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Thursday, 01 November 2012 00:11

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's a Storm Trooper


Happy Halloween!

Well, that's it, this is the last year that Jack is going to fit into one of those one-piece costumes. They have made life so much easier for us, and because they are recognizable characters, it's made it easy for others to figure out what Jack is dressed up as on Halloween because he certainly won’t wear a mask or makeup. His little sister has thankfully switched costumes from Zombie Homecoming Queen (which I did not approve), to a very precious Sock Monkey get-up. I will be dressed as a mom who spent too much money on costumes, and is regretful that she didn't sew anything for her children.

Jack has always had great costumes. He began the tradition as a 1 month old in a Chili Pepper snap up cozy. Then he was a Fireman, a Doctor, Incredible Hulk, and Mr. Incredible. He's also been Spider Man, Bat Man, a Pirate, last year, a Cowboy and this year a character from Star Wars. Something Storm Trooper-ish. I love the fake muscles that are stuffed around his strong thin arms. It was sillier when he was a five-year-old in the Incredible Hulk suit. Now there's less contrast.  He’s still wiry from being young, but soon enough his own muscles will be that big.

The dress-up box has become crowded with all of those costumes, and now our second child is getting too big for those smaller play-things. It’s hard to believe that he ever wore that little zip-up fireman outfit. He wore a hat that year, but I realize now that he probably never wanted to wear it, but his little arms couldn’t go above his head to take it off. After years of no hats, he wore another one last year as a cowboy- I was so proud. No masks, no hats, no makeup, simple this year for him and for us.

Halloween is not my favorite celebration. It all seems like so much effort for such a small reward and the evening fraught danger. But our friends have made the entire thing a lot more palatable for me. We will go out tonight with a group of people who love us just as we are, warts and all. Understanding, helpful people who want to include our family. Jack is already being silly as the excitement of the evening draws near. We won’t last long I suppose, but just getting there is most of our battle, any candy we get after that is, well, icing on the cake.


Published in everyday life
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 05:45

Everybody Does Their Share

 I get a note each night from my son’s teacher. She tells me what he did that day, any struggles he had, and provides information about what’s happening in the classroom and around the school. It's a great way for me to catch up on what he's doing in school, and a great way for each side of the equation to have context for conversation with Jack. When we go out to dinner at his favorite restaurant, I write Jack’s teacher, then she and the aides can ask him questions about what he did the night before. It's also great that the email goes to both my husband and me. So many times in the past I would read Jack’s little journal, or have talked to the teacher when I picked Jack up from school, and that information would never make it all the way back to my husband. It is fantastic for my two favorite guys to have something to ‘talk’ about.

There is the usual update about OT and PT, and how well he walked on their social outing. I love hearing about his art projects, because art isn’t something he likes to do at home. And while I know that they have a yoga class every week, I know that they adapt a lot of the moves for him because he doesn’t really like to sit still, and doesn’t like his body being manipulated in any way. But I’ve seen him stretch out across the lawn, so I know that some of those moves are probably familiar to his body. I have seen him participate in an art class, and watched his hypermobile limbs bend and bend.

But the thing I can’t get over, is that lately I’ve been reading that he “did chores at the end if the day.” Chores? Yes, chores. At school he clears his plate after snack. He wipes down the table. He pushes in his chair. Of course he's doing all of this with help, physical prompts, vocal prompts, and more commonly hand-over-hand. But he is still doing chores. He never does any of that at our house.

This chores thing has come up a few times at our house recently, with my daughter noticing that she is held to a different standard when it comes to cleaning up her messes, and participating in the daily maintenance routines of our house. She hasn’t exactly complained, but she knows that Jack doesn’t have any chores at home. On my best day of parenting, I would create one standard, then adapt that to help Jack meet that standard too.

So now I’m thinking, well why doesn’t he do chores? Shouldn’t he be doing the same things at school and home, so we can reinforce learning? It’s not the first time that he has been capable of a skill in one location but not another. For consistency, I believe he should have standards that are similar to those that are set for him at school, and as he learns in one environment we should see the behavior both at school and at home. This transfer of skills can take time, and I’m aware that Jack is on his own schedule of development. But couldn't there be another thing at play here? I have tried a few times to help him carry his plate to the sink after dinner at home, but with no success.

Maybe this isn’t entirely about skills. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to do chores at all, because what 12 year old really wants to clean up anything? ever?


