Monday, September 26, 2011

The Process of Inclusion…Jack’s First 3 Weeks of Kindergarten

What I have learned about inclusion so far…

• It is a process, a journey, and an adventure!
• It is going to take Jack time to adjust to the “Kindergarten way,” but he WILL adjust
• Having a 1:1 is a GODSEND…actually…HIS 1:1 is a godsend
• If you don’t have a proactive team, everything will fall apart in an instant
• Jack is considered one of the gang already…he has friends…lots of them. ;)
• We’ll have good days and bad days, and that is just part of the process.
• Inclusion can work with the right supports.

What gives me hope about this whole process…

On the first day of school, I got a note from Jack’s 1:1…this is what it said:

“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Clark,

Here are a few highlights about Jack’s first day of Kindergarten:
• Jack and a friend took the attendance to the office.
• The students made “First Day of School” hats
• At recess, Connor pulled Jack (in the red wagon) all around the blacktop.
• Jack’s reading buddy is a second grader, Ted. They read a book together, Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was so cute, Jack would tell Ted to “Turn the page.”
• So much more fun!
I’ll try to write each day so you can talk with Jack about his day. Thank you for the honor of helping in your son’s class.”

I have received a one-page note almost every day since detailing specific POSITIVE highlights of Jack’s days…like
“Picture Day! Jack was awesome. He walked in line all the way!”
“At snack recess, several Room 2 friends came up to say hi to Jack.. Jacklyn, Declan…Hannah also came to our tables to eat with Jack”
“Isabella’s mom came in to help the students make pancakes. Jack waited for his turn very nicely. ☺”

This is just a sample, and I look forward to these notes every day. These notes are what keeps me going and gives me the hope and encouragement I need to know that this is what I want for my son. This is the reason why…this is what inclusion is all about. It has not been easy, and my next blog post will talk about our struggles so far, but the positives, the benefits, make it all worthwhile. I feel very blessed at this moment in time and can’t wait to see what the future holds…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's all about language right now...

Right now, we are working HARD on developing more language in Jack. A year ago, Jack was producing 1-2 word, he consistently uses 3 word phrases/sentences to communicate. We're moving slowly into the 3+ word sentence zone, and there are a few ways we do this. One powerful way that we have instantly gotten results with is the visual cue. One of Jack's behavior goals is about eloping (basically, he likes to leave, or more specifically, escape!). We are trying to extinguish this's my BIGGEST safety concern for him right now, and we are making progress. Just six months ago, I couldn't take him anywhere (grocery store, softball game, etc...) without him running off. We literally had to strap him in the stroller during Bella's softball games while Grant was able to be free because we couldn't trust him...he WOULD eventually run away. It broke my heart. If only he would stay put, he could play too. :( Now, we are in a much different place. I know that the strategies we have put in place will keep Jack close by most of the much more fun for him and so much less stressful for us.

So one of the places we fear Jack will leave is our house (and PS~if he escapes, he keeps going...he doesn't *realize* he needs to go back). We have a chain on the top of our front door and deadbolts on our backyard he can't get out. One of the ways we are trying to solve the problem is by building language into the goal and teaching Jack that he CANNOT open a door without asking someone. We came up with a question that he needs to ask anytime he opens a door (the front door, back door, refrigerator door, his sisters' bedroom door, etc)...MAY I OPEN PLEASE? To remind Jack that he needs to ask the question, we put the question at his eye level on the doors in our house...when we did this, we had INSTANT was amazing to me...First of all, he is asking before he goes outside. Second, he is using a four word question to ask. Third, he is beginning to learn 1:1 correspondence and early reading cool. I got a little video of Jack this morning letting our dog outside. It's a 3 minute video and at the end he uses the visual cue to open the back door. I really am SO proud of my little man!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New Venture...yes, you heard me right! I'm taking on something else!

