Monthly Archives: January 2014

How to let children develop practical job skills

My son, age 6 walking our 85 year old neighbor across the road.

As some of you have read in my blog “my 11 year old daughter has a resume” both my children have been involved in volunteering for a few years. Its an important part of our home schooling curriculum.

In addition to volunteering my 8 year old autistic son has a part time paid job.

Once a day (with my supervision of course) he let’s my neighbors small dogs out for a pee, plays with them in the yard, “gives them lovins” and let’s them back in for a doggie biscuit. He gets paid 10$ a week, to an 8 year old that’s a lot of money!

My son’s job is very important to him. Being autistic (high functioning) he needs routine and needs to know what to expect each day. He also loves animals because unlike humans he gets unconditional love and doesn’t have to interpret body language, hints or body cues. Every time he lets the dogs out they are always super happy to see him.

Luke putting away the new product

Recently my son has started to volunteer at his Grandma’s pet food store on the days the truck delivers the skids of products. This makes him very happy.

Not only does he get time away from his sister, spend time with his grandmother and meet new dogs he also gets to see a giant transport truck unloading skids. That’s a pretty amazing day for an 8 year old.

In addition to autism my son also has sensory processing disorder and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Unloading and organizing items on a shelf is a heaven for him. It allows him to utilize a condition that some feel is a disability to his advantage to develop practical skills in a workplace setting.

One of my son’s many strengths is math. He is naturally good atIMG-20140203-00093 it and loves counting money.  At the age of 5 I would frequently find him in the kitchen, my wallet empty on the counter and he would be letting me know exactly how much money was in there.

At Grandma’s store (with grandma’s close supervision) he has learned how to run the till, and make change. For my son who loves money, that is a huge reward.

Grandma is also teaching my son how to appropriately interact with people (customers) in a work place setting.

He is learning how to approach a customer to ask if they need assistance and how to greet a customer at the counter with their purchase.

Children with autism always have the label of being non-social or having poor social skills.

At the age of 8 my son is learning in a real life setting, social skills that will help him once he has a job as a teenager and adult.  This is something that is not taught inside the 4 walls of a classroom to children with or without autism.

My children are very fortunate to have these opportunities which will give them a definite advantage over the competition when they apply for a job later in life.

1474651_10151868574693791_1419400078_nThere are many ways that children can volunteer in their neighborhood. Of course always supervise young children and use your best judgement. Here are some examples:

  • walking a neighbors dog
  • shoveling snow for an elderly or disabled neighbor
  • cutting grass or raking leaves for an elderly or disabled neighbor
  • Some animals shelters have volunteer positions for children
  • Being a reading buddy for younger children
  • Some nursing homes enjoy having children of any age visit, sing songs or make crafts with the residents.
  • Picking up litter to make their community cleaner
  • Baking healthy snacks and delivering them to a neighbor in need

Here are some links with more volunteering ideas for children and youth:

How I took 2 special needs kids to Disney land and survived. Practical tips for every parent.

The kids and I in a mission to mars simulator at epcot
The kids and I in a mission to mars simulator at epcot

In October of 2013 I took my 2 special needs children to Disney world and survived.

My daughter has ADHD, ODD, sensory integration dysfunction, conduct disorder, anxiety and  learning disabilities. My son has autism, OCD and a sensory processing disorder.

It was an experience that we will never forget.

Below is what I found what worked for us, what I wished I would have done and a list of helpful links. Please feel free to post a  comment on the blog page if you have any additional tips that you found helpful when you took your children to Disney world.

