Special Needs

Welcome to the special needs section of LAParent.com, where you’ll find events and resources for families in Los Angeles with children who have special needs. We want to connect these families with sources of support – and also family fun! To subscribe to our monthly special needs newsletter, click the link at the top of this page.

kids with disabilities

Arts, Ability and Imagination

Georgia O'Keeffe, the painter known as the “Mother of American Modernism,” once said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way – things I had no words for.” O’Keeffe’s words say so much about art and what it can mean in one’s life. In Los Angeles, we celebrate inclusion in arts programs. Many children with disabilities are taking their first dance...

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Doc Talk: Tracking Progress Against Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is now estimated to impact one in every 68 children in the U.S. and anyone not affected by autism likely knows someone who is. Researchers have been working for decades to unlock its causes and find effective treatment. At the forefront of these efforts is the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at UCLA. Its director, Dan Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D., says we know much more about autism...

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Five Tips for Addressing Your Child’s Learning Difference

With California public schools ranking the lowest in the nation for student-teacher ratio –an average of 24-to-1 compared with the national average of 16-to-1 – it can be difficult for teachers to hone in on the needs of each student. This is especially true for students with learning differences, but one critical element can help yield greater success: family involvement. Intervention should not be left solely to educators. Collaboration involving...

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kids with autism

Helping Kids With Autism Find Work

  Joanne Lara sees too much of what she calls the “school-to-couch” model. “Fifty thousand kids a year in this country are graduating high school with autism, with no place to go,” says the executive director of Autism Works Now (AWN), an innovative nonprofit that teaches workplace-readiness skills. They end up on their parents’ couch because they don’t know how to find and keep a job – and because their...

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Friendship In Flow

Lourdes Mack loves to dance, act, ski, play basketball and surf. And she’s done it all with her trademark enthusiasm and her bright pink wheelchair. Mack was born with spina bifida, a medical condition that damages the spinal cord and nerves. But Mack doesn’t want to talk about that – or her wheelchair. She’d much rather talk about playing a nun in Santa Monica High School’s recent production of “The...

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Mom Judging Makes Parenting Kids With ADHD Even Tougher

My vision of parenting before I had children went something like this (think Midwestern United States, circa 1979): Moms sitting in beach chairs at the end of a driveway, kids scurrying up and down the street on skateboards and bikes, teens fighting and moms shooing them away while pouring glasses of wine. Dark skies and everyone goes home. The next day: repeat. By the time I became a mom, the...

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You Can Now Support Special Olympics When Filing Your Taxes

California taxpayers have long had the option to support causes near to their hearts at filing time – and this year a new organization with plenty of heart joins the list. Special Olympics Southern California and Special Olympics Northern California join 19 other nonprofits in the contributions section of this year’s state income tax form. “One of our great champions, Assemblymember Jim Frazier from Oakley, California, has been a longtime...

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Inclusive Pageant Spotlights Girls of All Abilities

Many girls dream of wearing a crown and being “queen” for a day, and the California Miss Amazing pageant gives girls of all abilities that chance. The day includes all the usual pageant pomp, from formalwear and interviews to tiaras and trophies, but the beauty here is more than skin deep. “One of the main impacts of the program is [for the girls] to realize their potential,” says Miss Amazing...

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Cooking Tips for Special Kids

Chef Darrell “DAS” Smith has been a dad for less than a year, but he already knows a thing or two about picky eaters. That’s because in October, he became director of food services at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services. The organization serves nearly 400 children with special needs related to learning differences, autism spectrum disorders and other cognitive, behavior and social challenges. Smith and his team in...

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Four Reasons Educating Students With Learning Differences Matters

Have you heard the buzz about the on-the-job construction worker from Toronto secretly recorded while dancing to a hit song by Ariana Grande? The video went viral, boasting tens of millions of viewers, after his wife posted it on social media. Although this was a humorous and entertaining break from the onslaught of political banter we have been overwhelmed with, I long for a world where life-impacting concerns, significant to...

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Film, Music and Autism Come Together In This Lab

Lots of local folks took their films to last month’s Sundance Film Festival, but one has a particularly fun story behind – and above, below and all around – it. “Use Your Imagination,” which premiered at Oculus House at the festival Jan. 22, is a virtual reality musical created in collaboration with, and starring, artists with autism. The film was made with a grant from Oculus VR, makers of virtual-reality...

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Celebrating Human Abilities at Aquarium of the Pacific

What does a celebration of the artistic talents of people with disabilities have to do with taking care of the world’s oceans? Plenty, says Peter Martineau, marketing events manager at Aquarium of the Pacific, which will host its 14th annual Festival of Human Abilities this month. “The aquarium has always wanted to include as many people from as many backgrounds as possible,” says Martineau, pointing out that the aquarium’s mission...

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ABLE Plans Let Those With Disabilities Set Financial Goals

For most of us who would like to save up for something – a new computer, a college class, a trip or even retirement – all we need to do to get started is to open a bank account or take advantage of a retirement or college savings plan. Most people with disabilities don’t have that luxury. Those who take advantage of state and federal government benefits such as Supplemental...

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The Second City Launches Courses for Kids With Autism

The Second City – which has locations in Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood – has been a launching pad for theater and comedy talent for decades. Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey are some of the institution’s more recent alumni. The venue also offers kids comedy, acting and writing classes. And this month, for the first time, the Hollywood location launches a program just for kids with developmental disabilities. In...

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A Personal Account of an IEP Journey

Lia Martin’s 9-year-old son, Taylor, is a gifted artist – but he also has ADHD. That means, as the former sitcom writer and TV executive puts it, he didn’t enter the classroom seamlessly. Her son’s learning difference eventually led Martin to seek out an IEP (individual education plan), and that journey also was not seamless. It started with her feeling of failure the first time she heard Taylor, then a...

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A Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker Comes to Theaters

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, you might have shied away from ballet – even that most child-friendly ballet, “The Nutcracker.” Children with sensory issues might be overwhelmed by the sound and the spectacle. And those with attention deficits could have a tough time staying quietly in their seats. This month, the Autism Society of America is helping bring “The Nutcracker” to kids with autism in a...

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Registration is Open for Free Accessible Rose Parade Viewing

The Tournament of Roses and the city of Pasadena work together to coordinate three areas of accessible street-level viewing for the annual Rose Parade, and this year people with disabilities can make reservations online for the first time. There are three accessible viewing areas offering reserved space to people with disabilities free of charge. This allows those with disabilities – and up to four guests – to avoid having to...

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Students Record a Song To Urge a Closer Look

Children from the L.A. Speech and Language Therapy Center are inspiring the community with their original song, “Beyond the Label.” The students, who all have developmental disabilities, participated in writing a song to encourage people to see beyond their diagnoses. The group has performed the song at the White House, and recorded the original piece with singer-songwriter Johnny Gill of the R&B/pop group New Edition and a team of professional...

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Very Special Arts Festival Celebrates Children of All Abilities

As I walked into the courtyard of The Music Center this morning I couldn’t help but smile. Children were everywhere — singing, dancing, and making art. More than 5,000 K-12 students of all abilities from all parts of L.A. County came together for the 38th Annual Very Special Arts Festival. More than 130 schools attended this year’s festival, celebrating students’ achievements in visual and performing arts. Eighty school groups participated...

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los angeles schools

Inclusive Programs That Teach All Learners

With the right support, students with disabilities can reach their potential  There was a time when not all children were considered capable of learning, when many students with disabilities were kept out of school completely. “They used to use the term ‘educatable.’ I hated that,” says Lila Schob, who has been an educator for 20 years. “Everyone can be educated. Everyone deserves an education.” Today, from large public districts to...

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special needs

Wiley Academy Opens Preschool for Kids on the Spectrum

L.A. Speech and Language Therapy Center has expanded. In September, the Wiley Academy for Specialized Learning opened with a learning environment tailored to children with autism spectrum disorders. The preschool program is for ages 3 to 5 and follows a language-based multidisciplinary curriculum. The emphasis is on whole-child development with daily exposure to activities that promote speech, fine motor, sensory and cognitive development. Alyssa Porter’s son, Jagger, 3, attends the preschool. “I toured other...

