Category Archives: Parenting

Autism Myths: How they hurt families!


thanks to for this image!
thanks to for this image!

Schools and service agencies that only know autism myths deny families and children needed services.  During this time of year, I attend so many Individualized Education Placement meetings, and also eligibility for services meetings!  And I see these same issues again and again!  Too many professionals are unaware of what autism is and how it presents differently in every child.

As the saying goes:  “If you know one child with autism, you know one child with autism.”  Professionals need to remember that.

So you can have a daughter with an autism diagnosis; you can have a verbal child with an autism diagnosis; you can have a highly gifted, intellectual child who loves learning who has an autism diagnosis.  Being female, verbal, smart, making eye contact, having friends, being extroverted and social – all of these things do not preclude an autism diagnosis.

The criteria for autism are simple:  an impairment in social communication and interaction; repetitive behaviors; symptoms appear before age 3  – but may not be problematic until older; and no other diagnosis accounts for these symptoms.  Simple!  So why can’t more professionals get this????

Social/communicative impairments can include a child who is using vocabulary four and five years beyond their age level – these kids have very marked impairments in school and making friends!  And many highly verbal children on the autism spectrum can explain their interest in steam engines for hours, but not tell you they are nigh fainting with hunger.  Again, this is an impairment, and in early intervention, it is still a delay that qualifies for services.  Social/communicative impairments can include very social children with many friends, yet these children become incapacitated when required to change activities or to do a new activity.  Often these children also have a limited ability to identify feelings and needs, and so collapse instead.  And I am also seeing happy, content, nonverbal children being denied autism diagnoses, because the clinician says happy children can’t be on the autism spectrum.  But extreme delays in communication are one hallmark of autism.

Repetitive behaviors are not just the stereotyped kid rocking in a corner.  The child who only recites Dr. Who television show dialogue is engaging in repetitive behavior.  The child who refuses to do anything but play video games is engaging in repetitive behavior.   The child who is toe-walking is engaging in repetitive behavior.  Children who struggle with transitions are engaging in repetitive behavior.  The child who picks lint off the carpet all day is engaging in repetitive behavior.  All of those behaviors qualify as one part of an autism diagnosis.

So parents often have to educate professionals while seeking services.  Yes, this is annoying.  But the more you learn about autism diagnoses, the more you can advocate for your child.  Learn about the many ways impairments impact children on the spectrum, and you can then more effectively get the services you need.  Yup hard work.  But it is worth it for your child!

WHOLE Families can help!  We regularly meet with early intervention and school services to ensure that children who need autism services are getting them!  We also do multiple professional workshops each year to teach others how to correctly identify and meet the needs of families impacted by autism.  Need help?  Call us!  Know an agency or school that could use some training?  Call us again.  Our job is to help all families dealing with autism get needed services and family support.  Let us know, and we will gladly help with your child’s needs.

Why diagnosis matters in Early Intervention

Scotti and I are big fans of early intervention, and both of us love our many families in West Virginia’s early intervention program, Birth to Three.  We also work extensively with families who are moving out of Birth to Three, as their children are turning three-years-old, and no longer eligible for early intervention services.  When early intervention children turn three, they either transition to new programs, or they lose all services.

And that is why diagnosis matters so much in early intervention.  As children turn three, and age out of early intervention services, they are only eligible for special education services if they meet certain state and federal requirements for school special education.  And those school special ed programs are only available to students who meet the guidelines put into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the IDEA).  If your child does not have the correct, federally recognized, diagnosis, then your child could lose special education services at the age of three!

So think about that!  For families who are dealing with little kiddos with special needs, the transition to special ed. seems pretty remote.  After all, tantrums, speech, feeding and sleep issues, toilet issues – all of those realities of special needs parenting take over a child’s early years.  So parents in early intervention are not worrying about special education down the road.

But you need to!

If early intervention specialists diagnose your child with “sensory processing disorder,” a common non-federally and non-medically recognized diagnosis, then at age three your child will not only age out of early intervention, but also lose any hope of special education placement, and any hope of insurance reimbursement for future services! Since sensory processing disorder language often hides the wide range of abilities and needs that are common to children on the autism spectrum,  that unrecognized diagnosis can later cost families thousands of dollars in therapy costs, as well as confining a child to limited accommodations when the child reaches school.  Not having the right diagnosis can be really damaging to families with special needs children.

