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To Grandparents of Special Needs Children

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My kiddos have been blessed with several sets of grandparents and great grandparents, who live both near and far.  When my kiddos were babies and toddlers it seemed a little bit easier for grandparents to connect with them.  Now that they're getting older, their disabilities are becoming more apparent.  What's cute as a toddler, loses it's cuteness as a seven year old.  My kiddos have minds of their own now. The boys, who are autistic, seem to have one track minds, and very little room for flexibility in their thoughts, words and actions.  My girls, who struggle with emotional disabilities paired with anxiety, just can't seem to function at typical family functions and gatherings, and so we don't attend.  It seems that forming positive lasting relationships with grandparents is becoming a little bit harder.  Over the past few weeks I've been pondering about how I can help the relationships between my kiddos and their grandparents.  I've paired my thoughts with answers from other  parents of special needs kiddos, in an online support group I belong to.  I really appreciated their help with this one!

It seems, the answer is two-fold.  In order to form a positive and lasting relationship with special needs grandchildren, one must first form a positive relationship with their parents.  This may seem odd to some, but a special needs child can really put a strain on the relationship between the parent of the child, and the parent of the parent, especially if the parent of the parent has little or no experience with special needs children.  The parent of the special needs child needs help, and if a parent of the parent is unwilling or unable to provide that help the relationship takes a major hit.

How do I form a positive relationship with my son or daughter, the parent of a special needs child?

1.  Have a sincere desire to learn more about your grandchild's disability.  Educate yourself about it.  Read as many books as you can.  Attend trainings offered to caretakers etc.  Act on the information you've learned.  Ask questions about the disability.  Attend therapies, appointments, meetings, etc. when possible.  Enter the world of a parent of a special needs child.  It is completely different from what you may have experienced with your "typical" child, who is now the parent.  As you enter this world, you will be able to better support your child as they endure the challenges of raising a special needs child.

2.  Be open to new and different ways of parenting.  What may seem right to you, in your experience with "typical" children, most likely is not the correct way to go about things with a special needs child.  Chances are your child has already tried those methods, trying to be the great parent you were to them, and utterly failed by no fault of their own.  As you educate yourself on your grandchild's disability and participate in the ways mentioned above, you will learn new and different ways that will help you, help your child, be the best parent they can be.  Parents of special needs children are very hard on themselves, crying about their parenting struggles far more than you suppose.  They need encouragement, praise, and as many compliments as you can give.  Take the time to do this often.  The absolute worst thing you can do is give uneducated advise about how your child "should" be raising their special needs child.  With that said, if you have sincerely educated yourself and entered the world of a parent of a special needs child, advice regarding special needs parenting techniques is often very welcomed by the parent.  It shows a never ending love and support towards the parent of a special needs child.

3.  Accept your grandchild's disability.  This may be difficult, but if you're already doing what's been mentioned in the two points above, it will come.  Remember to grieve.  Chances are your son or daughter has already done this, going through the phases of denial, anger, sadness, etc. Once you are able to do this, show a genuine interest and love for your grandchildren.  In most cases, parents do not choose to have children with special needs. Therefore, grandparents do not have that choice either.  Your special needs grandchildren need just as much, if not more love and attention, than your "typical" grandchildren.  When you're able to do this, your son or daughter will feel such a relief and desire to share more with you.  They will not feel as alone.  This is a big thing for a parent of a special needs child.

4.  Be a support.  All parents of special needs children need help, and lots of it, whether they'd like to admit it or not.  Ask what you can do for your son or daughter and then be willing to follow through with a commitment you make to them.  If your son or daughter is unable to communicate the needs they have, or you're unable to help them in ways that they need, due to your circumstances, there are still ways you can help.  Consider financial, emotional, and/or spiritual support.  Prayer is powerful.  Surprise your son or daughter with a care package just for them.  Send them a gift card to buy a new outfit just for themselves.  (Be sure to choose a store that does not carry anything they could buy for their child, because they will spend it on their child otherwise.)  Write a letter expressing how great you think they are as parents.  Be sure to include their spouse (if they have one) in all of these acts of kindness.  Opportunities to support your son or daughter are endless.  Just be aware that time with your son or daughter, alone, without their children and spouse, is most often, not a luxury they have.  Please don't be offended if they're unable to spend time with you in ways you would like.

Once you are successful at forming a positive relationship with your son or daughter, the parent of the special needs child, you are then able to progress to phase two, forming a positive and lasting relationship with your special needs grandchild.

How can I form a positive and lasting relationship with my special needs grandchild?

