Thursday, April 28, 2011

Emergency Preparation: Tornado Warning

Our new state and region have been hit hard by severe weather in recent days. I have had emergency preparedness on my mind, considering all sorts of scenarios from being without power for several days and what we might need to what we would do during a tornado warning now that we no longer have a basement.

What preparations have you made that consider your child with special needs? I'm looking for insight.

Despite the fact that we are far from being unpacked (I am waiting for some work to be done on some storage areas), one of the first things I did was establish our safe place to go to during a tornado warning. Experts tell us to choose a bathroom or closet in the middle of the house, on the lowest level of the house, putting as many walls between us and the outside as we can. Check. Next for my "kit". I don't have a weather radio (I have it on my shopping list), so I put a regular battery operated radio into the kit. I dug out flashlights and extra batteries and enough bottles of water for everyone in our family. And that's it.

My husband and I were told to sleep with our shoes beside the bed when we lived on the San Andreas fault, and as we went to bed night before last, with storm watches all around us, I made sure we all had our shoes nearby. If windows were to break, you want to be able to protect your feet from broken glass. Sleeping with shoes beside the bed is a good habit to have.

I assigned a flashlight to my son's room, one to our room, and put more flashlights on my shopping list. (I actually assigned flashlights a couple of weeks ago when we had our first storm watch through the night while hubby was out of town on business. A kind neighbor scared the crap out of me, ringing my doorbell after we were in our pajamas and reading or watching TV before bed, to tell me that the siren is close to our house - I can see it from here - and it is loud, so that we wouldn't be freaked out if it went off in the night. I am so glad she came over to tell me that.)

Night-before-last, hubby and I stayed up and watched the non-stop TV weather reporting; I followed it until around 1:30 am when one system passed by us. Another system was a few hours away. I slept in my clothes and tried to keep my shoes on, just in case, but the shoes were too uncomfortable. I placed them beside the bed.

Yesterday, as I watched the uninterrupted storm coverage on TV, we were placed under a tornado warning a minute or two before the siren sounded. As hard as I'd tried to have Li'l Bit keep up with her shoes, she didn't have them. That was the one thing we had to scramble for. Otherwise, the kids and I dove into our teeny safe place to settle in with a laptop, a cordless phone, our cell phones, an iPod, and a NintendoDS.

We did not lose power, but we did lose our TV signal. We were able to watch a local TV station online via a live stream. I was glad to have found that web site prior to the warning.

We were in our safe place approximately 15-20 minutes. I spent some of the time texting my husband the entire time; he was in another state on business (he rarely travels, yet he has been out of town both times that we have had severe weather since we moved) and he was in an area that was making news because of how hard the storms were hitting. I was more concerned for his safety than for ours.

The NintendoDS entertained Li'l Bit for approximately five seconds. No, I'm not exaggerating. She was the most uncomfortable. Four of us in a really small room was uncomfortable. The audio from the weather coverage on the laptop was loud, but I was reluctant to turn it off. Additionally, I think she was really frightened and didn't know how to handle her fear. The siren was loud and scary and made the danger feel real. I was always terrified by tornado watches and warnings as a child and I could relate to her fear. I tried to reassure her as best I could and refused to allow her to leave the room.

The siren stopped sounding while the TV weather reporters were still describing the track of the storm. (Was surreal to hear them describe the storm first in the downtown area near us and then moving toward the area where we had stayed in a hotel just a few weeks ago.) My children expected to be able to leave the safe place when the siren stopped, but the actual tornado warning had not expired at that point. I did not anticipate that happening. Li'l Bit just wanted out of the room and she bordered on a meltdown. She understood why she had to stay but she did not like it.

I have to come up with something else to put in my kit for times when we are taking shelter in our safe place. I need temporary distractions, something to do. Ideas, anyone? Anyone? I will probably add a deck of Uno cards or other card game, and maybe a package or two of Skittles or some Lifesavers candies or chewing gum for some oral motor and proprioceptive input. Ear plugs, maybe. There is little room for a blanket or throw to wrap around a child, and probably not enough room for one for all of us, but I may put one in our kit anyway. That room will be a tight fit if our entire family is in there.

How have you prepared for an emergency? Have you been through an emergency situation? What did you do right? What did you learn from the situation?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Adjusting, Take II: Plugging In

We found the skating arena; a travel baseball team; and participated in a Middle Zoo band concert already. We are plugging in. I'm investigating summer programming for kids w/ special needs at the moment. There are two rec programs that have caught my eye.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Our move is complete. The unpacking is not. We are slowly settling in.

I am getting a taste of the effects of uncertainty on my ability to process information and self-regulate. Autism 101. Change is difficult, challenging. I do not like change. And I'm NT. I am more like my child who is on the autism spectrum than I realize; and she is more like me.

