Special needs at The Henry Ford

Special Needs at The Henry Ford Complex

(Scroll down to learn of an upcoming event at Greenfield Village, including a coupon!)

Last year the Accessibility Director from The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan contacted me. Caroline wanted to know if I’d be willing to participate in an interview about their Sensory Friendly Saturday program. WOW! Of course I would!

In January I found myself walking through the museum with Caroline, turning a corner behind the Rosa Parks exhibit area, and looking at a bunch of recording equipment. Whoa. This was for real! While I waited for the crew to finish setting up equipment, I chatted with the man who would do my interview. Guess what–he had a son with Asperger syndrome! This put me at ease and we had a great interview.

There are two things in particular that I loved about this experience.

  1. I was part of something bigger. The department interviewed other people as well. The video they wanted to create was not just about autism, but about how The Henry Ford adapts to welcome a variety of guests.
  2. Because of my online connections with other special needs moms, I was able to share ideas of how the complex could further enhance visitor experiences. Some of these ideas I would not have thought of if I hadn’t known these women. (Want to join over 10,000 special needs moms on Facebook? Visit Special Needs Moms Network!

Want to see the interview and learn about what The Henry Ford does for guests, including those with vision and hearing impairments, as well as autism folks? Watch below. Look for Caroline (in braids) and the lady who brings her friends for tactile tours! I chatted with both of them.

Great news! Greenfield Village in Metro Detroit is hosting a Sensory Friendly Saturday at the end of April, coordinating with A Day out with Thomas. Head over here to get the scoop and be sure to scroll down for a coupon!

(I was not compensated in any way for this interview or this blog post. I just love The Henry Ford. It’s been a great place for my son to practice social skills.)

Discover why one autism mom loves this book! via jennyherman.com

The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide [Review]

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Be sure to read all the way to the end. I’ve got a GIVEAWAY of this award-winning book!

When Future Horzions asked if I wanted to review Cara Koscinski’s The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities & More!, at first I thought I didn’t need it because I’m a homeschooler. Then I realized many of my readers might like to know about it, so I said yes.

Boy, am I glad I did! This is one of those books that I wish I’d had seven years ago at the beginning of my autism journey. I’m also thankful I’ve got my hands on it now, because it’s still very useful to me. Chapters include information on IEPs, therapy, handwriting, fine motor skills, autism, sensory issues, behavior, attention/organizing, and learning disorders. This book is intended for parents who send their child to a school so they can ensure the student gets the help they need. However, I find it very useful as a homeschool parent because Cara tells me activities to do to help my child in different areas.

Let me tell you why I love this book. (more…)

Enter to win a $25 gift card from Fun & Function!

Christmas Giveaway: Fun & Function!

Give three cheers! Fun and Function, maker of awesome things to help our sensory kids cope, has a giveaway just for you. They’re offering a $25 gift card! What would you want to spend it on? Oh, that will be hard to choose. They’ve got many great products your child will enjoy.

Enter to win a $25 gift card from Fun & FunctionThe gel tiles look great for a winter wiggle break. Hug tees sound like a great way to get sensory pressure in a fashionable way. Chewy bracelets offer a discreet way to meet the need to chew.

If you need help deciding, browse their gift guide for young children through adults! In fact, that is how you enter. Head on over to their gift guide and poke around. Then come back and leave a comment telling me what you’d spend your gift card on. That’s it! And guess what! Since this is a gift card, there’s not limitation based on where you live.

Ready to browse and get a wish list going? Click here!

Remember to come back and leave your comment saying which goodie you’d spend your gift card on. Want a bonus entry? Fill out the form below to get a freebie from me and subscribe to my newsletter. Leave a separate comment if you are already a subscriber or you fill out the form now. You want to make sure you get both entries. 🙂

This giveaway closes Monday, December 19th at 8:59pm EST. A random generator will be used to select a winner. Winner will be contacted via email with their gift card code. THANK YOU to Fun & Function for providing this giveaway!

PSA: Holidays are not always fun for children with special needs! via jennyherman.com

PSA: Special Needs & the Holidays

Just a little PSA…

If you know a special needs mom or dad, more than likely their child has hit a rough patch. It may have started with Halloween and the sensory overwhelm and the extra excitement, perhaps some fear of the holiday.

Then a time change came, which is hard on the systems of kids with special needs. Then a full moon. These sound like small things, but they add up. Each one is enough to disrupt a child’s balance.

