Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Blog In Review

The year is almost over. Doesn't time seem to go fast?

The hustle and bustle of the season is picking up, so this will be my last post for 2016. Like many of you, I have several things to do and want to spend time with my family.

I am especially grateful for all of you who have took the time to read, comment, and share my stories. Readers from all over the world have stopped by since this blog began. The top 10 countries that represent my readers include:
United Kingdom

What did you readers enjoy the most on my blog in 2016?
Everything from pacifier help to Down syndrome stories. Three of the most viewed and shared stories were written by guest writers featured during Down syndrome Awareness Month. Not sure what that says about me.... Just kidding. In case you missed the 5 most popular of the year, here they are:

1. Meet Nate: I Can...

2. The Weekend My Daughter Became a Princess

3. Therapy Tip: Getting Rid of Pacifiers

4. Meet My Brother

5. Meet Sophie: I Can...

I have had the pleasure of having some of my writings featured on other sites this year as well. Here's my top 5 favorite pieces that were on other sites.

1. What I Hide Behind "Fine" on The Good Mother Project

2. What People Don't Understand When Your Child Doesn't Speak on The Mighty

3. 6 Things I Fantasize About While Sitting in the Waiting Room on Break the Parenting Mold

4. What It's Like to be a Mother of a Child with a Speech Delay on Scary Mommy

5. Decision 2016 (No, not the Election) on Comfort in the Midst of Chaos

So that's the highlights from 2016.
Hope you come back next year!

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Therapy Tip: Building Language Functionally During Christmas

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a mother of a child with special needs and a pediatric speech-language pathologist.

I love using different holidays and the d├ęcor that goes with it to build language and change up typical therapy sessions. With Christmas coming up, today's tip is:

Building Early Language Functionally During Christmas

Christmas trees, stockings, Santa, snow, and lights are all signs of the holiday season. These seasonal items give us a chance to practice new words and target concepts in different ways.

But first....Note: If you are a speech-language pathologist or other professional, it's always best to know your audience. If you are working with a family who does not do a particular aspect of Christmas or has other religious preferences, then you need to consider those before jumping in to the activities.

If you are a parent, I think there is a big misconception that language must be built in a structured activity such as book time. But, there are opportunities around us all the time to build language functionally when it does not feel like "work" to yourself or the child.

Here's some ways that you can target different concepts during Christmas:

-Colors: Have a child working on colors? Have the child point to a particular colored light or ornament on the tree. You can simply say things like, "I see a green light," to reinforce colors they are struggling with. If you have some different colored ribbons or bows left, let the child play with them to reinforce colors too. You can have them match up or sort through red bows, blue bows, etc. if you have many bows laying around.

-Spatial concepts: If you have a young child learning spatial concepts like on/off, under, in front/behind, top/bottom, there are several ways you can target this as well. When talking to the child, use spatial concepts to describe where things are. The presents are "under" the tree. The lights are "on" the house. The star is "on top" of the tree. You can ask them questions to check their understanding. For example, "What is on top of the tree? What is in front of the Santa?"

-Vocabulary: Talk about the different holiday items around you to build vocabulary. This can be done in several ways, but there are many new opportunities to work on different words during the holidays. You can simply talk about things around you. "I see Santa." You can check their understanding by asking, "Do you see Santa? Show me." If they need help, show them.
                    I also like to find objects in the room/house that are in multiples like ornaments, stockings, etc. "I see a stocking. Here's one. Can you find another one?" If they can't find one, help them.
                    If your child has a vocabulary of 10 words or under, I like to target noises and sound effects as well as simple words to see if they will imitate anything that I say. For example, I often say "hohoho" for Santa, make clicking noises for a reindeer walking, and "ding-ding" for bells. When a child has under 10 words, getting them to imitate anything is a win!
                   I like going to Dollar stores and purchasing some inexpensive items like small stockings, rubber Santas, a plastic ornament, or light up snowmen to practice vocabulary with objects that are safe for children to play with under adult supervision. These too give opportunity to focus on vocabulary in play.

Look around! Language opportunities are everywhere!

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended for therapeutic advice.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Jesus who Lives Beyond the Stable

Jesus is much more than a baby born in the humble beginnings of a stable.

Jesus is much more than a man who was crucified.