All the web chats and presentations I've heard about the concept of "productive uncertainty" by Dr Gutstein and Dr Sheely of RDI(r) are coming to life for me.

My girl is doing better than I. She has been navigating change like a pro in recent weeks, handling the move in a positive way. Thank you, RDI(r).

The many differences between there and here have me in a tizzy.

I am accustomed to hunting and gathering to piece together foods for my daughter who has numerous food intolerances and allergies. I did not anticipate the difference in how stores here and there cater to (or do not cater to) customers who shop gluten free and more.

The lack of resources for all things gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, sunflower and pineapple free is sending me backwards 10 years to the time when we began the GFCF diet. In so many ways, I feel like we're starting the diet all over again. I feel the sense of overwhelm that I felt then. I feel discouraged. Ingredients and convenience items I have come to depend on are not readily available here. Who knew there had many, many more grocery stores who actively catered to their GF and allergen free customers? And who knew that the Costco here would not carry the same convenience food items I relied upon there? I thought about throwing myself onto the concrete floor at Costco and having myself a meltdown when I realized that two of the staples I counted on were not available here.

(I have had a few surprises. When I finally found Snyders of Hanover gluten-free pretzels, I found them at, of all places, Wal-Mart, and for an astonishing $2.50/package. Publix, a grocery store brand new to me, carries Udi's GF bread in the freezer section and prices it much less than any other store - the problem for me is that Publix doesn't have enough other stuff to make it worthwhile for me to go there just for that bread.)

I'm getting a window into navigating change and in some ways, to the anxiety my daughter experiences. I have always said that if Temple Grandin could get down on her hands and knees and take the perspective of a cow and smooth the path for cattle, I could learn to understand the perspective of my daughter in order to help smooth the path for her. In the long run, the experience of navigating change and uncertainty will help me help her and others. For the short term, I mostly want to complain, cry, and scream. ;)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Habit Training

Tammy Glaser features a post full of wisdom about habit training on her blog today. Go HERE to read it.

See The Light, a TOS Crew Review

Teaching children on the autism spectrum can be challenging. Some of us have a relationship focus in the foreground with everything else as a background activity. I'm learning to use homeschool resources for those background activities, and I have found that art programs are well suited for experiencing the relationship pieces with the academic piece alongside.

See The Light Art Class, Volume 1: ART LESSONS is the first video-based art resource we've used. I was given two DVDs: a DVD of preview clips, which I viewed first, to get a feel for the lessons, and to review, Volume I, The Basics. The entire 9-disc course is priced at $99.99.

I immediately liked the way the Master Artist Pat Knepley paces her thoughts as she speaks. (The lessons are not closed captioned. Li'l Bit has been watching a few videos recently with the closed captioning on. Maybe it helps her comprehension.) The lessons are short (approximately 10 minutes long). I do not hide the fact that I am still learning to keep lessons short for my homeschooler, and Pat Knepley models for me "just enough" in terms of content and time. I encourage you to see for yourself. Request your FREE DVD here. There are free lessons here.

See The Light classes (club sessions) are more than just art classes. Knepley weaves scripture and relates art concepts to Biblical concepts as she talks to viewers through the lessons. (This is an issue for us; my daughter is scared of God.)

The materials Knepley recommends are common art supply items (you'll probably have the urge to run out to your craft/hobby store for new materials when you see the video), and are relatively inexpensive.

Special Needs Considerations: If your child learns better from a video format, you may really like these videos and I encourage you to view the freebies that are available to you. Take them for a test drive. If your child has attention and visual challenges, where they don't know exactly where to look, your child may not focus on the right part of the video picture in order to follow directions. If your child is working on visual attention, these videos may be an excellent experience for him or her.

Additionally, Knepley introduces concepts and vocab that are sometimes taught in isolation or out of context to children w/ special needs. I really, really like the experience of learning concepts IN context, and these videos are wonderful for introducing things like compare and contrast (example: dark line, light line, curved line, straight line). She introduces names and works of famous artists, too.

For parents who are working on early levels of joint attention with a child, you may choose to watch the video alone and teach your child without the video.

The relationship and social experiences can be quite varied in using these videos, from shifting gaze and attention to appraising your attempts to do what Knepley directs, and your child learns some concepts of art and drawing, too. There are opportunities to experience and practice perspective taking and experience sharing.

If you have not used art with your child with special needs, I encourage you to consider it. See The Light videos, the first one, anyway, is a good introduction that gives parents and students much more than simply art and how-to-draw lessons.

I was given a See The Light DVD for review purposes. I was not paid for this review, do not benefit if you purchase the product, and am not obligated to provide a positive review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The GrandFathers

I was fascinated a few years ago at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert when Chapman introduced me to Steve Saint and the story of Steve's father, Nate. Nate Saint, along with four other American missionaries, were brutally murdered in Ecuador, on a mission trip to reach the Waodani tribe, a people with the reputation of being the most violent in the world. Nate's son, Steve, and Nate's sister, Rachel, went to live among the people who murdered Nate Saint.