And now we’re into two months of holiday time, where routines are messed up, anxiety goes on high alert, sensory issues become more than unbearable, and many other challenges arise.

So if you see a special needs parent over the next couple months, give grace. They may not answer you enthusiastically or even smile. They may be holding onto sanity for all they’re worth, running on little or no sleep, wondering what one tweak would make a huge difference for their child, imagining how they’re going to afford Christmas gifts when therapies and medical supplies are so expensive…

They could use your smile. Your quiet support. A cup of coffee. A, “You’re doing great.”

And now you know. And maybe you can pass this along and spread the awareness. And thank you for reading.

If you’re a special needs mom who’d like to get encouragement and support from other moms who “get it”, check out the Facebook group Special Needs Moms Network!

 

PSA: Holidays are not always fun for children with special needs! via jennyherman.com

When Christmas Isn’t Fun: Special Needs & Holidays [FREE Printable]

“There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow. There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago. …It’s the most wonderful time of they year! With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer!” Can you hear Andy Williams crooning?

Unfortunately, for many special needs families, Christmas (or other holidays) are not the most wonderful time of the year. Many of the things mentioned in the song overwhelm their children. Parties become more of a challenge to navigate than a gathering to enjoy. Consider this article a little public service announcement.  What follows is a combination of personal experience, stories of friends, and input from the women of Special Needs Moms Network (more…)

Discover how special needs parents ruin holidays via jennyherman.com

7 Ways Special Needs Parents Ruin Holidays [FREE Printable]

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May I tell you a secret? For many special needs families, the hustle and bustle of “the most wonderful time of the year” is not so wonderful. From Halloween through Valentine’s Day, and the time change, other holidays, and family events in between, these families face challenges others don’t realize exist. While other children enjoy throwing snowballs, some sensory kids all apart if cold, wet snow touches their skin. Huge families enjoy gathering and playing games, exchanging gifts, and eating a feast. Children with crowd anxiety become sick with dread over facing such an outing. Friends wonder why a family declines an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party, not understanding that the child with autism needs a break from too many events. Some children with severe medical issues wear out quickly and cannot handle too many extra activities. See what I mean? I could expand the explanation even more, but I won’t.

I have another secret. Many of those families screw up. I speak from experience. I have made my share of holiday messes. Consider this list a cautionary tale of things to avoid over the next four months. How do parents of children with special needs ruin the holidays?

  1. They have wrong expectations. Have you ever been in a situation where your daughter falls apart and later you realize you were asking too much? Your daughter simply wasn’t able to handle it. You didn’t have realistic expectations. During this holiday season, I recommend you keep asking yourself, “Can my child really deal with this today?” It could change even hour by hour, minute by minute. When you have realistic expectations or lower your expectations during a stressful time, it helps both you and your child. Your stress level goes down because you understand it’s just not the right time, so you’re not pushing to make it happen.
  2. They don’t trust their gut. You know those times when your gut says, “I don’t think this is a good idea…” and then you forge ahead anyway. Despite the fact your child is afraid of heights or tired or hungry or hates crowds or…you get the idea.  Remember to trust your gut.
  3. They neglect to overpack. That may sound silly, but being without an allergy-friendly snack when you got stuck in holiday traffic and your son is HANGRY! well, it’s just not pretty. Pack extra clothes, extra calming items, favorite little toys or games, extra medicine, anything that can help your child succeed should you end up being out longer than anticipated.
  4. They forget to leave “white space”. Think of empty space on your calendar as mental health space. This applies to both you and your child. More than likely your child needs time to recuperate after a busy family gathering. You will, too. You were busy watching out for her, making sure she had what she needed. You were on high alert. Leaving blank space lets you both reset and better handle the busy holiday season. For example, it may not be the greatest idea to expect your child to go Black Friday shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
  5. They push too far. One of our jobs as special needs parents is to get our child out of his comfort zone. If we didn’t, they may never grow. However, we also need to be careful how we do that, particularly during a time of the year that already adds extra stress on their systems. When your child is overwhelmed and going inside himself, that is not the time to push. That is the time to leave or accommodate with a calming space.
  6. They leave out others. Sometimes we’re so focused on solving problems and helping our child have a good holiday season on his terms we special needs parents exclude others. Maybe we don’t explain our child’s preferences (Make sure you read all the way down to find your FREE printable to help with this!). Perhaps we don’t take the time to educate family so they understand our child’s challenges. Whether it’s due to fatigue, being in hypervigilance mode, or just plain laziness, we could probably all improve in this area.
  7. They beat themselves up. Ah, guilt. The ever-present nagging voice inside a special needs parent’s head. “We should have left sooner. I should have stuck up for him more. Maybe if I had picked a different time for the party…” You can do this all day, and many of us do. As much as you’d like to be the perfect superhero, you’re not. Even the best of us are going to make wrong calculations. Give yourself the Christmas gift of less self-criticism this year.

