Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No Bake Energy Bites

I came across this recipe on good ol' Pinterest and thought I'd make them to see if I could get some flax and chia seed into my older son by way of sneakery. It didn't work, BUT I thought they were mighty tasty! Good enough to replace my nightly piece of See's Candy. Say what?! 

I have to admit...I am a sweets addict. I cannot end my day without a little bit of chocolate. If I don't have it, I lie awake in bed and then sneak downstairs after the kids go to sleep. I keep a stash in the cupboards behind the sippy cups. I purposefully buy dark chocolate, knowing my husband doesn't like it, just so I don't have to share with him. I am a regular at See's Candy. I know the hours of all my favorite bakeries. The owner of our local Toll House and I are on a first name basis (Hi, Mitch!). I often times tell my kids we are getting special treats for them when I'm hankering for something with loads of sugar. I think that one of the best thing about having kids is buying fun and sugary snacks. AND, it's pathetic because I am pretty good about everything else. But, screw it! I love me some sugar! Pour some sugar on me! (Def Leppard fan, anyone? ANYONE?)

So, it really surprised me that these healthy (ok, mostly healthy) little schwetty ball nuggets (I couldn't help it, it's much more fun to call them that) satisfied my night sweet tooth. And, with Summer creeping up on us, it's great that you don't have to fire up the oven. Give it a try! I think next time I'll use unsweetened coconut flakes, almond butter and maybe cocoa nibs. Maybe. Probably not. 

Schwetty Ball Nuggets (a.k.a. No Bake Energy Bites)
adapted from Smashed Peas and Carrots

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
2 tbs chia seeds
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Mix everything above in a medium bowl until thoroughly incorporated.  Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.  Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy!  Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week. Makes 18-21 schwetty balls. ENJOY!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Inspirational Quotes Silent Sunday - 4.28.13

Hope you are having a fulfilling week! I selected these quotes because they reflect a few things I have been pondering over this last week! Enjoy! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ten Reasons Why People With Autism Rock

In the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, I thought I'd share this with you!

"Ten Reasons Why People with Autism Rock" 
This article is property of and copyright © 2003-2011 Jené Aviram of Natural Learning Concepts.
 Toll free: (800) 823-3430 Main: (631) 858-0188 Fax: (631) 858-0061 

1. People on the autism spectrum don't play mind games

Sarah: "I'm going to have a cozy day at home honey, but whatever you decide to do is fine." 
Mike: "Great. I think I'll head on over to Greg's house to watch the game and have a few beers." 
Sarah: "Fine! You might as well sleep over there too since the locks will be changed by the time you get home." (Exits room and slams door) 
Mike: (Frowning, confused and totally nonplussed) "What the..?"
Typical people are often masterful at saying one thing, while meaning the opposite. It's a game that most of us hate but we play it anyway. Consistently needing to read between the lines can be emotionally exhausting. Why is it so difficult for most of us to simply say it straight? People on the autism spectrum don't play these mind games. They tell it like it is and it's remarkably refreshing to be in their company. They don't expect you to play these games either. They mean what they say, and expect you do too. That's right! They'll take what you say at face value, without secretly doubting or disbelieving your word. What a great characteristic! 

2. People on the autism spectrum are not interested in "looking good" 

Many of us have an unconscious need to impress others. The clothes we wear, the topics we talk about, and even the careers we pick are often influenced by what others might think of us. People on the autism spectrum tend to do what makes them happy. If those ugly red shoes provide great comfort, then so be it. If reading children's comics make them laugh like a little kid, that's what they'll do. They're not about to feign interest in some philosophical argument just because it might make them look good. They're not interested in keeping up with the neighbors or buying the new "in thing" because that's what everyone is doing. They are who they are and that is that! This makes them genuine, sincere people who are unique and fascinating to be around. 

3. People on the autism spectrum maintain an innocence about them 

Many people on the autism spectrum have an uncanny ability to maintain the innocence of a little kid. They are captivated by the small things in life and are likely to be far more impressed by a leaf blowing haphazardly in the wind, than by the worldly possessions someone is flaunting in front of them. Foreigners to deception, they believe every word you say and this characteristic leaves them as gullible and naïve as a child. They don't look for hidden meanings and even if they did, they are unlikely to find them. They accept the world at face value, often delighting in the beauty around them. 

