Three Great Websites for Special Needs Parents

Here are three websites that have good resources for parents of children with special needs. I like them because they are easy to use, feature practical tips and are not full of ads. Take a look and let me know what you think.

1.     Family Education

FamilyEducation is easy to navigate and full of practical tips on a lot of topics. The website is not designed specifically for families who have children with special needs, but it does provide lots of information relevant to special needs parents.

There is a huge amount of information on this website. Some of the subjects covered are:
  • Pregnancy
  • School and education
  • Behavior and discipline
  • Home schooling
  • Recipes 
  • Arts and crafts
  • Family relationships
  • Study skills
  • Child development
  • Finances

A section called Learning Differences includes specific information about autism, ADHD and other special needs.  In addition, FamilyEducation has a community section with message boards on many topics.

This is US-based website, but much of the information is relevant to parents everywhere.

2.     NetBuddy

This is a UK-based website that pools together information and tips from all over the internet for people with disabilities and special needs. Users can search for tips by topic and can add tips of their own.  NetBuddy is simple to use and provides tips on issues such as:

NetBuddy also has a large selection of information packs you can download. Some of the topics covered in the information packs are:
  • iPad apps
  • Siblings of children with a disability
  • Hearing loss
  • Sexuality
  • Job seeking

NetBuddy has a large online community forum that includes "community advisors" who answer questions from forum users. The thrust of the community is that people affected by disability or special needs help each other.  Even though the site is based in the UK, it has plenty of information relevant to special needs parents anywhere.

3.     AbilityPath

This US-based website is designed for the special needs community. AbilityPath is easy to use and has lots of useful information on topics such as:  
It also has detailed reports on The Journey to Life After High School and Walk a Mile in His Shoes on Bullying. In addition, AbilityPath has a forum where users can find support and information.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Four Ways to Make Halloween Special for Your Special Needs Child

Halloween is a difficult time for many children with special needs because of:
Credit:  Steven DePolo on Flickr
  • Changes in their routines.
  • Sensory overload from noises, costumes, decorations and lighting.
  • Lack of social skills for trick or treating.
  • Food sensitivities or limited diets.

Most children look forward to Halloween, and as parents we want our children to share in the fun. Here are some ideas to help plan a Halloween your children with special needs can enjoy.

1.     Make a Plan with Your Child
Knowing what to expect alleviates a lot of children’s anxiety. Preview the route your children will follow while trick or treating. Show them the route in daylight and at night, as things look different in the darkness. Build in some time for a sensory break and decide where your children can relax away from other trick or treaters.

Use pictures and videos to show your children the types of costumes people wear, Halloween decorations and introduce them to scary sounds they might hear while trick or treating. In addition, there are a lot of social stories about Halloween that may be helpful. You will find social stories on these sights:
2.     Practice
Explain exactly what you do when trick or treating:
Credit:  Popofatticus on Flick
  • Go to the house and knock on the door or ring the doorbell.
  • When the door opens and the person is visible, say trick or treat.
  • Stand at the doorway – do not go into the house or apartment.
  • Have your trick or treat bag/bucket ready.
  • Hold your bag or bucket in front of you and let the person put your treat in it.
  • If the homeowner tells you to choose from a bowl – only take one treat unless told otherwise.
  • Don’t ask for more treats.
  • Say thank you even if you don’t like the type of treat.
  • Don't hang around; start moving to the next house.
  • Don’t open, taste or eat any treats until your parents say it is okay.
Practice this routine a few times at home. Then, have your children practice with a neighbor or friend

If your children are nonverbal, make up small cards with the words "Trick or Treat" that your children can hand out while trick or treating. If you want you can put additional information on the card such as "Hi, My Name is John and I can't say 'Trick or Treat' yet. Thank you for understanding."

3.     Costumes
Be flexible about your children’s costumes. Some children hate the idea of costumes and refuse to wear them. Don’t force costumes on them. Let them trick or treat without them. Alternatively, ask if they will wear face paint or carry a scary sign or object while trick or treating.

If your child does wear a costume, you need to do a few safety checks. You need to:

Credit:  US CPSC 
  • Make sure their vision isn’t blocked by a mask or part of their costume.
  • Check that they can breathe easily.
  • Check for tripping hazards such as a part of a costume that drags on the ground or shoes that are too big.
  • Attach high visibility strips or have them wear a high visibility vest.
  • Give them a working flashlight to take with them.

Have your child wear the costume at least once to make sure it is comfortable and there aren’t any annoying tags, etc.

