Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Through Special Eyes...

It is that time of year again. I find myself standing in the Halloween isle in the store, shaking my head, mentally eliminating each of the costumes as unsuitable from my daughter, one by one. Her autism and sensory issues make costumes seem like torture devices to her. I try to push from my mind the thought of how cute some of these costumes would look on my beautiful daughter, if only...

If only...

I try not to let the sense of loss, or thoughts of what might of been take root. I push those thoughts away, and swallow hard trying to clear the lump in my throat. I turn to leave the isle.

I try hard not to look at the little girl standing in the isle with me, but I can't help myself. She is about my daughter's age. She holds up a Disney Princess dress, and looks up at her Mom with a hopeful expression. Her Mother nods in agreement, and the little girl beams with excitement as the dress is laid in their cart.

I swallow hard again, but the stubborn lump in my throat remains. I push my cart past the happy pair, and out of the Halloween section. My mind flashes through a series of mental images of what their Halloween will probably look like; her Mother helping her put on her dress, then fixing her hair, and the happy little princess posing for adorable pictures. Many other homes will feature very similar scenes this year. Lots of mothers and daughters will share these experiences, but some of us will not.

For most of us, Halloween was a big deal when we were kids. It was something we excitedly looked forward to. It was FUN. We have fond memories of dressing up in costumes and collecting tons of candy, then going home and eating more sugar than anyone should consume in a month. Most of us have cute pictures from those days, and remember them with great fondness.

When viewed through my daughter's eyes, Halloween isn't quite the same as it was for us. She doesn't understand the disruption in her routine. A costume is just a torture device as far as she is concerned. She has no idea why anyone would want to inflict that discomfort on her. Going out "Trick or Treating" is a baffling blur of confusing sights and sounds. She doesn't understand the whole concept of knocking on doors to ask for candy. She can't eat the candy anyway. The flashing decorations, and well meaning but scarily dressed people are an assault on her sensory system. The whole exercise is pointless, and uncomfortable for her.

Every year I have put her in a costume, and taken a few quick pictures before taking it right back off. Last year I tried to put a Cleopatra dress on her. I put a comfy pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt under it to try and make it more tolerable. I knew better than to attempt to put the head dress, or wrist cuff on her, so we didn't even take those out of the bag.

As you can see in the picture below, she did not care to wear it for more than a minute. We snapped a few pictures then took it off. I spent $20.00, and all I really managed to do was irritate her, and take a few pictures.

This year, I have finally realized I need to stop trying to push my idea of Halloween on my daughter. She is an amazing child, who deserves more from me than that. I have to accept her for who she is. I have to let go of who I wish she could be. It is a process. I am sure many special needs parents probably make this adjustment faster and better than I have, but alas I am human and clearly subject to flaws.

I read a post today in which a parent was saying we should set a mandatory age limit for "Trick or Treating", and refuse to give candy to kids who "can't even bother to put on a costume." It occurred to me the author doesn't understand the first thing about how Halloween might be a challenge for special needs kids. He has never looked at Halloween through my daughter's eyes.

Some special needs are invisible, and we need to keep that in mind. Should a 16 year old boy who functions on the level of a 5 year old be told that he can't go "Trick or Treating"? Or can we allow him that little piece of joy without passing judgement? Should we insist a child wear a costume to participate, even if doing so makes the whole event miserable for the child? Or can we just chose to skip the looks of disapproval, smile, and say "Happy Halloween"? Those questions are ones I hope you will consider.

The pictures posted in this blog post are meant to be shared. I do hope you will chose to share them, so others can get a glimpse of Halloween though special eyes.

Let's help make Halloween happy for every one.

To the special needs parents who read this, I would like to invite you to join my facebook support group for special needs parents:

"Loving a Miracle - Special Parents Supporting Each Other."
This is the original support group, and all content is open to the general public.!/groups/lovingamiracleismoving/

There is a closed group, for those of you who would like to post things outside of the view of the general public:
"Loving a Miracle - The Special Parent's Safe Zone."!/groups/lovingamiraclethesafezone/

There is also a public PAGE. This is where I post information and links that I think are helpful to special needs parents.

