Thursday, April 29, 2010

5 Beautiful Years -- A Celebration in Central Park!

The Boys' teacher said, "don't let school get in the way of an education!"

So we didn't!

The Pond

The Seals

The Slide

Aahh yes... the slide!


Wait... Did someone say 'slide'?

Yes, we played hooky today! We had to drive in to NYC (all of 20 miles) for a doctor's appointment for The Boys anyway so we seized the opportunity and the day... having lunch in The Big Apple and spending a few hours in NYC's Central Park in celebration of The Boys' 5th Birthday today! There's a lot more we wanted to do and didn't get to... but we had a bunch of fun doing just exactly what we did. Climbing on the rocks, peeking in on a few of the Zoo animals, relaxing by the pond and, most of all, sliding... sliding... and did I mention sliding?

What a beautiful day we had together! Almost as beautiful as my precious children!

Check out more Special Exposures on 5 Minutes For Special Needs!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pay Attention -- There ARE Angels Amongst Us!

There are Angels Amongst Us -- my children with and without Down syndrome and all the beautiful children in the world notwithstanding -- and we'd all do well to recognize when one crosses our path. Believe it or not -- there are people in this world -- adults even -- who do nice things for others... JUST BECAUSE!

I've been remiss in recognizing the angels who've crossed my path lately. But, something happened yesterday that reminded me to get back into a state of thankfulness and mindfulness and to notice the good in people (instead of noticing all the in-your-face, obnoxious, me-first attitudes I see demonstrated daily)!

My afternoon school pick-ups can be pretty stressful for me as it's a race against the clock traipsing literally from one side of Long Island to another to retrieve my children from their respective schools at dismissal time. Still, I try to insulate my children from that stress by working in a bit of fun and games upon exiting their school. Actually, we're a bit famous for our after-school running-around antics at The Boys' school. Read: well known with the other kids and parents for laughing and playing and, unfortunately, occasionally being reprimanded by building personnel... for having too much fun. That's my take on it anyway! (Note: For the record, my children are by no means out of control or wild. They do nothing "wrong". They just play and laugh... a LOT! But their special-needs pre- school is located on the first sub floor of an office building so any "childish" behavior is not well tolerated... hmmm. (Did I mention my boys have been blessed with an extra 21st chromosome each... matter of fact, the exact same 21st chromosome since they're identical twins?)

The Boys playing Hide-n-Seek behind the pillars in the school's atrium

The other day we had very limited time for our usual post-school game of slo-mo chase and hide-n-seek lest we leave the poor Old Soul abandoned at her school door. My boys and I pushed the giant glass doors open together with exaggerated effort and as we passed through, my two beautiful Little Men noticed a gentleman rapidly approaching behind us... so they politely held the doors open for him. Impressed, the man said a sincere thank you to The Boys which was rewarded with a chorus of you're welcomes. The man smiled and moved on, glancing back several times to catch a last glimpse of them as he went. Within a few minutes we were counting our way up the steps to the parking lot, as usual, when our "door man" returned carrying 2 dum-dum lollipops for the boys. With a great big and most-sincere smile, he handed one to each of them. I thanked him heartily; The boys thanked him equally well; And then he said thank you... to ME!

The kindness of strangers often brings tears to my eyes. I don't know why he did what he did or said what he said. But I am so grateful for his kind actions and words!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Down Syndrome Adoption -- Life In A Good Home Or A Horrible Institution?

The greatest level of parental satisfaction is reported by parents of children with Down syndrome! Get in on this joy! If you or someone you know is thinking about or looking to adopt a child... Consider this:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Funniest Home Video Without the [Original] Video

Why is it the funniest things happen when there's no camera within reach?

The Big Little Man and The Old Soul were outside playing in the backyard the other day. I was indoors with my Little Man. When the Old Soul came skipping through the back door I asked if she'd left her little broey outside alone. "Oops" she said. So I went to the door, not expecting to see anything but a happy little bruiser cruising around the play equipment in the backyard. What I saw certainly would have won me the $10,000 prize on Funniest Home Videos... IF I'd gotten a video of it, that is.

