Skylanders Partners with Autism Speaks with Limited Edition Superchargers Toys

Skylanders Partners with Autism Speaks with Limited Edition Superchargers Toys

Autism touches our home in a very unique way, our middle son John-Benjamin was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Autism right after he turned three.  Since his diagnosis we’ve worked hard and doing what we thought was best for our son and learning as much as we can about Autism.  I always love learning about companies who support the Autism community as much as they can, and that’s why I am happy to learn about the partnership with Skylanders and Autism Speaks for Autism Awareness Month, with the production of limited edition ‘Light It Up Blue’ Superchargers Toys called the Power Blue Crew.skylanders superchargersThanks to Skylanders for sending us the four toys limited edition Power Blue Crew toys to feature on our site.  Our package included two character figures and two Superchargers vehicles.

Skylanders Light It Up Blue Superchargers (2)
-the Skylanders Power Blue crew- for Autism Awareness Month

Available now, the Power Blue crew features blue-and-white-colored Skylanders SuperChargers characters including Splatter Splasher, Trigger Happy, Splat and Gold Rusher – all of which appear in-game as their special colors! These characters will retail at the suggested price of $12.99 (SuperChargers) and $14.99  (vehicles).

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Skylanders is supporting Autism in several ways beyond the creation of Power Blue toys:

  • Supporting an employee-match donation program for Autism Speaks
  • Encouraging participation in the Autism Speaks Walk on April 2 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca in support of World Autism Awareness Day
  • Activision is also making donations to non-profits that are making a difference in the autism community

Skylanders Light It Up Blue Superchargers (5)

Skylanders Light It Up Blue Superchargers (4)

“Autism affects one in every 42 boys and one in 68 children in the U.S. We’re proud to work with Skylanders, an iconic franchise that’s known for bringing joy and magic to kids and families,” said Peter Morton, Vice President of Corporate Development at Autism Speaks. “This year’s Light it up Blue campaign for World Autism Awareness Day marks our first alliance with a videogame and toy, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Skylanders Light It Up Blue Superchargers (6)

Skylanders Light It Up Blue Superchargers (7)

“Since the debut of the franchise, we’ve heard from parents that Skylanders plays a special role in the lives of their kids on the autism spectrum,” says Josh Taub, Senior Vice President of Skylanders Product Management, Activision. “The entire Skylanders team was deeply committed and proud to bring these special toys to life. If they can put a smile on a child’s face, then we know we’ve done our job right.”

For more information please visit https://www.skylanders.com/ or connect on social media on Instagram @SkylanderstheGame, Twitter @SkylandersGame and Facebook.com/SkylandersGame. 

giveaway feature

Thanks to the generosity of Skylanders one lucky reader will win their own Power Blue Crew Limited Edition Skylander.  The giveaway is open to US residents 18 and older.  Ends March 30th, 2016.  Enter via the tool below.  Good Luck.

Skylanders Blue Power Crew Giveaway

My Run Wild for Autism Experience

My Run Wild for Autism Experience

John­-Benjamin our 4 year old has brought so much enjoyment to our lives and at the same time made us aware of a subject that we were not informed of before his birth. As of 2014 1 in every 68 children are born on the Autism spectrum, the prevalence of the disease has risen by 119 percent which makes the fast disease disease in the U.S. Of course our lives like most parents with parents who give birth to children on the autism spectrum changed greatly and in many ways I am thankful for that. My wife has become an advocate for autism awareness and support, and we have both studied the disease to gain a better understanding of what it is and how to best support our son.

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One of the ways we support J.B. is through community events. From park festivals to boat rides in the Baltimore Harbor we have taken an active stance to place J.B. around supporters who understand him and are willing to assist in his growth and development. One such event was the Autism Awareness Run, held annually at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore the run was less like a sporting event and more like celebration. It was our first time there, and the Stephens was up early to support our son and brother along with hundreds of other autistic children and adults who came out to participate for this great cause.

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Upon arrival the event staff was friendly and informative (something that can hard to do at 7:30am) they gave us our t­shirts and numbers pointed us to the route. Now there were two options one the competitive 4k run or the family walk, with it being our first year we decided for the family walk, but we have placed the run on our bucket list.

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The first you notice is the amount of family decorated in signs, face paint, custom clothes, and autism paraphernalia to support their family members. It’s very encouraging to see the support and it warmed my heart. While walking I run into two of my former students and their families who inform me they they attend and participate every year.

Run Wild for Autism

Run Wild for Autism

Run Wild for Autism

Run Wild for Autism

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Though most of the animals were still sleeping and tucked away the indoor homes the walking route was still scenic and full of people willing to talk and share their family member’s story with us. After finishing the route you were greeted with applause and fan fare from supporters and other walkers/ runners who have finished the course. This was especially funny to us because our oldest son Trey took off running once we were close to the finish line and instead of going the through the walkers finish line, he made the wrong turn and went through the runner’s finish line to many cheers from the people there!

Poe the Raven

Poe the Raven

After we finished the walk there was a party for the kids and adults, I call it a party because the atmosphere was so energetic and positive. Companies were present with food, ice cream, giveaways, and prizes for drawings. Kids ran around, played games and danced to the DJ.  Overall it was a great day for the Stephens family, a day we will never forget, we are excited and ready to get back and participate this year along with every year after that!!!

Thanks to Pathfinders for Autism for providing our family free spots in the Run Wild for Autism Family Fun Run. Any opinions expressed are my own.  To learn more about Pathfinders for Autism and to donate to their programs, visit their website.  Be sure to save the date for the upcoming race that is scheduled for Sunday, September 25th, 2016.