Permission to repost/reprint: If you would like to obtain permission to repost or reprint this post, please send me an email to Thank you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blended Diet

Three years ago today...

There are certain dates in your life you will never forget. They are the major turning points in your life, the moments in time where things changed in some really significant way. September 7, 2009 is one of those dates for me. It was not the day I became a nurse. It was not my wedding day either. It was the day I took a leap of faith that literally changed our lives. It is the day we took our first step out of our feeding disorder hell, the day we ditched formula, and started my daughter on a blended diet.

Changing from formula to blended food may not sound all that momentous, but once you know how much it changed our lives for the better, you might understand why it is so significant to me.

Life On Formula: We were spending at least 6-8 hours a day pretty much force feeding my daughter. She had severe oral aversion, and was projectile vomiting 3-6 times everyday. She had very low volume tolerance, delayed gastric emptying, loose stools, reflux, and chronic gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach). Her gastritis was uncontrolled even though she was on the maximum dosage of several medications. The inflammation was so severe, it caused 4 mild GI bleeds in the summer of 2009. My daughter existed solely on a diet of a few isolated highly allergenic proteins, corn syrup solids, safflower oil, and what amounts to a multivitamin, also known as canned commercial formula. My life had dissolved into a never ending and vicious cycle of pumping all the breast milk my body would produce, adding formula, force feeding my daughter, cleaning up vomit, then starting the cycle all over again. We weren't sleeping much because in order to get enough calories in her, she had to be fed late into the night. My daughter's weight was on track, but we were killing ourselves to do it. We weren't supported by her doctors. I repeatedly said I thought the formula was causing her vomiting. They disagreed. The only solution they suggested was to do a Nissen surgery and place a feeding tube. When we refused to do the surgery, they tried to coerce us into it, by saying they wouldn't write anymore prescriptions for her if I continued to refuse. (I fired them from the case instead.) After two and a half years of stuggling to feed our daughter, we were exhausted and miserable. Not to mention, it was horrible watching our daughter suffer like that day in and day out.

Life Off Formula: My daughter no longer has low volume tolerance, loose stools, reflux, vomiting, gastritis, or GI bleeds. Now that she is not being fed formula, which was literally making her sick, her oral aversion is gone.  Instead of pushing away her bottle, she asks for her bottle and is eager to eat. She can easily and independently feed herself. She is able to happily and comfortably meet her calorie and nutritional needs. An elimination diet proved she was intolerant to, among other things, dairy, corn, and sulfates, all of which are found in almost all commercial formulas. She takes a full blended diet in a bottle with a modified nipple. I cut the nipple hole bigger to accomodate the thickness of the blends. Instead of artificial garbage, she gets a wonderfully healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and good fats. She eats better than any other child I know. Blended diet has made her healthier and much happier. She may always need a blended diet due to her brain bleed, and other medical issues, but she doesn't have to be trapped on formula ever again. Blended diet freed us from our feeding disorder hell. Because I know there are other kids, and other parents out there suffering in much the same way as we did, I am passsionate about sharing our journey with the world. Who knows, blended diet may just be the answer they are looking for as well.
You can read more about our feeding disorder journey here:

Blended diet has greatly improved my daughter's quality
of life. Seeing the difference blended diet can make first hand is
why I am so passionate about letting others know this it an option.

The rest of this post consists of more detailed information for anyone considering starting a blended diet:

Before starting my daughter on blended diet, we had occasionally tried adding baby foods to her formula, but there were never any improvements in her symptoms until we completely eliminated formula. Some people just don't get better until all formula is eliminated.

Once we dropped formula and started her on full blended diet, some improvements were almost immediate, and some occurred over a few weeks. It is important to understand it can take as long as one month for the GI tract to fully heal, so give it some time.

When my daughter was on formula, she could only drink one or two ounces of formula at a time. The first time blended diet was mentioned to me, I thought if I added fruits & vegetables, the calorie content of the blend would be so low, that there would be no way I could meet my daughter's calorie, and nutrition needs. Once I started blended diet, I quickly learned two things: First, food choices can drastically affect the calorie content your blends. You can easily make a blend that is 30 calories an ounce, which is what many formulas contain. Secondly, volume tolerance (how much volume one can tolerate for a meal) may go up if you can eliminate formula, which makes it much easier for you to meet your calorie/nutritional goals. My daughter polished off 4 ounces of blend (double her personal best on formula) with her first bottle of blended diet. Her volume tolerance continued to increase over time.

