Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ballerina Dreams Book Review

Ballerina Dreams is a true story, about five little girls who shared a dream of being ballerinas and to be able to dance on stage like they had seen their friends and siblings do. The girls also had in common that they had cerebral palsy or other muscle disorders. This book tells the story of how the girls worked and practiced hard and made their dream come true and were able to dance on stage in front of family and friends.  This book is available in our lending library. You can request it by visiting and clicking on our lending library link.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Anybody Can Have A Meltdown

by Bec Oakley of

reposted with permission

If you’ve ever experienced the overwhelming stress and confusion of a meltdown you’ll understand why they’re often considered to be one of the most challenging of all autistic behaviours.

But did you know that meltdowns are not unique to autism?

What are meltdowns?

Put simply, a meltdown is a state of neurological chaos where the brain and nervous system overheat and stop working properly. It’s called that because it’s the body’s equivalent to a meltdown in a nuclear power plant, in which the fuel in the reactor core becomes so hot that it melts and releases energy.

Sometimes it gets so hot that it causes an explosion, and the energy is released outside of the core. It’s this explosive reaction (crying, yelling, lashing out) that most people refer to when they talk about behavioural meltdowns, but that’s just the bit that you can see.

There’s a whole lot more going on inside during a meltdown.

How are meltdowns different from tantrums?

Meltdowns and tantrums can often look the same on the outside, but that’s where the similarity ends. A tantrum is a voluntary battle of wills to try and gain control over a situation. It’s designed to draw attention for the sole purpose of satisfying a want (like refusing to leave the supermarket without candy), so once that goal has been met the outburst quickly resolves itself.

Meltdowns on the other hand are almost the complete opposite - an involuntary physical and emotional reaction to being placed in an overwhelming situation from which there is no easy escape. The person isn’t in control or trying to get attention, in fact they’re often unaware of things happening around them.


(Grab this handy graphic here)

What happens during a meltdown?

When we find ourselves in a stressful situation from which we can’t easily escape, the brain becomes flooded with emotional, sensory or cognitive input which jams the circuits and kicks off the ‘fight or flight’ responses associated with panic. Executive functions like memory, planning, reasoning and decision making start to shut down, which makes it even more difficult to find a way out of the situation.

Eventually the neurological pressure builds to the point where it begins to trip internal circuits like language, or is released externally as an outburst of physical energy like yelling, hitting or running away. Although this explosive reaction often seems to come from nowhere, it's just one part of the meltdown cycle:

Why are some people prone to meltdowns?

Anybody can have a meltdown - child or adult, neurotypical or autistic - if they find themselves trapped in a situation that is difficult to cope with, especially those which involve frustration, sensory overload, pain or confusion.

These situations tend to happen more frequently for people who have one or more of the following characteristics:
  • Hypersensitivity to sensory input
  • Sensory integration dysfunctions
  • Low frustration threshold
  • Low frustration tolerance
Difficulty identifying and controlling emotions
  • Resistance to change
  • Rigid or inflexible thinking
  • Difficulty understanding cause and effect
  • Executive functioning disruption
  • Communication delays or challenges
  • Difficulty with social comprehension

These characteristics are often descriptive of people with sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders, so it’s not surprising that meltdowns are common amongst these groups. In addition, children are usually more susceptible to meltdowns than adults because they have less control over their emotions and environment.

If anybody can have one, how come most people don't?

Meltdowns are about escape.

If you have the means to get yourself out of a stressful situation before it becomes overwhelming, the cognitive and emotional pressure will subside. Without these means of escape the stress will escalate and the body will begin to panic, setting you on a course towards neurological meltdown.

These escape routes are things like:
  • Language and comprehension - understanding others and making yourself understood
  • Autonomy - the freedom to make your own decisions
  • Independence - the ability to act on those decisions
  • Coping and calming mechanisms - being able to soothe yourself under stress
  • Motor and social skills - the ability to prevent or remove yourself from uncomfortable situations
Most people have probably never given much thought to how valuable these kinds of skills and circumstances are in keeping you safe from escalating stress. So let's take a look at an example.

