Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Inclusion 101 - Day 1

So it's springtime, at least in most places around the country... some of us still have snow in our forecast... *ahem*... and like every year, for many parents of kids with special needs, spring means IEP time. I usually try to touch on this topic at least a little bit every year and you can read my past posts here. This year I would like to hear back from you parents out there and get some feedback about what inclusion looks like for you... while I'm doing that though, I'm going to share some ideas that are in this book, "Don't We Already Do Inclusion?" that I think are wonderful!! I hope you'll find them helpful, too! :) I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback on this next series whether you are a parent (even if you don't have a child with special needs), educator, or just a blog reader who finds these posts interesting. ;)

One of the big myths about inclusion is that if a child with special needs is in the classroom, the teacher will spend SO much time focusing on that child's needs and keeping that child up to speed that the rest of the class will suffer. Research has shown that this is simply not true. In fact, the other students have benefited by having children with special needs in the classroom. They learn to work better in groups, they learn to adapt better, be more accepting of all people, be more patient and at the end of the year they tend to actually come out ahead of the game in all areas of development.

One teacher mentioned in the book above, talked about keeping a stack of index cards on her desk, each card contained a child's name. Every morning she would flip to a new card and that day that child would get special treatment. This would look different for each child depending on his or her needs. For example, it might be spending a few extra minutes to socialize with him, or it might be taking extra time to examine her written work. She might give the student a valued job for the day or she may even call home to share some words of praise with the student's parents. Each student is different and each student will have different needs from that teacher to help them shine. The best part is that this is all done without the student's knowledge, so they never know when it's their "turn"... they just know that their teacher DOES care about them and this technique is a good reminder that inclusion is NOT about supporting the needs of some, it's about recognizing the uniqueness in everyone.

 If you are an educator, would you consider using a strategy like the one adopted by this teacher? 

As a parent, do you think what this teacher did is a good idea? Why or why not?

Are there any similar things that you see your child's teacher doing that encourages inclusion and recognizes the uniqueness of all students in the class, not just those students with special needs?
If you are a parent of a typical child who has a child or children with special needs in your child's classroom, do you feel the children with special needs get more attention? If so, do you feel that it takes away from your child's education? 

More later...

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Ugly Duckling

So today I went on a field trip with Kennedy's class to our local performing arts center to see a production of The Ugly Duckling. I have heard the story a thousand times while growing up so I didn't think too much about the show before going in. I thought maybe there would be some music, some dancing, and a happily ever after story showing that it's what's on the inside that counts... and an ugly duckling who turns into a beautiful swan...

The production was put on by Imagination Celebration... and there were literally hundreds of children there from schools all over the Colorado Springs area. When the curtains opened, a representative came out to introduce the play and another person came out with her to translate what the first person was saying into sign language. I thought that was great! I figured there must be some children in the audience who needed the sign language and sat back to enjoy the show. I learned though that the entire show would be done in sign language and/or mime. It piqued my curiosity a bit and I began to realize that maybe this wasn't going to be like any version of The Ugly Duckling I had ever seen before.

So the story started out with the mother duck waiting for her two baby eggs to hatch - one pretty white egg, and one larger egg that was kind of gray and ugly. The pretty egg hatched first and out popped a beautiful, smaller replica of the mother duck. The mother duck taught her how to walk, how to quack and they smiled and all was right with the world.

Meanwhile, the mother duck grew impatient while she waited for her other egg to hatch. Finally, it did. From that egg came the Ugly Duckling. This duckling was a boy and very clearly not as gifted as his perfect sister. Still, the narrator made note that the mother duck loved her little boy with all the same love that she had for her daughter. She taught him how to walk - in time - and then tried to teach him how to quack. He tried and tried but couldn't figure it out. The sister tried to teach him how to quack as well, but he just couldn't get it.

Both ducklings learned how to swim and were great swimmers. In time they learned that the Ugly Duckling was deaf. He couldn't hear a thing. When the sister duck found this out, she laughed and teased the Ugly Duckling - thankfully the mom put a stop to that right away. Someone gave the Ugly Duckling a musical instrument for him to feel the vibrations of the music... the Ugly Duckling loved this and wore it on his back everywhere he went. He loved this and for the first time, he could "hear". The sister duck however got very jealous of all the attention the Ugly Duckling was getting and ended up breaking the music box into pieces and the Ugly Duckling was very sad. This is where things got strange for me...

So the mother duck comes in, sees what the sister duck did, and tells the Ugly Duckling that it's time for him to go out in the world on his own and find his way. He can't hear. He can't speak. No one has given him any tools to succeed in life. His sister just ruined the ONLY thing that he had to give him any comfort or make him happy and now his mom is kicking him out the door with nowhere to go - and the sister (who is the same age and able bodied) gets to stay home and live with the mother. What?!