He was and is the Son of God.

As Christmas is nearing, it's important to reflect on the man who we celebrate.

Perhaps you aren't personally acquainted with Jesus, so let me tell you what I know.

It was in my relationship with Jesus that I learned the value of my daughter's life. While others made me feel that having a child with special needs was something that was sad, pitiful, and negative, Jesus reminded me that value is found in the soul of a person-no matter the abilities.

After struggling for months to get Jaycee to hold her own bottle as a baby, it was Jesus who gave me an idea to create an assistive device to help her by using a can hugger and masking tape. After months of struggling, the idea worked!

It was through Jesus that I came out of a difficult emotional space. Years of caring for a child who had multiple health problems (some serious), a miscarriage, and some other issues that life threw at us had really made my thinking very negative. It was Jesus who gave me hope for my life and our family's future.

It was Jesus who gave my husband and I peace when we looked at many medical bills wondering how we were going to pay them. (We have paid off over $40,000 in medical bills and quit totaling them up a few years ago due to the emotions it caused us.)

When Jaycee was in ICU in 2013, she was sick with pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and septic shock. While I was in prayer to this man, Jesus, I had a strong thought, "Jaycee will live," in my mind. That gave me hope during the shaky times while she recovered.

My son visiting his sister in the hospital

It was Jesus who put a line from a song in my heart during one of Jaycee's hospital admissions. I was feeling very down about Jaycee being in the hospital when these lyrics came to mind: God I look to You. I won't be overwhelmed....  (Yes, sometimes Jesus comes in the form of a song.)

It is Jesus whose name I say when I have found my daughter turning blue from respiratory distress at home as I try to get oxygen on her.

When Jaycee was sick another year in the ICU on the verge on needing a ventilator to keep her breathing safely, it was Jesus who sent word through a praying friend reminding me to trust God in all situations even when they seem to be going in directions that seem unplanned.

Jesus has not prevented sadness in my life nor heartache.
Jesus has not been a magical Santa figure granting every prayer and wish I had.

But, Jesus has been there working in my life making sure things came together for my good. He has been the peace in my life when things felt out of control.

Here's the good news for you--- He will do it for anyone who seeks him.

What's your personal story of Jesus?
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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Therapy Tip: Early Speech-Language Christmas Toy Guide

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a parent of a child with special needs and a pediatric speech-language pathologist.
Today's tip is:

Christmas Shopping: Early Speech-Language Toy Guide

Christmas will be here in a few weeks.

About this time of year, parents often ask me about appropriate Christmas presents for their toddler who I am treating in speech therapy. Today, I am offering my ideas for gifts in case there are parents, friends, or grandparents who are buying toys for a child with speech or language delays and need help.
In general, almost any toy can be used to build language (i.e. increase vocabulary or encourage words/phrases/sentences). When I am looking for a toy, I go by this rule of thumb in general: The more basic the toy, the better.
Toys that make noise or sounds or are motorized USUALLY result in less talking since the child is busy pushing buttons or watching the toy. So, I try to avoid most noise making toys or moving toys for children that have very little language. These types of toys have their uses, but if you are specifically looking for something that will help promote verbal speech, look for toys that do not have the extra bells and whistles. I want the child to make the noise and the sound effect, not the toy.
Another important thing to remember when purchasing a toy is the child's developmental age. The development age describes where the child is functioning versus their chronological age. Many toys have suggested ages on the box. If you have a child with large delays, these ages will not match up for what they child may need. For example, a box may say 24 months. Now, if you have a child with Down syndrome who is 24 months, their developmental age may be closer to 12 if they have just started walking. So choosing toys with a 12-18 month age listed on a toy's box may be more appropriate than the one with 24 month age listed.

Here's some more specific ideas:

Toys for children developing vocabulary, working on phrases, or using verbal speech: 

-Any type of food related toy can work on basic words like eat/drink and naming foods

-Any book or flashcard set…I especially love books and cards that have real photographs versus cartoon drawn pictures.

-Baby doll sets with a few accessories like a bottle or diapers to work on actions and basic words

-Car sets with a garage or ramp to work on words like in, up, go, stop, etc.

-Non-motorized train sets are great too for working on sound effects (choo-choo) and action words.

