Category Archives: Special needs kids

Various helpful information for parents and educators of special needs kids

How we choose our curriculum (and a free printable to help you plan your home school year!)

10377014_10152484073918791_8201139499869093238_nWhen it comes to homeschooling 2 very different special needs children, there was a lot of trial and error involved before I landed on a method that worked the best for all of us.

Both my children have a few things in common when it comes to their learning styles and a whole lot of differences.

They both are extremely intelligent, articulate, energetic, hands on learners and hate any kind of paper and pencil work.

I tried various kinds of worksheets found on-line for free or paid sites, workbooks, letting the kids choose the topics, letting them choose the order of their work, time of day to do their work but nothing seemed to go smoothly.

The kids would end up complaining like they were being tortured or would rush through their work and make silly errors. My daughter said she could not work in the same room as my son because the sound of his pencil on the paper was driving her crazy.

Neither were able to work independently and I wanted both kids to be able to complete their work as independently as possible, to prepare them for post secondary education.

10690236_10152439280533791_3822242993217861758_nMy kids have very limited screen time (1 hour a day only if they get their school work, chores done and behave in an appropriate manner) so I looked into on-line curriculum. I figured that may appeal to them since they had very minimal screen time and they liked technology.

We tried a few free trial sites before settling down with Time4learning

It’s a on-line curriculum that covers preschool right up grade 12. All the lessons are taught in a fun, cute and child friendly way making it very appealing to children.

The activities and quizzes are fun and don’t seem like quizzes at all. The kids get to choose what order they want to complete their work. Sometimes they do a little of each subject each day and sometimes they get into a groove where they only want to work on one subject at a time.

They have access to 3 grade levels at a time so if they complete grade 4 language they can move on to grade 5 and still be working on grade 4 math and science for example.

I can see everything they have worked on in the parent login including their marks. If they didn’t get a mark I feel was high enough then I have them re-do the activity.

The really neat thing about this curriculum is that working 1 hour a day at the program my kids have completed 3 full school grades (math, science, language arts, language and social studies) in under 12 months.

10687213_10152484110378791_3318591856181257703_n (1)
My daughter dog sitting for a neighbour

This leaves so much time in the day for hands on learning through homeschool programs, practical life activities plus lots of unstructured time for the kids to play and explore the things that interest them. The “non curriculum” time is just as important as its teaching my kids job skills through volunteering, practical life skills at home, independence and social skills in a fun hands on way.

How do you choose your curriculum?

Thanks to Lisa at the Canadian Homeschooler, we have a free printable to offer our readers. Click on this link to get a free printable to help plan, purchase and compare your materials for the next year.


Five nature based places to visit in Central Ontario (and triple give-away!)



Ontario has so many opportunities to experience nature up close and hands on. It would be impossible to list them all so my children and I have come up with a list of five of our favorite outdoor field trips located in central Ontario. These are all places we have visited for day trips, some are only open seasonally so always double-check days and hours of operation.



68969_446179798790_6676439_nWarsaw caves is located just 30 minutes northeast of Peterborough and offers 7 caves, hiking trails, beach  with swimming area  and campground. This unique conservation area was formed thousands of years ago when Ontario was covered with thick glaciers. When the glaciers began to melt the flowing water formed caves, ledges, cliffs, kettles and underground channels in the bedrock creating an interesting landscape to enjoy.  In addition to the caves there are great hiking trails with some interesting features. Along the trail there is a point where the river disappears underground and can be heard flowing beneath your feet! Another really neat aspect of the hiking trails are the kettles and no I am not talking about tea. Kettles are round holes in the bedrock that were carved thousands of years ago when a boulder got caught in the river in a whirlpool. It spun around long enough to actually carve some pretty impressive 67319_446187583790_4262254_nholes in the bedrock, some big enough to fit  few adults inside.  We only visited for day trips but they also offer overnight camping. We would recommend headlamp flash lights instead of handheld flash lights as you will want your hands free for climbing in and out of some caves.