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Young Adults With Autism Need Workplace Social Skills

"As I wandered the resource fair with both my kids in tow, it became strikingly clear how limited the options would be for Nicholas post-high school." "There is a lot of money invested in these kids when they are young, but there is significantly less as they get older. You feel as if you're on your own." These are real thoughts plaguing parents of high school-age children with autism spectrum...

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Step Out to Raise Funds for UCPLA

How many steps do you take per day? Do you have 10,000 in you? Find out, get fit and raise funds and awareness for individuals with cerebral palsy during the “Out & About With UCPLA” fitness challenge Oct. 3-28. The money you raise will help purchase equipment such as adaptable tricycles and adaptable beach wheelchairs that help people with cerebral palsy reach their fitness goals. Kids who participate can also...

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special needs

Entering The World Of Oz With Justin

Autism is something I never imagined that my world would revolve around. It all began with a phone call from the school about my son, Justin, who was 5 at the time, not participating in class – odd behavior, not being sociable with staff or peers. Next, I received a letter from the school, asking us to have him tested. Following that assessment, a meeting was scheduled. The psychologist finished...

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special needs

Sign-ups Open For The Miracle Project Fall Theater Classes

The Miracle Project – an innovative program that uses theater, music and movement to help individuals with autism and other disabilities build self-confidence, communication skills and friendships – is kicking off its fall schedule of courses in September. Space is limited, and early registration is strongly recommended. Several classes will be held Tuesdays at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts (9390 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; www.thewallis.org) from Sept....

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special needs

The Art of Autism: Growing Up

From Tom Iland: Growing up with autism is not easy. Social challenges, family dynamics, academics, employment opportunities and many other issues need to be addressed over the course of one’s life. In my experience, in having the right mindset and an effective, loving support system made these obstacles more manageable. Shortly after my diagnosis at 13 years old, I was taught that using autism as an excuse or as a crutch...

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Matt Asner Becomes Vice President of Development For Autism Society of America

Matt Asner will join The Autism Society as National Vice President of Development, Autism Society President and CEO Scott Badesch announced Aug. 23. “We are thrilled to have Matt as part of the Autism Society family. His passion, energy and wonderful commitment to helping give all diagnosed with autism the maximum opportunities to reach their highest quality of life, along with an amazing track record of success in all he...

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Why Kids With Disabilities Need Time For Play

As summer winds down and the new school year gets rolling, you’re likely looking closely at your child’s schedule. If your child has a developmental or other disability, one especially important thing to schedule in is play. Joclynn Benjamin, owner of Leaps n Boundz – which offers swimming, gymnastics and social programs for individuals of all abilities at several L.A.-area sites – says families often have few slots open for...

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This Special-Needs Camp Hires Counselors On the Spectrum

All over Los Angeles this summer, high school and college students are earning money and gaining experience as camp counselors. When college student and L.A. resident Carter Theiro shows up for work each morning and joins 130 camp counselors at a South Los Angeles camp, he brings a unique perspective to the job. Theiro, 19 and a student at Los Angeles Valley College, is on the autism spectrum. This is his third year as...

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Introducing Your Child With Disabilities To a New Teacher

A new school year is starting, which means a new teacher for your child. Take a few minutes to write a letter that will help equip your child’s teacher for the excitement and challenges ahead. “As much as our kids need support at times, teachers need just as much,” says Kathleen Secchi, Santa Clarita coordinator for Family Focus Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides support services to families raising children...

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special needs

Must-Do Self-care Tips For Special-Needs Moms

Areva Martin is a busy woman. She is an attorney, legal analyst and commentator who often appears on “The Doctors,” “Dr. Phil,” “Dr. Drew” and “Good Morning America.” She founded and runs the resource and advocacy organization Special Needs Network and is a wife and mother of three, with one son on the autism spectrum. And – believe it or not – she has learned to take good care of...

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special needs beach wheelchairs

Freewheeling At the Beach

A day at the beach is a quintessential SoCal summer family outing. And even if your child uses a wheelchair, you can hit the sand. Ashley Lyn Olson was paralyzed in a car accident at age 14, and has become a lifelong access advocate. In 2006, she launched wheelchairtraveling.com to encourage people in wheelchairs to “come access your world.” The northern California resident travels the globe and often hits the...

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July Fourth Fireworks With Sensitive Kids

Diane Cullinane has a son with sensory issues, and when he was 2 or 3 years old, the family decided to attend a local fireworks display one July Fourth. Cullinane knew her son was sensitive, so they parked three blocks from the celebration and watched from there. Even so, they had to leave after a few minutes. “It was just too much for him,” Cullinane says. For many kids with...

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An Animated Look at the World of Autism

Lots of kids love Disney animated films, watching them again and again until their parents are driven to distraction – and have memorized most of the dialog. Owen Suskind’s parents, though, don’t complain about his Disney obsession. They credit it with helping bring him back to them. The documentary “Life, Animated,” in local theaters beginning July 1, lets us share that journey. Near the beginning of the film we see...

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positive parenting

A Family with Unreasonable Hope

The doctor said it again and again: “She will never ….” And for Chad Veach, hearing this about his 4-month-old daughter, Georgia, was too much. “My heart sank into my socks,” says Veach, pastor of Zoe Church in Los Angeles and author of the new book “Unreasonable Hope.”   The doctor was explaining to Veach and his wife, Julia, that their daughter has lissencephaly, which literally means “smooth brain” and is...

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Is Your Child With Autism Really Intellectually Disabled?

I am sitting in my office across from a special needs young man who is about to graduate from high school. He has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and is very verbal. But though he shows average intellectual ability on some tests of intelligence, he has virtually no academic skills. I can’t help but feel that this individual has been poorly served by society, and wonder why he is...

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Songs About Social Skills – And Us

Social skills are important in helping smooth our way through life – but they’re not something we talk about a lot. An album out this spring from SoCal singer/songwriter Kerry Fenster makes the conversation musical. “Songs About Us,” from the independent Muzic School label, is a collection of five tunes aimed at teaching social skills to children and young adults with developmental delays. The album was inspired by Fenster’s work...

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Young Actors Take On Bullying With ‘The Intimidation Game’

While autism now impacts about one in 68 kids, bullying is pretty much universal. So a unique group of young actors are doing something about it in their own special way. The Miracle Project has been helping kids with autism and all abilities express themselves through theater and music since 2004. Under the direction of the indomitable Elaine Hall, the troupe creates and performs original musicals that forge friendships, educate,...

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5 Tips to Lessen Summer Visitation Drama

Summer is when many of us create some of the best memories with our children. For divorced parents who have limited custody during school months, summer visitation can provide an excellent opportunity to extend visits and spend quality time with their children. It also allows for children to maintain a loving relationship with both parents after a divorce. Parents typically follow a child custody order issued by the court during...

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5 Don’ts For a Stronger Marriage

Given enough time and togetherness, any relationship between two people will face a challenge or two. And all marriages take a bit of work, no matter how in love you are. “Love is a component, but it really is only one component,” says clinical psychologist Darren Sush, Psy.D., whose Brentwood-based practice specializes in helping parents of children with autism. Many other things come into play in making a marriage work....

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Arts Programs for Kids With Special Needs

Like most children, those with special needs enjoy being creative and sharing their projects with others. The arts can provide a relaxing and fulfilling activity, and are a safe way to explore feelings and ideas. “There are many forms of art, and children with autism or other developmental differences may have particular strengths and interests,” says Diane Cullinane, M.D., a developmental pediatrician board certified in pediatrics and neurodevelopmental disabilities, and...

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L.A. Sports Programs for Kids With Special Needs

Kickball was one of my favorite childhood sports. Our weekly neighborhood games were even sweeter because we had a designated pitcher. Jonathan would be the first one on the empty lot at the end of our street. He’d always bring the ball, and as long as we could get at least four kids together, we had a game. Jonathan used a wheelchair, but he loved kickball, and for us, that’s...

