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Da Boyz interest jumps so fast it’s crazy.  At the beginning of August, everything was TMNT – that’s all they could talk about and my wife and I started prepping for a TMNT party.  However, fast forward a few weeks and I’m trying to do my homework on Pokemon and NinjaGo . . . AAAUUGGHHH!!!

Happy Berfdei!

Happy Berfdei!

Fortunately, the boys jump back into past interests very quickly and we stuck with our original “Ninja Obstacle Course” party with ideas from their gym class, Pinterest, Tough Mudder, and the old-school origami.  I’ll be completely honest – this party was A BLAST to put together . . . . and it really didn’t cost a lot of money since most of the items we had around the house or could borrow from a friend.  Besides food, I think we spent under $30 for everything.

Inspired by Tough Mudder - the Barbwire Crawl!

Inspired by Tough Mudder – the Barbwire Crawl!

I think the favorite activity of the afternoon was the water balloon slingshot.  We actually borrowed the slingshot from a friend and it worked really well.  By the end of the afternoon, my daughter was launching the balloon 30-40 yds.  IT WAS AWESOME!

The Water Balloon Sling . . . if you can see my nephew's face - it's priceless!

The Water Balloon Sling . . . if you can see my nephew’s face – it’s priceless!

We also are lucky to have family nearby who came out and helped with the bday party . . . the setup . . . running around and getting the cake, balloons, pizzas . . . .and always coming out to the kids activities.  Thanks to them, we were able to finish setup in 30 minutes and actually be able to keep track of all the kids and enjoy the party.

The Laser Bridge!

The Laser Bridge!

One of my biggest stresses with the boys is if they are making friends . . . . I think this is a stress for every parent but especially for parents of autistic kids.  We thought originally, we’d have maybe five – six kids at the party.  Well . . . . we had more than 15 kids show up!  We are extremely grateful for the support and friend group that our kids have.

I forgot how to make these!  Thankful for YouTube tutorials!

Origami Ninja Stars! I made these as a kid but forgot how to make them ~ I have a newfound appreciation for YouTube tutorials! 🙂

While we had small goodie bags, we also made ninja headbands and ‘swords’ that the kids got to take home.  The kids LOVED the headband . . . it was fun to see all of the kids wearing them and also, to see my twins running around hours later with it on their heads.  The pool noodle swords were a HIT!  There are a few different tutorials online involving PVC and making handles . . . and we didn’t do any of that – we simply put duct tape on the bottom to make a ‘handle’ and voila – we were done!  In retrospect, after watching 16 kids running around with ‘swords’ and hitting each other – the softer the ‘sword’ the better – I’m glad we decided against the PVC . . . I guarantee we would’ve had a couple of bruises or black eyes.

Pool Noodles make great (and pretty safe) ninja swords

Pool Noodles make great (and pretty safe) ninja swords

I don’t know if the boys will remember this party but we definitely had a blast planning and making it.  More importantly, I am grateful for the support, friendship, and love that our family gets from so many individuals. . . . . . blessed!

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I came across this story when reading Teri Harmon’s blog and let’s just say, this is awesome!  First, to have a program specifically targeted at kids with special needs.  Also, the article goes into detail on some simple suggestions on how to get your child with special needs reading more ~ check out the story here or by clicking on the picture.

Finally, the librarian, Carrie Rogers-Whitehead also received the Librarian of the Year Award and Distinction in Utah!  CONGRATULATIONS and thank you so much!

Utah Librarian Creates Special Needs Reading Program

Utah Librarian Creates Special Needs Reading Program

Lessons from The Princess Bride for Parents w/ Kiddos on the Spectrum

I’ll be honest, I had never heard about the movie “The Princess Bride” until I got to BYU.  It seemed that every Friday, there was a movie theater, campus or auditorium that had a “Princess Bride” feature.  It was seriously one of the most popular date sites on campus and you could count on one or two people quoting THE ENTIRE MOVIE!

Pic from The Deseret News

Pic from The Deseret News

Fast forward what, 20 yrs and I now have a wife who LOVES (and can quote) the movie  . . . . . . though she DOESN’T love BYU.  Anyway, it was a matter of time that someone came up with a Princess Bride and Autism connection.  Click on the pic or link up top to see the article!  Fun stuff!

My wife and I had the opportunity to attend a screening for a new documentary titled, “Invisible Disabilities: The Problems of Perception,” produced by Jenny Mackenzie that features, among others. Dr. Temple Grandin.  I didn’t know much about the film so I was a little surprised to see a handful of law enforcement officers mingling with the guests who were down at center stage.  I’m glad we got their early since it was a standing room only event!  Great turnout!

