Friday, February 29, 2008

What's Your Drug of Choice?

I think that most people, if honest, will admit to having a favorite vice for coping. Yours might be overshopping, overeating, gossiping, hoarding, gambling, drinking, doing drugs, smoking, overworking, cheating on your spouse (including online), or charging another pair of Jimmy Choo shoes you cannot afford, no matter how you do the math.

Did I hit a nerve?

Right now, I've got a major sugar hangover from overindulging in my favorite candy in the world, Hershey Kisses, the brand new Easter 2008 version, filled with yummy coconut creme. I ate the whole bag in one sitting, and now I'm having trouble thinking clearly enough to write this entry. Plus, I can't sit still.

I told myself that I was celebrating Leap Year.

In the world of serious vices, this one might not seem all that bad, unless you have a sensitivity to sugar, which I do, and you're a writer who must express your thoughts clearly, which I must. Sugar short circuits my brain and derails my muse, which impacts my work output and self esteem, leaving me hungover and a tad bit testy.

Still, that chocolate sure does taste good, especially when washed down with an icy Diet Coke, another of my vices.

In the past, food has comforted me during some extra tough life moments, an enticement that I still sometimes battle. But I've discovered that the more I choose to express my emotions in productive ways, the less hold my drug of choice has on me. Regular venting, staying in shape and self-imposed discipline are the best antidotes to my vices.

I admit that yesterday, just say no held absolutely no meaning for me. Like an out-of-control two-year-old, I wanted that coconut-creme chocolate and no parent was there to stop me. Plus, it was snowing outside- again!! But my nest is empty now, so the only one paying the price of my sometimes occasional addition is me, and maybe my loving husband if he comes home before I've slept off the sugar buzz.

I'm adding some humor to a serious subject, but I know that parenting can be incredibly challenging. When your child has special needs, it can be especially stressful. I've been there and learned the hard way that the on-going stress demands release.

I also understand that serious time constraints, the inability to arrange and pay for good child care, and many other tough realities of the role can keep you from making wiser choices: like taking time to exercise, journal, attend counseling or parent-support groups, or arrange regular date nights, and so on.

Yet, it's critical that you do just these things to keep functioning in a healthy and productive fashion. The reality is that what may at first seem like a harmless little means of coping can quickly become a major problem that interferes with meeting your daily demands. It can even impact your health, and that can negatively impact the quality of life for all around you, especially your child.

If you're struggling with a serious addiction, seek out necessary support. Our children deserve the best we can give them and they're far sweeter than any vice, including Hershey Kisses with coconut-creme filling.

That said, I think I'll have an apple for lunch today, right after I finish this Diet Coke...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Take Note: National MS Awareness Week 2008

National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Week 2008 is March 10th thu March 17th.

You can find out more at:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, February 28, 2008



So many people who interact with a child or adult with special needs, especially for the first time, automatically raise the pitch of their voice, talk baby talk and/or speak more loudly-- or worse yet, act like they don't even see the person?

Most of us have experienced this phenonmenon at one time or another. I usually chalk it up to a lack of experience, awareness and an overall discomfort with disability that many people still experience in 2008. So let's educate them.

Helpful Hint: Please speak directly to individuals with special needs as you would anyone else, and unless the person (or those with them) indicates that you need to speak more loudly in order for that child or adult to hear you, tone down the volume and pitch. Never ignore them.

-and please, reserve all that really cute baby talk for babies.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

I'm a Big Fan of...! March 2008

Here's my March 2008 gush!


I am thrilled with the news that this amazing, talented, Oscar-winning actress (who happens to be deaf), has been added to the new season of Dancing with the Stars!

I was fortunate to meet Marlee at the AOL-Dove CEO Awards in NYC in 2006 where she and I were both recognized. Marlee delivered a great keynote. She is funny, talented, confident, intelligent and a great role model for all of us. Marlee made it clear in her speech that she attributes much of her success to the way in which her family raised her to be just a typical kid (parents take note).

Those parenting efforts paid off handsomely. Lucky for us.

You can find out more about Marlee Matlin at:

-And make sure you vote to keep Marlee in each week. Our numbers are mighty powerful when we unite to support a worthy cause. What a statement we can make!

Congrats, Marlee! You've got my vote.

I like this show even more now....
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Minute Vacations- March 2008

Judy's Minute Vacation for March 2008
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Put yourself here and escape, if only for a few moments... minus the sand in your teeth!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Judy Winter's FAV Quote of the Month- March 2008...

"A miracle is a shift in perception."
-Marianne Williamson

Change your thinking; change your life.
-and the lives of your children.

I've done it many times- it works!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Larry King Live and Autism

If you missed last night's 'Larry King Live' program on autism, here's the link for a partial viewing. The program featured Jason J-Mac McElwain, who became a national sensation after scoring 20 points straight during a high school basketball game in 2006. Jason, a charming and well-spoken young adult with higher-functioning autism, went on to win the ESPN ESPY Award for Best Moment in Sports 2006. He has written a book about his life entitled The Game of my Life.