Camping in Style at Hersheypark Camping Resort

Hersheypark Camping Resort

Camping in Style at Hersheypark Camping Resort

Last April I attended Sweet Retreat at Hersheypark in Hershey, PA, it was an amazing experience and while there our group had the chance to tour the Hersheypark Camping Resort.  Since that visit I was looking forward to the opportunity to take my family back for a visit, and this past November for the opening of Hersheypark Candylane and Sweet Lights.

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Our family was hosted by Hersheypark at the Camping Resort, any opinions expressed in this post are my own.

I couldn’t wait to get my family to Hershey the weekend we were going up for the opening, and our night at the camping resort.  I had talked about it so much to my husband he was very excited as well.  We arrived and checking in was a breeze.  Once we checked in at the big red barn we drove up to our cabin to get settled in for a bit.

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Our cabin for the night was #42, this is apart of the newly added cabins at the camping resort.  This particular cabin has two bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other with two sets of bunk beds.

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When we visited it was too cold to enjoy anything outside but each cabin has a picnic bench on the front porch.  Perfect for winding down and enjoying evening s’mores and snacks.

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Behind our cabin was a small barrel grill/fire pit.  Since we were only there one night we didn’t prepare for it at all.  However I would highly recommend it for s’mores or grilling.

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From the living room window we could see the car parked in our parking area.  Each cabin has assigned spots, our had room for two cars.  This week we were sporting the Mazda CX 5 thanks to DriveShop and Mazda.

Hersheypark Camping Resort

Hersheypark Camping Resort

Thanks to my friends at Hershey we received this fun gift bag when we got to our cabin.  It was filled with fun treats for the kids and myself.

Hersheypark Camping Resort (29)Hersheypark Camping Resort

The window has a small bench to sit at and relax, it also doubles as seating for the dining room table that’s against the wall as well.

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The dining room table had been pushed towards the wall, but when you’re ready to eat you can easily pull it our for more space and using the benches along with the chairs.  With the two benches and two chairs that’s seating for six.

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We were closer to the main road towards the end of these set of cabins.  This area is mainly composed of the two bedroom cabins.  It was very quiet even though we had neighbors on both sides of us.

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The living room area had lots of space to relax and unwind.  With four kids we always need lots of space and my kids were very happy at felt at home at the cabin.  They had more than enough space to run around and be free.

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If you’re planning on making a meal in the cabin it comes with a two burner cook top, microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and refrigerator.

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Pots and pans, cooking utensils, and mixing bowls were all available for use in the cabin.  If you did use these items, the camping resort provided dish soap and a dish sponge to clean those items.

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Also included in the cabins are cups, tea cups, plates, bowls and eating utensils for six people.  They really offer you as much as possible to make your stay enjoyable.  Guests are required to bring their own linens, toiletries, pillows, and towels when booking at stay at the cabins.

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Although it’s not pictured there’s a television in the main living area as well as a DVD player.  We briefly watched television while at the cabin, I would recommend bringing some games and unplugging as much as you can while enjoying your family and friends.

Hersheypark Camping Resort Hersheypark Camping ResortHersheypark Camping Resort

Our rooms had a lot of space, the kids loved climbing up and down the ladder on the bunk beds.  One of beds has a double mattress at the bottom.  It has so much space that we all could spread out and enjoy our night.  The bunk beds has storage areas at the bottom and the main room had a dresser for clothing.

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One feature I wasn’t expecting but I was happy to see was the safe.  Keep all your valuable items safe and secure at all times when visiting the Hersheypark Camping Resort.Hersheypark Camping Resort (4)

We had such a good time at the Hersheypark Camping Resort the kids are already asking when they can return again.  My son wants to visit for his birthday this May and hubby wants to spend a Christmas holiday at the resort.  I’m sure we’ll be back, I hope it’s sooner than later.

About Hersheypark Camping Resort

HPCampingResort

Hersheypark Camping Resort features more than 300 sites, including 46 cabins with amenities ranging from rustic to deluxe, basic tenting sites, and RV sites featuring partial to full hook ups (electric, water, sewer, cable TV).  Guests enjoy the best price on park tickets and shuttle service to Hersheypark.  The camping resort features a variety of family events and amenities including two swimming pools, a kiddie pool, indoor game room, country store, fire rings and picnic tables.  Wi-Fi is available in limited areas.  During the summer and fall seasons, guests enjoy activities such as movie nights and live entertainment including visits from the Hershey’s Characters.  To learn more about Hersheypark Camping Resort visit their site and if you’re looking for camping options in the area be sure to give them a try.

2 Bedroom Deluxe Cabin Amenities:

  • Indoor plumbing, bathroom/shower
  • Electric
  • Heat and Air Conditioning
  • TV with cable and DVD unit
  • Ceiling fan or wall fan
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Kitchenette appliances: 2 burner stove top, refrigerator, microwave, toaster, coffee pot (filters not included).
  • Serving items for 7 people: plates, bowls, mugs, plastic cups, forks, spoons, knives, and steak knives. Miscellaneous items: frying pans, sauce pan, manual can opener, measuring spoons/cups, dish drainer, and serving spoons.
  • Dining table with benches/chairs
  • Dresser
  • Porch with picnic table
  • Outside fire ring with grate

Guests are required to bring their own supply of linens, pillows, blankets, towels, personal items, and kitchen linens, such as dish towels and hot pads.