4. People on the autism spectrum are honest 

Since deception is not part of their makeup, people on the autism spectrum hardly ever tell a lie. One might even say they are honest to a fault. People on the autism spectrum will call it as they see it. If you want the truth, you know who to go to but be prepared for a brutally honest answer. Most of this population has never perfected the art of a white lie. They typically do not cheat or steal and remain remarkably in integrity. Most often people on the autism spectrum are valued friends who are honest, forthright and one hundred percent loyal. 

5. People on the autism spectrum delight in the moment 

For many of us, the book we found fascinating in college wore off pretty fast. The jingle that first made us laugh drove us crazy 20 minutes later. The first sunset we witnessed captivated our heart but years later we put on sunglasses and barely notice it. Sadly, it doesn't take much for us to become blasé about the world around us. Most people on the autism spectrum are just the opposite! The joke that had them in stitches a month ago has the same effect on them today. The light reflecting off the glass window has them just as mesmerized as they first time they saw it. The color of the sky after a summer storm fills them with wonder each and every time. Perhaps because they are so sensory aware, they possess the talent of delighting in the small moments of life. One thing is for sure, their enthusiasm for life is contagious and it's great to be in their presence. 

6. People on the autism spectrum have an intense ability to focus 

While the rest of the world is socializing, many people on the autism spectrum are pursuing their interest with frenzy. There are no limits to the amount of time and effort they will dedicate to their passion, and they possess a unique ability to filter out the rest of the world while doing so. This intense focus and attention to detail enables them to master a subject or skill, which is often a great asset to the workforce. Temple Grandin says that if we eradicate autism from the world, we'll also be depriving ourselves of all the great gadgets and technology we enjoy, such as software programs, computer chips, video technology and the likes. While many of these inventors and pioneers might not be diagnosed with autism, many of them certainly possess autistic traits and the ability to focus intensely on their subject of interest. 

7. People on the autism spectrum don't gossip 

You know those people who are always talking behind your back? You can be sure they are not on the autism spectrum. People on the spectrum do not indulge in gossip. In fact the whole thing goes right over the top of their head. And as for all those private smirks and eye contact people surreptitiously engage in during a public exchange, you can bet your spectrum friend will never do that to you. If your spectrum friend has something to say, he'll either say it directly or keep it to himself. Blabbing about it to other people is completely foreign to his nature. 

8. People with autism are not judgmental 

Wouldn't it be great if people could just accept you as you are? The answer is to befriend someone on the autism spectrum. People with autism concentrate on the matter at hand. When they're listening to you speak, this is where they maintain their focus. They won't be furtively judging you on your clothes, your level of success, the color of your skin or how well you play baseball. If Jim tells his autism spectrum friend that he likes eating burgers from McDonalds, his friend thinks "Jim likes eating burgers from McDonalds." He doesn't judge Jim based on his eating preferences or secretly concludes that Jim has poor eating habits, and is in need of an education on the food pyramid. The same holds true when a person on the spectrum encounters someone, who, let’s say for example has pink hair. There is no judgment about what type of personality this person must have or the background they must have come from. They simply acknowledge the presence of pink hair and move on. The ability to abstain from jumping to conclusions about people based on their appearance, career or some other aspect is admirable, and we have much to learn from our friends with autism in this department.

9. People on the autism spectrum make great employees

Many people on the autism spectrum make great employees with admirable work ethics. They are typically creatures of habit. They arrive at exactly the same time every day and never leave early. They wouldn't dream of taking extended lunch breaks and you won't find them socializing at the coffee machine. They're more likely to be working studiously at their desk. Many of us balk at the routine aspects of our job and overlook the small details we should pay attention to. But this is often an area of strength for those on the spectrum, who are masterful at paying attention to detail. They are honest and loyal workers, who certainly don't enjoy job hopping and are typically committed and dedicated to their place of employment. 

10. People with autism have a unique perspective 

People with autism have a unique way of communicating and a fascinating perspective. Many are capable of such a diverse range of exceptional abilities. If you take the time to look, you'll find that the amount we can learn from them is quite staggering. Because people with autism have such a different way of thinking and being, they can contribute greatly to us, the workforce and to how we view life. If you are lucky enough to be close to someone on the autism spectrum, you will know firsthand that not only do they see the world from a different angle, but they have changed your perspective too and instilled in you a sense of compassion you never knew you were capable of feeling. 

