#EverydayAutism First Week of School Photo a Day Challenge


It's been a while since I've done an #EverydayAutism Photo a Day challenge. So I thought it would be fun to start one for the first week of school. An easy 5-day Photo a Day Challenge to show off our kids during their first few days of a new school year

And I am totally ready say goodbye to summer and get back into our routine. I am looking forward to a new school year with a new teacher and kids. Norrin attends an ungraded school but he is moving up to a different class.  

Last week I created "First Day of School" printables for kids like Norrin who aren't starting a new grade. I can't wait to take Norrin's picture while he holds up his sign. 

The first days of school are something special. And I want to celebrate right along with you and share your moments. 
      

Norrin starts school on Monday and that's when I'll start the challenge on Instagram. But I know many kids are starting this week - so feel free to start now. 

How to Participate in the #EverydayAutism Photo a Day Challenge

You don't have to take the challenges so literally. Just share something that represents your child, the daily challenge and your #EverydayAutism.


Instagram would be ideal and when you post your picture (keeping with the theme for the day) use the #EverydayAutism. If you have an Instagram account, feel free to follow me @laliquin. If you have a Twitter account, tweet your photo with #EverydayAutism. I'll be following the hash tag on Twitter too.

Even if you don't use Instagram or Twitter, you can still join the fun. Share this post and your photos on Facebook using the #EverydayAutism to let your friends and family know you're participating.

An Afternoon on Governors Island


The last days of summer are scarce and the weather's been unpredictable. With nothing planned for the day, we decided to just get in the car and drive. I suggested we drive to the Seaport and just walk around. We were lucky enough to find parking right away. And that's when Joseph suggested we take the Ferry to Governors Island. We've never been. It wasn't one of the things on our summer bucket list but it was something to do. 

The Ferry was only $2 per adult (round trip) - kids under 12 years old are free. It was a super quick ride - probably no more than 10 minutes. We were unprepared for the afternoon as we saw people with bikes, baseballs and picnic  baskets. So we just walked around - which was cool too. It was like being a completely different city or in a movie. We walked in and out of historic homes built at the end of the 19th century. We explored Fort Jay. Norrin had a little freedom to run and really stretch his legs. We saw a view of Manhattan I've never seen before and an amazing view of the Freedom Tower.

Governors Island, a 172 acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, is only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn. It is a world unto itself, unique and full of promise.
For almost two centuries, Governors Island was a military base - home to the US Army and later the Coast Guard, and closed to the public. In 2003 the federal government sold 150 acres of Island to the people of New York, with the Island's governance and funding jointly shared by the City of New York and State of New York. The remaining 22 acres of the Island was declared the Governors Island National Monument that is overseen by the National Park Service.

We will definitely return to Governors Island and be prepared next time. Check out some of our photos from the day...

Unknown Mami

Stock Up & Save On Back To School Healthy Essentials | #Moms4JNJConsumer #ad

Disclaimer: This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own, and I hope you enjoy them. 

I can't believe it's Labor Day weekend already. We didn't get to do everything I wanted to do (like go to the beach), but we've had a fun summer. And honestly, I'm looking forward to the first day of school. For many of us, back to school also means getting back into a routine. It means regular bedtimes, packing school lunches and homework.

Having a kid with autism, it's all about routine. The last few weeks of no school is starting to take its toll. And like my kid - I do best with structure. Our schedules have been all out of sorts. It just can't be helped at this time of year. We are ready for structure. Besides I love September.  

I'll be spending our last weekend of August, prepping for a new school year. Cleaning, organizing and stocking up on all the essentials. 

Back to school shopping isn't just about new school supplies. It's also time to stock up on HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® for fall for our kids and us!   

I have totally slacked on my skin regime these last few weeks. I just haven't had the time or the energy to take care of my face. And if you've seen me in the last few weeks, it's beginning to show. I am all about the Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit! It just wakes me up and makes my face feel fresh and clean. Norrin is also starting to show the signs of puberty (hold me!), I've already started to see like pimples around his nose. I may start using a little of the Acne Wash around his nose and forehead.   

