Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Playing Photographer -Fun Photos!


Simple Beauty.

Butterfly House
Mackinac Island
Judy Winter 2010




Reminder -National Inclusive Schools Week Dec. 6-10





National Inclusive Schools Week is Dec. 6 thru Dec. 10. Download an I am NORM Educational Guide here.




Twelve Days of Special Needs Kudos -Day Two/Andrea Benyovszky of Conductive Learning Center



SPECIAL NEEDS KUDOS 2010 -
DAY TWO:

As my family traveled down the dicey special needs parenting road in search of the best possible life for our son, we were fortunate to meet some wonderful professionals with great heart that made an incredible difference in Eric's life and development.

Few had as much impact as Andrea Benyovszky, program director of the Conductive Learning Center (CLC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The CLC "provides intensive, multidisciplinary approach to education, training, and development for individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other motor challenges." Conductive Education was developed in 1945 in Hungary by Dr. Andras Peto.

Andrea Benyovszky is directly associated with the Peto Institute in Budapest (her home) and is one of the most outstanding professionals and human beings I've ever met. I had high expectations for my son throughout his life. Andrea Benyovszky taught me to raise my own bar higher for Eric, and I will be forever grateful. The children and families in this remarkable woman's care are indeed fortunate.

I am honored to call her my friend.

Find out more about this terrific program for motor challenges
here.

Judy Winter

Go Green! -Mark Dantonio Named Big Ten Coach of the Year







I'm not a big sports fan, but as a proud graduate of Michigan State University (MSU), I do love my Spartans. So I just can't miss the opportunity to congratulate MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio on being named Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media. Dantonio led the Spartans to their first ever 11-win season, and he did it while experiencing and recovering from a mild heart attack, no easy feat.

Congratulations Spartans and thanks for a thrilling season we'll never forget. Now, one more win, please.

Go Green!

Photo of Coach Mark Dantonio & Sparty by Judy Winter 2010

Judy Winter

Michigan's Next Lt. Gov. Brian Calley Calls for Mandatory Autism Coverage


With words sure to be applauded by families struggling with the tremendous challenges of autism, Michigan's next lietenant governor, Rep. Brian Calley (R-Portland), has called for passage of mandatory insurance coverage for programs for Michigan's children with autism, citing the critical importance of early intervention programs. Twenty-three states already have passed some form of mandatory autism coverage.

Calley, who takes office January 1st, has a 3-year-old daughter who has been diagnosed with autism. This important legislation has already been adopted by the Michigan House. Up next, the Senate. While passage is considered a long shot, this is an important discussion, one long overdue.

My take on this? I agree with Mr. Calley. But I would love to see such discussions, including those nationally, better address the needs of many other disabilities as well. Early intervention is critical to most kids with special needs, and like families of those with autism, millions are struggling under the weight of their special needs demands. The greatest cost is to the families challenged by a wide range of disabilities.

As a nation, we need to do better by all children with special needs, and their struggling families.

Read the article
here.

Photo of Michigan's Capitol Dome Judy Winter 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Playing Photographer -Fun Photos



'Tis the season.

Capitol Christmas Tree 2010
Lansing, Michigan

Photo Judy Winter 2010

Judy Winter

Twelve Days of Special Needs Kudos -Day One/Siblings






For the next twelve days, I'm recognizing individuals who make a big difference in the lives of kids/adults with special needs, and their families (including mine).

You can do the same by offering up your own verbal or written thanks to the people in your life who have most impacted your children this past year.

Saying 'Thank You!' is a beautiful gift to share, one that costs us nothing, and leaves us feeling blessed.

Good karma.
___________________________________________________

SPECIAL NEEDS KUDOS 2010 -DAY ONE:

I can't think of a better start than shouting out Kudos!! to all the great siblings in special needs families. Siblings often go above and beyond the call of sisterly/brotherly duty to make life better for others in their families, especially for family members with special needs. Being a sib in these families is no easy gig to play, but a priceless role, which is why I devoted an entire chapter to them in my book. They are my heroes.