You're at the supermarket on a Saturday. The store is crowded, people are rude and your shopping cart has a wobbly wheel. You can feel yourself starting to get crabby but you take a deep breath to calm down, just like they taught you at yoga. You're concentrating on the shopping list when someone suddenly bumps into your cart. You silently forgive him because you know it was an accident, even though he walked away without saying sorry (bastard). The noise and frustration start to make your head pound as you scan the shelves for your favourite chocolate, the one that you love, the one which makes everything feel better... the one that is sold out. Dammit! Depending on how the rest of your day has been going, you might declare the shopping trip a bust and decide to leave before you lose it right there in the candy aisle.

Now imagine that you're three years old. You're with your dad at the scary food place, the noisy one where the bright lights hurt your eyes. Your heart starts thumping and you get that yucky feeling in your tummy... you really want to make it go away but don't know how. You jump when someone smashes into your cart... are other people going to start doing that too? Are they trying to hurt you? Thank goodness you spot the fridge that has the chocolate milk that you love, the one that you get every time you go to the store, the one that makes everything feel better. Dad opens the fridge then says "no chocolate milk". You're confused, why aren't you allowed to have it? It's your favourite, you always get it, you need it! You don't have the words to tell him any of this so all you can do is cry. You're confused and scared and just want to leave, but your dad tells you to sit down. There is nothing you can do to escape, and without a release the pain and frustration build towards the inevitable explosion.

The difference in this shopping experience as an adult is that you:
  • Can regulate the extra sensory input
  • Know what it feels like when you're getting upset
  • Can calm yourself
  • Understand that people don't deliberately ram you with shopping carts
  • Can communicate your needs and emotions
  • Have the freedom to leave when it becomes too much to handle

In short, you have escape routes which allow the emotional and cognitive stress to defuse.

So what's different about autistic meltdowns?
The reason why autistic kids are so vulnerable to meltdowns is because they experience more of the kinds of stressful events that trigger them. They can often find it tough to modulate their response to these events and can have less avenues for avoiding or escaping the discomfort, so the pressure can build more quickly and result in a bigger explosion.

So autistic kids tend to have meltdowns more frequently and intensely, but the underlying mechanisms of how they happen are the same for everybody.

Want to know more?

There really is so much more to talk about when it comes to understanding meltdowns...
what happens during each of the stages, what can you do to help, how to prevent them.

And since I could never do justice to such an important topic in a single blog post, I crammed it all into a handy dandy ebook called The Super Useful Guide To Managing Meltdowns. Ta da!

It's full of practical advice that will take you step-by-step through understanding and coping with each stage of a meltdown, creating an action plan, tips for planning ahead and prevention... and with absolutely no mention of sticker charts or timeouts.

You can pick it up over on the Snagglebox Useful Stuff page.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Assistive Technology Success Story

To see more videos about Assistive Tech in Action, click here.

What is Assistive Technology?

"Assistive technology devices are mechanical aids which substitute for or enhance the function of some physical or mental ability that is impaired.  Assistive technology can be anything homemade, purchases off the shelf, modified, or commercially available which is used to help an individual perform some task of daily living.  The term assistive technology encompasses a broad range of devices from “low tech (e.g., pencil grips, splints, paper stabilizers) to “high tech” (e.g., computers, voice synthesizers, Braille readers).  These devices include the entire range of supportive tools and equipment from adapted spoons to wheelchairs and computer systems for environmental control.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law, provides the following legal definition of an assistive technology device:  “any item, piece of equipment, or product system…that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.”  Under IDEA, assistive technology devices can be used in the educational setting to provide a variety of accommodations or adaptations for people with disabilities."

Adapted from Family Guide to Assistive Technology


Billings, MT


For more information about assistive technology and how it can help your child or loved one in school, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842!