So I know it is tough, but I encourage families in early intervention, whether you work with WHOLE Families or not! – to actively demand good psych evaluations for children who get labels such as “sensory processing disorder,” or non-specified “developmental delays”(not to be confused with Global Developmental Delay, which is a recognized diagnosis), or with “speech and language delays.”  All of those non-recognized diagnoses can limit your future services in very significant ways.

So what should families do??

Families can request a thorough evaluation from qualified professionals who have recognized expertise evaluating children with non-specified delays in speech, motor skills, typical development, and social interaction skills at the early intervention age.  In West Virginia, the qualified professionals who can do these evaluations are medical doctors and licensed psychologists.  West Virginia Birth to Three has several licensed psychologists who can evaluate a child for autism spectrum disorders, and you as a parent can demand that evaluation be done.  Be sure to get a copy of the evaluation, and keep a copy for when your child is old enough to transition into special education at age three.

And what if you have a child who has left Birth to Three and early intervention, is not receiving special education services, and you as a parent feel your child needs special education or recognized therapy?  Get your child’s records from Birth to Three, which you are legally entitled to have, and then send a written request to your local school district, explaining your concerns, and asking for an evaluation for your child.  Be sure this request is in writing, and the best process is to take the letter to your local school, ask the secretary to copy it and sign it that it has been received on the copy, and to keep the copy with you.

If the school district denies the evaluation, there are still options to appeal their decision.  A great and FREE resource is the West Virginia Parent Training and Information project in Buchannon.  You can call them at 1-800-281-1436, go to their website at, or see our link here at WHOLE Families.  They can help you through the appeal process.

The bottom line is that early intervention and special education laws are there to help your family get all the services your child needs to have a free and appropriate, public education.  Early intervention should help you get the best and most accurate diagnosis so that you can start your child on the path to successful school years – that is the point of early intervention!  So speak up!86530286_4x3 Because all of us parents with children who have special needs can tell you, practice your requesting muscles now.  Ask for full evaluations for children in early intervention, and be sure a qualified evaluation gives you the diagnosis that will ensure your child gets all future services.


IEP and 504 Plan Help

It’s that time of the year!

IEP time, that is!

If your child is in public school and receives special education services, then it is time to address needed accommodations and supports for the new year.  Often, as children grow and become pre-teens and teens, more and more accommodations are needed while previous supports are at times less necessary.  And suddenly, school begins, kids are in new classrooms, grades, even schools, with new teachers, peers, and schedules.  And you needed the new accommodations yesterday!

If you think you need a new IEP and the school hasn’t suggested one, and if you have had an IEP meeting within the past 12 months, then you need to write a request to your district and ask for an update.  Always put all IEP and special education requests, questions, and information in WRITING!  The school must respond and the WV Department of Education’s Special Education, A Parent’s Advocacy Guide to Special Education (click on the green text to read it or download your own!), states:

“If you believe your child is not progressing satisfactorily or that there is a problem with the current IEP, you can request an IEP team meeting. The district is required to grant any reasonable request for such a meeting.”

At this update IEP meeting, ask for evidence of how your child is responding to the previously established goals, and if possible, produce evidence that your child is not progressing.  (remember get it all in writing!)  If you have new evaluations of your child’s special needs or disabilities, be sure to have written evidence as well.  I encourage parents to have ideas ahead of time to include in this updated IEP:  suggest breaks from bustle if your child is becoming overwhelmed at school, for example, or suggest a small study group format for your child who needs interaction to learn.  You know your child best and so be ready to state what you want!

If schools turn down a request for an update, which they do despite the WV guidelines, then you can request a new re-evaluation of your child’s eligibility.  Schools can not refuse evaluation requests.  However, unless you have an outside evaluation, the same team members will do the new evaluation, so having new evidence from outside professionals is a best step.  Since many WV school districts are denying autism diagnoses in their IEP evaluations, contacting us at WHOLE Families for evaluation, or contacting other reputable autism agencies for evaluations, is a good idea.

However, we have certainly worked with school districts who still deny new IEP accommodations or an IEP altogether!  The schools can claim that your child’s diagnosis does not impact their education, even when they school is claiming your child has behavioral problems.  When this happens, you can immediately demand a 504 plan.

