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Posts Tagged ‘task analysis’

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

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
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.)


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

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

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.
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


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,

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?

Mom’s I.E.P. for the Holidays: Individualized Enjoyment Plan

Here is one of our most popular posts. Relax and make an individualized ENJOYMENT plan for your best holiday ever.


Happy Holidays Everyone

Easy as I.E.P.

Mom’s I.E.P. for the Holidays: Individualized Enjoyment Plan

Want to enjoy the holidays?

Of Course.

Easy as I.E.P.

Don’t laugh. I.E.P.’s were developed because they are good planning tools. Some people are intimidated or challenged by the I.E.P. in Special Education. One way to demystify the I.E.P. process is to use it in our everyday lives. So, stick with me for a minute while we look at how this can work in real life.

Let’s use the Individualized Education Plan to create a holiday planning guide.

The first part is to create your Dream Plan of what you want. Then we plug in the basic parts of the I.E.P.: Evaluation, Annual Goals, Short term objectives, Related Services, Placement, and circle back to the Evaluation for the next I.E.P. for next year.

Dreaming of YOUR perfect holiday

Everyone’s perfect holiday looks different: Grandma’s turkey feast, or make that a roast goose, or Uncle Bob’s ham and sweet potatoes, or a vegetarian, or Kosher, or vegan, or gluten-free …

Everyone has different expectations, traditions, time and money constraints. So forget the Women’s magazines, forget what your Mother-in-law wants, forget what happens on the Food Channel and Martha Stewart show.

We don’t care about “Everybody.”

The beauty of the I.E.P. is it is individualized. It is for You. Not your mother, your children, your boss…YOU! This is YOUR moment, your freedom, just YOU–what do you want?

Action Step 1: Visualize a Dream Holiday

Take a deep breath and picture a smiling yourself surrounded by your favorite people, doing what you really want to do. Ahhhhh.

Are you skiing down a mountain? Are you sitting by the fireplace listening to Bing Crosby? or Lady Antebellum? ….

What would make this a joyous holiday for you–with just the right balance of work and relaxation?

What were the strengths and weaknesses of previous holidays?

Do you want to start any new “You” traditions, new family traditions?

Define your dream plan (see related post)

Feel empowered to do it YOUR WAY. This is your holiday gift to yourself. You deserve it!

Don’t you feel better already? This holiday is going to be the best.

Dream Plan:

1. Take a sheet of paper and fold it into four squares: Wants, Needs, Likes, and Dislikes.

2. Fill in the boxes based on YOUR Individualized choices.

If you are feeling pressure because others are trying to get you to do something you don’t want to do, be polite but tell them to make their own IEP. 🙂 Empower yourself! I know this is hard for me and most Moms.

3. Circle your five top priorities and they will become your goals.

For example: Want live tree. Need family to be together for dinner. Loved shopping with Aunt Ruth. Hated the last minute rush….

One Priority goal: Need family to be together for dinner.

Making a decision is the first step. What do YOU want? What would bring YOU joy?


Since there is no standardized tool to measure the
holidays–no HFA (Holiday Fun Assessment) or HQ (Happiness Quotient)–we will create an informal evaluation tool based on ecological assessments.



LONG TERM GOAL I: To have a traditional, homemade turkey dinner with family members on Christmas Day.

Do we want to raise the turkey and grow the corn for the stuffing? Serve the strawberry preserves from your summer garden? Do we want to skip the preparation and order in? Or go out to eat? So many choices?

If we decide to keep this as one of our goals, then we must break down our long-term goal into measurable, observable steps.

Mom decides she wants to cook the Christmas dinner and eat at home.


“Short term objectives are merely small steps that enable us to get from where we are now to where we want to be by a certain date.”

A. Mom will finalize the menu by December 10.

B. Mom will make the list and complete the shopping by December 15.

C. Mom will prepare the dinner by December 25.

Each of these short-term objectives can be “task analyzed” and broken down into smaller parts.

We know these are important steps to reaching our goal so they must be completed with 100% accuracy. (75% completion of the meal may leave some family members hungry.)

Goal Two:

LONG TERM GOAL II: To have the gifts wrapped and under the tree by December 24.


A. Mom will purchase all supplies by December 10.
B. Mom will supervise the gift-wrapping by December 15.

Task Analysis example:

Mom will supervise:

1. Billy will cut the paper.

2. Dad will wrap and tape the gifts.

3. Susie will add the bow.

4. Tommy will place the presents under the tree.

Notice in the Task Analysis, family members with different skill levels can all partially participate.


—“Developmental, corrective and other supportive services to enable you to reach your goals.”

