Spring Fling!!

spring fling

St. Patrick’s Day Party

st patricks

Also, Save The Date for the April 14th Regular Event!!

Guest Editor: Ryan LaCosse – Best Buddies

What is Best Buddies?

First of all, I want to say thank you for allowing me to become a part of your world over the last 10 years in Peoria! My time spent at Jamieson School and the PwUP parties lead me to a very amazing point in my life… I am now the Area Director for Best Buddies in Central Illinois!!!!

So, what is Best Buddies? Best Buddies is all about inclusion and friendship opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities! This process starts in elementary schools, in which we are in the process of growing in central Illinois! As our friends/family with IDD become teenagers and adults, we match them with a peer buddy! This isn’t a mentorship, this is a one-to-one friendship! It’s building meaningful friendships between people with and without IDD. This includes going to Chiefs/Rivermen games, going to lunch, hanging out and enjoying someone else’s company! We even offer e-Buddies, an email program, in which a participant with IDD communicates online with a friend without IDD.

Then, when a person with IDD graduates from HS or College, we can help them find integrated and competitive employment! We aren’t talking about doing dishes or taking out the trash. We are talking about employment opportunities that allow people with IDD to earn an income, pay taxes, and continuously and independently support themselves! We provide training, not only to the buddy looking for work but also to the workplace to make sure they understand the uniqueness of their new hire. We also keep in contact with the employer and employee throughout the entire duration of employment to make sure that each company/buddy can be successful. 81% of adults with IDD do not have a paid job in the community. We are here to change that in 2020!

We also provide leadership training! Best Buddies educates and empowers people with and without IDD to become leaders, public speakers and advocates through our Ambassadors and Promoters programs! We are in the process of planning events for Citizens opportunities and Jobs for early 2020! Plus, we have our Friendship Walk, April 25th, at the Corn Crib in Normal!

For more information on jobs, email SunnyOlsen@bestbuddies.org! To have Best Buddies in your school, email RebeccaImpens@bestbuddies.org. And for general info, details on the Friendship Walk, or maybe you want to get involved with Best Buddies, email me RyanLaCosse@bestbuddies.org!

Fabulous Fall

Fabulous Fall- Welcome Y’all !

Is there a more perfect month of the year? Beautiful Fall colors, sweater weather, football, camp fires, apple cider, pumpkin everything, and so any days worthy of celebration.

Farmers and their animals, police and firemen, world wide teachers- let’s just call our theme this month Community Helpers.

Oct 2-12th is our time to explore all things farm.  From the “work animals” that used to plow the fields, to the animals who provide the income, meat, dairy,  hides and wool.   Farmers bring their work to our tables  everyday whether it’s food grown in the ground or animals raised for food.  Take the time to follow the footsteps a farmer takes from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year.  And remember when you give thanks for your meal, give thanks for the farmers who brought it to us as well.

World Teacher’s day is Oct 5.  Just take a few minutes to think about/talk about this amazing profession- not just locally, not just nationally, but around the world. Remember that whatever you are doing to educate young people, there are millions of teachers and instructors doing the exact same thing everywhere.  Special needs is not unique to our country.  Somewhere there is a staff in the basement of a church in another country experiencing the exact same struggles and joys you know.  Belouga is a global network for connecting classrooms and teachers. Bring the world into your little corner.

Next up this month is Fire Prevention and Adopt a Cop.  As educators we practice fire drills and teach our students to recognize police by uniform/cars.  Take the time this month to inspect your classroom and storage areas (and your homes) for potential fire hazards. Firemen and police love to visit classrooms and you can facilitate a mock drill to help them better understand the needs of your students in an emergency.
Invite a Community Helper to lunch, to sit and draw with your students, to read a book with your class.  Your turn to educate them about your students.

Yes, yes- Columbus Day and Sweetest Day and Halloween are all October celebrations.
So, let’s celebrate chocolate!   Columbus brought spices from other parts of the world, including cocoa, that eventually became part of the delicious sweet chocolate treats that we offer to our sweetie on Sweetest Day, and that have become the reward for hours of decoration and costume planning
for Fall’s favorite fun day- Halloween ?.
Lose yourself in the childlike excitement of all things Fall- and stock up on chocolate when no one looks twice at you for having a cart full!!

September is a time of transition

September is a transitional month. Almost Fall, but not quite. Temps are changing, but not quite. Colors are starting to turn, but not quite. Kids are back in school, but – well, you know.

Labor Day is early this year. As we celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of workers in America and how they helped make our country strong and successful, let’s remind our kids that every job- big or small-carries pride and value. A professor once instructed our class of would be teachers that the two most important people in any school are the custodian and the cook. A shopping trip in Peoria will find many of our students working. Restaurants, pet shelters, car wash, housekeeping, volunteers-all necessary and viable jobs where we will find special needs adults contributing to their community. Celebrate all workers!

Maybe I’m the only one old enough to remember square dancing being taught in PE class, but September is National Square Dance month. What a fun way to get kids up and moving to a different kind of music. Add a couple bales of hay, some fresh picked apples and a homemade scarecrow and you have two weeks worth of activities.

Don’t forget that Grandparent’s day is September 10. Thank Jimmy Carter for that. First Sunday after Labor Day for those of us who never are sure whether our calendar is right or Hallmark.