Chapman not only introduced Steve Saint to the audience, but he also brought on stage one of the Waudoni people who had murdered Steve Saint's father, Nate.

The story is incredible. Murder. Forgiveness. Relationship.

What I didn't know is the rest of the story. I do now.

The GrandFathers is the story of what happened later. It is Jesse Saint's story. Jesse is Steve Saint's son; Nate Saint's grandson, a young man raised in the United States who lived in the shadow of the story of the grandfather he never knew, in the shadow of his dad's relationship with the tribe and people that he never knew.

Captured in approximately 45 minutes of video, Jesse and Steve Saint narrate most of the fast paced EthnoGraphic Media film that takes us through Jesse's journey as a teenager into the jungle and gives us glimpses into finding not one, but several grandfathers to fill the shoes of the one whose life was cut so short. Video footage includes peeks at Jesse's teenage years with his parents and sister in the jungle along with more recent footage.

The GrandFathers, the third in a series by writer/director Jim Hanon and producer Mart Green, is available for purchase for $19.95. The film is rated PG, and I suggest parents preview it before deciding whether to watch it with your children. There are brief, but violent images and descriptions that may not be suitable for children.

The story still fascinates me, that a trip to take Jesus to a remote tribe in Ecuador that seemed to end in murder in fact didn't end there at all. And it didn't end with the wives of the murdered men entering the jungle and living with the people who'd murdered their husbands. The story continues with grandchildren and is about living and relationships, God-followers, all of them.

The B&B Media Group sent me a review copy of The GrandFathers. I am not paid for reviews and am not obligated to provide a postive review.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We Skipped Spring

I think I may melt into a puddle.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Be Different Book Tour

A friend 600 miles away sent me a message that John Elder Robison was minutes away from me, signing his new book. Eldest and I dashed over there to meet him, get an autograph (I have so many autograhed books that my children think they all should be autographed by the author) and meet some folks in the local autism community from our new town and nearby big city. Fun stuff! ;)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homeschooling in Transition

We are in temporary housing in the midst of a move. We're doing some career exploration while we're here. We've seen packers and movers. Now, we're investigating what hotel workers do. I brought along the abacus so that we can do some Mathletics, both on the screen and on the abacus. I brought along a ginormous stack of StoryBuilders cards from Write Shop. We're reading a chapter book, Andi's Scary School Days, by Susan Marlow, and I'll print some activity pages to go along with it while we're in temporary housing. I brought along Vocabulary Cartoons. We're using a new Talking Fingers program, Wordy Querty. I brought a unit study from Curiosity Files, too. We've got lots to do.

Right now, Li'l Bit is writing a story. She just asked me how to spell "bronze".

How do you homeschool when you are in transition?

Friday, April 1, 2011


We are moving. The packers were due today between 8 am and 10 am. They did not show up. The moving company failed to schedule them. They were several states and approximately 600 miles away from here this morning. We'll try again tomorrow.

Point To Happy

Workman Publishing sent me an adorable book to kick off Autism Awareness Month: point to happy, by Miriam Smith and Afton Fraser, with photographs by Margo Smithwick.

point to happy is a book for kids on the autism spectrum, a sturdy hardback with weighty pages inside. Priced at $19.99, each book comes with a pointer for pointing, of course, which adds an element of active participation to the story.

I expected a book about just emotions, but point to happy covers concepts like hungry and thirsty, colors, nouns, some actions, and two sequence strips, one showing a morning routine an one showing a bedtime routine. There are blank pages for families to personalize, too.

The book is intended, I think, for little kids, younger than my 11 year old who is on the autism spectrum, and yes, we would have really used this book when she was younger and learning concepts (back when we thought behavioral approaches would be our ticket out of autism).

If you've got a little one, and you're looking for ways to work on interaction with some concepts, this book is well done, with simple, straightforward pictures, a few words, and that's it. Children on the autism spectrum do not need unnecessary distractions, and the authors of this book clearly know that.

I had my girl read this book with me last night when it arrived; she has outgrown it. HOWEVER, I see another really important use for it. I want her to read it to/with her younger cousins, to teach them some of the concepts, body parts, words in the book. We will use it to give her more experience sharing attention, shifting attention, working at a 'good enough' pace for her younger cousins, keeping their attention, collaborating with them, dealing with when meaning breaks down, making repairs. She can play teacher, and this book is the perfect background activity for practice and experience with those social pieces. The pointer makes it especially interactive for playing teacher; it helps to spotlight a clear role for her in terms of active participation with another child.

Take a peek inside the book HERE. I think you'll like it, too.

Workman sent me a review copy of "point to happy". I am not paid for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.
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