Minimum Stay Requirements

Deluxe Cabins have a 3-night Stay requirement during the summer and Holiday weekends and 2-night Stay requirement during the rest of the year.

Helping My Son Understand Life Through Reading

Peanut's Mistake Pumpkinheads Book

Helping My Son Understand Life Through Reading

If you’ve been to my blog before you probably know about my son’s Autism diagnosis.  If this is your first time I invite you to read about our journey so far.  My son is four years old, he’s in a special program for Special Needs Children since he’s non-verbal he needs more attention than regular kids would need in school.  This year we have looking for ways to him that’s outside the box.  We’ve found ways of helping him understand life through reading.

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What Are Pumpkinheads?

Pumpkinheads focuses an inclusive approach to child development with the book series teaching valuable moral and emotional lessons such as learning from mistakes; embracing racial diversity; exploring imagination; developing resilience, and expressing kindness. In addition to the books, the company also features free educational worksheets, videos, games, an early childhood education digital magazine, and app. 

Racially diverse, the seven Pumpkinheads characters, Lulu; Carmin; Danza; Ella; Sage; Xavy and Cameron are the ideal role models for young children. Each has their own unique personality allowing children to engage and connect with them in multiple ways. 

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The folks at Pumpkinheads sent my family their two newest books Peanut’s Mistake and Imagine for review.  We loved both books but my favorite was Peanut’s Mistake.  I love how this story helps me talk to my son through the story about making mistakes.  Having a child with autism can be very challenging and when you add in the fact that he’s non-verbal to the mix it makes for even more challenging.  Autism parents like myself depend on stories to help our children understand better.  Using this book I was able to talk to my son about the ‘mistakes’ he makes around the house, and why it’s important for him to clean up after himself.

Imagine Pumpkinheads book

Imagine touches on using your imagination.  It’s a great book for kids, however it wasn’t one my son was able to grasp yet.  My niece on the other hand understood this book much better.  I like that it helps encourage them to be anything they aspire to be in life.

These books have won the Parent Tested Parent Approved seal of approval along with a few other awards.  They are beautifully illustrated and are great gifts for kids ages 2-6 years old.  Priced at $10.95 per book, they are very affordable gift options for any special occasion.  I highly recommend adding them to children’s bookshelves.  To learn more about these award winning books visit the Pumpkinheads website.

Where’s My Autism Handbook?

Where’s My Autism Handbook?

It’s been about a year and a half since we started the process of finding out what was wrong  going on with our son.  At the time our youngest was just five months old, but I wanted to know more about the reasons why our middle son who was developing normally, now seemed to be moving backwards instead of forward.  It took less than two months of testing with our Child Find program for them to diagnosis him with Autism.  The thing I want to know is “Where’s my Autism Handbook?”

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J.B. starting his first day of Preschool

Twice in the last 24 hours I’ve read about the term non-verbal autism.  Both times I said to myself “what the heck is that?”  So naturally I depended on the internet to help me learn more about the term.  A term that I honestly have to say scares me more than I care to admit.  See if you’ve been following my Autism posts then you know my son J.B. was diagnosed with Autism when he was three year old.

A few years ago I shared for the first time about him when I wrote my post –  Wishing and Waiting for Words.  When I wrote that post I didn’t know about his Autism, while he was displaying signs we just couldn’t see past our own selves I guess.  We wanted to believe that he was just taking him time to talk, that he would one day have an ah-ha moment and words would start flowing like a faucet from his mouth.  We started to gear up for his endless questions about why, who, what and where.  We waited and waited and once our fourth child was born I started to see what I wasn’t seeing before.  The small signs that were there all along that I was missing while I was hoping for something that now seems it may never happen.

There’s an old video on my computer of J.B. saying hello.  It’s a short clip where I’m asking him to say hi to my camera.  I was working on a blog video that day and he kept interrupting.  So I gave him a chance to film hoping he would give me a chance to work.  I would give anything to hear those words from his lips again.  I would let him interrupt me a thousand times over and over if I could have it all again.

JB as Iron Man
J.B. dressed up as Iron Man for Halloween

When we received J.B.’s diagnosis, no one told us anything about Autism.  All we received was our copy of the findings in the mail.  They sent it to us early so we could bring to our next appointment, where they would be setting up services based on their findings.  In the packet were three sheets of papers from the staff psychologist letting us know based on her findings our son had Autism.  One sheet listed some websites we could visit.  That’s it, no real direction on where to start and what to do next.

Now that I’ve been seeing people talk about non-verbal autism I’ve been wondering if this is our son’s faith.  Will he develop words with speech therapy or will he solely rely on his communication device all his life.  I don’t know if I need to find more communication software for his device.  Should I be getting a different device for school and home.  How does it affect his goals for school and life.  It seems like just when I think we are starting to understand what’s going on with our son, something else comes up to knock me off my game.

I don’t think I’ll ever know everything there is to know about Autism and I know that on one person could ever create a handbook on the subject but I sure wish there was a handbook to refer on days when I just don’t know what to do.  Like today when I want to know more about being non-verbal and autism.  If you have a child that has autism and non-verbal, drop me a line about how it affects your life.  I would love to find more families like ours.

Top Gift for Preschoolers – School Zone Little Scholar Tablet

Top Gift for Preschoolers – School Zone Little Scholar Tablet

I’ve shared many times how important reading it to my husband and I in regards to our kids.  From the time we found out we were going to be parents for the first time we started buying top children’s books to build a collection.  We’ve read to my oldest since she was in my tummy and once she could read on her own we urge her to read to us.  Our preschooler was diagnosed with Autism so we’ve been looking for different ways to help him with reading.  We’ve found that in School Zone’s Little Scholar tablet for preschoolers.