504 plans have no special education placement, but they do provide accommodations to ensure that children with disabilities get a full and appropriate public education.  If noise and bustle bother your child, that means they should get a 504 plan to provide quiet and calm so your child can learn.  If your child struggles to write in homework assignments, classroom work, or to take notes, then requesting a laptop for notes and homework can be put into a 504 plan to ensure your child can learn.  If your child gets overwhelmed at school and can’t concentrate, then a 504 plan can address the need for breaks and quiet so your child can learn.  Parents don’t get to approve the 504 plan as they do an IEP, but if parents see that the 504 plan does not assist their child to full accommodation in the school, then the parent can complain.  Schools can not deny children with special needs access to education.

And that is what I tell parents to think about.  A 504 plan is like a wheelchair ramp for a child with a mobility disability.  Schools can not build their doors in such a way that a child in a wheelchair can not get into class. Likewise, schools can not deny children with sensory or social issues in school a break or quiet space, because that is equivalent to not providing a wheelchair ramp.  Breaks, quiet space, extra time, these are access accommodations.  Schools by law can not deny them.

An IEP is a specialized individual education plan.  It should include course modifications (allowing students to do math in their head, should they prefer, instead of writing it out as teachers ask, or reading Pokemon books for book report time instead of the teacher’s choice), homework modifications (allowing students to do more or less homework, homework on a typewriter or laptop, homework that the students choose instead of the teacher), and broad curriculum adjustments (Headsprout reading on computers instead of the traditional curriculum, or Renzulli Learning modules instead of the regular text).  An IEP can include time in a special education class, time in a regular class, or both.  And an IEP must include all access accommodations of a 504 plan:  if your child needs a laptop in class as part of an IEP that does not mean your child also doesn’t get needed breaks.

Unfortunately, at WHOLE Families, we get asked into school special education procedures when the school district has broken down, the child isn’t doing well, and families are at their wit’s end.  So we see many districts denying 504 accommodations (illegally) and refusing basic curriculum modifications.  We’ve seen districts lose IEP plans and call out the police on students with 504 plans.

If you feel your district is not doing what is best for your child, then we urge you to contact help.  We do independent evaluations, meet with districts, attend 504 and IEP meetings, and participate with area social services and courts.  As written in previous posts, West Virginia’s treatment of special needs children is currently under investigation by the US Department of Justice for violating the rights of WV children, so now is a particularly hard time for families trying to get school support for children with special needs.  So get outside help!

Unfortunately, waiting to see if a limited 504 plan or small IEP is enough for your child puts you and your child at risk.  Instead of making basic and simple accommodations, too many WV schools are shipping children out of state to residential schools or sending children to juvenile detention.  If you are seeing increasing hostility or blame cast onto your child, then you need to act.

A super statewide resource is the West Virginia Parent Training and Information Project  (click on green text to go their website).  Supported by the US Department of Education, which oversees the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which governs IEP process, the staff at WV Parent Training and Information Project can be helpful – if nothing else but to tell you that yes your district is behaving illegally.  Call them at 304 -624- 1436!  And…

take their online survey about your experiences with IEP and 504 plans in your district here:

Many families we meet have a lot to say about their districts!  Add your voice!

And if you need support, give us a call.  All children in the United States deserve a free and appropriate public education.  We have helped lots of families find creative solutions that help their whole family enjoy learning and enjoy life.  Childhood is a magical time.  We want to help you enjoy it.


Finally SUNSHINE activities!

Sunny fun in summertime. Great pic from


Ok, for the last few days we have had sunshine in West Virginia!  Maybe we will get some summer in after all!

So here are some GET OUTSIDE and HAVE FUN IN THE SUN activities for kids.

Get out there before it rains again!

Paint the Car!

On a sunny day, what can be more fun than painting your car?  No need for paper or canvas or anything.  Grab some homemade paint, pour it into buckets, and let the kids go wild.

When you are done, wash it off.

(and don’t forget to take pictures!)


Play in Water!

Ok, a kiddie pool is the quintessential fun summer water toy.  But yes, it can get old.  So here are some kick-it-up-a-notch suggestions.

Some things to add to the pool:


water color



measuring cups/recycled plastic jars/plastic bottles

squirt guns

adult sized house-painting brushes

shaving cream

corn starch

soap and bubble wands

corn-starch or potato-starch peanuts (that dissolve in water – not styrafoam which is a choke hazard)


Try these ideas to keep kiddies in the pool, getting nice and tired, all day long…


Big Art on the Grass!