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Support For Special Needs Siblings

For 13-year-old Brianna Baker, joining a support group for siblings of children with special needs was natural. She had essentially grown up visiting Encino-based McRory Pediatric Services as her younger sister, Olivia, underwent a series of occupational, physical and speech therapies. After Olivia, now 10, was officially diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that impacts speech and motor skills, Brianna began seeing a counselor on her own and,...

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Working On a Dream

Their cell phones are never quiet and seem to vibrate simultaneously. During a recent afternoon, their oldest daughter, Avivah, is trying to coordinate a ride on Lyft from her high school in west Los Angeles to their home in the San Fernando Valley. Matt Asner takes care of the logistics while his wife, Navah Paskowitz, answers a text from their son. They’re frazzled, but definitely in sync. Asner and Paskowitz...

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Why the World Needs Kids of All Abilities

Vincent Van Dyk was born with a rare condition called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes developmental delays, delayed growth and other issues. “When we first got his diagnosis, it was really scary,” says his mom, Felicia. “I thought back to my own childhood, how kids used to make fun.” Still, Van Dyk decided to make sure Vincent, who is now 12, was fully included when he started attending...

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Eight Ways to Calm Autism-related Anxiety

Professionals say a little anxiety now and then is natural, and even good for us. But anxiety that interferes with daily life – as it does for some children who have special needs or are on the autism spectrum – is not. Here are a few tried-and-true techniques for calming feelings of anxiety in children with autism. Be prepared. A big part of stress reduction is planning for stressful situations,...

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Deaf Son’s Need Inspires Swim Shirt Company

Cole Sherman is profoundly deaf, has cochlear implants and loves to swim. “My son, he’s a water baby,” says Cole’s dad, Eric. For many years, water and the processors that implant users wear outside the body just didn’t mix. But in 2012, when Cole was 7, he got his first set of waterproof processors. The Tarzana family quickly discovered that the processors weren’t convenient to wear in the pool. “The wearing...

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Estate Planning For Families With Special Needs

Estate planning is a task that is neglected by many parents. But in families that include children with special needs who will need long-term care and resources beyond their parents’ lifetime, it is a task that can seem especially daunting. Even something as wonderful as an unexpected financial windfall can have unforeseen – and devastating – consequences for these children. “We received a frantic call from a family for whom...

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Pam Lyn King: Coaching From the Heart

Pam Lyn King knows first hand what life is like for a special-needs family. Her younger sister, Kristol, was born with Down syndrome and autism. When Kristol died three years ago at age 20, King felt a profound void that she wasn’t sure how to fill. Landing a new job as an administrative specialist in the communications department of Kaiser Permanente in 2014 opened her heart in ways she didn’t...

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Granada Hills Students Create Art for Iditarod Mushers

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, dubbed the Last Great Race on Earth, is finally over and a winner has been declared. Musher Dallas Seavey is celebrating his win of the strenuous 1,000 mile race across Alaska that ended in Nome, Alaska in the early hours of March 15. Competitors are still finishing the long trek, but here’s the L.A. connection: Granada Hills Charter High School students with mild, moderate...

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Summer Camp for Special Kids

You did your homework, made your visits and found a great school for your child with special needs. But soon school will be out. What will your child do this summer? If you are considering summer camp, know that there are a lot of great programs in the L.A. area that will allow your child to have a real summer-camp experience in a safe and nurturing environment. Now is the...

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Putting People With Autism To Work, Now

Each Thursday evening six young adults gather around a large table in an office off Ventura and Reseda boulevards and work to hone their employment skills. Because these individuals have autism, their chances of finding meaningful employment aren’t great. While 50,000 18-22-year-olds with autism graduate from public schools in the U.S. each year, the employment rate among people with disabilities is only 10 percent. This is why Joanne Lara and...

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special needs - find'em scent kit

Keeping Bloodhounds On the Scent of Missing Kids

Around half of all children on the autism spectrum will wander toward something that interests them, or bolt away from something that is bothersome. And because they have little sense of danger, this wandering can take them away from their caregivers and into unsafe situations. These children often go missing, and according to the National Autism Association, children ages 9 and younger with autism who wander off are killed 42...

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special needs -Flydra Project Passion

Animation Contests Seeks Artists With Special Needs

L.A.-based Flydra Creative is an animation studio launched by a group of young up-and-coming animators. They’ve worked at places like Cartoon Network, studied cinematic arts at USC, been YouTube sensations and won awards. Now they want to give other young animators – animators of all abilities – a shot at seeing their ideas for a cartoon character and animated series come to life. The studio has launched “Project Passion,” an...

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special needs - Reasons to Smile

Down Syndrome Stories That Will Make You Smile

When Andrea Knauss gave birth to her third daughter, Anna, 25 years ago, a nurse came into her hospital room and told her, “God has a big job for you!” The hospital photographer told her, “I guess you don’t want pictures of your baby, do you.” Anna was born with Down syndrome, and the hospital social worker Knauss consulted couldn’t even point her toward a book or video that would...

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Autism Focused Private School Hosts Open House in Woodland Hills

CARD Academy, a nonpublic school day school for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), today announced its open house in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Saturday, February 27, 2016 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Using an applied behavior analysis (ABA) teaching approach, CARD Academy educates students with ASD, developmental delay and speech-language impairment from preschool to age 22. The open house will offer parents a chance to discover the benefits...

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Get Into the Act at Abilities Expo

Abilities Expo, coming to the L.A. Convention Center Feb. 5-7, showcases technology, products, services and information for people of all abilities. But this is not an event designed just for looking. The “Events Arena” at the back of the hall, for instance, will feature wheelchair dance, service dogs, adaptive shot put, all-abilities yoga, adaptive skateboarding, power soccer, wheelchair tennis and adaptive basketball. “This is where we do hourly demonstrations of...

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Pairing Special Needs Families With Quality Providers

Need a restaurant recommendation? Try Yelp. A plumber? Angie’s List. And if you’re looking for a reliable service provider for someone with special needs, you can turn to Love My Provider (www.lovemyprovider.com), a fee-free website specializing in therapeutic services such as Applied Behavior Analysis; occupational, physical and speech therapy; summer camps and day programs. The nonprofit company was founded by special educator and behavior analyst Sara Gershfeld, who provided special-needs...

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USC Telehealth Offers Free Help For Special-Needs Caregivers

Mary Ann Frattarole thinks it was early 2012 when she started getting desperate calls from parents and caregivers of children and adults with special needs. “I got some heart-wrenching calls from parents that had a special-needs child,” she says, including one mom who also had a husband with a disability for whom she was the only caregiver. “She said, ‘I don’t know how I can make it another day. Can...

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A Conference To Talk About Typing

Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher both have limited speech due to autism, and when they were growing up, this meant they were labeled “retarded” and excluded from regular education. But their lives were turned around when, as adults, each learned to communicate by typing. Bissonnette, 52, and Thresher, 42, eventually embarked on a world tour to shine a light on autism that became the 2010 documentary film Wretches & Jabberers....

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Buddy Baseball Registration is Underway

Teams for players with special needs start their season Feb. 6. Registration has begun for the Cal Ripken – Babe Ruth League 2016 Buddy Baseball Program at Hartwell Park in Long Beach. The league is open to players ages 4-18 with special needs and their “buddies,” and serves Long Beach and the surrounding communities. “Buddy” refers to the person who helps the player with special needs swing the bat, round...

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Hot Wheelers Comes to Outside the Box

Wheelchair accessibility and new classes are part of the learning center’s expansion. Outside the Box opened its first 500-square-foot storefront in 2009. The center, devoted to sensory activities that contribute to brain development for ages 8 weeks to 6 years, has expanded a couple of times over the years, and always made good use of the space. There were bubbles. There was paint. There were musical instruments, giggles and squeals....

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For Autism Initiative, Sesame Street Looks to Our Neighborhood

TV’s “Sesame Street” has long been populated with flightless birds, singing frogs, cuddly monsters and children of all sorts. And as the number of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum continues to grow in the world at large, they are coming to Sesame Street as well. To help out with the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” initiative, Sesame Workshop turned to a neighborhood in Sherman Oaks,...

