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Posts Tagged ‘parents of special needs children’

Chocolate Covered Fun for All Ages and Abilities

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Mouth watering?

Don’t these chocolate covered strawberries look delicious?

For the Holidays, or any day, what about making chocolate covered treats or gifts for the people you love?

Chocolate Covered Fun for ALL AGES and Abilities

Parents, Special Education Teachers, Directors of Day Programs and Senior Centers: Everyone is looking for activities that are fun, age-appropriate, and allow people with all ability levels to participate.

Taking your favorite snack for a chocolate dip may be the answer.
The costs will vary according to the ingredients, but pretzels and marshmallows are cheap. Of course if you want to go gourmet, hey, yum.

Partial Participation

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Creative Commons License photo credit: mbaylor

“Partial Participation is Better than Exclusion from an Activity” (Lou Brown)

Even if the recipe says, “Easy” that doesn’t mean every person can do every part of the activity.

For instance, Aaron, my son with the label of autism, wouldn’t be able to set the timer on the microwave–but he can certainly dip the pretzel in the chocolate sauce and choose the kind of sprinkles for the decoration.

Aaron can’t read the recipe with words, but he could follow the directions with pictures and though he can’t drive to the grocery, he can partially participate by picking out the pretzels and chocolate.

When Aaron was in school and had a speech therapist, one of his goals was identifying pictures of grocery items and finding the item in the grocery aisle. When he had a physical therapist, one of his IEP goals was pushing the grocery cart without hitting anyone in the grocery store. (Not a pretend grocery store in the classroom.) When he had an occupational therapist, one of his goals was to hand the grocery clerk the money to purchase the items and put the money back in his pocket. Aaron successfully learned these skills and practiced them every week in his functional community based program and … every time our family went into the community grocery store.

There are lots of things Aaron can do to partically participate in every activity.

When Aaron is part of the group, when he does purposeful, functional activities, he develops self-esteem, he is a doer. He is not just a passive observer. If he is treated as a baby, or as someone who cannot do anything but watch, then he loses his skills and his self-esteem. The people who think they are being nice and helpful to him, are not–they are actually causing him to lose skills/self-esteem.

This is a functional activity because if Aaron doesn’t go to the grocery to get the supplies someone else will have to do it.

If Aaron is actively involved in the shopping, the decorating, and gives the chocolate covered pretzels as a gift HE MADE–then this activity becomes much more than an easy activity to fill the day. It can become a learning and social enhancing experience. When he gives Grandma a package of pretzels he made, it is a joyful celebration for everyone. You should see his smile 🙂

Be Creative: Lots of Ideas

heart-crispies
Creative Commons License

Dip White or Dark Chocolate Ideas:

Dried Fruit (apricots, raisons…)
Fresh Fruit (strawberries, cherries with stems, apples (whole or slices)…)
Pretzel Rods of any size
Marshmallows
Cookies
Graham Crackers
Candy Canes
Rice Krispie Treats

How to Make Chocolate Covered Pretzels:

Age-Appropriate Activity

Activity for All Ages and Abilities

Things You Might Need:

Microwave-safe glass or measuring cups

Cooking spray

Bags white and dark chips (12 oz.)

Spoon

Pot Holders

Cookie Sheet

Wax paper

Bag of pretzel rods (12 oz.) or other food

Small candies or sprinkles

You Tube Video Demonstration

Task Analysis or Recipe

Chocolate-Covered Pretzels with Sprinkles

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen for Food Network Magazine
Prep Time: 20 min, Inactive Prep Time: 24 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 2 min; Level: Easy
Serves: 24 pretzels

Ingredients:
• 1 12-ounce package milk chocolate chips
• 1 12-ounce package white chocolate chips
• 24 large pretzel rods
• Assorted holiday sprinkles

Directions:
Place the milk chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and the white chocolate chips in another. Microwave one bowl on high for 1 minute. Remove and stir with a rubber spatula. (The chips should melt while you are stirring, but if they don’t, you can continue to microwave for 15 more seconds, and then stir again.) Wash and dry the spatula. Microwave the other bowl on high for 1 minute, and stir until the chocolate is melted.

Dip one pretzel rod into the milk chocolate; use a spoon or butter knife to spread the chocolate about halfway up the rod. Twist the rod to let the excess chocolate drip off. Hold the rod over a piece of wax paper and shake sprinkles on all sides. Place the pretzel on another piece of wax paper to dry. Coat another pretzel with white chocolate and sprinkles. Repeat until you’ve coated all the pretzels, half with milk chocolate, half with white chocolate, and let dry completely, about 24 hours. (Cover any remaining chocolate with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.)

