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Art Classes for Students with Special Needs


Studio 17 Hosts Art Classes for Students with Special Needs

Local artist Mary Abraham is celebrating Autism Awareness Month by hosting the first ever art classes for students with special needs at Studio 17 in Newbury Park. Mary believes that art is beneficial on many levels and is excited to offer art classes to students with disabilities. Mary’s background as an educator, artist and mother of a child with Autism, gives her a special understanding of how to teach the arts to students with special needs.

Classes will begin on Sunday, April 28th and will feature puzzle piece‐themed projects.

Each one-hour class is limited to four students and is staffed by trained educators.

Details below:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

11:00am • 1:00pm • 3:00pm

open to students of all ages and abilities

limit four students per class

$25/student includes supplies and individualized support


RSVP to Mary at 805‐480‐0440 or mcacreativespirit@gmail.com


Studio 17

135 Ruby Dr.

Newbury Park, CA 91320

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Dream Catcher Weighted Blanket

I got our son a weighted blanket a little over a year ago.

When I was researching the different options I knew I wanted a product that was both machine washable and could go in the dryer. I also wanted a blanket that my son would like touching his skin.

He was so happy when he got to custom pick the fabrics for his blanket.

I decided on a toddler size 36 * 52 blanket in custom in a dinosaur fabric from Dream Catcher Weighted Blanket. Our blanket is used every night to help our son fall asleep and stay asleep. He also uses it during the day if he’s having trouble calming down or watching TV.

We take his blanket with us whenever we travel including on plane flights.  It comes to the orthodontist office or in the car on long road trips.  It is well made with the weight evenly distributed and constructed of cotton.

Weighted blankets are great for people with Fibromyalgia, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism, Restless Leg Syndrome, Anxiety, ADHD and many other conditions. To see a full list of conditions and benefits of weighted blankets visit the Dream Catcher website.

Our son has grown quite a bit in the past year and loves the weight of his blanket so we are looking at getting him a new blanket. We just need to decided if we keep our current blanket or use the Dream Catcher Blanket Exchange Program.

Do you or someone you love use a weighted blanket?


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Train 4 Autism – Wednesday Night Family Fun Run

When I got an email earlier this year about a weekly Autism Fun Run in Newbury Park I was excited.
I am not a runner (well I wasn’t) and I thought it would be wonderful way for my son to get some energy out in a safe environment.
This is a place where people on the Autism Spectrum (children, teens and young adults) socialize, stretch, run and encourage each other.
Parents who can run, and help set the pace do.  Others enjoy the much needed break and social time.  There is also at least one local runner who turns up each Wednesday night just to help set pace.
Over the past 3 months I have managed to get stronger and can almost complete a lap of Peppertree Park now.  I know it’s only 0.8 miles, but with arthritis in my feet and compressed discs in my lower back this is an achievement.  My son has learnt that he needs to pace himself if he wishes to complete more than one lap.
This is a Family Fun Run where everyone is welcome:
  • Kids with AutismSamCynthiaGatorRun
  • Siblings and friends
  • Parents and caregivers
  • Runners who want to make a difference and help set the pace for a kid with Autism.
When: Every Wednesday 6:30-7:30 pm
Where: Pepper Tree Park (map)
                  3650 Old Conejo Rd.
                  Newbury Park, CA 91320
Cost: FREE!

Cynthia Conway, OTR/L, a well-known local Occupational Therapist and Owner/Director of Companion Connection, has begun coaching young people with Autism and together they recently completed their first 5K race. We want to build upon that success and encourage others on the spectrum (and their families) to come out and run, jog, walk, and have a great time! In addition to Cynthia, we’ll have volunteers from Train 4 Autism and Newbury Park Track Club to help everyone safely achieve their goals.   Water will be provided.

What do you need to do? 

  1. Get a good pair of running shoes! We highly recommend Road Runner Sports in Newbury Park to help find the best shoe for you. Jim Cera (Store Manager), Deb, and Israel are all Train 4 Autism supporters so please say hello!
  2. Join the Train 4 Autism monthly newsletter list!
  3. Join Train 4 Autism Ventura County Facebook group as this will be how we confirm our meetings and stay current on all upcoming events!
If you have any questions, you can email Brian the Ventura County Chapter President for Train 4 Autism.

