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The Monthly Connect - Online

Welcome to The Monthly Connect - Online. The Monthy Connect is sent out regularly via email to Connecting for Kids subscribers. This page also contains many of our great articles. To get a copy of The Monthly Connect in your email inbox next time it comes out, Join Us today!

  • 27 Dec 2016 10:54 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you would you like to be featured in an upcoming Faces of CFK column, please fill out the online form.

    Deidera is a mom of four.
    Do you work outside the home? If so, what do you do?
    I do not work outside the home currently but in January I will be a full-time nursing student.
    What do you do to relax?
    Relax? What is this relax you speak of? Ha ha!
    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    Life is hard and often lonely. I second guess every parenting decision I make from meds to education to setting boundaries. All I want is for my children to have every opportunity that every other child has.
    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    An immeasurable amount of emotional and informational support. Everything from doctors to specialists to educational and parenting questions can be found through CFK!
    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Sarah Rintamaki and Karla Fitch are invaluable information resources. The other parents are my life line to compassion, sanity and laughs. We are all in this parenting journey together and that is a huge source of comfort.
    How parenting a child who struggles has changed my ideas on parenting...
    We're all just doing the best we can every day and we all could use a little more compassion in our day.
    The best thing about parenting a child who struggles is...

    You learn a new appreciation for what hard means. My life is trivial in comparison to what my children endure on a daily basis just to try and fit in and keep their heads above water. It's taught me to let the little stuff go and focus on what matters most. Having extra needs kids has taught me to let go of convention and embrace the chaos, to live in their world and to accept that our future is not the one I envisioned when we brought them home, but it still has so much possibility. Lastly, it taught me to stop worrying what others think.....they don't walk this road, their opinion is not important.
    The worst thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    Always feeling like you could or should be doing more for your children. Always feeling like you are being judged for your children's behavior. Always feeling guilty that your children struggle and wondering secretly if it is your fault. Always missing out on get togethers with friends because your kids need so much of your attention. Worrying that your typical kids will be resentful of all that their siblings needed. Feeling guilty for secretly wanting a little more "me" time. Worrying that you aren't doing enough to nurture your marriage and occasionally giving in to the haunting thoughts of why he sticks around. Perhaps the worst part is realizing those who you love the most just won't ever REALLY get it, either because they don't understand a reality they don't live....or because it's too much for them. Too much chaos and too much effort.
    We'd love to know if you have any go-to resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share with other parents.
    Anything in the CFK arsenal, Scary Mommy blog/site, Special Books by Special Kids (Chris Ullmer is an angel), and Understood.org.
    I will put the links below in the newsletter; please let me know if I am referencing the right sources:
    Special Books, Understood, and Scary Mommy.

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
    It gets better. Every day doesn't suck. Reaching out and raising my voice for support was paramount. Develop a great working relationship with your children’s school. Cut yourself some slack. And finally, take time for yourself and your partner, who will be there (God willing) long after the struggle is less.

  • 02 Dec 2016 10:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rachele is the mother of one child.

    Do you work outside the home? If so, what do you do?
    I am a stay at home mom.

    What do you do to relax?
    I spend time with my family.

    What has been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Music Therapy & More

    What benefits has it brought to you and your family?
    It's helped our son discover an interest in instruments and music.

    If I could go back in time and talk to myself the day we got the diagnosis I would say...
    Breathe. Take one day at a time. There will be bad days but there will be great days too. You will feel overwhelmed a lot but, believe it or not, you will get through it.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...
    Be patient. There will be progress. It will be at his own pace, but progress will be made.

    The worst thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    The worry. All parents worry about their child but it's magnified. It can be all consuming at times.

    We'd love to know if you have any go-to resources.
    Talking to other parents. Finding out what was helpful to them and what their child benefited from and enjoyed.

    Save Save
  • 02 Dec 2016 10:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Q:"What types of fine and/or gross motor activities can I do with my child prior to attending a holiday get together that would settle him or her down and make a meltdown less likely?

    A: Sarah Durham, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, Children's Developmental Center in Amherst
    Sarah is also the mom of three, one with cerebral palsy


    The holidays are upon us, but for some, the holidays are not always “happy”.  For many children, the holiday bustle, the lights, sounds, outings, and gatherings are too much.  Children who experience sensory processing and modulation disorder are especially affected this time of year.  Some have difficulty transitioning to new clothing, more layers, and different textures, while others are extremely overstimulated by the lights, movement, and noise at gatherings. Routines that are different, and out of their control may cause some confusion and anxiety.

    How do you help your child get through these overstimulating sensory experiences?