1.  Enter the child's world.  Learn as much as you can about his/her subjects of interest.  When you're with your special needs grandchild center everything you do around them.  This may be difficult at times, especially if their current obsession is something you may not understand or do not enjoy.  Remember this: When you enter their world, in time (it may take years), they may be more open to joining your world.  You never know, you may surprise yourself, in that you come to thoroughly enjoy their world too.  If you live far away from your special needs grandchild, keep in close touch with their parents. Learn what they like.  Put together care packages full of items your special needs grandchild will enjoy, particular to their interests.  The care packages do not have to be elaborate, but it's important that you do something.  Your special needs kiddos will remember these expressions of your love for them, even if you're unable to see them as often as you'd like.  I keep a private family blog.  Along the side of the blog are wishlists that each of my kiddos have put together.  Grandparents have come to LOVE these wishlists, especially those who don't see my kiddos often.  When it comes time to purchase gifts for them, they can go straight to the list and get exactly what the grandchild wants.  This is also a great way for them to keep up with the kiddos' latest interests and obsessions.  If they can't find the exact item on the list, they can get something similar.  My special needs kiddos think their grandparents are the best, because they always seem to give them exactly what they've wanted.  (This helps Mommy and Daddy too.)

2.  Create special routines and rituals that are specific to you and your special needs grandchild.  Anytime they see you, they can look forward to these routines and rituals.  These do not have to be linked to the grandchild's interests, as they will change over time, but must be something that the grandparent and grandchild both enjoy.  Routines and rituals will help your grandchild feel safe when they're with you. They'll know what to expect.  This will help them and their parents.  If you live far away, find a specific ritual or routine to phone conversations (if the child is able), perhaps it's a funny joke, or a song at the beginning or at the end of phone calls.  Be creative.

3.  Set aside special time for your special needs grandchildren. Chances are, when in large groups with other extended family and/or friends, they will not be at their best, nor feel comfortable with you and all that's going on around them.  They much prefer time spent alone with you and their parents.  As you spend special time with them, they will be able to feel comfortable with you and learn to love you as much as you love them.  If you live far away from your special needs grandchild, consider setting aside specific time for them when you're able to see them next.  We have been extremely blessed to have a set of grandparents, who live out of state, take us on vacation with them about every other year.  The vacation is for just us and them.  All activities are centered around the needs and interests of our special needs kiddos.  When they're unable to do that, they come and visit us, dedicating a day to something the kiddos want to do.

4.  Be present.  If your special needs grandchild is participating in a special event, be there.  Visit them in their own home.  Understand it's much easier for your special needs grandchild to spend time with you on their own turf, where they feel safe and less anxious.  If you live faraway, you can still be present.  Depending on the specific special needs of your grandchild, you can call regularly to speak to them.  If the child enjoys writing, you can write letters or send e-mails back and forth.  If you have access to Skype, you can Skype each other regularly, which would make for some fun rituals and routines.  Please be aware though, it may be difficult for some special needs kiddos to participate in the activities listed above. I know my autistic boys are not the greatest at phone conversations.  They hate writing. Skype is too overwhelming and distracting to them.  In these cases, care packages are great.  Cards with pictures are enjoyed.  If you're creative and/or have access to options online, sending videos is a great idea.  These videos can be of you or they can be of other things, possibly related to interests they have, or rituals and routines you'd like to create with them.  They can watch videos over and over again, thinking of you often.

It is so important for special needs kiddos to have the love and support of their grandparents.  Parents of special needs kiddos need to feel that love too.  There is so much joy to be had in extended family relations when all parties are willing and able to put forth the effort to make things work.
What have you done to create a positive and lasting relationship with your special needs grandchild?

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In the Kitchen Unit Part 2

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It's finally here!  We have had so much adventure at our house over the past week.  Dinomite has moved back into Bulldozer's room, after trying out his own room for a few months.  (He missed his brother.)  I have my classroom and storage area back. Hooray!  Contractors have been at the house, putting in new counter tops, a sink, lights in the kitchen, a light in the bathroom, new front porch steps, and fixing our roof and chimney.  Everything is looking great, but the process has wreaked havoc on our routines and daily schedule.

I'm super excited about our second week "in the kitchen."  If you enjoy it as well, don't forget to start following me here or liking me on facebook.  I love getting to know my readers!

Here's what we're doing!

Spelling Words
 We're writing spelling words in pudding this week.  I've selected a different flavor for each day to add some taste testing to the process.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Language Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Food Phonograms
The kiddos will review some phonograms, matching up the phonograms to the correct pictures on the chart.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Language Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Electrical Appliance Nomenclature Cards
The kiddos will match up the 3 part cards, learning the names of electrical appliances in the house.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Language Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Note:  I'm getting a little bored with the same types of language activities each week.  It seems the kiddos are too.  They don't touch the nomenclature cards very much at all anymore.  Spelling is varied, so that keeps things fun, but language materials seem to be the least favorite right now.  Perhaps this week will be different. We'll see.

Measuring Volume in the U.S.
 Using the chart provided, the kiddos will match up the containers with the correct labels to learn volume amounts.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Math Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Measuring Ounces
 The kiddos will pour contents of each container, one at a time, into the measuring cup.  They will then weigh the contents, matching each container with the correct measurement card.  I love that this activity will also help them practice their pouring.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Math Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Greater Than/Less Than with Fractions
The kiddos will decide which fractions are bigger and smaller, using the measuring cups provided. They will place the tokens on the correct answer on each card.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Math Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Recipe Match Up
 The idea for this activity came from Princess' favorite episode of Dora the Explorer.  Kiddos will look at the 3 ingredient recipe cards and match them up with the final product cards.  Obviously, not all ingredients are included for each recipe, but the main ingredients are.  I'm super excited to see how the kiddos do with this activity.  I'm guessing Princess will really enjoy it.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Culture & Science Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Spice Match Up
 During our last week "in the kitchen," we learned about herbs used in cooking. This week we're learning about spices.  The kiddos will match up the spice jars with the cards provided.  They are welcome to smell each of the spice jars.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Culture & Science Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Kitchen Safety
The kiddos will separate the cards into three categories:  hot, electric, and sharp.  (Some cards are printed twice because they fit in more than one category.) As we do this activity we will talk about kitchen safety, reviewing how to stay safe in the kitchen.