-Animal sets/toys in any form such as puzzles, puppets, or figures can allow you to work on naming animals or saying animal sounds.

-In general, I like the Melissa & Doug wooden toys. There are a variety of these that can be used to work on action words, spatial concepts (in/out), and basic vocabulary (go, up, more). 

-Of course, I love bubbles to work on words like pop, more, dip, bubble, etc.

For children working on articulation/speech sound development:

-I love the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD for teaching letters & sounds. I have had kids really pick up on sounds watching this DVD.

-Many Leap Frog toys in general are good for teaching letter/sound connections. The sooner the child with articulation errors can get this, the better off they will be for school.

-Bath foam letters allow for a way to work on producing the sounds of letters during bath time. I also like to squirt water on glass doors and stick the letters to the glass to use the foam letters in a different way.

-Bath paints or markers can be used to write words or letters with the sound your child is working on. You could also draw pictures of things with the sound your child is working on. For example, if your child is working on /b/, then you can draw a ball, boy, or boat to practice this sound.

-Alphabet puzzles allow for the sound/letter connection and a chance to practice your child's difficult sounds in isolation by themselves.

-Letter magnets again allow for the sound/letter connection or sound practice. Besides sticking them on a refrigerator, you can buy a small cookie sheet to stick the magnets on.

-Alphabet stamps or alphabet stickers again allow for sound play and letter/sound connections in a variety of ways.

Hope this gives you some ideas for Christmas. Remember, you can always ask your child's therapist if you need more specific ideas. Happy shopping! 

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My Son's Gift to His Sister

"I don't think Jaycee could ever play a musical instrument," my son declared as we drove home from his guitar lesson.

Rather than getting defensive, I decided to ask him for more information.

"Why do you say that?"

He responded, "Reading music is hard, and I don't think she could do it."

"You are right about reading music. That might be hard for your sister because of her Down syndrome and difficulty learning. But, there must be some musical instrument she could play. Can you think of one?"

A minute went by. My son could think of nothing.

I decided to help him with, "Well, I think she could play the triangle."

"What about the tambourine!" he exclaimed.

We both thought that was a good idea and came up with a few more instruments that might work for Jaycee's abilities.

Then Elijah decided that he would get Jaycee a tambourine for Christmas. He was so excited, and I thought it was a great idea.

A few weeks ago, we went to a music store to purchase that tambourine. Jaycee was with us since we had seen one of her doctors earlier in the day.

Elijah enthusiastically looked around the store trying out guitars and other instruments that made me nervous. We finally made our way to the tambourines to pick one out. At the same time, Jaycee made her way to a drum set.

She said down, took the drum sticks, and said, "Uh, oo, ee, ou!" (1, 2, 3, 4) Then she banged out a stellar drum solo for a novice. It was funny and eye opening.

With his sister's tambourine in his hand, Elijah asked, "Can we get Jaycee a drum set for her birthday? She seems to like it."


Elijah wrapping the present

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Therapy Tip: Color Sorting Game

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's tip is:

A Color Sorting Game

Most of my work is with toddlers, so teaching colors is often a skill I address at some point in treatment. On a recent post, I shared just one idea of how I integrate colors in my treatment approach. This is activity is different in that you can target colors and vocabulary at the same time.

1. Pick 2 colors that you want to target. For this example, I have chosen red and green for Christmas.
2. Collect 2 clear plastic containers.
3. Stick a green label on one container and a red label on the other container. I just cut out a piece of green/red construction paper and tape it to one side of the container. This marks the containers for the children to use for the game.
4. Next, find items in your colors. For green, I picked a tiny bowl, train, plastic bug, pipe cleaner, and dinosaur. For red, I chose a train, ribbon, twizzlers, a plastic ring, and a red heart. Generally, I pick 8-10 items total because that is about all the attention I can maintain for the toddlers I work with.
5. Place all of these items in a colored bag that will hide the items. This adds some mystery to the game.

Now we are ready....

To play:
-Pull one item out of the bag.
-Tell the child what it is or have them tell you what it is.
-Show the children the two colors on the labels. Ask the child if the item is green or red. Sometimes, I hold the object next to the color label, so they can see if it's the same color as the paper or not.
-Place the object in the right container and repeat. Help the child as needed.
-When all items have been sorted, I usually dump them in a pile and let the kids have a few minutes to play with them. This allows time to practice language skills (2 word phrases) functionally while still working on colors.

