Oils and Sofie

Down Syndrome is not a disease, disorder, or defect. The extra chromosomes attached to the 21st chromosomes effects all the individuals with DS differently. Commonly, though, it does effect their brain function and learning style, with great variance. Down Syndrome is a genetic occurrence that often results in a global developmental delay, predisposition to varying medical conditions, and disinclination to other certain medical conditions.

The brain of people with Down Syndrome grows differently. Its size is generally smaller, its shape is altered, and its function develops differently than a genetically typical person. Interestingly, at 4 months old a child with DS has a very similar dendritic tree to his peers. Dendrites are the branches that basically grow and reach out receive information from other neurons and feed it back to its cell body. They are essential in learning and memory. In the first year of a child with DS, his dendrites stop growing and become almost atrophic.  (HERE is a super clinical, very medically written article that explains some of the science I just mentioned. *Disclaimer* It uses the R-word as it is still accepted and in some cases required in the medical field*)

Stress affects kids brains negatively. (You can read a less clinically written article about this claim HERE.) Brain matter is reduced, cells age faster, cognition and memory recall is impaired and hormones are released that can effect the entire body.

We have even more to consider when we think about institutionalized children (children from orphanages) and brain function. Due to neglect, abuse and malnutrition they show deficits in memory, attention, inhibition control, language and learning (HERE is another clinical read).

Sofie falls in to all of these categories. She is a post-institutionalized child with Down Syndrome who has experienced prolonged stress and trauma. Her brain was always in fight or flight mode when we first got her. It didn’t function the way her typical peers brains did because of all these factors mentioned above. Thanks to stability, nutrition, love, family and therapy Sofie has come a long way in these past 4 years, but she still has difficulties. Her brain function is still affected. Down Syndrome and trauma lend to a smaller brain size and her dendritic branches not receiving info well which makes it difficult for her to learn.

Just over 5 weeks ago we started using essential oils. We put some oils in a roller ball that we thought would be beneficial and we let her choose some oils that she liked the smell off. We thought letting her body/brain choose what she needed would be the most beneficial. Jon was not convinced she’d be able to tell us but her choices where clear. She pushed away some oils and grabbed at others.

The oils she LOVED were the Lemon and Lemongrass. Lemon cleanses and purifies. It is also great for cognitive ability and uplifting mood. Lemongrass is similar to lemon but aids specifically to awareness and positivity. Interestingly lemongrass is known to help with the symptoms of hypothyroidism, something that is very common in people with DS. She also liked patchouli which is a grounding and emotionally regulating oil.

There are two oils that we added because of their known benefits. Vetiver, a wonder oil for sensory issues with a calming and grounding effect. Frankincense is the oil that is proving to be the real gift from God! The wise men got it right when they brought it for baby Jesus! Studies are being done on Frankincense and it’s amazing qualities. (Check out a write up on some of the studies HERE) Some research has found Frankincense actually grows dendritic branches. Those branches that receive information so vital in the process of learning. Those same branches that become atrophic in kids with DS at a very early age. Amazing to me!

I can’t deny the impact these oils have had on Sofie. She has been using this rollerball for just over 5 weeks now and is learning and developing at an incredible rate! A growth spurt for her has never lasted this long or covered so many areas.

  • Day 1 she was able to think clearly enough to respond appropriately to a flash card test at her hearing appointment. It was a test she had never been able to do before.
  • Day 5 she started feeding herself breakfast. She has not fed herself breakfast before 9 am in years! She usually takes a while to wake up and get going.
  • Week 2 there had been enough awesome days in a row at school to mention that something was different, aside from issues around a specific EA that she was not happy with.
  • Week 2 we saw Sofie talking way more, not yelling so much, thinking before doing things, and generally being more alert and responsive.
  • Week 3 we were in the middle of a crazy 12 day schedule with over 30 appointments and obligations. Sofie sat patiently, quietly and respectfully for hours in waiting rooms, not typical for her. She was playing better with her sisters and eating dinner more appropriately.
  • Week 4 she started consistently using 3-4 word sentences and showing us obvious problem solving skills like getting herself another chair instead of fighting with her sister over one, and asking for her roller when she was feeling down and grumpy. She was showing us that she is recognizing the oils help her.
  • Week 5 she toilet trained herself! She decided she didn’t want her pull ups anymore and I rolled with it. She had 2 days of little drip accidents but would then race to the bathroom to finish. On day 3 & 4 she didn’t have any accidents, even used public washrooms! Toilet training kids with DS usually takes longer. Little drips are still occasionally happening but she is stopping it and holding her bladder until we get to a toilet! (She did already know how to use the toilet. She had her regular bm’s on the toilet every night but would not use the washroom for anything else.)