As I opened the door, the sound of wailing filled the air. To the left, I see my Big Little Man coming around the back corner of the house. The front of his shirt fully pulled over his head as though he got stuck halfway through taking it off. Crying, walking like a blind man with his hands out in front of him, covered in... you guessed it... DOG POOP!!!! LOL.

I know... TOTALLY GROSS... but funny as heck! He's negotiating the backyard obstacles pretty well considering he's totally blindfolded. He's moaning and wailing and -- as I approach I realize -- he's gagging too. LOL. He's got poop on his shoes, on his hands and wiped all over his shirt and... I know, this is disgusting... but he's got spots of poop smeared on his neck too. You can just imagine the mess underneath that shirt!

Turns out, he slipped and fell, hands down, in a heap of dog poop. When he wiped his hands on his shirt he realized his shirt was dirty and reeeeaaaaally smelly so he attempted to take it off. But, because his hands were covered in dog poop and the smell got stronger as the shirt covered his head, he failed to complete the over-the-head part of the shirt-removal maneuver and was outright STUCK... in dog poop! LOL

For those of you not inclined to open the demo video above, here's a post-trauma still shot of the Big Little Man's Shirt-Removal Technique:

LMBO (Laughing My Butt Off)! Seriously! Where is the video camera when you need it?

The good mother in me helped him but the bad mother was laughing so hard I was crying the whole time I was cleaning him up -- in between our mutual gagging. Lest you think me totally callous, please note, the worse mother would have gotten the video camera to document one of the funniest things I've seen in a LONG time.

P.S. The Old Soul doesn't think this is a bit funny because her brother was carrying one of her little PK dolls when he fell... Unfortunately, the doll looked a bit like the Big Little Guy when we found it lying dirty and smelly next to the incriminating evidence (read: dog poop). I thoroughly cleaned it up but she hasn't played with it since... LOL

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Aunt or An Uncle?

I ran into a distant acquaintance the other day, a very nice young lady who informed me that she'd gotten married recently. In the midst of my congratulations, another parent -- a Dad --overheard the good news and added his well wishes to mine.

Our mutual acquaintance then informed us that she's also very excited that her sibling is expecting a new baby soon... the first of the next generation in her family. When the Dad inquired, "do you know if it's a boy or a girl?" our excited acquaintance said...

"No, the new parents want it to be a surprise so I'll have to wait to see if I'm going to be an aunt or an uncle!"

[indiscernible pause accompanied by dually-furrowed brows... his and mine]

And with a genuine smile I quickly recouped and said, "Don't you just love a good surprise?"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New York's CPSE-CSE Process Sucks The Joy Out of Parenting My Children With Special Needs

Yesterday was our annual review and transition meeting from CPSE to CSE with the district. The whole process literally sucks the joy out of parenting my beautiful boys who happened to have been born with an extra 21st chromosome, a genetic condition known as Down syndrome.

Now it's true that the extra chromosomal material results in a syndrome of possible common conditions and/or symptoms for those born with it. But that doesn't mean that everyone with Down syndrome is the same or has the same medical, cognitive, or social/emotional characteristics as anyone else with Down syndrome. It doesn't mean that everyone with Down syndrome should be tucked quietly away into a special needs classroom separate from all the other "regular children" -- a phrase actually USED during my meeting and, whether it was meant that way or not, demeans children with Down syndrome and keeps them away (just like the institutions of yesterdayyear) from the general population instead of a making them a natural part of it... as it should be. Children with special needs should be embraced instead of hidden.

It's also true that the current Best Practices research supports educating children with Down syndrome -- and other children with special needs -- alongside their typical peers. That's why the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) law was created. Because it has been proven over and over again that educating children with special needs works BEST when they have peer role models to help them model the desired behaviors. The best outcomes academically and socially/emotionally occur when children with special needs are educated alongside their typical peers with appropriate supports in place to help them succeed. It's more effective AND less expensive!