Possible Therapy Targets:
-Matching colors.
-Labeling colors.
-Phrases (Green dinosaur, red train)
-Naming Objects (train, ribbon)

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Denying Myself, Serving My Daughter

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,[a] and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:23-27 NKJV

Have you ever read something in the Bible that took on new life to you?

After I had Jaycee, some verses became more alive to me due to my new role as a parent of a child with medical and special needs. This scripture in Luke is one of the first ones that both challenged me and reassured me at the same time.

For any Christian, this verse sets the bar high. We are to take up our cross DAILY, which means we need to surrender ourselves to serve God fully. In other words, we are to die to self and follow Jesus no matter the costs. This can mean that we are expected to say no to selfish desires that will cause us to be pulled from God. These can be little things (movie choices) and big things (relationships) that we must decide. This can also mean that we are not to love our lives more than we love God. This means some may make the ultimate sacrifice for God like the martyrs from the Bible (i.e. Stephen). Fortunately in America, we don't usually face this situation.

As a mother of a child with special and medical needs, this verse reminds me of the bigger picture. Like any other woman, I expected to give birth to a healthy baby, raise that child for 18-21 years, and have all sorts of mostly positive experiences in between there.

Then suddenly life presented a different path. My baby was born with heart problems and a genetic condition. I would possibly be raising this child for the rest of my life.

At first, the thought of raising a child forever was overwhelming. But, before I dealt with that, there were immediate issues I had to face first. I had to deal with the fact that my child needed therapy several times a week to help her muscles and development. I had to deal with doctors and specialty appointments to keep my daughter healthy and alive. I had to make trips to the pharmacy and track medications daily. This was not the mothering experience I was expecting. I had to manage my emotions and thoughts about the situation. I loved my daughter, but caring for her was much harder than I was anticipating.

Through prayer, God showed me how to manage my emotions. I needed to view my role as a mother not as work but as a bigger lesson in self-denial that would glorify God. I would have to make job decisions (part time employment versus full time) because of my daughter's needs. I would have to choose vehicles based on their space for her equipment. I would have to give up sleep and recreational activities to help her and care for her. I would have to spend money on her medical bills that could have been used for something much more exciting and happy. I would have to devote extra time to teach her skills that come naturally to other people. Some of these things were easier to do than others, but when I viewed my care giving as serving unto God, hard things became less hard.

There is a beauty in self-denial, because that is the place where true life is found. It is the place where I learned that my needs aren't really that important. It's the place where I found the satisfaction in serving another person. It's the place where God shows me how strong I can be. It's also where love is found.

Because of my daughter and the gift of being her mother, I have learned how beautiful serving someone other than yourself is. Love motivates me to keep going when I feel discouraged. Love pushes me to give more time and effort when I feel there's nothing more to give. Love helps me see the value of all lives no matter what abilities they have. Love shows me that there is nothing more important than our relationship with God and other people.

I have came a long way since becoming a mother 10 years ago. Sometimes, I still have to check my attitudes and stop my pity parties. But, those moments are becoming less frequent. After all, I don't want to gain the whole world. I just want to impact my own little world around me.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What My Daughter with Down syndrome is Thankful For

Turkey sales are through the roof here in America. Pumpkin pies are being whipped up in kitchens. Families are making plans for gatherings. Yep, Thanksgiving is this week.

Many people choose to take time during the festivities to reflect on all the blessings, people, and things in their life. Our family is no different. I wanted to make more of an effort this year to help the kids understand all the things they have in their life to be grateful about.

I printed off a pumpkin for each person in our family. Each day we wrote something or someone on the pumpkin that we were thankful for this Thanksgiving. My 7 year old son is able to talk about and write his own ideas. My 10 year old with Down syndrome is a little different. I was not sure she would be able to supply an answer everyday when we first started this activity. I knew she would need me to help her write her answers since that is a skill she has not mastered yet. 

So, each day we have had "pumpkin time." Usually, Elijah and I reread what is on our pumpkins. Then we add something to ours. Sometimes, Elijah cannot think of anything, so I brainstorm with him. I tell him to think of a person or food or toy or something he really likes. Then I read to Jaycee what is already on her pumpkin and asked her to list something else that she is thankful for that day. She caught on right away to what we were doing. Jaycee has not needed anymore help thinking of something than Elijah.

