Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back to School Visual Aids

Back to school time is like an unofficial fills the aisles of the local stores, there are TV advertisements for it everywhere, it consumes so many conversations, and on & on. And just like all the other holidays, my house has been converted to fit the theme! Not with decorations, but with new visual aids to help Ethan (and the family) prepare for our new adventure. Here are the Back To School Visual Supports that you will find around my house....

First, is something that we use EVERY DAY. It is Ethan's daily schedule...although Daddy likes it too. It lets them him know what the day's events will be so there are no surprises. If something were to change, Ethan does very well at handling that, long as we keep that iPad picture on there. :0) For more info about this visual aid, read Daily Schedule.

These envelopes are full of other pictures that I can use as needed. If we get a new toy, I add a picture card. If we are going somewhere new, I either add a new picture card or use our card marked, "Special," and use a website or youtube video to further show Ethan our new activity. I did this when we went to Monkey Joes and The Children's Museum this summer.

This second one is a new one. I got the idea from online somewhere, but I LOVE IT!!!! Each day, I was writing what we needed to take with us for the day on a write on/ wipe off board. And every night, I would have to plan out what the next day was going to look like so I could get everything down on the board before Ethan woke up the next morning. Ethan LOVES lists (that's my boy!), but mostly he LOVES to cross things off the list! Finally, I got smart & typed up one sheet of paper for each day of the week. Then, you slide the paper into a protective sheet cover and use a dry erase marker to cross off or write on your list! It works great! Ethan loves it, and I can save myself some precious brain power! WOOHOO!

Here is what it looks like once Ethan has found & crossed off everything on our list. After Ethan goes to bed, I wipe off the marker, slide in the next day's page, and we are ready for the next morning!!!
And I couldn't resist but post a few pictures of Ethan on his first day of 4-year old preschool!

He loved his sign so much that he carried it all the way to school! Happy Back To School Everyone!!!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Homemade ABC Tactile Board

For the last few weeks, I have been gathering materials to make my own tactile board, but I wanted it to somewhat match the colors picked out for our playroom....yellow, denim & gray. Well, folks, I finished it, and here it is!!!!

There are a few letters that I want to re-do after playing around with different types of paint, but Ethan was too excited to let me work on it any more! Here he is playing with his new toy! Honestly....he played with it for over 2 hours!!!!!! I will be posting a tutorial for this later this week. It was really inexpensive & very just took some free time. (Which I know is rare!)

Ethan putting them in ABC order around the board.

Daddy outlining the letters with Ethan.

Ethan was VERY interested in what Daddy was doing to his new toy.

He was spelling words, including his friend's name!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Filling Our Jar

Even before we had an official diagnosis of autism, we knew that Ethan was developmentally delayed in several areas....including his speech. As Ethan's mom, I personally felt responsible for this delay. After all, I was not only the majority caregiver as well as a former teacher, but Ethan was my only child. If he had developmental delays, it was because I was not doing a good job as his mother. (I now realize how ridiculous this thought is, but that is how I felt at the time.)

So, I researched (& researched & researched) what I could do in order to help Ethan developmentally catch up in all areas, but mainly his speech. I so desperately wanted to communicate with my child that I was willing to do just about anything. And so, I found all of the standard to your child, sing to your child, play verbal games such as peekaboo with your child, talk to your child even if they aren't talking yet, etc.

Well, I did all of these things 100%, and Ethan was just NOT interested in ANY of it. He just wanted me to leave him alone & let him play with his toys. So, as a result, most of my days ended up looking like, what I called, Jessica's Cooking Show. You know how on cooking shows they say what they are doing it as they are doing it & why they are doing it.....well that is what I would do most of our days together. It was exhausting....especially when it seemed like Ethan wasn't hearing a word I was saying.

One particular piece of advice was to talk about what things you see with your child while you are in the car or on a walk or in the store. So.....of course......I would do this, too. And I'm sure I looked pretty ridiculous talking to myself, but I was desperate to do all I could to communicate with my child. I can vividly remember the last 2 summers.....taking walks with Ethan in his stroller & talking about the trees, the cars, the wind, the birds, the grass, and everything else. The first summer, Ethan just seemed locked in his own thoughts to even look around at his environment. Last summer, Ethan was aware, but only was interested in the cars coming & going. He would become intensely upset when cars were no longer driving by us....he wanted to see and hear the cars moving all of the time.

Well, folks......I have a picture to share with you......

This is Ethan's nature jar of things he has been collecting on our walks this week. THIS summer, Ethan has been EXTREMELY interested in the things around him....smells, sounds, things, which direction we are going, and so on. We talk back and forth to each other the entire time we are walking! He is excited to find things for his jar. He is describing things....pointy, hard, purple, loud, etc......and he is pointing things out that I didn't even notice. During one of our walks, the sun and the moon were both out......and Ethan thought that was HILARIOUS! It was so wonderful! Communicating with my child! Having him be vividly aware of his world! Laughing that the moon & the sun are both out at the same time! AND HE IS ONLY FOUR YEARS OLD!!!! Look how far we have come in just 2 years!!!