Source: The printable for this activity is part of my In the Kitchen Unit Part 2 Culture & Science Printable Pack.  Click on the link at the end of this post for your free copy.

Introduction to Density
Mixing liquid ingredients in the kitchen is a great way to introduce the kiddos to the concept of density.  In the three glasses are water, oil, and Karo Syrup.  The kiddos will practice pouring the contents of the glasses into the container provided, using the funnel.  No matter what order the kiddos pour the ingredients, they will separate by density.  It should be really fun for them to see.  I'm guessing Bulldozer will think this is the coolest thing ever.

Visual Art:
Create Your Own Still Life
The kiddos will look through the still life art cards provided, comparing them.  Then they will go to the kitchen to gather items they would like to draw in their own still life picture.  Crayons are provided for them to draw with.  It should be interesting to see what they choose to draw.
Dinomite chose this activity first this week. This is his first drawing.
Source: I created the cards for this activity. For your free copy, click HERE.

We continue to sing each day, learning a new song each week.  The kiddos also continue to practice the piano each day.

Physical Education:
The kiddos continue to participate in our family fitness exercise program.

Practical Life/Sensorial:

Making Pudding
 The kiddos will use the two ingredients and tools provided to make instant pudding.  They will then use the pudding for their spelling activity the next day.

Opening & Shutting Containers in the Kitchen
 The kiddos will practice opening and closing the containers.  I've put a little treat in each of the containers for them to eat when they open them.  This is the only way I can think of to get Bulldozer to attempt this activity.

Scented Bottle Match Up 
 The kiddos will match up the scented bottles, as they smell them.  I created the scented bottles using extracts, water, and food coloring.

Flipping Pancakes
 The kiddos will practice flipping pancakes using the spatula and potholder provided.  When they're finished, they are welcome to eat one of the pancakes. My kiddos love plain pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.

Sandwich Stacking Games
 The kiddos can select a game to play in the pamphlet provided, using the materials in the bin.  Each day I will introduce them to a new game.  I'm hoping they'll have fun with this.

Washing Hands
I thought it would be good to review our washing hands sequence with the kiddos as part of this unit.  Especially as we're teaching them the importance of washing their hands before they work in the kitchen.

Next week we'll be studying Australia!  I hope you have a fabulous week!  For those interested in the printables, click on the links below.

Thank you so much for your comments. I love them!
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The Choice to Medicate Your Special Needs Child

I will always remember every appointment with our developmental pediatrician where I was faced with the decision to try medication for each of my children.  It is a HARD decision.  But it is also a choice.  I have written this post in hopes that it will empower you as a parent when you are faced with the choice to medicate your special needs child.

The choice to medicate your child with special needs
This post may contain affiliate links.

The title of this post alone can stir up strong emotions in so many people for different reasons.  It stirs up strong emotions for me.  I ask that you read the whole post before passing judgments of any kind.
I have included the good, the bad, and all the in between.  Every child and every situation is different.

Why would you choose to medicate your special needs child?


2012-I can still remember it as if it were yesterday.  Bulldozer and I were in his developmental pediatrician's office.  This was his third appointment.  I had given the doctor a write up of Bulldozer's progress, my concerns, his behaviors, etc.  The last six months had been particularly rough with Bulldozer.

He had been diagnosed with autism in August of 2011.  All of his therapies were now in place.  He had speech therapy three times a week, occupational therapy two times a week, and physical therapy one time each week.  Bulldozer was in a special education preschool class, attending five days a week.  His teachers and therapists had sent his IEP evaluations and quarterly reports with us.

Still, his ADHD tendencies, lack of safety awareness, constant need for visual stimulation, and inability to speak more than two word utterances were leading to some extremely scary and dangerous situations.  Mind you, at the time, Bulldozer was only three years old.

The doctor read through the information the school sent and what we had prepared. She looked at me.

"Do you think you can keep Bulldozer safe?"

I was taken off guard by her question, and honestly a little scared, and a tiny bit insulted.  What did she mean?  Our home was baby proofed and toddler proofed in every way imaginable. If it wasn't before, it was now, due to the crash course Bulldozer was giving us, as parents of a child with special needs.

Our doctor felt it was time for medication.  Even with 100% adult supervision, and a one-to-one at school, Bulldozer's impulses were so quick, it was taking less than a second for him to get himself into dangerous situations.

I cried.  Thankfully, I trusted our developmental pediatrician. My husband and I went along with a two week trial.  Bulldozer was prescribed a medication that would work instantly. We were warned the first few days would be rough, which they were, but after that, the medication should work well for him.