To all of you out there who are on the autism spectrum...You Rock! 


 You can find a pdf version of this article from it's original source athttp://www.nlconcepts.com/articles/10reasonsautismrocks.pdf

FOR MORE GREAT RESOURCES VISIT http://www.nlconcepts.com  

By Jené Aviram 
This article is property of and copyright © 2003-2011 Jené Aviram of Natural Learning Concepts. Reference of this article may only be included in your documentation provided that reference is made to the owner - Jené Aviram and a reference to this sitehttp://www.nlconcepts.com/ 

Jené is an accomplished author and developer of education materials for children with autism and special needs. She is a co-founder of Natural Learning Concepts, a leading manufacturer for special education materials and autism products. Visit the Natural Learning Concepts website at http://www.nlconcepts.com/  or call (800) 823-3430

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sensory Play - I Spy Bags

When playing, one thing that I really try to focus on and help my boys do is visually attend to an activity. By visually attending, I mean having them visually focus on certain details or parts. We also incorporate labeling and commenting in activities like this. I really believe that by working early on visual attention it will help them later in their educational endeavors. Paying attention takes practice!

One great way to get some good practice on visually attending is by doing activities such as "I Spy". We have played I Spy in several different ways - looking in books, magazines, on the road and in sensory bins. But, a great way to make a versatile I Spy activity is by creating an I Spy Sensory Bag. It's not only portable, but can be used in a variety of ways. Plus, it's super duper cheap and easy! Big shout out and thanks to my neighbor and great friend, Lindsay for being my demonstrator and hand model. She said she'd cause me physical harm if I used her face in the photos. Just sayin'.

The supplies I used for this particular activity/project were:
  • Glad Ziploc Freezer Bags (you can use store brand, but Glad's bags are thicker and stronger so that's what I prefer)
  • Duct Tape 
  • Cheapo Hair Gel
  • Pony Beads
  • Pom Poms
  • Glitter
  • Gel Food Coloring
  • Plastic Bugs 
  • Nail Polish Remover
You can really put anything in these bags. I've used mylar confetti and small animals in other bags I've made as well! The mylar confetti can be found in the party aisle and I really think it's a fun addition.

How I assemble the bags...

Because the freezer bags have pre-printed labels on them, we decided to take them off with a little bit of acetone/nail polish remover. We just used a paper towel and gently wiped the print off. 

Next, we filled the freezer bags with cheap ol' hair gel. Since I found that it was cheaper to buy it in these plastic jars, we used spoons to transfer it to the bags. We both added a little bit of water to thin out the gel and make it a little more squishy. AND, Don't throw away the jars! You can create a whole other activity with them!

Next, we mixed in some gel food coloring. Lindsay picked red and I picked blue! Just mix by kneading and kneading until it's all mixed in. If your kiddos are helping you, give them the bag (sealed of course) and let them do the mixing. Great fine motor practice!

Next, we put beads, pom poms, lots of glitter and a couple of plastic bugs. After you've assembled the innards, just zip that baby up and get the duct tape out.

I am pretty sure you know how to duct tape the sides of a bag, but I added photos of how we did it. We applied half of the strip to one side, folded it over and applied the other half to the other side. We double taped the top of the bag JUST IN CASE

I kid you not, that's the entire assembly! 

Brady and his new I Spy Sensory Bag

How I use the bags...
  • Bring it with you in the stroller, car or grocery cart. It keeps the kids busy looking for things and just squishing it around is fun!
  • Bring it with you when you eat out. It is a great activity to do while waiting for your food.
  • Use it as an impromptu weighted lap pad. Some times I cannot find our weighted lap pad so I've used this to place in the boys' laps to help keep them still while doing seated activities like puzzles or coloring.
  • Find and spell names/words. I have placed letter beads with the letters for their names and we push them around to find and spell their names out.
  • Make the bags without fillers, just using hair gel, food coloring and glitter. Great for practice pre-writing strokes like finger tracing letters or shapes. Can also just fill with tempera paint if you have that on hand, as well (make sure to really, really seal it when using paint).
  • Put them in the fridge and use them on a hot day in the carseat or stroller (on their laps) to keep them cool!
Lindsay's lil' man "W" enjoying his new I Spy Sensory Bag

I hope you have fun with this activity! I've used these bags in so many fun ways! Let me know if you find other ways to use it, too!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Funny - Dove Parody

Hey friends!

