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Disney Villains Halloween Party

For the first time in Sunshine's history of residential placement, our entire family is allowed to visit monthly. Not only are we allowed to visit, but we are encouraged to have as much fun as possible!

Needless to say, we were super excited to bring Halloween to Sunshine, and actually have a family party with everyone included.

The biggest challenge was coming up with a theme.  

Our oldest, Dinomite is fourteen years old.  

Sunshine, our youngest, is almost ten, but is developmentally a kindergartener. She scares easily. 

Bulldozer, thirteen years old, despises all things scary and horror like as well.

One thing they all like though are Disney Villains. So, after putting the theme to a vote, it was decided that this year we would have a Disney Villains Halloween Party!

Disney Villains Halloween Party

Throwing a party in a visiting room at a residential treatment center is completely different than one in your own home.

Everything has to be transported and prepared ahead of time. 

You can't hang things on the wall. All decorations must be table based, though you don't know how many tables you will have or how big any of the tables will be. 

Most difficult, is that you never know what room you're going to be placed in.

Then there's the time factor.  You are only given a certain amount of time to visit.

And let's not forget about the residential treatment center's safety protocols.

With all of those fun little challenges in mind, this is what we managed to pull off!


Disney Villains Halloween Party


The Costumes

As much as I would have loved to give my kids brand new Halloween costumes this year, due to finances, that just wasn't possible.

So, we compromised with black shirts and Disney Villains head pieces. The results were fabulous!
Disney Villains Halloween Party Costumes
My husband Jason chose to be Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog. His hat was fantastic! It needed to be reshaped when it arrived, but other than that it was perfect. It's so durable and will last for years to come! 

I chose to be Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations. It was super easy to replace my regular wig, with the Cruella Deville wig and enjoy the party. As cheap wigs go, this one wasn't bad at all. I was quite found of it actually. 

Dinomite's favorite villain has always been Jafar from Aladdin. It only made sense that he wear a fantastic Jafar hat. The hat was beautifully made and extremely durable. Dinomite's only complaint was that it was a little tight. This makes sense as Dinomite has a larger head to begin with.

Bulldozer chose to be Captain Hook from Peter Pan. One would think finding Captain Hook's hat in an adult size wouldn't be too hard, but it was.  We had to settle for a Buccaneer Tricorn Hat.  It wasn't the right color. It wasn't the right shape. Thankfully Bulldozer is the easiest going kid of the bunch, and this turned out to be okay.

I will say, Bulldozer's hat was the one I liked the least. It came deformed. The hat threads that kept the tricorn together broke the first time he wore it.

Princess desperately wanted to be Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty for our Disney Villains Halloween Party. I was a little worried about finding the right head piece, because Princess has an extremely small head. Thankfully we found a Maleficent hat that worked perfectly! It was so soft and comfortable. I loved that it was so durable.

The entire Disney Villains Halloween Party was a surprise for Sunshine, so Princess and I decided that she would be the Evil Queen from Snow White. We hoped and prayed the crown headpiece we ordered would fit her. Thankfully it fit both Princess and me, so we knew it would work.

Sunshine absolutely loved the headpiece! It looked beautiful on her. Like the other headpieces we ordered, it was so soft and comfortable. We were all impressed with the durability factor. 

Sunshine wore the crown the entire time with the exception of five minutes maybe and didn't complain once about any sensory factors.

Party Decorations

As mentioned previously, we could only use table space for decorating at Sunshine's residential treatment center (RTC). With this in mind, we tried to do the best we could to create a fun Disney Villains Halloween Party atmosphere.

We chose purple, green, red, white and black as a color scheme with a little touch of orange for Halloween. 

All decorations and food choices reflected these colors to really make things pop. 

A black table cloth was used as our backdrop. Most serving trays were white. We found black and white pumpkins at our local Walmart for $1 each. To add more color we picked up purple lights to scatter on the table as well as battery operated candles. 