So…I suck as a blogger…I really and truly do! For that I apologize! I am going to make up my 31 for 21 posts…so there will be 31 posts…eventually! So what does today’s post hold?! Today is about Juice Plus…I’m pretty excited to share this…

When Jack was born, I was on a mad search to find something to narrow the developmental delays, sharpen his memory, decrease his risk for Alzheimer’s, improve his cognition, help his immune system…you get the idea. After countless recommendations by parents of kiddos with DS and countless hours of research, I began giving Jack Juice Plus to bridge the gap on what he needs and what he’s actually getting nutrition-wise…eventually, I began taking Juice Plus myself…let’s face it…four kiddos + not enough sleep + a zillion things going on + poor eating habits = a VERY tired and sick all the time me! Several months ago, I began to make some changes in my life to better take care of the one who takes care of everyone else. I can honestly say that the combination of these things has increased my energy level 10 fold…I am not tired during the day…EVER! No more crashing in the afternoon…it’s literally miraculous to me…I’ve never NOT been so tired I can barely stand up by the time 3:00 in the afternoon hits…it’s not about the quantity of things I do for my health, it’s about the quality…this is one of the essentials. My health and energy level has also made a believer out of my husband…right now, he is tired exhausted ALL DAY LONG…we are about to start him and the rest of my kiddos on JP…will keep you posted on John’s results…no doubt they will be the same as mine.

So here’s the deal…

What exactly IS Juice Plus?
WHOLE FOOD NUTRITION from naturally occurring phytonutrients from 17 different fruits, vegetables, and grains in capsule or gummie form. No kidding…17 fruits and vegetables juiced and then made into a powder,,,all of the nutrition is there. And the results are backed by tons of clinical research.

Why does every person on the planet, ESPECIALLY OUR KIDDOS, need it?
In simple terms, we’re unhealthy! Based on the Archives or Pediatrics and Medicine, Over 93% of kids don’t get the recommended 3 servings of veggies a day.
  • 1 in 3 Americans born in 2000 will develop diabetes.
  • 1 in 4 children is obese.
  • 80 million people have some sort of heart disease (American Heart Disease).
  • 1 in 3 and 1 in 2 men will have some sort of cancer in his or her lifetime (National Cancer Institute).
  • 64% of adults are overweight (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Our national healthcare expenditures were 2 TRILLION in 2005 or $6,700 per person.
Why are we so unhealthy?
Poor Food Choices (ME!)
Not enough Water (ME!)
Not enough exercise (AT LEAST I DO THIS!)
Stress (ME!)
Sleep Deprivation (SOO ME!)
Approach to medicine: “Treatment” instead of “Prevention” (SOOOO TRUE!) No wonder we spend so much…if it ain’t broke, we don't try to prevent...we just wait until it is broke...that = more $$$$ spent!

SOOOOO, what to do about this…
PREVENT disease instead of CURE disease…what’s the recommendation?
7-13 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables EVERY DAY!

What is the problem? Almost NO ONE does this…

So how does Juice Plus help?
It’s the not a REPLACEMENT for fruits and’s the next best thing!
Seriously, it’s convenient, easy to take whole food based nutrition, rich in vitamins, fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. We need to eat 7 to 13 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. Because we are busy, most of us can’t, don’t, or won’t!

For less than a cup of coffee a day, I’m worth it, and my kids are worth it…I haven’t been this excited about something since Thinking Maps, LOL. And those of you who know me know that that is MAJOR! I am so sold that I’ve done something a little crazy (I mean exciting!). I recently became a distributor of Juice Plus…now I know what you are thinking…don’t you have enough on your plate as it is???!!! Yes, I do in fact…but that’s how important this is to me…

I equate this to my job working for Thinking Maps…TM is a research based, brain based strategy that will increase critical thinking and achievement in ALL kids if implemented the right way, and it is backed by tons of research. I have seen it work for kids when nothing else seems to work. When I go into a school, I ALWAYS have skeptics…sometimes it’s the whole staff…I have walked into trainings where I have 50 teachers giving me dirty looks…they don’t scare me, LOL…because I have never walked out of a training where at least 90% of the teachers weren’t sold…it’s just good teaching…it’s simple, and it works to the highest power for our kids. Teachers see the passion I have, and it rubs off…but the thing is...I could suck as a presenter (hopefully I don’t, LOL), and teachers would still love Thinking Maps…they truly sell themselves…they just make sense. It’s the QUALITY of the strategy not the QUANTITY of strategies/programs that teachers should have.