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Spot a Meltdown

Do you need help with Positive Behavior Interventions at school or at home?  Have questions about autism or other special needs?  We can help!  Here at Family Matters we have loads of resources--books, videos, handouts, etc.  Give us a call at 866-436-7842.  We are a Parent Training and Information Center serving Illinois.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher

Below is an excerpt from the blog "Flappiness Is" written by Leigh Merryday
 Dear Parents of Special-Needs Children I’ve Taught In the Past,

I need to make a big apology. You see, I’ve been teaching now for fourteen years, but I have only just recently joined your ranks.

I didn’t know. Not even a clue. I thought, mistakenly, that having two special-needs children in my family made me more sensitive to your needs as a parent. It didn’t. And I’m so sorry for operating under the assumption that it did. I’m not attempting verbal self-flagellation here. I meant well. I knew a lot about autism and some about other special-needs conditions. I did care about your child. And I did want to do right by him. But, like a lot of teachers who Just Don’t Get It, I thought doing right by him meant giving him extra time on assignments and not allowing him to fail my class. I thought being extra nice and seating her at the front of the room was what you needed from me.

But you needed more. And I didn’t understand that. You needed communication. A lot of it. You needed me to understand your depth of worry. You needed me to understand that, if you’ve met one special-needs child, you’ve met one special-needs child. You needed me to understand that I was teaching your child, not an I.E.P. You needed to know, not assume, that I would go out on a limb to make sure your child’s needs were met all over the school and not just in my classroom. You needed to not worry that, when your back was turned, I was still doing everything that I promised as well as thinking of better ways to meet your child’s needs. You needed to talk about your child in meetings and not worry about the clock.

To read more, click here....

**** If your child is struggling with school and you need help in getting him/her services, please call Family Matters at 866-436-7842.  We can help you!**********

Today I Feel Silly Book Review

"Today I Feel Silly" is a book for children that was written by Jamie Lee Curtis. The book is from the point of view a a little girl who expresses what different moods she feels or experiences such as: Silly, Angry, Sad, Joyful, just to name a few. This book is a good book for children to help them understand moods they experience and  that moods change and it is ok to feel what you feel inside. This book is available in our lending library.

You can check this book out by visiting and clicking on our lending library link.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kids who need supports are not lazy

by Bec Oakley from

When we moved house a couple of months ago, I came across a folder that the school had given us when I pulled the kids out to homeschool. It was full of notes and progress reports, only some of which I'd seen before.

On the last day of school I had shoved it into a box in the garage because I was so completely traumatized by anything with the word 'school' on it, and the garage is where things go to be forgotten.

It's a good thing I did, because putting some distance between us and the school meant that reading through the file this week only made my heckles go up to 3 instead of 11.

In the cold light of homeschool, the stuff I was reading just seemed... ridiculous. I can't think of another word to describe some of the comments made by people who had known the kids for years and who had assured me that yes, they understood autism.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here's some of the things that have been written or said about my kids during their time at school.... with one small amendment.

Click here to read more......

Being an Advocate against Bullying

Most teens don’t like to see bullying, especially of students with disabilities, but they may not know what to do when it happens. Peer advocacy is an effective approach that enables students to speak out on behalf of others, and protect those targeted by bullying. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center has developed a new PeerAdvocacy Guide that offers a variety of intervention strategies that can be tailored for specific bullying situations. The 32-page booklet explores how to address bullying of students with disabilities by engaging, educating, and empowering their peers with advocacy skills.

Click here to acess the guide:

****Is your child having a problem with bullying in school?  Do you need more information about bullying and the law?  Please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842 and speak with one of our Information Specialists!  We can answer your questions!

For Illinois residents: We also have some valuable handouts on bullying that we can send you for free.  Additionally, we have many wonderful books on bullying available from our lending library.  Just give us a call!