Switching to blended diet, eliminating formula, and the foods to which she is intolerant solved the majority of my daughter's feeding issues. We had tried many formulas, even the elemental ones like Elecare, and partially elemental ones like Peptamen Jr.& Vital Jr. None of them worked for us. My daughter is orally fed. She drank her first ounce of Elecare, and promptly went on a hunger strike, refusing to eat anything else for 24 hours. Although she couldn't really "talk" her response to Elecare was clear. She said, "No thanks. I'd rather die." I figured out much later, that she can't tolerate corn syrup solids, which is the main source of carbohydrates in nearly all formulas. By the way, Elecare is 53% corn syrup solids. Almost all commerical formulas are about 50% corn syrup solids. (Yuck!)

Despite the fact that many doctors either don't know, or won't admit it, many people can't tolerate formula, and will have bowel issues, oral aversion, reflux, vomiting, low volume tolerance, gastritis, skin problems, or some combination there of, as long as they are on any formula. It is not unheard of for someone to be unable to tolerate any formula, even the prescription elemental ones. It happens. I know several people like that. Dropping formula, sometimes has the added benefit of creating more interest in food orally. That interest can go a long way in helping resolve feeding issues.

Most people in the medical community are behind the curve on blended diet. It may seem like it, but feeding blended food through a G tube is not a new idea. It is what everyone with G tubes did before the invention of commercial formula. Once commerical formula was available, people were sold on the idea that it is as good as real food, sort of like they were sold on the idea that baby formula was as good for babies as breast milk. Now we all know better.

Try to keep in mind the G tube is just another route to the stomach. It doesn't, in any way, change what is needed once you get there. Think of the blender as doing the chewing, and the G tube as doing the swallowing. It really can be that simple. We should stop thinking of G tube feeding as a medical procedure, and realize it is just an alternative way of eating. I think in the years to come, the medical community will come around to the idea of  blended diet, but in the meantime, it is up to us to educate them.

I wish I could tell you what to expect from the medical people in your life, but the responses to blended diet vary widely. In case they are not supportive, let me arm you with the following:

-The GI tract is not a sterile environment. Your blends do not have to be sterile. The food typical people eat is not sterile. Using the same safe food handling procedures everyone uses is all that is required.

-We are talking about giving food not poison, act accordingly.

-Our bodies were designed by God, (or evolved over millions of years, if you prefer to think of it that way) to digest food, not formula. In either case, how arrogant is it to think we know more about what the body needs than God, or nature? Our bodies are meant to digest a wide variety of foods, not the same corn syrup laden milk protein all day, everyday.

-If you brought a typical child to the doctor, and said all he eats is a few cans of Pedisure a day, that would not be considered acceptable, so why is it okay for those who use G tubes to live on formula alone?

-There is just no substitute for the micro nutrients in real foods. Everyday we are learning more about the health benefits of certain foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Using formula alone, you are unfairly missing out on these benefits. Don't G tube fed people deserve real food too?

-If formula is really perfect nutrition, and better for you than real food, why isn't the doctor living on it himself?

-You have tried their way & for many of you, formula is not working.

Here are some tips on getting started:
If the person being fed is able to communicate, consider allowing them to participate in the chosing of what foods to blend, it will help them feel more involved. 

It helps if you can ask a dietitian to pretend you don't need a G tube & give you a list of what he/she would consider to be an acceptable diet, then work that diet into your blends.

If you are currently dealing with GI, or bowel issues on formula, I strongly suggest you insist on avoiding all the common food allergens in your blends, at least for a while. Skip wheat (gluten), dairy (whey or casine), soy, corn (or corn derivatives including corn syrup & corn starch, maltodextrin etc.), peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shell fish, and eggs. You absolutely can make a nutritionally balanced blend without any of those things. I have been doing it for years.

