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(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly) We searched for Rodeo Championship BBQ Cook-Off booth numbers 913 and 915 where a rodeo dance was being hosted for a camp in which Samantha participates. The area outside of the … Continue reading

Samantha Enjoys Christmas in a Different Way

(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly)

Samantha is running back and forth in the front hallway. She is flapping her arms and giggling. I watch, smile and walk into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Suddenly, I hear bells jingling on the Christmas tree. I look over and see the top of the tree moving from side to side. I stop what I am doing and walk over to the family room to see what Sam is up to. Is she pulling an ornament off of the tree? Trying to sit on or tackle the tree? I enter the room. She is wearing her pink and gray leopard print gown. Her hair is messy but it is pulled back into a ponytail. She is sitting quietly in front of the tree, admiring the lights and trinkets. I know she was probably trying to sit on the tree but all is good. She is safe and happy and that is all that matters.

John and I carefully purchased a new tree this year because Sam had mangled the old tree. After 4 years of being leaned on, sat on and knocked over, half of the lights were no longer operating and the bottom branches were touching the floor. It only took one day before this new tree began to look like the old one, except this one has the multicolored lights instead of the clear ones. John and I figured Sam would enjoy the different colors.

The truth is that Sam doesn’t understand Christmas or any other holiday. She is usually quite easygoing but will run and look for a quiet place to hide if there are too many people around. She will refuse to eat in a large social environment, even if she is at home. For this reason, we miss out on many extended family gatherings. If we do attend, John and/or I have to chase Sam around to make sure she doesn’t grab and eat dirt from houseplants, play with toilet water, break something or go into meltdown mode. I then find myself explaining her behavior(s) to family and/or friends. Though I do not mind educating others about Sam, the ‘chasing around’ and meltdowns are not fun and the only solution to this type stress and chaos is to have holiday events at our own home where Sam can feel safe and disappear into her room if she feels the need to do so.

Sam is sweet, smart, funny and craves her routine. She recognizes that many things are different this time of year so we continue to follow a routine throughout the holidays. I know it sounds dull and boring but John and I must do what is beneficial for Sam. When change does occur we do our best to get her through it successfully. Since Sam is nonverbal and still does not understand how to use communication devices, I often wonder what goes on in her mind. How does she feel? What is she thinking? Is she afraid? I am not sure if these are things I will ever truly know but I have much faith and hope and continue to work with her daily.

For the time being, I know she likes Christmas trees, lights and ornaments. She picks one ornament off of our tree each time she passes and by the end of the night several ornaments are scattered throughout the house and I find myself picking up the same ones every night. I also know that she doesn’t care about presents and never demands anything (except her baths or snacks). It can take several days after Christmas before she is interested in opening a single gift. Tissue paper, bows, tulle, wrapping paper, gift bags are often more interesting than the gifts themselves and this is okay. As long as I see a smile on Sam’s face I know she is content. This is Sam. She is easy to please and John and I are blessed.

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About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor.  Please see their details on our Contributors page.  If you’d like to guest post for Different iz Good check out our Write for DIG page for details about how YOU can share your stories and tips with our community.

Top 10 Christmas Wish List 2011

Please take a peek as the first “Top 3″ items won’t take a bite out of your money budget – Just a small bite out of your time budget!

  1. Share the Different iz Good website , Facebook page – facebook.com/DifferentizGood and our Gift a Voice Project with your online community.
  2. Donate any used cell phone, smart phone, iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad for the Foundation’s Gift a Voice Project.
  3. Host a Gift a Voice Cell Phone Drive.
  4. Apple Gift Cards
  5. iTunes Gift Cards
  6. Amazon Gift Cards
  7. New iPod Touch or iPad
  8. Buy stuff from the Different iz Good store
  9. Cash Donations – Any Amount (Cash, Credit Card or PayPal)
  10. Sponsor a person with communication disabilities:

Approximately $600 will buy one NEW iPod Touch, Proloquo2Go (or similar) AAC Application, iMainGo speaker/case or similar and a cover (exact cost will depend on needs of recipient).

Approximately $1,200 will buy one NEW iPad, Proloquo2Go (or similar) AAC Application,  speaker and a case/cover (exact cost will depend on needs of recipient).

If you’d like more information about our Wish List items please comment below, comment on our Facebook Page or send an email to list @ differentizgood . org.

A Poem for Special Teachers!