Whether you are family effected by Autism or a runner who would like to make a difference in a families life we hope to see you there!

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I received an email about the Acting Academy for Autism earlier this year.  At the time I really wanted to enroll our son.  The only problem was he was already so busy with therapies four afternoons per week.

When I found out that the Academy would also be offered during the summer I knew that I wanted our son to attend.

Classes are being held June 18 – 29 (Monday to Friday) 2012 with two sessions each day.

Session One: 10 – 12:00 noon

Session Two:  12:30 – 2:30

Classes are designed specifically for students with high functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Students will do theatre games and exercises as well as a group scene for a final performance on Friday evening, June 29.

The cost for the summer Academy is $350 per session.

Call for an interview appointment, if your child has not attended a prior session of the Academy.  Ages 9 – 17

Classes will be held at 1414 Thousand Oaks Blvd..

To contact Gold Coast Conservatory call (805) 427-5314 or email GoldCoastTheatre@gmail.com

For more information about the Acting Academy for Autism or their other programs visit GoldCoastTheatreConservatory.com

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Autism Society Conference

2012 Autism Society National Conference and Exposition

The 2012 Autism Society National Conference is being held in San Diego from July 25th to July 28th.  It is the largest autism conference in the USA.

I attended my first Autism Conference in August last year and learned so much.   When I found out the national conference was just a few hours away from our home I decided that I had to find a way to attend.

Over 1,000 professionals, educators, parents and exhibitors from around the U.S. and other countries will participate in the 2012 Autism Society National Conference.

The targeted audience for the conference includes:

  • Individuals on the spectrum
  • Advocates
  • State special education directors
  • State-level autism directors/coordinators
  • School administrators
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Classroom educators
  • Early intervention specialists
  • Regional education directors/providers
  • State autism center staff
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Vocational rehabilitation providers
  • Mental health professionals
  • State and federal legislators
  • Assistive technology providers
  • Physicians
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Behaviorists
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Autism nonprofit associations
  • First responders
  • Community supporters

You can view the Conference Program and Registration information on the Autism Society website.

If you’d like to save some money on attending the conference be sure to Register before June 1st as the early bird discount expires on May 31st.

Will you be attending the National Conference this year?

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Disney World – Gluten and Dairy Free Food Options

We arrived at Disney World on May 5th 2012.  This blog post is meant to be a guide on what has been available during our stay.  Hopefully this can help you if your are currently at Disney World or plan to visit in the near future.

Disney menus change frequently.  Posts I read from last year are no longer accurate, so be prepared to be a little flexible and have some back up snacks if you have a picky eater.

This post is a little rough right now. I’m hoping to add more details including photos throughout our stay.

Mara (Animal Kingdom Lodge – Quick Serve)

Gluten Free options for children included:
Hamburger and fries (no dairy free cheese available)
Gluten and dairy free chicken strips with fries
Dessert (grapes, applesauce, jello, carrots, frozen pineapple popsicle)

If you are staying at the resort they may be able to make the zebra cookies gluten free with advance notice.  They wouldn’t be dairy free.

Regular Childrens Menu included:
Cheese pizza
Mac n cheese

Dessert (as listed above, plus chocolate chip cookie, Disney ice-cream bars)

Leaning Palms (Typhoon Lagoon – Quick Serve)

Gluten free options for children include:
Hot dog (James Morell chicken and beef hot dog)
Udi Hot dog bun

French fries

Dessert (OMG chocolate chip cookie, grapes, carrots)

Hamburger with Udi’s bun
Chicken tenders

Regular childrens  menu included:
Cheese pizza
Turkey sandwich
Hot dog

Sci Fi (Hollywood Studios – Sit Down Restaurant)

Gluten free options for children include:

Hamburger with Udis bun (no dairy free cheese)

French fries

Toffuti ice-cream with sprinkles (rice + food coloring)

Sunshine Seasons (Epcot – Quick Serve)

Gluten free options for children include:

Chicken leg

French fries

Salmon (our son loved this.  Note he also likes crab cakes)
Kozy Shack cherry cerise smart gels
Surf snacks fruity bears
Enjoy life boom choco boom ( gf ricemilk crunch)
Enjoy life nut and gf soft baked chic chip cookies
Red grapes
Rocky mountain caramel popcorn gf + nut free

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Disney World – Gluten and Dairy Free

We arrived at Disney World on Saturday evening for an 11 night vacation.  I have been a little anxious about this vacation as our 8 year old son has been gluten and dairy free for almost 18 months now and this is our first major trip away.  Much to his dismay I was not going to be able to bring his favorite frozen foods from Trader Joes like we did one previous vacation to San Diego.  He even asked why we couldn’t bring a cooler on the plane so he could have his favorite waffle breakfast.

