Our plastic straw story and some alternatives to try

Updated with information provided by the learning disabled charity hft.

This is what independence looks like for my severely disabled daughter B.

B, straw, independence

She can do very little for herself, but drinking is one thing she can do. Yet with the understandable concern about plastic pollution, this little bit of independence could be taken away from her. Which is upsetting?

But first I’d like to explain how we got to this point, about 18 years ago…

It was time to wean my daughter off bottles. I knew she was severely disabled, but at that stage I was all for everything being age appropriate, and I didn’t want her looking like a baby. I encouraged her to try all kinds of beakers and cups. Some she couldn’t lift at all, others she lifted but spilt the contents, none got near her mouth. It was a problem.

At the same time I was working with her to develop the building blocks of speech. I spent hours encouraging her to blow tissues off my hand, and more hours putting straws in her mouth to encourage her to suck through them. She couldn’t see the point of the tissue game, but when I inserted straws into cartons of fruit juice and sometimes squeezed the cartons gently, she got the reward of a little juice, and eventually she worked out how to do it herself.

She never developed intelligible speech, but at least she learned to drink independently. Important for her self esteem, giving her a bit of control, avoiding choking incidents, and giving her carer a break too!

Now plastic straws have become the emblem of the campaign to clean up our oceans. There’s pressure to ban them, and some organisations have already done so. I am not the only person to be concerned about this – disability groups in the UK are calling for a pause, and bloggers are too.

When I tweeted about this issue I was sent this article about alternatives that are already available, so in the interests of research and being ready for the change, I decided to try them out.

I immediately rejected Bamboo straws (not bendable), paper straws (guaranteed to get chewed and soggy) and glass straws (too dangerous if bitten), but we tried these three options found on amazon…


Metal straws

These are bent but not bendable and are long, so B doesn’t have to lift her drink if she doesn’t feel like trying. They fit her beaker and the spill proof lids she uses. They are cold and hard, but B seemed to cope with that okay, though she got fed up by lunchtime and I had to give her a plastic one. I will keep persisting with them, though I would worry about how hygienic they would be when used with a milk drink – despite the brush that is provided for cleaning.

Silicone Straws

Silicone straws are much fatter and softer than plastic straws. They don’t fit the spill proof lids she uses, so she needed close supervision while using them. She wasn’t keen on the feel of them and I was also concerned she would take too much liquid in one go and choke.

Biodegradable Straws

About four times as expensive as standard plastic straws, and they weren’t the long ones that B ideally needs. Apparently they start deteriorating on contact with liquid, but I have now been told that they are not toxic like plastic and will not cause problems even when reused. I also wondered which type of bin should these straw go into, and I now know it’s the food waste bin – so long as the waste is sent to an industrial composter.  B liked these straws anyway, so that’s a good start.


I don’t think the silicone straws will work for B. The steel straws are the correct length but clearly have a different mouth feel. I will encourage B to keep trying them, together with the biodegradable straws. But it would be great if the latter looked different to normal plastic straws, so we don’t get judged by other people who don’t understand. And can we have longer ones too please? Because sometimes that’s what she needs.

Finally, while I’m all for saving the world, it does feel like it’s all being put on the consumer to do this. Where in this campaign are the big companies and corporations, what are they doing? (Apart from producing expensive alternatives to plastic straws).

Skip the straw may be a great slogan, but please remember that some people will need budget priced alternatives …



Waving not drowning

Hello, I’m back! *Waves*. It’s a risk to say I’m feeling a little better – at least some of the time – but with any luck it might continue, and I might even do some ‘proper’ writing soon. The miserable posts I wrote in anger over the past two weeks are safely tucked away in drafts, and may never see the light of day. So this post is not about drowning in despair, but is instead a celebration of some of the deeply unexciting, but reasonably cheerful things that happened in the past two weeks…

Talking therapy with someone who already knows our situation (so I don’t have to go over it all again) seems to be helping a bit. At least it means I’m not dumping my worries on my friends…

My badly needed new phone – I’m always a bit intimidated by new phones, but I’m loving the fingerprint identification – so fast – and the battery life – so long. I don’t need an iPhone, so this is a budget option that looks like a good choice so far, apart from the camera, which is not very impressive!

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 09.29.16
Sunrise over Dublin 16.2.18


I’m reading a book – always a sign my mood has improved. It’s One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon, in case you’re interested, and there’s a great review of it here.

Two weeks ago I managed my first 10 kilometre run of 2018. Too slow, but a good start. Then I did another 10K with a friend, seven days later. Perhaps I’m back on track?

My smear test results came back clear, great reassurance for an awkward and uncomfortable few minutes at the GP surgery. Go do it, if you haven’t already!

