Monday, April 18, 2011

Being an Advocate for Your Child by Christine Bryant

Christine Bryant is our guest writer today. Christine has been an incredible advocate for her son, Joshua. Today she shares a bit of her story with us.

Being an Advocate for Your Child
by Christine Bryant

Having a child with autism is a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding. As I watch my son, Joshua, grow into a handsome young man of seventeen—and exceed me in height, I might add—I’m in awe at how far he’s come. Five years ago, he was completely isolated from other kids in middle school. His aggressive behaviors were so severe that the school didn’t feel they could trust him to be with his peers. My take on the situation, however, was this: If you cage a child like a wild animal, he will act like a wild animal.

Being the “mamma bear” mother that I am, I went to work learning state and federal disability laws about inclusion and the fair treatment of kids like Joshua. I started a support group for parents whose children have disabilities and went to a disability conference where I met others with similar concerns and problems.

It was at this conference that I met the Executive Director of Idaho Parents Unlimited, a state and federally funded organization for people with disabilities. We spoke for over an hour about the needs of kids like mine and I learned that my situation was far from unique. Kids all over the country are being isolated because schools don’t know how to—or don’t want to—deal with the children or their problems.

About a month after attending the conference I received a phone call from the Executive Director offering me a position on the board of directors. I eagerly accepted, wanting to take my battle onto a higher playing field. We organized state rallies at the capital, as well as programs and special events. It was a very rewarding experience.

But the best thing I got out of all the hard work and education was the ability to advocate for my son. Walking into a school meeting with the knowledge I needed to fight for my son’s rights was a wonderful feeling. And it worked. Not only was Joshua allowed to interact with other students his age, but he thrived. Yes, he still had some negative behaviors, but they were manageable and the longer he was allowed to participate in normal activities, the better he behaved.

Being an advocate for your child can be a little overwhelming, but regardless of how scary it is, you are the best person for the job. Here are three things you can do to prepare yourself to fight for your child's rights.

1 - Join a support group. If there isn't one in your area, then start one. It's not as hard as you may think. Put up flyers in grocery stores, post office, pediatric and doctor offices, and anyplace you can think of that a parent might frequent. If that doesn't work, seek out an online group that fits your needs.

2 - Learn everything you can about disability laws, especially as they pertain to your child's needs. Your state board of education will provide free copies of state laws either online or by mail. Also request a copy of the ADA guidelines. Ask other parents to share their experiences and learn from them. Attend special education conferences sponsored by disability advocacy groups like Idaho Parents Unlimited.

3 - Don't attend school meetings alone. It's your right to take anyone you want to a meeting where your child's special education program will be discussed. If you don't have a service coordinator, get one and make sure she attends. Invite service providers that your child sees outside the school setting, a more experienced parent from your support group, or a close friend who may have insight into your child's needs. If you still don't feel like you're being heard and your child's needs are being met, don't be afraid to involve a state provided mediator or an attorney. Do NOT let the school officials intimidate you. Stand your ground, but do it in a calm and organized manner with the laws on your side.

You CAN do this. It may take some time and the results may not be immediate, but if you're persistent you will see results.

As a junior in high school, Joshua’s become an important member of the student body. This past month he was one of three boys nominated as prince for the Junior/Senior Prom. Imagine my pride when I first caught sight of him in his tuxedo, ready to escort his date to the dance. He’s come so far. He is no longer that scared little boy locked in a cage; he is free to live his life. No limits. No one is holding him back anymore. And before him? A future filled with great expectations and hope.


Thank you so much Christine!
To learn more about Christine Bryant, visit her blog Day Dreamer.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Autism from a Tween's Perspective by Lisa Swinton

Today's guest post is written by Lisa Swinton. As a young teen (tween), she had a best friend who's brother was autistic. Lisa shares with us her experiences and thoughts while she got to know her friend's brother and how it's helped her as an adult.

Autism from a Tween's Perspective
by Lisa Swinton

One of my life long friends, Lauren, has a younger brother with autism. I first met Galen when Lauren and I became friends in middle school. Whenever, I would go to her house, Galen would say, “Hi, Lisa,” over and over again until I left the room. Or he would say, “I like your shirt,” or something else repeatedly to me. Naturally, at that age I had no idea why he acted the way he did and found it really strange and difficult to understand. Lauren’s simple explanation was, “He has autism.”