Two summers ago, I would come home from our walks discouraged and usually....crying. It was so difficult to be doing all that I could and yet see no change in Ethan's speech. To wonder if Ethan would ever talk or even be interested in the world around him. But tonight, as we took a family walk, which means Daddy comes too, I am moved to tears for the exact opposite emotion. I am overjoyed to walk AND TALK with Ethan. To discover things anew through his fascinating mind.

When I thought about motherhood, this is what I envisioned, and I'm so blessed to be experiencing this with Ethan. In fact, at one point during our walk, my husband made the comment that he wasn't going to be able to talk to me because Ethan was chattering my ear off! And we both laughed as our hearts were rejoicing at this moment. And I privately sent up a prayer of thanks. My deepest prayer has been answered. After four years of heartache, I am able to communicate with my child. And there isn't a jar big enough to hold my joy!!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Overcoming an Obstacle

Anyone heard of Monkey Joe's? It is a fun place for kids to play.....they basically have wall to wall inflatables that kids can jump, slide and play on, and most kids LOVE it! However, these inflatables are constantly being filled with air by blowers.....which adds noise to the already noisy room. Not only is this place very loud, but it is usually very crowded with people. Lots of people & lots of noise.....these are 2 MAJOR triggers for our little guy who deals with sensory processing.

Last year, a Monkey Joe's opened up in our area, and it is now the newest place to take your kid for fun. When I first heard about it, I was so excited, and couldn't wait to take Ethan! Jumping, bouncing, flopping.....he loves all of those things! But then I heard about the crowds & noise, and I, once again, added something to the "we can't do that" list. And every time I add something to that growing list, I am thrown back to my initial emotions of this journey. Yet another reminder that, "Your child has autism."

Then the birthday party invitations started coming.....most of them held at Monkey Joe's. At first, I was determined to not let this be a road block for Ethan, so I agreed to try & attend. Well, then I got sick, and we couldn't go. After that, I just decided I wasn't quite ready to tackle this place just yet. Soon, but not yet.

Well, guess what folks......we finally did it! Last week, we met my aunt & cousins who were visiting from Texas at Monkey Joe's. And Ethan did GREAT! No sound-proof headphones, no major meltdowns, a few bumps & bruises but nothing out of the ordinary! It was great!

Yes, it was crowded, and that was a little overwhelming for Ethan, so he mostly played on 2 inflatables that were in the back room in the far corner. Yes, it was loud, but the blowers to the inflatables gave it a mostly white noise effect that tends to be soothing for Ethan. He made it about an hour and a half, and then he started crying at every little indication that he was at his max. So, my husband took him next door to Big Lots where he requested a box of Pop-Tarts. This kid LOVES Pop-Tarts.

This isn't probably something we will be able to do often, but Ethan kept saying how much fun he had at Monkey Joe's. I jokingly asked my husband if we should have Ethan's next birthday party there, and he just gave me a "Are you kidding me?" look. However, I think we will be saying YES to any future birthday parties held there.....and that is HUGE for this family! We are taking Monkey Joe's off of the "can't do it" list! AWESOME!

Here are a few pictures of Ethan having a great time at Monkey Joe's!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preparing to Jump

Each school year marks a new beginning filled with excitement as well as a bit of anxiety. As we are about to embark on yet another school year, I am reminded of my previous teaching days. During the summer & especially those weeks just before school opened for a new year, my mind was filled with ways to keep my teaching fresh, ways to keep the classroom organized & inviting, and ways to keep my students to reach their fullest potential.

Now that I am a play at home mom of a child with autism, my mind is filled with similar thoughts. How can I keep our routine consistent yet exciting? How can I provide "down time" in a very full yet much needed school schedule? How am I going to reinforce the skills he is working on at school?

For over a year now, Ethan has spent most of his days at home with me. Though he has participated in therapy and an early intervention program since we "knew", most of the hours in Ethan's day were at home under my care. Because of that, I tried my best to provide additional at-home therapy, DIY techniques given to me under the direction of our therapists & the resources provided to me as well as give Ethan many opportunities to interact & play with his peers. It has been a lot of research & work done on my "mommy free time." But it has been very enjoyable for me to be able to do this for Ethan as I learned more & more about him as well as seeing how it has been able to carry over & help others.

However, this school year is going to look very different for Ethan & me. I will be less of a therapist/teacher and more of a taxi cab. Two mornings a week, Ethan will attend the Easter Seals Autism Program, and every afternoon he will attend our school district's Early Intervention Program. Both of these programs have been so vital in helping Ethan achieve his best, so we saw no other way but to continue them both. After next summer, neither of these programs will be available to us anymore. So our opinion is to do it while we can!

During the work week, Ethan will only be home with me 3 mornings. (insert sad face) So, my role this year will be more "typical" of that of a play-at-home mom. I won't need to do as much therapy but instead provide ways for Ethan to rest & rejuvenate. Not that we won't be continuing our sensory play or discovering more DIY therapy & tools that will help Ethan & others, but I don't feel the majority of the pressure for ME to be doing these thing with Ethan.  Does that make any sense? Almost like a promotion from lay person to coordinator!