The weekend is over and it's back to the grind. Let's start it off with a laugh!

You KNOW you have met men like this! I know I know a few!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Inspirational Quote Silent Sunday - 4.21.13

I really enjoyed Inspirational Quote Silent Sunday on eisymorgan.blogspot.com. BUT, the blog is on a hiatus ;0( So, I thought I'd start it up over on my blog to share inspirational quotes that have struck me during the week! I hope you enjoy! Please feel free to share your fave quotes, too!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More Than Words Program

If you have or know anyone with a child on the spectrum, 
I urge you to share this review with them!

I am going to put this out there BEFORE you read this post. I have not been compensated, nor was I ever asked to write this review. I decided to do so all on my own. I say this because it will seem like I’m a walking commercial for this program!

For the last few months I have been taking a weekly parenting class called the More Than Words Program. This last Tuesday was my final class in the program. For someone who rarely cries, I fought off tears as we walked out of class together one last time. What started off as a parenting class, ended with a budding sorority of sisters who are sharing and cheering each other on in this journey of motherhood, Spectrum Style.

When I was researching how to help Brady grow in the areas of communication, I looked at and considered a ton of different approaches we could take. I feel that there are so many different approaches out there or that I have attempted, but very few have had an impact as great as the More Than Words Program. But, before I get into how it has helped me, let me tell you more about the program itself.

I asked my instructor, Brigid Shamburg, to answer a few questions to better explain just exactly what the program is all about.

Brigid, can you describe the More Than Words program?
The More Than Words Program was designed specifically for parents of children ages 5 and under on the autism spectrum. Addressing the unique needs of these children, the program provides parents with the tools, strategies and support they need to help their children reach their full communication potential.
The More Than Words parent program includes:
  •  8 training sessions in small, personalized groups
  •  A Hanen Certified speech-language pathologist leading the program
  • A pre-program consultation for you and your child with your speech-language pathologist
  • Three individual visits for you and your child with your speech-language pathologist in which you are videotaped while practicing with your child. Then you and your speech-language pathologist watch the videotaped interaction to “see” what’s helping and what you can modify to help even more.

So, what can a parent hope to achieve?
More Than Words does this by empowering you to help your child reach the following three goals:
1.    Improved social skills
2.    The ability to engage in back-and-forth interactions
3.    Improved understanding of language

Here are some of the valuable things you’ll learn when you attend the More Than Words
·      How your child learns best and what motivates him to communicate
·      Why your child behaves in certain ways, and what you can do to either increase or reduce those behaviours
·      How to use your knowledge about your child to set realistic goals
·      How to make interactions with your child last longer and be more meaningful
·      Tips for using pictures and print to help your child’s understanding
·      Tips on how to talk so that your child understands you
·      Strategies for developing your child’s play skills
·      Ways to help your child make friends

What do you enjoy most about teaching the program? 
Great question! This program has reinforced for me how important parents are in helping their children communicate and function in the world.   My most joyful moments in teaching the program have occurred because of the relationships between the parent and the child (the communication attempts by the child and the increased awareness and receptiveness of the parent).  A few of the most memorable moments:  A Mom realized that the mumbling sounds produced by her son were actually the words "I love you" in a song;  When the specific concern of a mother was that her son stop hitting his brother and by the end of the program, his increase in communication, and her receptiveness, had led to less frustration, and therefore, less hitting; A Mom created the most amazing and unique book for her son and realized she did it with her own will and creativity.

Helping parents focus on the success of a child's communication leads to happier relationships, and aha - More and Better Communication!!!   I could go on and on.  I am continually learning from each parent that is involved in More Than Words.  This program has allowed me to reassess my own skills and become a better speech and language pathologist with each class I teach.          

Back to me...
So, for the better part of three months, I participated in this program. And, not only has this program helped my entire family engage and communicate with Brady in a more meaningful way, it has also provided me with an extended network of supporters who have inspired, motivated and encouraged me along this journey. Surprisingly, this program has also helped me with my 2.5 year old as well, and he is not on the spectrum!