Well, that did not clear anything up for me at all. I think Lauren said that because she did not know how to tell someone else what autism meant, perhaps she did not understand it well herself and she lived with it on a daily basis. But I came to realize as I spent more time with Lauren’s family, that Galen’s brain worked differently and so he spoke and acted differently and at times, even his own family could not get through to him. I also realized over time, that Galen was friendly, good natured, liked track and had friends with common interests. I always took care to be friendly and kind to him and accept him as just different, even when I found his behavior confusing. 

Galen is a fairly high functioning person with autism. He was mainstreamed through most subjects in school and went on to attend a college in New Hampshire that caters to those with autism. He lives independently and has a job, but his parents live in the same town to be available in case he needs something.  

I have since come to know more people with autism and how varied a condition it can be. I am grateful for my early experience with Galen that prepared me for accepting people for who they are regardless of what their behavior is, autistic or not.



Thank you so much for your guest post, Lisa! On a personal note, this first year of middle school has been very interesting for me to observe. Just last night at my younger kids' school activity, a couple of girls came up to talk to me. They told me they sit with my son every day at lunch and shared some fun stories of things they talk about together. They also said some days, my son just goes into his own world and scarfs down his food as fast as he can. Those are the days his para helps him to slow down and interact with them. For middle school kids, these girls are very watchful. They pay attention to how my son feels each day and go with the flow. Some days are playful and fun - telling each other jokes through lunch. Other days they just try to get him to say hi and bait him into conversation by bringing up their favorite Wii games. They are truly sweethearts. 

I've also noticed that my son's track meets, there are a lot of kids who attend the home games and cheer him on. How awesome to know there are kids in this crazy mixed up modern world who have big hearts. Each time one of these kids gives my son a high-five, I can't help but imagine the incredible adults they will be one day and how they will share their love and acceptance with other families - just like Lisa.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monkeys and Their Yummy Treats

I have some Facebook followers who asked me for my Monkey Bread recipe. What's Monkey Bread? It's a seriously easy treat to bake that my own munchkin monkeys totally love! It's a bit like cinnamon rolls but WAY easier to make! My friend, Sara, introduced me to this addicting dish. I'm not a big baker. The easier something is, the better because otherwise I'll mess it up.  =)  So, this is a guanteed easy (but delish) version of Monkey Bread.

Also, since we're talking about Autism Awareness Month, I know many people with autism are on milk-free diets. I will include some tips on how to adapt this recipe so it's milk-free below the original recipes.


Easy Peasy Monkey Bread

What you need:

18-20 Rhodes Frozen White Dinner Rolls
1 stick of butter
2 cups sugar
2-3 tsp cinnamon
1 medium bag of chopped pecans
Pam Spray
1 Bundt Pan
Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions:

1. Place frozen rolls on a Pam sprayed cookie sheets or 9x13 pans. Let them thaw until soft enough to cut - about 1 hour at room temp or 30 minutes with the quick thaw method on the back of the Rhodes bag.

2. Melt stick of butter in a microwavable bowl. In another bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Spray your bundt pan with Pam. Then set up an assembly line:  thawed rolls, butter, sugar mixture, bundt pan.

3. To assemble, cut the roll in half. Dip each half in butter, coat with the sugar mixture, then place it in the bundt pan. You want to create a full bottom layer, which takes about half the rolls depending on the size of your pan. Don't squish the rolls together, just gently place them together so there are few gaps. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the rolls.

4. Repeat Step 3 to create a top layer. The pan should be about 1/3 to 1/2 full when you are finished. You don't want it to be any fuller than that or the rolls will expand, bake over the top, and fall to the bottom of your over, creating a smoky "explosion" of sorts. Trust me, I know from first hand experience.  =)

5. Cover rolls with a clean dish towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.

6. While the rolls rise, make the caramel sauce. Spoon this mixture over the rolls. Recover if the rolls are not finished rising. They should rise to about an inch below the edge of the bundt pan.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then cover the Monkey Bread with foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. This lets the rolls on the inside to finish cooking without burning the rolls on the top.

