Monday, May 18, 2015

Community Kindness - Front Street Animal Shelter

During the month of January, 4th grade students in the Kind Kids Club collected donations for the Front Street Animal Shelter as part of their Community Kindness Project. Students were very interested in the work that the shelter does to help animals and some students shared their experiences visiting the shelter or adopting a pet!

Here are some videos we watched to learn about Front Street Animal Shelter:

Opt to Adopt at Front Street Shelter 

Lady's Story: Front Street Animal Shelter

After weeks of collecting donations in class, the hard work and kindness of 4th graders and their families yielded a huge outcome: WOW!

  • 57 Dog and Cat Toys!!!
  • 7 Blankets
  • 7 Bags of Dog and Cat Treats
  • 7 Bags/Cans of Dog and Cat Food
  • 4 Food Dishes
  • 4 Pieces of Dog Clothing
  • 2 Beds
  • 15+ sections of newspaper
  • Monetary Donations: (5 dollars and lots of pennies!)
In March I visited the Front Street Animal Shelter to drop off the Kind Kids Club donations and learn more about the animals that live at Front Street while they wait to be reunited with their families, find a new family, or receive medical treatment.

There are two buildings which house adoptable dogs, a special "cattery" building which houses adoptable cats, a medical/surgical building, a food donation closet (for those who cannot afford to feed their animal), and a special "get acquainted area" for animals and potential families to get to know each other. The shelter is a very welcoming place and there are many dedicated volunteers who care for the animals and work hard to make the shelter "home" for the animals.

I met some very friendly dogs and curious cats during my visit.

Interested in adopting from Front Street? 

You can find more information here

Would you like to volunteer with Front Street or help support animals in other ways?

More about Donating to Front Street Animal Shelter:
Current Wish List:

Foster Care Wish List:

A special thanks to the 4th grade students and their families for all of their donations and hard work! Kindness can change the world!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Eli Today Update - Guest Blogger Diana Patterson

Diana Patterson is a stay at home mom of three. Diana and her family have been a part of the NCS community since 2011.  Prior to staying at home Diana worked in the accounting industry.

Hello Everyone! I cannot believe Autism Awareness is here again. When Jenifer Pearsall approached me with the idea of spreading Autism Awareness at Star Academy I was 1000% percent on board. Thank you for taking the time to participate in our events and keeping an open mind.  Last year Jenifer and I wrote an 8 blog series during the month of April to help spread awareness.  A couple of those blogs were personal blogs about how we found out our kids were on the spectrum and what a day in the life of our children looks like.  This year we’re making Autism Awareness month bigger than last year!   If you  didn’t get to see how we learned about Eli’s diagnosis or a day in the life of Eli blog posts from last year I will include the links at the end of this post.

When Eli was diagnosed with Autism I was afraid of what the future held for my little guy. Just like a lot of parents who are first diagnosed; I had no idea what our life would look like. Every time I asked a doctor or therapist if my son would talk or be potty trained or socialize the answer was always the same “I can’t say for sure”.  That was so frustrating for me because all I wanted was to know what my future looked like.  At first all I wanted to hear is that Eli was going to be okay later on in life.  Then I realized that what I was expecting doctors and therapists to look into their crystal ball and comfort me.  C’mon Diana! There’s no way that’s even possible so I stopped asking and started focusing on goals and taking him out on playdates.  Since last April Eli has made great progress in all areas.  During the summer we actually got potty trained!!!!  I assumed that he would be in diapers till he was six but Eli surprised us all. He’s fully day and night potty trained.

Eli began preschool last November. He has been going to school and coming home on the school bus Monday through Thursday.  Eli was pretty scared at first but we worked on it and he now loves to ride the bus. He doesn’t like the loud sound the bus makes when the bus driver turns on the car but we’re slowly getting used to the loud sound. I’ve taught him to cover his ears and say “It’s too loud” when sounds hurt his ears. We’re still working on talking, understanding language and responding to questions. 

Family wise, Eli has built a wonderful bond with everyone of us. Eli follows my husband around and when he comes home from work Eli yells out “Daddy’s Home!” They play basketball, videogames, and race cars together. Sometimes my husband even gets Eli to try new foods. Eli and our 8 year old, Irie, have built a great relationship as well. Prior to therapy Eli had a strong relationship with myself, his oldest sister and grandmother because we were able to fulfill his needs without much effort.  Playing with Irie was hard for him because he wasn’t able to properly play with toys, his body wasn’t regulating correctly, and he didn’t have the words to communicate.  Nowadays, you will catch them playing chase, tickling each other, playing with toys and watching toy review videos on YouTube.

Our toughest obstacle right now is getting Eli to speak before he gets overwhelmed. Another obstacle is his response time after he is asked a question. He takes a while to respond to and we're not sure if he's processing or just not engaged. There are times when I need to ask him the same question. I’ve been dealing with more meltdowns lately. I think it's because he was home sick off and on for about three weeks in February. Consistent routine seems to be something he really really needs. The challenge with dealing with meltdowns is trying to figure out what initiated the meltdown.  Eli continues to work hard everyday.  All in all we’re doing well and we’re Thankful for our blessings.

Thank you so much for allowing us to share our story with all of you. I truly hope that Autism Awareness Month at Star Academy is something that all of the Star Parents look forward to every year.   Till next time. Stay fab!

