Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm hanging out over at

0 What are your thoughts?
Hello friends,

It has been a long time since I updated this blog. I mean to come back here, but keeping two blogs has been harder than I thought it would be. I have more writing commitments and deadlines, so I find myself with little time to update here.

But, I haven't been absent, I am still hanging out on Facebook and twitter!

As for blogging, I am writing over at I have to make a better plan to keep up on this blog, but on the meantime, I hope we can stay in touch.

To make things even easier, I wanted to extend the invitation so you get all my posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Let's stay connected!

Monday, June 17, 2013

When Kids With Special Needs Wander (Elope) {a guest post by Staci Conrad}

7 What are your thoughts?
Last week I wrote about conducting a stakeout outside my daughter's school because I was terrified of her bolting during recces. If you didn't get to read that post, please do so, I did my best attempt at being funny in light of a real concern we have for our little eloper.

My friend Staci responded by sending me some links for me to look at in case some of those worked for us. I was so impressed with all the information she had, I asked her to write a blog post, and she did!

So let;s welcome Staci and the advice and resources she has for any parent that has a kid with special needs that wanders (or a typical kid that struggles with this too!)


Wandering…eloping…these words strike fear in the core of many special needs parents.  I have tried to find some stats to share with you, but it seems that no one collects this data!? Most sites just say that “TOO MANY” children with disabilities wander off each year and many of them aren’t found in time.

Why do kids wander?  Some get distracted and some just NEED to explore.  Many are impulsive and have no understanding of consequences.  That is the case for my precious wanderer.  

The International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) has added a code for wandering that was effective October 1, 2011.  It is designed to promote better data collection and understanding of wandering, and to prompt important discussions about safety among healthcare providers, caregivers, and the person with a disability to the fullest extent possible.  If your child is a wanderer, please talk to your provider and have this code added to your child’s official diagnoses. 

There are several safety devices available to help keep track of your loved one.  Even though you watch them like a hawk, they are so sneaky!  Everyone has to blink sometimes and that’s all it takes, especially at crowded events. 

Mine likes to take off at night time.  I have an alarm on her bedroom door and window.  I also have STOP signs on each door that leads outside.  I am going to add another lock to the back door, as she recently got out at 4AM.  There are lots of printable resources at:

For those interested in what technology has to offer, I have compiled the following list of resources that vary considerably in price.  Many of these are still not financially feasible for most special needs families. Although it might be possible to get state waivers or family support funding to help alleviate the cost.  (I could not reach our case worker to confirm or deny.)  These are only a sample of what is out there!  Be sure to look around to see what might fit your family the best.  

Adiant Solutions
Adiant Solutions is revolutionizing the GPS industry by providing solutions that transform lives. You are in control… you decide how to better manage "what matters most". Whether you are looking for tracking devices that locate a wanderer with dementia, a child with autism who is eloping, a low-level criminal, your fleet or cargo, or even a teen driver, we have the answer with our easy-to-use, customizable technology. Adiant's products ensure that people and property are where they belong…..and when. The devices are easy to use and can be managed from any computer or smart phone with Adiant's easy-to-use LocationNow Software.

Care Trak
The Original Law Enforcement Rescue Program that electronically tracks people with Alzheimer's who wander and special needs kids. Sheriffs, Police, Fire Departments, SAR Teams, etc. use Care Trak to quickly locate at risk individuals.

The Emergency Locator Device "EmSeeQ" helps rapidly locate and recover your loved ones via the 9-1-1 cellular network.

EZ100 Personal Emergency Notifier and GPS Tracker
The EZ-100 from EYEZ gives families of wandering special needs children added peace of mind and the confidence to engage in activities and adventures with the whole family.

LifePROTEKT is dedicated to providing care givers, individuals and organizations with the most superior, innovative personal location based GPS technologies available while providing a network of support for those who care for special needs individuals. We want to give back to those communities who rely on our technology to assist them in safeguarding their loved ones.

LoJack SafetyNet
Personal locator bracelets for individuals with autism with a tendency to wander. After contacting authorities when your loved one goes missing, law enforcement and public safety officials use LoJack Search and Rescue Receivers to track the radio signal being emitted from the Personal Locator Bracelet on your loved one's wrist or ankle.

Loved One Locator from Mobile Health Technologies LLC
Mobile Health Technologies provides the ultimate solution for Mobile Personal Safety - Anytime, Anywhere. ASD children at risk for bolting should not be without our products! Our service combines on-demand GPS location, automatic alerts when a user leaves a pre-defined "safe zone", and Automatic Fall Detection. Our devices also feature 2-way voice, and 24/7 monitoring by EMTs.

Please Find My Kid 
What do you do when a loved one suddenly disappears? If your loved one were using SecuraPal or LifeTrac, you could simply go to a secure web interface and find them on a map. With SecuraPal and LifeTrac you get peace of mind and your loved one gets to keep the independence they deserve and desire.

Project Lifesaver International
Project Lifesaver International helps provide rapid response to save lives and reduce potential for serious injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, Down syndrome, dementia and other related cognitive conditions. Project Lifesaver provides equipment, training, certification and support to law enforcement, public safety organizations and community groups throughout the country and nation.