September means back to school for Norrin and for me it's also my birthday month. In a few weeks I'll be 39 (eeks!) and I really need to start using a night cream. I'm looking forward to see the results of RoC's Deep Wrinkle Night Cream. (I'll keep you posted.)

For me the Fall represents starting over. What better way to start over, than to stock up on products that will re-energize your routine and make you feel better about how you look and feel. 


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What products will stock up on to re-energize your Back to School routine?


Disclaimer: This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own, and I hope you enjoy them.

7 Questions To Ask Your Autistic Child When They Come Home From School


My blogger friend Betty (who blogs at My Friend Betty Says - a blog for smart and stylish moms) contributed an amazing post over on Mommy Maestra: 8 Questions to Ask Your Child After SchoolBetty, like so many moms, wants to know what happened to her child during the school day. As a school teacher, Betty encouraged parents to ask  open ended questions while everyone was relaxed. Now as a mom of 3 boys Betty takes her own school teacher advice and is sure to ask questions that will provided more than a "yes" or "no" response. 

I loved Betty's suggestions and eventually I may incorporate them into my afternoon conversations with Norrin. But right now, we're not there. Ever since Norrin was diagnosed with autism, language and conversation is something we work on every day.

But I'm like Betty - and any other mom - I want to know more about my kid's day. So I ask questions. I ask them uncertain I'll get an answer. I ask the same question a few times, just in case he needs time absorb it. And I ask questions I am certain he'll respond to, even if I know the answer because I want him to get used to conversation.

Here are 7 questions to ask your child with autism when they come home from school: 

1. What did you eat for lunch? 

Most days I pack Norrin's lunch. So on those days, I know the answer but I ask anyway. On days when I don't pack lunch, I still ask. Sometimes I have the school lunch list but if I don't, I present multiple choice answers. If your child is non-verbal - show them a picture and have them point.

2. Who did you sit next to at lunch? 

It helps to know the names of your child's classmates, so that you can prompt a multiple choice if needed.

3. Did you go to OT/PT or Speech? If they yes, ask what they did.

I usually ask Norrin about his related services but pose it in a multiple choice format. When he tells what related service he had, I follow up by asking "What did you do with [therapist's name]?" If it's a related service that I know he sometimes has with a group - I ask if he went alone or with his friends.

4. What did you work for?

Norrin goes to an ABA school and often works toward something. I like to know what he worked for. 

5. Did you play with [name of child in his class]?

I always ask about his interaction with peers. I want to know what they played, if they had a good day or bad day.

6. What did you read at school today? (this is one of Betty's questions)

I ask about reading and math when Norrin comes home. And then I ask him which he liked more. (It's usually reading.)   

7. Tell me about [whatever assignment/school work/art project is in his book bag]. 

Norrin doesn't get much homework but he usually has some kind of class work or art work in his bag. I want to know all about that. I ask what it is and if anyone helped him. If it's something that can be read, I ask him to read it to me. 


Communication with your child's teacher is critical. I often depend on Norrin's teachers to fill in the blanks of his day. Before I start asking questions, I check the communication notebook. The more you and the teacher communicate - the more specific questions you can ask your child about his/her day.
  
When you have a child with autism, communication and conversation can be difficult. You don't need to ask your child all 7 questions - this can be a lot for some kids. But ask one or two questions and build on their response. Expect a little more every day.

And for tips to prompt conversation, check out my post on Parents.com - 
Prompting Conversation And Communication With An Autistic Child


The Art of Adapting a Novel by Cassandra Dunn

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book. No other compensation to write the review was received. All opinions are my own. Please note that affiliate links have been used in this review and I get a few cents when you make a purchase. 

***

In The Art of Adapting: A Novel,  a debut novel by Cassandra Dunn, "a recently divorced woman rises to the challenge and experiences the exhilaration of independence with the unlikely help of her brother with Asperger's, who she takes in to help pay the rent."