Petroglyphs provincial park is located a little over 2 hours north-east of Toronto and is home to one of thMinolta DSCe largest collections of aboriginal rock carvings in Canada. These carvings are on a gigantic rock housed in a huge building in the forest and it is pretty impressive! There is staff on site to help interpret the carvings and it is a very unique experience. You can also visit the Learning Place to learn about the traditions of the Ojibway people. This provincial park has 4  peaceful hiking trails ranging from 1km long to 5.5 kms long and offers various natural landscape to enjoy such as mixed forest, a marsh trail and a trail that runs along the unique McGinnis Lake, a rare metronomic lake. This is a blue/green lake of waters that don’t intermix. Since petroglyphs provincial park is on the border of the Peterborough Crown Game Reserve it is a great place for bird watching.

262509_10150278083758791_5497853_nCobourg beach is located a little over an hour east of Toronto and is easily accessible via the 401. It has the largest and nicest soft white sand beach that I have visited in Ontario. The swimming is wonderful as the water is shallow for the little ones and very slowly gets deeper. You can spend the entire day just relaxing on the beach enjoying the sun, water and fresh air. Victoria park adjoins the beach and has large grassy areas, a good size splash pad, playground, snack bar, trees to provide shade and a band-shell. The marina offers sailing lessons and fishing charters too.

Peterborough zoo (Riverview park and zoo) is a 55 acre zoo and  is located about an hour and half north-east of Toronto. This is a fantastic little zoo and so much more!! It is open year round and has free admissions and parking,  but donations are greatly appreciated. It is home to over 27 animals exhibits and over 40 species of animals to observe ad enjoy. Take a 15 mi564255_10151073820803791_391137761_nnute trip on the vintage train ride or cool off in the large splash pad.  The zoo is also home to Peterborough’s largest playground. There are various playgrounds geared towards
age group from a tot lot to a large school age playground and don’t forget to hop on the 80 foot long super slide! Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the many picnic tables throughout the park or the various picnic shelters. The zoo is a great to place visit in the winter as most of the animals are active during the winter, there is room to cross-country ski or bring a sled and go tobogganing.

Greenwood opening weekend celebrations
Greenwood opening weekend celebrations

Greenwood conservation area is located in Ajax and is perfect for the city folk who want to enjoy nature close to home. Greenwood is situated along the banks of Duffins creek, a cool clear water creek. This conservation area offers great hiking trails, some amazing fishing beginning with the trout season opening in the spring. There is also picnic areas and a playground making it a perfect location for family picnics or other social gatherings.

Where are some of your favorite places to visit in Canada?

I am very excited to be involved in not only one but a triple give-away for all my loyal readers. This months give-away is:

1) Family/Group Discovery Pass from Parks Canada. Valid for 1 year from date of issue. Value $136.40.    

2) Rough Guide: Canada – travel guide book. Value $29.99.

3)The Ultimate Guide to Field Trips in Canada ebook. Value: $5.99.

To enter click: Entry-Form

Good luck to all those entering and please share.

Please visit The Canadian Homeschooler for more great virtual field trips from across Canada.

13 important questions to ask a potential home childcare provider

My kids at the zoo with my home daycare

Whether you are returning to work or going back to school choosing a qualified home childcare provider is one of the most difficult decisions you will make as a parent.

I have 20 years teaching experience in licensed childcare settings, a private school and in the home childcare community.  Some of these questions I have been asked by parents and some are questions that I think every parent should be asking.

The suggestions below are good questions to ask in addition to the general questions (ie is the yard fenced, where do the children nap and play and so on) Some of the questions might seem a bit excessive but I have seen more than a few people who should have not been responsible for young children in one way or another.

1) How long have they been providing childcare?

2) What is their experience with young children? There CAN  be a huge difference between someone who likes kids and someone who has gone to school for 2 years to study early childhood education.

3) Do they have any pets? If so how and when are the pets involved? Can they provide you with up to date rabies vaccination records?

My son at our home childcare field trip to the pumpkin patch

4) Do they have home childcare insurance? God forbid if there is an accident, is your child covered? It can be very tricky to find home daycare insurance BUT it can be done. This  insurance will usually follow the children at the caregivers home, personal vehicle, bus, walking trips and so on. My experience  in Ontario is that if the home childcare has a pool large enough that it has a filter and doesn’t get dumped out every night they either do not have insurance or their insurance will be void if the insurance company finds out.