  • Visit Disney during the off season. Check their website for those times (see link at bottom). October is apparently the “off season” but magic kingdom was still very busy, 1-2 hour wait per ride and huge crowds
  • Get there as soon as the gates open. As the day went on it got busier and busier.
  • Bring a back pack. Bring snacks, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, a water bottle, extra change of clothing (for the kids) , small first aid kit and a few fidget toys1375911_10151774768693791_1052810419_n
  • As soon as you enter the park visit Guest relations and get a Disability Access Service Card (see link at bottom of page). This card allows people with special needs to “sign in” and saves their place in line. You don’t get to skip the line and go to the front it means that you don’t have to stand in line with a child who cannot tolerate that kind of situation. It allows you to walk around, get a snack, take a washroom break, visit a ride with a shorter wait time and then return to the ride when it would have been your time to be at the front. This saved us 16 hours in 2 days of standing in line with my 2 special needs kids. The general public can also access a “Fast pass” card that also allows you to hold your place in line (see link at bottom of the page) while you wander around.
  • Do your research, find out the rides that have the longest wait times, get there first and sign in then wander around.
  • Down load one of many Disney apps. They have apps for everything from current attraction wait times and dining (see link below)
  • Get a map of the park you are planning on visiting the day before and plan what attractions you are going to visit in the park. It will save a ton of time if you go in order instead of back tracking all over the park. Disney land is huge, 40 square miles!
  • Visit Epcot, it is quieter and has more hands on activities for children to enjoy plus shorter wait times

    Designing their own roller coaster before they got to test drive their track in a simulator at epcot
  • If your child or you for that matter gets over stimulated with loud noises bring construction type earmuffs. They are around $20 and found at places like home hardware. For my autistic son they are worth every penny.
  • Dress your child or children in matching loud obnoxious colored t-shirts. This makes spotting them in a crowd in the event they wander away much easier. This place that has tens of thousands of people. The brighter and more obnoxious the t-shirts the
    My kids and their bright yellow t-shirts


  • Wear very comfortable shoes, leave the flip flops at home. You will be walking and standing all day long
  • Make sure your child knows your name and cell number (if you bring your phone) If they don’t know it write it on a piece of paper and put it in their pocket. There are a lot of places online that sell identification bracelets for children to wear in case they get separated from their family or caregiver (see link at bottom of page)
  • Go over what to do if they get lost. Point out what a Disney employee looks like.
  • Disney is very food allergy friendly just let them know when you are ordering what your special dietary needs are

    Snorkeling with sharks and stingrays at typhoon lagoon
    Snorkeling with sharks and stingrays at typhoon lagoon
  • We visited Typhoon Lagoon (Disney water park), it was a nice break from the amusement parks and allowed the kids to burn off a lot of energy in the pools, slides and lazy river

Hope you and your family enjoy your visit to Disney land!

Good fences make good neighbors

White Picket Fence

There is a famous saying “good fences make good neighbors” and the story I am about to share is an example of just that and then some.

When myself , my 2 young children and our pets moved back to the city after over a decade in the country I was very torn inside about the move. I was nice to be back close to friends and family. It was convenient to be close to all the amenities that the city had to offer such as medical services and children’s programs.

However, I was sad because I loved the peace, quiet, privacy and space that we had been so used to in the country. I knew at the time, being back in the city was in the best interest for my children and my self.

After a few months of house shopping in the city I finally found the house that I fell in love with. It had everything I was looking for including a very private and fenced back yard with the exception of the rear fence.

I decided when I saw the back yard that I would simply add to the top of the rear fence, therefore making my backyard a 100% private space for myself, my children and my pets. Perhaps that would make living in the city a little easier on all of us.

A few days after moving in my new house I was working in my backyard when I heard a voice calling for me from the other side of the rear fence. I walked over to the fence and an older gentleman who was in his mid 80’s introduced himself and his son.

He told me how happy he was that a young family had moved into the house behind him because he loved children. Senior told me to let my kids make as much noise as they wanted while they played and asked if it was okay with my permission if he could give my children some ice cream over the fence from time to time as he had done with the previous family. I said yes and thanked him for asking my permission first as I am careful how much sweets my children eat. I introduced my children to the Senior and Junior. My children immediately formed a bond with both of them.

The next few weeks that passed we got to know each other by talking every day over the fence. We joked that it was just like the show home improvement with Wilson talking over the fence at his neighbors.

I started standing on a chair so I could see over the fence to talk to my neighbors and then of course my children copied. When their playground was built one of my kids would stand in the tree house and the other on the chair to talk to my neighbors. I soon realized how nice my neighbors behind us were and I knew I didn’t need a privacy fence built.