P.S. I started my own YouTube Channel check it out if you have time!

Diana’s Story: Learning about Eli’s Diagnosis

A day in the life of Eli

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Emma Today Update - Guest Blogger Jenifer Pearsall

Jenifer Pearsall is a parent of a second grade student at Star Academy as well as a daughter with autism. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology as well as a multiple-subject teaching credential.  She has taught elementary school as well as assisted in various preschool programs.  Currently, she is a stay-at-home mom who keeps busy with the house, kids, one dog, one cat and all of the chaos that it brings!  She is passionate about autism awareness and educating others about the disorder.

Well, it has been a year since I last wrote a blog “update” on Emma, so it is a good time to do it now. Looking back at what I wrote a year ago, I have to say, not a whole lot has changed with regards to her daily schedule. Of course, with her diagnosis of autism, she prefers that very little changes in her daily routine and schedule! She is now 10 years old, almost 11 (in June) and is still attending Land Park Academy, a non-public school for children and young adults on the spectrum.  She has a new teacher this year and has adjusted well to her, thankfully. The support staff at the school are so wonderful. They really help make change and transitions go as smoothly and easily as possible. 

Emma attends Land Park Academy every day, Monday thru Friday, from 8 am until 1:30 pm. Currently, she is working on learning how to read sight words off of index cards and how to do simple math. She continues to work on increasing her communication skills (asking for what she wants or needs, responding to questions asked about her like “What school do you go to?” and “What is your Mom’s name?”, and using complete sentences), self-help skills (brushing teeth, washing hands, toileting) and social skills (learning to take turns playing simple games). She also has a classroom chore every day (taking out the trash, leading calendar, cleaning tables, etc.) and participates in art, music, and daily exercising. In addition, she attends speech therapy 3 times a week and occupational therapy 2 times a week, all while at school. She has a full schedule!


These 2 pictures were taken at my parents’ house in St. George, Utah. We visited them over Spring Break. It was a nice, relaxing vacation!

 Once she is home from school, her work is not done. She also has 3 hours of in-home ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy every day, Monday through Friday. I tell Ashlyn that this is Emma’s homework! She has started doing some simple household chores like collecting the garbage, making her bed, and wiping down the bathroom counter with a baby wipe. She is currently working on increasing communication, playing with toys appropriately (moving the toy trains on the train tracks rather than simply lining them up on the window sill), and, most challenging at the moment, wearing appropriate clothing (Undergarments!) She is almost 11 years old and is going through puberty, so you can imagine what changes are happening to her body! She still refuses to wear a bra or any type of undershirt and now, as of our recent vacation over Spring Break, is also refusing to wear underwear. SIGH… She wears soft, elastic waist pants and long sleeve, baggy shirts every day and tennis shoes with no socks. This is, and probably always will be, a constant struggle with her because of her high sensitivity to touch. Hopefully we will be able to get her wearing short sleeve t-shirts (as well as undergarments!) soon…before it gets to be 100 degrees in Sacramento!!

           Sisters running and playing at the park.              Playing Ring Around the Rosie!

Now, not to get too personal, but I do have to add that one BIG change happened during this past year to Miss Emma. As I said, she is going through puberty, so guess what “present” she got on Christmas Day (yes, really, Christmas Day!)? Yep. Considerable challenge being that she doesn’t want to wear any kind of sanitary products! Fortunately, we did manage to get through the week ok, and she has not gotten another “present” since. I have met with a pediatric gynecologist about what our options are in the future and am now just waiting… On the plus side, Ashlyn now knows all about “it” and will not be scared or worried when she gets her “present”!

Oh, I should mention one other thing that has changed is we are no longer giving her medication. Last year she was taking 2 doses of Risperdal every day to help control her aggression and self-injurious behaviors like banging her head and biting her finger. We did not like the idea of giving her medicine and decided to try to wean her off of it. When we did that, we noticed that the aggression and other behaviors did not return in abundance and so decided she no longer needed it. She is doing fine without it. The only side effect to taking her off the medication was that she had a dramatic decrease in appetite. The medication increased her appetite and caused her to gain a lot of weight. Once we took her off the medicine, it was actually a little scary because she did not want to eat AT ALL. She lost about 10 pounds total and looked noticeably thin. Fortunately, over time, her appetite has increased to a more typical amount for a girl her age and she is at a healthy weight. Oh, and in case you are wondering, she is not eating any new foods from a year ago. She still only eats Banquet brand chicken nuggets, pancakes, scrambled eggs with pureed salsa, Nutri Grain cereal bars, Honey Maid brand graham crackers, Honey Nut Cheerios (dry), my homemade banana bread and Oreos. THAT IS IT. No, really. That. Is. It!

Like I said, not a lot of changes in our day to day life with Emma, but she is definitely growing up and progressing more and more each day. It is exciting to look back and see how far she has come with her talking, interacting with us at home, playing with Ashlyn and helping out more at home. She is very sweet, has an infectious smile and laugh and is an overall happy girl. She loves music, everything from The Wiggles to One Direction and Taylor Swift. Her current favorite things are trains, playing with  a ball tower toy and playing outside at the park with her sister. She is healthy, happy and we are very proud of her!  Thank you for reading!