So as our life is about to become VERY busy, I am also VERY excited for all of the opportunities that have been sent to Ethan.  He has been doing so amazing this summer due to his participation in these programs. Because of these amazing teachers & therapists, this summer Ethan has.....

1. Began talking so much to the point of me telling him to shush! Something that I NEVER thought I would ever tell this child (who we once upon a time thought would never talk).

2. Done more activities than ever before! This summer we visited the Children's Museum (a very loud & frenzied but fun place), and Ethan thoroughly enjoyed it for 2 hours...and not one meltdown! We also visited our town's Splash Pad (a bunch of fountains that spray & kids can play on them), the library, the movie theater, the drive-in movies, the Fourth of July fireworks, birthday parties, and so many more!

3. Extended his time at church! For the past year, Ethan hasn't been able to handle BOTH Sunday school & Children's church....a total of 3 hours with about 20 loud playing preschoolers. But this past Sunday, Ethan did both! And his teachers said he, "Did AWESOME!" YEAH!!!!

4. One of my favorite things that Ethan did this summer was......jumping off the diving board! Because he watched the Olympics with me, he knew HOW to do it. He also had been "practicing" by jumping off his indoor trampoline & jumping onto the floor. When we went to his cousin's 3rd birthday pool party, Ethan saw many family members going off the diving board. He turned to me, and said, "What's that called?" I told him it was a diving board, and then he said, "I want to jump off the diving board." Well, I wasn't about to say no, so we found Uncle Chris (who was already under the diving board waiting for his kiddo to jump in), and he agreed to be there for Ethan too! Ethan jumped without any hesitation! He just climbed up on the diving board, went to the edge & jumped to Uncle Chris! After Ethan got his bearings, he held up his right arm & said, "USA! USA! USA!" It was AWESOME!!!!!

As we approach this new school year, I am once again filled with excitement as well as a bit of anxiety.....a bit like jumping off the diving board for the first time. But just like every school year, we will come out with some highs & lows, but mostly......progress. And that fills my heart to see my child growing up surrounded by teachers, therapists, family, friends, and a church who not only love Ethan....but are rooting for him! Our cheer is not, "USA!", but instead....."ETHAN! ETHAN! ETHAN!!!!"

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Winners!

Well....let's try this again! Both of the first names drawn DID NOT claim their prize in time! So, I'm moving on to the next to names on the list that was created at

And the NEW Winners Are......

  1. Rachel Lamberson
  2. Niki Meyers
  Each of you will receive a $10 gift card to Starbucks! YEAH!
Rachel & Niki, please privately email me your addresses, and I will put your prize in the mail on Wednesday ! You each have until Tuesday (8/14/12) at midnight to get that to me before your prize goes to someone else.
Thanks to everyone for entering! 
It was a lot of fun to do this giveaway!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

And the Winners Are......

  1. Sarah Ruby-Whitehead
  2. Amanda Preller
Out of 66 entries & using the program at, these 2 gals came out as the first two names in the drawing & each receive a $10 gift card to Starbucks! YEAH!
Sarah & Amanda, please privately email me your addresses, and I will put your prize in the mail on Monday! You each have until Sunday (8/12/12) at midnight to get that to me before your prize goes to someone else.
Thanks to everyone for entering! 
It was a lot of fun to do this giveaway!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Happy Anniversary! Here's a GIVEAWAY!!!

Apparently, it has been ONE YEAR since I launched this blog. WOW.....I can't believe it. Honestly, I feel like it has been LONGER than that because of the many topics & events we have covered in the last year. Well, in honor of Courage & Coffee's one year anniversary, I think it would be fun to do a prize drawing!!!

Sooo.......Courage & Coffee will be giving away.....

TWO $10 gift cards to STARBUCKS! 

Want to enter your name in the drawing??? Here is how you can enter your name in the drawing TWO TIMES!

1. Write a comment on this blog entry. One comment is one entry....and that is the maximum you can enter on this site. That is ONE ENTRY.

2. Want to enter your name again? Be our friend on FACEBOOK! Become our friend, and you will enter your name again for this drawing! Already our friend??? You are already entered!

The deadline for this drawing is this FRIDAY, AUGUST 10TH, AT MIDNIGHT. This is also my husband & I 10 year wedding anniversary, so it seemed like a good day to choose!

I will announce the winners here & on facebook on Saturday, August 11th, and those winners can privately email me their home address. I will get the gift cards in the mail on the following Monday.


In honor of this blog's anniversary, here are links to the 10 most popular Courage & Coffee posts of the last year. ENJOY! And let the entries begin!!!!!

#10 - Ethan's Sensory Diet - Smell, Sound & Sight

#9 - A New Sleeping Challenge

#8 - Dear Family

#7 - What Exactly Is Autism

#6 - Easter Egg Silly Sentences

#5 - Light It Up Blue Soap

#4 - 4th Birthday Party

#3 - Sensory Processing Disorder

#2 - One Year Later

#1 - Our Story