It was summer when I moved in and since my children are home schooled they are home every day all year, most days playing outside when their school work and home schooling programs are  finished.

Anyone who has met my 8 year old daughter knows that she likes to talk, a lot! She is just like me and will talk to just about anyone. This is why I have 2 dogs and 2 cats because if I am busy then she talks to her brother, if he doesn’t want to talk she calls her grandparents and if they are not home then she talks to the pets until they run away or fall asleep.

Now with 2 retired neighbors living on the other side of the fence my daughter had someone who would not only talk to her but also listen to her all day long. She talked to them so much that I was concerned that she was pestering them so I explained that the boys (Senior and Junior) had lots of work to do so she was only allowed to say hello once a day.

There are not many adults in this world like my neighbors who will talk to a child everyday and not get tired or annoyed. Senior was a retired wood working teacher for children with special needs and former cub scout leader.  He is so incredibly patient, soft spoken, caring and understanding of my children. Junior is a highly educated, very intelligent man who can answer so many questions that my children have and has the patience not only to care for his father but to spend time talking with my children.

My children grew so attached to my neighbors they started drawing them pictures every day and introducing them to all their friends who came to our house for a play date.

They would share stories with Senior and Junior about what was going on in their lives and what they were studying in home schooling. My son even invited the Senior and Junior to his 6th birthday party and we were so pleased that they both attended.

One day my children were playing in the back yard when my daughter fell and started crying. Senior was working in his back yard on the other side of the fence and heard my daughter crying. He immediately set off in his wheelchair and came all the way around the block to our house very concerned to see if my daughter was all right.

My concern that my children were pestering my neighbors by talking to them all day were soon laid to rest by what happened next. That first fall in my house Senior approached me and said “ I wanted to ask you if it was okay if I build the children a small set of stairs and platform so they can stand at the fence and talk to me. I am scared they are going to fall out of the chair they are standing on” I thought it was a fantastic idea and told him that I was thinking the same thing, however building is not one of my strong qualities.

So father and son set off and spent weeks building a fantastic set of child size stairs and platform that they named “the look out.” We brought it over to my yard and on a very cold November day, Junior laid the patio slabs that I had and we set the stairs up. Now my children and my neighbors behind us can talk to each other without any worry of the kids falling off the chair.
315567_10150383547828791_1948942678_n My daughter one day asked Senior if he was ever lonely since his wife died (they would be married for 67 years if she was still alive!) he said yes he did get lonely and he missed his wife terribly. My 8 year old daughter said “when you get lonely, you can come to the fence anytime and I will talk to you” Senior said he never met a child like my daughter who was so caring and concerned about other people feelings, it brought tears to his eyes. They have been there for every one of my kids birthdays since we met them and attended their hockey games, dance recitals and routinely have my children over to help in the work shop, play cards, work in the garden or just to talk.

So as the saying goes “good fences make good neighbors” and in my case I have the best neighbors anyone could ask for. Now that they stairs are finished there is an ongoing discussion on the next project to tackle, it seems it’s a toss up between the rocket ship my son is building to fly to the moon , in which he invited Senior to join him on the trip or a set of stairs on the other side of the fence for Senior and Junior to stand on.

This single mom’s crappy yet funny situation

In the spring of 2013 I was a single parent of 2 special needs children. I ran a home day-care and home schooled my 7 year old autistic son. I was also desperately trying to train an neurotic, hyper, anxious 7 month old collie/lab puppy. This dog makes Marley (from the movie Marley and me) look like an angel.

He looks so innocent, doesn’t he?

By 7 months old he knew how to open doors and cupboards. Being a lab he was a compulsive eater and ate everything, non food items included. It was so bad I had installed french doors with a pad lock on my kitchen to keep him out of there.

One Wednesday morning the children (5 day-care and my 2) and myself left to do the school run. One of my kids left the kitchen door open and the puppy broke into the kitchen, into the cupboard and pulled out a brand new organic (couldn’t have been the cheap stuff) big container of powdered infant formula for one of the day-care kids. He pulled the plastic lid off, chewed his way through the metal seal, dove in and started eating.

