Monday, December 27, 2010

Every Kid Deserves The Chance to Go to Camp!

A happy camper takes a ride on one of the camp horses.
Hey, parents! Are you tired of sending your child with special needs to the sitter every day during the summer? Do you ever wish there was somewhere else they could go that offers them more options than sitting in front of the television?

Camp Barnabas, a nonprofit Christian summer camp for children with special needs located in the Ozark mountains of Southwest Missouri understands that every child, regardless of the severity of his or her diagnosis should have the chance to attend summer camp just like kids without disabilities, and just have fun being a kid.

Barnabas runs its summer camp program from approximately late May to mid August every summer with nine week long sessions welcoming campers ages seven to adult with everything from autism spectrum disorders including Asperger's Syndrome, physical disabilities, medical conditions like epilepsy, cancer, and cystic fibrosis,visual and hearing impairments, and many more.

Plus, Camp Barnabas understands that disabilities can affect the family as a whole and not just the child with the diagnosis, so if your child is between the ages of seven and fifteen staff allows his or her sibling(s) to accompany him or her to camp as a sibling camper and join in the fun! Enrollment for summer 2011 is going on now! Click here to go to the camper application.

I attended Camp Barnabas from 1997 until 2009 and it was the one thing I looked forward to all year long. While I was at camp, I felt free, like I could do anything and I never had to hide or be ashamed of anything because everyone else was going through the same things I was.

In all the time I spent at camp, I don't ever remember saying, "I'm bored" once. The campers are busy from the moment they wake up in the morning until the minute they go to sleep at night doing fun things like horseback riding, arts and crafts, swimming, drama, canoe rides, fishing, and so much more but they aren't by themselves! Camper counselor ratio at Barnabas is 1:1, so each camper gets their own brother or sister to hang out with for a week! Plus, every activity is adapted to suit each camper's individual needs and level of functioning so no one is left out. How cool is that?! To see what else Barnabas has to offer watch the video below.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fun Arts and Crafts Ideas for Kids with Autism

 A bored or restless kid is not a happy kid, and during the winter months, it's easy for kids to get bored being stuck in the house more than usual. If you're looking for a fun, educational activity to do with the kiddos this winter, visit: and try coloring some snow!

This activity is great for little ones on the spectrum because it encourages sensory exploration by allowing them to go outside and gather a bucket of snow and then color it with food coloring.

 Don't be afraid to let them get their hands in it and get a little messy. It will just wash off afterward. If they have a lot of tactile sensitivity and would prefer not to get their hands wet, try offering them a small shovel like one would use at the beach to scoop the snow into their bucket instead.

Another fun art activity that is inexpensive and readily available is finger painting. Both of these activities allow children to practice color recognition and the descrimination between primary and secondary colors.

Finger painting has the same benefits as the above activity for kids with autism because also works on sensory integration as well as motor development, which can be delayed and difficult for kids with neurological disorders.

Before beginning the activity, put down old newspaper so that the work area doesn't get messy, but if it does don't worry, most finger paints wash out.

Give each child a few sheets of paper to paint on and allow them to have fun exploring the feel of the paint on their fingers. If they don't want to get their hands dirty, it may help to have paper towels available so they can dip the paper towel in the paint and then put it on the paper. Rubber gloves also work well, just make sure they are latex free as latex may induce allergies.

You can also try kitchen sponges or craft sponges which come in many fun shapes. Anything with an interesting texture can probably enhance this activity, even cut up vegetables!

Have Fun!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

So, I realize I've been a bit negligent in posting anything new lately. Sorry for the delay! I've been busy reading up on blogging and trying to sort this whole business of creating a blog out. (I'm not very tech savvy, you know.)

Speaking of reading, I read Lucy T'was the Night Before Christmas and the Christmas story in the Bible last night before bed, and she fell asleep before I finished! The poor thing was spent! Either that or she was trying to get a jump start on waiting for Santa! hehe!

Santa was quite generous this year. I don't think I need to go shopping for clothes for about the next ten years and Lu did pretty well for a dog's first Christmas! She got four new squeaky tennis balls, a chewy bone, a new personalized collar from Grandma, a blanket for her crate, and a Kong tug toy. As an added bonus, I also gave her a day off of training for the holiday. She was a very happy camper! I seriously doubt we'll be needing a trip to Petco anytime within the next century.

