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!  


Cheap Art closet!



Ok, lots of families have been asking me about art supplies, and what to buy, and what to keep on hand.  So great idea for a web post!

Here are the supplies I suggest you keep around, from the bare minimum, to some store-bought special items.  But remember, with the bare basics, you can do lots of art!


So here is the Bare Minimum Art Cabinet for a family:


Food colors ( a necessity for so many projects! )

Paper (get paper when you buy groceries and cut it into drawing and craft paper at home… also ask around for paper!  Stores often have out of date flyers and will gladly share them for your child’s art!)

Salt  (cheapest non-iodized salt you can find!)

Flour (I buy the cheapest white flour for art and save the better flour for cooking…)

Baking soda (I but the largest amount I can afford – this stuff is in so many projects!)

Vinegar (see above! get the most you can as you use this so much!)

Corn starch (another essential, so buy a big box!)

Home recyclables – any and all!  Peanut butter jars and cardboard cereal boxes and toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls and parmesan cheese jars and margarine tubs and soda bottles and plastic lids of any shape and size!  Save junk mail for paper or for crafting!  Use #6 plastic from your veggies and fruit to use as a cheap shrink dink!  Keep this stuff and glue it, paint it, smear it, and use it to store your art supplies as well!


And there you have it!  With the above essentials, you can make all types of paint, watercolors, play dough, goop, paste, glue, slime, sensory activities, fun paintings…  So I really recommend trying to keep these supplies on hand!

fun art pic from an organized parent – not like me at all! from

Now for the extras, things to pick up when you see them on sale, or when you notice someone throwing them away (cheap!), or I have pulled things out of other people’s trash.   I especially “rescue” other people’s large boxes, those big plastic laundry jars people toss out, and any paper I see.  So don’t think “extras” means paying out big $$$.  Not at all.

Paint brushes.  These are hard to find, not always easy to make (though be creative, as flowers, q-tips, sponges and just plain old fingers also work), and for some special art projects paint brushes are nice to have.

Tape.  I prefer duct tape, which can be expensive, but then again ask all the shop guys in your life for the end of their rolls.  Also scotch tape and painter’s tape can be handy.

Q-tips.  Some families always have these, but not all, so I don’t list them as a basic.  But q-tips make great paint brushes as well as fun ways to smear any type of slime or goop.  If you have a kid who is a bit timid about touching goop, q-tips work (but so do spoons!)

Adult glue.  You can make all the paste you want with flour and water, or glue as well, but for some fun art projects having a good adult glue about is great.  I am thinking Aleene’s craft glue (nope, I’m not an affiliate) or any other kid safe glue that is strong and holds well.  No!  Don’t think crazy glue!  I have heard horror stories about some of the super glues out there, so stick to stuff that is safe, though still more for adults.

Kid glue.  I don’t use kid glue to glue – that is what homemade is for.  But if you have one of those kids who loves slime and goop recipes, then watch for a Michael’s 50% off coupon and buy kid glue by the gallon.  It comes in handy to make glitter glue paint, and is essential for some slime recipes.

Straws.  Kids’ plastic drinking straws aren’t a necessity, but they can be so much fun.  They look great on glue sculptures, and make great beads to string for necklaces.  They also work great to blow glue, or paint, and you can make some fun balloon rockets.  If you see sale straws, grab ’em.

Clear Contact paper.  This is another great fun material.  Buy it on sale at Walmart or Michael’s.  You can use it to make fun placemats, sun catchers in the window, neat paintings, and it is wonderful for kids who struggle with glue mosaics.

Shaving cream.  The all time most fun substance for some kids – gooey, wet, takes food colors well, can be used to clean the table or in the tub.  I buy the cheapest I can find, and save it for those long rainy days when kids need something really fun.

Tissue paper in many colors.  Again, don’t buy paper for drawing – too many stores will gladly share with you.  But tissue paper makes a great material for watercoloring and for glueing.  It goes on sale at Walmart regularly, so just watch for sales.

Construction paper.  This is a pretty standard thing for parents to buy, but it isn’t necessary for many projects.  But if you do want to add to your art supplies, it can come in handy.  Buy on sale or save your coupons.

Stamp pads.  Most any paint will work for stamp art, but sometimes permanent stamp pads are useful for making a special mother or father’s day gift, or for permanent art.  These require supervision, kinda like sharpie markers, so use and buy sparingly.

