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Sunday, 16 September 2012 04:51

The five senses: Taste

The five senses:                               “Taste”

Do you know that there are all kinds of foods that mix with different flavors of applesauce?

We had no idea until Miss Carly decided to get on an applesauce kick.

We have mixed applesauce with cottage cheese, which is normal. 

And we have mixed it with Macaroni and Cheese, not so normal; along with a wide variety of foods including different types of pasta, oatmeal, and beef and veggies (that combo looks very unappealing when mixed together).

Mind you, this is not just plain applesauce; the above culinary delights have been created with cherry applesauce, mixed berry applesauce, cinnamon applesauce, and a combination of all kinds of applesauce.

Though the combination of applesauce and any type of food may not be visually appealing and smells a little bad too, it has not stopped Carly from eating all of her food and working on her chewing skills as well.

Do you know of any other types of weird combinations that you kids might currently love or have loved in the past?

And does anybody know of anything else that mixes well with applesauce?

Published in everyday life

Music is the perfect media to work on listening skills. Listening skills are extremely important in our society. Kids need to be able to listen to their teacher in school. And kids need to be able to listen to other people in order to interact socially and make friends.

There are some musical pieces that have been written especially for children. My children enjoy listening to these pieces. When I add a movement or activity to help with the listening then they love these pieces.

Follow the Cuckoo!

Leopold Mozart, Amadeus Mozart’s father, wrote a wonderful symphony for children called The Toy Symphony. There are toy sounds created by the trumpet, ratchet, nightingale, cuckoo and drum. The children love listening to the different sounds not often found in symphony works.

I like to have my children listen and follow the cuckoo sounds throughout the piece. Every time they hear a cuckoo they have to raise their hands high in the air. It really makes them laugh when I act surprised at another cuckoo and raise my hands very quickly. Everyone is laughing and having a great time without realizing they are working on listening!

Another fun song with lots of cuckoo sounds is Strauss’ Polka Francoise.  It was not written especially for children but it is fun with its different bird songs.

For this song, I have the children stand up and every time they hear a cuckoo they have to do a little hop. They really listen carefully so they can hear all the cuckoos. Of course, not everyone hears all of the cuckoos but by doing this activity together they are practicing their listening skills while moving their body and having fun.

Listening can be fun when you make it a game and get the entire body involved! 

Published in development
Thursday, 16 August 2012 19:40

Record Number of Women at Paralympic Games

At London 2012, a record 1,513 female athletes will compete across 18 sports, which is more than double the 700 female athletes that took part in the Barcelona 1992 Games two decades ago.

Tine Teilman, Chairperson of the IPC Women in Sport Committee which helps to raise the profile and involvement of women in Paralympic Sport, said: "It is very encouraging that the number of female participants in the Paralympic Games has doubled during the last 20 years. I am sure we will see many sportswomen through inspiring and exiting performances become strong role models for others."

The London 2012 Games run from 29 August – 9 September. Of the 20 sports that will be played in London only Football 5-a-Side and Football 7-a-Side do not feature female athletes.


Read more about the Paralympic Games and the female athletes at

Published in do-gooding
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 03:26

A Musical Game that Everyone Enjoys!

Can you think back to your favorite musical games?


Young children love simple games that they know the rules to and can easily play.


They also love a little twist to the game to keep it all new and exciting.


There are so many benefits to playing music games!

1.  Children get to socialize with their friends.

2.  Children learn to be a part of a group.

3.  Children learn to work together and often act out a story.

4.  Games are a great way to be active and get moving!!

5.  Musical games are fun.


Last week on my music blog, I posted 5 Classic Musical Games and added a twist to each one. 


One of our favorites around here is London Bridge!  Everyone knows London Bridge and yet my students love it and beg for more!


We have turned the original game into a sort of Limbo game that has everyone crawling on the floor and laughing.


After each verse, the bridge gets lowered as the children continue to go under the bridge.


Check out the video my daughters and I made for an example of how to play.  London Bridge Video.


Here are the words:

London Bridge



London Bridge is falling down,

falling down,

falling down.