Monday, January 21, 2013

7 Tips for Being A Friend to a Special Needs Parent

Leigh Merryday is a school media specialist and autism parent blogger at She is married with two children - a typical five-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, she vehemently denies being addicted to Facebook, reading, and peanut butter fudge. No one believes her.

being a friend

Three years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy we named Callum. He was, and continues to be, a joy to us. But, shortly before he turned a year old, I began to notice the telltale signs of autism. We soon were thrown into the world of developmental therapies, specialists, and ESE. It was a frightening time of worry for his future and adjusting to a reality not quite like the one we had envisioned. And, though we adore him and wouldn't trade him for the world, his needs have certainly affected every part of our lives. One of the things I wouldn't have expected it to affect was my friendships. But it did. Some of the people I expected to be there weren't. And some people I never expected to be there were. Often, I have noticed a hesitation or awkwardness on the part of friends who just don't know what to say or do. I know they care. And I know they mean well. They are, quite simply, at a loss.

Here is what I would like to say to them and others like them, if they were to ask how to be a friend to a special-needs parent:

1. You will probably look up the child's condition online to learn more about it. That's awesome. But try to remember that no condition has identical characteristics. For example, many people are afraid of upsetting an autistic child by touching him. But my son is a complete snuggle-bug. He, like every other person on the planet, is an individual. By all means, ask us about our kids. Feel free to ask, "Hey, I've read some have issues with such-and-such. Does she?" I promise you, we're happy to talk about it. We need to talk about it. And, for a period of time, it may be all we talk about. Try not to resent that. We'll adjust. But we need a little time and a lot of patience.

Click here to read more.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Social and Emotional Standards

Each state has developed learning standards in different subject areas, like reading, writing, math, and science.  Teachers and administrators use these standards when planning curriculum and to determine whether students are learning what they need.

Did you know that Illinois is one of the few states that has Social and Emotional Learning Standards that outline the social and emotional skills kids should have.  These standards are used in schools to ensure that students are progressing in these areas.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education: 

"Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children develop awareness and management of their emotions, set and achieve important personal and academic goals, use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships, and demonstrate decision making and responsible behaviors to achieve school and life success. There is a strong research base indicating that these SEL competencies improve students’ social/emotional development, readiness to learn, classroom behavior, and academic performance.

The SEL goals, standards, and benchmarks were initially developed by a broadly representative group of teachers, school administrators, student support staff, human services professionals, and parents with expertise in child development and learning, curriculum design, and instruction. After the standards were written, public comment and feedback provided the writing team with information used in revising the standards before adoption by the ISBE. "
***To get a copy of these standards, please contact our office at 866-436-7842.  We can answer your questions about the Social Emotional Learning Standards.  We can also help you develop social emotional learning goals for IEPs or 504 Plans.  Please call and speak with one of our Information Specialists to ensure your child is receiving the services he/she needs!***

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Quest for Social Skills for Students with Autism and Asperger's Review

Most kids with autism or Asperger's struggle with social skills.  My son is no different.  Many skills that people learn naturally--like how to begin or end a conversation--need to be specifically taught to kids with autism.  But as a parent or teacher, it is not always easy to figure out exactly how to teach these skills.  That's where A Quest for Social Skills for Students with Autism or Asperger's by JoEllen Cumpata and Susan Fell comes in.  This book is extremely helpful in teaching children social skills.

Though A Quest for Social Skills for Students with Autism or Asperger's is intended for teachers and therapists, it is also easily adaptable for parents or other family members. Each chapter focuses on different social skills for a variety of settings/situations.  For example, there is a chapter on School Survival Basics where the student is taught about greetings, daily hygiene, organizing work, asking for help, etc.  The chapter includes role plays, games and other ways to teach the skills.

Another chapter is devoted to Making Friends and Interacting with Peers, and other topics include: personal safety, vocational readiness, understanding emotions and communication skills.  Each chapter includes an outline of the activities with a list of materials.  They also provide alternate activities that complement the chapter.

It is very well-organized and clear.  The authors outline exactly what the teacher/parent needs to explain to the child.  The book includes really fun role plays, experiential stories, activity sheets, and games to reinforce the skill being taught.

Each chapter includes a Unit Evaluation which is really handy for determining where the student still needs work.