So the poor Ugly Duckling goes wandering through the forest. He almost gets his hand... errr wing... chopped off by a butcher, who thankfully takes pity on him when she realizes he's deaf and starving and gives him tomatoes to eat (though I'm not really sure ducks eat tomatoes, but whatever), he almost gets beat up by a dog when he takes his bone so he can use it to beat out a rhythm on a rock (thankfully the dog realizes it's just a misunderstanding and they become friends and part ways) and then he falls asleep and almost gets eaten by a fox only to be saved by the same dog from before who happens to be wandering by. *sigh*

So this dog finally figures out the Ugly Duckling is deaf and he starts using sign language to communicate with him. The duckling looks at him like he's crazy (because dogs don't know sign language) so the dog takes the duckling home to his owner who teaches all her pets sign language. There lives a cat who does NOT want a duckling intruding on her domain (because really, what cat wants a duckling around?) so she works on tricking the duckling to leave, but not before the duckling is fluent in sign language... which is quite a feat considering he only has wings!

So then the duckling ends up swimming in a pond in the middle of winter and freezes there. He is found by a farmer who rescues him and is amazed that the duckling knows sign language (somehow the farmer happens to know sign too) and asks the duckling WHY he did not fly South for the winter. The duckling has never heard of such an idea. (Because his mother never prepared him with the basics of life!) So the farmer tells him that ALL ducks fly South for the winter so he should get going. (In real life, the farmer would have kept this amazing signing duck and made millions of dollars off of him!) So the Ugly Duckling flew South for the winter.

Many months passed and the mother duck and sister duck (who was STILL living at home) got a knock on their door. Enter the Ugly Duckling all covered up in a cape. The mother and sister are scared... "Who could it BE?!" The cape comes off and it, of course, is the Ugly Duckling who is now a beautiful swan. He is signing up a storm telling them, "I have been on so many adventures... oh but wait, you can't understand me! But I will teach you sign language and we can have conversations!" And the moral of the story is that if you love something, you must let it go and maybe it will come back to you better than before.

The lights came back on and the kids all sat there staring like, "I don't get it." And I must have had the same look on my face because I was pretty dumbfounded myself. I think I need to go read the real version again.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

This N That

I haven't been here in a few days!! It's strange, I know! LOL I have 3 different blog posts about 3 different things all about 3/4 written and I can't seem to finish them! My train of thought has been very lacking lately. I've been jumping from one project to the next before I finish the first. I think it's the time of year... school is winding down, Kennedy's IEP meeting is coming up, and even though I'm not really worried, I think I have PTSD. HA! I did just win a copy of this new book on Facebook, so I'm very excited to read it and pass it along to Kennedy's resource teacher.

Don't get me wrong, her school "does" inclusion better than I've ever seen it done, but this is the ONLY place I've ever seen it done effectively! So I'm excited to see what other ideas can be incorporated for Kennedy and other students in the school with special needs. Kennedy has had a great 2nd grade year. She has made gains in every area, some more than others, but her growth has been remarkable, so I'm a happy mama!

Anyway, Kameron just finished up with his play at school. For the second year in a row I find myself kind of wandering around on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons because he doesn't have play practice anymore. It becomes his life from January until April and I find myself amazed at the quality of the production they put on. They work so hard during that time and it really pays off!! This year they did The AristoCats and Kameron played the part of HepCat. 

Even though he's going off to a performing arts type school next year, I'm going to miss him being in this production! I will still be helping out with it and we'll definitely still be going and watching next year's 4th and 5th graders... who knows, maybe Kennedy will want to be part of it in a couple years. ;)

Next up for Kam is 5th grade promotion (aka graduation). They seem to do a good job with it at this school... I didn't pay much attention last year, but obviously I am more involved this year. ;) I am in charge of making the photo slideshow (Me?! Involved with pictures? Never! haha). It should be super fun day on the last day of school... whenever that is... they haven't really said yet. Which is strange. LOL I think they're waiting to see if it snows again. ;)

Kennedy and Keeghan have their last field trip of the year on Monday. They are both going to our local performing arts center to see The Ugly Duckling. It just worked out that both of their grades were going which makes it nice for me. :) Keeghan has had a pretty good Kindergarten year. Academically he has done extremely well... behaviorally, well... let's just say he still has some growing to do. *sigh* Frank keeps reminding me that Kameron was exactly like Keeghan when he was in Kindergarten... full of mischief and... um... naughtyness. (I know, that's not a word. But it applies here.) But by second grade, Kameron was GREAT! I keep reminding him that second grade is a LONG way away! haha This too, shall pass! 