I have just one final tip for special needs families with wanderers today.  Please let your neighbors know that you have a wanderer.  Just a couple of other families on your block that know to watch out for your child can be a huge help!  

Staci is a follower of Christ, single-momma to 2 amazing adopted girls with special needs, and foster mom to many. Staci blogs at Our Different Reality you can also follow her on twitter @stacianne

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Transitioning to Kindergarten

1 What are your thoughts?
It feels as if the baby years are officially behind for my rascal. My "baby" will be transitioning into Kindergarten, and already we are celebrating some of the transitions, while trying to hold on a little bit longer in other ways. Yet, can we really hold on?

Preschool years are now behind us. This last year, Nichole had the most incredible teachers. She was in an inclusive classroom, with a regular teacher and a special education teacher. Her special ed teacher was...fantastic! She believed in Nichole, she saw her potential, and she loved her. She went above and beyond and was able to look at things from my perspective - the parent's perspective.

I received a note from her teacher and her aide, both of them expressing what a treat it was to have Nichole. They believed in her potential and really loved her. We were blessed to have them be a part of Nichole's life.

Nichole  is now attending summer school getting ready for Kindergarten. She loves it, and she really likes her teacher, so I feel like we will have a successful year. it also helps that her teacher is my friend and she knows my concerns with Nichole so well.

Another new development is that Nichole was recently diagnosed with speech Apraxia. While I wish I had pushed for this sooner, now we have pretty "tried and true" resources to work on her speech. It might sound crazy, but already I feel she is doing better.

And a celebration, we are done with pull-ups! One day we ran out of pull-ups and I got her in underwear. She was fine all day. She is a rascal, she had us, she conned us for who knows how long. So we are done! It is so nice not to worry about this anymore, and perfect to have her potty trained before starting Kindergarten. She finished preschool with big girl undies, and so far, no accidents at school!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Going On a Field Trip!

1 What are your thoughts?
Last week, I got to join Ellie and Nina on their school field trip. It was a hot day at a farm, but it was so much fun!

I took lots of pictures, and so you get a photo-dump post today!

Of course I asked the girls to pose, and Nina is a more willing participant, since she is not running around all over the place (which is actually something I appreciate about CP, Nina actually gets to hang around and I spend more time with her)

The plan was to use Nina's walker, but we soon realized that the terrain was not ideal for the walker. Not to mention the farm was pretty large and I wasn't sure how much she would last there. One of the owners approached us and asked if we would like to use one of their wagons. I was so thankful! So we got Nina in her fancy ride, then I folded up her walker and put it in there, along with my heavy backpack. I also had the other friends help me push it, Nina loved it! Sometimes, she would lay down and close her eyes with a smile of contentment in her face. Love this girl!

 Our first activity involved these bouncy horses. There were three different sizes and the kids loved them!

 They also had stilts. I tried them too!

 One of the favorite activities was feeding the goats. It took the kids a little getting used to having the goats lick their hands, but once they got used to it, they loved it!
And yes, Nina was balancing like a super star, even while feeding the goat!

Another favorite activity was petting the bunnies. Now, I will say that some kids were mean to the bunnies, picking them up and dropping them, or jumping on them (one little bunny had his back broken). These poor animals were terrified of the children and trying to get away from little hands, so I had to intervene and help Nina hold a bunny. You cannot see this here, but I had three other bunnies hiding between my legs trying to stay away from the children.

 And of course there was petting the kitty. Nina loved it, Ellie was scared of the kitty, afraid she would get scratched!

 There were a couple of rope swings, Ellie did amazing! We tried to get Nina to do it but that proved to be challenging.

Next to the ropes, there were these long tunnels, I love the pics, and there is a story to this photo, but I will share more about it at the end of the post, because it was a God moment, and we are framing the picture with a special saying for Nina.

 The girls with their teachers. We have AMAZING teachers. I love them to pieces. Both of them! Ellie's teacher challenges her and affirms her, as a mom I appreciate that so much! Kids need to hear praise form other adults in their life, not just their parents! Nina's teacher has been such an encouragement to ME. There have been times when I have had doubts about what Nina can or cannot do, she looks at me straight in the eye and says, "She can do this." and I just need to hear that from someone else! So often I am the one having to advocate for my daughter. She is one remarkable lady, how blessed we are that she is Nina's teacher!

 Nina got the "hamster wheel" turning!

 They had these sections of large pipes (same as the long tunnel material). Except these were set on some sort of rails. The kids then got in them and rolled them from one end of the rails to the next. I tried it, and fell a couple of times. it was fun!

 Fun tractor!

Wooden horses, and swing horses. No real ones but hey, the farm had horses kids could ride!

And proof that I was there with my girls!

This was not an ordinary field trip, God met me there in a meaningful way. The picture below was a gift from God.

I actually wrote about it for Not Alone. If you want to read that post, click here. I highly recommend you do! And it is a pretty short read ;)

Here is the significance of this photo:

God had been showing me His love for Nina throughout the day. His love, His delight, His pleasure. Then we got in the tunnels, and it was so bright I could hardly see. Then I snapped this picture and God reminded me once more that Nina is His beloved, and His light shines bright on her, illuminating her, reminding me, and showing her, how much He loves her. it was a Holy moment, right there at the farm.