We have both enjoyed a relaxing holiday at home with the family in Southern Indiana and are looking forward to what the new year brings. We hope you have enjoyed Christmas as well and find yourself stuffed and in good company! We will see you next year!

-Merry Christmas!
Adria and Lucy
 Cuddling  under the Christmas tree

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thank God for Taylor Swift!

There are some days like today, when I think I must be certifiably nuts training my own service dog. It's like being a parent, I'm watching every move she makes 24/7 and either disciplining or praising her for it. She is my every waking moment As you can imagine, life gets a bit overwhelming sometimes and I do wonder, do I actually have the strength within me to devote another two years of my life to a living being who depends on me every minute of every day? 

I will confess, I have thought of giving this job to an accredited organization and having them return her to me two years later when she is fully trained. On the really bad days I have thought of giving up altogether and of going back to life as it was before without a service dog.

But then at the end of the day, after I'd cried tears of frustration for heaven knows how long, I heard Taylor Swift's new single "Mine" come on the radio.  

As she reached the chorus: "Do you remember we were sittin' there by the water? You put your arm around me for the first time/ You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter/ you are the best thing that's ever been mine/ I thought of all the memories Lucy and I have  shared just in the past 6 months we've been together: the first time I held her little creme colored body in my arms, all the games of fetch and goodnight kisses and walks and even the long hours spent training.

And then I realized something, if I let go now, all this would stop but more importantly, she wasn't living at the breeder's house anymore. Summer was over. She was my dog now, Maybe I will never be able to raise a child.  However, I can raise a dog.

If I had to choose between life before Lucy and life now, I would certainly choose life as it is now because when all is said and done, she has allowed me the sense of what it means to have a permanent friend, a real friend who doesn't judge me or ridicule me but just wants to go with me and hang out  all the time, and for someone on the spectrum or someone with any disability that is huge!

Growing up, I have become better and better at knowing which of my acquaintances will remain friends with me in the long run and which will stay friends for awhile but eventually fade away because of my lack of social connection with others and not knowing how to make interesting conversation read social cues, and so on, all hallmark signs of autism.

Thank God dogs don't care about things like eye contact and the latest video games. For every bad day I have with Lucy, there are about a million more good ones. Lucy isn't going anywhere. If there's one thing Taylor Swift does well other than sing, it's help me realize that my dog is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let It Snow!

Hi! Hope everyone had a great turkey day with friends and family! Lucy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Big news, today Lucy is officially eleven months old! She's getting bigger by the minute! She is doing great with her training. Recently she has been focusing on learning to sit up straight instead of leaning on things when she sits, because that will be bad for her hips as she gets older and it doesn't look all that great for a service dog to be leaning on something every time she sits either.

Also, Old  Man Winter has DEFINITELY come to Bloomington! This morning, I took Lucy outside for her customary walk and potty break, and tiny little white specks were falling and the grass and sidewalks were dusted!

I don't think Lucy knew what to say about having to do her business in the snow. She more or less wanted to eat it. I doubt she has ever seen snow before, at least not that she will remember. She was born on New Year's Day of this year and I've slept since then, so I don't remember if it snowed.

Today, we were eating lunch and two people walked over and talked to us about where Lucy gets her training from and what a dog can do to assist someone with a learning disability and high functioning autism. One of the best parts about  having Lucy as my service dog is that we get the opportunity to teach the public things regarding disability awareness that they otherwise may not have found out about like the fact that a dog can be trained to assist with not just classical autism but high functioning autism and learning disabilities, too.  We get to open people's minds to the many new possibilities that service dogs can offer, not just for those with physical disabilities or visual impairments, but all sorts of disabilities.

High Functioning Autism and learning disabilities are just the start of what Lucy and I hope to accomplish together. If people see  more people with less visible disabilities using service dogs like me and Lucy, the perhaps the idea of service dogs for individuals with invisible disabilities will continue to become more widely accepted.

Stay Warm!
-Adria and Lucy