Copyright 2011 Television Food Network G.P. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/chocolate-covered-pretzels-with-sprinkles-recipe2/index.html
All Rights Reserved

Gifts and Favors, Holiday Variations

President’s Day, Halloween, Easter, 4th of July, Christmas Variations

All American Holiday

Gifts and Favors

Stick Pretzels

Paula Deen’s Christmas Pretzels

Halloween chocolate covered pretzels

Comments:

Does it make sense that an activity as simple as making a chocolate covered pretzel can be a learning and self-esteem project? Can teachers, parents and directors of day programs make this more? Can they blow the opportunity?

Have you any ideas on this or other projects?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,
Mary

Other Related Articles:

It’s a Jungle Out There| Inclusion in the Grocery Store

Language of the Heart| Heartaches and Heartsongs

Busy vs. Bored| Life Space Analysis for People with Disabilities

The Animal School| Differentiated Instruction

Test Questions| Inclusion or Segregation?

Teachers| Segregation or Inclusion

Happy Ever Afters| One For The Money

Norm Kunc: What’s Your Credo?

Hope for Families of People with Disabilities|Bob Perske

Hope For the Families

Hope For The Families

Robert and Martha Perske

Today we heard the sad news that Bob Perske died. He was an advocate who made a difference. I will miss him.

At one of my first TASH (then The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps) conferences, I heard Bob Perske speak about Hope for the Families. His book, by the same name, helped me make sense of our family’s new life as parents of a son with the labels of intellectual disabilities, autism and more.

Bob Perske has been one of the pioneers for people with disabilities and their families. In Parallels of Time Bob Perske is seen pictured with giants in our field. He has written many terrific books including Circles of Friends and Unequal Justice, his current work with people with intellectual disabilities caught in the criminal justice system.

Bob is an amazing minister, speaker, writer and just great person. People with disabilities and their families are fortunate to have him in our lives. Martha, his wife, uses her talent to create pictures which spread joy and a vision of inclusion across the world.

Below is one of Martha’s pictures and the introduction to Hope for the Families which I have passed along to my friends, my classes, and anyone who would read it.

Two Friends

Two Friends by Martha Perske

Hope for Families of People with Disabilities

Not so very long ago, you and I were conditioned to perceive persons with handicaps as deviants. They were seen as…

Possessed by evil forces

Carriers of bad blood

A drag on the community’s resources

The products of illicit sex

Subhuman organisms

Too ugly to be seen in public

Objects to be laughed at

A Group that would outbreed us

People with contagious sicknesses

Sexual monsters and perverts

Children who never grew up

Our parents and teachers conditioned us by what they said—or didn’t say—to feel uncomfortable around hose imperfect people. We were led to believe that if we got too close to them, something evil would rub off on us.

Consequently, persons with disabilities were condemned to struggle against TWO handicaps. One was the actual handicap. The other was he additional wounding they received from our prejudices.

Wasn’t the handicap itself enough? Why did we have to cripple them further?

Let me offer one theory to explain such behavior:

Once we believed fiercely that the world was becoming better and better.

And in keeping with this belief, everyone was expected ultimately to develop…

A pure heart

A brilliant mind

A beautiful body

A successful marriage

A high-status job

And live in a perfect society.

Then along came a few defenseless persons with obvious physical and mental handicaps. Their presence rattled our plans for a perfect world as a high wind rattles a loose shutter. We didn’t like that, and the result was that we could not stand to have them around us.

World War II

Then something happened. One country, in an effort to create a super race, started a world war. By the time it ended, the minds of all humankind were trying to comprehend the terrible things some groups of human beings had done to other groups. All of us tried to understand what had happened in places like Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, London, Bataan, and Corregidor.

After World War II

After World War II, our belief in the gospel of world perfection began to fall apart.

And, we were reminded of some terrible facts.

All of us have gaps in our bodies and minds.

All of us are unfinished.

Some of us can hide our deficiencies better than others.

None of us will ever achieve perfection.

Those of us who think we are closest to perfection may be most likely to drag the human race to new lows.

Today we do not know whether the world is getting better and better—we only know it is getting more complex.