5) Do the children travel in the childcare providers vehicle? If so does he/she have a clean driving abstract? Does the childcare provider provide up to date car seats and knows how to use them correctly. 75% of car seats are installed  incorrectly!

6) Can the childcare provider provide a clean up to date (within 6 months) criminal record check? Also who else lives in the home and is involved with the children?

My son checking out the tadpoles at a local park with my daycare kids.

7) Does the childcare provider have references you may contact of past and current clients

8) Does the childcare provider provide food or is the parent responsible for sending food? If so what kind of food is served? Can they cater to children with food allergies/sensitivities?

9) If the children are allowed to watch TV exactly what programs are they watching and how long each day?

10) Does the childcare provider give receipts for your income taxes?

11) How are the children disciplined? What is the home childcare’s policy on children who are aggressive?

12) How many children does the caregiver have each day? Check your area for the max number of children and their ages.

A fun childcare trip to a local farm.
A fun childcare trip to a local farm.

13) Does the childcare provider have any extra qualifications? Infant and child CPR, food handler safety course, workshops relating to children are all very  useful in a home daycare environment and can help parents decided between one childcare provider or another.

Hope this helps parents find a safe environment for their child to learn and grow while away from home.

O Canada! It’s time for school. All about learning press giveaway!


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I am happy to introduce the first giveaway on my blog.  All about learning press is giving away your choice of levels from either All About Reading or All About Spelling, plus an Interactive Kit. This prize is valued at $150!



Simply fill out the  Entry-Form   to enter. The winner will be chosen July 23, 2014 and the contest is open to residents of Canada and the US.



How to get your child to leave the playground (or anywhere fun) without a fight

Imagine, you have waited all week to watch your favorite show.

You get comfortable on the couch and within minutes you are totally engrossed in your favorite TV program.

You are half way through the show and at a crucial part of the program when suddenly someone comes in and says “time to turn this off” and the TV shuts off!

You may be feeling angry, upset, frustrated, confused, sad or all of those feelings.

This is how children feel when they are playing at the park, with a favorite toy or watching a movie when a parent out of no where says “its time to stop”206783_10150169558833791_2491797_n

I see it all the time at the park, play-dates, indoor playgrounds and the swimming pool.  Children having a fantastic time until its time to go then all hell breaks loose. You’ve got a child screaming, on the floor rolling around and refusing to leave. The parent tries to bribe, threaten or convince the child that its time to go but nothing  works.

Soon you have a parent who is flustered, frustrated and looking like they are going to drop to the floor for their own tantrum.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have worked with children of all ages including children with special needs for the past 19 years and I am going to share the secret of how to get your child to accept transitions without a fight. Personally I have yet to see a child who doesn’t respond to this technique, either the first time or after a few consistent attempts.

The first thing to consider is if you are going to take your child to an indoor playground, park or somewhere exciting that they don’t usually get to visit, let them have a long time to enjoy it. 229586_8918718790_9739_n

It’s a horrible tease for a child to get to visit a park for 5 minutes then go home.

Now here is the big secret, we call it the count down and that’s exactly what it is, a count down.

Depending on your child and how much transition time they need it can be either 5 or 10 minutes, or longer, you know your child the best.  Some children I have worked with are fine with 5 minutes, my son who is high functioning autistic needs 10 minutes.

Five minutes before you need to tell your child to stop what they are doing, you simply get their attention and say “Five more minutes until we: leave, stop, tidy up, get ready for bed and so on”

That’s it, no arguing. If the child starts to argue, ignore it.

This lets them know that the activity is coming to an end but they still have 5 more minutes to finish up.

At four minutes repeat “four more minutes until we…..”

Do the count down for each minute.

Until you get to “its now time to leave”

Most children will respond to this the first time, some children need a few practice attempts. This will work with children 18 months and up.


You might think I am going to look silly calling up to the top of the indoor playground every minute but trust me this is much better then carrying a screaming child out of there when its time to go while getting dirty looks by other parents.