When I came home I found him on the couch with his puppy head buried into the can of powered formula and powder all over the couch. Since he was drooling so much (must be good stuff) it looked like he was foaming at the mouth! I was so mad I pried the can out of his grasp and put him in the back yard so I could clean up the powered formula and dog slobbered mess on the couch and floor.

The day continued as usual, the puppy ran around, played with the kids, tried to eat shoes, chewed on the wall, chased the cat and barked at his own shadow.

After work, my kids and I went to swimming lessons then off to the grocery store. We returned home at about 8 o clock to a puppy who was convinced we were never coming back and destruction every where. Why was this dog not in a cage? That’s a whole other blog.

I put the puppy outside and we brought the groceries in the house. Being a single working parent I am always running so I went running down the 2 stairs to my sunk-in living room, slipped and fell very hard on my arm. I heard a horrible snapping/popping sound when I hit the floor and immediately felt nauseous.

My kids heard the commotion and came running in to find me calmly lying on the floor, on my back holding my wrist. They both started to cry, me on the other hand from having a life that was always full of excitement was cool as a cucumber. I looked at my daughter and said “please put the groceries away so the puppy doesn’t eat them” and looked at my son and said “please bring me my cell phone so I can call your grandparents to come get you both, I have broken my arm”

While lying on the floor and waiting for my parents to arrive the shock from the fall  started to wear off. That’s when I realized that I was wet. Oh no, did I pee my pants? I had heard of people going into shock and peeing their pants, I’m going to just die if that’s why I am wet. Then I realize no, I’m cold wet I must have slipped on something on the floor. Gross, its probably puppy pee, that dog was impossible to house train. I lifted my head and looked at my white socks that were now brown. Then I realized what happened. Puppy diarrhea, I slipped on puppy diarrhea and broke my arm?!?!? Ignoring the pain of my arm I jumped up and screamed “Get these clothes off of me!” This was a neat freak, germ-a-phob’s worst nightmare! I marched up stairs to get changed and that’s when I saw the real mess I’ll spare the details but it was me, a broken arm, and lots of cleaning.

By the time the grandparents arrived I had gotten most of the mess cleaned up and changed my clothes. I left the puppy and my 11 year old dog who was giving me a look that said “I never liked that puppy anyways” at my house. The grandparents took my 2 very upset kids to their place for the night, while I got dropped off at emergency.

The 5 hours I waited to see the doctor I kept patients and staff entertained with funny stories.  I have always been able to take the worst situation and turn it funny. However when you slip on puppy diarrhea and break your arm it requires zero effort to make people laugh with that.

The doctor finally looked at my x-rays and told me I did a good number on my arm. I broke my wrist in 2 places (the joint and the other bone), so badly the bones were twisted and over lapped. I needed a “reduction” which is a fancy way of saying the doctor is going to pull, twist and pop your bones back together. In the emergency room this requires the patient being put under because it is very painful and  gross.

The nurse arrived to put my IV in and as always they could not find a good vein. She tried for about an hour poking me over and over. I have had many operations in my life but IV is the one thing that I cannot stand. After about 10 minutes of being a pin cushion my patience and sense of humor was gone. She gave up after an hour and said she needed to find someone else to put the IV in. Is that even allowed? Are medical professionals allowed to throw their hands up and say I give up while a patient is waiting patiently to have their wrist snapped back together?

A few hours later 2 more nurses arrived and took me to the operating room where they both tried to get the IV in for over an hour! They still hadn’t given me any pain medication at this time. What is NOT helpful to someone who is in pain, tired and gets totally grossed out with IV’s is attacking them over and over with the needle saying “see I can get it in and feel the vein wall but nothing!”

After a very long time of being poked they got the IV in and put me out. Here’s a news flash, when a doctor has to use all his strength to yank, pop, pull and twist a wrist that has been broken in 2 places back together it hurts. I woke up in an arm cast in a lot of pain and very angry. They gave me straight morphine and it didn’t even touch the pain, and I’m a person who doesn’t even take an advil unless absolutely necessary.