And yet it is an astonishing fact that humankind’s healthy interest in person with disabilities began to mushroom after the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb. One cannot help wondering if there is a connection.

Robert Perske Hope for the Families: Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN.1981. Click here for Robert Perske’s website.

Today, advocates in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and other places around the country are asking the legislature to preserve Medicaid and other programs for people with severe disabilities. The crucial support programs our children need to survive are at risk.

Money is always scarce, but as Bob points out, we have made progress in our values and experiences of including people in the community. We have to believe in hope and better futures for our children.

I am reminded of two quotes:

“Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it.”

“A measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable people.”

As parents we understand budget cuts and are even willing to concede progress will be slow, BUT we expect progress!

If you found this interesting you might also like a related article about Remarkable Parents who Never give up.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,

Mary

What’s Your Take?, Be Brave and Share

Do you think our society values people who are different or have special needs? or, are we still just a drain on the system and resources? Do you think people with disabilities have two handicaps?

If you like this, please retweet and share with your community. Thanks.

Related Articles:

Unequal Justice| Bob Perske

Bob Perske| The Song of Joe Arridy

A Comparison of the Service System and the Community

2012 Article on Joe Arridy “Here lies an Innocent Man”

note: Bob gave me permission to print excerpts from his book Hope for the Families.

A New Year of Learning

BACK to SCHOOL Article 2

To celebrate the new school year here are some of my favorite posts.
Article 1:

Why Do We Go to School?

Article 2:

A New Year of Learning

This is one of my favorite stories–an updated article from when Aaron was 8 years old and Tommy 6. Enjoy!

Kids in a Box

It was the weekend before school began and Cincinnati was sweltering from a week of 90 plus temperatures with over 50% humidity.

And partially because most of our neighbors don’t have air conditioning, and partially because we enjoy each other’s company, all the moms were sitting on the porch steps waiting for the street lights to signal the time for baths, bedtime and the end of summer.

Several of the children were busy with final rehearsal for the “Ralph Avenue” version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Erin was the wicked queen, Allison the prince charming and the younger children Eric, Patrick, Tricia, and my son Tommy were assorted other characters.

The kids ran in and out of the yards wearing their winter caps with the tassels dropping over, trying to look like dwarfs.

After a while, the large cardboard box from Allison’s new stove changed from being used for the stage scenery for dwarfs to a cool hideout for cowboys.

Patrick’s mother was telling us a newspaper reporter stopped by her house to do an interview with “a new kindergartner.” It would be a three part series on Patrick’s impressions before school began, during in January, and a third article after in June.

The poor reporter had a time of it because every time she asked Patrick (5 yrs.) about the imminent kindergarten experience, Eric (6 years and a kindergarten veteran) would give his answer, including a heated discussion about, “Who would be picked for the cookie passer?”

It was so much fun to be watching the kids and hanging out with other mothers but the beginning of school is very traumatic for me because of our continuing problems with the special education school program for my son.

Aaron has the label of autism and severe intellectual disabilities. A new year signals the beginning of another year of battle for inclusion.

But maybe because it was too hot and maybe because I was surrounded by friends, I continued to sip my ice tea and enjoy the normal conversation of my neighbors.

Patrick said his favorite football team was the Jets. His brother Michael, age 3, noting the adults’ interest, announced his favorite team was “the helicopters.” Jets—helicopters, why not?

Tricia’s soccer team won every game last year with a very gentle and knowledgeable coach. This year they won their first game but the new coach yelled and screamed and was upsetting the team and their parents. The parents wondered if victory was worth the price?

Moments that make parenting fun

Tommy went for his school physical and when the nurse asked him to urinate into a cup he burst into tears.

I pointed to the counter and its rows of labeled cups and told him everyone—even grownups–had to do this.

Sobbing he said, “Okay—but I won’t drink it.”

Later he asked, “Mom, why do they need a toilet in there is everyone pees in a cup?”

My friends and I exchanged sale prices on jeans and problem solved about the best backpacks and gym shoes with shoelaces that didn’t need to be tied.

We laughed, reminisced about summer and shared the thunderstorm warnings.

Eric’s Mom passed out popsicles.

All this time Aaron was walking up and down following the crowd of “dwarfs” as they flitted from yard to yard. He didn’t get a lot of direct attention, yet he was part of the group. For a time they all put on football helmets and Aaron went over, knocked on them to hear the funny sounds and everyone giggled. Aaron got quite excited and even though he is tactily very defensive he allowed them to place the helmet on his head, for a minute anyway.