(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly)

Sam and One of Her Awesome Special Ed Teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week is around the corner. Though I believe ALL teachers are invaluable, I am giving extra props to special education teachers. Surprise, surprise! :)

They aren’t just teachers. They are physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, researchers, nurses, and our children’s cheerleaders! Their patience, creativity, organization, ability to accept and understand the differences in each of our children and their ability to motivate, identify, appreciate and celebrate small victories are what make them different from the rest! Few things are more rewarding than knowing you have made an impact on the lives of children who are struggling to reach their full potential.

Two years ago I wrote this poem for Sam’s LIFE Skills teacher and paraprofessionals, printed it, framed it and gave it to them as a gift. It was written from Samantha’s perspective. I hope you like it:

You greet me every morning with a great big smile
Help me out of the car
Even if it takes a while

I am a little girl who cannot hear or speak
But still you understand me,
Week after week.

I have more challenges than most other people, you know
But you never give up on me
Even if my progress is slow

You help me with my daily life skills
Help me to succeed
Teach me how to sing and play
Adapt it to my special needs

I am strong and happy
I like to giggle and tease
Sometimes I may even drop down on my knees

You work very hard everyday,
Help me learn and grow
You are patient, kind and loving

This I wanted you to know
It takes a special person to be a teacher like you
And my Mommy and Daddy are grateful
For everything you do!

Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Week!

{If you loved this as much as I (Camilla) did and want to share with your Facebook Friends, just go here to do that!! Thanks y’all!}

About Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest contributor.  Please see their details on our Contributors page.  If you’d like to guest post for Different iz Good check out our Write for DIG page for details about how YOU can share your stories and tips with our community.

It’s the Little Things

(Guest post by Geri Kochis – Geri blogs at EmilyAnn)

As a warning – This post is my own opinion and I apologize upfront if I offend anyone.

In the Geri dictionary, Cheerleader would have had following description: cliquish, flexible (body), high energy, lot’s of makeup, crazy parents, revealing clothing, and popular (kids/teen/adults).

Emily joined a special needs Cheerleading squad in October/November of 2010 (Idaho Cheer Spirit). This was a competition squad, so they did more than just practice. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out and really concerned she wouldn’t perform well enough. The kids not on the special needs squad also worried me. Most of children (even adults) don’t know how to react to Emily. It is not uncommon for her to walk up to strangers and say she likes their shirt or shoes, or just say random things. To make it worse, Emily has bi-lateral hearing loss along with 18p- so her speech can be hard to understand at times. The response to Emily is usually, umm.. ok and then a confused look directed at me. I didn’t think Emily would fit in with her traits combined with my thoughts on Cheerleading. Here were are 5 months out and a National Championship later and I can admit I was wrong about everything.

Not only did Emily’s squad welcome her with open arms, but so did the entire gym (Idaho Cheer). No one cared that she would say random things, or sometimes get distracted by the other squads tumbling. The promoters/producers of the competitions made the squad feel special and they always received at least medals. The support from all the parents (different gyms, states) at the competitions was great. I can’t think of once where the entire crowd wasn’t cheering for our girls. The spirit squad had great coaches that always encouraged the girls to do their best without discouraging.

Idaho Spirit has had junior coaches. These coaches were girls from another squad with an age range of 11-15 (maybe a little order/younger). I have never in my life encountered girls that age who were so accepting of differences and truly cared about the girls. The parents of these girls should be proud.

This past weekend Idaho Cheer Spirit earned the title of National Champions (along with 4 other special needs teams) in Anaheim California. Cheerleading has made such a difference in Emily, and me as well. The Geri dictionary has definitely changed.

{Wanna share this awesome story with your Facebook Friends? Go here! Thanks!}

Gift a Voice FUNdraiser – Vino for Voices

Whose ready to have some FUN while at the same time raising money for the Turning Views Foundation, Different iz Good and Gift a Voice?

Clark is our next Gift a Voice Recipient

We’ve got a great time scheduled for Wednesday, March 30th, from 6-8 pm at Kona Gold Coffee and Wine Bar y’all! An informal night of fun, wine, chocolate (Dorinda’s Chocolates to be exact!! YUM) and appetizers.

March 30, 2011, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Kona Gold Coffee & Wine Bar
3304 South McCarran Blvd Reno

Over TWENTY FIVE donations for our over the top awesome raffle!  Ranging from Jewelry to Gift Certificates to Wine to Oil Changes to Massages to Bread Baskets to Chocolate to Limousine services to Dental Exams to Books to Chiropractic Exams and all things in between!!