Plates, cups and silverware were green, purple and red.

Once we had the background basics, Princess and I went to work finding items at home we could place on the table that represented different villains. We also printed out 5x7 pictures of our favorite villains to spread out on the table.

Disney Villains Halloween Party Decorations & Menu

Party Food

Our main focus when making food choices for our Disney Villains Halloween Party was three fold. 

  • All food needed meet Sunshine's long list of special dietary needs. (Sunshine follows a gluten free, corn free, soy free, dairy free, and sugar free diet.)
  • We wanted to try to add as many Disney themed foods as possible related to Halloween and certain villains.
  • Everything needed to be transported and prepped easily due to the travel and storage component of what we were trying to do.

In the end we decided on fruit and vegetable platters, a potato bar (not Disney themed, but easily prepared), tortilla chips, a few diet friendly treats, and our "magic potion punch."

The fruit platter included fruits in our main party colors, as well as "poisoned" apple slices. In our home, natural sugars found in fruits are still okay for Sunshine.

The vegetable platter included vegetables in our main party colors.

I made my favorite Sunshine diet friendly tortillas, but cooked/baked them a bit longer so they were harder. After finding cute Mickey Mouse cookie cutters at Target, I couldn't resist making them Mickey Mouse shaped tortillas chips.

Sunshine is a huge fan of diet friendly guacamole, salsa, and goat cheese, so she was definitely in her element here.

For dessert I made the most delicious chocolate Mickey Mouse cookies, with Mickey Mouse ears dipped in chocolate. I used honey instead of the sugar the recipe recommends. There were also sugar free Jell-O cups in green and red colors available.

Originally I had wanted to find dry ice for our "magic potion punch." But none could be found locally where Sunshine resides at this time. 

Instead we made the most delicious diet friendly sparkling apple cider punch, modifying it to ensure the ginger ale was sugar free. 

Everyone that tried the punch LOVED it! I don't think I've ever seen any punch recipe I've tried turn out to be such a hit!

Party Games

Our family is a huge fan of board games, though at times, games can be a challenge due to the variety of diverse needs the kids have.

For our Disney Villains Halloween Party, we decided to have a little fun playing the game, "Would You Rather..." with various Disney villain scenarios.  

It was a huge hit and continued on during future video chats we had with Sunshine after the party. We wrote down our own questions in advance. Due to Disney's copyright laws, I can't share them. My apologies.

Our second game was purchased specifically for our Disney Villains Halloween Party. 

None of the kids had ever played the game Sorry before. What better way to introduce it, than to use the Disney Villains edition of the game.

The last game of the party was Disney Villains Bingo.  All of the kids seem to be really into Bingo games right now. As always, it was a huge hit! 

Disney Villains Halloween Party Games & Crafts

Party Crafts

Sunshine and Princess love arts and crafts. The boys are finally at a point where they can tolerate them. Due to these factors, I try to incorporate crafts into every visit we have with Sunshine. Our Disney Villains Halloween Party was no exception.

I found the most adorable Disney Villain themed Mickey Mouse ears ornament templates and directions on Pinterest. All of the kids LOVED them! 

Had we been at home, the kids would have cut out all of the pieces themselves, but with the restrictions of the residential treatment center, I had to do all of the cutting ahead of time. 

If you'd like to enjoy these beautiful crafts as well, be sure to check out the links below!

Evil Queen Mickey Mouse Ears DIY Craft

Disney Ursula Ornament DIY Craft

Cruella Devil Ornament DIY Craft

Mickey Pumpkin Halloween Ornament DIY Craft

Sunshine LOVED these craft projects, especially since they included glitter! 

The ornaments were super easy for everyone to make, which meant absolutely no frustration. This was a big deal. 

Once home, we hung the ornaments on our beautiful Halloween tree in the front entryway.