PS. If you are in a hurry and try to skip numbers, some children will notice and be very upset.


Adding fuel to the fire: ADHD and food sensitvities

This is a topic I am very passionate about.  Here is the first post about the subject of behaviour and food. I will be incuding my family and friends personal experiences and links to helpful information about this topic in this post and future posts.

As a child I was a very bright and active little girl.

My daughter working on her homeschooling at the library
In grades 1 to 3, I was in advanced reading and math as I was a year ahead of the class.

In grade 4 it all went down hill fast. My parents enrolled me in  French Immersion so I could have an advantage on the competition when I was an adult and went searching for a job.

I went from being a grade ahead of my peers in math and language to failing all my subjects.

By grade 8 the teacher told my parents to put me in basic classes in high-school and not to expect me to graduate.

In grade 10 I was tested and it was determined that my spelling was at a grade 4 level and my math was at a grade 5 level, no wonder I couldn’t keep up or understand the work.

What happened?

What changed over that summer from grade 3 to 4?

Was it being in french immersion and learning a new language?

It would take almost 20 years for me to find the answer.

When my daughter was a new-born I nursed her. She ate all the time but wouldn’t gain much weight yet she was unusually strong, healthy and alert.

Under the supervision of a lactation consultant and dietician I started supplementing her feedings with formula. I would nurse her for an hour, every other hour, 24 hours a day then “top her up” with formula. My daughter still didn’t gain much weight.

At 4 months old the dietician recommended that I  continue to nurse her but also to start her on solid food. I made all my own baby food (except the yogurt) Again my daughter ate 10 times more than infants her age but still gained very little weight. At this time she started to have temper tantrums and fits of rage.

Physically she was like a super human infant. She could hold her head up unassisted as a day old infant, bouncing in a jolly jumper at 2 months old and standing on top of tables at 7 months old.  However emotionally she was developing anxiety and other traits I knew from my years of working with children that were not normal.

2653_61264658790_7453562_nAt 9 months old under the recommendation of the lactation consultant (who had seen my daughter  on a bi weekly basis from the time she was 6 weeks old until she was 14  months old) we consulted a child development agency. After checklists, home visits and forms it was confirmed that my daughter had sensory integration dysfunction. I knew that this was the beginning of a very long road since that diagnosis always goes hand in hand with another diagnosis.

As my daughter became a toddler her rages turned violent towards me and this was happening multiple times a day. These were not normal 2-year-old temper tantrums in 291_18266648790_3752_nfact  at the age of 3 my daughter put her fist through her bedroom door during one  episode.

I didn’t know what to do. I took exceptional care of my self when I was pregnant. I nursed her, grew my own vegetables to make my own baby food, she rarely had junk food or candy.

Where did I go wrong?

One day I was discussing my daughters aggressive behaviour with her worker. She asked what my daughter had eaten prior to her latest violent outburst. My daughter had been behaving wonderfully at the ice rink so I decided to reward her with a blue slushy and all hell broke loose. That’s when we realized that perhaps a lot of her behaviour was related to food, especially food colouring or dyes.

I tested the theory multiplue times and made sure she didn’t consume anything with food colouring for a week. I introduced food colouring and she went from angel to devil.  It turns out that food colouring was in almost everything on the shelf including the “healthy yogurt” and children’s “healthy” snacks that I was feeding my daughter as a young baby when her rages began.

After many years of experimenting and seeing an integrative medical doctor for allergy testing I know what my daughter can and cannot eat. These foods affect her in many ways. Her behaviour is one way but it also causes leg pains at night (what used to be called growing pains) stomach aches, eczema, migraines and it affects her academically.

When she consumes food with food colouring she writes backwards! She will write full paragraphs backwards and not even notice she is doing it! She also cannot concentrate, focus and retain any new information making her ADHD so much worse.

My daughter age 11 she has come a long way and I couldn't be prouder.
My daughter age 11. She has come a long way and I couldn’t be prouder.

That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks almost 20 years later! When I started in French Immersion I couldn’t concentrate, understand what was being taught and had a hard time sitting still . I would be up all night with leg pains, headaches, anxiety and stomach aches.

Did the new language cause this?