100% of the event fee goes to our Gift a Voice project.  Kona Gold is donating the space, the wine and the appetizers and Dorinda’s Chocolates is donating the chocolate.  Kona Gold is also donating all their tips for the night to our Foundation!!

Bring your inactive and used iPhones, smart phones and cell phones for donation to our Cell Phone Recycling for a Voice Drive.  Receive (1) One FREE raffle ticket for each phone donated.

Join us and support those in our lives with special needs and those with communication disabilities!

Help us spread the word about our Vino for Voices event by sharing with your Facebook Community and pressing that little ole “Like” button below!! We appreciate it times a million y’all!!

(After check out please print your PayPal receipt as that is your ticket to “taste”!!)


Sponsored and hosted by:

Delicious Mouth Watering Chocolate Provided by:

Bring Your Smile ‘Cause Photography Provided by:

Filming Provided By:

My Kid Rides the Short Bus

(Guest post by Loni Scovill Smith -  Loni blogs at His Apraxia Journey)

Why Different iz Good Exists!

When I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, there was a stigma attached to kids that rode the “short bus”.  I believe most of it stemmed from ignorance and fear.  Back in those days, when you saw the short bus, you imagined it was filled with kids afflicted with the worst of the worst disabilities.

My son rides the short bus. And he isn’t afflicted with the worst of the worst. In every way physically, he seems normal. He looks and acts like any other five year old in preschool. He’s social, fun, smart, stubborn, but very different in one specific way – his speech is unintelligible.

I am a mother in the age of the internet, a time when information is at everyone’s fingertips. I live in a decade where we can stay connected with others virtually; I have easy, accessible ways to pass on information to others about my son’s condition. Whether it’s through Facebook posts, my blog – His Apraxia Journey, or even this Different Iz Good blog, people can learn about Ian’s speech apraxia and having that knowledge eliminates the fear or ignorance that they might have been experiencing. That’s pretty darn cool.

Because of social networking and the plethora of information readily available at our computers, the doors of acceptance have been opened wider than ever before to our children with disabilities. Knowledge is beautiful.

As I prepare my son for the probability of attending a special education kindergarten in the fall (complete with another year of riding the short bus), I revel in the fact that he is loved and accepted by all of those around us. There is not a horrible stigma or fear and ridicule attached to him, rather, there is joy with each new word he speaks clearly, there is celebration for the success he finds in the special help he receives. There is compassion.

My kid rides the short bus and everyone celebrates his differences. Being different is no longer scary, it’s acceptable. It’s understandable. It’s beautiful.

Wanna share this one with your Facebook Friends?  Go Right Here – Thank You!!

Giving Sam a Voice

(Guest post by Monica McDivitt – Monica blogs at Like a Butterfly)

The Internet, Facebook and computers have been quite a gift to me. Some might criticize and complain that people share too much information or spend too much time “playing” on the Internet but the ability to form new friendships, network with other groups and families of children with and without disabilities, find resources and research from the comfort of my own home have all become invaluable to me. After all, this is how I met Camilla Downs, founder of The Turning Views Foundation and the Different Iz Good™ (DIG) movement and how I was given the privilege to be a contributor for her incredible mission.

Over the past few months, I have been exploring alternative ways to help my 10 year-old daughter, Samantha, to communicate. Sam was born with a chromosome 18q- deletion. As a result she has intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sam is also Deaf, nonverbal and her delayed fine motor skills do not allow her to hold a crayon without assistance.

Sam understands some American Sign Language but has not learned to sign consistently. If she does sign, her sign language is very subtle and if you blink, you will probably miss it. My husband, John, and I have tried several tools and devices over the years to help Sam communicate and participate in her daily and extracurricular activities – the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), object schedules and my own pictures with ASL signs are just a few.

In my first DIG contribution I wrote, “Do I wish Sam could speak? Would I love to hear her beautiful voice? You bet! For now, I get giggles, babbles, cries and gestures and if this is all I ever receive as far as communication, I can be happy.” I am true to Sam and still believe everything I wrote but I also know that Sam is an extremely bright child and she really makes me think…a lot! One day, recently, I was playing with Sam, speaking directly into her ear. In a sing-songy voice I kept repeating, “I love you.” Sam sat and listened attentively. She was incredibly engaged and when I least expected it and with a big smile on her face, I heard her vocalize “Ah la la.” I heard Sam say, “I love you” and I suddenly began to want more!