During those first few days I cried a lot.  Bulldozer wasn't himself.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed as a parent.  What type of parent has to put their three year old on medication?  But then, after about a week, Bulldozer transformed.

The doctor had said the medication would allow him to tell us what he was going to do before he did it, so we'd be able to have time to respond to him.  I didn't know that would really happen.  It was as if overnight Bulldozer learned to speak 4 and 5 word phrases.  He did stop and tell us what he was going to do before he did it.  Not only that, his dangerous behaviors practically went away.  Bulldozer was doing amazing.

Today, Bulldozer remains on the medication.  He's still doing absolutely fabulous with it.  I could have never imagined that medication would have been the answer we were looking for.  In Bulldozer's case, it was.

Self Injurious Behaviors

2012-Princess suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  At this point in time (she was three), she wasn't doing the greatest.  She had started hurting herself in multiple ways.  One particular day, her self injurious behaviors really scared me.  I called both our pediatrician and developmental pediatrician to report the incident.

We were in our developmental pediatrician's office less then one week later.  Once again, I was faced with the decision to medicate another one of my children.  This time I felt more prepared.  I felt different.

Princess was adopted through foster care. She had been removed from a very abusive home.  All of her diagnoses were 100% preventable, if it hadn't been for the trauma she'd experienced before she came to us.  I wanted to do whatever I could to help her feel safe, so she'd stop hurting herself.  If medication could help her like it helped Bulldozer, I was for it.

Little did I know, I was entering a completely different type of situation.  Finding medication that would help her would be a slow process.  The medication would need to be introduced in a small dose, then six week later, we'd be seen again.  If all was going well, it would be increased.

But there was a catch.  If the medication was increased too much, which we would only know through trial and error, Princess' behaviors could become worse, or new ones could emerge.  She would become activated.  I was nervous, not only for what might happen, but the thought that getting Princess help could take so long.

Fortunately, after 3 months, we found the correct dosage, without her being activated. The medication helped Princess.  Her behaviors became less severe.  They didn't go away, but it seemed that her anxieties were more manageable.   This helped all of us breathe a little bit easier.  Princess continues to take medication for her anxieties.

Functional Daily Living

2013-Dinomite has autism, an anxiety disorder and ADHD.  He was the last to try medication, at the age of six. It was suggested because he could not function and cope in daily living situations, especially those that were academic.  His meltdowns were severe, sometimes lasting for hours.  Dinomite is an intense kiddo to begin with, but add extra anxiety and stress... Times were tough.

In all honesty, I hadn't even thought about medication for him.  It wasn't until I was in the office of our developmental pediatrician discussing the behaviors with her, that I realized we were at that point.  Seeing how medication had helped Bulldozer and Princess, I was on board to try.

Just like Princess' medication, we would start out slow.  Dinomite was excited to take his medication.  He wanted relief from anxiety just as much as we did for him.  It seemed that medication started helping him much faster than Princess' medication.  He was able to complete his school work without tears.  There weren't as many meltdowns. When there were, they weren't as severe.

Six weeks later we increased the medication, as we had been instructed.  It only took a week to see, that the increase was doing more harm than good.  Dinomite became physically aggressive.  We immediately cut the dose back down.  The transition back to the initial dose, took a week.  It was ROUGH.  We then took him off the medication all together because the negative effects of the medication outweighed the positive.

We have had to take alternative routes with Dinomite to help him with his anxieties and meltdowns.  It has taken time, but he's doing okay.

Sleep Issues

2014-We're at our regular three month check ups with the developmental pediatrician.  I had significant concerns about Princess.  The winter season had been extremely difficult for her.

Among other very concerning behaviors, Princess was not sleeping.  She'd be up for hours in the night, afraid to sleep until it was day.  Her behaviors were more severe during the day because of the lack of sleep at night.  I knew she needed more medication.  This time I wasn't afraid to ask for it.

There were two routes we could take.  We could give her medication to help her sleep, and then possibly lessen the behaviors during the day.  Or, we could increase her anxiety medication and hope that we didn't reach activation.

We decided to try the sleep medication.  Within days, we had a completely different little girl.  She's still struggling, but not nearly as much as she was. It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do.  Princess continues to take sleep medication to help her sleep at night and function during the day.

Mood Disorders

Sunshine was diagnosed with a mood disorder at age four after two years of observation by our developmental pediatrician.  Part of this process was observing how Sunshine would respond to medication that treats a mood disorder.  This occurred after we had tried treating her symptoms in every other way possible.

Her behaviors related to her mood disorder and especially her manic episodes were severe, and unsafe for her and those around her.  Sunshine was not sleeping.  She would go into angry rages that would last for hours, becoming physically aggressive.  There was no stopping or preventing manic episodes from occurring.

Finding the right medication was our only option to keep our daughter safe. The process to finding the correct medication has been long and continues to be ongoing, but we know it helps her to function and be safe, and so we continue to move forward.

When considering medication for your child, ask yourself these questions:

1.) Are the behaviors or health issues severe enough to warrant the medication?  What will happen if you don't try the medication?  Is your child's life at risk?  Is the life of others at risk?