Background: There was an incident in our city where two special needs individuals were with their caregiver and were going to a public restroom.  A police officer saw them, mistook it for criminal behavior, and a ‘use of force’ incident unfortunately happened.

What happened next truly shows you the character of these individuals and this city.  On hearing about the incident, the Chief of Police, Chief Burbank obviously met with the officer involved, but he also met with the individuals and families of the autistic individuals.  Instead of both ‘sides’ viewing themselves as being on opposing sides in the matter, they decided to fix the problem and put their emotions into a project that would, hopefully, help avoid future situations.

Image courtesy of Jenny Mackenzie Films - plz click image to visit her website

Image courtesy of Jenny Mackenzie Films – plz click image to visit her website

Thus, the idea and team for the documentary was formed.  The viewing was followed by a panel that included Dr. Temple Grandin and Chief Burbank.

I was very impressed with Chief Burbank.  He seemed like a very humble and intuitive individual, not what my first impression of a police chief would be (pictured a loud Type A personality) – my bad.  He discussed how this incident and documentary have led him to share the incident and training resources with not only his department, but 70 of the largest police forces in Canada / US.  That’s impressive!

This was my first experience seeing Dr. Grandin and I was very impressed by her resourcefulness and entire presence.  It was easy to understand how she is a great spokesperson and representative of the ASD Community.

Panel Members including Dr. Temple Grandin and Chief Burbank

Panel Members including Dr. Temple Grandin and Chief Burbank

I think the documentary will be a good training tool for groups (law enforcement, educators, public servants, etc) that deal frequently with a wide range of people.  However, I was surprised by  a few things.  First, I’ve watched a number of autistic videos and honestly, have felt more connection and emotion in most of those videos versus this documentary.  While I do feel that this documentary will serve a great purpose, I was surprised, especially since our emotions are close to the surface when it comes to autism, that my wife and I had no emotional response to the documentary.

Second, maybe it’s just because I have daily encounters with people on the spectrum, but I think that if you spent a minute with all three individuals featured in the movie, most people would be able to tell that they have a special need.  I think when I see people like Clay Marzo or some of the ASD adults who speak on autism panels that I’ve been too, these individuals could almost get by with nobody knowing they are on the spectrum. . . . it would’ve been interesting to have an interview from someone who, on most days, nobody would consider has special needs.  While Dr. Grandin fits that description she was introduced as an expert in the documentary.

I’m not devaluing the documentary with that last remark but more, sharing my alarm that the police officer in this incident couldn’t recognize that these people with arms flapping or other physical challenges, were not criminals but individuals that, more than anything, needed The Law’s help and protection.  That shocked me . . . . but then again, my wife and I have been dealing with this for years and I need to realize that others haven’t had the experience we had . . . including the office in the incident.

My Goal: Help them live the life they were meant to live!  Love my three kiddos

Check out my wife and kids in a local news feature on autism. Click the picture!

Chief Burbank mentioned a number of times that law enforcement needs to provide ‘equal protection’ to ALL individuals and how this instance helped him realize that there was further training and resources needed to help police deal with special needs individuals.  It’s imperative to help others understand that physical contact or stress situations cause more of these ‘symptoms’ to come out and they should never mistake those for an aggressive individual.  If an individual needs more time to process something and someone is yelling at them, it’s just a vicious cycle that escalates into a situation like the one these individuals encountered.

Glad I got to see the documentary and hope that it does well and serves it’s intended purpose.  Great to see how a group of individuals turned a very high stress and emotional confrontation into an avenue of change . . . . . remarkable!  Check out our claim to fame – my wife and kids on a local news broadcast on autism.

Who would’ve thought my wife watched something on ESPN before I did and who would’ve thought she’d be in tears after watching it?  This is a fantastic story about Anthony Starego ~ an autistic high school student who is the kicker on his football team.  Check it out by clicking the picture below or clicking here.  

Anthony Starego ~ Autistic place kicker

Anthony Starego ~ Place Kicker & Autistic Athlete! screenclip from espn.com

USA TODAY also did an interview with Anthony that you can read here.  What a great story!  His favorite college team even had him on field to kick some field goals during a practice and honored him with a custom jersey.  Classy . . .  and very very cool.  I bet this is something that Anthony will never forget!

Anthony Starego, Autism, Rutgers

Getting his own Rutgers Jersey. Screenshot from espn.com

 

I mentioned we’ve had our boys in a soccer league.  We are on hiatus for the winter and it’s been a fun, and challenging experience.  There are some things we picked up throughout the year but their coach has been fantastic and hey, maybe they’ll be star athletes like Anthony!  🙂

Autism + Soccer

Striking a pose – this is their first practice where they got their uniforms

If you want to see another awesome story ~ check out anything on Clay Marzo.  I mentioned him a few blogposts, ESPN did an article on him, and there’s even a special from ABC NEWS.  I’ll be mentioning him in a few upcoming posts, found out about more surfing groups and autism!  Stay tuned!