So far things are going OK.  We used a local service to buy some staple groceries before we arrived and we have lunch or dinner reservations at sit down restaurants each day.  So far the biggest challenge has been our Quick Serve meals.  It appears that quick serve locations don’t have a dairy free cheese option which rules out Cheese burgers if they are on the menu.    We are often struggling to find acceptable sides and/or desserts with a picky eater who is intolerant to many fruits and vegetables.

Dont get me wrong, I think Disney has a lot of great options and the chefs are wonderful at trying to accommodate to his needs.  It would be nice to see a little more variety and to have the ability to plan ahead a little more.  Disney no longer publishes their gluten free menu, as I believe it was difficult to guarantee items by location based on volume and suppliers.  For our sit down dining reservations we were able to speak to some of the chefs about 2 weeks prior to arriving as our sons Aspergers can make it difficult for him to cope if there isn’t a food selection he likes.  Our plan was to change reservations if a restaurant didn’t have something he liked to avoid a potential meltdown.

As we’ve been visiting each restaurant or Quick Serve location I’ve been trying to take note of the gluten free menu so I can share with those of you visiting at the moment or in the near future.  Disney changes menus and suppliers frequently so please understand if that neither I or Disney can guarantee items will be available.

Visit my Disney World – Gluten and Dairy Free Food Options post for more details.

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Autism Speaks Light it up Blue

April is Autism Awareness Month

I have been so busy this past month I just realized I haven’t posted all month.

On April 2nd we joined the Autism Speaks, Light it up Blue campaign.

With as many as 1 in 88 children in the US now being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder it’s imperative that we continue to improve Autism awareness.

Autism Awareness can mean different things to different families and this April has seen so many different events.

Here are just a few highlights:

Sensory Friendly Movies (held monthly at select AMC Theatres)

Plenty of people have put on their walking shoes to raise money by joining a local walk for Autism Speaks.

There are still a few more walks in April and they continue throughout the year.

Our son’s awesome therapist, Cynthia Conway from Companion Connection ran a half marathon with Train 4 Autism to raise money for Hacienda Oaks Estate.   Hacienda Oaks Estates mission is to provide a self-sustaining farm that will offer opportunities for the community to live green and healthy, while empowering adults with developmental disabilities to live meaningful productive lives.

Have you attended any Autism Awareness events this month?

Are there any events happening in the next week you’d like to share?

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Sensory Friendly Films – 2012

AMC Theatres in conjunction with the Autism Society of America are bringing families affected by autism and other disabilities a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment on a monthly basis with the “Sensory Friendly Films” program.

What makes these movies different from a regular screening?

  • no previews or advertisements will be shown before the movie
  • the movie auditoriums will have their lights brought up and the sound turned down
  • families will be able to bring in their own gluten-free, casein-free snacks
  • audience members are welcome to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing
  • AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced unless the safety of the audience is questioned

Upcoming Sensory-Friendly showings* include:

March 10 – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
April 7 –
Mirror Mirror
May 5 –
Pirates! Band of Misfits
June 16 –
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

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

This program is available at many locations across the USA.  For a complete list of participating theatres visit AMC Entertainment.

If you’ve been to a Sensory Friendly Film please share your experience by leaving a comment below.

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Blue Chocolate flavored frosting GFCFSF

Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies with Frosting (GFCF)

I’ve been playing with this great gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free Sugar Cookie Recipe from Karen at Only Sometimes Clever.

I had read that you could add chocolate chips so I gave it a try for Valentine’s Day and they were very popular, but our son loves his frosting…

Tomorrow there will be food treats in the classroom and Master 8 has requested chocolate chip sugar cookies with frosting.

I figure that if I baked a cupcake he would only eat the frosting, so he can enjoy his cookies.

This sugar cookie recipe is extremely versatile, in that the dough and the cookies freeze well and it’s simple to substitute different flours.  Handling of the dough once the cookies are cut is super easy, even for small hands.

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