I think the best part of this book is that it includes a CD of printable worksheets, letters, forms and more!  Every handout in the book is included on the CD, so it is very easy to print out anything needed for a particular lesson.

Here at Family Matters, we have A Quest for Social Skills for Students with Autism and Asperger's in our lending library.  If you live in Illinois, you can borrow the book for up to a month.  Just go to our webpage and check the book out.  We'll send it to you, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for easy return.
Also, if you are interested in purchasing this highly valuable book, go to Future Horizons and order it there.  Be sure to use the access code PH for a 15% discount and free shipping on anything you order!

Phone Conferences

The Family Resource Center on Disabilities is offering free phone workshops that are available to parents throughout Illinois.

Topics Include:
  • "Skills for Effective Parent Advocacy"
  • "Procedural Safeguards"
  • "Dispute Resolution"
Workshops run from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

Register for the phone workshops at

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Workplace Flexibility Toolkit

The U.S. Department of Labor has launched its online Workplace Flexibility Toolkit to provide employees, job seekers, employers, policymakers and researchers with information, resources and a unique approach to workplace flexibility. Workplace flexibility policies and practices typically focus on when and where work is done. The toolkit adds a new dimension -- an emphasis on flexibility around job tasks and what work is done.
Workplace flexibility is a Universal Strategy that can meet the needs of employers and their employees, which includes when, where, and how work is done. Essentially, flexibility enables both individual and business needs to be met through making changes to the time (when), location (where), and manner (how) in which an employee works. Flexibility should be mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee and result in superior outcomes.
ODEP and the Women's Bureau have developed this unique Workplace Flexibility Toolkit to provide useful valuable information to employees, employers, policymakers, and researchers related to time and place, but also around task, a unique workplace flexibility strategy related to ODEP's Customized Employment research-based data. The Toolkit provides case studies, fact and tip sheets, issue briefs, reports, articles, websites, other toolkits, and frequently-asked questions.
Use the links to narrow the number of resources that are relevant to what you need. Each link includes the number of resources available.
In this Toolkit, the terms Workplace Flexibility, Flexible Work Arrangements, Work-Life Balance, and Flexible Workplace Options are used interchangeably to describe all types of workplace flexibility.
There are currently 172 resources in the toolkit.  Click here to learn more.

If you would like information about transitioning from high school to the workplace, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842!   We service Illinois.

We have great resources to help individuals prepare for joining the workplace.  We can also help you design a transition plan for the school to implement in an IEP or 504 Plan.  It's never too early to start planning for your or your child's future!  Give us a call.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Family Matters' New Video

Check Out Family Matters' New Video

Or click the link below to view our new video:

You can also check it out by visiting and click on Who we are

Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at Home and School Book Review

I first became aware of the diagnosis of Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD), when my daughter was diagnosed at the age of six.  I was given helpful information from the psychologist that diagnosed her and shared that information with family and school staff.  While researching the diagnosis I happened upon two books written by Pamela B. Tanguay: “Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at Home” & “Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at School”.

I first read “Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at Home”, and was amazed. Reading this book made everything make sense. I felt that after reading this book I truly understood my daughter more and why she struggles with answering open ended questions. I realized she needs to be given choices and options. If I ask “what do you want for supper” she can’t tell me. If I say “do you want tacos or spaghetti” she can tell me one of the options. This is just one of many examples of how I learned the effects of NLD on her life through this book.

As parent of child with NLD, Pamela gives great insight to the difficulties that come along with having a diagnosis of NLD and great suggestions on how to address these areas of concern and how to build upon areas of strength.

I found these books to be a great source of information and understanding not only for myself, but for family members and school staff. Each year I share the books with my daughter’s teachers and they have helped teachers and other school staff have a better understanding of her needs and how to approach teaching her. These books are available in our lending library. To check one out visit and click on lending library.



Friday, January 11, 2013

"Parents Rights in the Era of RtI"


Yesterday's post provided a link to a guide about RtI.  Today, we are providing a link to a guide of parents' rights and RtI.