Juice Plus is the same…there will be skeptics, but there is no denying the research and anecdotal evidence…it truly is what it says it is...nothing more and nothing less. I don’t need to sell it…it sells itself. I sought out my own distributor because I wanted this for my family…she did not seek me out. I want my family to be as healthy as possible…and it’s not about the quantity of things I do to make that happen, it’s about the quality of the things I do…it’s that simple.

Jiminy Christmas…this gets the award for the longest blog post ever, LOL…if you made it this far, I thank you. ☺ If you have questions or just want to know more, I am launching my business at a Wellness Presentation next Thursday, December 2 at my house (details below). I’d love for you to stop by…It will be short and sweet…if you don’t care about Juice Plus, come by anyways to have a glass of wine! ☺


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

31 for 21: Playlist for Jack's Life

To thank those who join our team at the Buddy Walk, I always give some type of the first Buddy Walk and last year, I gave a CD with songs that sum up my feelings for our little angel Jack. There are so many songs that bring a flood of emotions every time I hear them, and I wanted to share those with the people who chose to spend their day with us raising money and awareness for Down syndrome. I am planning to make another CD...I thought this year, I would take suggestions. If you have a child with special needs, what song(s) sums up your feelings about your child?

These are some of my favorite songs that went on my last two playlists:
My Wish by Rascal Flats
Defying Gravity: Glee Cast
Little Wonders: Rob Thomas
Bless the Broken Road: Rascal Flats
You are my Sunshine: Elizabeth Mitchell
For Good: Wicked Soundtrack
100 years: Five for Fighting
World: Five for Fighting
The Riddle: Five for Fighting
Somewhere over the rainbow
Seasons of Love: RENT soundtrack
I hope you dance: Leann Womack

Here is the beginning of this year's playlist:
You're not Alone: Meredith Andrews
Beautiful: GLEE cast
Happy Days are here again/Get happy: GLEE cast
I'm Yours/Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Straight no Chaser
Superman: Five for Fighting
I can only imagine: MercyMe
Smile: GLEE Cast
You Can't Stop the Beat: HAIRSPRAY soundtrack
No Day but Today: Idina Menzel

What are yours????

31 for 21: Monica and David

Sunday, October 17, 2010

31 for 21: Soccer Baby!!!

So the most amazing thing happened yesterday…Jack decided that he was actually going to PLAY soccer during his game! From day one, he put it in his head that he would NOT cross the white line onto the field and attempt to play with his team…he wasn’t ready…I get it. As I wrote about a few days ago, we have been working hard to use our great behavioral strategies to at least get him on the field…to at least expose him to a team sport with typical peer interactions…to at least teach him to finish something he we started…it’s been working. Slowly but surely, he has been jumping out on the field, kicking the ball a little, switching teams occasionally, and doing some major “guarding” of our goal (all at about 5-10 seconds at a time J). Baby steps…I’m SOOO OK with that…we are progressing.

Yesterday, he made a huge leap! All of the sudden a switch went on, and he played. This child ran his little heart out, and he stopped when the plays were over (most of the time. ;)). He did a throw in, and (mostly) stayed with his team. He sat during the coach’s pep talk and gave high fives! But that wasn’t the absolute best part…the game ended…time was up, but it wasn’t over. The other team watched Jack running all over that field, but he never got to put his foot on the ball…so they set up a situation so that he could score the winning goal. The team formed a wall to block the goal, and Jack had the ball all to himself. He kicked it down the field, past the “wall,” and into the goal!!! SCORE!!! The crowd went nuts, Jack was so excited, and I could barely contain myself. Never in my life have I been so touched…never. This is truly what it’s all about.

People have asked us about our decision to put Jack on a typical team instead of a VIP team for kiddos with special needs where he would most definitely have specialized instruction and be successful. The answer falls in line with the answer we have for wanting full inclusion instead of a Special Day Class when Jack starts Kindergarten. Sandi Ames, a parent advocate made the answer very clear to me. If Jack has ACCESS to the desired learning in a typical situation, if we can ACCOMMODATE him based on his unique needs in a typical situation (ie: using a motivational system with Toy Story stickers), and most importantly, if he can then BENEFIT from the learning, then there is NO reason he should have to be separated from his peers in a “specialized” setting.

