Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Playing Photographer -Pretty Flower

Autism Author Writes From Experience

Autism is a complex diagnosis that has left many families reeling in its wake. The large number of questions that author Lydia Wayman received about what it's like to live independently as a 23-year-old woman with autism, led her to write a book.

Read more about Lydia's challengers of being autistic in the article Autism Author Writes From Experience here.

Check out Lydia's blog Autism Speaks: Not despite autism, but because of it, here.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Words of Wisdom from Louise L. Hay- September 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fun Photos- Zoom. Zoom.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Special Needs Back to School Series #10-Trusting Your Gut

As another school year begins, parents will find themselves facing a multitude of decisions regarding their children with special needs, some of which won't be all that clear cut. When doubt clouds your decision-making judgement, my advice is to trust your gut. It's rarely wrong.

Read 'Trusting Your Instincts,' here.

Photo Judy Winter 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Special Needs Back to School Series #9-The Power of Parent Involvement

Any parent who believe that all they have to do is drop their child off at their neighborhood school and educational success will be theirs, is in for a rude awakening. Many parents need to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the power of parent involvement in educational and life success, especially when it comes to children with special needs. It often does takes a village to ensure the success of kids who struggle.

Never forget that the first and greatest teacher any child has, is you.

Read my take on parent involvement here.

Photo Jenna Winter

Special Needs Back to School Series #8-Special Education Law

With another school year about to descend, parents of kids with special needs need to educate themselves about their children's legal rights in order to advocate effectively within the increasingly complex and political educational system.

When it comes to addressing Special Education Law, Wrightslaw is a popular go-to resource for many families and professionals. It's valuable information presented in language even you and I can understand. In short, it's user and family friendly. While there are many other free resources about special education law out there, if you can afford to purchase a good legal resource, this is the one I recommend, in large part, because it is so friendly and understandable to the layperson. Plus, the authors know their stuff. My copies are well used.

Take some time to research this important topic. Then hopefully, you won't need a judge.

Photo: Conductive Learning Center (CLC) student in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Judy Winter

Special Needs Back to School Series #7-Quick Tips on Prepping for School

Back-to-School QUICK TIPS for Kids with Special Needs by Judy Winter / All Rights Reserved.

We know we shouldn’t judge others based solely on outward appearances and physical beauty. But in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, looks do matter—especially as kids try to claim a coveted place in those unnerving and rigid school social hierarchies.

For students with special needs who are at greater risk for teasing and bullying, that’s a tough reality. The social challenges facing these students as they try to fit in with their typically developing peers makes the annual back-to-school preparation rite especially important.

Here are five simple back-to-school tips for parents to help their children with special needs get off to a great school-year start—allowing them to navigate the often unnerving school hallways with a tad bit more confidence.

• Get your child a good haircut in a current style.

• Go back-to-school shopping with your child and allow him/her to select a cool backpack, necessary school supplies, and clothing.

• Outfit your child with stylish, up-to-date clothing, including a sharp new first-day-of-school outfit. If your budget is strained, shop discount stores, sales racks, second-hand shops and garage sales in upscale neighborhoods. Make preparing for the school year FUN for everyone involved.

• Pay close attention to your child’s personal grooming every day—that includes clean hair, clean body and clean clothes. It does matter.

• To help reduce stress and alleviate those first-day jitters, visit your child’s school before the school year begins and allow him/her to meet the teacher, principal and bus driver. Talk about what to expect on the first day of school in advance, especially with younger children.

As with other families, the choices made by parents of kids with special needs are key to determining that child’s educational and life success. Celebrate your child’s abilities everyday—and have a great school year!

Monday, August 15, 2011


"Believe in your child's value, no matter what." -Judy Winter

If you don't believe in your child, who will?

Photo Jenna Winter

Judy Winter's Parenting Tips on YouTube

I'm pleased to share with you that tips for four special needs parenting topics that I filmed for the PBS program A Wider World are now on YouTube. You can view them all at the links below, and please share with others you know could benefit. I'll add more links as they become available.

Special Needs Back-to-School Series #6- The Power of Laughter

All that back-to-school prep stuff can really amp up powerful, stressful emotions in parents of children with special needs. All the more reason to make time to laugh. 

During the toughest parenting moments, laughter can help heal what ails ya, or at the very least, grant you some new perspective. 

Plus, it's good for your health.

Read my take on its power here.

Photo Jenna Winter

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Special Needs Back-to-School Series #5-Letter to Eric

As part of the back-to-school series, I'm pulling a favorite piece of mine from the archives, one that helped me voice my hopes and dreams amid the challenges of letting go as my son began his public school years. Perhaps you will be inspired to begin your own tradition of capturing such emotional moments, too.

It's that time of year again when the back-to-school buzz is everywhere you turn.

But when you have a child with special needs, back-to-school prep is about more than shopping for shiny new backpacks, squeaky markers and the right jeans. It's about good student-teacher fits, working successfully with your child's team members, and meeting challenging IEP goals, while trying to realize some cherished parenting dreams. It's a highly emotional rite of passage for millions of families of children with special needs.