Tommy brought out his golf clubs and soon Eric and everyone tried a few swings hitting a large flowered ball. Once Aaron was too close and thoughtfully Patrick took his arm and helped him get out of the way and Eric adapted and shortened his swing.

Then the crowd was back down the street again. This time Aaron waited for the abandoned golf club. He bent over and balanced perfectly picking the club out of the grass. He began in his own way to hit the big plastic ball around the yard. Then he too lost interest and headed back down the street to find the other children.

Four years ago, the same day we moved into our home, a group of people on the other side of town filed a lawsuit to protect their neighborhood from the “danger’ of a proposed group home for people who were labeled mentally retarded. I remember my worry of meeting our new neighbors and their reactions. What would be their concerns, fears? Would they allow us into their community?

There have been awkward moments when Aaron would do something inappropriately. But then “normal” “regular” young children have their good and bad moments like the rest of mankind.

Now Aaron was just Aaron and each neighbor had worries about jobs, children, families—the usual. We were a part of their neighborhood, their community.

As the sky darkened and the parents began to gather up the toys, football helmets, golf clubs and the talk again turned toward getting the children to bed so they would be fresh for the first day of school, I couldn’t help but think of how children and adults learn.

We use our creativity for Snow White costumes and playing with discarded boxes. We use our problem solving skills to find sale priced jeans to stretch our budgets. We use skill development including repetitive drill and practice for playing soccer and for picking up golf clubs out of the grass. We build on our experiences and associations whether they are jets and helicopters, cups and drinking, or how we feel about people who are different than we are. We also learn from people, some of whom are rough coaches, some parents, some newspaper writers, and some—neighbors.

School may begin tomorrow but in our neighborhood a whole lot of learning happened tonight. And perhaps, just perhaps—because Eric and Pat and Tommy will grow up with their incidental learning, experiences, associations and relationships with Aaron, the years of battles for belonging, full inclusion and citizenship will be shortened and our war for acceptance will be won.

Sometimes the make-believe lessons of Snow White overlap with the real world lessons of our family. After all, wasn’t Snow White the one who sang: “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish for will come true.”

Keep believing, keep dreaming and a Happy School Year to All.

YOUR TURN

Has our dream of inclusion for all kids come true? Certainly more children now have the opportunity. Aaron, Neil Roncker, Jenni Wetzel, Julie McMahon–they were the first kids in the doors of the public schools in Greater Cincinnati. I believe with all my heart they touched the lives of their peers who are now grown and sending their own children off to school.

And some of these young parents became the doctors, teachers, bus drivers and parents of kids with special needs. Our lives really are all part of each other, all part of the circle of life. I hope this new generation feels better prepared. I hope the schools their children attend are also better prepared. I hope our communities are more welcoming to those who have differences.

What dreams are we still wishing for? What lessons are we still learning?

Comments

Please leave a comment so we can celebrate this new year of learning.
What are you thinking about as the school year begins?

Keep climbing–onward and upward.

All the best,

Mary

Related Posts:

IEP Videos

Partners in Policymaking

Aaron’s Olympic Moment

Aaron watching Tommy play Nintendo

Aaron watching Tommy play video games

Is summer different for kids with and without disabilities?

As parents of children with disabilities, it is difficult to know “What is realistic?” “What goals do I want?”. I have always found it helpful to measure “normalization” by comparing the life of my son Tommy with his brother Aaron. Below are my thoughts about summer activities when the boys were young teens. The lessons I learned helped me cherish the final “inclusive” story below. Hope you’ll share your thoughts and success stories.

Tommy, my 13 year old son, with the label of “normal”:

Went to 2 weeks of Boy Scout camp, an experience which included a hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Had to choose between participating in baseball or soccer which included 2 practices a week and a game. In August he began daily training for the school cross-country team.

Was active in a neighborhood network of five boys who decided to start a Gaming Exchange Club. His friends called him the minute he arrived home from activities, played games until supper.

Was invited to stay overnight with a friend or cousin 3 times and his friends 5 times.

Had a season’s pass to a nearby amusement park and spent at least one day there each week with friends.

The days of summer flew by for Tommy. He had individual activities with friends, but also family activities which included a camping vacation and travel to a National Park. His major frustrations were either the lack of time for pursuing all of his interests, or his Mom’s suggesting he do something “dumb” like reading a book or practicing his clarinet.