London Bridge is falling down,

My Fair Lady.


London Bridge is half way down,

half way down,

half way down.

London Bridge is half way down.

My Fair Lady.


London Bridge has fallen down,

fallen down,

fallen down.

London Bridge has fallen down.

My Fair Lady.


What classic musical games to do you and your children love to play?

Published in education
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 19:12

Always protect her

“Are Carly and I always going to go to the same school?” Brady asked.

“Why?” I replied.

“Because I always want to be able to protect her!” Brady replied.

“Protect her from what?” I asked.

“From mean people.” Brady said

Two thoughts crossed my mind. Carly has a cool older brother who wants to make sure she is safe and sound each and every school day.  The second thought was he is right there are mean people out there who are going to want to pick on Carly each and every day.

How sad is it that there are people in the world who do not know how to act around someone with a disability so their natural reaction is to pick on them?  Because someone is just a bit different, it is okay to abuse them verbally abuse (or worse) them each and every day?

This is something that I will never understand.

I know it is not something that I can fix so it never happens to Carly, however; I am proud that Carly has a brother who wants to make sure he is there to protect her each and every day.

Published in everyday life
Thursday, 28 June 2012 22:05

Sensory-Friendly July 4th

Tips from the Autism Society of America: How to Have a Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July.

Tips for ensuring a sensory-friendly 4th of July

With crowds, barbecues and fireworks, the Fourth of July can be overwhelming for some individuals on the autism spectrum. Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA, of the Autism Society Panel of Professional Advisors, offers these tips on how to have an enjoyable and comfortable holiday.

1. Use social stories or visuals to prepare him/her for a party. This is best done a few days in advance so he/she will be as comfortable as possible. It also helps to prepare a list of guests' names and faces beforehand, so that he/she can become familiar with who is coming to the event.

2. Bright and loud, fireworks can be overwhelming for people with ASD. Provide him/her with a way to dampen the sound – headphones, for example. Note that not every person with ASD dislikes fireworks, but plan for the most difficult scenario.

3. A picnic or barbecue will present him/her with new sights, sounds and smells, so it may help if he/she is provided with familiar food and drink.

4. Make sure he/she has an item from home, such as a magazine or favorite toy, which can provide a distraction in stressful situations.

5. If the situation becomes too intense – during fireworks, for example – he/she may need to leave. Coordinate an escape route and make plans for possible contingencies.

6. Holding a small cookout the week before the real thing can be great practice for the Fourth.

7. Individuals with ASD can be fearless, and fire can be a hazard to them. Keep an eye on him/her in order to avoid accidents around grills, fireworks and campfires.

8. If he/she relies on sign language, typing or symbols to communicate, make sure he/she knows how to communicate about the food and events he/she may encounter.

Happy Fourth of July!

Published in tips + tricks
Tuesday, 26 June 2012 20:57

Spiderman VS Real Spiders

The launch of the fourth Spiderman film on July 3rd marks the perfect time to contemplate --ahem -- spiders. AKA: arachnids, derived from the Greek word meaning "get this creepy thing outta here." Just kidding; it's actually from Arachne, a mythological Greek weaver who was turned into a spider.

The alter ego of Spiderman, Peter Parker, became a superhero when he was bitten by an irradiated spider that injected radioactive chemicals into his body, giving him superhuman strength and agility, the ability to cling to most surfaces and thus run up walls, and a spider-sense that warns him of danger.

Spiderman vs Real Spiders

We were curious: How do Spiderman's abilities stack up against those of a real spider?

Strength and Agility: Spiderman is famed for his web-suspended swings from building to building over city streets. You can find examples of equally amazing leaps and bounds among real arachnids if you take a look at the jumping spiders. In a single leap a jumping spider can cover as much as 50 times its own length. It does so by using a powerful internal muscle that blasts fluids from the body into the legs, flinging the spider through the air (if the current holder of the world record for the long jump, Norwegian Arne Tvervaag, could make a comparable leap, he'd cover about 300 feet from a standing start; instead his record, set in 1968, is 12 feet 2 inches).