Crayons.  A lot of kids on the autism spectrum do not have the hand strength to use crayons well.  So I don’t really suggest buying these except for special projects.  On the other hand, old crayons are easy to buy at Goodwill or garage sales, and they are fun for things like melting into rainbow crayons or ironing in wax paper….

Markers.  Cheap kids’ markers at Walmart or Michael’s are useful for the days when you don’t want to mix up another jarful of food coloring and water.  But these can be expensive.  My solution is to buy five boxes when on sale at the back-to-school sales in late summer, when you can get these boxes of markers for $1.  Hide the boxes and try to remember where you hide them!


I’ve included a great pic from an organized mom’s blog – definitely not like me!  My art supplies are always falling out of cupboards!  But think of fun and easy places to store art supplies, and remember to fill up with the junk from the recycling bin!

Art is too important for our children’s development to NOT try fun art projects almost every day.  You don’t need lots of cash, just lots of imagination.  Share with the kids on those grumpy days when everyone has the blues.  I recommend doing some kind of art every single day – it will make a huge difference in your day, in your kids’ skills, and it doesn’t have to cost much at all.

Paint Paint Paint! May 27 – June 3

DIY bath paints from

Make your own paints and save $$$$$


So many fun pinterest kid activities require paint.  And paint at Walmart or Michael’s can cost up to $4 a bottle!  YIKES!

So here are cheap and easy, make at home paint recipes to use all year long!  Base ingredient is food coloring, so when I see food coloring on sale or have a good coupon I stock up!  When you have food coloring, you always have paint.  (For the adventurous, Discount School Supply and Oriental Trading have liquid watercolors in large bottles and great colors…  I have used both, and prefer Discount School Supply.  I have no affiliate links to either company, so just saying they make a great product.  Or try Amazon!)


So here are the recipes!


DIY Bath Paint

1/2 cup Johnson’s Head to Toe body wash

1/2 cup corn starch

a few spoonfuls of water (add slowly)

food coloring


Mix the ingredients together and add water slowly until a runny paste that sticks to the tub but is not too runny…  Then put into ice cube trays, old yogurt tubs, margarine tubs – whatever you have handy.  Finger paint or buy cheapie paint brushes.  Just give to kids in the tub and have fun.



Condensed Milk Paint


One of the easiest, creamiest, and safest to eat of all DIY paint recipes:  condensed milk paint.


Simple:  mix food coloring into small pots or tubs of sweetened condensed milk.    Keep this one covered in the refrigerator, and it will last several weeks.


Doodle Paint


Another simple paint, but be sure to wash brushes thoroughly!!!

Mix food coloring into white glue (such as Elmer’s or Rose’s).  Use in squeeze bottles (save your ketchup and mustard tubs!!!) or use with brushes, but the glue will dry so do wash everything well!  Store the glue paint in tubs and use again and again.


Homemade powdered tempera paint

Powdered tempera paint is used in SO many fun paint recipes.  But it is not cheap, and not easy to find at that.  But you can MAKE YOUR OWN!  fun fun

Get cheapie colored chalk at the dollar store or Walmart, and buy some good ziplock bags as well (you will need them).  Put one color of chalk in each bag, and then get a mallet or hammer and smash the crap out of the chalk.  This is a fun activity all by itself!  After crushing, store in plastic tubs.  When you use powdered tempera to make other recipes, be sure to wear a mask, as airborne powders are not good for your lungs!

To make a simple paint, simply add water (wear masks until mixed!) and maybe a little kool aid for scent!  Once mixed, paint away.


Kool Aid Paint

Mix water, Kool Aid, and corn starch into whatever paint consistency you need.  Lots of water makes a thick watercolor paint. More corn starch makes a thicker, tempera style paint.  Make extra thick paint and you will get a paint to put into squeeze bottles (remember save those ketchup bottles!).  Store these in the fridge, and if they separate, just stir again before using!


It looks to be a rainy week here in West Virginia, and is raining as I write today!  This is the best kind of weather for fun indoor play, and paints of all types are easy and cheap ways to get kids messy and exploring.  Let them paint and get a cup of coffee.


For a fun rainy week activity, try putting pictures made from your homemade paints out in the rain, and create neat impressionist-style watercolor prints!  Don’t forget to don rain gear and go for a rainy spring walk.  Kids and puddles don’t last forever.


Fun and Free! May 19 – 26th!

Ok, last week was fun and free for spring….  this week I add to the ideas for fun stuff with easy exploding paint, recycling crafts, and fun outdoor adventures!  Enjoy!

erupting ice chalk! easy and cheap! from


Ok, erupting sidewalk paint you make at home??  How cool!


Take 1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup baking soda

some food coloring – use different colors!  have fun!

1/2 cup water


Mix ingredients together and spoon into ice cube trays to freeze!  Once done, get outside and use the melting mess to make wonderful art!  If you don’t have sidewalk, you can use cardboard boxes from the supermarket instead.  Let kids blend, play and explore melting colors.

After the coloring is done, give kids squirt bottles of vinegar and let them squirt their creations!  Instant exploding color, plus oozing paintings.  How much fun is that?  If you wanna save the resulting art work, use plain paper to print over the oozing mess, and voila!  Exploding refrigerator art!


Jellyfish in a bottle!

All the steps are here! Enjoy! from


Toilet paper tube fish kite!

Supplies are simple:

toilet paper roll

cut up colorful plastic bags (I love the bags from Sheets)

markers or construction paper or crayons

don’t try to be this clean – let toddlers be messy. Add an eye or use a marker after the fun! from


Decorate the toilet roll with cut up plastic bag fish scales – or use markers, paint, food coloring, or any fun supplies you have.  Add a white paper with black marker eye – or draw one!  Or color one!  Or use paint or anything else you have!  The fun is the goal!

Cut strips and strings from the leftover plastic bags, and glue, staple or tape the strings to the end of the roll, creating lovely fins!  You can hang these from strings, wire, yarn, or anything handy!  Let kids run about in the wind and watch their carp fly!  And when they break (which they will), make some more!


Get OUTSIDE activity!  for rainy days!

A super fun activity for outdoors in getting outside in spring showers!  Don’t think you need lots of supplies to enjoy time with your kids.

So on a rainy day when kids are bouncing off the walls, go outside and take a walk.  A definite plus for this activity is old, broken umbrellas for carrying, but I’ve walked with kids in rain gear and boots.  Or just throw on some coats and plan on doing laundry when you get home.

Rain makes for wonderful play.  Explore puddles, (do jump!), watch rain in street gutters or your house gutters if you’re in the country.  Stand under trees and see what happens to the rain – pine and spruce and hemlock give more protection than a redbud, for example!  While out there in the mud, find sticks, throw them in a stream, build stick and grass boats, watch water run downhill, and enjoy being outside!  Kids are learning so much when they are outside with you!

And don’t think this is for toddlers alone.  I have walked my church youth group around in the rain, and they loved it!  Teens like time with grown ups, even though they don’t admit it!


So there you have it:  a week of fun activities!  Get out and enjoy parenting!

Fun Activities May 11 – 18th

Matchbox Car Toilet Paper Tube Maze


Almost every home we visit has matchbox cars or something similar. And everyone seems to use toilet paper. So here is a craft for you: use your TP roles, some scrap cardboard and duct tape to build a maze that will grow and expand – and be cheap to throw away when your kids destroy it – which they should! Kids need to explore, and cheap, recycled crafts are the thing to use for fun and educational destruction.


pic from “a happy wanderer” bloodspot



Toilet paper rolls

Scrap Cardboard

Duct Tape


Somewhere to lean the finished project!

So take your toilet paper tubes, and cut them in half. (older kids can help with this, or cut ahead of time)   Find a large piece of scrap cardboard (every appliance store I have ever visited will give me cardboard boxes) or ask Walmart for some large scrap boxes and they will happily share.  Or save your own.

Use the duct tape to arrange and secure the TP half-rolls to the scrap cardboard.  Have your kids help!  This should be fun.  Arrange the half-tubes in any pattern you want, and encourage exploration.  Kids want to create mazes that won’t work, in that the cars won’t roll down the tubes properly.  That is the point!  By arranging and re-arranging the rolls, kids learn important things, such as “match box cars won’t fly across a cardboard box for two feet without more support.”  This is physics and math.  And the more they explore the less trouble they are in.

So I am showing you a picture of what the “finished” maze can look like, but please please don’t make this for your kids.  And don’t worry about buying balls, matchbox cars are fine!  This is a fun activity for you and kiddie to do together….  and btw, my teenager youth group loved this activity, too, and worked at it for hours.  So teen Vacation Bible school teachers, pay attention!


Recycled Board Game!


There are tons of used kiddo board games out there – check Goodwill, flea markets and garage sales.  All are missing pieces, have chewed up corners, and falling apart boxes.  But they make a fun activity.

here a mom did the fun work, but you can use dominos or scrabble tiles (if child is over three – scrabble tiles are not choke-proof) for your child to make into a game that is about them! From




Chewed up old board game or dominoes or scrabble tiles if your child is over three years old (scrabble tiles are not choke-proof!)

Pictures of any sort or kind

Scissors – or tear pictures with little kids

Paste (mix flour and water to thick consistency)

Markers if you wanna color

Paint if you wanna paint!

Find one of your own chewed-up board games, or get one cheap at flea markets…  and then let kids have fun with them.

You can cut up junk mail, kids’ art work, old photos, and use a homemade paste or store-bought glue to affix the paper to the game:  re-make that chewed-up board, cover up the old cards from a monopoly set, color over matching picture tiles.  The idea is to make something and have fun!

Older kids can create their own, new, self-designed game.  Younger kids create lovely messes.  All is good and fun.  Just remember: the idea is to have a good time!

Here a family glued pics over a Clue game to make their own new board game… but with little kids, remember to make way more mess than this!! Original post at:


Make Mud!

Ok, this is not just for little ones!  Mud is so much fun, and families buy expensive play doughs forgetting how much fun the original clay really is.  Do this inside (in the tub works) or better yet, outside!

mud and grass:  hours of fun  picture:  personal collection, copyright Claudia Neely

Ingredients are simple:



(if inside, some container or bucket to hold the mud)

optional:  old pots and pans, muffin tins, margarine tubs, yogurt cups, spoons, spatulas, boxes from the trash or recycling, pots, seeds…  whatever is cheap and easy!


Mix ingredients, stir.


And enjoy!


Mud should keep your little ones super busy for hours.  If you have a kiddo who is sensitive to textures, mud can be challenging, so adjust YOUR expectations accordingly.  Allow your sensitive kid to stir mud with spoons, sticks, an old ruler.  The more you participate in mud and have fun, the better your child will see that mud matters.


Flower Walk

Ok, it is MAY!!!!!  After this snowy winter, it is great to get outside!  So GET OUTSIDE!

Walking with children is a wondrous activity.  Yes they look at every rock on the path.  Yes they find every stick amazing.  Yes each dandelion is cool.  But isn’t that the wonder of kids???  They remind us that yes, every rock is amazing.  So go outside with the kids and enjoy them and the world.  They will show YOU amazing things.


You and kids.


Maybe a bag to collect stuff.

smelling the roses… pick with permission. Pic from private collection, copyright Claudia Neely

Take the kids and go walk somewhere with lots of wild flowers.  Try a park, your neighbor who hasn’t mowed (guilty of this myself), or just your neighborhood.  Go walking and look at flowers, and suggest collecting the wild ones in bags:  find dandelions this week aplenty, violets, buttercups, and anything else that is weedy and pretty.  Bring the flowers home to enjoy – as a bouquet, as a mishmash mess (some kids scrunch their flowers and this is ok), as fun supplies for your mud activity (see above).

Warnings:  don’t pick flowers on state or national lands, and don’t pick your next door neighbor’s prized peonies.  If in doubt, don’t pick.  There are always plenty of nice weeds, so if your little one is heading to pick grandma’s favorite rose, just re-direct your kiddo by saying, let’s pick this one over here!  Usually works.

The fun of flowers is that weeds are plentiful, fun, and many even edible (dandelion leaves are, buttercup leaves are, and violets are)! Best of all, enjoy the fresh air, the fun of walking, and the knowledge that your child will be worn out and sleeping soon.


So there you have it!  HOURS OF FUN activities, for you and child/ren, no matter the age!  The point of all of these ideas is to spend time together, to get your child/ren active, to have fun.  This is not “make a masterpiece” time.  It is FAMILY FUN time.

Weekly Activities! Easy fun for busy folk! A new weekly series.

Driving all over the state of West Virginia, we work with super active and busy families who are coping with autism, trauma, and other related developmental disabilities and diagnoses.  And everyone is struggling when kids are bored and tired… true for families with teens or families with 12-month-olds.  Everyone looks forward to us visiting because we bring fun new stuff (which is why we call our work PlayBA!)  I am often trying to leave craft and activity ideas for families to use between our visits, and encourage Pinterest use!  Still, finding and sorting activities when you are tired and kids are crying and dinner isn’t done can be a struggle.

So now this is our new weekly blogpost:  a week of activities for you and your child.  Ok, many activities are preschool friendly, but with a little adaptation lots of these are fun for older kids, too.  If your positive behavior support plan requires your teen to do some kind of activity other than computers/videogames, then here is a resource for you, too!