Little Scholar Tablet comes with 54 Start to Read books, all include read along audio.  For our non-verbal son this is the perfect way to read and learn new words.  He can choose what stories he wants read to him at any time.  He can replay those chapters over and over.  He’s also learning life lessons and building his vocabulary.  Seeing and hearing words help him when it’s time for him to communicate on his communication device at school.  Having access to these books through technology has really helped with his reading.

 Reading isn’t the only thing your child can do on this tablet.  It comes preloaded with over 150 apps, songs and videos.  You may be familiar with School Zone’s workbooks and now your child has access to the material from those books all in this one tablet.  That makes it perfect for road trips.  No more buying books over and over again and unlike the books you child can easily redo all their work and progress on the tablet.  You can also download additional School Zone apps from the Amazon App Store for use with the tablet.

Parents can easily track their child’s progress right from the tablet.  You can see how your child is performing and see what apps are being used by your child.  It’s a great way to help guide learning.  Use the parental controls to decide when to unlock wi-fi, customize apps, songs and books.  The parental controls section is password protected so only parents can make changes.

Little Scholar is geared towards kids ages 3-7 years old, allowing them to master reading, math, spelling and so much more all while having fun.  If you’re looking for a fun and educational tech gift for your little scholar be sure to add this tablet from School Zone.  You can purchase your own Little Scholar Tablet for $129.99 from SchoolZone.com, Walmart.com or Toys R Us.  Thanks to School Zone for sending us a Little Scholar Tablet for inclusion in our holiday gift guide.  One lucky reader will also have the opportunity to win their own tablet to gift this holiday season.  The giveaway is open to US residents, 18 and older.  Ends on December 16th at 11:59 PM.  Enter via the tool below.

School Zone Little Scholar

Kauzbots – The Children’s Gift that Gives Back #GivingTuesday

Kauzbots – The Children’s Gift that Gives Back

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day created to inspire people to give back through their holiday shopping.  My husband and I try our best to instill into our kids at an early age and spirit of giving and not just receiving during the holidays.  We encourage them to gift to each other and to donate their gently used toys each year before birthdays and Christmas.  With the holidays in full swing I wanted to share with you a great company that helps start the conversation about giving back with children.  Kauzbots – the children’s gift that gives back is the perfect gift for this holiday season.

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About Kauzbots:

Kauzbots, the company that helps you contribute to an array of charities with their precious plush robots, aims to raise awareness and encourage everyone to give back during this holiday season. Their year-round efforts are especially distinguishable during this time of selflessness and advocacy.  Currently Kauzbots has 10 robots for sale through their website and selected retailers. Each bot has a heart for a specific “kauz,” advocating for and donating to separate charities:

  • Kalvin: a heart for homeless children

  • Kale: a heart for the planet

  • Kaprice: a heart for women with breast cancer

  • Karissa: a heart or our environment

  • Karson: a heart for music therapy at children’s hospitals

  • Karthy: a heart for autism

  • Khloe: a heart for oral pediatric health

  • Kiefer: a heart for refugees

  • Kourage: a heart for children with cancer

  • Kruz: a heart for clean water

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My son loved his Kauzbot.  Almost immediately when I gave it to him he grabbed it and gave it a huge hug.  He kept looking at the big buttons on his Kauzbot and tried pushing them to see how it worked.  This is the perfect comfort toy for kids and a great way to start the conversation about giving back.  We received Karissa for inclusion in our holiday gift guide.  This bot’s kauz is Share Our Strength.

One Kauzbot that is close to our hearts is Karthy, this bot supports Autism.  When you purchase one of these bots a 10% donation of the sale price will be made to Talk About Curing Autism.  We have an Autistic son so this is something we would want to support and encourage others to support as well.  Visit the Kauzbot store to find a bot to support your kauz.  Or consider Karthy and Karissa if you don’t have a specific kauz in mind.

Kauzbots are available for purchase online and at select retailers for $24.99.   Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram at @kauzbots.

Kauzbots, Inc. is based in the heart of Orange County, Calif. Kauzbots is about making kids and parents smile, it’s about warming hearts, while at the same time sharing our passion and commitment to giving back. We believe these are high quality products, but that’s not really the point. The point is each one of our products speaks to a special cause and we get to touch each cause through donating 10 percent to different charitable foundations each Kauzbot “sponsors.”

Pathfinders for Autism Free Family Fall Events

Pathfinders for Autism Free Family Fall Events

My family recently started using the Pathfinders for Autism website as a resource for helping us navigate JB’s Autism.  I found the site over the summer and it’s been such a great tool for us.  In July we had the opportunity to participate in their free Downtown Sailing event, which was a blast for us.  Pathfinders recently sent out their newsletter sharing their Free Family Fall Events and we already registered for one.  If you live in Maryland be sure to register for these events and connect with other Autism families.

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CLIMB Adventure at Earth Treks Rockville
CLIMB! Mount Khuiten, Mongolia – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania – The Andes, Peru – Mount Everest, Nepal 

A lottery will be held to award CLIMB spots.  Awardees will be notified of their scheduled CLIMB time.
Earth Treks
Saturday, October 17, 2015
12:30pm to 2:30pm

Earth Treks Climbing Centers

725 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
240-283-9942
Ages: 6 and up
Spots are limited for this event and will be reserved for individuals with ASD and one parent/caregiver or sibling or friend.

