at 14.15"
As I travelled home again early this afternoon, the roads were clear, buses and trams were running as normal and the snow was melting and avalanching from the roofs of the high, town-houses. The snow being so soft and wet that even falling from such a height it posed no danger, unlike the icicles that were falling off yesterday.

Adventurous travel

Yes, getting to work was a real adventure today and much more friendly than it usual is.

While standing like a sardine-in-a-bus I found myself next to the school-crossing lady who I have waved to from my bike for the past four years. She recognised me in my street clothes immediately so we got to know each other a little bit. 

"Almost at work-meeting friendly neighbours clearly the streets"
 Bringing the snow in through the window

"Building castles in the snow"
While the rest of the Kindergarten children were outside building a castle in the snow we brought Frisbees full of snow to the hand programme on the table. Two children, both  with muscular dystrophy, said it was too cold to handle without their gloves on, while two little girls, both with hemiplegia, worked away to their hearts’ content with cold fingers, to build a mini-snowman before the snow melted, even searching for bits and pieces to use as hats, buttons, noses and eyes. Unfortunately there was no space in the freezer to save them for tomorrow.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Didicars from China via Middle England

New toys

I just love it when I discover something when I am surfing the Net that I know immediately will be an absolute hit with our children (and some of the more adventurous adults).

The Didicar supplier that I found is in England and the person I spoke to there asked me how I found them. I quite honestly have no idea. It happened as I was looking for a bike I think, for someone in another country who had asked me about bikes for children with motor disorders. I never did find the bike that I was looking for but I did find the Didicar!

On the Didicar box it states that they are fun for “children from thirty months to thirty years, and more”. That is absolutely right, they really are lots of fun even for the over-fifties!
As there was still some money left from donations at the end of last year I was able to order four of these wonderful educational toys. Three are in the conductive groups to share with the integrated Kindergarten next door and the fourth has been shipped over to the new integrated Kindergarten in the city centre.

When I ordered these vehicles little did I know just how many of our children would benefit from the Didicar experience, this hand-powered driving!

Everyone in the conductive groups loves them and reaps benefits from using them, the adults included.

The cars come in a range of rainbow colours. They have two fixed wheels at the rear beneath the seat, and two wheels with a third stabilising wheel at the front that are turned by a butterfly-shaped steering-wheel.

Local variations, including groups

After initially accidentally fixing one of the steering wheels the wrong way round I fixed a couple of the others back-to-front as well so they could offer support to the children who have less control in their arms. I came up with a few other tricks, such as non-slip mats on the seats and Velcro straps around the legs to assist those who needed a little bit of help to get started.

The Didicars have been such a great success and already after just a few weeks of use the conductive team has seen improvements in both the cognitive and physical skills of the children aged from three to thirteen. These include improvements in coordination, steering and avoiding other drivers, making sudden movements and quick-decision making, and also the physical skills of grasping, turning arms stretching legs and keeping the body steady. 

One important development in one child is her new found ability to join in in a group activity with joy.

It was fortunate that the team could afford to buy several cars at once as it is the group activity that the children enjoy most and they learn skills so much more easily as they drive together negotiating our self-made race-track.

Not only did these skills develop, others life-skills shone through too

It was with Little Princess in mind that I had initially picked out these cars, I thought that I had at last found something that she would have to use both hands to steer. She rides her bike with only one hand on the handle-bars and she has been seen to do the same with her walking bike too. I thought with this Didicar she would have to drive with two hands and at first she did!

I have never seen such a despondent face as that of Little Princess when thought that she could not ride the Didicar. She is a determined little girl and as the others in the group whizzed past her it took her all of five minutes to do some problem-solving and get under way!

She realised that she needed the car with the back-to-front steering and a bit of help at first to keep her feet in place (we used a rope). And then she was off, beaming from one ear to the other.

Another five minutes later she knew exactly how much Didicars cost, where they came from, how I ordered them and how long they took to arrive from the UK. That is not at all bad for a child who has great difficulties with her speech. She had taken all this information in for a very specific reason, a reason I discovered the following afternoon when she arrived in the group. She told me that her Mum would be coming to see us at 16.00 hours and could she ride the Didicar when she was here? I asked whether this could possibly be because she wanted Mum to buy her one. She grinned and nodded her head. That is what I call enterprising! She can obviously do more than just a nod of the head when it comes to telling 
Mum about what she wants!

On the day that Little Princess’s bright pink Didicar arrived Little Princess was at home nursing a bang on the head that she had received from an accident on her bike (she rides much too fast but just like many athetoids I know, she loves speed).

Jolly Professor decided to call his friend at home and ask her whether he should put her Didicar together as he was very adept with a screw driver; he said that he would deliver it too. He then asked her whether she would rather to do it herself when she was better. The answer came quickly, her lovely mate could do it, she did not know how long she would have to be at home, nursing the bump on her head, and she was so excited about taking ownership of her own car that she could not wait.

As can be seen in this photograph, Jolly Professor demonstrated his fine motor skills and his ability to read the construction manual that was not dissimilar to one from IKEA! He filled 

Littlie’s pink car with lots of tender, loving care and it was promptly delivered a couple of hours later!

Several other children have since ordered their own Didicars to ride at home; even the cleaning lady has one for the grandchildren!

I doubt that it will be long before a third order gets telephoned through to Middle England.

That reminds me!

I had to phone the company that supplies Didicars in England to organise an international delivery as there were no facilities to do this online. I had lots of questions to ask too and received the information that I needed about experiences with supplying the car to schools for children with disabilities.

I had just confirmed the order for Germany when the man who I had been speaking to remarked that he could hear that I was not a native of the land that I live in. 

At this moment I knew what he was going to say next and realised that I too had recognised something of an East of England accent even though I knew I was speaking to someone in Warwickshire. It turned out that not only are we both from Norfolk we both come from Norwich, its county town. We did not attend the same school though!