For another good special needs sibs resource, click here.

Photo of Eric with his big sister, Jenna, by Judy Winter years ago. Seems like only yesterday.

Judy Winter

Great Christmas Gift Idea! -Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs



If you or someone you know is facing the challenges of parenting a child with special needs, please consider giving my
book as a holiday gift, including to yourself. I know it will make a difference, as it already has in the lives of many families and professionals worldwide.

I wrote the words in this terrific resource from my heart, especially for you and your child.

Because I care.

Photo of me and a retired music therapist and satisfied customer taken at Santa Barbara book signing November 2009.

Judy Winter

Words of Wisdom from Frances Pharcellus Church -December 2010



"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." -Frances Pharcellus Church



Words of the Day -Traditions




What are your favorite holiday traditions?









Photo Judy Winter 2010

Judy Winter

Minute Vacations -December 2010



Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...


Photo Judy Winter 2010

Reminder -Toys "R" Us 2010 Guide for Differently Abled Kids


Since the seasonal holiday frenzy and call to shop occurs earlier each year (and is already in full swing), I've decided to add my seasonal tips and resource links earlier as well, hoping it helps kids with special needs and their families have a more festive holiday season.

First up, gift buying for kids with special needs.

I remember well the times my son received a birthday or holiday gift that was neither age appropriate nor what he'd hoped for. It wasn't because people didn't mean well, but because they lacked the understanding and comfort level about what would be a great gift choice for a child with significant physical challenges. Their choices, and refusal to ask what Eric wanted, reflected that disconnect.

Those moments of big disappointment for my son as we excitedly unwrapped his gifts were tough to witness. That's why I've become a fan of the annual Toys "R" Us Guide for Differently Abled Kids. This terrific annual guide can help people make more appropriate and fun choices for kids with disabilities. For the past twenty years, the retail toy giant has produced the guide with a focus on helping encourage play for children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities. This year's celebrity cover choice is Holly Robinson Peete (HollyRod Foundation), who has a child with autism and understands well the many challenges facing special needs families.

You can find out more about the guide and watch a video here, while also accessing the Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys prepared by the National Lekotek Center, considered a key resource for toys and play for kids with special needs. Both resources can help you make a child's holiday brighter, and that's in keeping with the season.

Finally, don't forget to allow your child with special needs to do gift shopping for others, too.

Happy shopping, and kudos to Toys "R" Us for all it does to support the special needs community.

Photo: RicStar's Camp 2010 / Erik Taylor Photography

Weekly Reminder-The Compassionate Friends Annual Candle-Lighting


The Compassionate Friends annual worldwide candle lighting honors and remembers children who have died. This year's event will be held on Sunday, December 12th at 7 p.m. local time. Please share this post with those you believe could benefit from the healing act of remembering a child who has died. I love selecting a special candle for my son just for this evening.

For more information on this organization that supports bereaved parents, and about this beautiful holiday tradition born in 1997, click here.

As always, my candle remembering my son, Eric, will be burning brightly, too.

Photo Judy Winter

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs -Week Three


Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-- Week Three
by Judy Winter (JudyWinter.com / 2010/ All rights reserved)

-Redefine your expectations. Throw all those visions of a perfect Hallmark family holiday right out the garland-draped window! Instead, ask what memories you want to create for all of your children. Having a child with special needs does not mean you must forgo memorable and fun holiday moments and traditions.

Think creatively!

To see all Seven Tips, click here.




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kourtney Kardashian's Son Mason Helps Creates Greater Awareness of Peanut Allergies in Kids


When Kourtney Kardashian's adorable 11-month-old son, Mason, was recently hospitalized with an allergic reaction to eating peanuts, the world took notice. That's the power of reality television, and good news for creating greater awareness of and discussion about one of the most prevalent and fastest growing childhood food allergies.