I noticed a pattern with Jaycee though.

While Elijah and I put a variety of things and people on our pumpkin, Jaycee has taken a different route. She has almost always wanted to add a person each day to her pumpkin. That should not have been a surprise to me. Jaycee loves people!

The first person she added was her favorite cousin, Gabby. Then came mom, dad, Grandma, Amy, Elijah, AJ, Mrs. Tolley, Sandra, Jayla, Kinsey, and more. Those names on the pumpkin represent her family, friends at school, friends from church, and teachers. (Let's not forget that she's thankful for pasta, her iPad, and Disney princesses too.)

Jaycee has a pure and good heart. She really has the heart of God in that she loves all people. The beautiful thing is that she has many people who love her too!

I am thankful for all the people who value Jaycee and see her as much more than her diagnosis.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Ephesians 1:15-16 NIV
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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Therapy Tip- Let's Learn Colors!

Welcome back to Therapy Thursday!

This is the day I share a tip based on my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs. Due to Down syndrome awareness month, Therapy Thursday was paused. But, now we are back with today's tip:

Let's Learn Colors

I'm always looking for new ways to help toddlers and young children learn colors.

There are 3 steps to learning colors that I check in therapy.
-Matching: Can the child match blue to blue, red to red, etc.? This can be achieved through puzzles and many available toddler games and toys. When this is pretty consistent, I move to the next step.

-Identification: Can the child point to the correct color when asked?  For instance, if there is one red car and one green car, then I would ask the child, "Show me the green car." All the child has to do is point to the right answer.

-Naming: This is the hardest level. Can the child name the color of objects? As the child tries to begin naming colors, I have noticed they often use their favorite color to name every object's color. This is a somewhat normal experience as they call everything "green," for example, in attempts to tell about colors. Over time, the children eventually learn to correctly name colors through repetition.

When I work on learning colors with children, I like to find new activities to address this skill so that I can stay excited about my work. 

I was recently shopping in the Dollar Store. I saw this really neat ice tray that makes long, skinny ice cubes for water bottles. I picked it up thinking I could use this for therapy, but I really didn't have a good idea for it at the time of purchase.

After some thinking, I came up with this:

I found the tray slots were the perfect size for crayons. So, I taped a different colored piece of construction paper in each cube slot. Then, I collected crayons to match to the construction paper. This created a coloring matching activity.

I often do activities with my toddlers in speech therapy that involve crayons, so this colored tray just became another tool to use. Before or after we started using the colors, I hand the child a crayon one at a time to place in the tray to show me they can match colors.

Simple and easy ideas are sometimes the best. Give it a try yourself.

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"A World Without Down's Syndrome"- My Take

Have you ever watched or read something that resonated with you strongly?

That happened to me recently. Twitter was all abuzz about a BBC documentary "A World Without Down's Syndrome." The hashtags #justaboutcoping, #worldwithoutdowns, and #worldwithdowns grabbed my attention. I decided I had to check this documentary out for myself.

Sally Phillips, an actress, screenwriter, and mother to a child with Down syndrome, tries to explain the complexities that arise when countries mandate prenatal tests, which have become more accurate in definitively diagnosing Down syndrome.

I'll be honest, I thought the title was a little attention grabbing when I heard it. There is no possible way that this world would ever be rid of the genetic condition of Down syndrome. Even though, I am aware that abortion rates are extremely high when babies are prenatally diagnosed, I have always felt there would be a pocket of people who could accept a baby with Down syndrome.

After watching this documentary, I felt much less optimistic. In the UK, 90% of mothers decide to terminate pregnancies in which Down syndrome is diagnosed in screenings. In the UK, late term abortions are permitted due to Down syndrome being considered a severe disability. In Iceland, the documentary reports the number of terminations became 100% after screenings were mandated. How is 100% even possible?

When the credits rolled at the end, I wept like a baby. I cried for the ignorance of people. I cried for the injustice of the unborn whose lives are never lived just because a test shows they are going to be different. I shed tears over the fact that people do not want to have a child like mine. I sobbed for the women who are put in this situation to decide. And, I prayed for the people of this world and their skewed definition of humanity.

