Friday, December 28, 2007

Judy Winter's FAV Quote of the Month January 2008


"I've seen and met angels, wearing the disguise
of ordinary people, living ordinary lives..."
-Tracy Chapman

Me, too!

Have you?
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

New Beginnings January 2008

Did you know that the Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, god of beginnings? That according to the Jan '08 issue of one of my favorite magazines Traverse: Northern Michigan'as Magazine ( For pure creative visual inspiration I also love Santa Barbara magazine-( Both provide pure escapism that's healthier for the eye and soul than most reality tv!

But I digress.

I like the possibilities in that simple calendar action taken by the Romans as I face the discovery of my own life goals for 2008. Let's face it, talking new beginnings sure beats talking tired-old resolutions! And writers are all about working hard to find new ways to say the same old stuff.

So what 'New Beginnings' will be on your list of goals for 2008?

I'm still working on mine...

Happy New Year!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Catch my Interview with Timberly Whitfield on Hallmark Channel

If you want to catch my interview on the program 'New Morning' with Timberly Whitfield that aired on the Hallmark Channel this a.m., here's the link. After today, you'll have to search their archives. It's one of the interviews I did recently in NYC. Timberly was terrific!

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Judy Winter's FAV Quote of the Month #2 December 2007

During this sacred season too often overshadowed by excessive materialism, I've chosen to end this month's blogging as it began, with a favorite quote. Simple words worth thinking about as we face the tremendous challenges of realizing peace and justice and a healthier planet for all in 2008.


"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."
-John Lennon
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday Blessings to All!

As we close in on one of the biggest holidays of the year (got your shopping done yet?!), I offer huge thanks to all of you for your continued support of my work, especially when it involves improving the lives of children with special needs. Your positive feedback and great stories fuel me on each and every day. I have such respect for what you do 24/7 for your children. Please give them all big holiday hugs from me, and send me your holidays tales!

I wish each of you a blessed holiday season, whatever and however you celebrate. For those who celebrate the sacred day of December 25th (that''s me!), have a very Merry Christmas, and don't forget to water the tree!

Get ready for new adventures, and even greater awareness of special needs in 2008! I plan to continue to do my best to stir things up, for the good of our kids, of course!~ Much work remains.

Peace on earth to all, and yes Virginia, it is possible...or at least that's my grownup Christmas wish. But I'm a hopeless optimistic, forever focused on life's possibilities. To me, the glass is always half full...

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Oprah Show Looking to Cast Pre-Teens with Down Syndrome for Tribute to Martin Luther King!

Here's another opportunity from my friend Gail Williamson for kids with special needs (Down syndrome) to have a shot at stardom- this time on Oprah!

Deadline for submissions is this Friday, Dec. 7th!

OPRAH needs 10 - 11 year olds with DS

10 to 11 year olds with DS and good speaking skills, the Oprah show is looking for you to say a line for their Martin Luther King episode. They will be filming in San Diego on Dec. 19th, (subject to change). The line is currently "I have a dream today." They already have someone deaf doing it in sign, so our talent submissions have to be able to articulate the line. All filmed will not necessarily be in the completed montage. If you are interested please send your child's name, age, your name (parent) and contact number along with a jpg of a photo of your child (just one photo) to this email address with Oprah in the subject line. All submissions have to be received by Friday, Dec. 7, 2007. No work permit will be required, there is no pay for this project.

Gail Williamson
Executive Director
Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, Inc.
315 Arden Avenue, Suite 25
Glendale, CA 91304
818-242-7871 voice
818-242-7819 fax

Gail also shares this information:

Actor Nick Weiland, who has Down syndrome, will be a guest star on “ER” this Thursday, December 6, 2007. According to Gail, Nick has been training at Performing Arts Studio West , an adult day program in Inglewood, CA that trains actors and performers and helps facilitate employment for many of their students.

Nick will also appear on SAVING GRACE, Monday, December 10, 2007 on TNT. The guest star on the episode is Nick Daley also a student at Performing Arts Studio West. There will be several other actors with DS from DSALA Heart Halo Talent as background performers including: Briana Barlow, Elliot Orenski, Bahareh Saviss and Shannon Dieriex.