Why avoid allergens at first? If you start your blends with milk for instance, and you have an unknown milk allergy/intolerance, you may develop negative symptoms, and won't be able to tell if they are from the milk or blended diet.

If the GI symptoms go away you will know they were caused by something in the diet. Then you can add all the most common food allergens back into the diet very slowly, one at a time. Doing so allows you to identify any problem foods. It may take a while to work your way up to a good variety of foods, but it is well worth the effort. As we saw with my daughter, eliminating problem foods can really improve ones quality of life.

If you are dealing with reflux, vomiting, low volume tolerance, delayed gastric emptying or bowel issues, formula could be the cause. Unfortuneately, doctors often prescribe medicines to deal with these symptoms, rather than looking for the root cause. I believe they should be considering a change in diet as the first step. Blended diet often greatly improves, or resolves these issues.

My friend Eric, (a G tube user himself), told me formula feels like a brick just sitting in your stomach, and that blended real food just feels better.

Obviously, not everyone has trouble on formula, and I do admit to a personal bias against it, but please don't feel like I am making any judgment on you, if you chose to continue using formula. Only you can decided what works best for you. I have come to hate the stuff myself, because it has caused so much unnecessary suffering for my daughter, and many other people I know. Like many of the parents I have worked with, I only wish I known about blended diet sooner! I have seen first hand how much better things often get when formula is totally eliminated. Having said that, if you are not having issues on formula, by all means, feel free to use it.

If you are worried about how well real food will be tolerated, let me say, I personally would be more worried about the formula, than real food.

When first starting out, any foods that were tolerated well in the past, are fair game for adding to your blends. The limiting factor would be your blender. If you are using a typical blender, you will probably need to pre-cook things, blend, then run your blend through a sieve to catch the occasional lumps left by the blender, or you could use baby foods in making your blends instead.

Once you decide blended diet is for you, if you can manage it financially, you would be much better off using a Vita Mix or Blend Tec Blender. If you are in the US, the Vita Mix company will give you a nice discount, if you provide them with a letter of medical need from your doctor, or speech therapist. (Outside of the US policies vary, so start your inquiry by visiting their website,

To get the discount in the US, you can contact:
Sandy Ventimiglia
Customer Service Manager Vita-Mix Corporation
8615 Usher Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44138
1-800-848-2649 ext 2501

When I purchased mine, in Sept of 2009, it cost about $320.00 with shipping. I think the price varies a bit, depending on where you live. In my opinion, the Vita Mix is worth its weight in gold. It eliminates the need to strain blends, and means you can blend nearly anything. Their customer service is amazing. Once we damaged a part, and even though I told them it was totally our fault, they replaced the part free of charge, and expedited the shipping because they knew I use the blender to make blends to feed my daughter. They take great care of blended diet users. In case you are wondering, I do not have any affiliation with the Vita Mix company, other than I happily own and use one. :)

Some people have had success getting their insurance company to reimburse the cost of a blender used for preparing tube feeds, so that is worth a try. You have nothing to lose in asking. Some people have used their health savings accounts, or flexible spending accounts to pay for them too.

All that being said, you can make a nutritionally sound blend with a regular blender. It can be done. It is just a bit more work, and blended diet sometimes wears out the motor of a typical blender kind of quickly. I wore out a Magic Bullet in less than a month.

If you go to you can get a run down of what your daily goals are for each food group. You plug in your choices for each food group and go.

There are many good online resources for figuring out the calorie and nutritional content of your foods. is one I like to use, but there are others.

A full blended diet may seem overwhelming to take on. Do it at your own pace. Some people tip toe in. Some people dive in. Do what you are most comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way to do blended diet, just your way, which you will develop over time.

If you make two days worth of blends at a time, it is less of a hassle. We do fine storing it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You could also make them up for the whole week, and freeze some of it, so none sits in the refrigerator for more than three days. Frozen blends will most likely thaw out with a grainy consistency, which does not hurt the blend. Just thaw it out, at least part way, then pop it back into the blender, it will smooth right back out. Freeze blends lying flat in a zip lock bag. Use the ones labled as a freezer bags, the regular ones often leak.