Walking Up Walls: Thanks to a stick-to-almost-anything skin, Spiderman can walk up walls. So can most spiders (if you're a tarantula, do not try this at home — you're too big and meant for burrowing). Each leg of a spider capable of climbing walls ends in a brushy covering of hair, and the end of each hair is in turn covered with microscopic organs that can take hold of small bumps in most surfaces, allowing the spider to go up walls and even across ceilings. This ability may be defeated by very smooth surfaces, such as that of a bathroom sink.

Spider Sense: Spiderman is able to sense danger lurking near, the warning signal coming as a pain in his head that varies with the intensity of the threat. Spiders can detect danger coming their way with an early-warning system called eyes. But that's not all: their most important source of information about the world and its hazards comes from highly sensitive hairs that cover the bodies of most spiders. These hairs perceive even low-level vibrations coming through whatever surface a spider is standing on. Many species also bear hairs that sense vibrations in the air, including sound.

Webs: Spiderman can fire strands of web from his wrists. Early in his career, he invented devices for doing this, but in later incarnations he developed biological adaptations that allowed him to make webs naturally. He can capture villains with the sticky stuff and use it like ropes for swinging from building to building. Real spiders produce several types of webs — some that are not sticky but serve as a superstructure for webs, some that are sticky and capture prey, some used for wrapping up prey in neat little packages (which, in some species, are given as gifts by males to females while courting; whether Spiderman has super gift-giving powers remains unrecorded). Some smaller spiders producer gossamer web, used as a sort of sail that catches the wind and can carry a spider far and wide, which probably explains in part why spiders are found almost everywhere in the world.

Spider silk comes from glands on the arachnid's posterior, with different silks produced by different types of glands. Some silks are comparable in strength to high-grade alloy steel and can stretch up to four times their relaxed length without breaking. Made basically of protein and water, the silk is extremely light weight once it dries. A single strand long enough to encircle the globe would weigh about 1 pound 2 ounces!

Still curious about the creepy-crawlers? Check out How Stuff Works.

From the National Wildlife Federation.

Published in social
Friday, 01 June 2012 06:32

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

It's almost summer. I can feel it in the air, and see it in the shimmering waves of heat on my car as I wait for my son's bus to get home.

It can be tough to plan for special needs kids in the summer time. Routines are thrown off by reduced school hours... or no school at all. And it's hard to go to bed on time when the sun is out and the neighbors are partying like rock-stars.

We are lucky that Jack has a special camp that he loves to go to. Via West has been such a wonderful place for him to learn over the years, and it is always great to watch him come home with new skills after being there even for just a few days.  He'll be going for a weekend early in the summer, and then for almost a week later on.

Camps for special needs kids can be very expensive, and with budget cuts, it's rare to have them paid for by our Regional Centers, but this is one thing I was very clear to tell grandparents, and friends at his birthday: Jack loves going to camp, and any amount of money puts him that much closer to going. I never assume that someone will give my children gifts, but if we are asked, I always include a donation towards going to camp as an option.

It thrills Jack's grandparents when we call to let them know that he has been safely deposited to camp courtesy of their generosity, and I am quick to remind them that Jack going to camp has the added bonus of being a little bit of respite time for Shawn and I to reconnect with a few less responsibilities.

There are still lots of days this summer that need to be filled with activities and structure so that we can all be happy, but at least I know that there are a few days when I'm certain that Jack will have a great time while having every need met, and I will get a chance at a full night's sleep.


There are still spots available at ViaWest for summer programming, and don't forget to look through all of the resources that Dandelion has for additional camps that may be available for your child.

Published in everyday life
Thursday, 31 May 2012 17:37

Prom at the Packard Children's Hospital

More than 125 young patients and their guests are eagerly anticipating the longest-standing children's hospital prom in the Bay Area.

The Mysteries of the Deep theme begins this Friday night (June 1, 2012) at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, where hospital schoolteachers from the Palo Alto Unified School District are putting the final touches on this year's very special evening. Beyond providing an end-of-school rite of passage, the eighth annual prom offers a rare chance for teens and other patients, many of whom have life-threatening illnesses, to immerse themselves in an age-old, non-hospital experience—this year full of aquatic adventures and treasures.