To achieve Goal IC –“Mom will prepare the food by December 25”—Mom will need the following supportive services:

Consultant: Grandma has the expertise to bake and bring perfect pumpkin pies.

Consultant: Aunt Jane will come early to help in the kitchen.

Community Resource: We will purchase the local bakery’s famous dinner rolls.


Now that we have written our IEP we must determine the least restrictive environment for accomplishing our goals.

We could cook and wrap the presents at Aunt Sara’s and bring
everything home, but to meet Mom’s goals on this particular IEP, her own home is the least restrictive environment.

Remember any IEP can be revised or modified at any time. For instance, if Paula Deen wants to invite my family for a holiday dinner, I would change these goals in one butterfat minute.

Happy Holidays

I hope using the I.E.P. process not only makes it easier to understand, but I hope it can be a tool for you to have a magical holiday season.

Well, what do you think?

1. Do you better understand the IEP process?
2. Would this process be useful for everyone?
3. Does anyone raise turkeys?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,


Other posts you might enjoy:

Celebrating St. Nick and two special sons.

Balancing My child’s needs and my needs

Halloween Fun, Plus

Aaron age 8 Tommy age 6

Aaron age 8 Tommy age 6

Are they adorable, or what?

Aaron and Tommy always loved Halloween. Me too. The holiday is such a great way to build an inclusive community.

There were some segregated, handicap only Halloween parties for just kids with autism and developmental disabilities, but I wanted Aaron to be part of his community. With a little preparation and a lot of team effort it worked.

When Aaron was 8 and Tommy 6 years old we lived in a great neighborhood with lots of kids (click here for related story) and Halloween was something special.

In the picture above, check out Tommy’s hand. He is holding the ghosts we made and handed out for Trick or Treat.

Task Analysis: Tootsie Pop Ghosts

We took a Tootsie Pop, wrapped a white tissue around the round top, tied it with orange yarn, and with a magic marker added two eyes.

Cute, something homemade and the kids loved them.

Partial Participation

One of the most important concepts in special education is the idea of partial participation. If someone can’t do the whole activity, could they at least partially participate and do some smaller part?

For instance: Aaron, Tommy and I all worked on the Tootsie Pop Ghosts for a couple evenings before Halloween.

Aaron’s job was to take the tissue out of the box.

In addition, sometimes he would hold the stick of the Tootsie Roll Pop while Tommy added the tissue. My job was to tie the yarn. It was a team effort, an inclusive experience.

We each did a part of the whole project. We each partially participated.

Aaron contributed what he could do. He could pull the tissues out of the tissue box independently.

He could hold the stick with assistance, and only for about a short time. Because he was a valued team member he contributed as long as he could.

Tommy, on the other hand, could have pulled out the tissues as well as most of the rest of the tasks. But what made this activity fun was the fact we all worked together. We wanted everyone to play their part.

Tommy had more skills than Aaron, and more tasks in the activity. He got to choose when he did them, but they had to be done before Halloween Day. I could have forced him to finish all the eyes in one sitting–but then it would have been work and Mom’s timeline.

Instead he got to make his own decision and chose to finish them while he watched The Transformers, Electric Company and Scooby Doo on TV–his timeline.

He finished up the ghosts by adding the eyes and jamming the stick of the finished ghost into a shoe box lid so the ghosts would “float.” He chose the time, was self-motivated and had the satisfaction of seeing the job to the end.

We made enough ghosts so both Aaron and Tommy could take them to their classes at school. They were always a big hit and I think they were proud they worked on them.

Team Effort

On Halloween night, Tommy went with all his friends in a crowd of ghosts, clowns and monsters. He was gone for hours and filled his pillow sack as full as he could. One of the neighborhood mothers kept an eye out for Tommy.

Usually Aaron and I would go to the immediate neighbors while Dad manned the front door of our house.

One person could not be three places at once: with Tommy, with Aaron and at the front door. We really needed our neighbor, our community resource, to help us out.

Tips, Sensory Issues and Routines

This particular Halloween Aaron learned about doorbells. We went to each house and I would point so Aaron would know where to press and he would just smile as the ding, or ring, or buzz sounded. He had a great time. Cause and effect. Press the button–hear a funny sound.

The neighbors were always very kind and generous because they knew Aaron. If I prompted him with, “Aaron what do you say?” he would respond, “Thank you” and give them a smile. It really was a way they could get to know Aaron and we could build our community relationships.

We only went to about 10 houses because of all the excitement, plus maneuvering the steps and the dark was a lot of sensory stuff to handle. But Aaron really seemed to understand and enjoy the routine: Go to house…climb up the steps…ring the bell…get candy…say thank you…repeat.

It was a fun night.