The reason for my broken wrist. 6am, 2 hours till work

I got out of the hospital at 5am in pain, in a cast and had 7 kids (my 2 and 5 day-care kids) to care for, cook for and clean up after starting at 8am. The joys of being self employed. Obviously taking pain medication while caring for 7 kids is a no no so I put my head down and went to work.

What happened to the puppy? I still have him. He has eaten much worse since then and had a  few near death experiences because of it. This gives me more to write about. My wrist has never healed properly, I did find some natural medication that helped speed healing  and reduce the pain but those are story’s for another time.

What THIS Mom leanred when she sent her 8 year old to school

I always knew that my daughter was different, even while I was pregnant. She never stopped moving, every ultrasound and midwife visit confirmed that I was pregnant with a very active little girl.schoolhouse

By the time my daughter was 8 years old she had been thru 10 different agencies that offer help for special needs children including psychologists and pediatricians.

I had an early childhood education diploma and was a trained Montessori teacher. I attended dozens of workshops and read countless child development books.

I spent 17 years working with children, mostly children with special needs. At that time she had 6 diagnosed special needs as follows: ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety disorder, ODD (oppositional defiance disorder), sensory integration dysfunction, learning disabilities and CD (conduct disorder) sounds like a whole lot to handle but for me its was just life.

When she was 2 and a half one of her workers suggested I put her in nursery school a few mornings a week to burn some energy and help her separate from me.

The opposite happened, she came home more wound up then she started out. She would be literally jumping from couch to table to couch.

After almost a year of nursery school I enrolled her in a Montessori school about 30 minutes from my home. I was hoping the calm atmosphere of a Montessori classroom would be just what she needed. She did enjoy the Montessori school and continued with Montessori education with me until she was 8 years old.

It was clear early on that she had some major challenges in the classroom. My daughter was severely dyslexic, couldn’t concentrate and had a very hard time retaining simple lessons and concepts to name a few challenges. Don’t talk to me about putting my child on meds, out of desperation and last resort I tried meds and it backfired, but that’s another story.

When we moved back to my hometown, I home schooled my daughter until march of her grade 4 year.

She was being pressured by family to go to public school and began refusing to do her home schooling. Soon getting her to do her work was a daily fight, I was also getting a lot of pressure from family and specialists to send her to school.

Pressure from people who were not her parent, who did not know her like I did but felt like they knew what I should do with my special needs child. Eventually I said to my daughter if you really want to go to public school then I support you. Off she went to school.

She started “in the system” in the spring of her grade 4 year.

My daughter went from a quiet home schooled environment where she received one on one attention plus attended calm home schooled programs (swim, art, gym class) to a school with 30 kids in a class and over 600 on the play ground.

Pretty soon after my daughter started school, the school realized that she had multiple challenges. They tested her and in grade 4 she was working at a grade 3 level. It had taken me all those years just to get her to a grade 3 level.

During the first week she began to complain about some children bothering her on a daily basis. Instead of reacting in a negative way and being a Montessori child she put into practice what I had taught her.

My daughter told the kids to stop, walked away (they followed) told the teacher and told the principal. Nothing was done. What I didn’t want to happen was happening and I wasn’t there to stop it. My daughter was being bullied.

I spoke to her teacher, nothing was done. I asked the teacher to not place her in the same class as the main child who was harassing her the following year. At the same time her behavior at home was deteriorating, her language was horrible and her self esteem was disappearing. My daughter was saying phrases and asking questions about subjects no child should know about.

She survived the first school year and had the summer off. My daughter had the choice of being home schooled or going back to school for grade 5. She wanted to go back to school for grade 5 because her family and friends said she should.

The first day of school I introduced myself to her new teacher and asked if he had time to go over her file. He scoffed and said no. I suggested he might want to as she has multiple special needs and he made a comment about having 35 children in his class. I knew that first day he wasn’t going to be much help.

To my disappointment my daughter was in the same class as the main little boy who had been harassing her the year before except this year it was much worse.