Summertime means paint outside.  Throw down an old sheet, an old tablecloth (all cheap to find at summer garage sales), or old towels!  Make some homemade paint, and then let the kids go.

In the pic, the mom gave the kids some old cardboard for painting, but her sons went wild and painted all over the place.

Great idea from


And LOOK at the result!  Save the fabric to cover your table in the winter!


Paint with your FEET!


In the big art outside vein, don’t forget the fun of being barefoot!  Get paint on your kids’ toes, and make the greatest pictures.

more fun from

Make some homemade paint.

Grab an old sheet or towels or use paper bags from the grocery, or old cardboard boxes.

Put the paint in some old tubs for the kids to step in.  Or use brushes and let kids paint their own toes!

And Voila!


Make Plaster Casts!

great cast from

While your kids have painted toes, try mixing some plaster of paris (cheap at Walmart or a hardware store).  Follow the directions on the plaster that you buy!  And remember NEVER pour old plaster down your drain!

Mix the plaster according to directions.

Pour onto a paper plate.

Wait about two minutes, and then have your child press their foot into the plaster, but careful not to go to the bottom of the plate.  Help your child stay in the squishy part!

Wait about a minute, or less if you have a wiggly kid on your hands.

Gently help your child pull their foot straight up, leaving their print.  It is easy to smear, and this can still create a great piece of art, so no worries.

Let the plaster dry 24 hours and then peel away the plate.

Let your child paint the cast of their foot!

Hang a picture hook on the back to hang it on the wall.

And if you have a sand box, or sand tub, get super easy casts:

Just pour plaster into your child’s prints in the sand:

pic before casting from



Never forget the wonderful fun to be had with water balloons!

And watermelons with real seeds…


Enjoy the sunshine everybody!



Better Behavior? Childproof your room!


great pic from But! you can make your own gates, too!

When working with our younger clients ( the infant to 5 year old crowd), I am often helping parents set up their home life to create better behavior.   And one key is having a childproof area where your child can be safe, where you don’t have to yell “no,” every 5 minutes, and where you can sit and actually ignore your tyke and read the mail when you wanna!

So childproofing is key.  And no, childproofing doesn’t end at age 3, when kids are more safe from choke hazards.  Limiting space for your four or five year old is important (and that is how preschool and kindergarden teachers keep sane!)

How to do this, though?

First, you do need to remove all the items from your living or playing space that are easy to break:  think pictures, fragile lamps, glass coffee tables, lovely vases with flowers.  Get those items moved out of your childproof area, and know that in a few years, the little ones will grow up and you can move them back.

Second step is to assess your space.  Cover those outlets!  Think about gates over doors and second story windows!  Get rid of long extension cords, or case them in tubes.  The more your childproof space is danger-free, the more you can read your mail!

Third step is to limit exits.  I know this is hard in some trailers, those larger living room/dining room floor plans, and in homes with lots of balconies or porches.  This is where creative “gates” come in handy.  You can go buy expensive gates at Walmart, or you can make something yourself.  Have a handy old table you can turn over as a gate?  How about some old pallets in the shed?  I chopped up my old crib and used the wooden sides to make a gate in my old house, which had one of those dining rooms that flowed right into the living room.  I used hardware to bolt my gate to the walls and to limit access to the dining room, but be creative and consider everything from rope to bungee cords.  I had a super-duper climber, so having gates that are tall is important if you have a climber, too.

Once you create your gated, danger-free and limited access space, just monitor it daily for incursions.  Did you or a loved one leave some breakable glasses near the television?  Did the dog drag in a chew toy that isn’t choke-proof?  Did a ton of coins fall out of your purse?  Check daily, and once you do your spot check, set up your gates, and close access to exits, then you can relax in your childproof room.

And that is where the fun can begin.  If kids are in a safe space in your home, they are more free to explore their world.  You won’t be yelling as much, because they can climb on the furniture you have safely selected, and they can explore toys and their free play room without worries of choking, escaping, or danger.  You can ignore them while reading This Old House, or having a cup of tea, or sorting out your sewing box or your tool bag.  Yay!

Kids having fun:

another store link! don’t forget to build your own! Much cheaper! from

If this seems hard and overwhelming, it’s not.  A few hours of setting up your space will mean hours and days of more relaxed family life for you and for the kids.

If you need help, just ask us!