Kassidy is finishing up 7th grade with a bang! She has made some good friends this year and is continuing to love her youth group at church. She decided to take a break from soccer (after this season already started) which was a shock for us since she's been playing soccer since she was four! But she really felt that it was time, so after some long talks, we agreed. She still wanted to be involved in something though so we looked around online and she is now taking sign language classes. She really seems to be enjoying them so far, so we'll see how that goes. :) Thanks to Alex and Leah from Signing Time! she is a little ahead of the game anyway, so that's good! :)

Kennedy is finishing up competition season in dance and it's been a great year for her studio. It's been fun to watch all the different dances and watch the kids become friends over the last several months. She will still be dancing over the summer of course, but it will be nice to have some free weekends for awhile to do... well... whatever we want! ;)

Anyway, that's about all that's going on around here... we have a busy week coming up, but you'll be hearing from me for sure! I also have a great giveaway coming up so be watching for it!!! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What I Found in my 5 Year Old's Diary

One of my friends posted this article on her Facebook page. I read it with some skepticism. I mean, really?! How concerned do you have to be about your 5 year old and what they're writing in their diary? I remember my first diary... I was probably about 5 or 6. It was red and had Hello Kitty on it and the pages inside were pink and had pretty designs on it. It too had a lock and key and made me feel SO important. I remember writing about school in there and writing the names of my friends... Michelle, Jennifer, Katrina, Myndi... I do not remember plotting to take over the world or kill anyone. Just sayin'.

My 5 year old doesn't keep a diary, but I don't ever have to wonder what he's thinking, because he talks All. The. Time. Whether we want him to or not. Most of the time this happens very emphatically and loudly. Sometimes while stomping his feet and saying that life isn't fair and that his big brother is mean! But that's a different story for a different day.

Kennedy, on the other hand, does have a diary of sorts. It's not under lock and key, and she doesn't hide it from us, but we find her writing away in its pages on almost a daily basis. When she sees one of us touching it usually one of her brothers she will point her finger at the offender and say, "Don't touch my book!" and the book is dropped in its place.

No books were touched in the taking of this picture
Sometimes we do get permission to peek into her mysterious book... I've seen lists of spelling words, pictures of kitty cats, drawings of her baby dolls and professions of love for each of us in the family... and yes, sometimes even for Justin Bieber. Who may as well be part of our family as often as he's talked about around here. I see dancers dancing and pictures of flowers and drawings of houses... all the things I used to dream of when I was a little girl (just replace Justin Bieber with Jordan Knight. *ahem*) For sure, words are mispelled and some long sentences are scribbled, and there are some things that no one would be able to make sense of at all... But at 8 years old, I've never felt the need to spy or worry about what Kennedy is writing in her book. They are her dreams, her words, her thoughts.

And when she chooses to share them with us, I take the time to look.

The rest of the time...

I don't touch her book. ;)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Q&A #259

I'm totally going to humiliate Natalie right now, but she used to call him Bear in the Blues Clues House, lol. I guess she wanted to combine all of her favorites into one ;).
Haha! That's so cute!! Kassidy used to LOVE Blue's Clues! That was her VERY favorite show. I kind of miss it. ;) 

I'm not sure if the rest of the country is still getting daily reminders of Sandy Hook, but here in CT we are. Breaks my heart. Happy belated Birthday to sweet James. 
We are not getting daily reminders here... it stopped probably in January which is really sad. I think about it almost daily. At least every time I drop the kids off at school. I watch them walk into the building and just say a little prayer. They should be safe at school... but you just never know. :( 

I don't think I want any flavored sodas! LOL BTW, I am dying to know did you love having that table in the van between the seats? That came out on the models the year after we got ours. I have thought about how neat it would be to have for long drives (not that we go on many of those) but then wondered if I would really get much use out of it :) 
We do love having that table for long road trips! It's very convenient for the kids for eating on the road, coloring, using their laptops for watching movies and stuff like that. The only thing it's NOT useful for is every day driving because the middle seats HAVE to be facing backwards to have the table up and that's just not conducive for the quick trip to the store, know what I mean?? So it's not like we use it all the time, but when we DO use it, we really like it! 