Of course families are encouraged to attend and take pictures of their favorite climber.

A climbing social story has been created and is available upon request. Additional copies will be available at Earth Treks Rockville on October 17th. To assist with waiting, craft activities will be offered.  In addition, a Quiet Room will be available.
Let’s Science at the Maryland Science Center
Tornados, Dinosaurs, a Bed of Nails and More! Let’s Science at the Maryland Science Center.  Register for a chance to join Pathfinders for Autism at it’s first ever visit to the exciting and interactive Science Center.

MD Science Center
Saturday, November 7, 2015
6:30pm to 10:00pm

Maryland Science Center
600 Light Street
Baltimore, MD  21230

Exhibits:     Dinosaur Mysteries
                  Life Beyond Earth
                  Newton’s Alley
                  Follow the Blue Crab
                  and more . . .
                  Also, Planetarium showings!

Beakers Cafe will be open, offering “grab and go” items.

Directions and parking 
  
Pool and Water Park Fun at North Arundel Aquatic Center
Join Pathfinders for some free family swim and splash time!

Sunday, December 6North Arundel Aquatic Center
6:30-8:30pm

North Arundel Aquatic Center
7888 Crain Hwy Sw
Glen Burnie, MD 21061


A lottery will be held to award spots. Their registration process for our free family fun events will be in effect. 

The North Arundel Aquatic Center offers an 8-lane 25-yard competition pool and a leisure pool. The leisure pool is a zero depth entry pool that includes three 20-yard lap lanes with indoor water park. The water park include a 134-foot water slide, splash down area, water buckets, preschool water slide, vortex area, and poolside spa for adults. Participants must be 48″ or taller to utilize the water slide.

Children must be age 3 and up and completely toilet-trained to be permitted to swim. No swim diapers permitted.

Register online

Our Very Important Preschooler

Our Very Important Preschooler

When we had J.B. we had no idea the impact it would have on our lives.  His birth was so traumatic and we were told it could affect him down the line.  At first he was developing on track but somewhere around 18 months he started to regress.  Last year he was diagnosed with Autism and he’s also non-verbal so we started him with early intervention to help him build communication and social skills.  Meet our very important preschooler, J.B.  He’s changed our lives in so many ways and I know he’ll continue to change it each day.

JB eating

JB starts his second year of school this year and he’s doing so well.  Although he still can’t speak he is finding various ways to communicate with us and let us know what he’s learning.  To help him celebrate and enjoy this school year we got him a very special personalized book that talks about all the things kids learn in Pre-School.  I See Me sent us a copy of The Very Important Preschooler for review, any opinions expressed are my own.

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This year J.B. will be learning a lot of things and his new book is a way of helping him understand some of what he will be learning.  I love unique gifts like these because they make kids feel special.  For J.B. it was a great way to show him some of what school would be like this year.

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The Very Important Preschooler offers a variety of options for personalization, including a dedication from the gifter to the recipient.

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The book does a great job going through the things a pre-schooler would do during school.  My favorite part was just how many times we found his name in the story.

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J.B. loved when we read the book to him at night and when we were on a page with his name he would point to the letters to get us to read them.  Eventually we started asking him to find the letters in his name.  So it ended up being a learning tool for him as well.  Since he’s non-verbal that’s the only way we know what letters he knows.

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If you have a child heading off to preschool soon or if they have already started be sure to check out The Very Important Preschooler from I See Me!  At just $29.99 it’s a great gift idea for children.  With the holidays approaching you may be shopping for other gift ideas, I See Me has a wide variety of options including; Puzzles /Coloring BooksPlacemats / Stickers  and Growth Charts!

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I hope that my son has a great year in school this year and that he learns a lot.  I plan to continue to remind him that he is a V.I.P and read him his book every night.

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Run Wild for Autism Fundraiser

Run Wild for Autism Fundraiser

Since finding out that our son John-Benjamin has Autism, life has been a whirlwind of ups and downs.  A few weeks ago I found an awesome resource that has been a huge help to me in finding other people who also have children with Autism.  Pathfinders for Autism helped me understand so much about my son and guided me to a great support group.  There website is full of amazing information for parents in all stages of Autism life.  I wish I had found this site last year when we received JB’s diagnosis.

This summer we had the opportunity to attend an event with Pathfinders at the Downtown Sailing Center on the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  It was such an amazing experience for us that we couldn’t wait to get back to another event.  Thanks to the folks at Pathfinders for Autism, our whole family got signed up to participate in the Run Wild for Autism 5k Race and Fun Run for JB.  We can’t wait to participate in the fun run with the kids.

About Run With for Autism and Pathfinders for Autism:

Sunday, September 27, 2015

7:00am – 12:00pm (race starts at 8:30am)

Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Run Wild for Autism is a 5K Race and Family Fun Run/Walk to raise money for Pathfinders for Autism.

It is Pathfinder’s mission to offer FREE guidance and support to Maryland’s autism community in the following ways:

  • The Pathfinders for Autism Resource Center – which offers caring and knowledgeable staff to assist individuals, families and professionals in finding the information and services they need
  • Public awareness about Autism and its effect on individuals, families and society
  • Parent, professional, and first responder training on pertinent topics by experts in the field
  • Recreational opportunities that allow for the entire family to enjoy a fun outing in an inclusive environment

To participate in Run Wild for Autism, registration for adults is $25 ($30 on race day), youth 13- 17 is $20 and free for children 12 and under.  Participants with Autism receive free registration.