Surely this documentary was biased right?

I don't want to believe we live in a world that views people with disabilities as "burdens" and questions their right to life. But, then I read other things online too. Take Richard Dawkins, a scientist, who said on Twitter it would be immoral to carry on with a pregnancy with Down syndrome. He offered no apology for his statement claiming that he was approaching this subject in a logical way, and that the woman ultimately has the right to choose and try again.

I had a dozen questions in my mind after watching this documentary such as:
-What constitutes a good life?
-Or better yet...what is the purpose of life? Success? Achievements? Independence?
-Is the termination of a pregnancy confirmed with Down syndrome seen as a mercy for the unborn baby or an escape for the parent who was expecting a child with no disability?
-If Down syndrome is a reason for termination, where is that line for other disabilities or conditions? In other words, what are "acceptable" conditions that termination would seem inappropriate for?
-Should every pregnant woman expect/deserve a healthy baby? Is it a right of the woman to receive a healthy baby?
-Should a fetus only be guaranteed its life when it's genetically perfect?
-Why is disability/Down syndrome perceived so, so negatively?
-Is our world simply chasing after perfection, which will truly never really exist?

These are questions with no good answers.

You see I don't believe God intended for us to make these decisions that science now allows us to make. I fear for those with disabilities who, in my opinion, face the greatest discrimination with smallest amount of advocates.

My daughter has taught me that a world with Down syndrome is not so scary. When we were first told Jaycee had Down syndrome, I knew of 1 person in our community with Down syndrome. One! Since then, I have met other people with Down syndrome in our local community, but we felt isolated for so long.

Because of that feeling of isolation, we made a choice early on to try to integrate Jaycee into the community. She attends church with us. She attends public school. We try to take her to community festivals or parades when possible. I have written a few articles for our local newspaper regarding Down syndrome and have arranged public fundraisers for our Down syndrome Association. All of these are our family's attempts at normalizing Down syndrome in our community.

We have always felt we may never be able to reach the world about acceptance of those with Down syndrome, but we may be able to impact the people around us. Hopefully these people know that we support a world with Down syndrome.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Good-bye Down syndrome Awareness Month

Down syndrome Awareness Month began on October 1st. Today, it ends. I have been blogging every day this month for the 31 for 21 blogging challenge.

Every year this comes along, I wonder what I can say or do to help someone understand Down syndrome a little better.
-I see the statistics of how many mothers choose abortion when their baby is prenatally diagnosed.
-I read the comments of those online who clearly do not understand the worth of those with developmental disabilities.
-I hear stories of other families who received a diagnosis of Down syndrome from a doctor that was given in such a way that made the family feeling heartbroken and devastated.

For those reasons and many more, I chose to write this month hoping to share a story or piece that would help someone realize there is support available through websites, books, products, and people. There are health challenges that can occur but can also be overcome. There are abilities present in those with Down syndrome that can be easily seen if someone will just look. Most importantly, there is love that is powerful enough to overcome any diagnosis.

I hope and pray that message got to the people it needed to get to this month.

I would like to thank everyone who has stopped by, shared my posts, or visited my blog's FB page. Many wonderful writers have contributed guest posts this month as well, and for those writers...I am grateful.

People from all over the world have stopped by this site this month. The top 10 countries that visited were:

Truly, I appreciate you reading. I hope you come back in 2 weeks when I resume my typical content on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

If you are bored between now and then, read or reread the blog's top 5 posts from this month.
1. Meet Nate: I Can...-Guest Post
2. Meet My Brother-Guest Post
3. Meet Sophie: I Can...-Guest Post
4. Meet Clayton: I Can...-Guest Post
5. Pro-Life: Babies and Beyond

Happy last day of Down syndrome Awareness Month!

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!
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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Why Jaycee is Perfect According to James 3

A year or two ago, I read this passage in my daily reading:

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed,[a] we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.
James 3:1-5 NKJV

I have read these words many, many times over the years. But, that day the words jumped out at me. I was inspired in a new way.

Many times, it seems that having a child who is classified as non-verbal/minimally verbal is a curse. I don't mean to say that Jaycee is a curse. But, her inability to produce spoken words is life limiting. Yes, she can use sign language and a communication device. But, her lack of verbal speech impacts her life in so many ways.