    - First of all, know your child.  Look for signs of overstimulation, but be proactive with breaks. Move to a different room, or take a walk to avoid overstimulation. 

    - Bring a favorite activity to play with to direct their attention from the lights and sounds. 

    - Use a schedule (visual/verbal) to prepare them for the structure and expectations of the day.

    - Prep children who become very anxious with social stories or videos, such as seeing Santa, looking at holiday lights, opening presents, etc. If possible, allow for some quiet time before leaving the house and after the event to decompress. 

    - Pick up some noise cancelling earbuds/headphones, or provide music, to limit unwanted auditory stimulation. 

    - Carry a chew stick (rubber tubes, chewy necklace) or chewy candy, to provide deep calming pressure to the mouth and jaw.

    - Have a table for your child slightly away from the big crowd at mealtimes. 

    - Heavy work activities such as deep body squeezes (massage, hugs, exercise ball), are beneficial prior to, during and after the event. Depending on your child’s needs, use a heavy blanket, jumping, log rolls, army crawl, bear crawls, wall push-ups, pushing/pulling something heavy, and/or carry objects up/down stairs. 

    Cherish these moments and have a wonderful holiday season!

  • 30 Sep 2016 2:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    For our Faces of CFK column, we usually profile a parent of a child who struggles.  This month, we are highlighting one of our CFK grandparents, Julie Heber.

    Do you work outside the home? If so, what do you do?
    I am a Global Operations Manager for IBM Corp and have worked for the company for 37 years.

    What do you do to relax?
    Bake, make jewelry, read or exercise

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    We celebrated 38 years of marriage this past July! We have traveled to over 30 countries doing missions work. I am a grandma to 3 amazing boys!

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    CFK has provided a wealth of information on autism and sensory issues. I have been able to share what I learned with my daughter and it has opened up how I respond with my nonverbal, autistic grandson. We have learned how to play and how to take family outings being mindful of situations that would make him uncomfortable. I am sharing what I learn with anyone who will listen! I'm committed to being an advocate for him and other families with special needs.

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    Coffee and Chat sessions are amazing. A wealth of information is always provided.

    My greatest lesson learned was...
    I learned that although Simon is nonverbal and autistic, he is very smart, understands and does respond. I just had to take the time to see and hear the world from his perspective. We are using American Sign Language (ASL) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as a family and I'm thrilled at not only his progress but also the delight he expresses when he is with me. I truly learned that I can have a wonderful relationship with him as I do his older brothers.

    The area where I have grown the most...
    I have more compassion and understanding now of the challenges that families with special needs face. I look for ways to help not only my daughter but other families. At times that may be just to provide a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a meal, baked goodies or providing an evening out. I am always amazed at how much I learn and the love I receive from these special kids.

    What I worry about most…
    I worry about my daughter and her husband. They live this 24/7 and there are times it is stressful along with financially challenging. I also worry about my two neurotypical grandsons. They are super supportive of their little brother but often express concerns and fears about his future.

    We'd love to know if you have any go-to resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share with other parents.
    I read and follow anything from Dr. Temple Grandin.
    Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen
    Succeeding through Autism by Sean Barron
    A Grandparents Guide to Autism from Autism Speaks
    Grandparent Autism Network

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with others?
    As a grandparent I would encourage other grandparents to learn as much as possible and to observe their grandchild and appreciate their amazing uniqueness. Connect with your grandchild at the child's level. Then support your son or daughter and their spouse. Be creative, provide date nights, meals, and always be ready to listen. Allow them to parent and respect them.

    Save Save Save
  • 27 Sep 2016 1:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Karla Fitch, Webmaster, Connecting for Kids

    Don’t let its simplicity fool you; Toca Store, by Swedish developer, Toca Boca, is a social skills and life skills powerhouse. The $2.99 app, disguised as a colorful pretend store, can be used to teach social skills, like turn-taking and multi-turn conversations, as well as life skills, including paying for purchases and shopping from a list.

    In this article, I’ll show you how you can use this app with your own children to promote learning important skills while having fun.

    Turn Taking
    Toca Store makes it so much fun to be the shop keeper or the customer that it is very easy to implement a your-turn, my-turn scenario. To begin, place the iPad between yourself and your child, with the shop keeper’s side facing the child. You can start either way, but if you struggle with getting your child engaged, it helps that the shop keeper has immediate tasks (choosing items to sell from the catalog). Play through an entire shopping scenario and then rotate the iPad. To help enforce that you are taking turns, say “my turn to be [shop keeper/customer]” when you rotate the iPad. After practicing that way for a while, pause before turning the iPad to let your child take the lead in declaring whose turn it is. You can offer verbal or visual prompts to help them become independent (for example, “ask whose turn is it now?” or slightly begin to rotate the iPad).

