New Year’s Goals: How to Involve your Child with Special Needs in Making and Achieving Goals

By Diane M. McCullom

It’s January—the holidays have come to an end. It’s back to school, back to work and back to routines. With the end of one year, comes the beginning of a new one—and a new opportunity to make goals for the upcoming months.

But this New Year’s tradition doesn’t have to be limited to adults. Children of all ages and aptitudes should also be encouraged to set goals for learning, personal growth and their futures. When children learn to set goals and reach them, they can visualize their futures, make good choices and make their dreams come true.

Unfortunately, it’s easier for children with special needs to get distracted or discouraged from setting and achieving goals. The Frostig Center, a program dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities through research, development and education, did 20 years of research on what makes people with disabilities successful as adults: Goal-setting was one of six success attributes.

Here are a few ways you can cultivate successful goal-setting in your children, students or friends with special needs:

  1. Ask children about their dreams and desires, and encourage them to set goals related to those dreams and desires. In this case, their own desires will fuel their motivation. Listen to their dreams, and don’t squelch them, but help to shape them. For instance, maybe the child lacks social skills necessary in working with others, but he tells you he wants to play basketball as a goal this year. In that case, perhaps you could start by taking him to the library and learn by reading books or watching movies related to the sport. You could also practice social situations in public with the end goal of playing basketball later in the year. With the desire in mind, the child will have a higher chance of being more motivated to achieve his goals.

 

  1. Make goals achievable, measurable and time-sensitive. Big goals are positive, but make sure that the goals are realistic for the individual child. Breaking a big goal down into several smaller ones can make the task of achieving them seem less daunting. For example, getting an A in math for a semester is a great goal, but does the child normally get D’s? It may be overwhelming for the child to suddenly feel the pressure to make all A’s. Smaller, more achievable goals could be getting an A on an assignment or a B on a test.

 

  1. Model perseverance. Teach children that it’s ok to fail as long as they get back up and keep trying. Lead the way this new year by making a family vision board—something in plain view that you and your child see regularly. Seeing how you handle your goals, in success and failure, could be the greatest example of perseverance that your child experiences. Regularly check in with your child about his feelings, encourage the areas where he’s experiencing failure and praise his successes.

These few steps can help your child with special needs make giant leaps in feeling purpose and making dreams come true. Happy new year!

 

Diane M. McCullom is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 21 states.

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5 Tips for Hosting a Child with Special Needs This Holiday Season

By Diane M. McCullom

For most people, the holidays are a joyful time spent with family and friends, though they can be quite stressful and demanding with party-attending, gift-buying and schedule-juggling. Families with children who have special needs face these same demands and more—wondering how their children will feel at social gatherings is just one of the many questions asked. If you have the privilege of hosting a child with special needs this holiday season, chances are you are wondering about some ways that you can help ease the process for these families and for yourself. We have a few ideas:

Check in with parents – Before your holiday gathering, check in with the child’s parents for a list of do’s and don’ts, traditions, food sensitivities and recommendations. This step can go quite the distance in ensuring that the child feels comfortable and at home in a new environment.

Be prepared – Organize your home in a way that provides few distractions: remove clutter, keep overstimulating items out of the central focus points of your home, have backup food that the child likes, and have fun, skill-appropriate activities and games available for the child in those moments when uneasiness or restlessness sets in.

Be flexible – You might have to throw all of that preparation out the window on a whim. And guess what? It’s OK! Be flexible enough to change your plans to meet the needs of your guests.

Teach your family – Use your experience hosting a special needs child as a teaching time for your own children or relatives to learn about awareness, difference, respect and acceptance.

Relax and have fun – A kid with special needs wants to be independent too, so let them attempt things on their own instead of immediately jumping in to help. Things might get spilled or kids might jump on your couch. As long as a safe and fun environment is maintained, don’t sweat the small stuff!

With a little preparation and an accommodating mindset for those special kids in your life, the holidays are sure to be a success for everyone this year!

Diane M. McCullom is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 21 states.