Published in development
Monday, 01 October 2012 05:54

A Happy Birthday

Birthday. Birthday. Birthday. It used to be hard to plan Jack’s birthday. When he was one, two, three, no problem, we just threw house parties to thank all the people in our lives who had supported Jack and our family through sleepless nights and therapies. Then there was a good six years there when everyone else was having jump house parties and happy gym crawl around things, and acrobatics hoopla that just didn’t work for us. And they really didn’t work for Jack. I was just at a loss as to how to celebrate Jack’s day of birth in a way that actually honored him instead of just meeting some kind of social norm.

We figured out how to do school … I take unfrosted cupcakes and jars of frosting with dull knives and let the teacher do a fine motor skill project that just happens to be Jack’s birthday. It is fun and easy and fun, Messy and fun.

But what to do about the traditional celebrations? The expected celebration where we invite family and friends and classmates? And then, I realized that if we really wanted it to be about Jack, then we should do what Jack likes to do. We’ve been scooting away from doing what is typical or expected, and focusing as a family on what really works for us for awhile. We are much less concerned about what others think and much more focused on what our family needs.

What works for us, what works for Jack, is enjoying a meal with good friends. So that’s what we did tonight. Actually we did the exact same thing we did last year, and we did it in the same place, at a local hoffbrau. We reserved a small party room, asked friends and family to join us, and brought cakes and cupcakes and candles. Everyone got to eat what they wanted off the extensive menu and have some space for their kids. When our kids got a little noisy we were able to close the door without the worry of bothering other diners, and we got to enjoy being who we are.

Jack held court in one of the center booths with friends and family switching out while he ate dinner. Then he had some ice cream, then some chocolate cake, then some more ice cream, then a little cheesecake, and when that was done he laid his head on the table and watched the little kids run around, and listened to the grownups chat.

No jumpy house. No balloons. No giant mouse and clanging game machines. No laser tag. Just Jack, and family, and our friends who have become our extended family. A happy boy, a happy birthday.

Published in everyday life
Sunday, 30 September 2012 06:29

The Family That Plays Together

We went to a great event tonight at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San twlqje called Play Your Way, an evening designed for autistic children and their families. The museum has some strong appeal during regular hours, but I’ll admit I do not go out of my way to take the kids there because sometimes the acoustics are just too much for Jack, and with two stories of play area it is easy to have my children want to go in two different directions. When Jack gets tired out he likes to be in his wheelchair so it can be hard to take even the minor detour to wait for the elevator because stairs go directly to where Katie wants to go.

This evening is different. It is an almost obstacle-free evening set up for Jack, and for his friends. The number of people invited to the museum was limited, which makes the space much easier to navigate with a wheelchair, and there is a lesser chance that Jack will drag his hands across another person when we are walking. The museum staff created quiet spaces for kids who needed some down time, and there were icons near each of the areas so parents could create a social story if that is their kid’s thing. The staff was expecting us, and our particular group of whoops and stims. Friendly, inviting, it was exactly how a kid’s museum should be.

Jack had a great time. I let him lead, which he doesn’t get to do very often because of safety concerns. He wasn’t just let loose while we were there, but I wasn’t worried when he made a run for it and circled the entire archaeology/paleontology exhibit. It was a safe environment to practice. Yes, there were a few parents that looked at us as we raced past, but it was more of a look of “Hmm, I wonder how their family handles this situation?”

I also noticed how much fun my daughter was having. Yeah, I know she can adapt easily to almost any environment, but the one thing that seems to follow her wherever she goes is her family. And you know what? Shawn and I are more relaxed when we are in environments that meet Jack’s needs. Our home, my sister’s house, the Lake House, a few friends’ homes. There aren’t that many places where we can let our guard down. Not many places where I do not feel judging eyes. As the years go by I’m less affected by strangers’ stares, but it is just so much easier when they aren’t there to begin with.

I’m so glad we went this evening. My children were both happy, the exhibits were interesting to us as parents, and gave us something to explore with the kids. What’s even better is that this event wasn’t expensive, it didn’t take hours to get to, and we didn’t need any special equipment to enjoy ourselves.

I don’t expect the entire world to change for my son, but one night, for a few hours, it’s lovely to have a public place become easier for him to access.

Published in everyday life
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
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 08:02

Small Changes

It can be hard to see change in our children when we are up close and parenting, but things seem a little different around here. Summer has been close quarters in our family, with road trips and camping, but I know that this was a good summer for both of my kids.