2.) How will medication benefit my child?  When faced with the decision, take into consideration why your child may need medication.  If it works, will the child function better in their daily living?

3.)  Are there any other methods you haven't tried and are open to, or prefer to try, before starting medication?  Have you studied the sensory needs of your child?  Is your child receiving therapies to help in troubling areas?  Speak with your doctor and discuss these options.

4.)  Are you aware of the possible negative effects the medication may have on your child?  Make sure to fully understand what those may look like, so if you do see them, you can get help right away.

5)  Do you trust the doctor that's prescribing the medication? Is your child being seen by a developmental pediatrician or specialist who specializes in the area of treatment you need?  .

No parent wishes to medicate their children, but when the situation arises, it's always important to be prepared and open for what may come.  You are still the parent who knows your child best.  With help, support, and the proper medical attention for your child, you can become even greater!

What has been your experience, when choosing to medicate your special needs child?

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
special needs support and resources

How to recognize signs of a mood disorder in young children

I think there's something wrong with my child, a guide to pediatric specialists

Experiencing diagnosis day through the eyes of the parent of a special needs child

How to prepare for an appointment with a developmental pediatrician
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In the Kitchen Tot School

This post may contain affiliate posts.

Sunshine loves working in the kitchen, whether it be a pretend one or a real one.  It wasn't my intention to create a second unit for her this month, but she became bored with her St. Patrick's Day Tot activities, making no progress, and so I felt it time to change.  The activities have turned out really cute. I'm super excited.  Hopefully she enjoys them.  I'm finding she's the hardest kiddo to please out of the four.

C is for Cook
Sunshine has not been a bit interested in letters, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop introducing them.  I decided to focus on the letter C this week.  She will color the C in the picture with whatever color she chooses.  Sunshine loves to color.

Source: I created this activity as part of my In the Kitchen Tot Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Place Setting Vocabulary
Sunshine still struggles with identifying her utensils and other place settings correctly.  I thought using them as vocabulary words for the week, with manipulatives, would be a lot of fun for her.  If she shows interest, I can teach her how to set the table.

Source: I created the cards for this activity as part of my In the Kitchen Tot Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Pizza for 4
I'm having no luck with our number activities yet.  This week I decided to try a different method.  Sunshine will practice making a pizza with four slices.  There are four of each item, including plates.  I'm hoping as we pretend play, we can practice counting to four several times.

A Rainbow of Food

I've been inspired by all of the rainbow activities I've seen in the blog world lately.  Sunshine is fabulous at sorting items. She may not understand the concept of colors, or be able to identify them, but she can always put them in the right piles when sorting them.  I've created six color cards with corresponding colored food cards.  Sunshine will sort the foods correctly while identifying the foods by name in the process.  It is my hope to purchase most of the food items on the cards.  Each day we'll choose a different color of foods to taste test.  My apologies for the list of blue foods being so small.  I could not find pictures of any others that i could make available to my readers.

As I was researching this activity I came to realize that the color of some foods is debatable. If you find a food that you prefer to put with another color, do not hesitate to do so.

Source: I created this activity as part of my In the Kitchen Tot Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Scents in the Kitchen
I've never seen Sunshine pay much attention to smell.  I don't know if she's hypo or hyper-sensitive to it.  Since we're working in the kitchen this week, I thought it would be a perfect time to introduce scents. I didn't want to overwhelm her, so I only chose four.  Hopefully she enjoys it.

Transferring Fruit with Tongs
I've never used tongs with Sunshine before.  Now that I have some that are just her size, I thought I'd give it a try.  She loves putting items in and out of containers (it's quite the obsession).  I'm hoping she'll show interest in the activity.  Sunshine also struggles with hand and finger muscle and coordination.  Perhaps this activity will help her develop new strength.  Who can resist fun little reusable fruit ice cubes?

In the Kitchen Invitation to Play
I'm guessing this will be Sunshine's favorite activity.  If not it will be a close second.  Sunshine can use the materials provided to pour, stir, cook, and transfer.  What's not to love about all of this?

Measuring in the Kitchen Sensory Bin
Sunshine will practice scooping, dumping, pouring, etc. with the measuring cups, spoons, and pasta.  If she shows interest, I'll introduce the concepts of big and little, etc.  If not, that's okay too.

I'm really excited to introduce Sunshine to her new activities. There's no doubt in my mind that she'll enjoy them.  For those interested in the In the Kitchen Tot School Printable Pack 1, click on the link below.

Thank you for stopping by!  If you haven't already, don't forget to join Every Star Is Different on facebook and/or start following the blog.
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Technology Incentives

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Dinomite and Bulldozer are big into playing computer games, video games, watching movies, etc.  Thankfully we don't have a working game system right now, but that doesn't stop them from begging for the iPad or computer every 30 minutes or so.  I've tried to give them a 30 minute rule on each, per day, but they still can't stop asking.  Finally it dawned on me to use this obsession as an incentive to accomplish tasks I've been asking them to do on their own for quite some time.  It's the perfect time to do it as Bulldozer has just learned to how to get dressed by himself without help.  I even made up a little chart and cards.