Sensory Issues and Fireworks



lovely photo from:

Hey there was a brief moment of sunshine today, so perhaps here in West Virginia we will have fireworks tonight.  Yay!

But for some families, fireworks and other loud events are difficult for children with sensitivities to noise and light and crowds.  So you wanna go to the fireworks (if it doesn’t rain!), but what to do about your kid or kiddies who hate the noise?

Well, there are ways to slowly help your child build up tolerance for loud noises and busy events.  If you are just starting to build up these “tolerance muscles,” then today you will have to go slowly and take it step by step.  However, as you slowly help your child learn to deal with more and more noise and bustle, you can slowly increase how much and how close you go to a noise-event like fireworks.

I spent many of my son’s early Fourth of July fireworks on a hillside past where the really loud fireworks could startle him.  If you are just starting today to try fireworks, this is the way to do it.  Sit far from the fireworks, away from the crowds and the biggest noise.  I helped my son hold his ears when he was little if he found the noise even too much from far away.

For crowds and bustle, this is another good strategy.  Sit far away from the crowd, but perhaps invite a few people to sit with you.  Lots of kids with or without special needs find fireworks overwhelming, so there are always other families grateful to you for providing a safe space.  Build up slowly, year by year, until your children can deal with larger crowds.

I know families who use noise-cancelling earphones for events, but these are not much protection from the boom sounds of many fireworks.  So, yes, if you use them, bring them along, but I still advise not getting too close and building up tolerance slowly.

And check in with your child(ren).  Even at a distance, when he was three and four, my son could not sit through an hour of fireworks.  I was the parent who took him home early, since I can take or leave fireworks.  If you are in a couple, and one spouse/partner prefers fireworks, then the other parent can be the taker-home parent!  If you both like fireworks, then best to share this:  one year, one parent takes home, and one year the other.

What about families like mine?  Two of mine struggled with the noise of fireworks and my youngest loved them?  And what to do as a single parent?  Well, strategize!  Can you go with friends who will bring your noise-loving child home after the display?  Can you do some fireworks at home with your noise-lover while the quiet one(s) get some downtime with books or videos?  Can another family member take the quiet-loving kids home instead?  Have a plan and be prepared.  Sometimes even noise-loving kids lose it on the fourth of July!

And talk with the kids ahead of time.  If you have noise lovers and noise haters, talk about how everyone gets a little of what they need.  If you are a family who all hates noise, then maybe plan on 15 minutes and then heading home – with a treat on the way!  Tell everybody that if one of you gets overwhelmed and melts down then you as a family have to take care of one another and go home.  After all, special needs or not, we all melt down.  We all need care.  That is what family is for.

With all these ideas, the Fourth of July isn’t so difficult and overwhelming for parents!  You can plan ahead, try short outings with lots of distance to the noise, and year by year slowly build up to getting closer.  Or you may be a family that decides that the Fourth is a great day to watch a movie together, to go on hikes or camping, or to go ride bikes or do puzzles around the table.

The Fourth of July can be a lot for noise-sensitive kids (and noise-sensitive parents).  But as a family you have the opportunity to make this holiday fun for everyone, with less stress, and more emphasis on being together and successful.  I hope these ideas help!

Happy Fourth of July to all our families!


Rainy Fourth of July Activities

Fireworks with paints! Just in case it rains again! image from


It is the rainiest summer in West Virginia!  I got my yard weed-whacked today, just before the rain came.  Sigh.

So with another rainy weekend looming, here are some fun July Fourth activities for the whole (indoor) holiday!



Make Some Indoor Fireworks


Grab some of your favorite paint recipes, or check the website for some of my fave recipes, and make some indoor fireworks.

Method One:

Get red and blue paint

White Paper

Seven plastic straws per child

Tape, rubber bands or string

Put the paper on the table.  Place paper plates or margarine tub lids out to hold paint.  Put the seven straws in a bundle, and fold back the tops to create an L shape with each straw.  Bundle the straws to look like a fireworks, and then tape them together.

images from

Let children dip the straws into the paint and then stamp their straws onto the paper.

Fun idea:  Add Glitter!



Method Two:

Get Red, white, and blue chalks

Get BLACK paper

water in cups for the chalk

Dip the chalk into water, and then scribble onto the black paper.  Simple idea, but check out the dramatic results:

image from crafty



Method 3:

Red, White and Blue paint

any color paper (white is in the pic, but try other colors, too!)

kitchen forks

bowls, margarine tub lids, or wide cups for the paint.