Thankfully, Mason's mom reacted quickly and called for medical support and her charming firstborn is okay. But the valuable awareness created comes at an especially important time of year when lots of feasting and family gatherings may well include food items with peanuts and other food products that can create serious allergic reactions and even death in children.

While there are lots of online resources about peanut allergies, I'm not familiar enough with any one to recommend them here. But I am comfortable with Terri Mauro at About.com and the special needs resources she provides on her blog, including about peanut allergies.

Find out more here.

Photo of Detroit's Eastern Market by Judy Winter 2010

Judy Winter

Special Needs Kudos!-Jean Kennedy Smith of VSA Recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom


Congratulations to Jean Kennedy Smith, a 2010 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civilian honor.

Smith is the founder of VSA, the amazing international non-profit that provides terrific opportunities in the arts for those with special needs worldwide, and one of my favorite resources.

See the official White House announcement and names of other recipients here. Well deserved.

BRAVO!

Photo of RicStar's Camp by Erik Taylor Photography 2010

Did You Know? Numbers Impacted by Paralysis



Did You Know?

Almost 5.6. million Americans are living with paralysis?









Photo Judy Winter 2010

Judy Winter

Monday, November 22, 2010

In the News! -Miniature Horse Opens Doors for Blind Student




Most people have heard of guide dogs, but a guide horse? Click here to read this terrific story about how a miniature horse named Cali is changing the life of Mona Ramouni, a blind graduate student at Michigan State University.

Jack gives this story all four paws.

Photo Judy Winter 2010

Word of the Day -Thanksgiving








I believe that a great tradition to add to any Thanksgiving gathering is to take time before filling plates and over indulging in the feast to ask each person present this one question:

What are you thankful for?

The answers from people you thought you knew well might surprise you.


One thing I was thankful for was my visit to the Chihuly Glass Exhibit at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI in October. Marvelous! Photo Judy Winter 2010.


I am NORM Campaign




NY Times Article 'A Big, Fat Miracle/ Ketogenic Diet


One of the most challenging and frustrating conditions any parent and child can face is seizures.That's why I'm sharing this interesting and informative piece from yesterday's NY Times Magazine about the role of diet and seizures in kids.

Author, Fred Vogelstein, has two children with seizure disorder, but this piece highlights the challenges the family has faced trying to find an answer to the 100 epileptic seizures per day experienced by his 9-year-old son, Sam. Vogelstein shares the role played by the ketogenic diet (high fat/low carbs) in treating Sam's seizures, offering hope and a potential treatment plan for others.

Read A Big Fat Miracle here.

This story proves once again, that parents are their children's best advocates.

Photo Judy Winter 2010

Shout Out! Kid Rock Rocks the American Music Awards


Can't miss this opportunity to give a shout out to Kid Rock for the stirring, gutsy performance of his new song Times Like These, which highlighted Rock's hometown (Detroit) and state (Michigan) on last night's American Music Awards (AMA). Those of us who live in this great state and hear far too much about what's wrong with it (including from those who've never been here), appreciate the singer's loyalty, heartfelt words and music more than we can say. Few understand what a beautiful state we live in, with the best people you'll find anyone.

The performance was Pure Michigan. Made me proud to be a Michigander.

Watch Kid Rock's moving performance of the song Times Like These here.

Photo Judy Winter 2010

Blind MSU Grad Wants to Become News Anchor


There are so many good stories to share with you this Monday morning, beginning with one from the Lansing State Journal regarding a graduate of my alma mater Michigan State University.

Hope Springstead wants to become a news anchor, not an unusual career choice. But the 23-year -old grad, who was adopted from an orphanage in China by a Michigan family after being abandoned by her mother in a train station, is blind. What Springstead has accomplished since that traumatic event is nothing short of miraculous. I just hope some television station is smart enough to give this terrific young woman an opportunity to fulfill her on-air dream. Can you imagine what a great employee she would be?