So WHY does the CPSE-CSE committee insist on committing children with special needs to segregated classes and schools? Because the whole process is self-sustaining. At least in New York it is. New York is ranked 2nd in the United States for segregating children with special needs from the general population with regards to education. Without giving you an in depth history lesson, New York had the money to build and staff an intricate special education brick and mortar infrastructure to educate individuals with special needs after institutionalization lost favor as a best practice many many.... MANY years ago. Although research now shows that the education of children with special needs is most effective when it occurs side-by-side with typically developing children (as I said previously), New York continues to support and defend it's segregated special education infrastructure... Committing children with special needs to segregated educational environments -- schools and/or classrooms -- ensuring that the schools continue to exist, the classrooms continue to be staffed and the special education teachers continue to teach based on antiquated practices... certainly NOT Best Practice inclusion principles. You see, a lot of people would lose their jobs -- or the nature of their jobs would change -- if we actually did what's best for our children with special needs.

The CPSE-CSE is run by professionals in the special education arena. Their own jobs depend on sustaining the segregated environments New York and so many other states have supported for too many years. I choose NOT to be a part of this. I CHOOSE to be part of the solution in moving New York State forward and toward actually implementing best practices in educating children with Down syndrome and other children with special needs. It may take me awhile, but I WILL make a difference. I and my two boys will NOT succumb to illegal and ill-informed practices. One step, one class assignment, one child (or two in my case) at a time. I will not waiver because the future of MY children rely on ME to step up and fight for them... To make sure the CPSE-CSE committees and other education powers-that-be do what is right and best for them and others like them.

Join me. I'm on a mission to do what's best for my children and for all children with special needs despite the ill-informed efforts of the state's education system! I can't fail... I can't afford to! My boys' lives depend on it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Their Future's So Bright... They Gotta Wear Shades

We were at the Verizon booth at the local PC Richards & Sons a few days ago, setting up my dear old Auntie with an add-a-phone line on our account as the pre-paid phone she's had for several years has finally outlived it's ease-of-use[fulness]. As is the norm -- because we don't have a lot of babysitters standing by -- I brought my brood with me. Thankfully, the Verizon store-within-a-store was adjacent to the huge (half the store) television department. I'd like to imagine that one of those sales people had the wherewithal to play something other than football. Stereotypical, I know, but apparently men make the majority of television purchases and the football pulls them into the department. Still, in the midst of a sea of astro-turf simulcasts, there was one extraordinarily large, well-equipped, Blu-Ray, 3-D enhanced Plasma television playing.... Monsters Vs. Aliens. Yeah! Happens to be my Big Little Man's favorite movie as he's quite smitten with "SooooooooZn".

When the salesman realized that the adults in charge of the 3 stray children were otherwise engaged with the Verizon lady, and that "OMG... they're twins" and that they were not entirely under the Old Soul's control, he pulled up a chair, handed the kids some fancy 3-D shades and turned up the volume. Well Done, Sir! Well Done!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Positive Thinking In Challenging Times

The concept of appreciating what I have instead of wanting things I cannot or do not have is something I strive for and teach my children every day. Focusing on what we can do, not on what we have not yet achieved -- especially with children with special needs -- keeps us all focused on the positive aspects of our lives. I know too many who dwell on what their children with Down syndrome "will never do" (not sure how they know that)... And they have become worried and unhappy over these abstract things, losing sight of the wondrous accomplishments life presents to them everyday.

I choose to celebrate... our abilities, our lives, our world. So here's to:

[1] Sunshine -- More than rain.

[2] Faith -- Because things could be worse; and I know things WILL get better.

[3] New Acquaintances -- I find every one I meet has something positive to offer.

[4] Family & Friends -- No one understands me better than those who know me best. There's great comfort in not having to explain myself.

[5] Forgiveness -- Giving and receiving allows me to start each day with a clean slate.

Think positive. Think forward. And BELIEVE!