Just as school was rounding out, Jack started in a new classroom. New routines, new classmates, new aides, I worried that his transition would be difficult, but he only came home happier and standing up straighter, and summer school was a perfect way to get used to all that new before he starts back at school this week. I think he's looking forward to going back.

He started and ended his summer with camp, a place where he has always gaind new skills in a quick time frame. His counselor noticed a difference in just a few days that he had increased patience during meals, and learned to gently tap her hand for more of what he wanted. At home yesterday he held a single finger up in the air in front of his mouth to indicate "just a moment, I'm not done." Providing us with more communication cues will make us better aides, and make things so much less frustrating for him.

And he is spending more time 'with' us, with me, and his dad, and sister. He's been coming into our bed in the morning, a ritual that his younger sibling still enjoys, and he's lingering on the couch with us after dinner, especialy if we switch to MythBusters or his dad's favorite car show. He's cuddlling up a little bit more, letting us get physically closer, staying still for a a kiss on the shoulder from his sister, leaning in to an arm thrown around his shoulder by a grandparent. At an age when most young boys begin to shrug off hugs and kisses from their parents, I think Jack is just getting warmed up.

It seems his coordination is better, he can stand on one leg a moment longer so we can get a shoe on his other foot, and he's shimmying into his clothes easier. He can scoot over in a booth with ease, and back up a few steps. He is using leverage to get in and out of the car that is higher off the ground, and ducking under things to play in the back yard.

He's showing more preference, or at least he's answering when I offer him choices: chocolate or vanilla, red shirt or orange shirt, stay in the living room or go to bed. It makes me so happy to think we might be closer to hearing his needs. I am thrilled when he and his sister 'talk' in the back seat. She asks him questions and he touches her hand to choose the answer.

I'm not sure that all of this happened over the summer, but with all of the sunshine, and family, and blue skies, and happy, and music, and wonderful times we've had, I think it's possible. Cheers to summer, and to change.

Published in everyday life
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
Monday, 23 July 2012 20:04

Super Easy Make at Home Instruments!

Kids love crafts-especially the ones that make a lot of noise! There are a lot of ways to make instruments that make music. Now, I will be the first to admit that I am not very crafty or talented making things with my hands. So I like projects that are extremely easy with very few supplies.

Instrument #1  Paper Plate Tambourine

Supplies needed: 

paper plates,


markers or crayons


Color the outside of the paper plate.

Fold the paper plate in half.

Put some beans in the plate.

Staple along the edge of the plate to keep the beans from falling out.


Ta-da!  You have a tambourine!


Instrument #2 The Tin Can


a tin can with ridges, label removed

metal spoon.


Run the spoon up and down the ridges for a wash-board kind of sound. This instrument is extremely easy but is one of the most popular! It is amazing that something as plain as a tin can will make such an interesting sound.


Instrument #3 Water Bottle Shakers


clean and dry water bottles

small objects to put inside such as beans, cut up straws or beads


Put the beans, straws or beads in the bottles and put the lids on.  This is also a great activity to work on fine motor skills.  My girls put the beads in the small water bottle openings one at a time.  Put the lids on and you have shakers!


Now the fun part - making music!  Form your own band with everyone using their new instrument.  Sing simple songs that you already know such as The Alphabet Song or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  Or you can turn on some music and keep to the beat with your shakers, tambourines and cans!  My girls love forming their own band.  After we made a bunch of these instruments they continued singing for an hour after I went back into the house! 


For more homemade instrument ideas visit my blog at Strings, Keys, and Melodies


Published in education
Sunday, 15 July 2012 01:22

5 Little Ducks - Finger Plays are Fun!

Finger plays are a great teaching tool. Children learn best while having fun and engaging with their whole bodies.

Finger plays teach math, reading skills, rhyming, social skills as well as fine motor skills!


Last week my girls and I pulled out some felt and the glue gun and made some finger puppets.  We made 5 little ducks and one mama duck.  Of course we made two sets so I could play with them too!


I made this video that I hope you enjoy after you make some finger puppets for your own little ones!  Enjoy!

Trouble seeing the video?  Click here.

Here are the lyrics to Five Little Ducks

Five little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only four little ducks came back.

Four little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only three little ducks came back.

Three little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only two little ducks came back.

Two little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only one little duck came back.

One little duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But none of the five little ducks came back.

Sad mother duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
The sad mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack."
And all of the five little ducks came back.

copyright free lyrics from

Published in education
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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.