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Guidelines for Choosing a Gift for a Child with Special Needs

By Diane M. McCullom

Walk into a gift store this holiday season, and chances are, you’ll be overcome with more items than you could possibly imagine—the hottest toy trends of the season and all things merry and bright. This same overwhelming sensation can be quite stressful for parents and those shopping for children with special needs. So what are some guidelines for finding that perfect, yet appropriate, gift for the child with special needs in your life? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when shopping:

Is the gift multisensory? If it’s a toy, does it respond with lights, sounds or movement to engage the child? Does it have scent, texture and contrasting colors? Sometimes these things can be overwhelming to children with sensory disorders, so depending on the specific needs of the child, these may or may not be positive things.

Does it provide open-ended play? This means the gift has no definite right or wrong way to use it. Will the toy provide a challenge without frustration? Is it adaptable to the child’s individual style, ability and pace?

Does it meet the child’s individualistic needs and abilities? Does the gift allow for personal creativity and making choices? Is it developmentally appropriate?

Is it practical in terms of safety, durability and adjustability? Does it fit the child’s size and strength? Does it have adjustable sound, height, speed and level of difficulty? Is it easy to keep clean and store? Could it fit on a wheelchair tray?

For specific gift ideas, check out Toys”R”Us’ toy guide for “differently-abled” kids that categorizes items by different skill sets. For more than 20 years, they have offered this one-of-a-kind resource that provides parents and caregivers with gift recommendations that aid in the development of children with disabilities. With thousands of pins popping up under the search phrase “gifts for kids with special needs,” Pinterest is also a fantastic resource for finding gifts specific to the needs of each child.

Get creative with your gift buying and don’t forget to have fun with the process! With a little research and preparation, you can find the perfect gift and make Christmas special for these uniquely special kids.

Diane M. McCullom is the senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, a leading provider of pediatric skilled nursing, therapy, developmental, enteral and respiratory services, as well as adult home health services, with operations in 21 states.

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Monster Jam Liners 2016

Monster Jam Liners

State Farm Arena

January 15-17, 2016

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What: Monster Jam

When: January 15-17, 2016- 5 HUGE shows

            Friday- 7:30pm

            Saturday- 2:00pm   Pit Party (11:30am-1:00pm)

Saturday- 7:30 pm

Sunday- 2:00pm / 7:30pm

Where: State Farm Arena

How to get tickets: State Farm Arena box office, www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 800-745-3000.

TICKET PURCHASE LINK: http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/475863/1542376

2016 Monster Jam logo

  Liners:

  • Kids seats start at just $10! Tickets increase $2 on day of show- so buy your tickets early.
  • Opening night supervalue adults are just $15!       Opening night discount valid for the Friday night show only.
  • Pit party is 11:30am-1:00pm on Saturday, February 6! Pit passes are available at participating Metro PCS locations starting December 28th or for purchase through the State Farm Arena box office.
  • Want more value? Pick up your discount coupon at participating Pueblo Tires locations starting December 28th!
  • Trucks scheduled to appear include: Grave Digger, Team Hot Wheels, El Toro Loco, Monster Mutt Dalmatian, Zombie Hunter, Captain’s Curse, Doom’s Day and Mad Scientist.

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Event Description:

 

Welcome to Monster Jam, an incredible family-friendly experience starring the biggest performers on four wheels: Monster Jam monster trucks.  These twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over – OR smash through.  Monster Jam provides a massive night’s entertainment tailored perfectly for your family’s budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old.

 MJ343571-Hidalgo-300x250S-MJ16-KidsTix-NA-BuyTix-011516

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McAllen Public Library

The McAllen Public Library is located at 4001 N. 23rd St.

The McAllen Public Library is located at 4001 N. 23rd St.

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Small tables and chairs adorn part of the children’s section.

McAllen, Texas, has the reputation of being the most modern and progressive city in the Rio Grande Valley.  Now, it also boasts the title of having the largest single-floor public library in the United States.

Originally a Wal-Mart, the library has many features that make it unique.  Outside of the popular adult and children’s sections, it also has an area specifically for teens.  “We have a teen department that caters to kids between 13 and 18, and there is all kinds of stuff that draws them in, [like our] Teen Theater,” said Bobby Guevara, Reference Assistant.

The McAllen Public Library is the perfect place for any book lover to visit.  It features an expansive collection of literature.

This library is the perfect place for any book lover to visit. It features an expansive collection of literature.

The children’s section is colorful and has a computer lab and story room designed with little ones in mind.  The library also hosts a regular story time for toddlers.