What wasn’t so fun was the next night. See, Aaron learned the routine really, really well. Too well.

So, the next day guess what? I was busy taking the groceries out of the car, when I looked up Aaron had somehow gotten to the house next door, rang the doorbell, and was waiting for some candy.

It took me longer than my neighbor to figure out what was going on. She just smiled, reached in her extras from the night before and handed Aaron a chocolate bar. I could have hugged her.

Tommy to the Rescue

Tommy thought the whole scene was hysterical. Our whole family laughed about Aaron’s behavior at the dinner table but we knew we had a problem. How were we going to teach Aaron that Halloween only came one day a year? Why was it okay to do something one day–but not the next?

Tommy came up with the solution. He suggested we put away all the Halloween decorations and candy. And sure enough, it worked. Without all the reminders, Aaron moved on to other things.

Full Circle

This Halloween, Tommy will be taking his baby girl Trick or Treating for the first time. And Aaron, he will be passing out Tootsie Pop ghosts when the neighbor kids come to his house.

Trick or Treat? Comments?

Tell us some of your Halloween stories and memories? Stories of partial participation, over-generalization, community building…

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward

All my best,


Amazing News| We have a House and a Roommate

Aaron's house

We have a house!

Amazing News: A House and Roommate| Part 12

Miracles Do Happen:

Last week, a non-profit agency bought a house near our home. They will accept Aaron’s HUD housing choice rent voucher.

Today, we met with a young man and his mother and we think we found a roommate match.

Miracle Triangle:
House/HUD–Roommate–Residential Staff

For those of you who have been following our journey to move Aaron, our son with the label of autism, home to our county, this is Part 12. You know how complex and difficult this has been. Here is the link to Part 11: 1st miracle| Aaron needs a Roommate| Part 11.

Even with the two miracles, don’t breathe yet. But we now have two pieces of the triangle in place.

The third part of our miracle triangle is great staff. I’ve talked about the critical importance of staff in Caregivers: Part 1, 2, 3

But as Scarlett O’Hara says, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Here are the details in two emails: one from early this morning (2:30 AM—mothers never sleep); the second is after our dinner meeting (9:00 PM—mothers put in long days).

Task Analysis for Monday Morning:

From: Mary E. Ulrich []
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2011 2:28 AM
To: Everyone I could think of who might be part of this move
Subject: Aaron’s house

Hi Everyone,

I met with the director of the non-profit on Friday. He said they closed on the new house last Monday and so we can begin the countdown to a move-in date of Nov. 1. Yea, Yea!

Thanks to the Non-Profit and the County Board of DD for making this new resource available to Aaron and our community.

So now there is much to do to be ready by Nov. 1st.


The director of the non-profit is finalizing the paperwork to become a HUD landlord in W. County. There will need to be an inspection and he is negotiating the rent…. As soon as we get Aaron’s roommate, we will be applying for three people and a 3 bedroom subsidy (Aaron, roommate and caregiver.) This is what Aaron has had in our past County for the last decade, so I think this should be pretty cut and dry. It is an accommodation under ADA, but is different than the rules for HUD’s definition of “caregiver.”

We have received HUD extensions until Oct. 31st. It has been a lot of running around between counties, but Debbie and Wendy have both been wonderful caring professionals. Thank you for helping me figure out the system.


I need to give notice to everyone in our current county and the current provider by Oct. 1st, which is fast approaching.

I’ve given the notice about moving to Aaron’s current landlord.

This will not come fast enough. Aaron had another “unusual incident” last week where he was not groomed for his day program. (The food he got in his hair on Monday was still there on Wednesday—the staff felt he had not had his hair washed in two days and it was dirty and grimy.) Also, Aaron is running out of transportation money to his day program.) Tom and I are taking Aaron up on Monday mornings, and usually picking him up one afternoon a week.

House Remodeling

The director of the non-profit says they closed on the house last week and will begin the remodeling shortly. They are starting with some tree trimming because of the possible danger and then will refinish the floors in the Living Room, Dining Room and move on to the bathrooms. If everything works out well with HUD and we get the caregiver’s designation for the third bedroom then there may be enough rent money to justify new windows (the current windows are casement windows—inefficient and BAD). They are reluctant to begin the bathrooms until we know who the second roommate will be. This makes sense if we want to make accommodations which are specific to the person needing the bathroom.

I think this is a great way to begin because we will want to show the community we will be great neighbors and take care of the house before the rumors begin that two men with intellectual disabilities are moving in. This is what worked on Aaron’s current residence and I have too many memories of Stetennius, Five Mile and other hearings from worried neighbors. It is a mature neighborhood, I don’t expect any problems, but we want to make a good first impression.