    Multi-Turn Conversations
    Because Toca Store is a concrete, practical environment, children who struggle with more abstract conversation have the opportunity to shine. You can encourage multiple conversational turns by asking questions while your child acts as the shop keeper. For example:

    You: Hello shop keeper. How are you doing today?

    Child: I’m good.

    You: I’m looking for fruit. Do you have any fruit to sell?

    Child: Yes.

    You: Can you show me to the fruit aisle?

    Child: *points to fruit basket*

    You: Thank you. How much does it cost?

    Child: Three coins.

    You: Here you go.

    Child: Thank you.

    Paying for Purchases
    Each item “purchased” in the Toca Store results in a cash transaction. The shop keeper sets the price and the customer is required to pay for their purchase before it can be added to the shopping bag. Not only does this scenario allow for multi-turn conversations, it can also give children practice with selecting an item, asking for the price, and paying for their purchase. For example:

    Child: I want to buy this doll. How much is it?

    You: That will be 2 coins.

    Child: *opens coin purse and counts 2 coins*

    You: Thank you very much! Come again!

    While the coin purse does magically re-fill when the customer runs out, you can also practice budgeting with children who are ready for the topic by setting a house rule that the child is not allowed to refill their coin purse.

    Shopping from a List
    This skill requires a little additional setup but can be extremely useful for teaching children to be independent. Before setting up your shop, write down a list of one to five items that the child is required to purchase on their shopping trip (don’t forget to make sure that those items are available when you set up your shop!). Encourage the child to read the list independently and purchase the correct items. Children who are familiar with needs and wants can also be encouraged to discuss why it’s important to shop from the list (as opposed to choosing other items in the store).

    Toca Store is a well-loved favorite in our house and we hope it will become popular with your family too. We’d also love to hear if you’re using this app and what other skills you’ve used to teach with it.

    Save Save Save Save Save
  • 27 Sep 2016 11:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kathryn J. Bryan, Ph.D., Skylight Financial Group

    What is the ABLE ACT?
    The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (the ABLE Act) was signed into law as part of the December 2014 Tax extender package, which allows states to create a qualified ABLE program. Ohio has since passed and implemented the ability for individuals to sign up for an ABLE account utilizing the STABLE accounts (www.stableaccounts.com). The ABLE Act allows accounts to be established for qualifying individuals that can supplement their Medicaid and Social Security income (SSI) benefits without disqualifying them from receiving benefits.

    Who can sign up for the ABLE account?
    Individual’s who are eligible for social security disability (SSDI) or SSI and/or have a disability certification filed by the parent or guardian that states that the individual has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked and severe functional limitations. The disability or blindness must have occurred before the individual attains age 26.

    How is the ABLE account taxed?
    If the ABLE account distributions do not exceed the disability expenses, none of the distribution is includible in income. If the distributions do exceed the designated beneficiary’s qualified disability expenses, only a portion of the distribution is not taxable.

    How do distributions from the ABLE account impact SSI and Medicaid that the individual will receive or is already receiving?
    ABLE account balances, contributions, and distributions for qualified disability expenses are not considered in determining eligibility for means-tested federal benefit programs or the amount of the benefits under the programs, therefore the individual will not lose SSI benefits due to funds that are held in this account. There are two exceptions where ABLE act funds can impact SSI benefits. First, distributions from the ABLE account for housing expenses are considered income in determining eligibility for SSI and/or if the ABLE account balance exceeds $100,000 the excess is considered a resource of the designated beneficiary and will suspend the SSI benefits until the balance decreases below the $100,000. This however would not impact Medicaid eligibility. Total contributions from all contributions for the ABLE account per individual are limited to the gift tax annual exclusion ($14,000 for 2016). 

    How will this help my family?
    The ABLE accounts allow family members and individuals to contribute to an account that can provide funds needed for qualified disability expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment training, health, personal services, financial services, without disqualifying them from SSI, SSDI, or Medicaid.  This is not to take place of special needs trust if one is needed for the family but can help complement the Special needs trust and help the individual have more flexibility with their finances.

    The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. We are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.


  • 07 Sep 2016 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act compliant health insurance plan (commonly known as Obamacare) is right around the corner, running from November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017. If you wonder whether switching your child over to an ACA-compliant health plan may lower the overall cost of your health insurance and/or help your child get the services he or she needs, now is the time to begin looking into the options.

    To research how ACA plans work, visit https://www.healthinsurance.org/.  Through the site, you can even obtain free health insurance quotes: https://www.healthinsurance.org/quotes/ or receive free help from licensed agents by calling 1-844-608-2739.