 And this might just be one of my favorite pictures of all times, because somehow God allowed me to capture a Holy moment.

So to get the full story, do check the post for Not Alone in the link above.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Our First Dance Recital

3 What are your thoughts?
I have so many pictures to share and all sorts of catching up to do. I will begin with most recent events and work my way back, so bear with me.

To start, Ellie had her first ballet recital last Friday. She did amazing! I know I am her mom, and I am most likely biased, but I think she stood out in her dance. She was poised, graceful, and she flowed with the music. This girl has the gift of dance!

I was a dancer since I was little. I danced ballet through the Royal Academy of dance, and danced tap, jazz (modern theater), and national dances through the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance. My Junior year in high school after one of my examinations, the examiner offered me a possible slot in one of their companies, she said if I kept it up, she would help me get to England and continue my dancing with them. Then we moved to the US and there was no ISTD studio in our area.

To say the least, dancing has been a part of my life for a long time. I teach Zumba (which is close enough for now) but I hope to be involved in dance again.

I did not realize how invested I was in dance until Ellie and Nichole began dancing this year. As we got ready for recital, I understood the "parents living through their kids." I could get really caught up in this, so I have to watch out my attitude (because I had a bad attitude most of the year, expecting the same quality and standard I grew up with) and I don't want to take the enjoyment of dance away from Ellie.

Ellie was a shining star (I am her mother, what can I say!).

My little ballerina!

The studio sent very detailed instructions on how to do makeup. Including what eye shadow color to use, and making a V on the eye corners. Ellie hated the makeup. We did makeup for rehearsal and there were minor tears involved not wanting to do eye liner. This was enough for her to say she did not want to be in dance if she had to do makeup like this. Imagine my surprise when we got to rehersal to find out nobody was making sure that makeup was done properly, and there were several girls that did not follow the "guidelines." I promised her we would go lighter on recital day.

The day of the performance with my little ballerina!

We got Ellie flowers and she posed for us after her fabulous performance!

Proud mama and daddy!

I already promised Ellie we won't bother with eye liner next year, I think she might stick with dance then!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cerebral Palsy, Rhizotomy, and Gait Lab Study

3 What are your thoughts?

A Gait Lab Study is done to determine the way someone walks (their gait). People with cerebral palsy have difficulty walking, and looking closely at how they walk provides information about how their body works, and what muscle groups are affected, shortened, etc.

My daughter, Nina, has spastic diplegia. Before her rhizotomy (SDR: selective dorzal rhizotomy) her cerebral palsy was quite involved. They chart kids in a 1-4 scale. One being mild, and four being most involved. My daughter was at a four before this surgery.

Before her rhizotomy, Nina had a gait lab analysis. This last Monday, she had another gait lab done to determine her progress two years following her surgery, and determine the next steps.

The progress she has made in two years is pretty amazing! Here is a before and after video.

Monday, April 29, 2013

These Girls Got Wheels!

6 What are your thoughts?
One of the great and exciting rites of childhood is learning how to ride a bike.

I lived in a fenced-in neighborhood in Mexico City. Although we did not have freedom to wander anywhere we wanted, the neighborhood kids and I owned the safe streets of our small community. We had hills, empty lots where we built forts, and trees to climb. Oh the many days spent on my bike riding with my friends, the wind on my face, sun on my back, and the promise of fresh lemonade waiting for us when we needed a break.

The thing is, riding a bike is not the same for kids with special needs.

Last summer, Nina got to borrow an adaptive bike from the school so that we could work with her at home. Nina had an IEP last Tuesday, and Andy asked if we could borrow it again this summer. For many kids with cerebral palsy, things like riding a bike can be challenging because of coordination and strength.

But then Friday came along, and Nina decided, forget the adaptive bike, I want to feel that wind on my face the same way all typical kids do, I am not missing out on that!

So she got on the little bike with training wheels...and she took off!

This girl is ready to prove that she is full of potential. Amazing how chasing her as she rides her bike reminds me of where she would be at if we had not adopted her. Yet here she is, feeling the wind on her face, flying down the street on her bike!

And you know what? I think someday those training wheels will come off.

Now here is the deal, Ellie (my oldest) witnessed Nina riding her bike and thought, I am older than my sister, maybe it is about time I lose the training wheels.

So on Saturday she asked Andy to take the training wheels off and asked, "Do you think I can learn how to ride my bike today?" And he said, "Well, maybe it will take a little while, but we can start working on it." But she said, "No, I want to learn to-day!"

She has heard us say plenty of times, "You can do anything you set your mind to" and she believes it. She wanted to loose the training wheels on Saturday and learn how to ride her that is exactly what she did!

Today, both Andy and I have gone around the block with her a few times, and she already tried to ride "as fast as I can" which almost resulted in a wipe-out. Thankfully, she saved her balance and kept going.

I call this one memorable weekend!

Now to get the rascal to show an interest in riding a bike!



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