She told her teachers and the principal. I spoke to her teacher in person, via notes, I talked to the principal and vice principal for 3 months.

I did not find out how bad it truly was until after I pulled my daughter out of that school.

A lot of it was verbal sexual abuse my daughter suffered. This boy was saying words, threats and phrases to my daughter that most grown men would never dream of repeating.

It was also physical. I was told AFTER my daughter had already left that she was being beat up so bad on the playground that an older child had to regularly step in a pull this boy off my daughter on the playground.

The school she was attending is one of the top public schools in my area and they couldn’t keep my child safe.

I gave my daughter to the public system as a happy, energetic, friendly child who loved people and loved learning and in 6 short months they gave me back a child who was so depressed she was suicidal, she hated her life and vomited for weeks on end.

She had zero self esteem, refused to bathe, brush her hair or teeth and was withdrawn. This was not the little girl I once knew. I felt like a failure as a parent and I was raging mad at the school.

Over the Christmas break I switched her to a fantastic catholic school. I do not have enough positive things to say about the school.

The children and staff were caring, patient and adored my daughter. My only issue was that the school did not have enough resources to help her academically. By the end of grade 5 she was re-tested and had fallen to a grade 2 level.

Her IEP (individualized education plan) had 41 recommendations in 12 areas and that’s when I knew public education was not the place for my child. She stayed until Christmas break of her grade 6 year when SHE made the choice to be home schooled again.

My daughter has now regressed to a grade 1 level earning a 50% average, so we are back to square one with the academics but I am so relieved that she is back being home schooled where I can give her the one on one education she needs to grow up to be a successful adult.

She tells me everyday she is much happier being home schooled because she can focus easier and get her work done. Home schooling may not be for everyone but its what works with my children, my self and we love it.

My 11 year old has a resume

My daughter helping our 86 year old neighbour
My daughter helping our 87 year old neighbor

She has worked (volunteered) at a private school, home day-care, public school, nursing home and pet supplies store. She is only 11 years old. She is my daughter.

This afternoon my daughter spent a few hours working (volunteering) with her step grandma at her pet supply store as part of our home schooling curriculum.

Some may feel she is too young, but I have been told by many employers in today’s world there are a lot of young people who graduate high-school with zero job skills and they cannot even fill out a job application.

Just like any mother I feel my kids are special and unique. Both my children have multiple special needs, “invisible” special needs as they are now called meaning my children look “normal” and have no obvious physical exceptions or challenges.

My daughter has 6 diagnosed special needs (to date) including severe learning disabilities. She struggles terribly with academics and before you jump all over me and tell me to send her to public school, I tried that (see what THIS mom learned in public school blog, coming soon )

Even though academics are a struggle we still do them day in and day out because I know she needs them. I will never ever say “my kids will never get a job, finish high school, go to college and so on” My kids can do what ever they set their hearts on and I will always support them.

Once our daily academics are done I like to focus on my children’s strengths and help them build on those strengths.

For my daughter it is working with children, animals and senior citizens. She is fantastic in these areas, better then most adults I have met.

My job as a home schooling mom is to give her as many opportunities as I can to  allow her to develop those skills.

My daughter is the one that little children want to be around and who animals melt when she pets them.

She is extremely patient with senior citizens and in the past both of my children have volunteered at a nursing home singing songs, delivering cards and visiting with the residents.

My daughter routinely visits my 87 yIMG-20140128-00066(1)ear old neighbor to help him in the garden, play cards or just sit and chat.

She loves helping at the pet supply store and spending time with her step grandma. She is learning how to interact with the customers, scan items,stock shelves, pet care, and work the till. A hands on way of teaching math and language to a child who struggles with those subjects.

She is perfecting skills she is already great at but also learning skills that are not taught inside the 4 walls of a classroom. By allowing my children to build on the skills they are good at helps boost their self esteem. I love how proud they are of their hard work. Getting hired will be easier for them when they are older and this allow them to grow up to be independent adults.

At the age of 11, my daughter has a more impressive resume then some high school graduates and that makes me one proud mamma!