Autism mom Annie Eskeldson takes readers on a tour of the holiday season through the eyes of autism and sensory challenges. If you’re looking for a picture book to help others understand some of the things your child faces, I recommend her book Ashi’s Birthday and Other Dreaded Days. (affiliate link)

Would you like a way to help others understand your child this holiday season, to reduce overwhelm and increase positive interactions? I’ve created a freebie to do just that. Many times our friends and family want to spend time with our child at holiday gatherings, but they don’t understand how and they don’t understand the extra pressure the holiday activities put on your child. Use this free fill-in-the-blank “About Me” type page. Fill it out and hand it to others so they can have fun with your child! It will be a win-win-win. I made three styles–two with picture backgrounds and one without for those who like to reduce printing cost. I’ve had many people tell me they love it. What are you waiting for? Just complete the form below and tell me where to send your freebie!

What do you think? Is there another way parents of children with special needs ruin the holidays? Tell me in the comments!

Discover how Chris Winfield's crazy idea can help special needs families succeed! via jennyherman.com

How Chris Winfield’s Crazy Idea of “Stupid Small” Can Help With Special Needs Success

If you’re a special needs parent, I’m guessing you’ve been there. Your child needs to grow or stretch in a specific area. Together, you’ve got this, you tell yourself! The day comes. You’re mentally geared up to coach and prompt and assist. Your child is fed, rested, and in comfortable clothing. The time has come to try something new or face a fear. And it flops. Meltdown city. Maybe it’s even meltdown city for both of you. Hang in there. Help is on the way! (more…)

Click to discover one special needs homeschool mom's path to success! via jennyherman.com

Special Needs Homeschooling & Grief: A Path to Success

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Homeschool veteran and special needs mom Kristen Pratt is our guest today. I love her practical approach to homeschooling and I asked if she would share some thoughts on special needs homeschooling with my readers. Her article took a different twist than I expected, but it is definitely a good read. In fact, all special needs parents will appreciate it, whether or not they homeschool.

Do you have a favorite hiking trail? Our family had our very own in our back yard. It wandered through about three acres of mostly wooded land. It became very natural to walk the trail, avoiding hazards such as the gaping woodchuck hole in the middle of a hill that led to an open field. We all knew to step to the side of the path in that one deceivingly grassy section to avoid mud-caked shoes. We even discovered hidden secrets like the wild blueberry bush at the back end of the property. At what seemed like the end of the trail, we knew to veer right for a hidden way back to the original path. We didn’t have to look up to know where the deer stands are located. We could have navigated that trail blindfolded.

Parenting for us has become like that well-worn path. We have 9 children: 3 married, 1 just graduated & 5 more still homeschooling. We have grown accustomed to some of the pitfalls and easily avoid them. We have learned from tripping over logs in the path. We know to look for the hidden treasures. While each child is unique and we continue to learn new things, the path is comfortable and our stride is sure. At least it used to be.

We adopted a little guy from the Caribbean about 11 years ago. By a year-and-a-half old he was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Parenting our son is like walking that well-worn path in the darkness of night. We knew it would be a little bit of a challenge but we know the path well. It would all be ok. After all, the doctor thought he was only mildly affected. (Boy was he wrong!) We were not prepared to slam into a tree that mysteriously appeared in the middle of the trail. That big root we fell on really hurt the shins! We are certain the path doesn’t go in this new direction! And what about that river that nearly drowned us?  This is what it can feel like raising a child with special needs. Everything you know about raising a child is changed, moved, and sometimes makes no sense. The well-worn path is sometimes unrecognizable.

How do we parent and homeschool a child who struggles with the simplest of tasks? It isn’t easy. We cry. We get frustrated. We grieve. Do not pass by that last sentence quickly. We grieve. We grieve a lot. My banner for raising our son is to shoot for the stars and hope we get a couple of inches off from the ground. Sometimes we do not get off the ground at all. Sometimes it feels like we end up in hole. That is when I grieve. This does not mean I give up. It means I accept the limits of today and feel a natural sadness. It stings. Our son has lost so much and we have to cope with that loss. Until I grieve, I cannot accept reality and plan for the future.