Guevara continued, “We have [members] from all over the US.  Our Winter Texans have their library cards when they come here.”  Interested residents can start the process online and then come in with a valid ID and proof of address.  When they become members, they also have access to an online catalog and eBooks.

The non-fiction section of the library.

The non-fiction section of the library.

The McAllen Library also has a cafe, a bookstore run by volunteers, meeting rooms that can be rented out, a state of the art computer lab, and an auditorium that seats over 100 people.  Visitors are allowed to enjoy drinks in the library as long as they are covered.  In addition to the main location, there are also two branch libraries.  Interested parties can schedule tours.

With areas that cater specifically to children, teens and adults, the library is a popular family destination.  To find out more about the McAllen Public Library, please visit their website or their Facebook page.

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Holiday Village Brownsville

The Holiday Village is sure to get visitors in the Christmas spirit.

The Holiday Village is sure to get visitors in the Christmas spirit.

With a crisp, wet breeze in the air, and Josh Groban singing, “O Holy Night,” on the loudspeaker, the Holiday Village in Brownsville is excitedly ushering in the Christmas season.

The, "Find Fritter the Elf," Challenge.

The, “Find Fritter the Elf,” Challenge.

Nestled in between the Camille Playhouse and The Children’s Museum of Brownsville, the village is lined with cottages sporting various themes and adorned with lights.

New cottages are added each year, and the events schedule is full of local elementary school, dance studio and middle school choir performances.  Admission is free.  Every Friday and Saturday evening, children are invited to visit with and take pictures with Santa Claus in the photo booth at no cost.

The Home Sweet Home Cottage, sponsored by Parra Furniture (2014).

The Home Sweet Home Cottage, sponsored by Parra Furniture (2014).

Most recently, the village added a “Find Fritter the Elf,” adventure, with Fritter hiding in a different house each evening. Participants are encouraged to find Fritter, take a picture in front of the host cottage, and post the photo on the Holiday Village Facebook page.  They are then entered into a drawing to win prizes from Krispy Kreme.

“I like taking my grandchildren because they add a new display every year.  It’s like a parade of lights, and the miniature homes spark their imaginations,” says Brownsville native Rosie Hatley.  “It’s nice to take a stroll with your family and enjoy the scenery and entertainment,” added Hatley.

The village is also a fun place to visit during the day, as it sits in Dean Porter Park and in close proximity to the Gladys Porter Zoo.  Holiday Village Hours are Sunday –Thursday, from 8:00 am–10:00 pm, and Friday and Saturday, from 8:00 am–11:00 pm.  For more information, please visit their website or their Facebook page.

A schedule of December's musical performances is on display at the Holiday Village.

A schedule of December’s musical performances is on display at the Holiday Village.

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The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art

The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art is a gateway of opportunities.  Rounding out the Mitte Cultural District and located next door to Gladys Porter Zoo, it is an ideal place to visit for residents and tourists alike.  “A lot of people don’t know we’re here in the Mitte Cultural District,” remarked Brianda Manrique, BMFA Administrative Assistant and IT Coordinator.

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Mr. Lieck instructs two of his art students.

The museum features pieces done by different local and international artists in its permanent collection, and also offers art classes, community events and poetry talks.  Throughout the year, the museum hosts a number of exhibits and educational tours, with the most recent and successful one being King Tut.  Art teacher and director, Karl Lieck, observed, “Many of the students in Brownsville [that visit] have never been to a museum.  In turn, they bring their parents.”

“We are trying to promote art here in our community,” added Manrique.  During the month of October, the museum’s goal was to create the largest a de los muertos altar in the history of south Texas.  Día de los muertos is celebrated on November 2nd, and is a day to remember the lives of loved ones who have passed on.  “We live on the border and have lots of Mexican people,” shared Manrique, “and for us, the altar is to honor and remember our loved ones.”  Altars typically include pictures, decorations like flowers and skulls, and food.  Visitors to the museum this last month, received two sugar skulls to decorate, one to leave at the large altar, and the other to take home.

An example of an altar.  This one was made for Selena Quintanilla, a Tejano legend.

An example of an altar. This one was made for Selena Quintanilla, a Tejano legend.

In the summer months of June – August, the museum offers 10-week art and music classes.  The music classes include instruction in violin, guitar and piano.  The hours are  Monday–Friday, 10–4, with the camp providing supplies and lunch for the children.  Since the Brownsville Farmers’ Market is held right outside the museum year round on Saturdays, entrance to the museum on Saturday mornings from 9–12 is free.