Here's just a few examples:
-She can't speak on a phone. She can grunt on it. We do use Face Time but this isn't always available all the time.
-She cannot tell me when she is sick, what hurts on her body, or when her breathing feels different. Instead, I have to watch for behavioral changes or numbers on a monitor to tell me.
-She cannot order her own food at most restaurants.
-She cannot ask questions to clarify or to engage with friends.
-Jaycee cannot read out loud using her voice. She can read aloud by "saying" the words on her communication device, but that takes 3-4x longer than just speaking and twice the memorization.
-She cannot join any group or club that requires verbal speech such as chorus.

These are just some examples. When I think about her future, her lack of verbal speech comes into play. What job can she have that requires little speech? Given her health problems would it be safe for her to live independently, if she cannot call for help?

Really, we deal with her lack of speech well. I am grateful she has other methods of communication she has success with and for the words that she can say, especially "mama."

When this verse suggested that a person who is able to control their tongue and not stumble in their words is perfect, I saw Jaycee's inability to speak in a new light. She is perfect in this aspect. She has not lied. She has not called anyone a name. She has not cursed. She has not given a sarcastic remark. She has not told anyone she hated them. She has not engaged in gossip. She has not made promises she couldn't keep. She has not told a secret she was suppose to keep. She has not screamed out some horrible words in anger. She has not made schemes. In short, no evil has come from her mouth.

I cannot say that.

I am still challenged by James 3 every time I read it. I have not been able to control my tongue in the ways that would reflect God's perfect spirit. Jaycee is much farther along in this area than me even if it is not by her choice.

When the challenges of having a child with little to no speech come up, I am encouraged by this scripture. Jaycee is perfect in speech in God's eyes.

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!
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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Jaycee's First School Dance

Jaycee in her dancing shoes for her first dance

Decisions, decisions.

As parents, we make many decisions. Sometimes, the decisions are easy. Sometimes, they are not.

Recently, I had to make a decision for Jaycee. It is a relatively small decision, but one that had extra consideration since she has special needs.

A flyer from school came home announcing a school dance for 4th-6th grade. Jaycee was in 4th grade, which meant this could be her first school dance.

My first impulse was to throw the paper away. After all, she probably wouldn't know that she missed anything. But, I didn't.

Jaycee loves music. She loves to dance. Most importantly, she absolutely loves socializing with her friends (yes- even typically developing peers) from school.

So, I pondered the dance. I must admit that I was mainly concerned with two things. First, a dark gym meant there was a possibility Jaycee could get lost or wander off. However, there were going to be many chaperones including several teachers that know her. Secondly, children from the other school in our county were invited. Jaycee is loved and accepted by the children in her school. How would children from the other school treat her?

Despite my concerns, I had one question for myself.

 If this was my son who could talk and ask questions, I would give him a choice. I would not have any reservations about his decision. Why not Jaycee?

So, I did what any good mother with some reservations would do. I volunteered to work the concession stand at the dance, and peek in on Jaycee periodically. It worked well for both of us. She didn't mind I was there (really!).

Jaycee had a great time! She experienced her first dance along with the other children in her class. And, she even got in trouble for kissing a boy! Ha!

Sometimes, we make a decision, and we learn it was the right one. That's a good feeling!

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Taking the Message Out

During Down syndrome Awareness Month, I have an entry here everyday on some topic of Down syndrome. Today, I am going to direct you to some of my writings published this month on other sites in case you haven't seen them.

  • Devotional Diva Does God Direct Our Steps?   This is truly a testimony of God showing me that He cared about my family through a date on the calendar.

You can keep up with all my posts by following the blog's Facebook page!
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Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Favorite Books for Explaining Down syndrome or Disabiilty

Books are a great way to open conversations about differences in children. When my son came along, finding books that could normalize disability and differences was important to me. I also wanted him to learn about his sister's Down syndrome in a way that felt positive.

From an early age (probably 2), I started reading stories about children with Down syndrome or disabilities to my son, so we could create times to talk about these things. Living in a rural area where people with disabilities are few in numbers, I felt the books were an easy to expose Elijah to people like his sister.

So, here are a few of my favorite books geared toward children.