Overall I enjoyed The Art of Adapting. I read through this book rather quickly - it was wonderfully written, warm and touches on many relatable family issues. 

Told from the perspective of 4 characters: Lana (recently divorced mother), Matt (Lana's brother with Asperger's) and Lana's teenage children - Abby and Byron. "The Art of Adapting is about how these characters strive to overcome their personal challenges while finding balance in their new family dynamic." And the story weaves from perspective to perspective to move the story along and provide insight. In some aspects the switch is compelling and in other moments - when I was really getting into the character's story, the change seemed jolting. 

While each of the characters in The Art of Adapting are interesting, the character I want to focus on was Matt - for obvious reasons. I like reading accounts - both non-fiction and fiction - about people who have some form of autism. There is always something I can take away from reading about them regardless of how their autism compares to my son. 
Matt hated crying. His tears or anyone else's. It was too much for him. It made him want to act out and drive the feeling away with something bigger and more physical. (p. 119)
I underlined and highlighted the above sentences as soon as I read them. It reminded me so much of Norrin. He becomes very upset seeing someone cry and often acts out. Reading Matt's explanation gave me some insight why. And it made sense.

What I admire about Dunn is that she included someone with a disability in her novel. Matt was based on Dunn's Uncle Michael Dunn who also had Asperger's. Matt is not the burden but in many ways the savior of the family. And his story is told with honesty and dignity. I think many parents will read this book and feel a connection to Matt.

If you've read The Art of Adapting, I'd love to hear your thoughts!      

The Art of Adapting: A Novel may be purchased on Amazon. 

Back to School: Ungraded {with 1st Day of School Printables}


I've always loved the start of a new school year. The smell of fresh paint, chalk and sharpened pencils. The crisp spine of a composition notebook, bright white pages and the ritual of making book covers out of brown paper bags. During my Catholic school girl years, I spent those first few weeks of school dressing with care: ironing out my pleats and adjusting my knee high socks. I loved the feeling of brand new leather shoes - snug without creases, their laces clean without frayed threads. 

I don't know if Norrin looks forward to any of these things. 


And as I see other parents get ready for a new school year and the first of "1st Day of __ Grade" pictures pop up in my Facebook feed, I am reminded that our back-to-school experience is different. Norrin will most likely never start the first day as any kind of 'grader' as he is in an ungraded school. 


There isn't a long list of school supplies to be purchased. There are no text books to cover. There are no pencil cases, protractors or compasses. We buy one notebook - a communication book to keep updated with Norrin's teacher.

While Norrin's not starting a new grade, he is moving up to a new class of older kids. Norrin's in an ungraded class of 6 kids, 1 teacher and 2 assistants. The kids ages will vary between 8 - 11. (Which will be interesting since he's been with the same teacher and kids for the last two years.) 

If Norrin were a typical kid, he'd be starting 3rd grade. The grade when standardized testing begins. His IEP has been updated and he will take the tests with many modifications. But we will see. All I want for Norrin is the opportunity to try.

I have let go of mainstream dreams - I know a typical school is not appropriate for Norrin. I accept Norrin's school and I'm grateful he's in such a wonderful place. But still there are certain times of the year that make me a little sad. I wonder what Norrin would be like if he were starting the 3rd grade. I wonder what chapter books he'd want to read. Or if I'd have trouble explaining that "new" math (probably). I wonder if he'd be some 3rd graders first crush. There are so many things that come to mind at the beginning of a school year. And I have to accept autism and my kid just as he is. Because he's come a long way since his diagnosis six years ago.

Because I recognize how far Norrin's come, I get excited about September. And I admit, I spoil him. I bought him a brand new Star Wars book bag and lunch box (with the coolest bento boxes) from Pottery Barn. It was a little expensive but I hadn't bought him a new book bag or lunch box since Kindergarten. I love buying stylish clothes for back to school and cool sneakers. I do this because it's the way I would have wanted to start my first day of school. Norrin may not understand how special the first day is, but I do. 