Our son is supposed to start 6th grade. As I began to plan the new school year I found 6th grade takes a big leap into the abstract. Our son cannot understand abstract. He has hit a wall (or tree) and there is no way around it. That hurts. My son has no ability to understand this loss so I grieve for us both. Until I grieve it, I cannot accept it. I need to accept it in order to help him where he is at, rather than where I want him to be. The homeschool teacher side of me wants to fight. My post-grieving side knows I will do more harm than good if I do. Instead I developed a plan that will engage him where he is. However, his books will not say 6th grade. I admit that still stings a little.

How about you? Do you have areas you haven’t yet grieved? Is it setting you and your child up for frustration and failure? I fight it, too, sometimes, but I am getting a little better at recognizing my need to grieve. It isn’t giving up; it is letting go. It is letting go of something that doesn’t exist anywhere but in our hopes, dreams, and expectations. Yet, it is real loss worthy of our sorrow. It is essential that we grieve for our own well-being and also for the success of our child. Pray and ask God to help you identify the areas you need to grieve. Study up on the steps of grief in order to understand the process. (affiliate link) At the other end, you may still feel some sadness but you will be able to accept reality and make better decisions with the goal of helping your child grow as much as possible.

What do you think of Kristen’s thoughts on grieving and progress? I’d love to hear in the comments!

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just click the button below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!

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Kristen Pratt is a homeschool curriculum editor for www.Master Books.com.  She loves helping put together “curriculum with purpose” in a way that is easy to use and engaging for students.  She is married to Randy, who also works for Master Books (NLPG).   As an owner of Pennywise Learning (now owned by CBD) she has helped thousands of homeschool moms navigate curriculum choices. Kristen has 20 years of experience homeschooling her nine children and has had the pleasure of seeing four of them graduate.  She continues to homeschool the remaining five children, including one with special needs.

Get a great scheduling tip from one of jennyherman.com's readers!

Save Your Scheduling Sanity with This Reader Tip!

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The other day my newsletter shared some posts for helping you avoid overwhelm this new season. I also invited my readers to tell me their biggest challenge as special needs parents. I love it when my readers reply!

One fantastic reader, Karen, not only replied, but also took time to share her own scheduling trick. I imagine this will save many of you, whether or not you have a special needs child. Here’s what Karen said,

One idea about appointments that I am so glad I had last year, I’d like to share: schedule a week or two periodically for NO appointments. It is as if we have a vacation coming up, even though we don’t. I mark on the calendar, “schedule no appointments,” so when a medical office is telling me my child can be seen by a certain doctor only on Tuesday mornings, for example, and we are looking at that “sacred” week, I have to say, “OK, then we’ll have to go with the following Tuesday,” rather than acquiescing to the day they are suggesting. And if we are trying to fit in a dental appointment, and the receptionist asks about a date during that particular week, I simply let her know that week is unavailable. 
It seems like a simple thing to do, but it hadn’t occurred to me before this past year, and I found that every single week had one to three different appointments. I tried doing the “cluster several appointments together, especially if they are all in the same distant town” idea, and also the “make all your medical appointments to be the same day of the week, and also use that day to do your other errands as well” idea. However, too often, the medical offices do not operate under that plan–for example, some are not open every day or the physician uses certain days strictly for surgeries. And by the time we’re done with two appointments in a town an hour away, we don’t have time for other errands unless we want to arrive home to make supper at 9 p.m.! So that didn’t work either.
When we found ourselves in one of those “no appointment weeks,” I can’t tell you how free I felt! As it happened, we still had unexpected things come up that were inconvenient, such as an unscheduled injury or a car breakdown, but having a few days in a row where we didn’t have to go anywhere but the occasional grocery store pickup or driving a teen to work, or going to co-op were quite refreshing! 
That is indeed, genius! Thank you, Karen, for sharing your sanity-saving tip with us! Do YOU have a tip that saves your sanity? I’d love to hear!
Speaking of sanity savers, my Kindle book The Power of One: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life is on sale for Labor Day weekend! It’s just 99 cents until 4pm on September 3rd, then it goes to $1.99 for the rest of the holiday weekend. It’s a great time to grab some hope and inspiration for the fall! (affiliate link)
 I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just click the button below and I’ll send it to you for FREE!

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