We'll Paint the Octopus Red


This book specifically talks about a sister learning her brother has Down syndrome. I have read mixed reviews on this book, but I happen to love it. It specifically talks about Down syndrome, and opens up the line of conversation.

This book talks about disability and differences in general. It has a message of acceptance and shows pictures of children with a variety of disabilities. The pictures are my favorite part of the book.

Zippy's Big Difference

Jan 24, 2013
by Candida Sullivan and Jack Foster

Zippy is the main character in this book. Zippy is a zebra without stripes and struggles to find acceptance with this difference. There is a series of Zippy books each one with a message from a Christian perspective on disability and difference. This is one of my favorite books written on disability while including spiritual principles.

Have a favorite book not mentioned? Comment below (comments are moderated)

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

3 Great Products for Those with Down syndrome

There are many amazing products that are made specifically for individuals with Down syndrome. I thought I would feature 3 of these today in case someone somewhere is unaware of these great products and companies.

Specs 4 Us
These glasses are specifically made to fit the faces of individuals with Down syndrome. Speaking from personal experience, finding glasses that fit my daughter's face has been next to impossible. My daughter's nasal bridge is very flat, which is something these glasses account for. If you have a child with Down syndrome who is hard to fit, I strongly recommend this line of frames.
Jaycee in a pair of Specs 4 Us

Downs Designs Jeans
At a conference for Down syndrome, I discovered this company. I was intrigued by their design of jeans made for people with Down syndrome in mind. Individuals with Down syndrome are often short, so their jeans account for this. (Normally, I try to buy capri length pants for Jaycee to wear as her "normal" length.) These jeans also have no buttons or zippers. Elastic waists are our friends! The pair of jeans we received for Jaycee from this company is of very good quality. If your child with Down syndrome has difficulty finding jeans that fit, check this company out!

Board books featuring our kids
I love the board books published by Woodbine House! These books written for toddler and preschool children feature children with Down syndrome in pictures. I love these books for the vocabulary teaching in them and the pictures of the children. When my son came along, we used these books and pictures to normalize Down syndrome for our son. I would read these books to him and say things like, "She has Down syndrome too like your sissy."

There are many great companies and businesses that have products geared for those with Down syndrome. I have named just 3 today but if you do some digging, you will find many other wonderful products.

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Books Written by those with Down syndrome

Did you know that there are books written by people with Down syndrome?

There are!

For another day of Down syndrome Awareness Month, I'll share three books written by individuals with Down syndrome. 

  • Black Day: The Monster Rock Band Hardcover – June 20, 2015                     

by Sean Adams  
This is a lovely story filled with pictures and a description of Sean's life.  It is a short read which would be suitable for classrooms, awareness talks, or conversation starters with siblings. My husband picked this book up at a Down syndrome conference and even got it signed by the author.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

My Favorite Books about Down syndrome

I read all the time. I read novels, memoirs, and -of course- books on the topic of Down syndrome. When Jaycee was born, I craved information. I wanted to know how to help her and what to expect. I also loved reading personal stories from mothers. It helped to know some of things I was thinking and feeling was normal. Reading books from Christian authors helped me understand how other people balanced their faith when they saw their child struggling. Reading is a good way to learn and help yourself sort out some thoughts.

Without further ado, here's my top 10 books related to Down syndrome in no particular order. Most or all of these are available on Amazon.

On the subject of educational/developmental information:

Stars of Success: Understanding How Children With Down Syndrome Learn

Sep 1, 2003
by Susan J. Peoples and Bernell Fettig

On the topic of siblings:

On the subject of parenting, accepting a diagnosis, and personal stories:

Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives

May 15, 2007
by Kathryn Lynard Soper and Martha Sears

My Emily
Mar 29, 2012

Room 47: Down Syndrome - a new father's diary

Dec 19, 2012
by S. R. Taddei

There are many great books on the topic of Down syndrome. I haven't read them all, so if your favorite isn't here, then feel free to comment below. Happy reading!

This post is for Down syndrome Awareness Month where bloggers write for all 31 days of October for Trisomy 21. I am part of this 31 for 21 challenge. During the month of October, the NDSS asks that we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make others aware of abilities and accomplishments. Individuals with Down syndrome have abilities that need to be celebrated!

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