For all those wanna-be actors/models with special needs out there, here are two valuable industry resources! (DSALA Heart & Halo Talent)
Performing Arts Studio West:

Break a leg!!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, December 02, 2007

'Including Samuel' From Filmmaker-Dad Dan Habib

One of the really good things about the Internet is how quickly you can connect with others who are doing important work with their lives.

Award-winning photojournalist/filmmaker and dad, Dan Habib, is one of those people.

After hearing Dan's interview on NPR recently about his efforts for inclusion for his son, Samuel, who has cerebral palsy, I contacted Dan. We e-mailed back and forth about our mutual efforts to more positively impact the world of kids with special needs. Dan's son is similarly challenged to my son who passed away in 2003.

Dan's passion, commitment, and his deep love for his child resonated with me. We are made of similar parenting cloth. I like what Dan is doing a lot. So I've listed his two websites in my FAV resources for 2007/08. But he's worthy of another shout out here.

Check out this terrific dad and find out more about his powerful documentary, 'Including Samuel' at: or

Dads like Dan are true VIPS!

I love sharing great resources with you!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Judy Winter's FAV Quote of the Month December 2007


'In the practice of tolerance,
one's enemy is the best teacher.'
-the Dalai Lama

Good food for thought...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Giving Thanks for All Your Children!

While traveling a bit more slowly than usual yesterday on an ice-covered highway near a major city, I was struck by the following message on a holiday billboard. It read:

Give Thanks for All Your Healthy Children!

The wording got me thinking (again) about how many people believe that having a child with any kind of health challenge or disability is a fate worse than death (it's not), and how often our media messages help support this kind of limited thinking.

My first reaction was to stop the car, get out, climb up the billboard and X out the word healthy, making the message read:

Give Thanks for All Your Children!

Though tempted, I didn't go that far in my advocacy (except in my mind), but you get my drift. Fortunately, my level-headed husband was behind the wheel and he's a stickler about safety on the road. That includes not stopping in response to my highway whims at a moment's notice!

Plus, we were on our way to a wedding and I was sporting four-inch heels!

If you are blessed with healthy children, you should give kudos to the universe, and to God, for these gifts. But we should also remember that all children are valuable and worthy of our thanksgiving, including millions of children challenged by health issues and a wide range of special needs. Our public messages can and should better reflect more inclusive content.

Healthy or not, they are all our children.

I, for one, am thankful for each and every one of them.

And for flat, comfy shoes....
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, November 30, 2007

DO YOU EVER WONDER WHY? -November 2007

With just hours left, here's my entry for November 2007!
Better late than never!


...drivers who run red lights, roll thru stop signs, speed excessively, drive drunk, and in general ignore the rules of civility on the road just seem to selfishly assume that their 'competition' on the road is going to follow the rules, and save them from becoming an innocent accident victim or worse yet, a fatality?

Many people are clueless about how many serious, life-changing traumatic brain injuries (TMI) and early death, are the result of wreckless, foolish driving habits. We need to have a better understanding of how in an instant, our choices behind the wheels of these powerful weapons of steel can lead to death or life-long disability.

Plus, we should be outraged that 6,000 teens a year die in car accidents!

Why do good drivers have to continually drive more defensively because of the lousy choices of others? When will we do more to address this bumper-car/Indy-500 mentality and help prevent such unnecessary and costly disability?

Just asking...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

The Compassionate Friends Annual Worldwide Candle Lighting will be held December 9th

For those of you who have lost a child, and for those looking to support loved ones facing this tremendous loss, I'm thrilled to remind you that The Compassionate Friends annual Worldwide Candle Lighting will be held on December 9th.

It has been nearly five years since I lost my own son. I know how tough the holidays can be for a bereaved parent and their family and friends. The death of a child is the worst loss anyone can be asked to endure, but I know you can survive with the right support; I'm living proof. That's why I'm pleased to again share this tremendous resource with you.

The Compassionate Friends "is a national nonprofit, self-help support organization that offers friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings." They have no religious affiliation and there's no cost involved, either.

To read more about my own involvement in this annual event, visit my December 2006 entry on this blog. To find out more about this year's event and the non-profit organization responsible for the candle lighting effort, visit

May this simple ceremony bring you peace this holiday season. For one night, it may help you to know that you are not alone. Millions of others do understand your pain and your tears, including me.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Judy Winter's FAV Resources for 2007/08!

Here are some of my FAV Resources for 2007/08!