Party Music

To add more fun to our Disney Villains Halloween Party atmosphere, Dinomite and Bulldozer worked together to create a Disney Villains/Halloween playlist on Amazon. It was so much fun to have this playlist on shuffle during the party. The kids danced, sang, and had an absolute blast. 

When Sunshine tired out from all of the fun, she came over to me and cuddled for a bit. It felt so great to have have this special moment with her.
Sunshine & Mommy

Our Disney Villains Halloween Party was a HUGE hit with the kids and adults alike.  Sunshine talked about it forever. The other three kids came home, having had a blast.

Despite being in the "fish bowl" conference room for several hours, we definitely made the best of it!

And now I have this beautiful Halloween picture, capturing the best of memories, of all of my children together for Halloween this year. 

Disney Villains Halloween Party Group Photo

Happy Halloween from our family to yours!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
The Best Halloween Movies for Kids Our Halloween Countdown Witches and Wizards Halloween Party Halloween Sensory Bins and Invitations to Play Montessori-inspired Halloween Themed Language Bundle Montessori-inspired Halloween Jack-o-lantern Printable Pack Montessori-inspired Halloween Animals Printable Pack
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How to Write an Essay (Free Printable)

Last year the kids were introduced to the concept of writing an essay.  This was extremely intimidating to them.

When fear and intimidation take over, the first thing I do to help the kids work through feelings is create a visual support for them to rely on. Visuals help so much!

This was the case with essay writing as well.

I broke down how to write an essay into paragraphs and wrote a step-by-step guide for writing each paragraph.

We then practiced writing essays, paragraph by paragraph, one essay after another about a variety of topics, using the FREE How to Write an Essay Chart provided.  

FREE How to Write an Essay Chart

Over time, all three kids mastered writing essays, to the point that they are able to write them about anything.

The visual worked so well, I wanted to be sure to share it with any others who may need it.

The How to Write an Essay Chart is a Subscriber’s Only Freebie. Be sure to follow the directions a the directions below to obtain your free copy.


Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another message with the Subscriber Only Freebies Link and Password.

6. Click on link and type in password. (The password is cap sensitive.)

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and voila!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.


Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter


If you enjoyed the post above, you may also enjoy the resources below.

 How to Write a Comparative Essay How to Write a Short Story How to Write a Newspaper Article Rainbow Writing Prompts Beginner Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges in Action Advanced Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges

Read More »

FREE How to Write a Comparative Essay Printable Pack

This year all three kiddos, Dinomite, Bulldozer, and Princess are in middle school.

Where has the time gone?!

Yet again, we’re transitioning our Montessori model to meet the needs of the kids.

We’re spending a lot more time on project-based studies that are child led.

The kiddos continue their grammar, mechanics, and word study lessons, but a lot more emphasis is put on how to write papers rather than sentences and paragraphs.

With each assignment has come learning how to write in different formats.

Most recently the kids learned how to write a comparative essay using the free printables in this post.

FREE How to Write a Comparative Essay Printable Pack

This year Dinomite, Bulldozer and Princess wanted to dedicate their science studies to oceanography and marine biology.

It’s no surprise that the first animal they wanted to study was the shark.

Each kiddo definitely has a few favorite sharks and are very passionate about them.

A shark study provided the perfect opportunity to introduce and practice writing a comparative essay for the first time.

Each child chose two sharks to write about.

They researched those sharks and decided on three topics to compare and contrast, making sure that there were similarities and differences with each one.

We worked through the process of writing a comparative essay paragraph by paragraph using the free printable in this post.

The kids did such a fantastic job with these essays. I have learned so much about the various sharks reading their work.

They are currently typing their essays to prepare to be kept in their educational portfolio.

Now, there are several ways to write a comparative essay.

I spent several hours studying each and every way, to figure out which would make the most sense to teach the kiddos.

Each kiddo learns writing processes in a different way, and naturally organizes information in different ways.

In the end I decided to teach the version of a comparative essay that requires eight paragraphs. The fist paragraph is the introduction. The next six paragraphs alternate the two concepts (sharks), going topic by topic until the final conclusion.