If you are interested in learning more about what your rights are as a parent, keep reading.

RtI is a process "which includes the provision of systematic, research-based instruction and interventions to struggling learners."  This system should be matched to a student's needs and progress of the student is monitored closely.  RtI is an early intervention tool to help prevent academic failure.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities has put together a guide: "Parents Rights in the Era of RtI" which is very useful and free. 

The guide includes information on:
  • RTI Use across States—The manner in which states incorporate RTI into SLD identification varies dramatically.
  • Child Find—Your school district’s legal obligation to "find" all children who may have a disability and, because of their disability, need special education services.
  • Rights to Evaluation—Every parent has the right to request an evaluation at any time to determine if their child has a disability and what that child’s educational needs are.
  • Strategies for Addressing Identification Issues—The process of determining whether your child has a disability such as a learning disability and needs special education cannot go on indefinitely.

  • Click here to access the guide

    ******Give us a call at Family Matters if you have questions about RtI.  We have a lot of great resources for parents and teachers.  Call us at 866-436-7842!****

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Response to Intervention--A Parents Guide to RtI

    originally published on The National Center for Learning Disabilities' website:
    Response To Intervention - Education Advocacy

    The parents of millions of children who struggle to learn are searching 24/7 to help their children move forward in school. This guide to Response to Intervention is an easy-to-understand and critical tool for these parents.

    - James H. Wendorf. Executive Director, NCLD


    Millions of school-age children experience difficulties with learning.
 Their struggles in school may be due to factors such as cultural or language
 differences, poor attendance or a lack of appropriate instruction. In some cases, a disability such as a learning disability can make learning difficult for a child.

    The National Center for Learning Disabilities’ RTI Action Network has developed this guide for parents and schools involved in implementing response to intervention (RTI) in the elementary grades. As schools work to implement this new approach, some confusion may arise, so parents should feel free to ask questions and raise concerns along the way. For specific information on parents' rights under RTI, download our Parent Rights in the Era of RTI PDF.

    What's Inside

    The Parent's Guide to RTI includes
    • Parent Perspectives – Real-world examples from parents who have experience with RTI.
    • Glossary – Learn the important terms you'll need to know during the process.
    • Tiered Intervention 101 – Concise explanations of the tiered model and why it works.

    Click here to access the free guide.

    ********If you would like more information about RtI, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842.  Are you worried your child is not receiving enough help at school?  Are you concerned about an aspect of RtI?  Give us a call and we can answer your questions about RtI or other school-related issues.*************

    Giveaway Winner!

    Thanks to all who entered our giveaway!  We really appreciate your support.

    Tanis is our giveaway winner this month!

    Stayed tuned, because we plan to have another great giveaway in February.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Last Day to Enter the Giveaway!!!

    Tonight at midnight our giveawy of In Sync Activity Cards closes.  You still have a few hours to enter.  Click here to see the rules.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013

    Temple Grandin

    Originally published at Pancakes Gone Awry


    Dr. Temple Grandin has spent her adult life studying animal behavior and working with slaughterhouses to make them more safe, efficient, and most of all, humane. She has designed facilities all over the world and something like 50% of beef is processed in plants she designed.

    Temple has won awards from Animal Rights groups, and she was named as one of the top 100 most influential people by Time magazine in 2010. She has written tons of books and she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.

    And she has autism.

    I have been an enormous fan of Dr. Grandin ever since I read her story "An Anthropologist on Mars" by Oliver Sacks. When HBO did a special on her life I gained an even better insight into her struggles and triumphs. And it renewed my gratitude to Temple, gratitude for being willing to share her knowledge and experience about autism with the world.

    For those of us with loved ones on the autism spectrum, adults with autism are an invaluable resource. They can tell us what it is like for our children--something our kids often have great difficulty articulating for themselves. I am not over exaggerating when I say that Temple Grandin is one of my heroes.

    Imagine my glee when I heard she would be speaking at Eastern Illinois University!  We bought our tickets weeks ago and have been giddy with excitement.