8. When you take the Monkey Bread out of the oven, remove the foil and let it sit for five minutes. Then flip the dish onto a large plate. The easiest way to do this is to put the plate on top of the bundt pan with the bottom of the plate facing up towards you. Then holding the plate and bundt pan, flip them over so the plate is sitting on the counter. The Monkey Bread will slide out of the bundt pan and onto the serving plate. Let the bread cool for an additional 10-15 minutes before diving in . . . or you may burn the roof of your mouth. Once again, something I learned from first hand experience.  =)


Caramel Sauce Recipe

What you need:

Small saucepan
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Dash of salt
1 c. boiling water
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. chopped pecans

Directions:

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in the saucepan. Add the boiling water, then cook, constantly stirring until the mixture turns shiny and is thickened.

2. Remove from the heat, then add butter, vanilla, and chopped pecans.

3. Spoon mixture onto Monkey Bread.



Milk Free Adaptations

Luckily, the Rhodes Frozen White Dinner Rolls are milk free. So that makes the recipe MUCH easier to adapt!  Instead of using butter, use your favorite milk-free margarine. I personally prefer Nucoa if you can find it at any of your grocery stores. You can also use the margarine as a substitute in the caramel sauce. Everything else in the recipes are milk-free. Horray!

Enjoy this yummy treat!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why I Chose to Work With Kids Who Have Autism by Todd McCarthy

Isaac & Mr. Todd at my son's first Orchestra concert.
Today's guest post is by my son's awesome Autism Specialist, Todd McCarthy. My son has been lucky to have worked with Mr. Todd at school for the last three years. His excitement and love for the kids he works with is contagious. As parents, my husband and I both have the utmost respect and admiration of his dedication to serving kids with special needs. I asked Todd if he'd share with my readers why he chose to work in this field. I'm so excited for you all to read his experiences and thoughts!



Why I Chose to Work with Kids Who Have Autism

by Todd McCarthy


As I was growing up, I had but one desire and that was to be a police officer. My family has a history of service in law enforcement that goes back over 100 years in this country. I played cops and robbers, watched it on TV and even studied it in college. I joined the US Army and served for eight years in the Military Police Corps.

Then I was blessed with the birth of my son.

I knew my plans would change as I needed to be there for him and have a schedule that allowed me to do just that. I took a job as a teaching assistant with a private school and loved working with kids. It wasn't, however, until a friend of mine asked me to help out with summer school for kids in special education that I found my niche. Within 10 minutes I knew this is where I wanted to be.

I have worked with kiddos with Autism for five years now and I can say without question that each day is better than the one before. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child who has struggled to find the ability to overcome obstacles in their lives make steps towards progress and independence. We are so fortunate, especially in the Olathe School District, to have such talented individuals and wonderful resources to assist in the education of these amazing kids with Autism. They are the brightest, sweetest and most amazing kids I have ever been blessed to be around. And that's what this job truly is...a blessing. These kids are a blessing from God and each day we get to spend with them is an opportunity to learn more, not just about them but about who we are and who God expects us to be.
Isaac & Mr. Todd on their last day of 5th Grade.

I had prayed that God would let me be a police officer someday. I am so thankful that his answer was no. I get to see God each and every day in the faces of these amazing kids.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Primary Angels - An Instructional DVD for Teaching Children with Special Needs at Church

For today's Autism Awareness Month post, I am reviewing and hosting a giveaway for Primary Angels. This excellent DVD gives step by step instructions and visual examples of how to teach a child with special needs at church.

The creator of this DVD is Annie Campbell. I've known Annie for about five years. I had the priviledge of working with her on the Friends of GIANT Steps board. Annie served as president of the board for many years. She's an active member of her local disability community and has been an advocate for parents as they navigate parenthood and special needs.

In Primary Angels, Annie takes a you through a five step plan. These steps include introducing yourself to the child with special needs and his parents, how learn about the child's needs, setting realistic goals, putting your plan into action, and following through with your goals. The DVD goes back and forth between an interview with Annie as she describes each step, then switches to a classroom type setting with a variety of children where she shows a real-life example of how to implement each step.

I absolutely love Annie's demonstrations on getting down to the same level as the children, using positive statements, and following up with appropriate reinforcements. Primary Angels is an excellent resource for parents, church leaders, and church teachers. I love that it's visual and shows such great concrete examples!

I also like that Annie has links to the reinforcers and classroom helps she uses on her website. I really like her idea for the Primary Check Box program. This is something all the kids in my Primary class can use as they pay attention to what they are learning in Sharing Time. You can find the game here.

Primary Angels is available for purchase on their website or through Deseret Book Stores. As part of Autism Awareness Month, they are offering two finger flashlights with each order placed through their website in April.