Success stories of the iPad being used with children who have disabilities have been popping up all over the local and world news: A recent New York Times article described the story of 7-year-old Owen Cain who has had a debilitating motor-neuron disease since infancy: “He does not have the strength to use a computer mouse but when a nurse propped her boyfriend’s iPad within reach in June, he did something his mother had never seen before. [Owen] aimed his left pointer finger at an icon on the screen, touched it — just barely — and opened the application Gravitarium, which plays music as users create landscapes of stars on the screen. Over the years, Owen’s parents had tried several computerized communications contraptions to give him an escape from his disability, but the iPad was the first that worked on the first try.”

When I read about and saw this story, I cried, thought about Sam and began to believe that she could be just as successful as Owen. Clearly, Sam’s disabilities are much different than Owen’s but, still, I immediately researched for more stories and articles and then purchased and downloaded the popular communication applications recommended by Camilla onto John’s iPad so we could present this information to Sam’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team. I felt so happy.

At our meeting John and I brought the iPad to demonstrate its greatness and how we wanted to help Sam to communicate. The team was impressed, but the reasons against the use of the iPad for Sam at school were: The district won’t allow it. Assistive Technology does not provide support for iPads. What if it breaks? What if it gets stolen? Is it going to be used as a toy or a tool? Would it be loud enough for Sam to hear? Does Sam have the key skills to use the device? I thought, “Seriously? Nooks and Kindles are allowed in our general education classes. What about our children in special education?” Frustrated, I stood up and voiced my opinion of unfairness and told them how the “rule makers” do not truly know or understand the needs of our children with disabilities. They do not live with our children everyday and they do not teach our children during a 7-hour school day. When all was said and done, I remained calm and level-headed but felt extremely disappointed!

Sam is using the Dynavox M3 for now. In order for AT to recommend and provide support for any device like the iPad, John and I were informed that the district needs data to support the decision. If they would give Sam a chance they would see Sam’s face light up when she works with the iPad and they would already have their data and I wouldn’t be writing this story. Sam is enthusiastic, curious and engaged with the iPad. She loves computers. She does wonderfully with cause and effect activities, she can use her fingers to draw on the iPad and I know with time, patience and practice she can learn so much more.

I am still working on this issue with the district. Anyone who knows me also knows that I do not give up and I am quite persistent. After a very recent inquiry, I learned today that the iPad will “probably” become more prevalent with students in our district, however, it will be based on an assessment to determine the need and appropriateness of the technology. I don’t think this is a “no” to the iPad for Sam but it’s not a “yes” either so I have much more work to do.

I don’t expect a “miracle” when Sam uses the iPad. I just believe in her and I know she can learn to use it. WHAT IF she could recognize that she is “Sam” or that I am “Mommy” or is able to recognize “Daddy” on an iPad? Camilla made me think about this after she read my first guest contribution and sent me a private, heartfelt message. How cool would that be? Aren’t we all deserving of such a gift?

I know I probably wear out the school administrators and they might want to run in another direction when they see me coming because I am always creating new ideas or asking for something. If I do wear them out it is only because I love and care about Sam – HEAPS!

Deep in my heart I am an optimist so I know this WILL happen for Sam. One day, very soon, she WILL have her own voice with an iPad and I will let you all know when this happens.

If you haven’t seen the video “Becoming Han Solo” or read Owen’s story it is definitely worth your time to click on this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/nyregion/31owen.html
WARNING: Grab a tissue. :)

XO Monica

(If you would like to share this with your Facebook Friends you can do that here! Thanks everyone!!)

Valentines for Voices


Hurry y’all!  No time to spare on this one.  Need to get these mailed on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week (February 7, 2011).  Those of you in Reno have a bit more time as we can hand deliver for ya! ;-)

**These Valentine-Grams will be hand made by Fairy Princess Lillian Darnell**

Fairy Princess Lillian

3 Versions of Valentines to choose from – $5, $25, $50 -

$5 Valentine: Your sweetheart, friend, parent or child will receive a Valentine-Gram via email with a special message from you and us letting them know you helped purchase a voice for someone with communication disabilities.

$25 Valentine: Your sweetheart, friend, parent or child will receive a Valentine-Gram via US Mail with a special message from you and us letting them know you helped purchase a voice for someone with communication disabilities.

$50 Valentine: Your sweetheart, friend, parent or child will receive a Valentine-Gram AND a silver plated pewter pendant prayer box via US Mail with a special message from you and us letting them know you helped purchase a voice for someone with communication disabilities.

Round Prayer Box

Cylinder Prayer Box

Valentine Options