Sharing a little kindness can go a long way!

heartAlthough The Random Acts of Kindness calendar was created for the workplace, I thought that it had some great ideas for us as we shelter in this holiday weekend.

Did you know that science shows that the positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of those who participated in, received or witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward?” This means one act of kindness in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people! You can be that person. Imagine if those small acts changed the culture of our community. Read on.

  • Make kindness the normhelping others
  • Take good care of yourself
  • Show a little love
  • Be brave, be you
  • We are one
  • Move forward by giving back
  • Do the right thing
  • Explore your passions
  • Together, everyone achieves more
  • Today is a wonderful day
  • Respect

From my household to yours, have a happy, healthy, and safe Easter!

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Tips for Parents Part 2

A parent commented that they enjoyed reading my last blog regarding activities during these challenging times, but wished there were more for adults. I agreed and have given more thought to her suggestion.

Our adults are now experiencing:

  • Sudden change in routines and activity
  • Experiencing heightened anxiety and worry
  • Fear of the unknown

What can we do?

How-to-build-a-daily-routineEstablish a new routine and schedule. Your son or daughter may not be going to work, to the gym or visiting his/her friends. So what does he/she do now?

Let your son or daughter create the schedule with your support and guidance as necessary. This should include some of his/her preferred activities, physical exercise, leisure skills, chores around the house and activities of daily living. Perhaps there are skills that you would like your child to learn?

For Ryan and me, it is cooking. Typically, we are rushing at breakfast; he goes out to lunch after his job and then usually gets home from the gym right before dinner. So now we are building in time for “chefing.” Also, as April is here, we can consider outdoor spring cleanup as both a physical activity and an outdoor chore that may use pent up energy.

To help deal with anxiety, work opportunities into the day to practice coping techniques. This may be deep breathing, mindfulness activities, or simply how your child best relaxes. Practice, practice, practice throughout the day!


Another consideration is that part of his/her anxiety may be fear of the virus. Approach this openly and provide answers on the level your child understands. But, if he/she chooses not to discuss the topic, don’t force him/her.

Don’t forget the internet – there are many virtual tours and live camera feeds of museums, zoos and famous landmarks around the world.  Ryan and I visited some together this weekend. The activities on the Barber webpage are also updated weekly. You can find them at under COVID-19, Online Learning Activities.

I hope that these thoughts provide you with some ideas during these very long days.

Stay safe and healthy!

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Tips for Parents

Many families have asked if I had any tips for parents, so I wanted to share a few of my thoughts.

Daily Routinedaily routine

  • Create and maintain a daily routine. Use a daily activity schedule including visual prompts to help your child know what is coming next. Children are used to a set schedule when they are in school, so it’s crucial that they continue to have consistency and predictability at home. Write the daily plan on paper, a whiteboard, poster board – whatever you have available. Be sure to let your child participate in the scheduling.
  • Set a timer – This keeps children on-task and focused. The timer will allow them to visually or auditorily track how much time they need to attend to an activity. You can use a timer for fun or free time activities as well as academics.

What should be on the schedule?

  • Work on the academics your child is doing at school. This can be a great time to “practice” those skills as well as his/her daily living skills. Have your child assist with household chores. Certainly, include time for preferred leisure. Physical exercise is a must!
  • Limit device use. Let them play their digital games and watch TV but put it on the schedule as a “free activity” and use a timer to help limit their use. Encourage use of educational apps and games.

Determine what he/she knows and feels about the virus.

  • For those who are verbal, discover if they are worried and what they are worried about. Don’t dismiss their fears with an easy, “You’ll be fine.”  Listen and reflect back what they are saying.  Validate their feelings.   After you have listened, offer some support and coping mechanisms.
  • Speak at a level that he/she will understand. For instance:  This illness is different because it’s new.   People are working really hard to make sure it doesn’t spread and make lots of people sick.  That is why we’re staying home, so no one gets sick.  If someone does get sick, the doctors will take care of them.  Doctors and scientists are working really hard to figure this out.

Coping Strategies

  • Offer simple coping strategies such as counting to 10, taking deep breaths, making a list of the things we are grateful for or taking a walk. It is important to help your child feel a sense of control in managing his/her feelings. Teach coping skills when your child is calm. Follow up with daily practice at a set time.

healthyTake care of yourself, eat well, get enough sleep and exercise.

  • Keeping your own anxiety in check will help you to stay calm for those around you.

Where can I go to get information on activities?

  • Each school district is approaching this differently, so I’d suggest you go to their webpage.
  • We have many learning resources are available on the Barber National Institute’s webpage for preschool and K-12 for multiple subjects, including math, reading, and science:
  • Another thought is to consider virtual tours, which are are also available online for many national and international museums, zoos, and even theme parks.

I care deeply about the wellbeing of our community and urge everyone to stay home, stay safe and stay healthy. These are challenging times, but we’ll get through together. We are here for you.


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World Down Syndrome Day Guest Blog, by Brianne McClellan

I invited Mom, Brianne McClellan, to share her thoughts in this week’s blog on World Down Syndrome Day.


I enter the door at daycare and see him sitting in his usual chair, by himself, listening to an audio story of “Pete the Cat” from the cd player. All the other kids are running around, screaming, playing and interacting with each other. “Hey Noah!” I say as I approach my son. He sees me and does his usual greeting; gets up and walks over to me, and then when I kneel down he hugs me for a while without letting go. When he finally lets go, he signs part of the alphabet for me to see, “a-b-c-d-e,” he’s so proud of himself. Then, he grabs my hand and takes me over to a book and points to a horse and signs, “horse.” So I sign “horse” back and make a horse sound. As we walk over to his cubby to get his coat, he towers over the other children in the Toddler classroom because they are probably 3 and he is 9. One child comes up to me and asks me, “Does he talk?” I smile at the child and say, “No. But he signs words.” That’s about all I could say as I was stepping over toys, gathering Noah’s school belongings, and chasing him out the door.