EVENT SCHEDULE, FEATURES & FAQs

7:00-8:15am  Registration (outside Main Gate)
8:30am  Race (8:30 5K, 8:45 Fun Run/Walk)
9:00-11:00am  Post-Race Activities at Waterfowl Pavilion
Zoo Gates Open at 10:00am

Featuring:
– 5K Run through the Maryland Zoo and Druid Hill Park
– Family Fun Run/Walk through the Maryland Zoo
– Professionally Managed Race by Charm City Run
– Post-race awards ceremony
– Family activities, zoo Animal Ambassadors and more
– Give-away items
– Post-race snacks
PLUS SPECIAL RACE DAY ZOO ADMISSION: individuals registered for the race will be able to access the Zoo free of charge on race day. Zoo passes may be picked up on Race Day at check-in.

I would love for you to consider creating your own team and learning more about Run Wild for Autism by visiting the Pathfinders website.  You could also check out JB’s race page and join our team.

Pathfinders for Autism Downtown Sailing Event

Pathfinders for Autism Downtown Sailing Event

I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child, I come from a big family and with four kids we could use a village at times.  Honestly it seemed when we needed a village the most, we isolated ourselves and hoped on an island.  Our middle son was diagnosed with Autism last year and life hasn’t been the same since.  I first wrote about JB’s journey in my post Wishing and Waiting for Words, at the time he was two going on three and he was losing the eight words he had, now at four he is completely non-verbal and picking up behaviors that he didn’t have before.  I started feeling defeated and after stressing our for a few weeks I decided it was time to get off our island and find some villages.  My first thought was of course Facebook.  I found a wonderful Autism support group for families that live in Maryland.

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It was in that group that I found Pathfinders for Autism and after spending an entire day on the site I wished I had found it last year, when I was confused and felt alone, when I was looking for tools to help us deal, when I was looking for resources to help us be great parents to JB.  While on the site I found their events calendar and saw they had an opportunity to attend a sailing event in Downtown Baltimore with the Downtown Sailing Center.  I registered JB and crossed my fingers hoping he would get selected.  As soon as I registered the same fear that forced me on that island a year ago started to surface again.  Although it was an event for Autistic children I was worried about his behaviors, worried about him screeching, worried he would have a melt down, worried about getting on the water and when he got selected I worried more.  Finally the day arrived and it was time for us to take him to the event.  I think I was more nervous that he was.

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We arrived and everything was super easy, we signed release forms so we could all go out on the pier to watch him take off.  The plan was for him and I to go out on the water but once I learned we would be sailing alone I was too nervous to take him.  I was worried he would get scared or excited and tilt the boat.  I switched places with my husband and let him go out with our son instead of me and I kept the other kids.  For this event only JB and one adult could sail.  We all wanted to go but we understood since it’s a free event and Pathfinders and the Downtown Sailing Center wanted to give as many families as possible the opportunity to sail.

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There were about twenty other families when we arrived waiting for instructions and their sail boat assignments.  After everyone got registered Pathfinders staff and volunteers were taking the sailors down to the pier to board their boats.  When waiting to board my husband ended up getting on a bigger boat so he didn’t have to sail with just him and JB.  Now I was even more jealous.  I took photos of the families on the water and hubby got a few photos of them on the water.

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JB coming off his sailing experience
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JB and my husband walking back from the sailing experience

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JB’s sail boat
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We saw a pirate ship in the harbor.
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Parents and their child on the two seat sail boats.

 

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Families enjoying the free sailing event.

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It looked like JB and all the other participants had lots of fun during the event.  The weather was great so it was perfect for sailing.  It wasn’t too hot or cold just perfect and the breeze off the water was perfect.  JB didn’t have any melt downs and he enjoyed the time with his dad.  I thought he wouldn’t like being on the water too long but it was actually very relaxing for him.  My husband sent me a few photos he took of them on the boat.  It looks like they had so much fun.

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One of the participants  in the free sail event through the Downtown Sailing Center
One of the participants in the free sail event through the Downtown Sailing Center.

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Thanks to Pathfinders for Autism and the Downtown Sailing Center for providing this free activity for families like mines.  For showing us that it’s okay to want to have a village and how cool it is to have that village support.  We would have never tried this on our own but I can’t wait to do this again with the whole family.  Visit the Pathfinders for Autism events page for upcoming events.  They have lots going on during the summer.

Games for Autistic Children

Games for Autistic Children

Autism is a developmental disorder which affects around 1-2 people per 1000 in the world. The disorder affects various behaviours including verbal and non-verbal communication skills and the inability to interact socially. There is no known cure for autism, since it is not so much a disease as simply a different way for the brain to be wired. However, learning strategies can be employed to help those with the disorder cope with the challenges of interacting in a world where most of the inhabitants have very different ways of interacting and functioning together. For young autistic children, a great way to help develop these skills is by playing games designed specifically for children with autism. Here are some ideas for interactive games which parents with autistic children should consider to help them play and develop – whilst also strengthening your bond with them.

Photo Credit: Defying the Spectrum

For a start, many autistic children respond well to games relating to logic and reason, and you can help their development by incorporating these factors into games which also help with learning to interact socially with other. A great example is Word Vine, which is geared towards improving a child’s vocabulary and reading skills, allowing them to relate together words and categories which allow for basic understanding of words, as well as encouraging them to learn basic problem solving and deductive reasoning skills to help them feel more at ease within public environments.