That IS the point of putting him on a typical team…he has ACCESS, we can ACCOMMODATE him, and he is BENEFITTING from it all…our long term goal for Jack is that he is seen as MORE ALIKE THAN DIFFERENT. This hinges on the decisions we make now…

Here are some pics of Jack's first "real" game. :)

Running for the Goal

Kicking it past the other team


Go #3!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

31 for 21: Jack is riding a tricycle!!!!

Every milestone with this child is huge! I love every second! Go baby go!!!!

31 for 21: ABA Post on Social Stories and AYSO Soccer

So Jack is playing AYSO soccer this year on a typical team. The decision was made based on our big picture goal for Jack...that he is able to function in socially appropriate ways in the real world...that he is more alike than It became apparent that Jack was not digging soccer...he cried the first game and refused to walk over the white line onto the field. I could not convince him otherwise. The only thing he did love was the team cheer at the end of the game, giving the other team five, and running through the parent tunnel, LOL. I was frustrated. After two games of no playing and no interaction with his teammates, I brought ABA strategies to his game...and holy smokes, it actually worked! One strategy that is working like a dream is the motivational system, premack principle, and Toy Story Stickers...I came armed with tons and tons of Toy Story stickers (his motivation)...he is obssessed....he loves them. We made a deal...ABA is about a lot of deal making...not bribing, but definite deal making. We use what is called the Premack principle. It goes like this: First, do an unpreferred behavior, then you get the preferred behavior or item. So soccer went like this: first go run on the field, then you get a sticker OR first stand and guard the goal for 10 seconds, then you get a sticker OR first kick the ball, then you get a get the idea. This kid had a uniform FULL of stickers. It worked like a charm...who knew?!

Here's the other strategy that I am loving right stories. What the heck are social stories??????

Social Stories are a tool for teaching social skills to children with developmental disabilities as a part of behavior therapy (ABA). Social stories provide an individual with accurate information about those situations that he may find difficult or confusing. The situation is described in detail and focus is given to a few key points: the important social cues, the events and reactions the individual might expect to occur in the situation, the actions and reactions that might be expected of him, and why. The goal of the story is to increase the individual’s understanding of, make him more comfortable in, and possibly suggest some appropriate responses for the situation in question.

Here is Jack's social story that we read to him during the week and before his games...his case supervisor created this with my guidance. I am so proud of is amazing to me how well it works...take a peek. :)

Friday, October 08, 2010

31 for 21: Potty Training~We are getting there!!!!!!!

So...potty training...ugggh! I swear I will have a big ole party when both of my boys are out of diapers! Grant refuses to even go near the potty...when asked, he always responds, "I'll go tomorrow." LOL...every day he says this. He's not ready...I'm (kinda) OK with that. Jack, on the other hand, needs to be potty trained. We have built this goal into his ABA is working! We devised a plan to use a motivational system to get Jack to go pee on the potty. He is totally obsessed with Toy Story, and we are slowly building a collection of all of the characters...he wanted Jessie...bad! Soooo, in came the Potty Chart. Every time Jack went on the potty, he got a sticker on his chart (Toy Story, of course!). Once he got to 10, he would get Jessie. We had her picture posted in the bathroom with his chart and made a BIG deal about it...

Well, today Jack went on the potty for the tenth time! WOO HOO! I went right out and got him Jessie...he seriously didn't let go of her all night! AMAZING! But here is the cool matter what, when we put Jack on the potty, he will go. So now we up the expectation...Instead of giving stickers for going on the potty, we will give him stickers for every time he TELLS US he needs to go...because if we don't put him there, he will still go in his pull up. I know we are on our up...yep, you guessed it! Bullseye! I'll update when it happens!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

31 for 21: A Little Taste of ABA

Jack is working on finishing a game, taking turns, and verbalizing wants in this video...a little taste of Behavior Therapy.