Please be aware the free printable pack only includes directions on how to write this type of comparative essay.

The printable pack also includes resources for helping to write the main thesis and organizing research that will be compared and contrasted.

The How to Write a Comparative Essay Printable Pack is a Subscriber Only Freebie.

For your free copy, be sure to follow the directions at the bottom of this post.


Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another message with the Subscriber Only Freebies Link and Password.

6. Click on link and type in password. (The password is cap sensitive.)

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and voila!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.



If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.


How to Write a Short Story FREE Capitalization Sentence Challenges How to Write a Newspaper Article Rainbow Writing Prompts Beginner Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges in Action Advanced Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges
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8 Important Facts Parents Need to Know About the IEP Process

Over the past four years I have learned the ins and outs of the IEP process in a way that I wish on no parent, due to the experiences we have had with Sunshine.

Please know that we have had some amazing experiences with our home school district. I am so humble and grateful for how lucky we are to work with such fabulous people. Our local school district is to thank for helping me learn all of these important facts.

But, when it comes to working with schools within the residential system, we have faced nothing but nightmare after nightmare.

As I am yet again requesting another IEP meeting this week due to a third residential school choosing not to follow Sunshine’s IEP, I figured it was time to share what we have learned through this difficult process.

All advice applies to every IEP process, whether your child is in a residential treatment center, or attending a school in your local school district.

Here are 8 important facts parents need to know about the IEP process.

8 Important Facts Parents Need to Know About the IEP Process

8 Important Facts Parents Need to Know About the IEP Process


1. Parents can request an IEP meeting at any time.

A parent does not have to wait for the school or teacher to initiate an IEP meeting. You have the right to request a meeting at any time. The school is required to honor this request. 

If they refuse, document this information in writing and pursue legal action if you feel so inclined. You have a right to do so.

IEP meetings are a great way to check up on how things are going in the classroom. They ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your child. 

IEP meetings are also a great time to check in to see if the IEP is being followed.

It’s one thing to write a great IEP, but yet another to ensure that it’s being followed.

I have learned that requesting IEP meetings regularly have been the only way to ensure Sunshine’s IEP is being followed when she is in the residential setting in another state.

2. If an IEP meeting has not been scheduled within a month of being in a new learning environment, request one.

Whether your child is sent to residential, a day program, or your family has moved, if the new school has not initiated an IEP meeting to discuss your child within the first month of classes, request one.

There is a chance that the new school is not following the IEP that was sent, and therefore your child is suffering.

If that’s the case, you want things to change as quickly as possible.

You will also want to meet everyone on your child’s education team as soon as possible, as you will be working with them for the foreseeable future.  They need to know you take your child's education and accommodations very seriously.

With every new residential setting Sunshine is in, I request an IEP at the 30-day mark, if I have heard nothing from the residential school.

3. No matter where your child attends school, your local school district is required to make sure your child is receiving therapies and other supports stated in the IEP. This includes funding for these supports.

There is absolutely no reason your child shouldn’t be receiving therapies stated as necessary in the IEP.

There is absolutely no reason your child shouldn’t be receiving a one-to-one if it’s stated as necessary in the IEP.

The local school district is legally required to fund these accommodations, when they are deemed necessary.

If your child is in a residential setting, it is up to your local school district to contract out services, wherever your child may be, if they are not provided in the residential setting.

It may take time to hire someone qualified to provide the service to your child.

Be sure to allow for that time, but document each and every contact in writing along the way. Follow up to be sure all is done. If not, you have the right to pursue legal action.

E-mail communication is a great way to document everything in a way that won’t be lost.

I make sure that Sunshine’s school knows that I know that she is to receive a one-to-one in the classroom setting, and that she is to be receiving occupational therapy and physical therapy. 