The time it takes to make your blends will go down, as you get more used to doing it.
If you are interested in learning more about blended diet here are a few valuable resources:

Facebook group Blenderized Food for Tubies:
I am one of the administrators of this group..

Blenderized Diet Forum:

Blended Food Resource Group:

Here is some good blended diet information for beginners:

There is a book available online "Complete Tubefeeding" which covers both G tubes, and blended diet:

There is also a Blenderized Diet Group on Yahoo:

Well, I have given you a bit to "chew" on (pun intended). I hope you find some of it helpful. With the things I recommend, as with all things in life, take what you find useful, & forget the rest.

I wish you stamina for your journey.

Happy Blending,
Kristina Blizzard RN, BSN
To the special needs parents who read this, I would like to invite you to join my facebook support group for special needs parents:

"Loving a Miracle - Special Parents Supporting Each Other."
This is the original support group, and all content is open to the general public.!/groups/lovingamiracleismoving/

There is a closed group, for those of you who would like to post things outside of the view of the general public:
"Loving a Miracle - The Special Parent's Safe Zone."!/groups/lovingamiraclethesafezone/

There is also a public PAGE. This is where I post information and links that I think are helpful to special needs parents.

Permission to repost/reprint: If you would like to obtain permission to repost or reprint this post, please send me an email to Thank you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How do you make a platform swing?

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional platform swing manufacturer. I have not done studies to prove this design is safe. I am NOT suggesting you build one, or use one. I am just telling you how I made mine. If you chose to make one yourself, I am not liable for any damages or injuries sustained.

For those of you who innocently clicked on a link looking for nothing more than instructions on how I built my daughter's platform swing, you can skip the emotional story behind how I came to build a platform swing and start your reading at the first picture in this post.

For the rest of you my blog post starts here:

That it has taken me until March 12th to complete a blog post I started on December 26th is a pretty good indication of how busy and hectic my life has been. Sorry for the long delay.

For some special needs parents, it starts with the all too early first signs of Christmas. Instead of the warm joy of the season, in the pit of their stomachs forms a knot of dread. They don't WANT to dread Christmas, in fact they feel guilty about feeling that way. These seemingly out of place feelings can add to a sense of alienation many of them feel year round. Years of practice comes to bear, and they plant a smile on their face. They try hard to feel the excitement of the season. They try not to let their thoughts linger in that space between was is and what should be. Like many special needs parents, I've spent enough sleepless nights grieving that distance to know that thinking about what could have been can be very seductive. Chasing "if only" around your brain at 3 am can be very tempting, and circular. It is a little like running on a treadmill, no matter how long or hard you run, you end up right where you started, just more tired. "If only" thinking is an alluring thief that can steal a lot of your precious time and energy, if you let it.

You certainly don't need to have a special needs child in your life for the holidays to be difficult, but having a special needs child does tend to add a few more challenging elements to the mix. Aside from the usual family dynamics everyone has to navigate, there are also lots of judgement calls to make. Which, if any, invitations should you accept? Will your family/friend be understanding about your child's needs? Will they be offended if you decline, or have to leave too quickly? Just how do you tactfully say to someone that their house or event is just not well suited to your child's needs? Perhaps even worse, you may have already declined a few too many invitations, and your friends have moved on.

I have decided that the trick to being able to enjoy the season is by starting out with truly realistic expectations, not just of your child, but of the family, friends and acquaintances you will interact with.

Will someone get their feelings hurt when they discover that my nearly 5 year old daughter not only doesn't care to open their present, but also has no use for what they thoughtfully picked out? After all, what little girl doesn't like dolls?! Well mine, for one. I understand all too well the confusion and frustration that can create. Every year, it falls on my shoulders to figure out what gifts are going to be both enjoyed by her and financially feasible.

That task is what brought me to the place that is the source of my own Christmas dread: The toy isle. This Christmas, after as much denial and procrastination as the calender would allow, there I stood. I had spent three days talking myself into going. I told myself over and over again that I could do it. This year I would shop for Morgan's gifts without crying. This year I would find something that would make my daughter's face light up with excitement. As simple as those goals may seem, I had never managed to do either one before.

For those of you without developmentally delayed children, imagine for a moment what Christmas morning might feel like if your child had no interest in opening, much less playing with the things you bought. Would you feel like a failure? I certainly did, every year.