The chart displays each of the tasks they can choose to do.  I'll be adding a few more pages over time, but for now I want to start simple.  This chart is specific to tasks that take place in their bedroom.  For every task they complete on their own, without help, they can earn five minutes of tech time.  With this system, there's definitely a chance for them to earn several minutes a day.  Some tasks can be completed more than once.  Each kiddo has at least four bins of toys.
Once they've completed a task, they get to choose their tech preference, adding one of the cards below to their pile.  Each card is worth five minutes.
When they want to cash in their minutes they just hand over their cards.  This can be done any time of day, except for after dinner.  If they want to save their cards for the next day they can.  They can use all, some, or one of their cards at a time.  It's completely up to them!

Source:  I created the printable seen here.  If you'd like a free copies of them, click on the links below.

What incentives do you use in your home, if any?
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Oral Stimuli in the Classroom

Oral stimuli in the classroom is not something many people think about, but it can have a huge affect on students in the classroom for better or for worse.  The easiest way I can think of to introduce this topic is to share my own experiences.  My experiences have been very different with each of my children.
Oral stimuli in the classroom and it's effect on children with special needs.
This post may contain affiliate links.

Sensory Issues


When Dinomite was a baby he refused to nurse at 1 week old.  It was a constant battle to get him to take a bottle.  When he was old enough to try solids, he refused. No matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work.  The only thing we could get him to eat most days were freeze dried fruits offered in the baby section of the grocery store.

Dinomite wouldn't sit at the table.  We literally had to hide his food in his toys, in hopes that he would find them and put them in his mouth.  At about 18 months the doctor expressed concern about his weight and mentioned a possibility of needing to take some action to get him to gain weight.

I told the doctor he could try, by all means, but I could guarantee Dinomite wouldn't take the drink or food he wanted him to.  Luckily over time Dinomite did start to gain weight, but he still has extreme sensitivities to foods.

Dinomite will not eat any vegetables.  The only fruits he will eat is apples.  The apples have to be cut just right with the peel off.  He will eat vanilla yogurt, but no other flavors.  For most of his life he's lived off of chicken tenders, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cereal.

Now and then he'll go for a pizza, ice cream, cookies, dough nut, cake, bagel, or cracker, but it all depends on what kind.  The pizza must look just right.  The ice cream has to be plain vanilla or chocolate without anything in it.  The dough nuts can not have sprinkles or be messy.  The bagels need to be plain with cinnamon cream cheese.  Crackers can not be seasoned or colored with any flavors or dyes.

Luckily, Dinomite likes drinks.  He'll drink juices, lemonade, fruit punch, milk, shakes, etc.  This is how I manage to get in some of his fruits and vegetables.

I was worried for a long time about Dinomite's nutrition.  We were asked to participate in a nutritional study offered by The Autism Treatment Network.  It turned out, Dinomite was only deficient in Vitamin B, which was easily remedied.  The gluten free/casein diet is very popular with some with autism, but for him, it was not recommended, as it would eliminate almost all foods he was willing to eat.

I have learned over time Dinomite will only eat foods that are white, beige, or brown with minimal texture, unless they have a fruity flavor to them.  When fruity flavors are involved, he enjoys a rainbow of colors.  He loves Starbursts, Skittles, jelly beans etc.

When he did attend preschool, we had to send a lunch box for him for snack time because he would not eat what the other kiddos were eating.  If there are food related activities in our classroom, I have to pay particular attention to Dinomite's oral sensory needs.  If the foods I have chosen to include are too much for him, he will not participate.  However, if they are similar to foods he will eat, it is amazing to watch him try new things.  Removing him from the meal time setting does wonders.

At the same time, as complicated as it may seem, Dinomite always learns and works best when chewing.  We've found that having gum on hand is a must.  It helps him concentrate, relieve anxieties, and actually helps him complete his work.  Of course the gum has to be fruit flavored.  Lol.


Bulldozer craved oral input as a toddler, chewing on everything from end tables to window sills.  He would chew his shirts and pants.  If there were any toys in the house made out of foam, they were always in his mouth and chewed up.

If he had nothing else he'd start chewing his hands or biting others.  Still to this day, he loves to chew on foam.  Bulldozer's OT brought us a chewie necklace that we kept around Bulldozer's waist 99% of the time while he was awake.  It looked like an old telephone cord.  He loved that chew toy.

Bulldozer also has specific preferences in regards to his foods, just like Dinomite, although they are different.  Bulldozer loves textured foods and sweets.  He enjoys pastas, chicken, bacon, corn on the cob, etc.  He loves baked goods of all kinds.

Bulldozer won't eat yogurt, whipped cream, jello, or any of the foods Dinomite loves so much.  He rarely eats foods that are cold, except for Ben & Jerry's Half Baked Ice Cream.  (He grew out of his dairy allergy at the age of four, and lives for cheeses and ice cream.)

Bulldozer won't drink anything but water.  The water must be room temperature with no ice.  Recently he's also started to enjoy whole milk with chocolate syrup in it as well as hot cocoa.