It’s just amazing to see what these oils have been doing for Sofie. There is another blog post HERE about essential oils and adopted children. It is a great resource too. From our experience I can see oils having so much potential for kids who have issues from adoption or foster care, kids with special needs, kids who have experienced trauma, kids like Sofie.

The oil quality does make a difference too. I use a much cheaper quality and brand of oils in my cleaning products and had diffused them a little bit for sleep seeing no results. DoTerra is great quality and I really like them because they indigenously source the plants. DoTerra’s main competitor green houses the plants in the States. I’m much more comfortable with getting a better quality plant from the source where they have grown for thousands of years. Others like the control the other company gets from the greenhouse. Whatever you are most comfortable with really. I also like that doTerra is seeing the potential in these oils for kids with special needs, specifically kids with autism, and partnering with organizations to assist with therapies! That alone is very encouraging!

Because of the amazing results we are seeing with Sofie we of course have started using the oils for the whole family. Jon has an anti-stress/balancing one. I use Balance and an uplifting/energizing blend. Livi and Evelyn use a balancing one for anxiety and moods and sometimes a sleep roller. Livi also uses cypress for bedwetting as well. We used it for 3 weeks before we saw any result but the fourth week she has been completely dry! This is the longest stint of no bed wetting in over a year! Maggy uses an Alzheimer’s blend and my mom uses deep blue for her pain and lavender for sleep. We have all seen results. It hasn’t been quite as magic for us as it has been for Sofie, but our house is calmer and more peaceful. Maggy is showing less symptoms. My mom is feeling better rested. I am too happy and thankful to be mad that I didn’t try doTerra oils earlier.

I am now officially selling these oils… I know, crazy. I’m not that person. I just can’t ignore what they can do for us and maybe you! I’m educating myself daily and eating all this knowledge up. If you want to talk about oils that might help you or if you want to try a roller ball blend let me know!

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My Journey to Essential Oils

If you are like I was just over a month ago you might be thinking “Here goes another mom trying another fad… blah, blah, blah.”

I get it. The popularity of essential oils does seem to have sprung up fast. It seems like just a fad. The people talking about them are either moms who are looking for relief from kids germs and illness, and possibly fooling themselves into thinking oils are helping when it’s probably a placebo affect, or crunchy organic mommy’s and hipsters…. or at least that was what I thought. And really that was my experience.

I’m on a few different parenting forums on Facebook where mostly moms talk and ask for advice and opinions on all things kid related. Other moms experiences can be so helpful sometimes! More than a few months ago the topic of essential oils started popping up. Mommies were giving each other advice on how to use EO’s on their kids to cure ailments like fevers, sleeplessness, congestion, flu, etc… Honestly, it scared me. Some were advising each other to let their kids ingest EO’s for different reasons and they were doing it! Some of these oils are known to be unsafe for kids and yet they were advising each other that because they “have used it on their kids and they were fine” it was ok for everyone. I was, and maybe still am, convinced someone would get hurt. Parents should do their own research from reputable sources on how to use an EO and this does not always happen.

I’m not saying EO’s are necessarily unsafe. I’m saying we need to be smart in how we use them. If we have a safe way to become healthier people without the use of synthetic medicine we would want that, right? But, like with pharmaceutical medicine we read the warning pamphlets and double check the proper doses thru the proper methods. EO warnings are not nearly as long as pharmaceuticals by the way.