If they try to change or alter these plans in any way, I am very quick to mention the legal consequences of not providing supports in the IEP. I have threatened legal action over this in Sunshine's first placement. The school was VERY quick to put in the supports without question at that point.

4. Schools are obligated by law to send regular updates on IEP goal progress.

You as a parent are to receive updates on your child’s IEP goal progress. The time in between updates may vary by state.  In our home state, updates are sent out about every six weeks during the school year.

As a parent, you are always able to request an IEP meeting to discuss progress, if you feel you are not receiving adequate updates, or updates in a timely manner.

If I don’t receive an update on Sunshine’s progress during two month time period, I will request an IEP meeting to ensure updates are being given.

5. All parties, including the parent, must sign off on an IEP.

If you, as the parent, are not satisfied with the IEP, you can refuse to sign until it meets your expectations.

You know your child and know what she needs.

You are the expert on your child. Do not let anyone tell you any differently.

If you feel that your child isn’t receiving the accommodations she needs, and you are facing resistance from the school district, request that testing and observations be done.

Set a date to reconvene with scores and assessments complete.

Do not sign the IEP until current test scores have been considered and discussed, with goals and accommodations updated to reflect scores.

I will not sign an IEP if I am not 100% satisfied with it. The school district knows this and works very hard to make sure that all parties do their part.

6. You have the right to request testing and assessments on your child at any time.

A full psychological evaluation of your child should be completed every three years when your child has an IEP. This includes an IQ test, adaptive testing, necessary academic assessments, and any behavioral assessments that might be deemed necessary.

Occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy assessments are done annually, and sometimes semi-annually.

All of these tests and assessments are required to ensure your child has the correct diagnoses and is receiving the correct supports and services.

If you are observing specific challenges related to any of these areas at any time, you can request that testing be done, so long as it pertains to school performance, or is requested by a medical professional such as a developmental pediatrician.

I always make sure I have updated test scores when discussing Sunshine’s academic plans.

7. You have a right to include a behavioral plan in the IEP.

When a behavioral plan is included in an IEP, it becomes a legal document that you can hold the school accountable for. If it is not included, you are not able to do so.

Behavioral plans are a great way to better understand what interventions will be used when your child is not doing well.

They also explain what prevention measures are taken to help your child stay regulated throughout the day. 

If your child receives ABA, a behavioral plan specifically lists what autism supports will be in place and used during your child’s school day.

Remember, if you are uncomfortable with any of these interventions, you can refuse them, and request that alternatives be used.

An RBT will usually write a behavioral plan for a child who receives ABA.

But, if your child doesn’t qualify for autism support services, the teacher and school counselor can write this plan.

At this point, I do not sign an IEP without a very detailed behavioral plan for Sunshine that I support. I want to make sure if I need to pursue legal action, I have all of the details I need.

8. You have the right to participate in creating IEP goals for your child.

IEP goals are not just something that your child’s teachers and therapists create. 

You can participate in this process during an IEP meeting.

If you don’t like a goal, you can request that it be changed.

I am a huge fan of very detailed goals with specific ways to measure progress.

If goals are too vague, or there is not a way to measure progress, I will request the goals be rewritten until I am satisfied.

It is my hope that sharing these important facts about the IEP process will help you avoid horrible situations that we have experienced over the last few years with Sunshine.

Advocating fiercely is not always an enjoyable experience, but it is so necessary to ensure that your child can be the best they can be.

Your child can not advocate for herself in these circumstances. 

Be kind.

Be brave.

Be firm.

You’ve got this!

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8 Important Facts Parents Need to Know About the IEP Process

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FREE Capitalization Sentence Challenges

Over the summer, the kids became very interested in writing mechanics. I have been waiting for this moment for a LONG time.

I could have gone ahead and taught writing mechanics sooner, but I wanted to be sure to follow the kids lead. 

If I didn't follow their lead, I knew there was a great chance it would be a miserable experience. I am super excited to have avoided that. I knew that they were learning some mechanics on their own because they're avid readers, so I didn't sweat the wait.