That burger was huge! How did he even bite into it?! Looks like you guys had fun though! 
I'm not exactly sure... LOL I was so busy eating my own, smaller version of that burger, that I didn't watch him eat! haha I think he cheated and used a fork! ;) 

that is TOO cute!!!! I LOVE pink flowers Kennedy!!! What kind of plant is it??? I will drive out and be her first customer when she opens her shop for sure!!!!!! :) 
It's called a Kalanchoe... so far it's still alive and thankfully it only has to be watered once a week so it may stand a chance in our busy household! haha

been enjoying the pictures but really???? you all are smiling and I can see how high you are, almost makes me ill to think about that ride
We may have been smiling out of fear. LOL Just kidding, it really was fun!!! 

Awesome pics! I'm with Kennedy - I wouldn't be getting near the outside glass wall that high up! You're so brave to do that ride! 
We definitely discovered that Kennedy has a fear of heights on this trip. We watched some acrobats at Circus Circus and Kennedy cried the whole time because she thought the woman was going to fall to her death. I kept thinking, "You don't even know her, why are you crying?!" LOL She has such a tender heart! 

these all look so amazing and you guys had a blast, I was wondering have you guys visited Kelsey recently?
We have not. Kellsey is working hard at settling into a routine and the kids here are working hard at healing. We don't want to mess that up for any of them. 

Call me crazy, but isn't the POINT of a dorm curfew to keep you in after said time?
No, really it was just to keep the boys out of the girls dorm and the girls out of the boys dorm. We fixed that. ;)

This California friend does NOT like Cracker Barrel!!! But I'm the weird one who doesn't like In-n-out either!!! 
Ohhh Kelly LOL. At least you'll go to El Pollo Loco with me! LOL 

Wow, I never realised that Pete and Kennedy were diagnosed so close together. Tomorrow is Pete's 6th anniversary of being diagnosed with leukaemia as well, but ALL instead of AML. And unfortunately, Pete is still fighting. I don't know if you are interested in following his FB page, but it is here.
I didn't realize they were diagnosed so close together either Bridget!! I'm so sorry Pete is still fighting!! Sending all my prayer warriors to Pete's page to be praying for your brave warrior!! He can beat this!!!

oh, my. Boring?! Seriously?! Oh, Renee! You'll LOVE it. I promise! 
I just can't do it. LOL 

Same reasons I've never seen it, and won't!
See Laura, I'm not alone! ;) 

 I happened to slip on the mouse and it went over the picture of Frank, The one that says Can I be Frank... After all this time I find out that it was his blog. I would have loved to follow him during his deployment. I always just thought it was a picture.. 
Yes that is his blog! He hasn't updated it in ages! Maybe one day he'll get back to it again... He gets a little irritated with the snarky commenters and tells them what he really thinks which goes over REALLY well! haha Such are the joys of blogging! ;) 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Just Some Kuteness

Keeghan has taken a new interest in the last few days... he put down his monkeys and his Toy Story stuff and picked up these guys...

I admit, I have never seen Star Wars... partially because EVERYONE has seen it and I like being a little bit of a rebel ;) and partially because it looks boring. HA!

However, I love that my kiddos all love it and can quote lines from the movies. I'm excited that Keeghan is expanding his love of toys... though I'm sure monkeys will always come first! ;)

Love my little guy!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Six Years Ago Today...

Six years ago today, Kennedy was diagnosed with Leukemia.

Just a few days ago, I was reading back on her old caringbridge page through those first days after diagnosis. I read through the messages of love and support from friends, family and strangers all over the world. I read between the lines of my posts to the fear that was hiding just underneath the surface. I read through the first days of her chemotherapy when she was SO sick... (and I was so pregnant!). And it brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the day that her hair first started falling out... I cried while I changed her sheets to get the loose strands out of her sight. One of our most favorite care partners came in, saw what I was doing and jumped in to help as she cried with me.

I remember being so overwhelmed as the doctors handed me this huge book about "Your Child and Cancer." That's a sentence that should never go together. Ever. While it was hard relive the nightmare of those first few weeks and months, I never want to forget what it was like. I never want to take life for granted or forget to cherish each moment...

But today we celebrate. We celebrate Kennedy's life. We will always remember the doctors and nurses who helped her fight, and we will remember all the friends we made along the way... those still with us and those in Heaven. I will always be thankful for their lives and try to honor their memory however I can. More than anything, today I thank God for this precious gift He gave us when He gave us Kennedy. We are so blessed.

Six years, baby! Keep on rockin' it! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vacation Pictures - Part 5 - Las Vegas

Still more pictures... 

One of our many plans was to get in some good swim time... we only went once. By the time we got done with our sightseeing during the day, it was a little chilly to swim... the kids hung in for about 20 minutes before getting into the hot tub and warming up! 