Not even close. I now know what caused this was the big bag of RED penny candy I would buy at the corner store every morning and eat while waiting for the bus to take me to my new school.

For more info on food sensitivities, what food colouring is actually made of (YUCK!) and ADHD please check out these links:


“What It Feels Like To Have Dyslexia”

I came across this article today and it really hit home for me. My 11 year old daughter has multiple special needs including a learning disability and dyslexia.

My daughter in 2011, doing her home schooling in the tree house.

At the end of the article  there is a picture, with grey background and white type. That is exactly how my 11 year old daughter spells when she is writing answers or notes in homeschooling.

When you watch the video of the author and hear how well spoken and intelligent he is,  it proves that people with dyslexia (and other learning disabilities)  are not less intelligent then the rest , they just learn differently.

Summer camp options for kids with special needs in Ontario

Are you looking for a great summer camp experience for your child with special needs?

A place where they can learn, grow and be supported by qualified staff in a safe environment?

Look no further!

This year my son and I were fortunate enough to attend the  2014 Summer Camp & Inclusive Recreation Fair held at the Abilities center in Whitby, Ontario for the second year in a row.

You missed it? No sweat, I took notes for you.

We had a blast talking to all the camps, some whom we know personally. We were able to see pictures of what each unique camp had to offer and ask questions.

Each camp listed below had a friendly, helpful and knowledgable representative present. Some camps had funding available to off set the cost of camp and some were able to point me in the right direction to apply for funding. They all agree that the time is now to apply for funding for the summer of 2014. Please contact the camp your are interested in and they will answer all your questions.


Abilities Centre                                                http://www.abilitiescentre.orgu

A fully accessible, state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility committed to the development of an inclusive and integrated environment. We offer programs for people of all ages and abilities (including those with and without disabilities) in the areas of sports/fitness, arts, and life skills.

Camp Awakening                                   

Camp Awakening provides integrated summer camp, leadership & family outdoor recreation programs for children and youth with physical disabilities (ages 9-24).  We offer 4 unique and innovative residential programs at mainstream summer camps across the province.

Camp Kennebec                                     

A wonderful place where kids & teens with special needs have a great time, accomplish more than they ever expected, make new friends, and best of all, create the fabulous summer memories they deserve.

Camp Kodiak                                         

Camp Kodiak is a non-competitive, residential summer camp for children and teens with and without learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and NLD. We provide a 2-to-1 camper-staff ratio, small cabin groups, academic and social skills.

Camp PEAK                                           

Overnight camp serving children 8-17 years. All ages are welcome in the 4 day, 3 night family camp. All inclusive program for children with higher functioning Aspergers, Autism and ADHD. Programs include a life skill and social skill focus while having FUN!

Easter Seals Ontario                              

Camp Merrywood (Perth) and Camp Woodeden (London): Easter Seals Ontario owns and operates two fully accessible summer camps for children and youth (ages 1-26) with physical disabilities. Campers must be registered with Easter Seals Ontario to qualify (Incontinence Supplies Grant Program is a separate registry). Funding available for applicants 18 and under (and who are not Crown ward) as of July 1st of that camping year.

Grandview Children’s Centre                  

Programs are designed and facilitated by our recreation staff. All activities provide the opportunity for participants to learn new skills, meet new friends and enhance self-esteem and personal growth. Programs focus on physical, creative and social activities and are offered during the day, after school and on weekends, depending on the type of program.

Kerry’s Place Autism Services                

Checking out a slide show of the Kerry’s place camps.
We provide services to individuals on the Autism Spectrum and their families. Services include: consultation to schools, families and individuals, social skills groups, vocational support and assistance in obtaining funding. Kerry’s Place also offers training and workshops for families and professionals.


Kinark Outdoor Centre                           

The Kinark Outdoor Centre (KOC) operates year-round to provide a rich variety of outdoor education programs and autism support programs tailored to a wide range of needs and interests. From skill development, family enrichment and social recreation to ecologically-focused, adventure-based experiences, the KOC offers high-quality programming and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in a safe, well-supported and beautiful environment.