On September 8th Norrin will begin another school year and I'll take his picture to commemorate the day. And since I haven't seen cute little signs for the ungraded kids - I made some of my own! 

Feel free to print out & share.     


First Day of School 2014-2015 Printables by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez for Atypical Familia


Check out our ULTIMATE Back to School Tips for Autism Parents

Five Hours in Philly #PhillyTeAma

On the steps of the Phila Museum of Art Perelman Building

I am a die hard, jaded New Yorker. I'm not easily impressed and when I travel to other cities, I can be a bit of snob. Because all I can think is: it ain't New York

But five hours in Philly made me forget my New York attitude

It was our first trip to Philly. I knew there were things I wanted to see and do. I just didn't realize how much I would fall in love with Philly. It was familiar in so many ways and yet completely different. I loved the cobblestone, tree lined  streets, the historic homes and narrow winding streets. Living in New York I'm used to seeing horse and carriages (honestly I am not a fan) but there was something about seeing them in Philly that just felt right. I don't typically use the word charming, but there is no other way to describe Philadelphia.    

We started our day in Philly with a visit to the Liberty Bell. There was a line but it moved quickly. (You will need to go through a security screening and admission is free but donations are accepted.) We moved through the exhibit pretty quickly as Norrin wasn't going to read everything. But we pointed things out and tried to get him to understand where we were. If you've been following my blog, you know that Norrin has autism and ADHD. Museums and tourist attractions can be challenging but we want to give him as many experiences as possible. Seeing the Liberty Bell was pretty exciting. It's been something I've read about since I was a kid. It was nice to experience that moment with my family. 

A dozen pictures and a few selfies later, we walked across to Independence Hall. I didn't realize we had to reserve tour tickets in advance so we just walked into the park area. (Timed tour tickets are also free and can be picked up at the Visitor Center.) Now we know to plan ahead for next time because I'd love to see the inside. For more information regarding The Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall visit: http://www.nps.gov/inde 
   
By this time we had Philly Cheesesteaks on the brain. And while there are quite a few places to choose from - we had our heart and our bellies set on Pat's King of Steaks. Since we had our car parked at an all day lot and our Philly PHLASH passes, we decided to walk to Pat's from Independence Hall. Being from New York, we're used to walking. But I didn't realize how far it was. It's a 1.8 mile walk to get to Pat's and another 1.8 miles back. It was a nice walk. We got to see different parts of Philly, little restaurants (many of them were BYOB - for a listing of Philly BYOB restaurants click HERE) and the Italian Street Market. But I don't think I'd do that walk again.

But if you do decide to walk it. A Pat's cheesesteak is SO WORTH IT.


Joseph and I have decided that each time we go to Philly, we will try out a different cheesesteak spot. Luckily we can already cross Pat's off this list

After all that walking, we were ready to kick back and relax for a while. So we jumped on the Philly PHLASH - a super convenient way to get around! I loved that the Philly PHLASH was not only a great way to get around, but I was able to see some of the tourist attractions like LOVE Park, the Rocky Steps and the Eastern State Penitentiary. (Note: You will need to take the PHLASH to Stop 9 - the Phila Museum of Art Perelman Bldg - and take another bus to get to the Please Touch Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo.) 

The Philly PHLASH left us right in front of the Please Touch Museum where we spent the remainder of our afternoon. We all loved it so much - especially Norrin. The Please Touch Museum had so much to offer, it was unlike any other kid's museum I've ever seen. And I'm happy that Norrin got to experience it. It was the perfect end to our first time in Philly.

We cannot wait to Visit Philly again because while we did a lot in 5 hours, it truly wasn't enough. We have our list of things to see and do for next time. So until next time Philly...Te Ama!


Feel free to let me know if I missed anything. What do YOU recommend for our next visit?

For more on our trip to Philly

Our 1st Trip to Philly (Wordless Wed)
An Afternoon at the Please Touch Museum 

Disclaimer: We received a Greater Philadelphia VIP Pass and Philly PHLASH day passes. The VIP Pass provided admission to participating establishments. No other compensation was received. All opinions are our own. 