I love it when people focus on Abilities. Read Blind MSU Grad Wants to Become News Anchor here.

Go Green!!

Judy Winter

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs- Week Two

  • Creating Holiday Magic for Kids with Special Needs-- Week Two by Judy Winter (JudyWinter.com / 2010/ All rights reserved)
Inclusion is the name of the game!

Kids with special needs are children first, with big dreams and long holiday wish lists, just like other kids. Whenever possible, include the child in holiday festivities and activities like tree trimming, baking cookies, shopping for gifts, and attending church services (use the cry room if needed). Include that child in family holiday photos and videos, too.

Reminder -The Compassionate Friends Annual Candle Lighting





The holiday buzz is already upon us. So here's my annual post regarding the The Compassionate Friends annual worldwide candle lighting that honors and remembers children who have died. This year's event will be held on Sunday, December 12th at 7 p.m. local time. I will post reminders of this simple holiday tradition for the next few weeks. Please share this post with those you believe could benefit from the healing act of remembering a child who has died. I love selecting a special candle for my son just for this evening.

For more information on this organization that supports bereaved parents, and about this beautiful holiday tradition born in 1997, click here.

As always, my candle remembering my son, Eric, will be burning brightly, too.

Photo Judy Winter

Friday, November 19, 2010

Word of the Day -Jack


My marvelous, former shelter pup, Jack, has truly found his calling as a therapy dog. When I watch him in action, I'm both amazed and deeply moved by his innate ability to touch the challenged lives of others and make them smile, if only for a moment.

Special Needs Kudos -I am NORM Inclusion Campaign






What exactly is 'normal' anyway?

That age-old question has helped inspire a group of talented young people to create the cool new national campaign I am NORM, a project that challenges us to redefine terminology, while promoting inclusion for those with special needs.

This ground-breaking inclusion project first came to my attention from photojournalism/filmmaker/dad, Dan Habib, who has been creating a buzz of his own with his terrific, award-winning documentary Including Samuel. The film documents the efforts of the Habib family to fully include their son Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, into their lives and into society. Habib's film helped fuel the I am NORM campaign, which is led by our nation's youth, a population I believe can and will change the world with their spirited advocacy efforts. True inclusion happens at the peer level.

You can check out the important work of I am NORM here. Then, add your own valuable voice to the discussion, and pass the word. Those involved with the campaign state, "we believe diversity makes us stronger." I couldn't agree more.

Special Note: National Inclusive Schools Week is Dec. 6 thru Dec. 10. Download an I am NORM Educational Guide here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holiday Shout Out! -2010 Gift Guide for People Living with Paralysis




More great gift-giving ideas for those with special needs. The 2010 Gift Guide for People Living with Paralysis comes from one of my fav organizations: the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and its Paralysis Resource Center.

Happier holidays!



Tis the Season for Giving & RicStar's Camp


As you consider giving to worthy causes this beautiful time of year, please consider a gift to my son's camp, a marvelous summer music therapy camp for individuals of all ages with a wide range of disabilities. Many campers couldn't attend without scholarships.

Amazing moments happen here, as do valuable lessons about inclusion and tolerance that go back into our communities. Priceless.

Thanks for considering, and be sure to enroll early for the June 2011 camp! Click here for more info:

Photo of 2010 RicStar Camper by Erik Taylor Photography

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Compassionate Friends Annual Candle Lighting





The holiday buzz is already upon us. So here's my annual post regarding the The Compassionate Friends annual worldwide candle lighting that honors and remembers children who have died. This year's event will be held on Sunday, December 12th at 7 p.m. local time. I will post reminders of this simple holiday tradition for the next few weeks. Please share this post with those you believe could benefit from the healing act of remembering a child who has died. I love selecting a special candle for my son just for this evening.

For more information on this organization that supports bereaved parents, and about this beautiful holiday tradition born in 1997, click here.

As always, my candle remembering my son, Eric, will be burning brightly, too.

Photo Judy Winter