Another good type of game is attention and listening games. Autism can impair a child’s ability to concentrate and interact with external stimuli. However, one great method for tackling this is through music. Check out games such as Music – Mozart, which offers both visual and auditory stimulation in a relaxing atmosphere.

Another enjoyable activity for autistic children is games which involve lots of abstract fiction. A great example is animation games, which are a good opportunity to allow your child to develop their creative skills. This will enable them to express themselves within a safe environment in which they can feel in control.

Finally, try out some matching games which are simple, easy to play and fun. Matching games are a great way to teaching your child to use logic to navigate and explain their environment, as well as their memory skills and their ability to identify and recognise different objects. A really good one is Animal Bingo, which enables children not just to identify different kinds of animals, but also to match them with what sounds they make. This allows them to develop their reasoning and understanding skills.

Whilst your child is playing and learning, you might be looking for some fun bingo games for you to play yourself, on various online bingo sites. If you fancy a distraction and maybe even winning some cash, you can always play a bingo game on bingolucks, a fun bingo site which allows you to win real money.

Games which allow your child to develop these skills will be of great help to them later in later life. Through encouragement and enthusiasm, they can pick up skills which will enable them to relate to the world around them and to others in social interactions with much more ease. This, in turn, will help improve their confidence and their overall development.

Sensory Friendly Evening at The Hershey Story Museum

Sensory Friendly Evening at The Hershey Story Museum

During my visit to Hershey PA for Sweet Welcome I learned about The Hershey Story Museum offering a sensory friendly option for families like mines.  Our son has different challenges when we travel and finding options that help make it more enjoyable for our family is a huge plus.  So it’s only natural that I share with you that the museum offers these options for guests.

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The next scheduled sensory friendly night is this week but be sure to follow The Hershey Story on Facebook to keep up to date with their events calendar.

Friday, June 5
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Guests with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other special sensory needs have the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed evening at the museum.  They may enjoy interactive exhibits about Milton Hershey and the industry and town he created, and a hands-on exhibit that recreates jobs in the original chocolate factory. A walk-up activity in the Chocolate Lab that includes making your own chocolate bar is included.  A special price of $8.50 per person includes all activities; one adult is admitted free with each family or group. Prepayment is not required, but please register for the evening: 717.520.5587 orInfo@HersheyStory.org.

Previsit stories are available at:
http://www.hersheystory.org/plan-your-visit/pre-visit-museum-story/

About the Hershey Story Museum

The Hershey Story invites visitors to experience the stories of Hershey in an educational, fun-filled, imaginative, and immersive environment focused on audience, active learning, and engagement with and between objects and ideas.

INSIDE THE HERSHEY STORY

The Hershey Story guides visitors on an inspirational journey through Milton Hershey’s lifetime and beyond, a tale spanning more than 150 years of trials and triumphs, philanthropic endeavors and one man’s unwavering confidence. From Hershey’s earliest entrepreneurial ventures to his visions of a town built around the attributes of the humble cacao bean, The Hershey Story is an uplifting celebration of the great American dream.

Warm and welcoming, this immersive museum environment accommodates visitors of all ages. Attractions include the Museum Experience, a series of engaging exhibits; the Chocolate Lab, a place where learning comes alive through hands-on experiments; theMuseum Shop, stocked with unique Hershey merchandise and memorabilia; Café Zooka, the perfect place for light fare and chocolately desserts; the Countries of Origin Chocolate Tasting; and much more.

Ready to begin your sweet journey? Visit The Hershey Story and celebrate the life of Milton Hershey, the man whose passion continues to inspire generation after generation.

Hersheypark’s 13th Coaster Laff Trakk Preview

Hersheypark’s 13th Coaster Laff Trakk Preview

Earlier this week my family and I were invited to the press preview of Hersheypark’s 13th Coaster Laff Trakk.  Despite being a school night we took the hour and a half drive from Baltimore to be amongst the first set of people to ride the roller coaster.  My husband’s birthday was the same day so it was something fun for us to all enjoy. After the kids got out of school we hit the road towards Hershey, PA.

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The weather was beautiful that evening.  We ran into some traffic once we got closer to Hersheypark but the ride wasn’t bad at all.  We arrived and entered through service road.  Park staff directed us to where we needed to park and showed us where to enter the park.  It was a quiet and so tranquil.  Nothing looked the same because the park was pretty much empty.  I kept telling my husband how different it looked without the people.  Within fifteen minutes we arrived at the newest attraction at Hersheypark Laff Trakk.

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When I visited the park during Sweet Welcome Laff Trakk was just a white building with no outside decorations yet.  We questioned would it be ready in time for Memorial Day Weekend and we were assured it would be.  I was so surprised to see how much they had accomplished in that five-week period.  My family and I missed the ribbon cutting due to traffic but we arrived just in time to get on the ride.

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None of us knew what to expect when we got to the park to get on the ride.  Since we had our infant my husband and I split up to take turns.  I took the older kids to ride with me while he waited with our infant.  I didn’t take my camera or phone with me and you aren’t allowed to take loose articles on the ride with you.  You’ll have to leave those at the bins near the loading and unloading area of the ride.  Laff Trakk is an indoor, spinning, glow-coaster, it’s the first of its kind in the United States.  The ride has a fun house theme, so when your walking through the entrance of the ride it’s full of fun house mirrors and it plays loud carnival type music.  The ride is for riders in the Resse’s range and up, although riders in the Resse’s range must ride with a supervising adult.