If you think I've missed a great resource others should know about, send it along and I'll consider adding it here. Check back often for updates!

Knowledge is Power!

American Music Therapy Association, Inc.
Eric 'RicStar' Winter Music Therapy Camp (aka RicStar's Camp!)
Michigan State University/Community Music School

Autism Society of America

Best Buddies International

Josh Blue

Dr. Lisa Boesky (Teens with mental health disorders)

Keri Bowers
films: The Sandwich Kid (sibs) & Normal People Scare Me (autism)


Kathlene Carney
my publicist

Center for Educational Networking (CEN)
search Judy Winter in the archives for my many articles on special needs!

The Compassionate Friends
for those grieving the loss of a child

Conductive Learning Center/Conductive Education

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
Paralysis Resource Center

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

Jeanie Croope
the creative blog of a good buddy

Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA)

Gail Williamson, Exc. Dir.

Brooke Ellison

Catherine Fowler
my agent

Dan Habib, photojournalist/filmmaker/dad &
‘Including Samuel’

a joyful & dear friend!

Mackinac Island
one of my favorite places to write in the world!

Martin Luther King, Jr.
The King

Maui Writers Conference

National Early
Childhood Technical
Assistance Center

National Center on Secondary Education

National Dissemination Center for Children
with Disabilities (NICHCY)

The National Family Caregiver’s Association

Partnership for Learning
search Judy Winter for my many columns on special needs!

Alan Rinzler
my editor at Jossey-Bass/Wiley Publishers

John Schneider
a good friend and great columnist!

The Sibling Support Project— SIBSHOPS

Special Olympics

Erik Taylor Photography

Johnnie Tuitel, plus:
Alternatives in Motion (providing wheelchairs for those in need)

U.S. Department of Education

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)

VSA arts


Jenna Winter

Writer's Digest
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, November 23, 2007


If you follow my blog, you know I'm a big fan of VSA arts (, which 'provides educators, parents, and artists with resources and the tools to support arts' programming in schools and communities.'

How cool is that!?

Here's some new information courtesy of the most recent VSA arts' newsletter that I find well worth sharing. The innovative, non-profit organization has launched a new Web site for teachers/parents that offers arts'-based learning tools to help kids with disaiblites learn alongside their peers and succeed. (key word: succeed!).

Check it out:

And while you're there, check out their 'Call for Writing' contest, too.

I lOVE VSA arts....
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Remembering Eric

Here's another one of those entries being relocated to my blog during my Web-site redesign.

Enjoy Remembering Eric!

As Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations is finally released, perhaps the best way for me to explain the value of this important work is to tell you about the enchanting child who first inspired its honest, heartfelt words—my son, Eric Richard Winter.

As I write these words, it is the third anniversary of my son’s sudden and dramatic passing. Much like that cold, dreary day in 2003 when we laid our only son to rest in the frozen, dark earth, today is snowy and frigid. Thundershowers, freezing rain and high wind advisories are expected for later today, part of a crazy weather pattern that refuses to release its dreary grasp—not unlike grief itself.

The environmental chaos suits my reflective mood well.

It’s perfect for burrowing deep beneath cozy blankets with a steaming mug of ginger-peach tea to escape emails and burgeoning promotion demands to remember an amazing and much-loved child who made a difference in the lives of many, especially mine. The brilliant red cardinal that has come to represent Eric’s spiritual visits to me now sings sweetly outside my window, perched on branches heavy with virgin snow.

As Breakthrough Parenting takes its rightful place on bookstore shelves just three years after Eric’s death, my son’s powerful presence continues to embrace me gently.

There are those who refuse to believe that modern-day heroes exist, but I know better. For nearly thirteen years I had the honor of parenting a pint-sized hero housed in a body assaulted by the often harsh physical realities of cerebral palsy. My son was a wheelchair user who spoke few words. Eric couldn’t tie his own shoes, brush his teeth or dress himself. He never ran track, played basketball, carved his own pumpkin, or bolted downstairs on Christmas morning to grab his overflowing stocking.

Eric never asked, why me?

Yet, he could charm the heck out of strangers on any street, anywhere.