They are open later than usual on Wednesdays (until 8) and offer 50% off the regular entrance price on those days.  To commemorate día de los muertos, the museum will have free admission on November 1st and 2nd.  To learn more about BMFA, please visit their Facebook page or website.

Giana Gallardo Hesterberg is passionate about many things, including being a wife, mother, teacher, speaker, blogger, gardener and friend. You can follow some of her adventures on her blog storiesbytheseashore.blogspot.com

 

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Journey Preschool Pumpkin Patch

The Journey Preschool Pumpkin Patch

The Journey Preschool Pumpkin Patch

Located on East Harrison Avenue in Harlingen, the Journey Preschool Pumpkin Patch brings a glimpse of autumn to the Rio Grande Valley.  With an enclosed batch of pumpkins, a playground, stacks of hay and a corn crib, families enjoy a unique cultural experience and great place to take pictures.

Pumpkins range in size and price, starting at $2.

Pumpkins range in size and price, starting at $2.

Unloaded on Saturday, October 17th, the pumpkins hail from a company in New Mexico that employs Native Americans on a reservation.  “We get them right after they’re harvested, so they’re fresh,” says Michaela Buddle, Assistant Director of Journey Preschool and Pumpkin Patch coordinator.  The First United Methodist Church has hosted this annual fundraiser for 13 years, with the preschool taking ownership of it the last 3.  “The proceeds go to our new toys, items in the classroom, and this year, we are hoping to give a little Christmas bonus to the teachers,” added Buddle.  A portion of the earnings also go back to the Native American farmers.

All of the sales workers for the fundraiser are volunteers, like Journey parent Katarina Pierani, a Brazilian transplant.  “I love Journey.  They are awesome here and do a great job.  They do so much for the kids, I wanted to do something for them,” Pierani shared.

Parent volunteer, Katarina Pierani, enjoys the corn crib with her daughter.

Parent volunteer, Katarina Pierani, enjoys the corn crib with her daughter.

On Wednesday evenings, the patch hosts movie night at 6 pm.  The events held in the patch are always free and open to the public.  There is also a concession stand in the event that attenders want to purchase snacks.  “It’s a safe environment with a playground where the kids can come without you worrying about them running out to the street.  It’s like welcoming fall; it’s a different activity to do with the children.  They have so much fun in the corn crib,” commented Buddle.

With scheduled field trips from mostly local schools, volunteer storytellers also make an appearance to read books about fall.  The students then get to pick their own pumpkin to purchase, and end their visit with a game.

On October 31st, Journey usually has leftover pumpkins, and adopts a “take a pumpkin and please leave a donation” policy.  Local farmers gladly take the rotten pumpkins.  Hours of the pumpkin patch are Monday–Friday, 8:30 am–12:30 pm, then 3:00 – 8:00 pm, on Saturdays, 8:30 am–8:00 pm and on Sundays 12:30–8:00 pm.  For more information on this fun, family friendly excursion, please visit their website.

The pumpkin patch provides many photo opportunities.

The pumpkin patch provides many photo opportunities.

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The Children’s Museum of Brownsville

Pictured here is part of the outdoor portion of the Children's Museum: the painting wall and xylophones.

Pictured here is part of the outdoor portion of the Children’s Museum: the painting wall and xylophones.

Children shop at an HEB made just for them.

Children shop at an HEB made just for them.

The Children’s Museum of Brownsville sits in the heart of the Mitte Cultural District, surrounded by the picturesque Dean Porter Park.  Established in 2005, the nonprofit is celebrating 10 years of serving the community.  Executive Director, Felipe Peña, has plans to grow and expand.  “We are adding a 3,000 square foot learning garden in our outdoor space,” he commented.

Tomorrow evening the museum will host their 8th Annual Night at the Museum, with the theme, “Fabulous Las Vegas.”  The funds raised will go towards finishing the second shade structure that will be part of the outdoor garden.

Stepping into the children’s building, little ones and adults alike are met with bright colors and an array of discovery zones.  “Children don’t want to leave,” said Peña, “And they also learn.  They learn how to share, compromise and work together.”

With a medical section, an HEB grocery shopping area, reading nook, construction and fishing zones, each child is sure to find an activity that stimulates them.