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This Holiday Shopping Keeps Vacation Dreams Afloat

Since 2006, Autism on the Seas has organized and staffed vacations (on cruises and at resorts on land) for families with children and adults with a variety of special needs – from autism to Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other types of challenges. Now the organization has launched a nonprofit arm that will help fund these vacations as well. The Autism on the Seas Foundation will award varying amounts of...

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L.A. Parent Special Needs Resource Fair Program Guide

  Our 2015 Special Needs Resource Fair was held November 15 at the Skirball Cultural Center and featured entertainment from The Miracle Project and Ballet for All Kids, along with more than 40 tables from businesses and services that are resources to families in our community.  Click here to view our Special Needs Program Guide.

13-year-old Chef Cooks With Food Greats at Autism Speaks Gala

By the time Chase Bailey was 10, he was hooked on cooking shows. He discussed best methods for caramelizing onions with his mom and filled the family DVR with recipes for pizzas baked in brick ovens and tortillas filled with mahi mahi and mango-radish salsa. At 11, he started his own cooking blog, followed by his YouTube channel, “Chase 'N Yur Face.” And in October, the Irvine 13-year-old, who is...

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National TACA Autism Conference Offers Hope and Help to Affected Families

Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States, with 1 in 68 children currently affected with the disorder. For these families, identifying and paying for the help they need to get their child on the road to recovery is extremely daunting. That’s where Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, empowering and supporting families affected by autism, comes in. TACA not...

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New Gluten-Free Breads at La Brea Bakery

Due to the large demand for gluten-free breads nowadays, La Brea Bakery (www.labreabakery.com) which first opened in Los Angeles 26 years ago, has recently introduced its own gluten-free breads. Best known for its artisan breads, La Brea Bakery was looking to offer customers something that was tasty and healthy, thus the creation of the new breads. To begin, the bakery is offering two classic flavors. The first is the White...

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New Online Autism Training For Babysitters Available

All parents want their child’s babysitters to be well prepared – able to keep their child entertained, handle the after-school or bedtime routine and deal with whatever challenges or emergencies might come up. For parents of children on the autism spectrum, there’s a new online tool available to help prepare sitters for the unique challenge of caring for these special kids. Available from the Institute for Behavioral Training (IBT), the...

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School Involvement for Special Needs Parents

If you are the parent of a student with special needs, you likely spend a lot of time at your child’s school discussing IEPs, accommodations and other issues affecting his or her education. Some encounters go smoothly. Others don’t, and this might have you avoiding the school except at drop-off and pick-up time. But there’s a school of thought (no pun intended) that contends that getting involved in your child’s...

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Help Group Summit Focuses on Autism, Learning Disabilities and ADHD

A two-day conference featuring leading experts in research and best practices in the assessment and treatment of autism, learning disabilities and ADHD is set for Oct. 23 and 24 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The Help Group’s Summit 2015 is designed for educators, clinicians/therapists and parents. Speakers include experts from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, University of Washington, UC Davis, UC Riverside and USC. The conference...

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New Occupational And Speech Therapy Clinic For Children Opens In West Hollywood

The founders of OT Studios, which opened in July, believe that every child deserves to live life to the fullest, regardless of their challenges. Here is what you and your child can expect to find at the facility: Highly trained and qualified therapists Sensory integration, occupational therapy and speech therapy services An intimate and creative atmosphere! A fun studio space and perfect setting to work on motor and sensory development...

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Helping Special-Needs Teens Transition Socially

A group of teens is talking. Your child wants to join the conversation, but isn’t sure how to go about it. What would you advise? If you’d tell your child to just walk up and introduce himself, you aren’t doing him any favors. “It would look odd to just walk up to a random group and say hi,” says Elizabeth Laugeson, Psy.D., founder and director of the UCLA PEERS Clinic,...

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DEAFestival 2015 Comes to Grand Park

The 17th annual DEAFestival, a free daylong family event offering resources, entertainment and community building, will take place at Los Angeles City Hall and Grand Park (200 N. Spring St., L.A.) from noon-4 p.m. Oct. 3. The event will feature a deaf talent show, a T-shirt design contest, a fashion show, information booths, art workshops, child safety seat classes and free car seat giveaways. At the “Once Upon a Sign”...

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Don’t Neglect Essential Social-Skills Development

“Don’t miss the forest for the trees,” so the saying goes. When it comes to parenting, the “trees” are the many academic milestones and measuring sticks society tends to focus on, and the “forest” is the bigger picture of overall development and social skills in our children. Society tends to be achievement oriented and, once children reach ages 3 to 5, their ability to verbalize, add, subtract and write takes...

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Local Fundraiser to Benefit UCLA Intervention Program

The father of a former student at the UCLA Intervention Program, a school focused on helping children with disabilities, has launched a fundraiser to increase awareness and raise money to support the school. Michael T. Ward says he recognizes the immeasurable value of the program to the community, and more specifically to the children and families it serves. In an effort to ensure that the program is around for generations...

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How Nontraditional Schools Inspire Students

If you walk into any classroom, you’re likely to find quiet students who turn in their work on time, but don’t necessarily challenge themselves beyond their comfort zone. You’ll also find bright students who become easily bored and distracted by repetitive worksheets and tests. Then there are those whose sketches in the margins of their notebooks reveal amazing artistic talent, but who might be perceived as lazy or unmotivated students....

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Special Needs - ETTA Official Visit

Summer@ETTA Gets An ‘Official’ Visit

Last week a number of local elected officials visited Summer@ETTA, ETTA's specialized summer program for individuals with disabilities. ETTA provides a full spectrum of services for adults with special needs. ETTA serves people with developmental disabilities and their families, with services including residential housing, case management, employment training and placement, educational services and social services.

special needs canine companions Lionel

A Boy and His Dog Share Love and Therapy

Eight-year-old Daron, of Van Nuys, has a tight knit family. They have been through a lot together. Daron has cerebral palsy and needs a lot of support, but his parents, Hagop and Armine, and his older sister, Ani, are devoted to him. They will do just about anything to make Daron smile. That is why the family applied for an assistance dog for Daron from Canine Companions for Independence. The...

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New High School Offers STEM Curriculum for Students with Social and Learning Differences

STEM3 Academy is a new, innovative high school opening this fall, designed for students with social and learning differences and a passion for science and technology. The school, operated by The Help Group in the Valley Glen neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, offers a rigorous curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math to students in grades 9 through 12. “There is a growing realization that we are short of...

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ETTA Expands Day Program Offerings for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

ETTA’s Isak Boruchin Adult Day Program opened in September with three clients, and has exceeded expectations by growing to 14 clients in the first year. The program provides safe, meaningful and purposeful volunteering, job development, skill building, and recreation activities for adults with disabilities at sites within their local community. That growth will continue, as ETTA is expanding the program to include adults with more severe disabilities, and opening of...

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A Film That’s Twice Exceptional

Just off Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Studio City stands an unassuming building, home to Bridges Academy, a school for students in grades 5-12 who are “twice exceptional,” meaning they have developmental disabilities, but are also intellectually gifted. The school is the subject of 2e: Twice Exceptional, first released last fall and now out on DVD. The film will introduce you to some of the most fascinating students you’re likely to...

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Special Needs Conference Focuses On Balance For Families

For Navah Paskowitz, “Bringing Balance,” the theme of the conference she is organizing for parents and siblings of children with special needs, is personal. “It really came out of my own family,” Paskowitz says. “We have a heavy load, my husband and I.” Paskowitz, executive director of corporate development and program director of The Friendship Circle By the Sea, is married to Matt Asner, executive director of the Southern California...

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3 Keys for Success with Highly Sensitive Kids

Highly sensitive children feel things more deeply than other children do, and oftentimes respond more quickly. Their heightened perception includes being sensitive to sensory input such as loud noises, harsh images, strong smells or scratchy tags on clothing. Coupled with their incredible sensitivity is an intensity that can go quickly in the “right direction” as they immerse themselves in a creative project, or in the “wrong direction” as they cry...