The 'Winnie the Pooh' balloon I gave my son on his last Valentine’s Day still sits in his deserted bedroom, refusing to deflate completely—a stark reminder of the last holiday we shared together. It’s a haunting reminder of the fragility of life and of how often we live our days selfishly, with reckless abandon and little regard for what fate has in store for us before the day’s end— much like a casino gambler with no regard for the rent now loudly screaming past due.

Unexpected loss is humbling; it blindsides you, leaving the dazed and wounded struggling to find renewed purpose in their lives. That’s a tough order for any bereaved mother to fill. My loss is ill fitting, but I move about in it anyway, and stumble often. Reminders of my son, along with my purpose for going on without him, are everywhere— in brightly colored folders filled with edited book proposals, detailed promotion plans, final chapter edits, and on-going marketing demands.

The author files have taken over my life, granting me a solid reason to keep breathing— my need to share Eric’s life to offer other families hope, validation and valuable parenting support. I owe my son’s remarkable legacy at least that much.

My big writer’s dreams of publication have now come true— but my loss is huge.

Eric was a bright, charismatic child with wise eyes, a megawatt smile and an infectious laugh. His diagnosis of cerebral palsy at birth drastically altered the course of my life. I chose to parent him as a child of value. Our lives were tremendously challenging at times, sheer magic at others.

Spending time in Eric’s presence became a gift.

The wounded child became the adored teacher; the disabled kid redefined ability; the child sensitive to touch and noise sat quietly in movie theaters; the infant who struggled to take his first breath became a confident student included in his neighborhood school.

At his death, Eric was composing music in his weekly music therapy classes, and exhibited a charming, sophisticated sense of humor. Disability didn’t define who Eric was, at least not in our home. Those who took the time required to connect with him beyond his disability were rewarded with lasting lessons about dignity, grace, determination, ability, and the value of individual differences.

Eric redefined the word charm.

My son will always be my greatest life teacher. So rather than sit mourning over my tough loss, I am instead moved today to celebrate Eric’s life, excited about what he has achieved through me as a result of the literary journey he helped select for me years ago.

It was Eric who first fueled my passion to write Breakthrough Parenting. We were the dynamic duo, committed to impacting positive societal change for children with special needs. We knew just how tough it was to walk the special needs parenting road. We fought hard for greater societal awareness and accessibility for those with special needs every single day. It was no easy feat.

Every time the bar of expectations for Eric was raised, he surpassed the goals.

Fortunately, Eric always knew his true value. As he approached the teen years, he became increasingly determined to use his life struggles and successes to help other children live better lives. We agreed that Breakthrough Parenting needed to be written.

I had no idea that I would be required to slice open a deep vein of fresh grief to meet my contractual obligations as an author—to write something worth reading by the world.

How appropriate it is that something so beautiful has risen from the still blazing embers of grief.

My son taught me the power one person holds to impact positive change. He taught me to be passionate about a just cause and to work hard to make seemingly impossible dreams come true. He taught me to treat others with respect, even when I had cause to do otherwise.

I wrote Breakthrough Parenting to help millions of children and families facing special needs lead better lives. I know this book can change lives. As you read my heartfelt words, and the insightful words of others who have walked the special needs path well, I hope you experience a bit of my son’s magic, too.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations is the ultimate tribute to a great modern-day hero— my son, Eric Richard Winter. This is his book, too.

Congratulations, RicStar! We did it, together...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Judy Winter's Fav Quotes Feb. 2006-May 2007

I'm in the process of a new Web-site redesign that will soon be up and running with cool new stuff. But that means some things currently on the site need to go. As a result, I'm relocating a few of the old highlights that I think you may still enjoy accessing to this blog, where they will live on and on and on....

Fact is, I'm terrible at making quick decisions about what needs to stay and what should go..... this is much easier on my brain!

Judy Winter's Favorite
Quote of the Month
February 2006-May 2007

May 2007

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
–Anais Nin


April 2007

"I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues."
–Duke Ellington


March 2007

"You're put on this planet to serve more than just yourself."
–Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm


February 2007

"It is not difficult to fill the hand of a child."
–African Proverb


January 2007

"Today, I act with resilient optimism."
–Julia Cameron


December 2006

"If one man's rights are denied, the rights of all are endangered."
–Robert F. Kennedy


November 2006

"Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable."
–Wendy Wasserstein


October 2006

"I am still learning."