    And her talk last night was even better than I had anticipated.

    What impressed me the most was how down-to-earth and practical her advice was. She advised parents to use kids' strengths and special interests to help them socialize. If a kid loves computer, enroll him in the computer club at school. Kids will have an easier time making friends with people while bonding over shared interests.

    She emphasized setting goals for the future and working towards them. When someone asked her about inclusiveness in school, she said that as a young child, it is important for a kid to be included and taught social skills. As they get older, however, more emphasis needs to be placed on preparing for the workforce, and we need to be flexible depending on our child's needs. She mentioned homeschooling and online classes as possible alternatives to mainstream school. Through it all, Temple never prescribed a one-size-fits-all treatment; instead the encouraged parents to figure out what is best for their individual children.

    I cannot do justice to Grandin's talk. The two hours she spoke were chock full of valuable insight and advice. I have a renewed sense of what we are doing right and where we need to redouble our efforts.

    I appreciate all the practical advice. I value the insight Temple provided. All of that was undeniably helpful.  But the best part of the night was the appreciation I gained for my son Danny. Temple repeatedly said that she would never cure herself; it's the autism that allows her to think in pictures.

    She said things like, "Autistic people often focus on objects rather than people, but we need people like that. Otherwise we'd never have computers." Or "someone with autism would have never made the mistake that was made at the Fukushima power plant. Who on earth would put emergency water pumps in a basement?" or "People who come up with new inventions don't need to chit chat with others. They're too busy."

    She regularly pointed out that it is the differences in the way our brains work that make us unique, and we need all types of thinkers in this world.

    This really resonated with me. It gave me a better appreciation for Danny and the way his mind works. For years now, we have understood that he thinks in a much different way than most. And it has astounded me time and again how his different outlook has helped him find a really unique solution to a problem. Temple's talk inspired me to continue to use Danny's passions to help him socialize and learn.

    And she has reminded me that my job is not to make Danny conform to society. Sure, we'll teach him manners and good social skills. We will teach him to follow rules and laws and be considerate to others. But we do not need to change the way he thinks.
    If you would like more information about autism and you live in Illinois, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842!  We have many books on autism and books written by Temple Grandin herself available in our lending library.
    We also have lists of resources for individuals with autism.  And we can help you set goals for your child at school.  Give us a call.  We can help!

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Website for Grandparents of Kids with Special Needs

    The Sibling Support Project and the Kindering Center are pleased to announce GKSN—Grandparents of Kids with Special Needs. We believe that no one understands a grandparent’s unique joys and concerns better than another grandparent of a child with special needs. 

    On the GKSN website, grandparents will have a chance to meet other grandparents through our Yahoogroup or Facebook groups, share ideas for supporting their kids and grandkids, and even post pictures of their grandkids! 

    ***Don't forget about Family Matters' cool giveaway.  Click here to learn more.****

    Friday, January 4, 2013

    New Record Keeper Information Sheets Available Now!!!

    As a parent of a child with an IEP, I understand how difficult it can be to keep track of and organize all of your child’s records. If you are like me you have not only IEPs and school records but medical records to keep track of as well. Finding a system to keep track of my daughter’s current and past records has proven to be very helpful for me.  I don’t have to search for records to prepare for an IEP meeting. With that in mind I created these record keeper information sheets that you can use with whatever system works for you. The record keeper information sheets are available both for free and for purchase. The free version of the record keeper information sheets, are available by download on our website: in the “printable” resources section. They are also included in the student records keeper available for purchase (for $10) in the “items to order/purchase” section. 


    There are 14 pages included in the Record Keeper Information Sheets, the titles are as follows:

    ·         Cover Page

    ·         Student Records Keeper

    ·         ISBE Parent’s Guide/ISBE Records Keeper (general information)

    ·         Student Brochures and Portfolios

    ·         Schoolwork Samples

    ·         Parental Concerns

    ·         School Communication Log

    ·         Current IEP / Section 504 Plan

    ·         Behavior Intervention Plan

    ·         Current Evaluations

    ·         RtI – Response to Intervention

    ·         Report Cards/Progress Reports

    ·         Medical information provided to the school

    ·         School calendar/handbook


    Each sheet includes tips and information about that specific topic.