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PCDA Hosts A Taste of Summer: Rosé Soiree July 22

Professional Child Development Associates (PCDA), a nonprofit organization that offers a range of multidisciplinary screening, evaluation, therapy and specialized services for children and young adults with special needs, is hosting A Taste of Summer: Rosé Soiree at 6:30 p.m. July 22. Guests are invited to enjoy wine and food selections, music and mingling at a beautiful historic garden in South Pasadena, with the proceeds to benefit children with autism and...

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Taking Care of Your Child’s Smile

If your child has special needs, you are likely immersed in an array of tasks and therapies – occupational, educational and physical. As you work to help your child make the most of her or his abilities, don’t forget your child’s smile! “You need to care for their mouths. It is a journey. It is a process,” says Jill Lasky, DDS, a pediatric dentist who practices in Tarzana and Studio...

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Bringing Reilly To Life

“The life of Reilly” is an old-fashioned way of describing a life that is easy and pleasant. That’s not what Sinead Clancy thought she had in store when her son Roan, now 10, was 18 months old and his pediatrician told her that he had autism. “I started Googling autism and trying to find out about it,” says Clancy, “and it was just this terrifying landscape of everything that was...

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When Parenting is Not What You Expected

Los Angeles-based psychologist and neuropsychologist Rita Eichenstein, Ph.D., has worked with what she calls “atypical” children for more than 25 years. Eichenstein coined the term “atypical” to help describe kids who have combinations of developmental, behavioral and learning differences that make it difficult to fit them into neat categories of clinical diagnosis. “But what I have come to realize is that focusing on the child’s needs is not sufficient,” she...

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Making the Skies – And Airport – Friendlier For People With Special Needs

Larry Rollon thinks a lot about helping people of various abilities through the airport. As coordinator for disability services at Los Angeles World Airports (which includes LAX and Ontario International Airport), he oversees programs to assist passengers in wheelchairs, the hearing and visually impaired, and others who need help navigating the airport and getting to their flight. But he hadn’t thought much about passengers with autism until about two years...

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Angel City Games Bring Adaptive Sport To L.A.

Ezra Frech, a Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year nominee in 2014, was born with no left knee or shin bone and only one finger on his left hand. And though he had his leg amputated below the knee at age 2 ½, nothing has slowed him down. When his leg was amputated, doctors were able to attach one of his toes to his left hand, giving him two opposing...

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Jennifer Jones: Raising Awareness for Kids With Special Needs

Jennifer Jones never thought of herself as a community activist, but when her 15-year-old son, Dylan, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder 11 years ago, Jones’ course in life took a profound turn. The mom of two was working as a graphic and product designer and first became involved with Autism Speaks as a parent wanting to connect more with the autism community. She is now director of field development...

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Support For Parents of Kids With Special Needs

If you are the parent or caregiver of a child with autism, you’re likely involved in a slew of activities, from advocating for financial and educational resources to dealing with your child’s communication and behavior issues, making choices about treatments and therapies, and attending intensive therapy sessions with your child. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy alone can take several hours a day. “It can be like a full-time job for the kids, except it doesn’t pay a salary,”...

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L.A. to Host 2015 Special Olympics World Games

Los Angeles will play host to as many as half a million people this summer as we welcome athletes and fans from all over the world for the 14th Special Olympic World Games, taking place July 25-Aug. 2. Seven-thousand athletes with intellectual disabilities, coached by 3,000 coaches, will compete in 25 sports at all different levels, says Steven Vanderpool, a spokesperson for the games. There will be 117 countries represented....

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Village Glen Robotics Team Takes Rookie All-Star Award, Heads to Nationals

The students at Village Glen School are extraordinary in a number of ways – and their Knightrise robotics team is no exception. Village Glen, part of The Help Group, is made up of students who have special needs and challenges in socialization, communication and peer relations, but also natural ability in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. The school’s STEM initiative includes classes in computer programming, digital arts,...

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Temple Grandin to Appear at Club Nokia

One of the rock stars of the special needs world will take the stage at Club Nokia May 20 – along with a host of musical, celebrity and other guests – to raise awareness about the lack of jobs for young adults on the spectrum, and to benefit a new pilot program designed to help. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is widely considered one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with...

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Play Program Bridges Gaps Between Typical and Special Needs Kids

One morning in late February, 16 students from Damin Hopkins’ eighth-grade class at Chandler school in Pasadena set out on a field trip to the Reese’s Retreat playground in Brookside Park. Most observers would think these kids – an exuberant but polite group in school T-shirts and jackets – were a little old for swings and pirate-themed play structures. But this class was on a special mission. They were there...

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Henry Winkler’s Dyslexia Mission

Henry Winkler knows what it’s like to feel different. He knows the good, and the not so good. The actor, director and producer, whose career has spanned more than 40 years and who is best known for his role as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli in the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” struggled in school because of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a developmental reading disorder that occurs when the brain does not properly...

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Breaking Bad’s RJ Mitte On Growing Up With CP

As a child, actor RJ Mitte had a clever trick for keeping his legs – which were in casts – cool during the hot summer months growing up in Austin, Texas and Lafayette, Louisiana. He froze pennies and quarters and then dropped them into his casts. “The problem was, I couldn’t get them out. So when I walked, you would hear the ching, ching,” says Mitte with a laugh. Diagnosed...

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Spiritual Connections For Special Needs Families

When my cousin Gloria asked whether my son, who has autism, was getting a religious education, I balked. “I just can’t think about that now – not with all of his therapies, his intense behavioral challenges, battling the school system, finding doctors, rallying Regional Center funding. It’s too much to add one more thing to my plate,” I told her. I didn’t realize that a spiritual community was exactly what...

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Our Special Needs Magazine Is Out!

The 2015 edition of Your Child With Special Needs -- a free magazine packed with resources, advice and informative articles to help kids and their families through every stage of life -- is now available. You can find it around town at schools and businesses that serve the special-needs community, and it isn’t easy to miss. It features actor RJ Mitte (from TV’s “Breaking Bad”) on the cover! The magazine...

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Getting Kids With Special Needs Ready for Adulthood

Avremel Mayer has Down syndrome – and an independent streak. When he was a teenager, a yellow school bus picked him up each morning for the trip to Fairfax High. He had convinced his parents to let him wait for the bus on his own. One day, he decided the school bus was coming too late. “He walked to the corner, picked up the [city] bus to Fairfax Avenue and...

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Families With Special Needs: Get the FriendMaker App For Free

If you wanted to start a conversation with someone you didn’t know, you might follow steps like these: Casually look over at the person. Use a prop. Look for a common interest. Make a reference to the common interest. Trade information about the common interest. Assess interest. Introduce yourself. Most people wouldn’t use a checklist for this, but for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum a simple social...

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7 Safety Strategies for Kids With Special Needs

As parents, it is our job to worry about our kids. And we worry about our children with special needs at every stage of their (and our) lives. As it turns out, worry is a waste of mental energy – energy we cannot afford to waste! The best thing to do with worry is convert it to action, doing something positive to mitigate the unsettling thoughts that keep us awake...

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Breaking the Sound Barrier for Children Born Deaf

Almost immediately after she was born, it became apparent that Angelica Lopez was deaf. Her parents, Julie and Santos, learned sign language and started making the heartbreaking, but necessary, adjustments to their daughter's special needs. Last summer, they learned of a device called an auditory brainstem implant (ABI), still in the testing phase, that might help recover Angelica’s hearing. Hearing aids and cochlear implants cannot help children like Angelica, because...

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Navigating Your Child’s IEP

An advocate and a lawyer, both moms, offer tips for getting through this gateway to special-education services. The process of agreeing on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) – a document detailing special-education services your public school district will provide for your child – can be an emotional and overwhelming time for families, especially when their idea of what’s best for their child is in conflict with their school district’s evaluations...