Here's the link to the interview:

Also on the program, Holly Robinson Peete, Toni Braxton, and Doug Flutie who all have sons with autism. The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism provides resources and other support for families facing this challenging diagnosis. Check it out:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, February 25, 2008

WKAR-TV (PBS affiliate) and the film Rolling

Megan's Beach
U.S. Virgin Islands

I'm back after a nearly two-week sun-filled excursion to the U.S. Virgin Island where I spent some much-needed time refueling from the craziness of the year, while also honoring the fifth anniversary of my son's death. You never get over the loss of a child, but I've learned that you can live with renewed purpose that does justice to your child's life and legacy, and helps you get out of bed in the morning.

Every so often, I need to stop and remember why I have taken on what I have taken on. My son remains my on-going muse and teacher, and I miss Eric every single day. I remain in awe and humbled by what this young child's life has meant to so many others facing the challenges of special needs throughout the world.

So much for focusing on a child's disability...

Lots has been happening in my absence, and I'll try my best to catch you (and me) up on some of the highlights soon. But in the meantime, here's an April event that I'm thrilled and honored to be part of; be sure to check air dates/times for the film Rolling on your PBS affiliate station. There may be a local effort planned in your own community. Check it out!

I gotta go unpack and do some laundry!

"Rolling Event"
Saturday, April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

"Rolling" is a television documentary profiling wheelchair users.

WKAR Receives Grant for Community Event

WKAR-TV was recently awarded a $4,000 grant by WNET/New York to host a community event focusing on wheelchair use and relating to the public television program Rolling, which will air on the public television station this spring. The grant was one of five offered to public television stations nationwide.

The free event will take place at WKAR on Saturday, April 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and include both an extensive resource room and a program featuring several speakers, a musical performance and a preview of the national documentary.

Community partners for this event are the Capital Area Center for Independent Living, Center for Educational Networking, Peckham Industries, MSU College of Music and Community Music School, and MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. Judy Winter, the author of “Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs,” and nationally recognized speaker and advocate, is serving as project advisor.

The day-long event will include a resource room featuring organizations dealing with wheelchair use, independent living, and special needs, among other related topics. Those attending the free event will be able to pick up information and talk with representatives from participating organizations.

The program will take place at 1 p.m. and include remarks from several leaders on this topic, including Judy Winter, Al Swain of the Capital Area Center for Independent Living and a teen who is a wheelchair user. The program will also include a performance by students from the Music Therapy Program at Michigan State University’s Community Music School and a preview of the television documentary.

Please visit closer to the event date for an updated schedule and additional information.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reminder/Update Re: Dance War & DSALA--Airing Tonight!

A quick update regarding tonight's episode of Dance War: Team Bruno vs Team Carrie Ann.

Members of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA) have been informed that they WILL have 60 seconds of fame on tonight's show. (See my Feb. 8 entry for more details). Check your local listings for broadcast time.

First, the PepsiCo Superbowl ad and the inclusion of kids with Down syndrome in the Oprah MLK tribute earlier this month, and now this! It's this kind of continued coverage (in addition to on-going media talk of autism on programs like Larry King Live and Oprah) that indicates valuable progress is being made in creating awareness and acceptance of a wide range of special needs coverage in major media.

Very cool...and long overdue.

Congrats to Gail Williamson and DSALA members for pulling this off! This is great exposure during valuable prime-time on a hot new program! Be sure to watch- and vote!
-And remember to write the network and tell them you approve!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, February 08, 2008

Granddoggy Zelda

I'm a wee bit tired of all the heavy snow of late, but my daughter's furry baby Zelda is simply captivated! The enchantress helps me see the powdery old landscape through brand new eyes...

Kids and granddoggies- life's greatest teachers!

Thanks, Z! xo
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Dance War and the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA)

My friend Gail Williamson keeps me up to date on all the terrific things she's doing in her important role as executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA). Gail also oversees the Heart & Halo Talent division of DSALA and books gigs for actors with special needs.

This woman is a dynamo, and the go-to person for many people looking to cast individuals with special needs for film and television in Hollywood and beyond. Gail's also the parent of a successful working actor with Down syndrome, my good buddy Blair! That's us at my book signing at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. You can read more about the amazing Williamson duo in my book.

Here's another cool announcement Gail just shared with me.

The Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA) hosted a meet and greet with “Team Bruno” of the ABC prime time show “Dance War – Bruno vs. Carrie Ann.”

(Photo by Tony Maddox of Tony Maddox Photography

DSALA members got together to cheer up “Team Bruno” after their second week loss of the public phone-in vote to “Team Carrie-Ann.” DSALA contacted ABC and “Dance Wars” after the initial show introduced Zach a “Team Bruno” member (in grey T-shirt with thumbs-up) who has an older brother Matt who was born with Down syndrome and lives in Utah.