    Thursday, January 3, 2013

    What's The Deal With Wandering?

    ***Don't forget about our giveaway on In- Sync Activity Cards!  Check it out here !


    by Bec Oakley, author of

    When Attie was younger his preferred method for dealing with overwhelming situations was to run away... and since almost everything in his day was overwhelming for him, this meant he was constantly bolting for the nearest door.

    And he’s not alone - it’s common to hear words like escape artist and runner used to describe autistic kids. This need to run off, seek out or explore other places is called wandering and recent data suggests it’s much more common than previously realized, affecting as many as half of all families with an autistic child.

    What is wandering, and why is it such a problem?

    If you have a kid who wanders, you’d probably agree that we need to come up with a better name for it. ‘Wandering’ implies a kind of casual or slow drifting off course, which doesn’t at all describe the speed and determination with which these kids can disappear, and gives the false impression that they’re merely confused or lost. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

    Autistic wandering is an intense desire to seek out another place, usually without regard for personal safety.

    Keeping tabs on a kid who needs to wander is extremely challenging. Many of them are skilled at waiting for the precise moment when backs are turned before making their dash, and can be gone in mere seconds. They can be adept at opening even locked doors, so protecting them can turn a house into a fortress. It also makes venturing outside the home extremely stressful, and many kinds of outings are simply impossible.
    To continue reading, click here....

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    In-Sync Activity Cards Review and Giveaway!

    Winter is in full swing, and my kids are suffering from some cabin fever.   It's too cold and dreary here for them to enjoy playing outside, but they desperately need some physical activity to help them expend some energy.  This is why receiving the In-Sync Activity Cards by Joye Newman and Carol Kranowitz has me so excited!

    From the writers of Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow these cards are full of fun activties that engage the senses, along with an explanation of what the activity does.  The authors also provide easy ways to make each activity more challenging and what to look for to ensure proper form. 

    The cards are divided into three color-coded sections: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels.  Each card details what sort of equipment is necessary, but it is almost always something that you can easily find around the house.

    Let's look at an intermediate activtity that looks fun and easy.  It's the "People Obstacle Course."   All you need is about 5 or 6 family members or friends.  The child then has to position the friends into obstacles using different prepositions.  For example: say, "Now, position me so you can go under me."  Then, you can put together different people going under one friend, around another, and over another person, etc.  The child will then go through the obstacle course he built.  According to the card, this activity develops directionality, motor planning, proprioception and spatial awareness.  It also helps kids understand prepositional concepts.

    With more than 50 fun and exciting activities, these cards should get me through winter with  my sanity intact!

    And there's great news!  One lucky reader can win a set of these cards!  Read below to find out more about how to enter the giveaway.

    There are a few different ways to enter the contest. You are able to get up to four entries per person!

    ~~One entry for leaving a comment here telling us why you would like a set of In-Sync Activity Cards

    ~~One entry for liking us on Facebook:!/FamilyMattersPTIC?fref=ts
    Just click on that link and hit the 'Like' button.  (Please mention in a comment on this post that you have liked our FB page so I know to enter you in the giveaway).

    ~~One entry for blogging about our giveaway.  Share your link here in the comments.

    ~~One entry for sharing this post on Facebook.  Share the link in the comments.

    ***Due to shipping expenses, this giveaway is only for residents of the US.

    The giveaway ends at midnight on January 9th.  Good luck!

    If you are interested in purchasing these cards or any books by Carol Kranowitz, visit Future Horizons.  Be sure to use the code PH and you will receive 15% off any purchase, along with free shipping!

    Also by Carol Kranowitz,  The Out-of-Sync Child is available from our lending library for those who live in Illinois.  Just go to to order the book and it will be mailed to you, along with a self-addressed, stamped return envelope.