Dip the fork tines into the paint and rub onto the paper to make your own fireworks:

pic from




Make your own fireworks – in a Jar!

Get a mason jar or recycling jar out of your bin

Water – fill jar about 3/4 full

Mix 2 tablespoons of cooking oil with about 8 drops of different food colors.  Drip the food colors about the oil, and then let your kiddos mix the colors and oil together.

Gently tilt the oil into the water.  The colors drop out of the oil and mix together!  Water fireworks!

lovely pic from


Fireworks in a water bottle!

Use red, white, and blue pipe cleaners.

Use glitter or confetti, or star confetti if you have them!



Scrunch the pip cleaners into spiral shapes.

Add to bottle with confetti….

Pour water into the bottle and put the lid on (or hot glue the lid on if using inside!)

Fireworks in a bottle!

image from


Water Balloon Fireworks

Red, White and Blue Water Balloons

NON-TOXIC glow sticks



Let the kids light up the glowsticks.  Fold them gently into a roundish shape, and gently pull the water balloons over them.  If the glowstick breaks, it is NON-TOXIC, so no worries.  After the stick is in the balloon, add water!


how cool is this? from


And finally:

Fireworks Bubble Tubs

Fill a bucket, pan, pot, or even the bathtub with water and dish soap. Add Red and Blue food coloring (or Kool Aid), and stir it up!  BUBBLES!  Colors!  Fireworks in a tub.

pic from


I hope these ideas help everyone in the WHOLE Families community have a wonderful, safe, and rainy Fourth of July!  I’ll cross my fingers for fireworks and parades…. 🙂



Weekly Activities: Soda Can Recycling

I love using soda cans to make crafts with kids.  They are free after you drink your soda; they are easy to cut; they last forever, and they are so CUTE!

Here is a round up of soda can crafts, some for the wee ones, and some for the older crowd!   Moms and dads find themselves liking these, too!

First of all:  How to cut a soda can for crafting!

This video uses scissors and a craft knife; I have used scissors alone to cut cans, and it works fine.  Just poke a hole with a sharp point in the scissors, and cut.  I have never been cut too much from cutting cans, but if you let the kiddies do some cutting, you might want to use gloves or cut the can up first, and then let kids do the rest!

Soda Can flowers


super easy soda can flowers from


This is the easiest soda can flower, super simple for wee ones!  For the littlest folk, mom and dad do the can cutting, and let the toddlers and 2-year-olds do the paint!


Soda Cans


Paints – for outdoor use, try acrylic, or spray clear acrylic on after the kids’ painting dries.

Cut off the top of the can, but not the bottom.

Cut down the can to the bottom, making “petals.”  Try different widths and shapes of petals like the picture.

Flatten out the petals.


You can attach the flowers to dowels for the garden, or use to decorate around the house.


More Flowers

lovely magnet flowers from



Soda Cans, with both ends cut off and the middle flattened

Paint if you want!

Brads for scrapbooking


Cut out three flowers of slightly different sizes:

detail from



Paint if you wanna!

Layer the flowers and insert a scrapbook brad into the center of all three flower shapes.



Soda Can Lanterns (for older kids)

awesome lanterns from


Take an empty soda can and fill with water.

Freeze for about six hours.

Make twelve dots with a marker around the top and bottom of your can.

Draw a line from a dot at the top of the can to the dot just behind the same one as you just drew but at the bottom .

drawing of the soda can lantern details from:


After drawing the lines, use the craft knife to cut the lines.

Let the ice melt!

Slightly twist and flatten the can to create the lantern shape.

Punch two holes in the top for a wire to hang, or use the tab if still intact!



Pop Tab Bracelets (or belts if you are inspired), for older kids





Flattened soda can portraits – super fun for all ages!

Who says you have to have perfect soda cans for art?

from blog


Take flattened soda cans.

Paint them.

In the pic above, older students then glued their soda cans onto collages they made with junk paper.  And you can do that, too!


another kid version from

Just glue the pic onto a piece of cardboard (and let the kids marker and paint it first, too)

How cute are these?

Be as wild as you want:

from the




Soda Can Dog Tags

For little ones, cut out the dog tag shapes from your soda can; for the bigger kids, let them cut their own.