I came across a different art activity involving rice. Using ziplock baggies add 4 or 5 drops of food coloring to a teaspoon of alcohol. Then add one cup of uncooked rice and shake it until the color is evenly distributed. Spread out the rice on a cookie sheet to let it dry (or outside in the sun if it isn’t windy). Use the different colored rice to make a picture by gluing it to paper.

Lastly we celebrate Deaf Awareness this month. Try a couple games that require visual skills only. Twister, charades, matching games. Practice your signing skills by letting a student show you how.

December: Holidays gifts, giving and ideas

December is upon us. My Christmas wish for all of us is a stress free, enjoyable time with family and friends. This year as you get ready for the holidays take a few minutes to find those items that might not get used at your house, but would be greatly appreciated by local charities, Dream Center, and homeless shelters. If you donate food to one of the local drives, try including a simple, favorite recipe- then buy those items needed to prepare it. When packaged together it provides food and also passes along a new idea for dinner. If your child has a favorite recipe, this is a good way to get them involved in the process and help you put baskets together for others.

We all love cookies so why not get students involved in their own cookie exchange? It’s a great social activity, age appropriate and everyone goes home with new and special treats. You might want to try making homemade butter with the family. A glass jar with a good lid, a cup of heavy cream and 20 minutes of shaking the jar yields soft, fluffy butter. Sweeten, salt or season to taste. To make it decorative, lightly spray a cookie cutter mold and fill it with the soft butter. Allow it to set up in the refrigerator for a couple hours. It will easily release from the mold.

Family and friends may ask for ideas for our special needs friends. Buying gifts for a teen or adult can be challenging. This year Target is carrying weighted blankets. This is a great gift for anyone any age with sensory issues. The weight helps promote a feeling of calm and security. Melissa and Doug puzzles come in multi- sensory options- lighting up, playing music or making the picture appropriate sound when completed correctly. Kinetic sand is indoor friendly and provides tactile stimulation. Magna-tiles come in rectangular, triangular and square shapes. Students can build horizontally or vertically with these and they don’t fall over as easily. If you’re looking for books, several places are carrying the book sets that have a sound board included. Students can match the color of the book to the tile on the sound board and it will read the story to them page by page.

Happy holidays to all of you-

November: Opportunities to Celebrate

Welcome November! A busy month with so many opportunities to celebrate. Remember this is the month that our time changes- the only time during the year when we get to live the same hour twice. Make that hour count.

Veterans Day and voting are opportunities to include the whole family in a project. Provide pictures of service men and women while you and your family put together a care package to be sent to our troops. A note, a picture to say thank you for their bravery and service is one way to start our season of Thanksgiving.

If you would like to introduce your students to the idea of voting, some simple ideas to do at home work very well. Make a ballot box out of an old shoe box. Use index cards as ballots. You can vote on who does what chore, where to eat, what’s for dessert, a favorite song. All good ways to include vocabulary words that can be reused month after month.

As Thanksgiving gets closer and you start your meal planning, remember to involve your students in this process. Make a menu in which your child can participate. Whether it’s words or pictures ( remember canned and boxed food labels provide good pictures) it’s a great way to increase sight vocabulary. Practice setting the table- even if it’s only adding the napkins, counting can be part of the process. Kids can be responsible for making place cards by adding stickers or pictures to an index card. If your child can participate in food preparation, nothing is better than measuring, and following step by step directions. Pumpkin spice instant pudding is easy and seasonally appropriate. Allowing them to take potatoes from boiled to mashed is a fun activity and an easy way to involve them in the meal. An old hand-masher is a great way to start.

If your family offers prayers at dinner time, remember to include the service men and women that you made the care package for and tie your month long activities together.

The library has many Thanksgiving books for kids. After your meal is over, before everyone finds a TV to watch football, take a few minutes to read a book aloud at the table. A nice way to end your time together.


October is a perfect month for students to experience all things sensory- including sensory overload. Let’s look at a couple of triggers and what to watch for.

Fall leaves are beautiful, but for some students the change from the sweetness and softness of summer to the crunch of Fall can be a trigger. Remember to talk about what changes we will see — the different colors and feel of leaves, dried corn stalks, pumpkins, scarecrows, etc. Piles of leaves, while tempting for jumping, can trigger an over-stim reaction. For some, that earthy smell and crunchy feel can cause an overwhelming feeling. All things in moderation can help reduce that feeling.

As Halloween approaches, remember that not all students feel comfortable in a costume- especially a mask. Some students are overwhelmed by the sight of so many people in costumes. Pull out those old Halloween pictures from years past to remind your student of what’s to come. Allow them to help select decorations that please them. Not all things Halloween have to be scary.

Last but not least, candy. Remember to provide some choices that limit the amount of sugar, dyes and preservatives. Watch your student for signs of sensory overload. This can look like a meltdown, withdrawal, agitation or an inability to calm down. If you think your student’s behavior is related to sensory overload, find a quiet place that is sensory neutral or familiar. Some parents have found that the smell of lavender or orange- in small doses- may be soothing.

Enjoy, but prepare. All things in moderation.

Welcome to the People with Unlimited Potential (PUP) website.

Our website is ready to serve you by providing information about PUP events and special activities.

The News tab has monthly news of activities and helpful information about topics pertaining to special needs individuals.

The Gallery tab will have photos from PUP events.

The Resource tab will be a comprehensive listing of resources and services available to special needs individuals in the Central Illinois area, and beyond.

Be sure to visit our Craft and Vendor Sale on November 19th from 9:00 to 2:00. Check our Calendar for further details. Pancakes and sausage will be served.