An Afternoon At The Please Touch Museum

Disclaimer: We were provided with guest passes for the Please Touch Museum. No other compensation was received. All opinions are our own. 


As soon as the Philly Plash pulled up in front of the Please Touch Museum, I turned to Joseph. "Is this it?" I asked. Neither one of us was expecting such a majestic building. This was a children's museum after all. We walked up the grand steps and into the lobby where I was to pick up our tickets. I learned that the museum was within Memorial Hall and that it was built for the 1876 World's Fair to celebrate the Centennial. Now the grandeur made sense.  

Norrin immediately started pulling on my hand eager to explore. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't crowded or overwhelming. There were plenty of things for kids to see and do. It was tough to keep up with Norrin but I loved seeing him happy. He was so excited, moving from one activity to the next. Our favorite exhibit was the Centennial Exploration/ Railway Play. I didn't have to worry about Norrin touching anything because everything was designed to be touched. 

The Please Touch Museum didn't only appeal to children but to adults. They had an amazing Wonderland exhibit. There were displays of vintage toys that made me nostalgic. And it was easy to feel like a kid again.  Joseph and I called out to each other, "Hey did you see this?"  It was just as much fun for us as it was for Norrin. 

We arrived late in the afternoon and were mindful of catching the bus back to our car, so we had cut our visit short. There were a few things we didn't get to see and I was disappointed we didn't ride the century old carousel. So we will definitely return! It was about 2 hours away so it could even be a great day trip for us. 

The Please Touch Museum is so much more than a kid's museum - it's a play space that offers a wealth of tactile learning experiences and history.

For more information on the Please Touch Museum visit or to purchase tickets please visit - http://www.pleasetouchmuseum.org   

Since 1976, Please Touch Museum has been the Children's Museum of Philadelphia. The Please Touch Museum was the first in the nation whose target audience was families with children seven and younger. Their mission is to enrich the lives of children by creating learning opportunities through play.

What I Learned, Loved & Admired about Cantinflas (Cantinflas Movie 8/29/14)

Disclaimer: We were invited to a press screening of Cantinflas. No other compensation was received. All opinions are our own.


Cantinflas is the untold story of Mexico's greatest and most beloved comedy film star of all time. From his humble origins on the small stage to the bright lights of Hollywood, Cantinflas became famous around the world - one joke at a time. Relive the laughter that has charmed generations.

"Do you know who Cantinflas is?" I asked Joseph. 

"Of course I do! How do you not know who Cantinflas is?" He said.

I explained that growing up we never watched Spanish television or movies. I had never heard of Cantinflas before seeing the trailer. But as soon as I saw it, I knew it was a movie I wanted to see. I love old movies and am fascinated by old Hollywood history. And I love a good biopic. Cantinflas is everything I love about going to the movies.

Cantinflas did not disappoint. What I appreciated about the film was the way it incorporated Spanish and English while telling the story of Cantinflas and how he came to be involved in Around the World in 80 Days. What I loved was seeing so many beloved Hollywood and Mexican movie legends like Elizabeth Taylor, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Maria Felix and Dolores del Rio. I learned about the effort it took to make Around the World in 80 Days and how it was a first of its kind - with more than 40 cameo appearances by well known celebrities from around the world.     

But what I admired was Mario Moreno aka Cantinflas. He was driven and determined in pursuing his dream. He was a brilliant performer who relied on his charm, quick wit and humor to appeal to the masses. 

At the peak of his career in the late '50s, Cantinflas was earning more than $1.5 million a year and was referred to in press releases as the world's highest-paid comedian. -- Hector Tobar, LA Times
While he was praised for being a comedian, there was a darker, more serious side to Moreno that the film revealed. What I truly admired about Cantinflas was that he refused to be exploited by Hollywood. If they wanted Cantinflas, it needed to be on his terms.

