Sunday, March 25, 2012

Space Travelers

Melissa Matthews, mother of Aiden, a child with Down syndrome at Frankie Lemmon, is already putting her $100,000 winnings to work from last December's IKEA Life Improvement Sabbatical Contest. In addition to the newly-arrived TAP∙it®, she has donated three new iPads, one for each classroom.

The iPad is not just a cartoon you watch, it's a way of connecting with the world beyond. By interacting with apps on the screen, you can find yourself playing the piano, painting a Rembrandt, or even rocketing into space.

Today, Ms White further fueled our dreams of space by reading to us stories of planets, telescopes and, finally, the inspiring story of Hedgie Blasts Off. More than anything Hedgie wanted to be an astronaut and travel into space.

And now maybe—just maybe—we'd get the chance too! So let's jump on a spaceship and take a ride! Who knows what'll happen!

First, we carefully check the spelling on our ID badges. (It's good to verify things.)

Then we test our rocket packs (see red flames shooting out), to ensure our safety in case of emergency.

It's time to board our rocket to the moon. "Yes, I'm on the passenger list," says Simon. "Yes, my ID checks out."

So buckle up and get ready to go...

Space Travelers

And what does a good astronaut do after a successful return?
Paint moon rocks of course.
And what do we do with the moon rocks?
"Take them home to Mommy and Daddy!"

Saturday, March 17, 2012


"The woods are full of leprechauns and treasures to uncover," began Ms Forbis as the story of the Ten Lucky Leprechauns unfolded before us.

Leprechauns? Yes, leprechauns. You know—the mischievous elves of Irish folklore. I once visited Northern Ireland's Tieveragh Hill, legendary capital of the "wee folk" who live inside it. They told me it is important never to call them fairies. They dislike the name and become very angry. Above all, said one, never cut down a fairy-thorn tree, as they will take devastating revenge on anyone rash enough to do such a deed!

They love to play tricks on people. Years ago some of them hitched a ride on a ship that sailed for America. One of them, whose name was Shamus, found his way into the Catskill Mountains of New York, where he met a good, kind man named Rip Van Winkle. Rip drank a flagon of old Irish Stout that Shamus gave him, which was enchanted and made him fall into a deep sleep for twenty years. When Rip Van Winkle awoke, he returned home to a world where everything had changed.

It was an awakening—a breakthrough.

I can only imagine it was an awakening similar to that of a child coming out of autism. Does it happen? Yes, it happens. I have seen it with my own eyes—and more than once. Does it happen to others? Yes—for one example, go to
recovery*. Does it make me cry? Yes—it does. But that's the Irish in me.

So, on this St. Patrick's Day, let's celebrate those who have gotten well, as well as those who are getting well—with the help of parents, God, and the teachers and staff of Frankie Lemmon School.

Get your thunder tube and rain sticks, your boom-whackers and bells—and anything else that makes noise—and celebrate...
* Not intended as medical advice. Inspirational and informative only.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

If you Give a Cat a Cupcake: if you Give a Kid a Chance

This morning, Ms Forbis asked the question: "What would happen if you gave a cat a cupcake?" (If you haven't heard, Cat, once just a character in the book If You Give a Pig a Party, now has his very own book: If You Give a Cat a Cupcake.)

So, with a cat puppet and a bag full of story props, Ms Forbis began: "If you give a cat a cupcake, he'll ask for some sprinkles to go with it. When you give him the sprinkles, he might spill some on the floor. Cleaning up will make him hot, so you'll give him a bathing suit and take him to the beach. He'll want to go in the water..." (And so the cat continues...on a series of increasingly far-fetched events.)

If you give a kid a cupcake—or maybe even a parachute...what would he (or she) do?

If you give a "special" kid a chance at life...what would he (or she) do?

Ask these famous people with Asperger syndrome: Dan Aykroyd, comedian and actor; Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics; Satoshi Tajiri, creator of Pokémon, Jason McElwain, autistic high-school basketball wonder.

Or these famous people with high-functioning autism: Temple Grandin, Time Magazine's 2010 list of the 100 most influential people in the world; Dylan Scott Pierce, wildlife illustrator; Donna Williams, Australian author of Nobody Nowhere and Somebody Somewhere.

Or these famous people with Down Syndrome: Paula Sage, award-winning Scottish film actress (AfterLife - 2003); Miguel Tomasin, singer with Argentinian avant-rock band Reynols. Karen Gaffney, swimmer, motivational speaker.

Or these famous autistic savants: Daniel Tammet Writer, linguist, educator, “1 of the 100 living geniuses in the world today”; Kim Peek, the original Rain Man.

World-famous author, poet and philosopher Tito Mukhopadhyay was diagnosed with severe autism. Yet he wrote poetry like this:

"I can't see or talk
Yet I can imagine
I can hope and I can expect
I am able to feel pain but I cannot cry
So I just be and wait for the pain to subside
I can do nothing but wait.

– from The Mind Tree   (more...)

It's amazing what can be done with a little help from our friends!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Itinerant Program

On this week of Dr. Seuss' 108th birthday (March 2), I came in Thursday instead of my usual Tuesday and met—for the first time—Thursday-morning volunteer Pender Ibach. Although I'd missed Dr. Seuss's Wacky Wednesday art, as well as today's snack of real green eggs and ham, I did get to see the birth of Thing One and Thing Two! (—►)

"You will see something new.
Two things. And I call them
Thing One and Thing Two.
These Things will not bite you.
They want to have fun."
The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss

I wanted to meet the teachers and pre-school children of the on-site class led by itinerant teacher Laurie Denning. It was a visit well worthwhile.

As part of its curriculum, the Frankie Lemmon School serves fifteen (15) children in an “itinerant” program. These children receive their services either in their home or their daycare settings. Typically, these children receive 1-3 hours of services per week. Education is provided to the child as well as consultation services to the parents and/or child care provider. Some of these children are served in a small group on-site at Frankie Lemmon School. The group is lead by a certified teacher, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist.

Assisting Laurie today were speech therapist Sharon Hanvey, occupational therapist Vicki DeMaster and volunteer/translator Susan Novak. The class was comprised of 6 children, ages 4-5. They meet for two hours once a week to learn social skills—supplemental to Laurie' s one-on-one individualized instruction throughout her county-wide territory of about 15 children—some as far away as Garner.

Laurie first assigned each child an important task such as line leader, snack helper or table cleaner. For example, Sean was made light helper and Francisco was made door holder. Thus, each child knew he or she was responsible for making a mark in the big world around them. During class they worked at various learning centers such as sensory, art, kitchen and blocks & puzzles. Lastly, they studied language skills.

Laurie began today's class with a story about Cloudette, the little cloud who wanted to do something conspicuous in a world surrounded by those that were older and bigger. There were perks to being small, but Cloudette wanted to do important things, like make rivers flow and waterfalls fall. She tried to help the fire department, garden center, and car wash, but was turned away at every stop. When a storm dropped Cloudette in an unfamiliar place, she finally found where her modest services could make a difference – a small, dried-up pond.

"I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat...
And I will eat them in the rain."
The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss

Cloudette is the story of the little cloud you can look up to. So, all in all, It's not a bad thing to be little — because you can still make a difference to someone.