Not all back-to-school needs can be met at Walmart.

So I'm again pulling a sacred letter from my writing archives to provide you with some back-to-school inspiration to help calm your frayed parenting nerves. Letter to Eric was written to my son in 1995 as he left the safety of our family nest to test his fragile wings at our neighborhood school. It was an unnerving time, and an exciting one, too. Inclusion was a rarity and I was incredibly naive about the challenges and roadblocks that lay ahead of us. But I knew what I wanted for my child, and that first day of school milestone turned out to be the beginning of a challenging and rich journey filled with powerful life experiences that continue to fuel my work as a writer/speaker/advocate today.

Unfortunately, Eric passed away in 2003 at 12, ending our back-to-school adventures. But each fall, I feel Eric's strong presence, smell his sweet hair, see his enchanting smile, and remember with deep love and gratitude the back-to-school adventures of a lifetime that we took together.

May the heartfelt words of one adoring mother inspire you in much the same way as they continue to touch me. Perhaps you'll begin your own letter-writing tradition, something I highly recommend.

Now, pass the Kleenex......and have a wonderful first day of school!

August 28, 1995

Dear Eric:

Today, as you begin kindergarten, I’m writing you a letter, a tradition I began with your big sister, Jenna, seven years ago.

The first day of school is a fall rite of passage, like brilliantly changing leaves, crisp evening air and earlier bedtimes. For our family, it also represents hard-won success. Some professionals believed the physical challenges of cerebral palsy would prevent you from learning in a regular school environment. Armed with cold, hard statistics, they warned of a life of segregation. But our family doesn’t bank on statistics. We invest in the human stuff, like love, faith and hard work.

We chose a different road.

From the moment you first dramatically graced our lives, we’ve focused on your ability. In turn, you have exhibited a spirit of survival that astounds me. We’ve endured too many moments of grief and ignorance. Yet, what I remember most is your first smile and giggle, your first word and your success at a regular preschool.

You are a wise and handsome child, with inquisitive brown eyes that miss nothing. Much of your ability to positively impact others has come from their first impressions of you as a cute child. Your long and lanky frame holds just thirty hard-won pounds, but you are far from being a lightweight in this life. There have been critical hospital stays, invasive procedures and moments when your life was in peril. But today, we celebrate school and a powerful lesson in letting go.

Today, our family is no different.

In your back-to-school outfit of GAP overalls, white Mickey-Mouse T-shirt and black Oshkosh shoes, you charm me. But there will be challenges. The ground we tread is fresh, presenting a challenge to those uncomfortable with inclusion, a word promising equal educational opportunities for all children. Some people won’t understand our fight and won’t want too. Yet, other educators will also teach from their hearts.

This will be a year of new challenges. When people assume physical challenges include mental impairment, you’ll be the first to forgive. I pray that others in this new world take time to discover how gifted and talented you really are. I want to meet the new friends willing to look past your wheelchair and into your eyes—and into your soul. I eagerly await book fairs, walking down school hallways and making red finger Jell-O at Christmas.

As your special bus disappears from sight, I’m a wreck. In a rare moment, I doubt. Are you ready? Am I ready? Your bus is equipped for wheelchairs and separates you from your able-bodied classmates. Someday, that too must change.

You grin at me through the tinted bus window. You are more ready than I am.

As the bright, yellow school bus disappears from sight, as its larger version did with Jenna many memories ago, I’m overcome with emotion. Safely inside, I release the tears of far too many harsh moments spent in the presence of people wrongly judging your value. But my tears of frustration and anger give way to unconditional love for the wise little soul who has become my greatest life teacher.

You are much wiser than most.

As you begin this new journey, son, you must continue to grow increasingly independent, just like other children. But I promise that dad and I will be right beside you ready to dry your tears on the roughest days, and thrilled to champion the dreams that others will try to tarnish.

Forgive them.

On this exceptional day, words can only begin to express what I feel in my heart, Eric Richard Winter. Thank you for coming into my life and teaching me more than I ever thought I had to learn. I’m incredibly proud to be your mom.

With much love always,


p.s. Have a wonderful first day in kindergarten!!

Photo Judy Winter

Special Needs Back-to-School Series #4-Key Tips for Working with Special Needs Families

Ten Key Tips for Working with Special Needs Families, click here.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Special Needs Back-to-School Series #3-Handling Intrusive Comments about Your Special Needs Child

One of the greatest challenges families of kids with special needs face, are the unsolicited comments and stares of strangers while they're appearing in public.  Here's one of my takes on these unnerving encounters, one that happened during a seemingly simple trip to the grocery store for ice cream with my son years ago.  I haven't forgotten it, but I admit that today I have a new perspective on such interactions, one that makes them sting a bit less.

Read it here.

Photo by Jenna Winter

Words of Wisdom from Sarah Ferguson-the Duchess of York-August 2011

"Stand up for what you believe. Nothing drains energy more than suppressing action, passion and commitment."