Cantinflas opens on Friday, August 29th at limited theaters and I urge you to go see it if it's playing at a theater near you. The more people see it opening weekend, Cantinflas will be distributed at more theaters. 

I especially urge Latinos to support this movie by seeing it opening weekend. If we want to see more Latinos in films then we need to put our money where our mouth is. We need to prove to Hollywood that our stories are worthy of being told.

If you are like me and haven't heard of Cantinflas - I assure you, you will walk out a fan. And if you've never seen Around the World in 80 Days - you'll want to rent it (I did). If you're Latino, take your mother, father or grandparent - they will most likely remember Cantinflas. If you don't understand Spanish - no worries, there are subtitles. Cantinflas is more than a movie about a Latino actor, it's a testament to Hollywood history that needs to be told.     




Sesame Place: A Family Fun Getaway!

Disclaimer: I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but I will be provided with a 2014 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family.



Book this two-night getaway package and get a third night free! Package includes, Sesame Place Fun Cards, valid for unlimited visits in 2014 including A Very Furry Christmas! Package must be booked by 9/1/14 and arrival date must be 10/26/14 or earlier. Click HERE.

School is out and our 3 week summer vacation has officially begun! We decided to treat ourselves to a little road trip. I thought Sesame Place would be ideal for us. It's less than 2 hours away and Norrin always has a great time. 


We drove up to Philly first and then drove down to Langhorne. We checked into the SpringHill Suites Marriott which is literally down the block from Sesame Place. Our original plan was to grab something to eat and then head to the park to catch the evening parade - Sesame Place is really pretty at night. But I got confused with the time so we missed out on the park. 

But we were able to get a good night's rest so that we could have the whole day at the park.

We woke up early and headed over at 10am. We made a beeline to the Count's Splash Castle and claimed a few lounge chairs. After a few hours of splashing water fun, we dried up and had a quick lunch. There are many food options within the park and opportunities to dine with characters! After lunch we decided to hit the dry rides and arcade. We love the Monster Mix Up because it's shaded and we get a breeze. And then we wandered around Cookie's Monster Land. It was so hot that we decided to take another run around Splash Castle. We ended our day with ice cream cones and ate them by the Sunny Day Carousel.

While our two days in PA didn't quite work out as planned, we will return and now we know how to plan accordingly. 

Sesame Place is a great family fun getaway. There is so much to do at the park and nearby! And Sesame Place has a variety of preferred hotels that make your stay super easy. So how would I plan a three-night getaway to Sesame Place?  

Day 1/Night 1 
Get to PA early in the morning. Visit the Please Touch Museum or the Philadelphia Zoo.
Arrive at hotel around check-in.
Settle into room and explore hotel - go prepared to take advantage of hotel amenities during your stay. 
Head over to Sesame Place - Be sure to download the Sesame Place App! 
Catch a Sesame Place Show or find a good spot along the Parade Route (we like to be closer to the entrance where it's less crowded by the Welcome Center).
Dine at the Park or head out for dinner.
Return to hotel and get some rest

Day 2/Night 2
Arrive at Sesame Place at opening
Check out the Monster Clubhouse or Mini Monster Clubhouse
HAVE FUN & ride all the attractions you can
Make lunch special by Dining with Characters or with Elmo's Box Lunch
See a Sesame Place Show
Watch the Parade from a different location
Take a break -- head back to the hotel and take advantage of the amenities 

Day 3/Night 3
Explore nearby attractions (Please Touch Museum, Rocky Steps, Philadelphia Zoo, The Liberty Bell)
Grab a Philly Cheesesteak for lunch
Return to hotel and recharge
Head back to Sesame Place later for one last evening walk around the grounds and ride on more attractions

Day 4
Check out of hotel and head on home! 

Sesame Place isn't only fun in the summer - there is plenty of Fall fun to be had! Check out what's going on in September and October. 


For more Sesame Place events and further details click HERE

Disclaimer: I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but I will be provided with a 2014 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family.
Copyright © 2013 Atypical Familia