Noah was not only blessed to be born with Down syndrome, but he also has autism and is non-verbal. Before Noah was born, we knew we had an over 50% chance of Noah having Down syndrome. After the initial shock, I was ok with that and started getting educated and prepared. I fully expected Noah to attend public school, join the golf club in high school, have a job, possibly get married someday, and even live on his own with his family or a group home. Then when he was around 2, he was diagnosed with autism. It is said that less than 20% of people with Down syndrome are dual diagnosed with autism. I guess we were one of the lucky ones. My thoughts of the future definitely changed at that point and in the years following.

My thoughts may have changed regarding Noah’s independence as he ages, however, Noah’s uniqueness has shined through and taught me more than what I thought I knew or wanted. What I have found is that Noah brings more joy to life than I ever could. Noah walks into a restaurant and people smile. I drop Noah off at school and the Principal tells me that the staff always enjoys when Noah comes down to deliver papers to their office. Even though Noah doesn’t speak, he amazes people all the time. He shows his intelligence in so many ways, and he loves being praised for it! He shows his sweetness every day with hugs and smiles.

Anyone who knows Noah or someone like him is lucky. They will open your eyes to a kinder world. They will open your hearts to empathy. And they will open your minds to think beyond yourself and what you can do for others. We are lucky to have people like Noah in our world. We can learn so much from them.


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Spread the Word to End the Word!

Last Wednesday was “Spread the Word to End the Word.” Started as a simple website by the Special Olympics in 2008, it has grown to a nationwide campaign involving schools and universities across our country, all with the goal of ending the use of the R-word in everyday language.

Although some people might not consider the R-word to be a slur, to millions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that is what it can feel like. We know that language has a huge impact on attitudes and actions. By eliminating the R-word from usage, we can work on creating more accepting attitudes and inclusive communities for all.

A bit of history:

In 2010, President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” which was inspired by a Maryland woman with an intellectual disability. The bill garnered unanimous support in passing both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Rosa’s Law was commemorated in a White House ceremony with an 11-member delegation of Special Olympics athletes, leaders and self-advocates present to celebrate the milestone. Starting that year, federal agencies dropped the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” in federal health, education and labor laws and replaced them with “intellectual disability” and since then, almost every state has passed similar legislation. Pennsylvania has done so.

My experience with the R-word goes back to my days as a special education teacher in the Erie School District. I was the teacher of the “R” students, so I could see on a daily basis how my students reacted to being called this. As this left an impression on me to this day, I am one of the most vehement advocates of abolishing this word from everyone’s vocabulary.

I encourage you to sign the petition to not use the R-word:

…and tell your friends and family!Spread the word inclusion

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The Importance of Reading!

The first week of March is one of my favorite weeks of the school year. It is not only Read Across America Week, but also Dr. Seuss’s birthday and World Book Day. I love reading! As a child I was probably called “book worm” hundreds of times, because my favorite activity was reading…and still is as an adult.

Reading has the power to transport you to new places, learn new ideas, and become a true citizen of the world. But, there are a number of other reasons why reading is so important.


  • Trains your body/mind to slow down, relax and focus on what you are reading
  • Improves your memory
  • Builds a bond between you and your child as you provide him/her with 1:1 positive attention
  • Expands your child’s language and literacy skills

So how do we get our children excited about reading? This can be a special challenge if your child struggles with reading. I have found nonfiction books that allow the child to relate to real life people, places and events are the best course. Another thought: What are his/her high interest topics?

The “2020 What Kids are Reading” from Renaissance is a great resource. It aggregates national reading data by grade level and provides nonfiction and fiction books that children are reading by state. Check it out at

As I look back, Ryan started reading words when he was 3 years old and quickly moved on to the short “Bob” books. As he continued in elementary school, I realized that although he was very fluent, his comprehension skills were very weak. This was a struggle throughout his educational career. He never developed my “love of reading,” but I am still not giving up!!!

As Dr. Seuss said, “The more you read, the more things you will know, the more you learn, the more places you will go.” I concur!


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Digital Learning Day!


I find it difficult to keep up with the latest advancements in educational technology when so many digital devices, educational software and mobile apps are in constant development. In 2012, Digital Learning Day began as a way to actively spread innovative technology throughout the nation and ensure that all youth have access to digital learning opportunities.

When we first began participating in Digital Learning Day in 2014, it was an “in-house” event with school staff and students showcasing the technology they used in their classrooms. Since then, the presenters have expanded to include other programs within the Barber National Institute, outside agencies such as Tobii Dynavox, and local high schools and universities. Eventually, the event became too large for the Barber Center’s North Lobby, so we relocated to our gymnasium!

Thursday will be the Barber National Institute’s 6th consecutive year celebrating Digital Learning Day. We are open from 11am-1pm and we encourage the public to come and see what’s offered! There are numerous prizes and giveaways, as well. If you aren’t able to attend, you can watch us stream live on Facebook.

A special thanks to Nina Wolfarth, B.S., Early Care Coordinator, and Zachary Bair, B.S., Technology Coordinator, for cochairing our event.

For more information about Digital Learning Day, visit,

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