 

CAST YOUR VOTE!  Chase Bank is sponsoring the American Giving Awards and one of the charities on the list is Surfer’s Healing.  Based in San Juan Capistrano and founded by a couple with an autistic son, Surfer’s Healing’s mission is to provide autistic individuals with an opportunity to connect with the ocean through surfing.

VOTE NOW!  HELP A GREAT CAUSE! Pic from Surfer's Healing

VOTE NOW! HELP A GREAT CAUSE! Pic from Surfer’s Healing

I’ve mentioned how much I love the ocean in previous posts and how well my boys did with their visit back home to Maui.

Surfing @ Launiupoko / It's a Wunderful Life

Taking Twin A out on the surfboard

The idea that autistic individuals find the ocean therapeutic is one that I support and there are many cool stories about this.  There was a great documentary sponsored by Patagonia called “Come Hell or High Water” that talks about the evolution of bodysurfing, it’s raw and deep connection with the ocean and nature, and stories of autistic kids and their connection to the water.  Another individual I’ve mentioned before is Clay Marzo, professional surfer who has asbergers.

Anyway, PLEASE VOTE FOR THIS GREAT CHARITY!  Let’s show our support and . . . .ALOHA FRIDAY!  🙂

At Launiupoko, Maui

At Launiupoko, Maui

I feel so guilty NOT blogging.  I actually love to update this blog and post things but I’ve had more consistent work with a great company (if you love crafting, check out www.ohmycrafts.com) so between the holiday rush for Oh My Crafts, being the ‘stay at home’ dad, piano students, and working on an online store (more to come on that in a future post) life has been busy.

great place to be at

Great Company! Grateful for the opportunity to be there

Thanksgiving: On a thankful note, I am so thankful for my family and the things we are blessed with.  Someone once told me that he felt bad we’ve gone through so much crap.  There are always days where things can seem pretty heavy but when I really think about it, I have so much to be thankful for.  I have an amazing wife who I  love and adore, three kiddos that mean the world to me, and our home life is a blast.  We seriously have a TON of laughter in our home and it’s fun to hear.  That’s what’s important.

I am also thankful for all of you and your blogs.  I enjoy reading about your accomplishments and celebrate them!  I read about hard times you are going through and wish I could tell you how you’ve got a friend cheering you on and wishing the best for you.  Thank you for sharing your lives and experiences with me!

The boys have been doing well at school.  Last year, we had them in separate classes so they would both progress and learn without hindering each other.  However, during the summer, we noticed they had some problems playing together.  So this year, they are in the same class and that has been both a blessing and on some days, a curse.  We got them matching shoes and that threw a kink in the regime with the teachers.  The boys always had different shoes so even if they wore the same outfit, the teachers could tell them apart.  However, I think most of the teachers are able to tell them apart now.  Their classmates well . .  . that’s a different story.  It is funny to see their classmates  always asking them, “what’s your name?”

With the boys being together so much, we’ve had to do more activities to give them their ‘own identity’ and I’ll get into that in the next post.

Fun Game

My mother in law spends an afternoon here with us doing activities with the kids.  She brought over a fantastic BINGO activity she got online.  I’m not sure which one she used exactly but it was good for the kids. . . .tough the first time around for them to watch the other get a BINGO and they may not have one yet but I think they are starting to understand it a little more.

its a wonderful life thankful tree

Our “Thankful” Tree

We’ve also been raiding Pinterest for holiday activities.  (Follow me here if you’d like). This was our “Thankful Tree.”  It is always interesting to hear what the kids are thankful for.  Our goal is to do this each year and collect these trees as the years go by.

it's a wonderful life thankful tree, OT Activities

Gluing the ‘leaves’ on the tree

We also did a “Frosty the Snowman” activity that I’ll put in a future post.  What I loved about all of these activities was that it combined something the boys were working with in OT with a fun holiday theme.  From cutting, tracing their hands, gluing the marshmallows, writing their names, shaking the glitter ~ we had a range of activities.  It also got some discussion going on what they are thankful for (Angry Birds, glue, Mario Kart) which was fun to do.

it's a wonderful life - thankful tree

Writing his name. Pincher grip is getting better!

As we head into, what I consider to be my favorite time of the year, I can’t help but feel thankful for these two and all the growth they’ve seen. We have our tough days (what family doesn’t) but these two boys have grown up so much this year and I’ve got to experience a lot of it firsthand.  For that, I’ll always be grateful.