Tom and I will be planting some mums and have a couple inexpensive porch chairs to make the place look lived in. The house has been vacant for a long time so a few improvements should impress the neighbors.

Potential Roommate

I am hoping to hear from the parent of the potential roommate today, and then can set up some visits. This is the next big step.

Then, I understand from the new county board, we will finally get a case manager.

Transition for Aaron

We have been driving Aaron by the house and telling him it is his new home, but I can’t imagine he understands what we are talking about. I’m worried he will miss his roommate of the past 13 years and am sure he will be confused. I want to start some visits to the house as soon as possible. The more familiar he is, the easier the transition.

I’m hoping he will get to have a couple meetings with the new roommate and new staff as soon as possible.

Furnishing House

We also need to figure out how to furnish the house. I have begun to take donations from relatives. We probably have about $1000 set aside.

Tom and I furnished Aaron’s first two residences. We are told that if the furnishings belong to Aaron he can take them with him, but I am uncomfortable just taking the silverware out of the drawer and telling them, “Sorry, this belongs to Aaron.” We have enough problems with the current staff as it is and we don’t want to cause problems for Aaron’s current roommate. But, it is expensive to start a new house from scratch.

My family will be having a shower to donate items sometimes this month. I will have to coordinate with the director of the non-profit when we can get a key and get into the house and it’s not a Bengal’s game (if there are any Bengal fans left in Cincinnati by then).

I’m hoping we can set a corner of the garage or one bedroom to begin collecting items.

I began with a couple boxes in Aaron’s current residence and the staff (without permission) gave them away. “What would you do? Case of trash vs. treasure”. (I’m still VERY upset about this. Just add it to the list of why I want to get away from them ASAP.)

New Agency

Next week I will begin interviewing residential providers. They will need to hire and train staff by Nov. 1. We have met 3 different providers as we visited the 3 potential placements for Aaron. One company impressed us because it was a local company in Mason, but we are open to suggestions. Please email me ASAP. We are well aware that just because a company was good last month, doesn’t make it good this month. Having caring staff will be the second most important variable, after a good roommate.

Well, we have a busy week ahead. Please say a prayer we sell our condo, it is a huge strain on us. We listed it with another agent last week. We have begun to move some of our things into our new condo.

I’m hoping by Christmas we can look at both Aaron and us in our new homes and know we are in a better places, but GEEZ, it’s going to be an action packed couple of months.

Thanks to everyone for helping make this happen for Aaron. Maybe the Bengals could learn from all our teamwork 🙂

Any questions please let me know. Have a great week. Mary

About 1:00 PM, the mother of a young man who might be a prospective roommate called on the phone. That went well so we picked up Aaron at his day program and all met for dinner in a local restaurant.

Email to same group at 9PM.

Tom and I always felt one of the most important steps was finding a good roommate for Aaron. We think we have found a good match.

Aaron, Tom and I had dinner with Jim and his mother, and it went very well, so we would like to move forward.

Jim was very friendly. He is the kind of person that hugs everyone and is best friends with everyone in a couple minutes. He has a devoted mom. Aaron kept looking at Jim. I wish he could speak and tell us his thoughts, but he seemed happy. Jim likes to swim and go to King’s Island—both things that Aaron liked to do in the past. Hopefully, they will be able to do many activities in the community.

By Providence, or some divine plan, or dumb luck…Tom and Jim’s mother actually taught at the same school together and used to talk about their kids at lunch. Pretty amazing, eh?

So, if everything works out—drumroll please– Aaron and Jim will be roommates.


Jim’s mother is going to call Wendy at the HUD office tomorrow and see what we need to do to get Jim on Aaron’s list. So we will have 3 bedrooms and Aaron, Jim and the caregiver will make three. So, hurrah hurrah.

Also, yesterday the non-profit started painting rooms and beginning the process to get the house HUD approved. So we are really moving forward. It is hard to believe—this is going to happen.

Medicaid Waiver

Aaron and Jim both already have Medicaid Waivers at appropriate levels. So we can begin the transfer of Aaron’s waiver to our new county and start interviewing residential providers.

Finding a good staff will make our miracle triangle complete: (House/HUD—roommate—staff).


My sister Janet, visiting from Kansas, had a friend donate our first items for the house. The director of the non-profit allowed us to begin to put them in the garage.
The painters were there to let us in….
Today went so well, I think I’ll go buy some lottery tickets. 🙂

Thanks to everyone who is helping us climb our mountain and move forward. It takes a village….


Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,



Hope you’ll share your thoughts and experiences. I’m happy and exhausted and I know we are only about half-way on the move-in journey. Whew! Now on to making a task analysis for tomorrow. Whew! Whew!