    CFK Parent Jen Wish switched her son to an Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant health insurance plan in January 2015.  Here is a Q&A about her experience:
    Q:  Why did you switch plans?
    We switched my son to an individual ACA plan because we were frustrated that my employer plan didn't cover most of the services he needs.  My Aetna employer plan, which is great for the rest of my family's coverage, didn't cover speech therapy, occupational therapy (OT) or Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). For my employer plan we pay approx $300/month and have a very low deductible, but I was also paying about $250 extra per month out of pocket just for speech visits one time per week. This led me to look into other plans because my son needed more services and I couldn't afford to pay for speech, OT and ABA all out of pocket. 
    Q: How did you find a plan?
    I did a lot of research on my own including looking on Healthcare.gov. I also worked with a broker who answered my many questions about coverage options.
    Q: How did the ACA insurance plan compare in cost to your employer covered health insurance?
    On the ACA individual plan we pay $185/month (this includes medical and dental) and there is a $4000 deductible ($4000 sounds like a high deductible, but we were already paying $3000 out of pocket per year just for speech once per week).  I feel like this is a great deal considering in 2015, the first year we switched to the ACA plan, we racked up approximately $40,000 in claims and only had to pay the premium plus deductible.
    The ACA plan he is currently on covers 40 speech visits (it covers 20 regular speech visits and an additional 20 "autism visits" because of his diagnosis), 40 OT/PT visits and 20 hours per week of ABA therapy. So he went from only having speech (at $55/week out of pocket) to having speech, OT and ABA.  We started ABA in home in the spring/summer of 2015 about 7-10 hours per week, and now our ABA Therapist goes to school with him in the afternoons to run his behavior plan, support his teachers and to work on socialization with his classmates.
    The plan we chose is also a Health Savings Account Plan (HSA).  We didn't actually realize what this meant at first.  By the time I figured it out in late February of this year, we had already reached our deductible.  The Health Savings Account is definitely something we will definitely take advantage of for 2017.
    Q: What would you tell others who may be looking to switch but are hesitant?

    Do your research and talk to a broker now!  For us, it really was the best decision we could have made. I attribute much of the growth we've seen in our son over the past year and a half to the amount of therapy and support we've been able to provide for him in addition to what the school provides. Over the past year, I've chatted with a bunch of CFK families and families from other organizations I'm involved in who are looking to do the same thing. I remember how nervous I was when I first took him off my employer coverage and signed him up for an individual plan. I felt like somehow it wouldn't work out or it wouldn't cover what they said it would, but thankfully I was wrong! 

  • 04 Jun 2016 7:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Carole Richards, President, Executive Director and Founder, North Coast Education Services

    Often parents purchase workbooks to reinforce their child’s learning experiences.  While I applaud any effort by parents to help their child, maybe there is another way.

    My three-year-old granddaughter has endless skills to master.  My wise daughter takes any opportunity to make her playtime a learning experience.  This summer, try and think “outside the school box” and make learning fun.


    Money skills:  Most kids love to play with money.  Use pennies, nickels, dimes or dollars for counting and money sense.  Teach your child to count by ones, fives or tens using coins.  Help your child count the money for a fun trip to purchase something of their choice. 

    I send my granddaughter two, one-dollar bills every holiday.  She saves them and shops for what she wants.  The last time she selected a less expensive backpack because she realized she could get three things instead of two with this decision.

    Time skills:  If your child is always asking how long until.  Using the timer on your phone;  Set it for “five minutes until”.  Once the five minutes time period is mastered, increase to ten then fifteen minutes.  My children could wait two hours when they were quite young. They had conceptualized “how long”.

    Math facts:  Play a train game on the floor.  Lay the fact cards out and your child picks up cards answered correctly.  Or, they stand “x” feet away from you. Each time he or she answers correctly; take one step forward.  Wrong answers, move back one.  Make wrong answers ok saying “whoops” or “hurray, mistakes are ok."

    I had a math fact club after school for kids struggling fourth graders.  They played the “x” feet away game.  It was fun, their classmates wanted to stay and play.

    Fractions:  Conceptualize fractions with measuring cups.  Bake a favorite recipe.  You hold the “one-cup” measuring cup; your child adds four “¼ cups” into your cup.  Change it up to halves or thirds. 

    The “Pizza Pie Game” is a great way to understand fractions (Yes, it is a real game.)  You can do the same with a real pizza.  Make it more fun by letting them make their own pizza and “count the pieces to the whole."  Cut it in fourths, thirds and fifths.