This Christmas was going to be different. I was determined, desperate even, to find one thing that would make my daughter smile. I found myself standing in the toy isle, with my confidence crumbling. Toys clearly labeled for Morgan's chronological age screamed at me, painfully demonstrating how very far she is from developmentally ready for those toys. It seems most of them are meant for pretend play, which for Morgan is likely years away, if it comes at all. Her sensory issues make the dress up clothes seem more like torture devices than play things. The toys she MIGHT be ready for are brightly labeled for much younger children. It seems she already owns nearly everything that is both developmentally appropriate and remotely in our budget. Bumping into those kinds of inescapable facts is how the toy isle manages to bring up so many painful feelings. It can stir up the grief, fear and pain that sometimes comes with being a special needs parent. Everything we have lost comes into sharp focus. Buying gifts for your child is supposed to be fun, right? The lump in my throat told me I needed to walk away quickly, or risk embarrassing myself with the tears I knew would come next. I walked out of the store feeling defeated, no closer to knowing what on earth to buy for Morgan than when I started. I was glad I had come alone. I was frustrated and angry at myself for getting emotional again this year. I sat alone in the car and cried, proving once more that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Morgan is almost 5 years old. I should I be past this by now, right? The answer is no. For special needs parents, the grief often comes in unpredictable waves over the years. After a quick poll of the other special needs parents I know, I have also discovered that crying in the toy isle is not nearly as uncommon as most people would think. Sadly, I am not alone in this struggle.

Days went past. Christmas loomed before me, and family members, who were as baffled as I was, began to ask me what they should buy for Morgan, AS IF I WOULD KNOW! This year, I just told them to contribute to the "buy Morgan an iPad fund."(which stands at $120.00 now.)

Mercifully, inspiration finally came while I was observing one of Morgan's Occupational Therapy sessions. Morgan smiled & said, "I want SWING!" She puts a heavy emphasis on the "g," so it comes out "swin-gah." I looked at the platform swing & thought, "She would love to have one of those at home!"

A quick Internet search later, I found that the platform swings listed in my price range didn't include everything I wanted. The descriptions were often hard to interpret, & left me unsure of exactly what I would be getting. Thanks to my procrastination, getting it to my house in time for Christmas was also questionable.

This is the one I made.
Since I am pretty handy, it occurred to me I could just make one myself. I snapped a few pictures of how the one she was using during OT was constructed. One trip to the home improvement store (Home Depot) & I had everything I needed.

To skip reading the details of how it was made, start reading again after the number 19 below.

I bought:
1 3/4" 2X2 foot piece of plywood. Which was pre-sanded on one side.
1 21/32" X 12" X 36" board (which I had Home Depot cut into 3 equal pieces for me.)
1 5/16"X4" stainless steel screw eye bolt
1 4 1/8"X1" snap hook swivel eye bolt
1 porch swing spring
2 3/16" quick links
1 5/16"X1 3/8"X2 1/2" stainless steel U bolt
26 feet of 5/8" thick polypropylene rope (black so as not to show so much dirt)
2 1/2" cut metal washers
1 can of clear polyurethane

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional platform swing manufacturer. I have not done studies to prove this design is safe. I am NOT suggesting you build one, or use one. I am just telling you how I made mine. If you chose to make one, I am not liable for any damages or injuries sustained.

Generally speaking, home improvement stores will cut wood to size for you for free. I had Home Depot cut the 21/32" X 12" X 36" board into 3 equal pieces. (I will only need one piece of this, & will save the remaining two pieces of this board for another project.)

I already had a few things at home that I needed:
A pencil
A cup
A hack saw
An electric sander (I could have done this by hand but it would have taken longer.)
Sand paper both coarse & fine
A C clamp or two
A damp lint free rag
Four 1/2 inch dowel rods (optional but will save you drying time.)

1.) I laid the 3/4 inch plywood on my work surface. I used a glass as the pattern and marked with the pencil the wood I wanted to remove to make the corners of the plywood rounded.

2.) I measured and marked the layout for the holes the ropes would go through at 1 1/2 inches from the edge in each corner of both boards.