September 2006

"Be courageous. It's one of the only places left uncrowded."
–Anita Roddick


August 2006

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
–Mahatma Gandhi


July 2006

"Some choices will choose you. How you face these choices... is what will define the context of your life."
–Dana Reeve


June 2006

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
–Theodore Roosevelt


May 2006

"To remain silent and indifferent is the
greatest sin of all."
–Elie Wiesel
Nobel Peace Prize Recipient
and Holocaust Survivor


April 2006

It is not who we meet along life’s highway
that matters, it is how we treat them.”
–Goldie Hawn


March 2006

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments: Tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.”
–Louis Pasteur


February 2006

"Anyone who has experienced something
is more expert in it than the experts."
–Gloria Steinam

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

On this quiet, gentle little holiday that somehow manages to survive between the glitz of Halloween and the commercialization that threatens the heart of Christmas, I'm pausing to reflect on my blessings, and like many of you, give thanks.

It has been an incredible year for me in many ways. Yet, I'm most thankful for the honor of still being able to serve as a spokesperson/advocate for a population of terrific kids that are too often undervalued, undersocialized and undereducated. I believe passionately in the value of each and everyone of these children, and in you, too. My amazing son, Eric, taught me well.

I am incredibly thankful that I will always be his mom.

What are you thankful for?
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, November 11, 2007

November is National Family Caregivers Month!

You may have been too busy caretaking to notice, but the President of the United States has again proclaimed November National Famiily Caregivers Month.

According to the National Family Caregivers Assocation (NFCA), this month "is designated as a time every year to thank, support, educate and celebrate more than 50 million family caregivers across the country currently providing an estimated $306 billion in "free" caregiving services."

Wow! We all know that families living with special needs give it all they've got each and every day, but those numbers are staggering. Family members often do what they do without enough time off, enough income or funding support, or any well-deserved kudos. Yet the gifts they provide their loved ones are truly priceless.

Where would we be as a country without these unselfish family members?

For more on caregivers support for your family, check out the NFCA web site:, and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation at

Taking care of youself goes a long way toward helping you care for others.

THANK YOU for all you do 24/7 to make life better for someone else!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Celebrating My Life as a Writer!

I'm about to embark on yet another hectic week of travel for in-studio media interviews, first to NYC for New Morning with Timberly Whitfield (Hallmark Channel), and Fox Radio News. Then I'm off to Chicago to chat again with Steve Cochran at WGN-AM. (more about those exciting adventures after the fact!).

I'm also throwing in a couple of extra days in Chicago to enjoy the annual Lighting of Michigan Avenue with my husband, daughter and her boyfriend. Hanging out with these two young people is one of my favorite things to do. Their creative young minds and contagious spirits always energize me!

I'm hoping the weekend's festivities will help me kick start my holiday season, because I've been stuck hard in summer mode thanks to an unusally warm Midwestern fall.

While packing for the upcoming week and trying to decide whether or not to pack my Uggs, I again found myself thinking about how much I love my work and traveling, which caused me to reflect on a question recently asked of me at a book signing.

"If you weren't a writer, what would you most like to do?"

My answer was quick and to the point. 'Sing professionally!'

I've always been envious of all those amazing humans who can open their mouths and effortlessly express powerful emotions by merging haunting melodies and meaningful lyrics. The enormous talent of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Josh Groban, Stevie Nicks, Celine Dion, the Eagles, and so many others, blesses our lives in sometimes dramatic ways.

Who doesn't love music?!

But then I remembered how powerful the written word is and that most writers are pretty cool people, too. So I tossed a quick prayer of thanks high into the heavens for the gift of being able to interweave words and facts to tell an inspiring story well. Then, I expanded on my initial gut response.

'American Idol fame may never be mine to claim, but I'm okay with that now. Because I'm doing exactly what I was put here to do-- and sometimes, if I get all the words just right, I might help enlighten others by creating greater awareness about the value of differences, and dash some terribly outdated stereotypes, and maybe even change a child's life.' (She asked)!!

Now I like to tell people that I sing with words, and that kind of performing suits this rambling writer just fine.

Have a great week, and sing out to your heart's contentment! Because that's what showers and loud background music are for...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Buying Toys & Facing Holiday Grief

The frantic holiday season is upon us, and with it comes a tad of holiday stress. Are you feeling it yet? Here are two great resources to help reduce that anxiety, and heighten the joy and magic of this wondrous season.