At the top of the Stratosphere... Kennedy thought she was going to fall! LOL 

Me and Kassidy... we were getting ready to go on the Insanity Ride outside on top of the tower. We wanted one last picture together in case we died. HA! 

High above Las Vegas... 

We're spinning... 

 And spinning... 

It was actually really fun... 

We survived!!

Pretty girls

Keeghan can find monkeys almost anywhere! haha

 Boys and bots ;)

 One more post and then we're done!! Hope you've been enjoying them!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Myself Belts

Any parent who has a child with Down syndrome knows that one of their big struggles is fine motor skills. Buttoning, snapping, zipping, and hand writing many times doesn't come as easy to our kids as they do to others...

When Kassidy was little, someone told me about these awesome belts called "Myself Belts". They are made for young kids who have trouble with those fine motor skills so they can achieve independence. Kassidy loved this belt and wore it with every pair of pants whether she needed a belt or not! LOL About a year ago I found it in one of our many boxes of outgrown clothes and pulled it out for Kennedy. She was thrilled because it was pink, of course, and because she could do it herself. 

So you snap the belt around the first belt loop and then thread it through the other loops. The end has velcro so your child can "unbuckle" and "buckle" it back up themselves.

The Myself Belt comes in many different sizes and designs for boys and girls all the way up to belts for teens. They also have personalized belts which is pretty cool! There are lots of ways to make these fun! The only con is that it's not very adjustable, but they're not too expensive so when they outgrow one, you can just buy the next size up. If you buy two, you get free shipping!

Anyway, if you have a small child with special needs or not, be sure to check out Myself Belts. I promise you'll be happy with them. :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vacation Pictures - Part 4 - The Heart Attack Grill

The Heart Attack Grill... they serve bacon, bacon and more bacon... 

They made us wear hospital gowns and bracelets... you know... just in case we keeled over! 

Keeghan wasn't too sure about the wardrobe change. ;)

 The girls waiting for their food

 Kam, chowing down

That's one big burger!! LOL If he doesn't finish it all, he gets a spanking! 

 Naughty daddy didn't clean his plate! :)

 In front of Caesar's Palace

 It's been a great day!!

Still more to come... 

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Flower Shop

Last week, Kennedy lost one of her baby teeth. She was so excited because she knows that means money! Usually, when Kennedy wakes up and finds her tooth gone and money under her pillow, she comes to show us and excitedly says, "Let's go to CLAIRE'S!" where she usually picks out a new headband, a sparkly notebook or some new earrings. This time however, she decided she wanted to go to a flower shop and buy pink flowers. She's had a huge interest in flowers lately and has been saying she wants to have her own flower shop when she grows up. I'm not sure what prompted this new hobby as my thumb is most definitely NOT green, but the girl definitely has a mind of her own. :)

This morning Kennedy had a GI appointment so when we were done, we decided that we'd go find a flower shop so she could pick out some flowers...

Sitting in front of the flower shop

She went in, looked around and spotted this plant which she decided that she wanted. She paid for it with her tooth fairy money (and a little help from me with a debit card) and was so excited to have her plant. The florist gave her watering instructions so we'll see how long this thing stays alive. Hopefully her thumb is greener than mine is! ;) 

Who knows, maybe one day we can hang this picture in "Kennedy's Flower Shop" to show how she got her first plant! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Vacation Pictures - Part 3 - Las Vegas

More, more, more pictures!!

M&M World :)

 The girls watching the 3D show


The M&M Race Car

 The only Easter Bunny the kids got to see this year. ;)

 Kam in front of the pirate ship at Treasure Island

 And Keeghan too ;)

Only in Vegas... We saw another guy who had a sign that said, "My family was killed by Ninjas... need money for karate lessons." LOL He got a chuckle out of me. ;)

 Keeghan was mesmerized by the exploding volcano!!! 


 It was totally amazing!

Dinner at Rio with our friends Kelli and Philip

Friday, April 5, 2013

Vacation Pictures - Part 2 - Las Vegas

Here are some pictures from our first couple days in Las Vegas... 

 Sitting in the van, ready for the long drive. They are great travelers!

 Our view out our hotel window :)

 In-N-Out (meal 1 of 4! LOL)

 Soda taste testing at Coke World... some were good and others... not so much! LOL There was one called Beverly from Italy that was HORRIBLE! It tasted like soap. Bleh

 Frank offered the kids $5 to chug the Beverly flavor. Kassidy took him up on that offer. She's brave. LOL 

 He follows directions so well! ;)

 In front of the Lion at MGM... Keeghan is silly. ;)

 Walking with daddy

 Kennedy found Hello Kitty

 Again, silly Keeghan! LOL 

Me and my babes

More later! :)