I have been using essential oils to make my own cleaning products for a few years now. It is a simple way to eliminate some of the extra chemicals that we don’t need in our homes. Talk to me about how they could cure a cold though and I figured you were out to lunch. That was the approach that was first given to me about using EO’s for my family.

If I used EO’s my family would never get sick again! … or so it seemed from the current mommy peddler.

Soon after, a close friend of mine, whom I respect greatly as a professional and as a friend, started talking about them. She did start with all the physical health benefits with me. I not so secretly rolled my eyes and bluntly politely told her thanks but no thanks. Then she started using them in her profession as a couples and family therapist. Her approach changed slightly and she started talking about the mental health benefits more. Now she was getting through to me…

I started listening, doing more research and asking questions. Everyone in my family has varying degrees of anxiety and depression (who doesn’t) so I thought it would be worth a try. Pharmaceuticals for mental health tend to be so numbing and disconnect our brains from our bodies and emotions. If the oils proved their worth then I might be okay with trying them for our physical health too.

My husband took some extra convincing. He was VERY opposed to them and thought at best they only had a placebo affect. After some talking from myself and my friend he did concede to us getting a roller ball for Sofie. She had been having some major behaviour issues beyond the regular symptoms of her trauma, adoption and Down Syndrome. Jon figured if anyone was going to benefit it would be her since she is more sensitive to sensory input. I think he also knew she wouldn’t be able to benefit from a placebo affect and if it didn’t work I’d have to stop wondering.

Well…. IT DID WORK! Sofie is now a much happier, calmer, aware, in tune, and communicative version of herself and continuing to develop in leaps and bounds!

We saw a change in her on day one when she schooled me at her hearing appointment. The therapists brought out a test that I had told them many times that she couldn’t do, but they always insist on trying it. Well, Sofie didIMG_8409  it… like made me look like an idiot did it. The following weeks she has continued to amaze us. She started feeding herself breakfast, something she hasn’t done in years. Her communication has sky rocketed and she is now using 3-4 word sentences consistently. She is problem solving. Instead of fighting over a chair with her sister the other day, she went and got another one for herself. She is taking direction, helping with chores, being gentle, and thinking more before acting. Her body is calmer and more connected.

My heart is just so happy for Sofie. She must have been feeling so muddled up before. She even used her new problem solving abilities the other day and asked for her roller when she was feeling grumpy. She is recognizing that her roller helps her to feel and think better!

Since seeing such drastic change in Sofie I start trying things for my whole family. We got a personalized roller for Jon to take to work to help him remain balanced and thinking clearly at his very stressful job. IMG_8558He willingly uses it on a regular basis even though his co-workers call him a hippie…which he is very much not. Livi and Evelyn share a mood balancing roller which helps Livi’s anxiety a lot. I still need to personalize one for Evelyn I think. I’ve been using a Balance blend for myself as well. My mom has been very happy with the quality of her sleep and has been diffusing lavender at night. My sister with Alzheimer’s has even been showing less symptoms, so much so that her respite care provider asked if she had a med change!

I haven’t jumped in for all the physical health benefits yet but I have started playing with them. Livi had a weird virus that had symptoms of an ear infection, among other things. I put OnGaurd and Oregano with some coconut oil on her feet and Melaleuca and Lavender diluted on a cotton ball on the outside of her ear. Her ear pain was gone in 10 minutes and her sickness only lasted 2-3 days, where it lasted nearly a week for her little sister a month earlier. This could be explained by a few things but it definitely has me wondering!

I’ll do another post with about our current favourite oils that are working for us and explain a bit more details or what we are actually doing but I thought I’d start with my journey 🙂 I’m learning lots right now and am amazed by all the research and benefits that is actually behind this stuff!

If you think I’m totally out to lunch, that’s ok too! I get it! But if there is something in the back of your mind that has you wondering what all the hype is about, come and ask me some questions. I can give you some samples to try too!

Catch Up Post!