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“Your Child With Special Needs Monthly” Wins Best Newsletter

"Your Child with Special Needs Monthly" recently won national recognition as the best e-newsletter for families by the Parenting Media Association (PMA) during its Editorial and Design Awards Competition, which recognizes excellence in journalism, photography and design. Professor Daryl Moen of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism coordinated the annual contest. A panel of judges reviewed 630 entries from member publications across the country. “The purpose of the PMA...

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UCLA Researchers Hope to Make Earlier Autism Detection Possible

Early detection is the key to helping children on the autism spectrum realize their full potential. Experts tend to agree that autism can be reliably diagnosed at age 3, when symptoms are present. Infants’ behavior is much more limited, making earlier detection a challenge, but researchers at UCLA are hoping to learn enough to change that. By studying behavior along with brain differences that could signal communication delays, they hope...

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Conference Showcases Neurodevelopmental Treatment Models For Special Needs

Parents can learn new ways to support children with neurodevelopmental differences at “The Power and Promise of Neurodevelopmental Approaches” March 13-15. The conference is hosted by the Profectum Foundation, a group of parents and practitioners dedicated to training and research. “Our hope is to bring world-class researchers to the conference and show parents and professionals how to better understand their children with special emotional, developmental or physical needs,” says clinical...

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Zoo Outreach Program Makes Special-Needs Classrooms Go Wild

A classroom for students with mild, moderate and severe learning disabilities turned into a zoo for a day at Granada Hills Charter High School as the Los Angeles Zoo brought critters and crawlers with their Special Needs Education Outreach Program. Students with disabilities were able to interact with live animals while learning about their habitats from tactile biofacts. The trained zoo docents are certified in the handling of the animals...

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Theater Improv Games are Fun Ideas For Kids

Some kids are naturally gregarious and social, and have no trouble making friends or speaking up in class. Others are shy, struggle to make connections with others, and dread being called on by the teacher – even when they know the answer. Theater improv games can help shy kids and those who need help with social skills, and are fun for all. Parents looking for fun ideas for kids will...

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Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Studying Tummy Troubles and Autism

Research has shown that children on the autism spectrum experience more, and more severe, stomach problems such as constipation and bloating than other children their age do. If your child is one of them, you might be interested in a study being conducted by the special needs researchers at the Boone Fetter Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Because the discomfort from these gastrointestinal issues can make school and social...

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Choosing Musical Instruments For Children With Special Needs

Children experiencing special needs such as physical, emotional or intellectual challenges respond to music and can play music, but one important question remains. What instruments are best for these children and why? A few years ago, I read an article in Music Educators Journal discussing this very topic and giving suggestions. Here is a brief synopsis of that article and which instruments they suggest for children with specific physical and...

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Brain Training Technique Holds Promise For Kids With Special Needs

Using three short learning sessions with hour-long breaks in between could help children with fragile X syndrome remember material as well as typically developing children, according to neurobiologists from UC Irvine. A genetic condition, fragile X causes intellectual and developmental disabilities, and is associated with autism. People with fragile X typically struggle learning new skills and information. Working with mice bred to display characteristics of fragile X, Christine Gall, Ph.D.;...

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Visually Impaired Preschoolers Learn From All Senses at TLC Preschool

It has taken 10 years of planning and fundraising, but the Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind (TLC) Inclusive Children’s Center and Preschool is now open with a brand-new building offering innovative programs to children ages 3-6 with visual impairment and special needs – as well as their typically developing peers. The preschool, opened in October, is designed for experiential learning and sensory integration. It incorporates the “High Scope Preschool...

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Yoga With Special Benefits for Kids With Special Needs

Naam yoga is unlike any kind of yoga I’ve practiced before, and I have been practicing for more than a decade. The Naam style combines movement (mudra), sound (mantra) and breath (pranayama) to promote vibrant health within the body and mind, and I got to see its effects recently on a class of people on the autism spectrum. At the Naam Yoga studio in Santa Monica, I felt the floor...

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Walking in Their Shoes – A Special Needs Sensory Simulation Event

I recently attended a parent workshop at the Frostig School in Pasadena, designed to give parents hands-on insight into what it’s like for students with special needs who struggle to read and write. Educational therapist Barbara Langeloh, M.A.,facilitated Experience Dyslexia – A Learning Disabilities Simulation. The goal was for participants to feel the frustrations our children experience daily, helping us deal more compassionately with them. The six simulation activities, created...

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Brain Balance of Brentwood Now Open

Nothing is more painful than to watch your child struggle. Difficulties in school, trouble making friends, tantrums and meltdowns are tough to observe, especially when you know that, underneath it all, you have a great kid. At the new Brain Balance Achievement Center of Brentwood, professionals work to address these challenges facing kids with special needs with a program that combines physical and sensory-motor exercises with cognitive skill training and healthy...

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L.A. Parent’s Special-Needs Fair Connects Families With Resources

  L.A. Parent hosted its first Special Needs Resource Fair at the Zimmer Children’s Museum (6505 Wilshire Blvd., #100, L.A.; www.zimmermuseum.org) Dec. 7, attracting more than 200 L.A. families including children with special needs. Children enjoyed on-site activities, games and giveaways and played their way through the interactive museum. More than 20 exhibitors that provide services for families with special needs participated, connecting with guests, sharing information and answering questions....

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Enjoying a Special Day In the Kitchen

The holiday season sends most families into the kitchen, and we’ve got a fantastic way to make sure kids with special needs are included. “Special Day Cooking: A Life Skills Cookbook” by Beverly Worth Palomba includes more than 60 recipes designed especially for these special kids. The book covers breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus vegetables, soups and salads, drinks and snacks and dessert. The recipes are in large type, with...

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Young Artists Pitch In On Vintage Mural

Once upon a time, driving down Whitsett Avenue in North Hollywood meant a trip through orchards filled with orange trees, with the occasional billboard adding color and excitement. The orange groves are long gone, and for years the stretch of Whitsett between Sherman Way and Saticoy became an area of blight. A lengthy community clean-up and planting effort that began in 2013 transformed the area into a clean and green...

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Building a Communication Foundation

Building your child’s communication skills is the single most effective way to improve behavior, play and socialization. Children who can communicate their needs, wants, likes and dislikes are much less likely to cry, scream or protest. While most parents recognize the value of good communication skills, many are unaware that there are lots of ways to shape these skills long before children begin to use verbal speech. Communication is so...

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Put On Your Tutu and Walk With Ballet For All Kids

Elise Luna, 6, loves to dance. With her ballet DVD in hand, she twirls around her living room every chance she gets. One of the biggest treats of the week is her ballet class. While verbal communication is a challenge for Elise, who has autism, dance frees her to fully express herself. Elise takes classes at Ballet for All Kids in Encino. The studio, founded by Bonnie Schlachte, offers classical...

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Thanking Your Family’s Special-Needs Angels

Taking time to recognize and express our gratitude to others for the impact they have had in our lives is good for everyone, especially for families of individuals with special needs. Whether you employ direct service providers, or are a client of one, there are several ways to show your gratitude for their work. These special professionals sit knee-to-knee with children and teach them in circumstances that are sometimes challenging....

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Face Value Comics Introduces a New Kind of Hero

The first comic book specifically written and drawn to appeal to readers with autism, Face Value Comics creates a colorful world of aliens, robots and adventure, all set against the backdrop of a future Earth at war. But beyond its intended audience, Face Value makes history in another way. Its hero, Michael, is a young boy who himself has autism. As the story makes clear, Michael wants the same things...

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Stepping Up To the Plate For People With Autism

Danny Gott is 21 and has loved farm animals since he was a little boy. Danny also has autism. In honor of their special son, Danny’s parents, Cathy Gott and Jim Gott – former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and current pitching coach for the Anaheim Angels – founded Danny’s Farm in 2007. The nonprofit petting zoo has two missions: to serve children with special needs, and to employ...

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Local Scout Stands Tall Despite Challenges

Spencer Gates, a high school senior, has a condition that makes it difficult for him to walk more than a few steps, but he didn’t let that stop him from running with his passion for helping the community through Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts of America, Los Angeles Area Council (LAAC) serves more than 13,000 boys in 570 scout units in Los Angeles and 56 surrounding communities, from South Pasadena...

