Monday, September 22, 2014

My electric friend....

I was really really excited last spring to find out I had been selected to be an ecar ambassador for The Great Electric Drive this year!

But at the same time a bit apprehensive, I mean, what are electric cars actually like?


My niece Emily getting on the low emissions bandwagon....

or this?

The Renault Twizy, on display in Dundrum TC

As it turns out, they are just like any other car, only nicer.

My Nissan Leaf.
Because of my "needs" ie. two teenagers who have to sit a seat apart I was selected to drive the Nissan Leaf, a nice roomy but compact car. And I love Nissans, I have driven 4 of them since I arrived in Ireland in late 2001.

The specs are great. Built in sat nav, blue tooth and a great sounding stereo. There is a little camera yoke in the back that comes on when reversing so you can see if any of the latest batch of children under 3 feet tall are behind you. Electric cars are spookily quiet and the smallish children in our estate are notoriously ignorant of large moving objects like cars when scoot/skate/footballing across our drive.
After driving my diesel Nissan Juke for 2 years - a small car that sounds like a M*A*S*H helicopter taking off, (people duck when they hear it) the Leaf feels like you are floating in a cushion of air.

It is also automatic but not lazy like the cheaper automatics I've driven when I go home to Aus.  It has great torque when you need it to overtake on a hill, but there is a catch...

You have to stop overtaking people on hills.

The range of the Leaf is supposed to be 145 kms on full charge. A full charge at home (where esb ecars installed a charge point for me) takes over 5 hours.

But if you drive like I do, well, like I used to, then that range is vastly reduced. No more speeding up and overtaking on motorways. I've had to slow down and even out my driving a LOT since I got it.

Even then, my daily commute to get the kids to school is 38 kms of motorway driving each way. So I could use over 50% of my charge just doing the morning school run if I don't take it easy. I open windows instead of using the air con and never charge my phone.

That kind of freaked me out, because we are entering flu season and there is every likelihood that I can arrive home after dropping the kids off, only to get a phone call telling me that one of them has just got sick and I have to come straight back.

Without the 4-5 hours to recharge, I could be running on empty.

The M50/M11 which is basically my highway is also very poorly served with fast charge units. There are standard chargers in Sandyford, "The Park" Shopping Centre and the Luas stop at Carrickmines but they take as long as my home charge and there is only so long you can spend wandering around Woodies or TK Max.

Well, today I had a few errands to do around Greystones and Kilcoole so I decided to pootle up the highway to Cullenmore (past Newcastle) and do a fast charge at the big motorway services there.

It took less than 15 minutes to get back up to 80% charge (over a 100 km range) and it took me only 20kms out of my usual commute. It was also very reassuring to stand there and watch the charging meter going beyond the 50% mark so quickly.
Yes, I have become obsessed with my charge since I became the caretaker of an electric car. It is not unlike those people who carry their iPhone charger everywhere and are always looking for a place to plug it in (I used to scorn them)

I actually wandered over to the services to get an early lunch (Burger King meal of the day, very nice hot chippies) then came back to eat it on the boot of the car because it was such a nice sunny day and the outdoor tables were full of smokers.
But in truth there is not a lot to do on the side of the N11 in Cullenmore, County Wicklow. Even the 3G coverage is woeful and there is no wifi (NO WIFI!!! ahhh the humanity!!)

This is all fine for me.  Now that I'm a stay at home Mum again, I do actually have "all day" to charge my car while I potter around the house. But there is an absolute dearth of charging stations in Greystones, so going down the village to do errands means either walking or letting the car run low on charge. I don't mind walking but I don't like carrying big things like juice boxes or soda water home on my back.

I'm not the only Eco-nut in the village. There at least 2 other privately owned Nissan Leafs that I have seen in the last 2 weeks. We live in a beautiful seaside village with lovely outdoorsy coffee shops, we have a regular eco friendly transport service in the Dart; why don't we have charging stations?

So this is my mission for now: Drive smarter, walk a bit more and campaign for fast chargers on the M50 and in Greystones. Because I am heartily converted to this ecar lifestyle. Now I want everyone else to be too.