Our family on a camping trip

Our Family Camping Trip

Aaron, age 14, with the label of autism, intellectual and developmental disability:

Aaron went to two weeks of “special” camp: Easter Seals and Stepping Stones.

Aaron’s major activity was watching Tommy play baseball, video games…and riding in the carpool to drop off Tommy and his friends.

Aaron also has a pass to the amusement park, but can only go with an adult (his mother).

Aaron spends every morning saying, “bus, bus … ready, set, go.” When the school bus doesn’t come, he sometimes licks on the front window, bites his hands and puts on his coat and backpack. He can’t figure out why his routine is different from the other 9 months of the year.

Aaron also can’t figure out why we spend all winter telling him to keep the front door shut, and all summer telling him to keep the front door open (but that’s another story). *smile*

He was not invited to overnights with cousins or friends.

What’s the Difference?

As I contrast the lives of my two boys, I can’t help thinking…

• …perhaps I wouldn’t feel Aaron’s isolation and lack of contact with any friends or same-age peers if Tommy had fewer friends.

• …perhaps I wouldn’t worry about Aaron’s behaviors, physical condition, weight and stamina if he were occasionally an active participant, rather than always an observer.

• …perhaps our family will adjust eventually to the sadness (and stress) we feel knowing Aaron’s only opportunities come from mom, dad or brother…and realizing it may always be that way.

* …perhaps we wouldn’t feel so trapped if we could get respite regularly.

* …perhaps we’ll become accustomed to wearing a key around our necks so that the door can be locked with a deadbolt every time someone goes out or comes in (otherwise Aaron will run into the street or enter neighbors’ homes).

* …perhaps we’ll resign ourselves to our community’s “special” camps and “special” recreation programs, which effectively exclude Aaron from almost everything that is typical, regular, easily available and low cost.

* …perhaps hope will sustain us that someday a “community support” agency professional from somewhere, anywhere, could adapt, modify and begin to open community activities for Aaron and others.

* …perhaps/…oh perhaps…some wonderful person will believe that a community is more that a group of houses, businesses and people.

Summary: “Separate is Inherently Unequal.”

The tragedy of having a child with a disability has nothing to do with a syndrome, impairment or disease. Words such as autism, CP, and intellectual disabilities are just descriptors the same way hair color, height, race, sex and personality are descriptors. Children don’t start out life knowing they are different. The tragedy is the reaction of families, neighbors and society, which emphasize differences.

The conflict for people with disabilities and for their families comes when the community limits opportunities, segregates and restricts individuals’ choices (e.g. Handicap swim is Tuesday; 1:30-2:30 p.m. and General swim is Monday to Friday 8:00–5:00). If Aaron had an inclusive swim buddy, Aaron wouldn’t have to go to “handicap swim” but rather the general swim with the other kids.

It doesn’t matter that the limiting of opportunities appears, to have a good rationale or charitable intentions. Segregation limits freedom, limits choices, and limits development.

“Special” means segregated.

Our Olympic Moment of Inclusion

One hot July day, Tommy and his friends stopped by our house to make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for an impromptu picnic.

Unexpectedly, one of the boys asked if Aaron wanted to come along.

Five minutes later, all the kids were laughing, talking and riding their bikes to the park. One red-haired kid named Aaron was riding on his bike in tandem with his brother.

In about one hour the picnic ended and they brought Aaron back.

That was the highlight of Aaron’s whole summer.

Our Olympic Moment–not, Special Olympic Moment

That moment for Aaron was sort of like the experience of an Olympic ice skater, gymnast, American Idol singer who practices day after day hoping to “bring it all together” for one magic performance or “big break.”

It was a “victory” –a spontaneous, normalized recreation experience, without his mom! Ahhh (smile-sigh).

And now…back to work. But, perhaps, just perhaps…those wonderful, typical neighborhood kids will grow up more fully with the vision for and the experience of community integration and freedom. They are the next generation of soccer coaches, swim instructors, church and scout learners.

The change of inclusion has begun.

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,

Mary

Related Stories:

On the last day of Junior High School.

Dream Plan for Aaron–14 yrs old (Part 2).

America the Beautiful: A Family Vacation, Plus.

Share YOUR Thoughts:

Are summers different for kids with and without disabilities where you live? Can you think of anything you could do to help? Any way to include a child in the activities of your children? Any tips to share? Any stories from the 90s? 2012?