Primary Angels Giveaway

I have a special treat for my readers. You have the opportunity to enter to win a copy of Primary Angels! You have until midnight on Tuesday, April 12th to enter the contest. I will announce the winner on Wednesday April 13th. There are three ways to enter:

  1. Leave a comment telling me if this would be for you or a friend, as well as what you hope to learn from the DVD.
  2. Follow my blog.
  3. Follow Annie's Primary and Autism blog.
*Be sure to leave a comment for entry options #2 & 3!


Happy Autism Awareness Month!

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Month Full of Autism Awareness and Giveaways

April is National Autism Awareness month. Usually each April, I spend the month writing about my experiences raising my son with autism, how I got through the difficult parts, and the blessings that our son brings to our family. This year, I am going to do something a bit different.

I have asked some friends to be guest bloggers. They each are connected to autism in a different way - some are parents, others siblings, and even others are professionals in the autism community. I am excited to share their experiences and knowledge with you. I know each will share his unique perspective of parenting with humor, important autism information, or genuine love of raising or working with individuals who have autism.

I also have some wonderful products to review and giveaway.

As my own personal contribution to giving back during Autism Awareness month, I am running a special promotion on pre-orders for my book, (dis)Abilities and the Gospel. For every 10 pre-orders I receive through my website in April, I will donate 1 book to a church, charity, or library. To make this even more fun, I will draw names from the pre-orders and allow those individuals to choose where to donate the book. My goal is to get as many books donated as possible in a wide variety of communities throughout the nation. To participate, please visit my website for more details.

I'll be back on Wednesday. Until then, tell me what you're doing this month to celebrate Autism Awareness Month.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Crazy Daze of Motherhood & Contest

I was once told that I should keep a journal of all the funny things our family did so one day my hubby and I could look back on it and smile as we relive those memories together. It was excellent advice, too. Well, one mother, Jane Isfeld Still, has gone a few steps further. She compiled some of her funniest motherhood moments into a book to share with everyone!

From the back cover


A mother's day is filled with all kinds of emergencies, from bumps and bruises to hospital stays. Find the perfect way to recover from your own family's little emergencies with Jane Isfeld Still's latest book on the hilarious daily challenges of a mother in the fray. You're sure to laugh and cry as you celebrate the joys of motherhood.

About the Author

Jane is married to Rick Still, who she believes has the distinction of being the only man in history brave enough to give her earwax candles for her birthday. They had six children in eight years, and while her children were growing up, she discovered she had a great sense of humor. At least that was her take. Rick once said to her, "Honey, you know all those real corny things you say all the time? Who ever thought you could make money at it?" Her son Adam once told her, "Mom could you please stop telling jokes to my friends? It's really embarrassing." One of Jane's philosophies is, "You're not doing your job unless your children are worried about being seen in public with you."



My Review

Crazy Daze of Motherhood has some seriously funny, laugh-out-loud stories! When I read Jane's first book, Mother's Daze, I thought, "There is absolutely no way one person could be this clutzy and off-the-wall funny." That is, until I actually met Jane in person and realized how true to life the stories in her book are! It reminds me something I read from a book I have reread multiple times called Guilt Free Motherhood by Joni Hilton. She said that no matter what your personality style is, YOU are the perfect mother for your children. Well, Jane's personality is just right for her family . . . and is a great example of taking difficult situations and findig the humor in them. This is a book I recommend for giving out to all the ladies you know for Mother's Day! But even if you aren't a mom, but like to read funny escapades - this is the book for you!

To read more about Jane and her exploits visit her website at janeisfeldstill.com or her blog at janeisfeldstill.blogspot.com  Her books are available in stores nationwide. Here is a link to purchase from Amazon.com




Contest

You can win a fun prize from Jane to help celebrate the release of her book.  Just go to her blog at http://www.janeisfeldstill.blogspot.com and become a follower, and then leave her a comment and tell her that you're a new follower.  You could win:

1. Mother's Daze basket, soap, chocolate, lotion, decorative candles, and recipe cards
2. Box of blank cards with a smattering of Canadian chocolate
3. Chocolate


Review Disclaimer: Sometimes a book I review has been sent to me for free by a publisher or an author. This in no way effects my review, which is my own opinion about whether the book was a good read for me, fit my tastes, and if I would recommend it to others. Other than possibly a free book, I am not compensated in any way for posting a review.