An at home dinner with my eldest turned into an hour long chat – rare as our lives are both ridiculously busy. It was lovely. We also went to the cinema. This time to see the latest Maze Runner film – not something I would have chosen, but surprisingly enjoyable.

And finally, guess who has been arriving home every day full of happiness and joy, as though to make sure I keep my head above water?

For more reasons to be cheerful, head over to Lakes Single Mum.







The Waiting Room

It’s all honey blonde and pinky red tones with shafts of sunlight making geometric shapes on the floor and warm curved walls to hug you as you sit and wait. But there’s also creaky hard seats and noisy floors that echo with the rhythm of shoes and boots and runners making a cacophony of sound that ebbs and flows.

The door opens and in they go. The door shuts. You’re left outside to wait. Your stomach churns as you wonder how the appointment will go today. You try to read something, write something, concentrate on something, anything that will distract you from fixating on what is happening behind that implacably closed door.

You listen to the sounds of others waiting: cranky children, the lower murmur of women chatting, the rustling of paper and doors opening and closing, voices raised in excitement as gossip is exchanged. The ring of phones and the coughs and splutters of the sick and old.

You sit and wait and wait and wait. How did it come to this?

You’ve become the person who knows almost nothing, but is expected to do almost everything.

Then the door opens. All looks well. Phone away, fix welcoming smile on face, drive home. Another hour spent in the waiting room is over. For another week.

NB I’m cheating slightly as this post is not about my disabled daughter.


Battling anxiety by scaring myself silly! #timetotalk

It’s no secret that the ongoing family crisis here has had a negative effect on my mental heath. I’ve never suffered with anxiety like this before. The effects have been frightening, and that resulted in a negative feedback loop where the fear made me more anxious. I retreated, avoided people – even friends – avoided situations and activities that suddenly seemed too difficult. From talking to friends, some of this may be age related too – my peers are experiencing similar issues – a loss of confidence, feeling anxious about everyday chores and activities, afraid of doing something stupid, of others seeing it, of feeling stupid yourself and therefore wanting to avoid anything that might be challenging.

But if you know me at all, you’ll also know that I hate feeling fearful, I hate feeling weak, I hate feeling vulnerable, so I searched around my head for strategies that would improve things. And I remembered the advice that facing your fears – in a gentle way – should make it easier to cope with them.

So for the past week, I’ve been making a real effort to get out of my comfort zone.

‘Me’ time was prescribed for the weekend, and I was lucky enough to get a sitter for Sunday morning, so I went for coffee on my own and then to the gym. With no worries about having to rush home after training, I tackled the showers. It’s only taken me two years… But in all fairness, communal changing rooms are very intimidating for women of a certain age, especially those who don’t have time to do all the grooming and tanning and exercise that’s expected! And I had stupid little worries about whether the lock I had would work on the locker, would the key be safe while I showered (I had visions of it being washed away…). All my fears were misplaced: no one  noticed me at all and my plan to manage the locker/shower process worked perfectly.

Then there was another incident in the saga of the fridge, that I’ve mentioned more than once over the years! On pulling it out one day, I was horrified to see dust almost filling the vents in the back. Dangerous, I thought. Luckily Google came to rescue and told me that I needed to vacuum the fridge coils. I’d never heard this before, and it took me a few days to tackle it, especially as you have to remove the back cover of the fridge which says ‘Technicians Only’ in very large letters. But I did, and nothing blew up or went on fire either!

Cutting and taking up winter leggings for B – because her legs are a non standard length and only summer leggings come in capri length. (Her clothing issues are worthy of a whole blog post in themselves –  I promise to write it one day 😀). I was afraid I’d ruin them of course, but I didn’t, and she’s wearing them today. Result.

Back in the gym again, and there were two young men demonstrating their handstand skills. It was impressive, and you couldn’t miss the demonstration either. And you know I’m competitive, right? And that I used to do school gymnastics as a child? And that I can resist everything except temptation? So when I’d finished my essential training (it is essential, it keeps me strong, and keeps my back healthy, so I can carry on caring) I got my breath back and then attempted a handstand, and then two more. I was only able to hold them for a couple of seconds, but still! The guy behind the desk winked at me on the way out ha ha #55notdeadyet.

Finally, I have agreed to go for talking therapy, to keep others happy, but very reluctantly. Here’s why:

It eats into the free time I don’t have.
It requires me to talk about all the crazy stuff that has happened in my life. Again. And I find that traumatic.

So you could say I’m scared of counselling too, so that’s another reason to do it. And because today, February 1st, is #timetotalk day, I really should make the effort to talk about mental health, and I hope you do too.

Time to talk

Because scaring myself has made me feel better, this will also be my reasons to be cheerful post for this week: read more over at Lakes Single Mum.