When it comes to choosing a gift for kids with special needs, most people have no clue as to what's appropriate. That uncertainty contributes to additional familiy stress that leads to hurt feelings and major disappointments, especially for the child receiving gifts that are neither skill-level nor age appropriate (not to mention no fun). No matter how well intentioned, poor gift selection for a child with special needs hurts.

Key Tip: Reserve baby toys and baby talk for babies!

But thanks to retail toy giant Toys 'r Us, who has again produced its terrific annual Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids ('a toy selection guide 'for parents and friends of children with disabilities'), you're off the hook! They've done much of the special needs research required for gift-giving success for you.

By partnering with the National Lekotek Center ( in Chicago, (which includes a helpful 'Top Ten Tips for Buying Toys' on its website), the retail toy giant is again helping ensure that the holiday toy wishes of kids with special needs come true, too. The 2007 guide features spokesperson and First Lady of California Maria Shriver, on its cover. It is available now at Toys 'r Us stores nationwide and can be downloaded at:

As Maria Shriver states in her letter of guide introduction: "These toys help to empower differently-abled kids, encouraging them with a 'can-do' attitude in a world that too often assumes they cannot."

Amen, sister!

Kudos, and extra peppermint fudge, to Toys 'r Us and the National Lekotek Center for creating such a great gift for kids with special needs! Wish I could see all the satisfied grins on the faces of kids with special needs on Christmas morning. No more excuses for poor gift selections for these terrific kids, yea!

But I can't help you with grandma and grandpa...


Facing grief presents a much bigger holiday challenge than finding the perfect gift. For those mourning the passing of a loved one, this season can be especially brutal. Most of the messages at this time of year focus on warm fuzzies, sacred family traditions, noisy celebrations, sinful homemade treats, family movies, and perfectly adorned gifts.

For those endurring great loss, the promise of these often unattainable Hallmark moments can make the holidays excruciatingly painful.

Four years after my son's death, I still find the seasonal terrain a bit rocky to travel. But I've learned how to incorporate my huge loss into the festivities by being selective about how I spend my time, energy and money. Plus, I prioritize quiet time to honor my loss and reflect on my son's too-short life. I remember all too clearly that first holiday season after Eric's death. It went way beyond tough.

I feel fortunate to share a great resource with you that has helped me walk through the minefields of past holiday seasons. 'A Decembered Grief: Living with Loss While Others are Celebrating' by Harold Ivan Smith interweaves quotes and scripture to help others more successfully navigate this season of wonder amid loss. A companion journal allows readers to record their individual thoughts and memories, as they work toward reclaiming new lives. I'm sure I'll pull the book out again this year, too.

It is both comforting and healing to have an understanding friend along on such a difficult seasonal journey...

My hope is that both resources brighten your holidays.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Judy Winter's Fav Quote of the Month- November 2007


"The world is meant to be savored. It is filled with exquisite delights."
-julia cameron

Most appropriate given the seasonal bounty of blessings.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, October 29, 2007

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Today Released Ground-Breaking Reports on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

In yet another giant move forward in the push for identifying and treating autism, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) today released the findings of two ground-breaking reports on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The first report is designed to help pediatricians (and families) identify and manage ASD much earlier in a child's life. The second report addresses the management and education of children with ASD and stresses the critical importance of accessing early intervention services and programs.

To read the details of these important findings, visit the following AAP link:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Saturday, October 27, 2007

National Make a Difference Day!

Today is National Make-a-Difference Day!

This popular and important yearly event held on the fourth Saturday of October is designed to get us outside of ourselves and into addressing community needs. It's a great idea and many worthy organizations and individuals benefit from the creative actions of this day.

But I also believe strongly that one person can take part in this day's mission without taking on a big event or looking beyond his/her own backyard. Given the limited time and energy, not to mention the challenges facing so many families of children with special needs, why not honor this day by taking action that makes a difference in your own home?

Start by celebrating what is cool about your kids.

Spend time with all your children, and focus on what is right with them and with your life. Watch a movie together, look at photo albums and share your fondest family moments. Give your kids the opportunity to talk about what family means to them, and don't censor their words. Instead, encourage them to speak openly about the most challenging times they have faced. Ask them what positive lessons they have learned from these moments.