Natureways Outdoor Education              

Natureways provides unique learning experiences through adventure and discovery in the outdoors.  While exploring the pristine Seaton Hiking Trail campers will learn about animals, plants, river critters, fossils, survival skills, pioneers, and Aboriginal history.  Exciting day trips to various conservation areas are planned once a week based on the weekly themes. Campers will also play Predator and Prey, create crafts, pioneer crafting, and play innovative cooperative games.

Nova’s Ark                                              

Luke and his friend Mary-ann from Nova’s Ark.
A non-profit registered charity, located in Brooklin, which offers a wide range of year round day camp options and event days for individuals with special needs. Nova’s Ark incorporates a wide range of individualized activities and customized programs involving youth leaders and therapy animals. Our very enthusiastic and dedicated youth leaders give generously of their time, their heart and most of all, their friendship to provide one of the most unique shared experiences that a child will ever encounter.


Precious Minds                                      

Kids and Teens, with developmental needs, are supported through a low camper/staff ratio, high levels of structure and the use of schedules to ensure that each individual is able to successfully engage with friends through crafts, stories, water play, music and outdoor recreation.

Sunrise Youth Group                             

Sunrise Youth Group runs Recreations Events & Programs for Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities in the Durham Region. Our aim is to provide social & learning experiences for all.  Sunrise is a positive outlet for leadership, creativity, and encourages all young people to explore their potential.  Peer to Peer friendships with our volunteers, Dances, Cabin Retreats, Dinner & Movies, Wilderness Weekends & More.

Town of Ajax                                          

Programs for children (4-12 years) and youth (11-15). Camp offerings include: nature & outdoors, sports, arts, performing arts and multimedia, technology and day trips. One-to-one support is available at no additional cost for Ajax residents.

Town of Pickering                                  

Open to Pickering residents (extra spaces will be filled by non-residents). The Town of Pickering summer camps offers assistance by way of 1:1 support for campers with special needs. A maximum of 4 weeks of support is provided (campers may  bring their own support staff after that). Deadline for applications is may 12 2014.

Town of Whitby                                      

Whitby Camps: We offer inclusion services for Whitby residents. The service is for children with a physical and/or learning disability, communication, comprehension and/or interaction that could effect their safety.  If you wish to apply for additional support you can fill out the application form on our website.

Wind Reach Farm                                   

Luke checking out the Windreach farms table
WindReach Farm is a fully working farm whose mission strives to enrich the of persons of all ages with disabilities and/or special needs by providing opportunities to enjoy experiences in farming, nature, outdoor recreation & other activities and to share those experiences with family and friends.  WindReach Farm includes fully wheelchair accessible pathways, trails, buildings, barns and stables.  Offering five core programs: Day Visitor Program, Work Experience Program; Therapeutic Program; Accommodation Program; and the Volunteer Program, WindReach welcomes both the special needs and able-bodied communities.


Happy  Camping!

Going microwave free IS easier then you think

I have friends who ditched their microwave. I’ll admit it, I thought they were crazy.

However, when I took my 2 special needs children to  a well-respected  integrative doctor one of the first things he recommended was getting rid of the microwave in our home. new-microwave-oven-30zpvt1i

That’s when I started doing some research on my own about microwaves and I didn’t like what I was finding out.

As a single parent of 2 children and running a home daycare out of my home full-time I thought it would be impossible not to have a microwave for heating up meals for the 7 children in my care.

In the spring of 2013 my microwave broke.

I decided now the time to stop using the microwave.

Even with 7 kids and a broken wrist at the time it didn’t take long to get used to not having a microwave in the kitchen.

Within a week I no longer missed it at all. Honestly it was so much easier than I thought it would be!

How do we heat up left overs?

It’s very simple.

I purchased various sized glass Pyrex type containers with lids.

I store the left overs in the containers that also can be placed in the toaster over (without the lids) and then heated to the proper temperature.

Food tastes much better, the quality is visibly better and I feel better knowing its just one more small thing I am doing to keep my kids safe and healthy.

Here is  a link with lots of good scientific information about microwave use. If you are short on time scroll down to the bottom of the page for the conclusions and “10 reasons to get rid of your microwave”