If your children use a wheelchair or cane, there are lots of ideas for costumes incorporating these aids. Check out these websites for ideas:
4.     Trick or Treat Alternatives
For some kids, trick or treat is just too much. This doesn’t mean Halloween cannot be a fun experience for you and your child. Plan a special activity to celebrate Halloween in a style that is comfortable for your child. Here are some
Credit: Tawest 64 on Flickr
  • Organize a small party for your family and friends with Halloween games like bobbing for apples. Check out Family Education and Pumpkin Nook for more party ideas.
  • Trick or treat at a local mall or museum.
  • Check for activities at local churches and community organizations.
  • Bake Halloween treats and bring them to friends and family, or a local shelter.
  • Make a collage – grab your camera and see how many pictures of different Halloween things you and your child can take. Then, pick out your favorites and make a collage. You can print the photos and paste them together or use an online collage tool such as PicMonkey.
  • Get out your arts and crafts and make Halloween and autumn decorations
    Please share any tips you have in the comments below.

 This article was originally published by me on

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Do You Make These Mistakes When Giving Your Children Medicine?

Credit:  US FDA
Every 8 minutes a child experiences a medication error, report doctors from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio. One of the most common errors by parents and caregivers is giving children the same medicine twice. Other medication mistakes include:

  • giving the wrong dose of medicine
  • confusing the units of measurement for the medication
  • giving the wrong medication

These mistakes are most common in children under age 6. Luckily, in over 90 percent of these cases the children did not need treatment at a hospital or clinic.

The key to safely administering medicines to your child is summed up in 3 points:

  • Right Dose
  • Right Time
  • Right Way

Right Dose
Make sure you understand the amount of medicine you are supposed to give your child and how to measure the dose. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure. If you need to measure a dose of medicine, use the dosing device that came with the medicine or one made specifically for measuring medications.

Right Time
Credit:  Medline Plus
Have your doctor or pharmacist explain how often you need to give your child the medication.  Use a diary or phone to schedule reminders. Mark in your diary or phone when you gave the medication.  If more than one person is going to give the medicine to your child,  keep a list with the medicine so each person can note the day and time the medication was given.

Right Way
Sometimes the medicine tastes terrible or the tablets are hard to swallow and you wonder what you should do. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before crushing tablets or mixing medication with food or drink.

For more guidance on administering medications to children see:

OTC Safety
Safe Kids
JAMA Pediatrics

The report, "Out-of-Hospital Medication Errors Among Young Children in the United States, 2002 - 2012" is published in the journal Pediatrics.

©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Is broccoli the key to an effective autism treatment?

Credit:  Puamelia on Flickr
Autism symptoms improved significantly in individuals after receiving sulforaphane, a chemical derived from broccoli, according to a study published online on Oct. 13.  

Sulforaphane improved social and communication skills and lessened repetitive behaviors, report researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Forty males with autism between the ages of 13 and 27 participated in the study.  Twenty-six participants received daily doses of sulforaphane.  The rest of the participants received a placebo.

Over half of the males who took sulforaphane showed substantial improvement in social interaction and verbal communication.  In addition, repetitive and ritualistic behaviors lessened. These improvements were lost when the participants stopped taking sulforaphane.

Credit:  Linda Aslund on Flickr
Researchers were particularly impressed that this chemical appeared to target the "basic mechanisms of the disorder." "We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some of the underlying cellular problems,” says researcher Paul Talalay, M.D.

Adding broccoli to your children's diets is unlikely to help their autism symptoms. Talalay cautions that it would be extremely difficult for an individual to eat enough broccoli to reach a therapeutic dose of sulforaphane.  

The study "Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)" is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

5 Reasons Your Child Should Get a Flu Shot

Credit:  US CDC

1.     A flu shot is recommended for all children over 6 months by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  

2.     Children are at a greater risk for getting the flu because their immune systems are still developing.

3.    Flu can cause serious complications in children with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

4.     Over 100 US children died from the flu last flu season.

5.     The risks of a bad reaction from the flu shot 
are very low.

Be sure to check with your child's doctor before getting the flu shot.

For more information about the flu and the flu vaccination see the CDC's website.


©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action

Irish Foster Care Association National Conference

Why We Care
14-16 November 2014 at Johnstown House Hotel, Enfield, Co Meath

Dr James Reilly, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, will launch the conference on Saturday morning followed by a plenary focus on Aftercare with a panel of key stakeholders.

For further details of the full conference programmes for adults, young people and children, please see attached brochure or register via our website, Registration deadline: 6 November.

The Irish Foster Care Association is a ‘rights based’, child centred organisation that promotes family-based solutions for children and young people in 'out of home care'. The Irish Foster Care Association believes in the highest standard of excellence in all foster care services and is committed to achieving its goal through advocacy, support, education and working in a spirit of partnership and cooperation.