For us, our main overarching goal was to get Brady communicating more. Most people wouldn't notice the difficulties that Brady has communicating because his speech is quite clear. But, Brady is very echolalic, copying a lot of what we say, kind of like a parrot. Additionally, Brady uses very scripted speech, which while he uses it appropriately, we are striving to get him speaking more spontaneously. For instance, Brady has memorized appropriate ways to ask for or request things. But, if you asked him an open-ended question, he may have difficulties answering right away.

The reason I believe this program made such an impact on Brady’s communication is because it gave me, his mother, the tools to bring home and work with Brady, day in and day out. What is so different about this approach is that it isn’t necessarily a therapist who comes and works with Brady on his communication (which we do, too), but it taught me real techniques that work with exactly where Brady needed help. By working with him each day, it was a very intensive approach, but none of it felt like work for Brady. We played, read books, sang and just enjoyed our time. I just went about it a little differently than I used to.

Each week we would roundtable, watch real past-program participant’s videos and then we strategized how we would take each new personal goal to task. Then, Brigid would make a home visit and videotape our task and we would immediately critique and review it. At first, these videos were a dreaded chore. I don't know about you, but I loath having to watch myself on film, let alone having to do something I'm going to have to critique. Yet, while it stinks to have to watch yourself on film, it is very helpful to see where you could have done things differently or see where you were making great progress.

My fellow classmate, Karla, also found the class incredibly helpful. She answered a few questions about her experience and I thought it would be beneficial to share her experience as well.

What did you expect going into the program?
Initially, going into this class I expected to learn more on how I could help my child develop his speech.

What did you find the most helpful thing about the program?
The most helpful thing was looking at all the video examples of other kids with similar challenges. I was able to see similar patterns and behaviors my son had and see how parents used different approaches to develop more meaningful speech and non-verbal communication.

What surprised you the most about participating in the program?
My son suddenly had an explosion in speech and I honestly believe it has a lot to do with all the new techniques I learned and applied during this program.

Would you recommend the program to others?
I would definitely recommend this program because it just plain changes the way one talks to their child. It has helped me understand what I need to do to get my son engaged and learning!!! Finally, I would highly recommend Brigid because she is well versed, supportive and above all she keeps it fun and extremely interesting.

Back to me again...We have noticed that Brady has begun to speak more spontaneously, answering more questions without prompting and without echoing what we are saying to him. And, what is even more amazing, we have noticed a significant decrease in Brady's OCD behaviors and I credit a lot of that with helping him increase his communication with us. I really do believe that has helped decrease his anxiety, which in turn decreased his behaviors! 

So, in closing, if you have a child on the spectrum, and I stress ANYWHERE on the spectrum, please look into this course. It's not just for people with kids that aren't speaking. Trust me, mine speaks and rarely shuts up! All kidding aside, the program has been such a positive experience for us and we have noticed huge improvement, not only in how Brady communicates, but how we communicate with him. We have noticed that we have more meaningful interactions with each other, which in itself, is more than we ever expected from the program. But, what is even better is we now have a long list of techniques and approaches to help us along the long road ahead.

And, just as the program’s name says, communication is so much more than words. This was the biggest lesson I have learned from participating in this program. What we were always focused on was getting him to talk more, speak better or look us in the eye. What we were missing was that he was always communicating with us. Whether it be by body language, gestures and his behaviors, he was ALWAYS communicating. We just didn’t have the key to crack his code. But, now, I feel like we do. What we have learned to do is stop focusing on getting him to do what WE want to do for fun and follow his lead and have fun, the BRADY way. And, I will attest, this is when the magic happened. The program is not a cure, it will not make all of their difficulties disappear. What the program DOES do is help YOU help THEM communicate!

On the last day, we watched snippets from the first video taping when we just began the class. Then after, we got to watch the clips from our last video taping session. And, what a significant moment to see how much growth each of our kids made. And, you know what? It was phenomenal to see the changes in the parents. The joy and pride on our faces and the change in our general demeanor was amazing. But, the best was the increased engagement you saw with our kiddos. It was just the best thing to witness!

So, AGAIN, if you are looking to make a great investment of your time where you will see positive results, please consider looking for a More Than Words Program in your area. It was one of the best choices we made for Brady!

If you are in the San Diego County area, Brigid Shamburg is a wonderful resource to consider. You can contact her at brigid@excelspeech.com. And, look into Regional Center funding!

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