"It's so important for these kids—some of whom will never go to their school prom—to have a night where they can forget they're in a hospital and just be kids," said teacher Kathy Ho, who leads the coordination of an event that gets bigger and more imaginative every year.

Mysteries of the Deep offers a transformative experience from the moment guests step into the hospital elevator—decked out entirely as an underwater submarine—and descend deep, deep down to the Ground Floor. The school captains have it all charted out. Emerging into a kelp forest, kids will admire schools of fish, jellyfish, and other sea life suspended from the ceiling as they pass through a coral reef and enter prom.

More than 100 volunteers and local businesses have worked tirelessly for months to make this night possible, including DreamWorks (providing much of the art design and decoration), Anthropologie, Selix Formal Wear, Symantec, Genentech, Weir Catering, Feet First Entertainment, Sugar Shack and many more. Because of their generosity, kids will enjoy shaking their fins to tunes spun by a live DJ, diving into delicious catches of the day, throwing their bait out on the casino table, and exploring underwater adventure games including Poseidon's Pearl, Shark Attack, and Tic Tac Tuna.

Anyone attending the hospital school over the past year is invited to bring a guest, including brothers and sisters who relocated to the area while their sibling received care. Even past-year prom goers are hooked, some flying in from as far as Hawaii and Arizona.

"It's amazing how many of our former patients and students are coming back to the hospital to volunteer at prom," marveled Kathy. "The older teens are making plans with the younger students, encircling them with a sense of community, and creating a haven for the sickest of kids. That's what it's all about."

Read more about Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford here.

Published in social
Sunday, 11 March 2012 16:31

R-word take two

March 7 was “Spread the Word to End the (R)-Word” Day, the R-word being “retard” or retarded”.  I didn’t want to post a blog post that day because I did not think that I could add anymore to what was already being said.  Then, the other night at work it hit me, I did having something to add or update.

About six months ago, I wrote about my experience on trying to eliminate the R-word from my work teammate’s vocabulary.  They were not using the word to be hateful but rather as a substitute for the word “dumb” or “stupid”.  I worked on eliminating the usage of the R-word by instituting a $1 fine for each time someone used the R-word.   After about four weeks, thankfully the fines ended as did the use of the R-word.  You could tell that my fellow team members had worked on eliminating the word from their vocabulary.

For that last five months, there has not been an r-word violation or a fine collected. 

I work in a distribution center (warehouse).  In a warehouse environment, sometimes that language is a little saltier then in other professions.  Though not common place, you will hear the s-word and the f-word a couple times a night.  Not said in anger, just part of a conversation or two. 

We have recently had a group of new hires come on board and I was listening in on a training session that other day between a veteran team member and one of our new hires.  The veteran team member was going over an error that the new team member kept doing.  After being told of the error, the new team member said “Sh*t! I am so retarded I keep making that error.”  The veteran team member quickly replied to the team member stating “Hey, we don’t use that word here.”  The new team member said that he was sorry for saying the word sh*t.   The veteran replied “No, not that word.  The R-word.  It is a very mean word and if you say it around Fitch, be prepared to be fined a $1 or two and see a picture of his daughter who has down syndrome.  And knowing Fitch, he’ll probably tell you that each time you say that word you’re calling his daughter that.” 

“Wow” said the new employee

“Trust me it works” the veteran said “I don’t mind losing a buck or two but thinking of his daughter when I said it really hit home.”

At that point, I smiled and continued on my way.  I am not be able to eliminate the use of the R-word in the whole world but even small victories count along the way.

Published in everyday life
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Dandelion is a free quarterly magazine that serves as a resource for Bay Area and Sacramento families of children with special needs: autism and Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, those who are blind, deaf, in wheelchairs, learning disorders, sensory issues and every special need in between. Dandelion’s mission is to create and empower a community of local families through a variety of media by providing a database of resources, trusted and thought-provoking editorial content, an up-to-date calendar of special needs-specific events, noteworthy news, as well as contributions to the community.