I have not blogged in a long time. I think I have about five entries started but not finished. It makes me sad because I know writing down my thoughts is part of my self care. I also want to document what was going on in our lives to be able to look back. I don’t know if my kids will actually be interested but I think I will be when I’m old!

Since Sofie’s birthday at the end of April a lot has happened. June was a CRAZY month in particular. That has a lot to do with why I haven’t had time to sit down and blog   as well. This is going to be an update post. Quick and painless and then I’ll work on those other posts I haven’t finished….

– School ended! My big girls had an awesome year and are graduating on to Grade 1 and 2! The last few weeks were kind of like pulling teeth. We were all done school and had probably learned all we were going to. Sofie really did not like her afternoon EA at the end of it and was having some major issues around that but we did our best to work through it and get through it.

– Sofie had a sleep study done at Children’s hospital. That was an interesting experience to say the least! It was actually an accident it got booked in the first place. My doctor sent in the wrong referral. I’m glad he did though. I had been asking about getting one done for years because I suspected mild sleep apnea. It came back that she actually has moderate sleep apnea and the minute her ENT saw the report (because I followed up) surgery was booked to get her tonsils, adenoids and possibly ear tubes, because of more fluid in her ears. Lesson learned. Follow your instinct Momma’s!

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– Livi passed her Red Cross Swim lessons! She actually passed 2 levels at once and gets to advance to level 3 in the fall!

– I live in the Fraser Valley which is surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers. I don’t think I always appreciated that growing up but am finding a renewed love for it now. This is the first year we can go and do things with out baby gear and I’m getting to have all these experiences again through my kids eyes. An absolute favourite place of ours, we’ve discovered together, is the river. The kids are just mesmerized by it. It is our happy place and 5 minutes from our house.

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– I got my hair cut… first time in close to a year. It was straight for a day too…. It might blow your mind 😉

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– Sofie can now dress herself! Upside is I just help her with her pull up, because that’s a little tricky, and she can do the rest herself and come up for breakfast! The downside is she will change her outfit 3-4 times a day if I don’t stop her, and not always with clean clothes.

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– Sofie also doesn’t need to sleep in her sleep sack anymore. She still ends up sleeping on the floor frequently but has only stripped once or twice in the morning when she knows it’s time to get up!

– I’ve already bought Christmas presents.

– Berry season came early in the Fraser Valley and it was delicious.

– We had the girls Frozen themed joint birthday party with a special guest… The Reptile Guy! It was pretty awesome.

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– We cut all the girls hair short and I LOVE IT. – Sofie got invited to her best friend’s ‘bring a friend to dance class’ day. This little girl has one amazing inclusive little heart.

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– Evelyn fit in to our ‘My Sister Has Designer Genes’ t-shirt agin this year for the Walk for Awareness. I love that shirt. Lots of love and memories.

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– We have discovered and been amazed at what good quality essential oils can do for our family. It has transformed us in a matter of weeks. This is one of those posts I am needing to work on but I had to mention it. Approaching and using them for mental health and for kids with special needs or trauma has been earth moving.

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– At the end of June, along side of the end of school year crazy, we had 22 appointments in 12 days as well as 8 family events. It was insane and I was extra thankful for the oils then! My kids were angels in the waiting rooms. It was freaky.

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– The same week I found out about Sofie’s surgery, amidst the crazy 30 appointments week, we discovered that Evelyn’s teeth are in need of some major work. Her teeth are hyper-calcified and pitted, a genetic issue apparently, and are deteriorating faster than we thought. She needs all her teeth capped to protect them.  It was and is pretty devastating news. I got a second opinion from my dentist and he agreed. Though I know there is nothing more I could have done to prevent or fix this I’m still feeling guilty and nervous about it all.

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– We got to meet this little guy again. The friend of ours who adopted her son with Down Syndrome from Bulgaria came for dinner and we got to see him and Sofie together!

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– Elementary school Sports Day’s are a lot of fun.

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Summer vacation is in full swing and lots of fun stuff has already happened. I’ll save that for another update though!