NOW we're FINALLY here! 

We've started our writing mechanics journey with capitalization.  Among the many ways we've learned and practiced capitalization over the last month, the kids' favorite has been sentence challenges.

So today, we share with you twenty FREE Capitalization Sentence Challenges!

FREE Montessori-inspired Capitalization Sentence Challenges

 FREE Montessori-inspired Capitalization Sentence Challenges

These Capitalization Sentence Challenges are a fabulous way to practice picking out all of the many situations where capital letters are required. 

They're also a great way to practice picking out all of the many scenarios where they're not required.

All sentence challenges include five capitalization errors.

There are no other corrections needed in these sentence challenges, to ensure the focus is only on capital letters.

How to Use the FREE Capitalization Sentence Challenges

These sentence challenges can be used in several different ways, depending on the needs of your students.

With each sentence challenge comes:
  • A sentence strip with all of the errors (problem card)
  • A sentence strip with all errors corrected and highlighted in red (control card)
  • A blank sentence strip meant for writing the sentence correctly (writing card)
If you have students who are just learning about scenarios where capitalized letters are required, you can have them rewrite sentences using the control cards and writing cards.

If you have students who aren't fans of writing or who struggle with writing, you can have them underline or circle letters that need to be capitalized within the sentence on the problem card.

If you have students who love to write or need to practice writing, and have learned the rules of capitalization, you can give them a problem card with a writing card, let them have at it, and then provide the control card for them to check their answers.

The FREE Montessori-inspired Capitalization Sentence Challenges are a Subscriber's Only Freebie. Be sure to follow the directions below for your free copy.

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another message with the Subscriber Only Freebies Link and Password.

6. Click on link and type in password. (The password is cap sensitive.)

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and voila!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.

Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter


If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below!

Rainbow Writing Prompts Beginner Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges in Action Beginner Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges Beginner Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges in Cursive Intermediate Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges Intermediate Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges in Cursive Advanced Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges Advanced Montessori-inspired Sentence Challenges in Cursive
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She Needs a Forensics Exam

Note: This post picks up part way through the story of Sunshine's return home the summer of 2021.One does not need to read the first part of the story, but if you'd like to, it begins HERE

I didn’t plan to make it all the way back to our hometown from the residential treatment center in one day. My initial goal was to just make it across state lines.

A this point though, Sunshine and I were about two hours from our final destination, at a rest stop. It was about 11:30 PM. 

She was wide awake and determined to arrive at our hotel.

We were listening to the Frozen 2 soundtrack yet again. Sunshine was singing happily.  

So I continued to drive.

We had already been traveling for ten hours.

She Needs a Forensics Exam

I asked my husband, Jason, to meet us at the hotel we had planned to check into. Checking in would be a tad tricky with Sunshine. Boy was I thankful he was there.

You Can Not Stay Here

We hadn’t booked the room ahead of time because we didn’t know if I would make the trip back in one night.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were told, that because we lived within 50 miles, we could not stay there.

Apparently, a new regulation was in place in the county, thanks to college students renting rooms, partying, and destroying property.

At 1:30 AM, we were exhausted with no place to go.

Sunshine was struggling.

Calls were made to several other hotels in the area. The policy was the same.

Finally, we received a tender mercy. One local hotel, due to our circumstances, was willing to make an exception to the regulations and let us stay.

At about 2:30 AM, we were finally checked in and slipping into our beds.

I Can Not Fill the Prescriptions

The next morning, I immediately called our pediatrician’s office and asked for an appointment. I wanted all of the bruising I was seeing documented on our end.

I needed to know that Sunshine was okay.

Plus, I needed to make sure we had prescriptions for the next day. The residential treatment center had only sent enough of Sunshine's medications for one day. The scripts that were sent were not valid in our state. New ones had to be written.

There was no chance of getting prescriptions without an appointment. Sunshine had been gone eight months.