3.) I measured to find the center of the smaller board & marked the layout for where the U bolt would go.

4.) Using the c clamp(s) I secured the board to the work surface.

5.) Using the hack saw, I cut away the corners of the plywood, leaving the corners roughly rounded.

6.) Making sure the board was still secured to the work surface with the c clamp(s). I used a 1/2 inch drill bit to drill the holes the ropes will go through on all four corners of both boards, and using a 5/16" drill bit I drilled the holes for the U bolt.

7.) Using the coarse sand paper, I smoothed all the edges of the board, and the edges of the holes the ropes will go through.

8.) Using a fine finishing grit sand paper I sanded all surfaces of the boards.

9.) I wiped the boards down with a damp lint free rag to remove any saw dust.

10.) Using two dowel rods per board, I suspended the boards between two chair backs on the dowel rods, by placing the dowel rods through two adjacent holes which I had drilled. This allowed me to coat the entire board back and front at the same time, without waiting for the first side to dry. I followed the manufacturers instructions for the polyurethane, and applied 3 light coats of polyurethane on all surfaces of the boards.

11.) I allowed the boards to dry thoroughly.

12.) Once they were dry, I attached the U bolt to the center of the smaller board.

13.) The assembly of the remaining hardware was very easy. Here is a picture of how it is assembled:

14.) To make it easier to thread the polypropylene rope through the holes in the boards, I used duck tape to wrap the one end of the rope like this:

15.) I slipped one 1/2" cut metal washer onto the other end of the rope, and tied the end in a knot. I threaded the rope thorough the holes in the boards. I started at the bottom of the larger board, up through the corresponding hole in the smaller board. Then I threaded it through the quick link that connects the porch swing spring and the U bolt. Then threaded the rope back down through the hole diagonal from the one I was in the smaller board down to the corresponding hole in the larger board. Staying under the larger board, I came back up the adjacent hole in the larger board and threaded up to the corresponding hole in the smaller board. Then threaded the rope through the same quick link as before, then back down through the remaining holes in the two boards. Once through the last hole, I slipped on the remaining 1/2" cut metal washer, and tied the end of the rope in a knot. After the rope was threaded through the boards, this is what it looked like on the bottom of the larger board:

16.) I installed the 5/16"X4" stainless steel screw eye bolt. It MUST be installed into a substantial board, or it will come loose and risk injuring the user when the whole thing falls. This is a potential risk in any hanging equipment.

17.) I hung the platform swing up and adjusted the rope so that the swing hung level, and about 8 inches off the floor. I ended up trimming about a foot off the rope to get it to the height I wanted off the floor. The exact length of rope one would need would vary depending on the distance from eye bolt to the floor.

18.) Being very careful not to burn myself, I took a lighter and burned the ends of the rope just enough to melt (and fuse) the ends together so they wouldn't unravel. 

19.) When estimating the amount of weight the swing can safely handle, you have to go by the weakest link in the swing. Each piece of hardware should be rated for a specific weight. The weakest link is the maximum weight that should be allowed on the swing.

When it was finished, I stood back and decided it didn't look half bad. Not including shopping and drying time, I think it took me about 4 hours & a little less than $100.00 US to complete it. I sat on it just once to make sure it wouldn't come down easily, then said a little prayer that on Christmas morning, Morgan would be happy with her swing.

Based on her reaction, I think I FINALLY got Christmas right. The smile on her face was hands down the best Christmas present I've ever gotten. I can not begin to tell you how happy that made me.

To the special needs parents who read this, I would like to invite you to join my facebook support group for special needs parents:

"Loving a Miracle - Special Parents Supporting Each Other."
This is the original support group, and all content is open to the general public.!/groups/lovingamiracleismoving/

There is a closed group, for those of you who would like to post things outside of the view of the general public:
"Loving a Miracle - The Special Parent's Safe Zone."!/groups/lovingamiraclethesafezone/

There is also a public PAGE.  This is where I post information and links that I think are helpful to special needs parents.

Permission to repost/reprint: If you would like to obtain permission to repost or reprint this post, please send me an email to Thank you.

- Kristina Smith Blizzard