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Pujols Steps to the Plate for Special Needs

Albert Pujols has left an indelible mark on the game of baseball. Over the past 13 years, first with the St. Louis Cardinals and now with the Los Angeles Angels, Pujols has been one of the top hitters in the game and among its best all-around players. His two World Series rings – earned with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011 – and three National League Most Valuable Player Awards...

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There’s More to These Playgrounds Than Meets The Eye

When you look at a playground, you might see swings or a jungle gym, but children with disabilities see a fun place that’s inaccessible, excluding them from opportunities to play. Unless, of course, they are visiting one of Shane’s Inspiration’s universally accessible playgrounds, created to bring together children – with disabilities and without – through play. You can find them as far away as Russia, Israel and Ecuador and as...

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When It Is Not Autism: Examining Alternative Diagnoses

As awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder has increased, there has also been a rise in the number of cases of the disorder. In 2000, it was estimated that approximately one in 150 children met criteria for autism, but that number has increased to one in 68. Some experts now question whether this means more children actually have autism, or whether the increase might be due to expansion of the definition...

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How To Access Regional Center Services For Your Child

If you have a child with special needs, you likely have been directed (or soon will be) to your local Regional Center. Don’t ignore this recommendation. The Regional Center System exists to help California families impacted by developmental disabilities find support and resources, and access lifetime services if needed. California is one of the only states to offer this type of assistance, beginning in the 1960s at the urging of...

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Back-To-School Tips For Kids With Autism

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families, returning to school after a string of relaxed summer days can be stressful, intensifying repetitious verbal and motor behavior on the part of the child. This stress can be reduced or even prevented – for child and parents alike – with the following 10 transitional tips. Prepare the Teacher 1. Awe the teacher with innovative communication. Teachers are busy, especially during...

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Conquering Behavior Challenges With Collaborative Problem Solving

Some children just seem to have more behavioral challenges than average, in spite of excellent parenting. They might be chronically agitated, have low tolerance for frustration and minor schedule changes or frequently argue with or actively defy the adult authority figures in their lives. These children are often in trouble at school and other extracurricular activities, resulting in frequent phone calls to their exasperated parents. To add insult to injury,...

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Ballet for All Brings Dance to Typical Kids and Those With Special Needs

Elise Luna, 6, loves to dance. With her ballet DVD in hand, she twirls around her living room every chance she gets. One of the biggest treats of the week is her ballet class. While verbal communication is a challenge for Elise, who has autism, dance frees her to fully express herself. Elise has been taking classes at Ballet for all Kids in Encino for the past year. The studio,...

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‘Break It Down’ Total Sports Offers Special-Needs Fall Soccer Program

“Break It Down” Total Sports, which launched in June in Hermosa Beach, is gearing up for its second session of sports for young athletes with special needs. The program has a mission to teach children with special needs sports skills in a positive environment and to develop their motivation to participate using Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) teaching strategies. The fall session, which begins Sept. 6, will focus on soccer. Co-founders...

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Outings On the Spectrum

Taking your children out on an excursion where everyone has fun can feel like a major accomplishment for any parent. If you have a child with autism spectrum disorder, a successful outing might be even more of a challenge, but just as much of a necessity. Regardless of a child’s level of ability, participating in community outings is a skill that will ultimately enhance her or his quality of life....

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Back-to-School Help For Kids Who Stutter

Actress Nicole Kidman, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal and Vice President Joe Biden all overcame stuttering and had successful – and high profile – careers. As the new school year commences, are you wondering how your child will manage? “One in every 100 people stutters,” says Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation. “But as many as two or three younger children in each classroom may struggle with this complex disorder.”...

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Straight Teeth For Kids With Special Needs

For many kids, braces are a rite of passage – not an enjoyable one, but worth enduring for straight teeth and a lovely smile. For children with special needs, however, braces can be more than a nuisance. Children on the autism spectrum, and those with cerebral palsy and other challenges, are extra sensitive to having wires and brackets in the mouth and often damage the appliances. Traditional braces also make...

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Being On Stage Is a ‘Miracle’ For Teens On the Spectrum

I don’t know much about autism, but I’m hearing phrases such as “on the spectrum” and “high functioning” more and more often. When I gave birth to my first son in 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting that one in every 150 children had autism. Today that number is one in 68. Parents of children on the autism spectrum might worry about their child’s differences,...

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Kole Kodimer: A Westhills Champion

A baseball league for kids with special needs that started as an 11-year-old boy’s Bar Mitzvah project has, in just two short years, developed into a family and community passion. Guaranteed to make you smile, the Westhills Champions baseball league has become a point of community pride. The athletes, whose physical and mental limitations vary, play baseball and form life-changing bonds with local teen volunteers. The league was launched by...

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Santa Clarita To Serve as Special Olympics World Games 2015 Host Town

The City of Santa Clarita has been officially selected as a Host Town for the Special Olympics 2015 World Summer Games. Before the games begin on July 25, 2015, more than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries will be welcomed to Southern California through the “Host Town” program, which includes 100 communities from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Host towns provide the athletes with hospitality, and treat them to a...

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Evaluating Research 101 – Your Handy Guide To Evidence-Based Interventions

By Lisa Stoddard, M.A., BCBA From the time our children are born, we parents are faced with a seemingly endless stream of decisions. Disposable or cloth? Cow’s milk or soy? Montessori or Waldorf? But for parents of children with special needs, decisions about treatments and therapies can be daunting. When facing a sea of conflicting theories, treatment models and news reports touting the latest study, how does a parent determine...

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Free Beach Wheelchairs Keep Summer Fun Rolling

By Christina Elston Last spring, Jim Schwab and his family traveled to Southern California from their home in Atlanta, and some friends recommended a visit to Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. Schwab and his wife, Helen, have 15-year-old twins, Matt and Alison, and Alison has cerebral palsy. They were delighted to find that her need for a wheelchair wouldn’t keep her off the beach. “During our visit, Alison...

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Taking the Blues Out of Jeans

By Christina Elston Stephanie Alves started sewing at age 10, and grew up with a brother with developmental disabilities. The clothing available made it truly challenging for him to dress himself. This was in the 1970s, when there wasn’t even Velcro on tennis shoes. “When I was a teenager, my mom said, ‘Why don’t you make clothes for people like your brother?’” Alves says. During more than 25 years as...

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June Special-Needs News

The Help Group Opens New Culver City Campus On May 21, The Help Group, a nonprofit serving children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems at specialized day schools, celebrated the ribbon cutting for its new educational facility in Culver City. The building features state-of-the-art classrooms; science, media/computer and “innovation” labs; an arts studio and an 8,000-square-foot rooftop recreation area....

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Creating Custom Reward Systems For Children With Autism

Be creative and consider the child and the setting when working to shape behavior. By Christina Elston Not long ago, Michael Cameron was at the beach and saw a father and son playing in the surf and collecting shells. The boy was well behaved, but it didn’t take long for Cameron to identify him as a child with special needs. The father, wanting to reward his son for good behavior,...

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MILO

More Fun Together

Toys can build connections between kids with special needs and their peers. By Ellen Metrick “Inclusion” is a popular word used around children with special needs. It reflects the emotional need of every human being to be included and the innate desire to share experiences, and there is perhaps no better place to put the concept of inclusion to work than through toys and play. Hot categories of toys this...

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Holly Robinson Peete

Improvising Through Parenthood

Couples who have children with special needs have to be flexible in their dreams, and care for their relationships, too. By Elena Epstein As Rodney Peete and Holly Robinson Peete chat about their day-to-day family life – homework, after-school activities, teen drama – their manner is warm and casual. They share an easygoing rapport and sense of humor. As talk turns to their son, RJ, I get the sense that...

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Fostering Friendships

Local programs bring together children with – and without – special needs By Ronna Mandel “You’ve got a friend in me,” goes the theme to Disney’s Toy Story films, all of which feature the special bond between a boy named Andy and his toys. Childhood friends, real and animated, are an important part of growing up. For children with special needs, however, making friends can be a challenge. There’s no...