Hours of the Children's Museum are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m, and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

Hours of the Children’s Museum are Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m, and Sunday, 12:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Inclusive and encouraging, the museum has different programs that cater to their growing population.  Bright and Special Spot is art therapy that is open to anyone who has a special needs child.  Allowing for 20 participants, a teacher leads the class every Saturday morning from 10:00-11:00 a.m.

The last Thursday of every month is Free Community Night from 5:00–7:00 p.m.  Participants enter for free and get to enjoy the exhibits as well.  “Everyday we get people who visit for the first time,” Peña added, “there is still a lot of exposure that needs to come.”

Annual membership for a family of four is $100, which includes discounts on summer camps and in the gift shop.  The larger membership is $140, and allows access to hundreds of children’s museums all over the country.  Long time member, Amanda Sampayo, had the following to say about being a member:  “We’ve seen the progression of our son’s playtime.  Coming here is a way to have community.  It’s inside, safe and cool.  It’s clean and [the children] are allowed to explore.”

Regular fees are $6 per person.  For more information on the Brownsville Children’s Museum, please visit their Facebook page or their website www.cmofbrownsville.com

Children enjoying exploring this boat and fishing.

Children enjoy exploring this boat and fishing.

Giana Gallardo Hesterberg is passionate about many things, including being a wife, mother, teacher, speaker, blogger, gardener and friend. You can follow some of her adventures on her blog storiesbytheseashore.blogspot.com

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Brownsville MOPS

As a mom, do you ever feel like pulling your hair out?  Are there other moments where you are in complete awe of the beautiful children that have been entrusted to your care?  Can you go from complete elation to total devastation in a matter of seconds?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) is for you!

Part of the Brownsville MOPS group plays an icebreaker.

Part of the Brownsville MOPS group plays an icebreaker.

“My favorite thing about MOPS is getting to know moms and being able to connect with them on a deeper level,” says Briana McIsaac, coordinator of the Brownsville MOPS chapter.  With 15 years in existence, it is a place where all moms are welcome.  “This year, we’ve added MOMSnext to include moms of all ages, and a bilingual table to cater to more mothers in the community,” added McIsaac.

Mothers of Preschoolers, or MOPS for short, is an international nonprofit organization that exists to support mothers as they parent children from birth through Kindergarten.  MOMSnext is an extension of that, helping raise kids who are beyond the preschool years.  Local gatherings typically run for a couple of hours, and include homemade meals, childcare, icebreakers, crafts and inspiring messages.  Outside of meetings, planned extracurricular activities include playdates and special events, such as Moms’ Night Out and MOPS and POPS Night (large group date night with childcare provided).

The MOPS theme for this year is, "A Fierce Flourishing:  Celebrate Lavishly, Embrace Rest and Notice Goodness."

The MOPS theme for this year is, “A Fierce Flourishing: Celebrate Lavishly, Embrace Rest and Notice Goodness.”

Long-time member, Laura Castro, had the following to say about her MOPS experience:  “We have really supported each other through a lot.  There has been a sincere desire to love each other as best we can.  What I’ve found over the years is that it has become a community for me.”  Remembering the weeks following the birth of her second daughter, Castro remarked, “The meals (that MOPS makes and delivers) are great.  Having people come in my home and knowing they were not looking at my chaos meant a lot.  The first few weeks after a baby is born are very chaotic.”

Extracurricular MOPS activities include occasional fundraisers.  Picture here: last year's Zumbathon.

Extracurricular MOPS activities include occasional fundraisers. Pictured here: last year’s Zumbathon.

With three chapters that meet regularly in the Rio Grande Valley, mothers from every area are invited to attend.  Whether you are a stay at home mom, work part-time or full-time, MOPS is a place for you.  The Brownsville chapter meets every other Friday, with the next meeting being October 9th, from 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at Central Christian Church on 1100 E. Alton Gloor Blvd.  Harlingen MOPS meets the first and third Wednesday of each month from 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., at First Christian Church on 421 S. 13th St.  And the McAllen group meets every first and third Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at BT (Baptist Temple) Church on 2001 Trenton Rd.  For more information, please visit their Facebook pages:  Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen.

Giana Gallardo Hesterberg is passionate about many things, including being a wife, mother, teacher, speaker, blogger, gardener and friend.  You can follow some of her adventures on her blog storiesbytheseashore.blogspot.com 

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