ABC filmed the event and intends on airing the footage on the Monday, February 11, 2008 show. DSALA will not get the final word on their appearance until Saturday, February 9. Knowing we couldn’t let everyone know between Saturday and Monday night we have chosen to let the public know of our “possible appearance” so they can watch just in case we make it.

The DSALA would also like to encourage all our friends and family to vote for “Team Bruno” following the show Monday night.

“Dance Wars – Bruno vs. Carrie Ann”
Monday, February 11, 2008
ABC, check local listings for time

Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, Inc.
Gail Williamson, Exc. Director
315 Arden Avenue, Suite 25
Glendale, CA 91203
818-242-7871 office
818-242-7819 fax

Hmmm... until now, I was backing Team Carrie Ann......
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, February 01, 2008

I'm a Big Fan of...! February 2008

Here's my February 2008 gush.


Siblings in special needs families are my heroes, including Rachel (above) with her brother, Regan.

These sibs take on priceless roles in challenging family life situations with little or no voice about those tough roles. Yet, if we pay attention to meeting their needs, too, these amazing young people often grow up to become responsible, caring young adults with a maturity far greater than many of their peers. Many choose to go into helping professions like teaching and various therapy careers, the direct result of their day-to-day real-life experiences. These choices clearly benefit society.

Still, these kids often exchange childhood innocence to lay claim to those valuable lessons in adult maturity. Theirs is no easy role to take on, and I marvel that so many, like Rachel, do it with such grace, dignity, fierce sibling loyalty, and unconditional love.

As adults, we have much to learn from these special siblings.

Recently, I received a wonderful e-mail from Rachel, a college student who took the time to write and tell me how much she enjoyed my book. Rachel also shared her inspiring words of support and love for her brother, Regan, now a high school senior.

With her permission, I am sharing her heartfelt words and the photo of her with the brother she clearly adores.

I hope that Rachel's words of wisdom inspire you as much as they do me.

-Please remember that it's important to take good care of all the kids in your family...that's why I devoted an entire chapter to sibling voices in my book.


My name is Rachel, and I am a junior Communications major at Southern Utah University. I recently read your fantastic book, and I am giving a report on it in my parenting class this Friday. I want to thank you for your book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I, like your daughter, was born the first grandchild and I was healthy and happy. When I was 2 1/2 years old, my brother was born with cerebral palsy. My parents and the doctors knew something was wrong but they weren't able to diagnose him for a few years.

Regan cannot walk or talk, but he has a machine called a Pathfinder that talks for him. He also has developed his own form of sign language, which we call "Reglish" that we use to communicate. Today Regan is 17 years old and a senior in high school. He is very interested in the news and film production, and he loves to travel. One of his favorite places to be is riding in the car in traffic on a busy highway! Regan is the most amazing person I know and I am so grateful to be his big sister.

I wouldn't trade my brother for the whole world. I know he was sent to our family to help us learn patience, love, hope, and so many other things. Regan has a message he likes to share with everyone he meets. His message is "Don't be sad if you ever have a child or grandchild with special needs. It is just a different journey so hop on and enjoy the ride!"

When I read the chapter about siblings of special needs children, I found that I can totally relate, and it was fun for me to be able to hear other's stories. It sounds like your son was a pretty amazing kid, and I thank you for sharing a little of him with me. I have a special place in my heart for children like Regan and Eric. I know they are God's special angels and they were sent to this Earth for a purpose. I am sorry for your loss, and I want you to know that I admire your strength and courage.

Thank you again for your amazing book and for your example.


-and thank you, Rachel, for sharing your insightful, loving words with me , and with the world! You inspire me.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

DO YOU EVER WONDER WHY? -February 2008


When you make a purchase these days, so often, you're the one spouting those lovely little words hello, thank you and have a nice day? Aren't businesses (or parents) today training employees/children in the ABC's of retail/social basics, or don't they practice them either?

I've tried standing at the counter long after a costly transaction, staring hopefully in anticipation. It doesn't work! All it does is make the employee give me one of those clueless, unnerving what-do-you-want-now looks that makes me want to throw whatever I just bought at 'em, especially the Mackinac Island Fudge Ice Cream that's already seeping through the ripped bag and onto my well-worn UGGS, making them look even uglier.

Please excuse me for asking, but what has happened to basic customer service, simple manners and the sacred mantra that the customer is is always right? More often than not, these treasures of civility seem to be missing in retail action.

FYI business owners: More and more I'm making my spending choices based on good customer service. I can, will and do pay more for this luxury. My husband will assure you that this far-too-frequent customer service snafu is costing you some major bucks!

Perhaps you could you at least try to address this before my next shopping trip?


Just asking... and thank you in advance!

Parents please take note-- there's little worse than a spoiled child with special needs, no manners and no discipline, unless of course, it's a privileged child without special needs, no manners and no discipline...!

Manners matter, and they should be taught to all children-
and modeled by the adults in their lives.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raisng the Bar of Expectations

Judy Winter's FAV Quote of the Month February 2008

"Our time for change has come."
-Barack Obama
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations