Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mobito Go!!!

Andrew recently outgrew the small big wheel style tricycle that he has had since he was a preschooler. He was very sad that he could no longer use his bike since it is something that he enjoys doing tremendously. We know that he cannot use a regular bike because of lack of balance and lack of the ability to catch himself. It just plain isn't safe. Plus, he has to have his feet strapped in so that he can pedal. Special needs bikes are RIDICULOUSLY expensive and he is too small for the adaptive kits that you can buy online. So, the search for the perfect "bike" was on.

After researching like crazy, talking to other parents, and discussing it with his PT, we decided on the Mobito tricycle. It is a low to the ground tricycle and comes in a variety of colors and sizes. It is meant for typical kids and looks super cool, which is something that is very important for my self-conscience 8-year old. It EVEN has flame stickers on it (it's the little things that count).

The huge box was delivered to our house and our son was incredibly excited as he waited for Daddy to get home from work to put it together. Assembly was fairly smooth and took about an hour or so, even with Andrew "helping." We put Andrew on it, strapped his feet in, and away he went!

Andrew LOVES his new bike. It is easy enough for him to pedal with his reduced leg strength and is easy for him to turn and stop. The turning radius is wide, so there has been some learning that he has had to do. He does occasionally get stuck because he forgets that he can't pedal backward like he could on his other tricycle (it is like a traditional bike that coasts when the pedals are stopped or pushed backward). Most excitingly is that he can finally ride a bike around, including riding in the street (under supervision of course) and up the sidewalks in our neighborhood.

We have had the bike for about 2 months now and Andrew is still in love with it. He works with his PT on it and also rides it fairly regularly with me. Where he used to get stuck on even the smallest incline, he can now ride up large hills and driveways. Where he used to only be able to go up about 5 houses away from our house (up a fairly steep hill), he just yesterday rode .6 miles to the entrance of our community. He is working hard at it and loves that he has a way to get further distances. He is also working out those legs and gaining some much needed muscle.

I had looked at other tricycles that are similar in style to this one, but I have read that they are all much harder to pedal and control. Also, they are only slightly cheaper and are a lot more cheaply made. This one is easy to pedal and I can tell it will last a long time. It has real bike tires on it (the back ones are 12 inch, the front is 16 inch) that can be inflated and even replaced if need be. It isn't cheap, but it is a whole lot cheaper than the special needs trikes we had been looking at.

Overall, this is a great bike for a special needs child who has reduced strength or balance issues. It still requires them to do the pedaling and navigation on their own, so it would not be good for a child who is not capable of doing that. There is no parent handle. Luckily, we no longer really need that, but the first couple of weeks I was wishing that it had every time that he got stuck. Now, he rarely gets stuck and rarely needs help, so it is no longer an issue.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Teaching Kids To Be Thankful #1: Thanksgiving Thankful Garland

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun!

Also, the countdown to Christmas has begun. My kids are constantly saying, "Mommy, I want this for Christmas. I want THAT for Christmas. Look at this! I want it!" I want, I want, I want is all that I am hearing lately. I have tried, with limited success, over the last few years to teach my kids to be grateful for the toys that they have. We have talked about how lucky they are to have so many nice things when so many kids go without. We have had the kids go through their toys and donate the ones they don't want or ones that they think someone else would enjoy. We regularly sponsor kids through the YMCA or through our church for Christmas and pick out gifts for those children. Yet, they still don't seem to really understand what it means to be grateful for the things they have.

Like most things with my boys, this skill is going to have to be explicitly taught to them. Since Thanksgiving is a day set aside for giving thanks for things you have, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to discuss all of the things they have and come up with a list of things they are grateful for. Besides giving thanks only for the material things, I want them to understand that they also need to be grateful for the non-material.

Thanksgiving Thankful Garland:

I bought the thin foam leaves used for this garland in the dollar section at Target (go figure). It really turned out so cute! We hung it in the school room for a constant reminder of all of the things that we are thankful for.
  1. Brainstorm about the things for which you are thankful. Benjamin had a really hard time coming up with things that were not toys at first. So, I decided to write down things that I am grateful for as an example. I allowed him to write ONE sentence about his toys, but the rest had to be something different.
  2. Write the things that you are thankful for on the leaves. Since the space was small and neither Ben or Kate have the fine motor skills to write legibly quite yet, I decided to do the writing while they dictated to me. I then put their name on it so we remembered who was thankful for what. 
  3. Punch a hole in all of the leaves. Since they are thin foam, they are easier to punch holes in than regular paper. The hold puncher slices right through the foam, but it is sturdier than paper.
  4. String them together with yarn. I wrapped the "lacing" end with tape to make it easier to get through the hole. Make sure the leaves are all facing the same direction so that the writing is visible. Variation: use it for patterning by color. I thought about this after it was half-strung, so I just let it go.
  5. Hang it up! We have ours in the school room right now, but my original plan was to hang it in the kitchen so that we could discuss it during meal times. 

Ben attempting to punch holes.
Lacing the leaves onto the string.
Ben finds this very difficult, but was able to do a couple of them.
Closeup of the leaves before hanging.
The finished project!
My favorite: Ben was thankful for vacations.
I like it because it was completely his own idea.
This was super easy, inexpensive and is probably my favorite of all the activities that we have done so far this school year.

  • Fine motor skills: using one hand to hold and the other to punch holes; using one hand to hold while the other laces the string through; punching holes with the hole puncher (similar to using scissors).
  • Verbal skills: putting thoughts into words/sentences;
  • Differentiating between material/non-material things.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Great Special Needs Gift Ideas!

Looking for a game for your special need kid that will help with a skill that you are working on? A friend (and Occupational therapist) has a blog where she has listed some great ideas for gifts. She has some for visual discrimination and some for auditory processing. I think many of these are going to be big hits with my kids and only I will know that we are working on some very important skills. They are  "typical" kids games, not games made specifically for special needs kids, which is extremely important for my self-conscience 8 year olds. Check them out!!

Embrace Your Chaos: 101 Ways to Play (#25): Toys and Games to Build Auditory Processing Skills

Embrace Your Chaos: A Few of My Favorite Things….Holiday Gift Ideas

101 Ways to Play: #23 Toys and Games to Build Visual Perceptual Skills

Honestly, I cannot say enough positive things about this OT. She was great with my boys in the short time that they saw her and she always came up with such creative ideas for them. Follow her blog... it's amazing and I can't tell you how many ideas I have gotten from it.

I will also be compiling a list of toys that I have found to be very useful with teaching my boys new skills as they have grown up. Check back soon for part 2 of "Great Special Needs Gift Ideas!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Halloween Party Recap

We have been super busy here. My mom came into town (which was awesome) and we tried to fit in all of our pre-Halloween activities into her one-week long visit. Then, in anticipation of company coming to visit for Thanksgiving, my hubby and I decided to paint our entire downstairs. He has a new paint sprayer that he has been itching to try out. Every single room in my downstairs was in complete chaos and my computer was shoved (unplugged) into a corner for 4 days. It was worth it and the new color is spectacular, but boy was it a lot of work. So, better late than never... the Halloween party recap!

The kids decided that they wanted to have a Halloween party this year. We kept it simple and served cupcakes, potato chips and juice boxes for the kids. We had a veggie tray and lemonade for the adults. The vast majority of the decorations were created by the kids or bought super cheap at Walmart. We played a few games and had the kids free play in the playroom upstairs, ending the party 2 hours after it started. We had a total of 18 kids there in their costumes and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.

My kids in their costumes.

Waiting anxiously for their guests to arrive.
Even I dressed up...sorta.

The cupcake table.
Decorations from Walmart, cupcake stuff from Target.

  • Pumpkin Decorating
    • I found foam face stickers at Target and Michaels for really cheap. Each kid had a "pie" pumpkin that I bought at the local grocery store for between $1 and $2 a piece (we cleaned out 2 grocery stores by buying 20 pumpkins). I also put sharpies on the table for the kids to use. This was definitely a favorite.

Before the chaos. Kate helped set up the pumpkin decorating tables.
Kate and her cute pumpkin.
Andrew and his creepy pumpkin.

  • Pin the nose on the pumpkin.
    • Once again, thank-you Target dollar section! The game was only $1 and included the blindfold. I made more noses since I had more kids than the 5 triangles that it came with. I put numbers on each one and had the kids remember what their number was. 

  • Pass the Pumpkin
    • Think "hot potato" only with a small plastic pumpkin and fun Halloween music.
  • Monster Mash
    • Freeze dance to Halloween music, including "Monster Mash." The kids had a blast with this one! 
I think that we might just make this an annual event. The trick will be for me to figure out non-scary Halloween games that are age-appropriate for the kids that are there. The ages of the kids in attendance ranged from 4 to 10. One of the 10 year olds found some of the games to be embarrassing (like the Monster Mash), but overall, everyone seemed to enjoy the selection.

Kate designed the goody bags out of brown lunch bags and a printout of a ghost (http://www.pinatas.com/Halloween_Party_Crafts_s/713.htm). She cut out and glued on each one... all 20 of them! She even "wrote" a note for each person and put them in. I was pretty impressed by her dedication. The goody bags were simple. Each child got an eyeball bouncy ball and a Halloween temporary tattoo, both purchased in the Halloween section at Target. I then made ghost lollipops using tissue paper and rubber bands. I found some styrofoam in a package that arrived a couple of days before the party and stuck the lollipops in as a decoration. The kids each got to pick their favorite one before leaving. 

Super simple and super fun! I really like how everything turned out and it was great to see the ideas that my kids have come to life.