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Club 21

A Club That Welcomes An Extra Chromosome

Pasadena’s Club 21 opens its arms, and reaches out a lifeline, for families of children with Down syndrome Christina Elston Sixteen years ago, Nancy Litteken’s obstetrician told her this: “Don’t worry. We can take care of it.” He meant that they could abort the baby she was carrying because the results of her amniocentesis test showed that the baby would be born with Down syndrome. “At that time, people who...

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Tips for Long Journeys With Loved Ones With Autism

Tips for Long Journeys With Loved Ones With Autism

The author of “Cowboy and Willis” and mother of a son with autism offers helpful advice for special-needs travel. by Monica Holloway For many families with loved ones on the autism spectrum the idea of a long journey can be daunting. Here are some suggestions from the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (www.sath.org), a nonprofit educational organization, for making travel with those with special needs as streamlined as possible....

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Strategies For Struggling Readers

Strategies For Struggling Readers

Whether they have a learning disability or other special needs, your child can build a relationship with books. by Christina Elston Paul Curtis’s favorite childhood book was The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. He read it in fifth grade, and there is a particular reason that it stayed with him. “It was the first book that I think I really pictured in my mind, and I can still see those images...

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Steve Everett-Power(ful) Soccer Role Model 1

Steve Everett: Power(ful) Soccer Role Model

Steve Everett plays and promotes power soccer, where adults and kids play together from their power wheelchairs, and learn powerful lessons. by Christina Elston When Steve Everett talks about the sport of power soccer, played in power wheelchairs, he makes it sound fun. “We have these guards on the front of our chairs. They almost look like snow plows,” he says, “and when we spin in a circle, that’s how...

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Social Foundations Helps Special-Needs Kids Build Skills

Social Foundations Helps Special-Needs Kids Build Skills

Built on Michelle Winner’s ‘Social Thinking’ concept, the mom-run Santa Monica business touts social awareness. by Elena Epstein Moms Suzanne Tabachnick and Kelly Priest met seven years ago in an early-intervention program for children on the autism spectrum. They had an instant connection. Priest has a Master’s degree in clinical psychology and several years of experience working with families. She attended conferences on “Social Thinking,” a concept pioneered by speech...

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Snip-Its Hair Salons Specialize In Special-Needs Kids

With extra training for stylists and helpful guides for parents, the chain makes haircuts easier for children on the autism spectrum. by Christina Elston For parents of a child on the autism spectrum, little things that other families take for granted – things like a simple haircut – can be a real challenge. Children with autism can find the sights and sounds of a hair salon, the feel of someone...

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Seven Keys to Keep You Smiling Through Dental Visits

Seven Keys to Keep You Smiling Through Dental Visits

These tips will help children with special needs – and their parents – feel more comfortable in the dentist’s chair. by Elaine Hall I’m scared of dentists. Well, not the dentist himself (my brother is a dentist in San Diego), but I am scared of sitting in that chair, opening my mouth and not knowing what pain I am about to endure. Just thinking about the sound of the drill,...

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Museum Tips For Special-Needs Families1

Museum Tips For Special-Needs Families

Museums of all kinds can be great experiences for kids with special needs. A little planning and a few extra steps can make your visit great. by Julee Brooks For families of children with special needs, the thought of visiting a busy public space such as a museum might seem daunting. There are things, however, that families can do before, during and even after a visit to make it more...

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Making Sense of Fine Motor Skills1

Making Sense of Fine Motor Skills

More than 20 tips and activities from an occupational therapist that will improve your child’s handwriting. by Annie Baltazar Mori, ODT Handwriting or any fine motor activity seems like it is a simple and straightforward learning process. But when we pull back the curtain, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, working in seamless harmony to create a perfectly formed and spaced sentence or well-constructed craft project. Occupational...

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Keeping Bullies At Bay

Keeping Bullies At Bay

Children with special needs are bullied more often, but Dawn Barnes of Dawn Barnes Karate Kids has some wonderful prevention tips. by Dawn Barnes Sending children back to school is exciting. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of worry. Bullying is in the news more than ever and mothers are rightfully concerned about the safety of their children. Mothers of children with special needs may hold even deeper concerns...

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Helping Your Special-Needs Child Build Meaningful Friendships

Helping Your Special-Needs Child Build Meaningful Friendships

These seven keys will help you pinpoint the ways in which your child is social, and use them to create rewarding relationships. by Elaine Hall “Hey guys! I had fun! See you next week,” calls 12-year-old Jackson as he climbs into his mom’s SUV. “Mom, I had a great time and I think I made some friends,” he beams. This was Jackson’s first day in our theater class and, as...

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Four Support Strategies For Special-Needs Families

Four Support Strategies For Special-Needs Families

Children with special needs aren’t the only ones who need support. Using these tips to help keep the whole family healthy benefits the special-needs child as well. by Brian Roper, Ph.D. For human beings, childhood lasts a very long time. Born with just the basics needed for survival, each of us has much to learn toward becoming a contributing member of society. The family plays an incredibly important role in...

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Financial Planning Today Means Care For Tomorrow

Special Needs: Financial Planning Today Means Care For Tomorrow

Coping with a special-needs child’s diagnosis can take its toll, but don’t delay planning for the future. by Melanie Gaball Financial planning is important for parents, but for those who have a child with special needs the complexities of funding a lifetime of care can be overwhelming and emotional. While many parents are still dealing with the acceptance of their child’s diagnosis, developing a financial road map for their family’s...

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Book Takes a Look At What Makes Us Different

Book Takes a Look At What Makes Us Different

‘Jacob’s Eye Patch’ is a sweet story that offers lessons for approaching special needs. by Christina Elston If you’re the parent of young children, you’ve no doubt had to remind them not to stare, point or talk too loudly about some difference they have noticed in someone else – the man who is so tall he has to duck to get through doorways, the child in the wheelchair, the lady...

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A Super Kid, A Heroic Mom, A Story Worth Reading

"Life With a Superhero: Raising Michael Who Has Down Syndrome" tells a family's story with bravery and heart. by Julie Kertes Michael Hulings’ story is a remarkable one, right from the beginning. In a small Israeli town more than 20 years ago, a mother gave up her newborn baby when she discovered he had Down syndrome. She told family and friends that the baby had died, but her misfortune became...

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7 Ways to Help Your Special-Needs Child Self-Advocate

7 Ways to Help Your Special-Needs Child Self-Advocate

Kids with autism can often speak, act and negotiate for themselves. Here’s how to help them become more independent. by Monica Holloway and Areva Martin It is natural for parents of children with autism to assume the role as advocate for their children, but it is important to help these kids learn tools for self-advocacy as they grow into teens and adults. Our sons, Wills and Marty, are teenagers, and...

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7 Keys To Gift Giving For Special-Needs Families

7 Keys To Gift Giving For Special-Needs Families

Wondering what to get a special someone? Shopping is easier than you think with these tips. by Elaine Hall “What should I get for my nephew who has autism?” asks my girlfriend Katie. “What does he like to do?” I query. “My sister says that right now he just likes to play with Tupperware.” “Great! Get him that.” I remember one year, one of my son’s caretakers wrapped up two...

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7 Keys to Easing Transition Anxiety

These tips will help children with special needs manage all sorts of transitions and new situations by Elaine Hall Transitions can cause tremendous anxiety for a child with special needs. Often, it is not the new place itself that may illicit fear in children living with AD/HD, OCD, sensory processing disorder, or autism. Instead, it is the potential for sensory or social-emotional elements that could cause them to feel out...

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A Golden Ticket For Special-Needs Families

Here are some things we don’t always think of as going together: Wheelchairs and dancing. Autism and play groups. Families and prom. Linda Hall doesn’t intend to let this stand in her way. She is organizing a family prom with wheelchair dancing to raise funds for a community center where children with special needs – and those without – can connect and play. Special Family Prom, to be held from...

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