So check our blog weekly andgirl toddler painting


I will set you up with a week of fun activities.  I will encourage you to use your trash and recycling for most activities (cheap cheap cheap!), and make the cheapest, Walmart-available crafts supply recommendations as I can.

Because it’s not about spending money on kids or teens (despite what they tell you!).

It’s about spending time with them.

“The Problem with Functioning Labels” from blogsite “From Struggle Comes Strength”

Check out Sophia, a young blogger with her own site:  “From Struggle Comes Strength.”  She wrote an awesome post for World Autism Awareness day, discussing the autism community’s use of the words “high- functioning” and “low functioning.”  Over on Facebook, the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism re-posted the article, so check them out, too.

She wrote:

“Often, the way somebody functions can depend on the circumstance or situation. A student who excels academically is likely to be labelled ‘high’ functioning, but let’s say this same student struggles to speak on the phone, or has crippling sensory issues. It is probable that because of their ‘high’ functioning label, their difficulties may be underestimated or even ignored. Equally, those labelled as ‘low’ functioning may be underrated and their capabilities dismissed.”

Sophia’s point is especially important for families when struggling to get services.  I have seen programs turn away individuals due to their perceived functioning level:  “oh, she is too low functioning for this program,” or “he doesn’t need services, he is too high functioning.”  Service providers don’t always individually assess each person with an autism diagnosis, assuming that everyone is the same.  Likewise, when individuals transition to college or work settings, these labels continue to limit people as well.

Sophia writes from the point of view of someone labeled as high functioning:

“People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, like myself, often experience overwhelming difficulties on a daily basis. The invisibility of this condition means that many do not recognise the extent of our challenges. By describing somebody as ‘high’ functioning, you are inadvertently implying that they do not require much support, or accommodations. After all, why would a seemingly ‘high’ functioning student require extra time to complete an examination?”

At WHOLE Families we work very hard to insure that people – no matter their label – get the services they need to be successful.  That includes working with schools, agencies, insurance companies, and state and national programs.  No label should determine the services you or your child deserves:  the purpose of positive behavioral supports – for all people – is to help everyone achieve the best they can.

For college students, we have ensured test accommodations and seating arrangements; in high school we have helped students get laptops and sensory accommodations.  We have helped two year olds transition into special education, and we work with pre-schools to provide stress breaks and quiet time areas within classrooms.

And WHOLE Families supports the words of people with autism, who are speaking out about what services are beneficial and what helped them.

If you are struggling to get services for you or your child due to labels about “high” or “low” functioning, we can help.  If you are working with other agencies, cool, but be sure to ask for the services you need.

Sophia ended her awesome article with the best conclusion:

“Functioning labels are not necessary, instead respect the individual for who they are, and what they can do, and appreciate that ability to function may change on a daily, or even hourly basis.”

Get the services you need.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The Oppositional Defiant Disorder trap: how schools and doctors ignore autism

ODD Diagnoses are a cover-up for bad interventions.


Across the state of West Virginia, we are working with wonderful children and teens with autism diagnoses, who, when stressed and angry, act out in intense ways.

Schools, doctors and other clinicians are labeling these children with ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder – instead of recognizing that these are kids on the autism spectrum, and that one defining feature of autism is struggling with communication.  For the higher functioning kids and teens, this struggle can mean not knowing how to communicate in the healthiest ways when upset or in stress!  (and how many of us communicate well when stressed????)  Sadly, teachers, administrators, and other clinicians start punishing stressed kids and teens, making the problem worse.  Stressed kids on the autism spectrum need SUPPORT, not punishment.

When your child or teen on the autism spectrum starts mouthing off, this is a sign of stress…  and your child or teen needs your help (or a teacher’s help) calming down.  At school, we highly recommend frequent time-out breaks for all ages:  for younger students this can be time in the classroom quiet area (which you can demand your classrooms include), and for teens we recommend a quiet break to re-group reading or online in the media center (put frequent breaks into your IEP).  At home, mouthiness is a sign your child or teen needs rest – a break from people and chores or homework, an earlier bed, a chance to unwind.  Think about time online, time reading books, time with arts and crafts or Minecraft.

The worst thing to do with a teen or child on the spectrum who is winding up and getting more upset is to confront and challenge them!  This is when things get out of hand – parents start making threats they can’t enforce; schools start threatening detention and expulsion; clinicians start suggesting meds or more restrictive environments.  If you are an adult and you find yourself getting upset and angry with your kid on the spectrum, then this is a sign that things are out of hand and since you are the adult YOU NEED TO BACK OFF.