The pediatrician was out of town, but the nurse practitioner was able to see her first thing.

With very little sleep, we headed to the appointment.

The nurse practitioner did not feel comfortable writing the scripts for Sunshine’s medications and deferred the responsibility to Sunshine’s psychiatrist. 

I tried not to cry.

We still hadn't been able to get a hold of Sunshine’s psychiatrist.

If Sunshine didn't have her meds, she would end up being hospitalized in the pediatric psychiatric ward again.  Worse, there were reasons she would end up in the psychiatric ward again, which meant everyone around her would be in danger.

She Needs a Forensics Exam

Next came Sunshine’s physical exam.

The nurse practitioner could not believe what she saw.

Remaining as calm as possible, she documented everything and then asked if I would take Sunshine to an ER at a hospital about an hour away for a forensics exam. Our local hospital was not equipped to do things like this, especially when it came to children.

Sunshine needed a forensics exam.

The nurse practitioner was concerned about internal damage and other things that may be going on.

All I kept thinking was,

“When will this nightmare end?”

I called my husband and asked that he continue to call Sunshine’s psychiatrist’s office about the meds. 

Meanwhile, Sunshine and I grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the recommended ER… in the middle of COVID-19.

We Need a Room Now!

Our 12-passenger van, Big Red, would not fit in the parking garages near the hospital, so we had to park a few blocks away on the street. It was only 2 PM in the afternoon, so I thought nothing of it.

This ER did not have a waiting room. Instead we were expected to sit in the hall and wait.

Sunshine HATES waiting.

Sunshine HATES hospitals.

The only two chairs available in the packed hallway, were next to a police officer sitting with a young man, whom I knew immediately was there for mental health reasons. They had been waiting two hours, and still no room was available.

The presence of the police officer helped Sunshine remain calm. But when he left, she did not do well.

I had to grab a nurse and explain that if someone didn’t want to do a mandatory psychiatric inpatient request, that Sunshine needed to be seen right away.

In my head I kept thinking,

“Well, if she’s going to be admitted to a psychiatric ward, it might as well be tonight.” 

I cringed at the thought that we may not even make it 24 hours before she became too unsafe to care for.

Thankfully, the nurse listened and knew I was serious as she observed Sunshine’s state and quickly gave us a room.

How Can I Help?

I’m not usually a fan of ER doctors, but the one we were blessed with that day, I will forever be grateful for.

I shared Sunshine’s story.

I shared the documentation.

I explained why where were there.

Her first question was,

“How can I help?”

First, I explained our medication predicament.

Within minutes she had a nurse there helping her sort through all of the scripts from the RTC. She immediately phoned them into our pharmacy.

Next, she called in a pediatric life specialist to help with Sunshine. 

The LAST thing she wanted was for Sunshine to end up needing to be admitted to a psychiatric ward after all she’d just been through.

Lastly, she paged the forensics nurse to come do the exam.

There’s only one pediatric forensics nurse on duty at a time. Shift changes are at 7 PM. It just so happened that the forensics nurse who was on call when we arrived, received another case, just before Sunshine’s and could not make it to Sunshine before the end of the shift.

So we waited… and waited… and waited…

We spent several hours waiting for the next one to come on duty. The ER doctor and nurses apologized profusely.

I do not know what we would have done without that pediatric child life specialist that afternoon and evening. 

It was the biggest tender mercy we had received yet.

The Interview

Finally, at about 8 PM, a forensics nurse arrived. She was so warm and kind. 

The child life specialist remained in the room to help with the first part of the process, which was an extensive interview with me, the parent.

Again, I shared the story. 

I showed the documents. 

I exchanged contact information for the sheriff’s department and CPS in the state Sunshine was in where all of this happened. 

And, I answered every single question she asked.

The Exam

At about 10 PM, the forensics exam finally got started. I was asked to stay present and assist in helping Sunshine be cooperative when necessary. The pediatric life specialist remained in the room as well.

