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


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.

You Are Not Alone. Join Us.


Sometimes it feels like you’re going it alone when you have a family member with special needs. But it doesn’t have to be that way – at least not all the time. In fact, there are a number of opportunities in the central Illinois area to connect you with other families who share your challenges and joys.

Sometimes it’s helpful just to know your family member has a fun activity to allow him/her some experiences with peers and allow you that much needed down time. Sometimes, it’s helpful to do things together. During the next few weeks and months, we will share with you some of those opportunities – some for your family member, some for you, and some for both.

First, we want to extend an invitation to each of you to attend the monthly PUP social event – even if you haven’t participated in the past. Many parents and families are finding this to be a great time to connect with others. Events include activities like a day at Camp Big Sky, a Valentines dance, and a Christmas party with Santa. We usually meet at Living Waters Church on North Knoxville in Peoria, however, the location can change depending on the particular event. So, now would be a good time to be sure you are on the mailing list so you can plan to join us. Send your email address through the Contact Us form.

We would love to have you join us!