If we want our children of any age to learn to be flexible people, then we ourselves need to meet their stress with flexibility.  Let your child finish a chore later; let your child unwind with a netflix video; give everyone a break from homework and come back to it – together – later.  And if schools can’t be flexible, it may be time for you as parent to demand another IEP meeting.

Oppositional defiance disorder is no excuse for adults who can’t support people with autism diagnoses  – whether that human is four years old or sixteen.  Parents need to stand up for their children and teens, and create safe spaces so kids on the autism spectrum get the room to grow and thrive and learn just like everyone else.

Watch out of ODD diagnoses.  If you need interventions, and your school or doctor is refusing to work with you, GET HELP.  Find a clinician or teacher who is trained in positive behavioral supports and get an ally for you and your child.  Build more family quiet time into your day, and get an IEP that supports your child.  Children and teens on the autism spectrum need help learning how to communicate effectively.  If they aren’t getting that help, don’t let professionals use any diagnostic label to cover up the real interventions your child needs.

We have worked with families and schools around West Virginia, helping classrooms include appropriate quiet areas and getting mandatory breaks for students, as well as helping families build stress-busting activities into their day.  If you need help, please contact us; we wanna support you and your family.

Those Falling Apart Days

Every parent knows the feeling. Your teen is surly and refuses to do homework…. your two year old is throwing toys and spitting… the laundry needs done and the house is a wreck and everyone is stressed out!

You know… THOSE days.

It’s always hardest to parent when you see your child or teen starting to spin out of control. Inside it is so easy to think about how you are tired and had hoped to come home to an easy evening or spend a nice day home with the family. And then chaos hits.

Time to take a break and think about stressbusters now, before the surly teen is cursing and the two year old breaks the remote, again. Stress in the family means parents must pull back, calm down, and take a breath. If you are losing it and your kids are losing it then everyone needs to find soothing and relaxing activities. High stress means time to rest, to relax, to let you and your children and teens unwind.

Here are some great ideas:

Get OUTSIDE. Even if it is raining, grab umbrellas, pull on boots, layer up on many sweatshirts, and head outside. Fresh air and oxygen help everyone unwind.

STICK to YOUR SCHEDULE. If kids eat breakfast at 8:00, get everyone mixing and stirring so food is on-time. If 10:00 is art time, plan some soothing goop activities. If 6:30 is homework time, plan on sitting together with your child or teen and calmly doing the work. Schedules help everyone feel safe, calm, predictable.

SENSORY ACTIVITIES. This is how you soothe yourself (do you like a bath? a cup of coffee? chewing gum? Your favorite music? You use sensory activities, too!) Make goop for little ones or get teens punching out pizza dough. Put on music that everyone likes, or go for some blessed silence. If you have multiple kids with multiple needs, make sure everyone (INCLUDING YOU) gets a little of what you each need. And push for bathtime early – for you, your teen, yourself. Water is a great soother.  Check out our homemade recipes on this page!

CALM Television time. Ok, usually when we work with families we turn off television sets all the time. But when stress is high, put on that favorite episode of Barney or Star Trek and relax. Watch something you have seen a million times, and know every song or line of dialogue. Repetition is relaxing. Pop popcorn. Turn the lights down. Who doesn’t unwind when Captain Picard takes on the Borg one more time?

BREATHE. With little ones it is easy to bundle them into our laps and read books. With teens try to slow your breathing down when they are stressed and notice how much this is catching! If your teen allows it, try some backrubs. Stand next to your teen, shoulder to shoulder, which is a subtle reminder that you are a team.

CALL for HELP!  When kids lose it and you are not coping, it can be hard to work out a solution.  Then you need help!  Don’t wait until windows are breaking or you are ready to cry yourself to sleep!  Call friends, family, therapists, religious leaders…   Kids with special needs are a parenting challenge, whether the special need is related to giftedness, different abilities, or developmental delays.   Asking for help is what makes the difference for your child – and it will help the whole family, as well.


And finally, REMEMBER:

Ideally, we all want to become independent self-soothers, and manage and calm ourselves. But really isn’t family ultimately about the fact that we need one another? I lose it when appliances break and I need support. Our teens lose it from overwhelming school days, and they need us – STILL – for support. Our little ones can’t soothe themselves, but as we help them they learn how.

Stressful times actually define what families are. Anyone can do family and parenting when life is easy. When it is hard, that is when parents matter most. So remember when the sink plugs up and your teen is refusing to take out the trash and your five year old threw books out the window….

This is the time that makes you a family.

Play is the job of every family!