I can’t begin to describe how it felt as a parent to watch a forensics nurse examine my child

Sunshine had bruises ALL over her body.

Every bruise was measured.

Every bruise was compared to a color-coding chart as to how dark it was.


Every bruise was photographed multiple times at different angles.

Sunshine was interviewed about every bruise and mark on her body.

She’d give names and explanations.

My job was to stay calm, help soothe her, and remain strong. 

If I showed distress, Sunshine would become distressed.

I thought we were going to the ER to only document bruises.

I thought that would be it.

But it was during the forensics exam that Sunshine disclosed that not only had she been hurt by staff and peers, she had also been sexually assaulted by an older female peer multiple times, with the bruising to show for it.

The exam went a step further.

Once again, my job was to help Sunshine stay calm, help soothe her, and remain strong. 

If I showed distress, Sunshine would become distressed. 

This was much harder during this next step of the exam.

The situation felt like one out of the movies, but it wasn’t.

It was real.

It was happening.

This was our life right now.

The last and final step of the exam was a blood draw.

The purpose of the blood draw was to prove that there was no other reason for those bruises to be there.   

Sunshine was finally discharged after midnight.

The Drive Back to the Hotel

A police officer drove us to our vehicle since the streets weren’t guaranteed to be safe at night.

My husband remained on the phone with me the entire drive home to make sure I drove and arrived to the hotel safely.

I’d had so little sleep the last few days.

The secondary trauma I had just experienced was really rattling me.

Sunshine was still awake and it was my job to stay completely calm and okay, so that she would do the same, no matter how I was feeling.

The Aftermath

We arrived at the hotel after 1 AM.

Sunshine had only had hospital food all afternoon and evening, so she decided she needed to eat her dinner before bed.

Finally, at about 2 AM our heads hit the pillows.

I silently cried myself to sleep, once I knew Sunshine was dreaming.

The forensics nurse had said she’d call with the blood results when they came back and after she’d spoken with the sheriff and CPS in the state where Sunshine had been abused.

Blood results came back normal.  

I was told to contact the sheriff’s office. I did. 

The sheriff told me to file another CPS report. I did.

Sunshine's bruises took over a month to fully heal.  

Three Months Later

It’s been about three months since all of this occurred.

We were told the CPS investigation (not initiated by us) about the bruises, would stay open for six weeks.

We were told Sunshine’s severe behaviors were the reason such excessive force was used by staff at the RTC.

I didn’t and still don’t understand this. 

Sunshine never had bruises as a result of behavioral interventions in our home.

We were told peers are peers and are too young to charge.

Again, it was reported that Sunshine’s behaviors were severe, and that's why there were bruises from peers.

All of the children in residential treatment centers are there to receive help and healing for severe behaviors.

But, where was staff? 

Why wasn't Sunshine being protected?

The CPS investigation about the sexual abuse went nowhere.

No one came to interview Sunshine, after I filed the report, as I'd been told to do.

No one contacted me, after I filed the report.

We were told that because the sexual abuser was under thirteen, state law stated no charges would be made.

The forensics nurse was basically told the same things.

We do NOT understand why we weren't contacted and interviewed, as nothing like this should ever take place in a residential facility.

We DO understand not charging children under thirteen years old, nor would we press charges. 

Children who sexually assault other children, in most cases, are only doing to others what has been done to them.

These children need time to work through their own trauma and learn what's okay and what's not.

But again I ask, where was the supervision? 

Where was staff? 

How could something like this happen multiple times?

The nightmare never ends.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below. They are bits and pieces of Sunshine's story starting from earliest to most recent events.
Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis Goodbye Sunshine Fleeing for Safety Hotel Living: Making the Most Out of Small Spaces It's Time to Have a Serious Talk about Residential Treatment Centers How Do You Work with a Broken Mental Health System? What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder

She Needs a Forensics Exam


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