Monday, August 11, 2014

My beautiful new Grace App Update

Grace App 3:0 is here and it is beautiful! We now have the ability to edit or add text on all images, an iPad view zoom of the sentence strip AND if you need it, Tap Card to Speak....

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back to School - Giveaway!!!

Apologies for my long absence. I've been taking an extended sabbatical to be a Mom for the Summer. Slowing down to concentrate on my kids has been very relaxing.

So well over a month ago I saw a post on Facebook about "Back To School" kits on the excellent Therapics Facebook page. Therapics offers a range of visual aids and evidence based therapy materials designed to help children on the autism spectrum learn and develop through fun games and activities. These educational materials are great for kids with Autism,PDD-Nos, Aspergers as well as speech delay or other developmental delays.

Now, as a kid, I actively hated anything with a "Back To School" theme. Bookshops, department stores, uniform suppliers and shoe shops all seemed to conspire to distract from the joy of running around barefoot doing exactly what I wanted all summer.
I know now that it is a different story for parents, ALL parents. That many of you count the days until there is structure and yes, a bit of respite for everyone when school re-opens.
I saw a neuro-typical family in the pool this morning where the two eldest siblings were squabbling about who was pushing whom while the exasperated Mum explained to the Dad - "they've been like this ALL WEEK"

I'm actually enjoying my summer. As a committed multi-tasker I am finding it quite enjoyable to just focus on my teens and do what they want to do. Right now Grace wants to go and feed the ducks at Cabinteely again! 

So I will hand over to Phillipa from Therapics herself to explain what she is up to.

"A few years ago my sweet son took the big leap from a tiny, supportive preschool to starting mainstream school. At the time his entire vocabulary still numbered in

double digits, and I could tell you every one of the words he knew, because we had diligently and patiently taught him each one. He was only just beginning to grasp the concept of numbers - numerals 1 - 5 had taken well over 2 years of intensive ABA therapy before they sunk in. Although he longed to be with other kids, noise was a big challenge for him, and keeping up with full speed conversations was something we were still only aspiring to.

Although he was offered full time access to a shared SNA and maximum resource
hours at school, I still had serious concerns as to how he would possibly cope. And so I did the best thing I could possibly think of at the time - I went in to brainstorm with his new teacher what visual aids I could prepare to help him bridge the communication gaps. You see I’m by profession a graphic designer, and my son is a highly visual fella. Put these together and with the help of his teacher we developed an armoury of supports that both he and his teacher and SNA could use to improve their daily experience.

 This included a social story to help him anticipate starting school, a lesson schedule to help him transition from one activity to the next, a folder of classroom relevant jargon that the teacher might use, such as “line up” and “walk out” as well as words that he could be prompted to use, such as “help me please” and “go toilet”.


The final item was for communication with myself - a quick and easily completed form for the teacher to fill in detailing things she wanted us to know about his day, as well as vocab to work on and concepts that were being taught in class which we could support in his home therapy. It still blows me away that in both of his first two years his teachers filled these in daily - they made such a big difference and my gratitude and respect runs deep.

In the meantime I’ve created a little shop selling many of the visual aids I’ve developed for my son over the years, as well as some materials that others have approached me to make. My Starting School kit is now available for both the Irish and British school systems.

I was also approached by a teacher in the west of Ireland to do a translation of the pack into Gaeilge, and with the help of the lovely people at COGG (Commission for Eduaction in Gaeltacht and Gaelscoileanna) this is now available too!

Hopefully these items will help other children on the spectrum make an easier
transition into big school, I firmly believe that with the necessary support our little ones can surprise us all. 

You can find out more about my business here at:, and the Starting School pack in particular here -

Thanks to Lisa for sharing!"

Phillipa has offered a sweet giveaway of a kit to one lucky sharer/commenter on this blog post. I will make a list of all the shares, number them and get her to choose a number at the end of the 3rd week of August. So you can have it posted out in time for school. NB: Phillipa will ship anywhere including US and Australia, but if you win you have to choose the British or Irish version.