In the classroom we try to find a balance between what Dinomite will eat and what Bulldozer will eat.  Unlike Dinomite, Bulldozer becomes VERY distracted by food.  He's unable to concentrate on his work and rarely accomplishes anything.  However, if I use allergy friendly treats as incentives, I can pretty much get Bulldozer to do anything.


Sunshine craves oral stimulation.  She loves her vibrating toothbrush and jaw massages.  At meal times she prefers very textured foods with spice and varying tastes.  Sunshine tends to over stuff, gag, and vomit on a regular basis.  It takes a very long time for her to eat her food properly.

Food Allergies

Shortly after Bulldozer was born, it was discovered he had over 40 food allergies, not just to grains, dairy, eggs, etc., but to vegetables, fruits, meats, legumes, and so much more.  He was on a special formula as an infant because he couldn't tolerate breast milk or regular formulas.

Finally at age 9 months we were able to try some solids.  By trial and error we had to figure out what he could eat.  I don't think I'll ever forget those times when he did have severe reactions.  It was a Mom's worst nightmare.

Eventually things did get better for Bulldozer.  He now has about 30 food allergies.  He grew out of some, but others have become worse.

In the classroom and everywhere else, it's crucial we pay attention to the foods that are present when Bulldozer is around.  First and foremost we must keep him safe.  Food allergies are not fun.

Trauma Related to Food


Food triggers a PTSD response for Princess.  This goes back to her life before she came to our home, where she experienced significant trauma and neglect.  Meal time is very difficult for Princess.  More than anything, she tends to refuse food.  We've had to work closely with doctors and specialists to make sure we're doing the right things to help her with this process.

Thankfully Princess enjoys a variety of foods, except for grains and most legumes.  She prefers fruits over any other types of foods.  When she's able to work through food related trauma she truly enjoys the process of eating. However, when she can't work through that process, mealtime is her battle ground.

I have to be extremely careful with Princess and orally stimulating activities in the classroom.  Just this past week, she had a very hard time with our spelling activity that involved cheese letter crackers.  Each day she'd choose the activity, but then take over an hour to complete it with significant negative behaviors in the process.

Princess is still unable to determine when she's hungry and when she's full.  All she knows is that she feels pain related to food or the lack thereof, and can't process what to do about it.  It is extremely important that Princess be fed before learning time, to ensure hunger doesn't play a part in her behaviors.   This is the case with most kiddos, but with her it's more severe.

Princess needs to know that there is food and drink available to her at all times.  The fear of not having enough can destroy her in seconds.  We always have to make sure there is fruit on hand when she asks for it, along with a water bottle she can carry with her.  It took years for her not to scream as we were preparing meals, because she truly believed she would not eat, even though the food was there.

Food can not be used as incentives in the classroom for Princess.  I must be prepared for the consequences of having food as part of our activities, if I choose to do so.  The only reason I have had any success with our In the Kitchen Unit Part I with her, is that she loves to help Mommy prepare food.  She's mentioned wanting to be a baker or a chef.  She loves the S'mores Trail Mix activity.


She also has food related trauma in her past.  Most of it is combined with being restrained in some type of container (car seat, swing, etc.), before she came to our home.  She is rarely successful at meal time when sitting in a high chair.  Her screaming fits are quite intense combined with the throwing of food, dishes, etc.

When working with any type of oral stimuli, Sunshine must have the ability to move around.  She needs to feel in control of the situation.  Just like Princess, if she sees food being prepared, and can't have a bite, she loses all sense of control and melts down into horrific screaming fits.

Strangely, Sunshine loves to incorporate food into her learning time activities, especially if it's a sweet treat.  She's just like Bulldozer that way.  Food is usually her best incentive, as long as she can move around.

How can you meet the varying oral needs of students in your classroom?

1.)  Identify any food allergies and/or intolerances your students might have in order to make sure they are safe.  Are there any other medical reasons for your students to be hypersensitive or hypo sensitive to oral stimuli?

2.)  Identify any oral sensory needs your students may have.  Are they hypersensitive to oral stimuli or do they crave it?  What are you able to do to help a child overcome sensitivities or cope with cravings?

3.)  Identify any food related trauma in your students.  Work with doctors and specialists (and parents if you work in a school) to determine the best way to help your students with these struggles.

4.)  Identify how oral stimuli helps or hinders your students during the learning process. Does oral stimuli improve their ability to concentrate, complete work, and/or lessen anxieties, or is it too much of a distraction, preventing them from completing tasks.  Lastly, does your student respond to orally stimulating incentives such as gum, candy, small fruits etc.?

Based on your observations,decide how to incorporate oral stimuli into your learning environment.  For some, it may be best to not include it. For others it is crucial to a successful learning environment.  Remember every child is different.  What works for one, may not work for another.  I'd love to know what you're doing to meet the oral needs of your students at home and/or at school!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
Sensory Resources for Children who Need to Chew

When Food Is Your Child's Enemy

It's Personal: Food Allergies

Special Dietary Needs Support and Resources

Oral Stimuli in the Classroom

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March Madness Basketball Unit

This post may contain affiliate links.