    Read to your child:  Parents often think the child must now do all the reading in 1st grade.  If reading is difficult the child begins to hate reading.  Select books that are above their reading level.  Why not read a chapter book?  My favorite children’s author is Beverly Cleary.  She just turned 100 but her books are still relevant.  Her Ramona character is always in trouble for one of her creative adventures.  She is so funny, your child may not want you to quit reading.

    Let your child pace in front of you if he or she can’t sit still.  Ask simple questions, “Where is the character in the story?”  “When do you think the story took place?”  “How did the character feel?”  Select just one question a reading so it doesn’t feel like school.  Make your question and its answer a discussion.

    Make-up funny stories:  While you are in the car or cooking, make-up a funny story.  Make your child the main character; let the child give the story an ending. 

    Rhyming, Language and Vocabulary:  Read nursery rhymes to your child.  One teacher used fairy tales in her middle school classrooms.  She was the “roving reporter” and asked her class, “Why did the stepmother leave Hansel and Gretel in the woods?”  Was it because she was protecting them, hated them, or some other cause?   

    Use music:  John Denver songs like “Rocky Mountain High,” teach similes and metaphors.

    Choral Reading: My group of remedial eighth graders taped “The Night Before Christmas” with sound effects.  Yes, it was remedial reading but still fun.

    I can’t begin to share the endless possibilities that make learning fun and productive.  Your child needs specific skills.  Think of real-life experiences you can use to help make learning fun this summer.  Throw away those workbooks, the kids have seen plenty of them.  Discover new and  fun learning experiences. Happy learning!

  • 04 Jun 2016 7:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Virtual Reality: Friend or Foe?

    by Joe Little

    Five Horizons Foundation

    You may be thinking that an article about virtual reality is a little premature, but 2016 is the year of the headset!  Developers like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC, and Playstation are all getting into the virtual reality game and the initial results are pretty good.  My question to our community is; how will it impact our special needs kiddos, especially those on the spectrum?  If your son is anything like mine, he can get lost in his iPad for hours on end if I don’t reign him in.  What if he had access to a literal “different world?”  I downloaded Minecraft the other day and tested it out myself with my Samsung phone and goggles.  20 minutes went by in the blink of an eye and I don’t even enjoy that game!

    This article is not a position statement, rather a conversation starter.  I’m curious about the opinions of other parents on this technology.  I can also see a huge upside.  Imagine your child being able to wear glasses that show them visual representations of what’s being said to them!  You speak the words, “juice or milk?” and they see images of each with the word “or” in the middle.  No more icons all over the fridge!  We are just scratching the surface of what’s possible here but rest assured, it’s coming.

  • 04 Jun 2016 7:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you would you like to be featured in an upcoming column, please fill out the online form.

    Carla is the mom of a son.

    Do you work outside the home? If so, what do you do?
    I am an RN and in management. My specialty areas are Labor and Delivery, Critical Care and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).

    What do you do to relax?
    During my quiet times I love to doodle, draw, paint and read books. I also enjoy spending time with family and riding my motorcycle. Out on the road with the wind in my face I can make almost any problem go away, just for a little while.

    What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
    My son is my everything! Yes, he has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but he is loving, caring, sweet, playful and I wouldn't change him for anything in the world. He is perfect.

    What benefits has Connecting for Kids brought to you and your family?
    Kinship and friendship is the foundation of what Connecting for Kids has provided for me. They have also provided resources and advice along with much needed education. Connecting for Kids means I'm not alone!

    Which have been your favorite Connecting for Kids resources?
    My favorite resource provided by Connecting for Kids has been reaching out for help and someone always being there!

    What I worry about most…
    As a parent of a child with autism what I worry about most is my son’s future. Being so uncertain about what and how I teach him and how those things will impact the rest of his life. I want the best for him. I worry about whether or not he will be able to take care of himself in adulthood and I worry about my own health and how long I will be here for him.

    The hardest thing for me to learn was...
    The hardest thing for me to learn was my child does not have a disease. Autism is a learning disability, social anxiety disorder, a sensory processing disorder, and inability to communicate among many other things but my child is not dying.

    The worst thing about parenting a child who struggles is...
    The worst thing about parenting a child who struggles is not knowing if what I am doing is the best or enough. All the guidance in the world and there are still no solid answers.

    We'd love to know if you have any go-to resources such as blogs, websites, or books that we can share with other parents.
    I am part of the Connecting for Kids Facebook Chat Group and that seems to be my number one resource. I get advice from educated, experienced people and most importantly meet other parents like myself.

    Is there anything else about your journey that you would like to share with other parents?
    I have learned that every parent and child's experience with autism is individual and unique. Some may think I'm crazy but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. I love my son just the way he is.

    Save Save

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