Photo Credit: Lindsay F @ See Mom Click

We are spinning with anticipation and now the wait is almost over! ONE MORE WEEK until the Grand Opening of our 13th coaster, Laff Trakk!

Posted by Hersheypark on Saturday, May 16, 2015

Before entering the queue line you can try the seat to make sure you are fine with riding.  Each Laff Trakk car has four seats, two in the front and two behind.  Since I had to ride with our toddler because of his height, my oldest two rode on the back of our car.  My kids ages are 7, 6 and 3.  Our three-year old has Autism so I wasn’t sure how he would deal with the ride. He didn’t like the fun house entrance at all, the mirrors bothered him and the loud music upset him.  He kept his hands on his ears the entire time.  Hersheypark does have a separate entrance for riders with Special Needs if you’re visiting the park with someone with Special Needs visit the Hospitality Services booth at the front entrance of the park.  They are there to help you have the best time at the Hersheypark.  If a rider in your party isn’t a fan of loud music I would recommend you not walk through the queue line to ride the ride.  Another note is the lighting on this ride.  If black lighting and strobe lighting bothers you, I suggest you skip Laff Trakk.  Guests over 6’4 are not permitted to ride for safety reasons.

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Now that I have given you all the safety specs I can get back to our experience riding the ride.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I got on the ride and taking our three-year old despite his height wasn’t the best idea for us.  He hated the ride.  He was terrified the whole ride, or at least it seemed that way to me.  Once you get in the car the and ride starts going up on the track.  The heights started to scare him and the first drop was backwards, he really didn’t like that.  My mama bear instinct kicked in and I put my arm across him.  Then I kept thinking the other kids would hate it because this was their first roller coaster ride.  I wasn’t long at all and honestly after the first dip it wasn’t bad.  I just didn’t know what to expect.  By the time we all settled in and started to enjoy the ride it was at the end.  LOL.  Overall my kids had mixed reactions.  Like I said it wasn’t a ride my toddler enjoyed.  Maybe when he’s older, my six-year-old loved it.  He even wanted to ride it again.  My seven-year old wasn’t too thrilled, she liked it but said she wouldn’t ride it again.  Honestly if she were with one of her cousins I think she would give it a try again.

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After I rode with the kids my husband and my son got on the ride together.  They loved it.  The came off the ride smiling and wanting to head back on again.  My husband had such a good time with our oldest son he even forgot his phone in the storage bin when he exited the ride.  I could not film video of the ride but you can view this animated point of view of the ride.

See it isn’t bad at all.  I can’t wait to ride this ride again.  I think the second time will be much more fun, especially since I know what to expect.  If you’re heading to Hersheypark and you’ve ridden Laff Trakk let me know your thoughts.  It officially opens on May 23rd at 10 AM.

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Our night didn’t end with just our Laff Trakk preview.  Hersheypark treated us to dinner and shared with us some of their new menu items.  As you can see the kids were more excited about dessert.

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My favorites for the night was the BBQ Pulled Pork and the Chocolate Brisket.  In addition they also had Rainbow Pasta, Nachos, Boneless Wings, Sliders, Fruit and guests could also sample a variety of Whoopie Pies from Making Whoopie Pies.  In the food tent there was also a DJ playing live music.

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JB not enjoying the music. He doesn’t like loud sounds.
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The kids playing on the dance floor
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Trey was too short to get the photo

My husband had a great day.  He really enjoyed his birthday and even played along when all the dads participated in a fun contest.  He didn’t win but he’s always a winner in our eyes.

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After eating and entertainment we headed  out to the park to enjoy some of the rides they opened for us.  There were about eight other rides open.  Mostly for the kids but it was fun not having to wait in lines.

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We ended out night on the Ferris Wheel at Hersheypark.  It was a very relaxing way to end our day.  Thanks for having us Hersheypark and we can’t wait to come back again for another visit.  Congrats on the addition of Laff Trakk it’s a great ride.

AMC Theaters Offers Sensory Friendly Films

AMC Theaters Offers Sensory Friendly Films

My son’s autism comes with some challenges and one of them includes a sensory issue with sounds.  He doesn’t like very loud sounds it bothers him a lot.  One of the things I assumed we would have to skip with him was going to the movies.  Imagine how ecstatic I was to learn that AMC Movie Theaters were offering sensory friendly showings for families of children with special needs.

About the program:

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

The idea for the program began with a request from a parent with an autistic child for a special screening at AMC Columbia Mall 14 in Columbia, MD. More than 300 children and parents attended the first screening.

We are thrilled to now offer the program at many locations nationwide — please see below for a complete list of participating theatres. As a leading theatrical exhibition company, we are so proud to be making a difference in the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder by offering families a chance to see a movie together — often for the very first time.

Participating Locations in Baltimore:

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For a full list of participating theaters visit the AMC website to see if there is one near you.  It’s already May so you missed some of the showings but you can see what’s up for the rest of the year below.  They have some great options.

Saturday, May 30, 2015 –TOMORROWLAND

Saturday, June 27, 2015 – INSIDE OUT

Saturday, July 18, 2015 – MINIONS

Saturday, Aug, 2015 – TBD

Saturday, Sep 26, 2015 – HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA

Saturday, Oct 17, 2015 – THE JUNGLE BOOK

Saturday, Nov 14, 2015 – THE PEANUTS MOVIE

Saturday, Dec 5, 2015 – THE GOOD DINOSAUR

All shows are at 10:00 am local time. Dates and films are subject to change.