We're taking a break from our In the Kitchen Unit to celebrate March Madness and learn more about basketball.  Dinomite and Bulldozer are thrilled.  I'm hoping by the end of the week, Princess will enjoy the unit as well.  She's not much of a sports fan.

First, just a reminder, if you haven't already, don't forget to join my facebook page and/or start following the blog. I love to get to know my readers!

I need to thank my husband for his help with this unit.  In all honesty, I really don't keep up with the sports world at all.  He's the one who did most of the research for these activities.  Those that he didn't research, he was able to pull from his head.  Finding player pictures and logos for the activities below proved to be quite a challenge.  My husband spent a lot of time trying to find Wikipedia Commons Files we could use.  If there is a player you expected to see on these cards, but isn't here, know it's because we wanted to follow copyright laws. :)  Also, not all activities are specific to March Madness, but basketball in general.

Here's what's on our shelves this week!

Basketball Compound Words
 The kiddos will match up the two parts of each word to form the compound word, using the control provided.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Language Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Basketball Themed Sentence Diagramming
 We're learning about conjunctions this month.  The kiddos will put the word cards together to create sentences.  A control is provided. (It's located behind the Grammar Symbols Card.)  Then they will place the grammar symbols over the correct words in each sentence.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Language Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Basketball Points Addition
 The kiddos will practice their addition skills as they add up points earned from each basket or shot.  Mini plastic basketballs are provided as counters.  I wanted to use the little basketball chocolates, but Bulldozer is allergic to them, so we couldn't.  Both were at Walmart when I looked.  The mini basketballs in the picture were in the Easter Isles.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Basketball Fractions/Percentages
 The kiddos are too young to understand percentages, but we are working on fractions this month.  In this activity the kiddos will use the dot marker to color basketballs representing how many baskets were made.  They will then match up the dot card with a fraction card.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Basketball Size Sequencing
 Bulldozer has and probably always will be obsessed with balls.  This is why we have so many different sized basketballs on hand.  Lol.  The kiddos will place the cards in order from smallest to biggest.  Then they will do the same with the basketballs provided with this activity.  I'm super excited about this as the boys have a really difficult time generalizing information.  This activity requires them to do just that!  If you don't have as many basketballs as we do, they're not necessary.  It's very easy to do the activity with just the cards.
 Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Math Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

2014 March Madness Players
 I was not able to include as many, or the exact players I would have liked for this activity due to copyright laws, however there are still sixteen different cards with different players from different teams.  The kiddos will match up the player, logo, and state with the controls provided.  I figure this will be a great introduction to specific players can follow during the next few weeks.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Culture & Geography Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Positions on the Basketball Court
 I love how this activity turned out. The kiddos will look at the cards provided, learning the names of each basketball position.  They will then use the markers provided to identify where the different players are initially positioned on the court.  I've color coded the position names on the cards with the color of the markers.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Culture & Geography Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Some of the Best Basketball Players Ever
 This activity includes five male and five female basketball players that are known to be some of the best basketball players of all time.  If you notice someone who's missing, it's most likely due to picture copyright laws.  Still, there are a lot of great players here.  I loved the opportunity to include girl players too.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Culture & Geography Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Shot Practice
 This activity is being used with our basketball hoop.  The kiddos will practice each of the different types of shots.  It should be fun to watch.

Source: I created this activity as part of my March Madness Culture & Geography Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

We'll be doing some different basketball experiments throughout the week.  It should be fun!

Visual Arts:
The kiddos continue to draw in their journals each day.

Learning the Keyboard
This month we've progressed with our music theory.  The kiddos are reading letter names instead of finger numbers.  It's proven to be a little difficult.  I created this activity to help the kiddos along.

Source:  I created this activity.  For your free copy, click HERE.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Make a Basket
 This is just a game I came up with using materials we had laying around.  The kiddos can play together or alone.

Design Your Own Jersey
 Technically this is an art activity, but it's included on our "fun" shelves this week.  I'm excited to see what logos the kiddos come up with for their jerseys.

Source: This free coloring page came from a basketball printable pack at 2 Teaching Mommies.

Lacing Sneakers
 This week we'll see if the kiddos can learn how to lace up their sneakers.  I figured this should come before I try to teach them how to tie their shoes.  That whole process scares me a little bit, even though I know it's time for Dinomite especially.

Potato Chip Taste Testing
 Sports games wouldn't be complete without some type of potato chip.  The kiddos have never really tried any flavors but plain. I'm hoping they'll decide to try a few new flavors over the week.  I must say I'm very intrigued by the chicken and waffles flavored chips.

March Madness Sensory Bin
As I laid in bed last night trying to finish up my plans for activities this week, it crossed my mind that I might just be able to pull off a March Madness sensory bin.  I must say it turned out quite well.

Sensory Bin Includes:
Basketball Erasers
Food Erasers: Pizza Slices, Soda Cups, Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
Plastic Basketballs
Plastic Basketball Hoops (Found in the Easter Section at Walmart.)
Basketball Netting
Plastic Trophies
Animal Figures representing different College Basketball Mascots
Bouncy Basketballs
Corn Kernels

I hope your week is going well!  For those interested  in the printables for this unit, click on the links below.

Next week we'll be continuing with our In the Kitchen Unit!

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