Use a hole punch or your scissors (I have done both) to make a hole to hang the dog tag.

These in the picture are left unpainted.

Or paint!

Use sharpies!

Glue on them!

Soda Can dog tags, like the flowers above, are a great blank slate for kids to make art!; the original crafter used an expensive cutting machine; I find scissors work fine!


Feeling inspired!  I was at a picnic this weekend and came home with dozens of cans, and am working on flowers!  Please share any fun ideas you find.


Get out there, get your kids, and get making summer art!

US Department of Justice Investigation: WV violates the Law for Child Welfare


This is an issue impacting families all over the state.  The United States Department of Justice recently informed Gov. Tomblin that based on their investigation of child welfare services, West Virginia is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The Department of Justice is calling on the state Department of Health and Human Resources to clean up their act, or face lawsuits.

The findings in the report will resonate with many WHOLE Families clients:  (or read the full report here).

One:  West Virginia relies on out of state residential placement for too many children with either mental health issues or developmental delays or both.

Two:  West Virginia utilizes punitive criminal proceedings against families with special needs children and against children and teens with developmental delays and/or mental health issues.

Three:  West Virginia provides no in-home or in-community services to families needing support for children with mental health diagnoses or developmental delays, and thus ships kids out of state to residential programs or incarcerates the kids.

Four:  Schools in West Virginia deny Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) for children and teens with mental health diagnoses or developmental delays, and when they do write an IEP, many districts out right refuse to implement the plan.

Five:  Truancy violations stemming from limited or unavailable school supports push kids with developmental delays and mental health issues into courts and juvenile justice proceedings that are unfair and unnecessary.



IEP’s and truancy are ongoing issues for many of our WHOLE Families clients, and we are all dealing with the impact of not having school or community supports all the time.  This is true for kids in Birth to Three who are transitioning to preschool and who get denies IEP’s and true for teens with multiple diagnoses not getting any services at home or school.

And as all of you know, Scotti and I race around the state trying to help families who are in court, heading to court, or struggling with no services after court.  And we are always apologizing for having to change schedules and postpone home visits while we rush to court.

For those of you impacted by these issues, there is now an avenue to share your stories and ask for input into creating local and home-based programs for all of our kids.  The Department of Justice copied their report findings to these two WV departments:

Joseph Garcia
Director of Legislative Affairs
Office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

1900 Kanawha Boulevard East State Capitol
Charleston, WV 25305



Karen Villanueva-Matkovich
General Counsel
Office ofthe Cabinet Secretary
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources One Davis Square, Suite 100 East

Charleston, WV 25301

If you want to share your stories and ideas for change, these are places to go!

If you need help, ask us!  We will get out of court and be there to support your ideas as soon as we can!



What to do with Paint!

Your child dislikes touching fingerprint or playing with paint?  Try some of these ideas with the homemade paint recipes I posted two weeks ago…


straw paint photo courtesy


Paint with straws!

Get paper.

Get straws.

Mix some food coloring homemade paint.


See pic above for the idea!  Use food coloring and water paints, and let the kids drink this to their heart’s content.



Toy car or truck painting!

Get paper.


Find some matchbox cars or play trucks.


Mix some paint.


Let the kids explore!


truck painting photo courtesy of




Marble Painting

Get marbles.

Get paper.

Get a box to put the paper in.

Mix some homemade paint.


Put the paper into the box, and pour some blobs of paint onto the paper.  Put marbles into the box and then let kids tilt and wiggle the box to create marble tracks through the paint.

marble paint photo courtesy of




Feet painting!


Get some paper.

Make some homemade paint.

Get some kids with feet.

Tape the paper to the floor – outside is easy, inside put lots of extra paper down around your art paper – and squirt paint onto the paper.  Get kids with bare feet and let them walk, squish, wiggle and slide through the paint.

If inside, have some towels and water pails ready when the fun is done!


feet painting photo from



Fruit painting!

Get some apples, oranges, pineapple, or strawberries.

Get some paper.

Get some bowls or margarine tubs.

Make some homemade paint.

Let kids dip the fruit into the paint and make prints – or smears – or globs.


All is good.


photo courtesy



So start thinking of fun things to do with paint!  Try feathers, sticks, rocks, q-tips, balloons, potato mashers, forks and spoons, corks, potatoes, pasta….  whatever you can dream of and have around the house!


But get painting!