Make sure you share lots of hugs and kisses. Say 'I love you often!'. Let the dirty laundry and messy bedrooms and special needs advocacy slide for another day and instead, use the time for fun. Make pizzas and cookies together, or rake leaves and pile into them. Continue the family magic with steaming hot chocolate and marshmallows or popcorn and other favorite snacks. Include all of your children in the activities wherever possible. Sing silly songs and read favorite stories. Have a slumber party complete with flannel pjs' and slippers before the fireplace!

Laugh often!

A few hours spent honoring all that is good about your children, and your life, will go a long way toward making a difference in your challenging parenting world in the week to come- while adding needed smiles to everyone's face (great for stress release and good health!).

Having fun is something that too often gets buried under the tough realities of special needs parenting demands. Today, your challenge is to put fun back into your life and into the lives of your children. These are the moments that they will remember most fondly, and so will you.

Simplistic, perhaps, but what have you got to lose by trying to take a break from all the serious stuff to have a little fun for a change?

Afterall, charity really does begin at home...

You can find out more about National Make-a-Difference Day at:
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Need: Raising the Bar of Expectations

WGN-Chicago Interview Rescheduled

My interview with Steve Cochran of WGN-Chicago ( has been rescheduled to Monday, Oct. 29th at 7:38 p.m. ET. Hope you can listen in as we discuss the important role played by siblings in families facing special needs

Sibs are my heroes!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Casting Call for Baby with Down Syndrome for Lifetime Movie!

This is an exciting possibility for a family of a baby with Down syndrome to find their little darling cast in a major tv movie for the Lifetime Channel!!

This request also shows how far we have come when a major tv producer is looking to both cover this subject and cast a person with a disability, not just an actor playing a role. Please help me spread the word on this cool request from my good friend Gail Williamson, ex. dir of the Down Syndrome Assoc of Los Angeles! She has been the key voice/advocate in helping actors with special needs find employment, and in educating the industry about the value and importance of doing so.

Gail Williamson rocks- and so does this opportunity.
Just don't go turning into a nightmare stage mom or dad, okay?

From: Gail:

Please help me out and forward this email to anyone you know anywhere in the US and Canada that might have contact with a brand new Caucasian baby girl who has Down syndrome.

The book “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” is being made into a film for the Lifetime Channel. It is shooting in Nova Scotia in November. They are looking for a baby girl born in October 2007 to appear in the film as the new born Phoebe. They only found one baby with DS born in Nova Scotia in 2007 and she is 6 months old. In Canada it is a law to screen every expectant mother for DS not just a guideline, scary isn’t it?

I need to hear from any parent of a newborn who might want the opportunity for their little one to work in Nova Scotia in November 2007. I would also consider older babies weighing under 8 lbs. I know from my son Blair being a preemie he didn’t hit 8 lbs until he was about 4 months old.

I have an agent that would negotiate all the details making sure to get appropriate pay and travel for the family. Please have anyone interested contact me at the DSALA office at 818-242-7871 or they can reach me by email at

Thank you for helping me with this search, and watch for the film on Lifetime next spring.

Gail Williamson
Executive Director
Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, Inc.
315 Arden Avenue, Suite 25
Glendale, CA 91304
818-242-7871 voice
818-242-7819 fax
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Catch Judy Winter on the Steve Cochran Show WGN-AM Chicago

You can catch my interview about the valuable role of the siblings of brothers and sisters with special needs on the Steve Cochran Show on WGN-AM Chicago on Tuesday, October 23rd at 5:38 p.m. ET.

I love Steve Cochran, Chicago's deep-dish pizza, and those remarkable special needs sibs!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Blog Action Day!

I can't believe that I actually missed Blog Action Day, which was yesterday, October 15th! Better late than never!

The day was designed to encourage mass blogging on one critical topic- the environment. With 15,000 blogs and 12 million readers, that's a great way to distribute good press to a deserving topic that impacts us all!

In honor of that day, here's my entry:

Congratulations to Al Gore Jr. and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC) on being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

Per The award is given "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

I admit I sleep better knowing that Al Gore is relentless in his efforts to save our planet, while sharing simple ways that we can all contribute to needed solutions. Go Green!

Well deserved, Mr. Vice President!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Judy Winter's Fav Quote of the Month-October 2007

Those of you familiar with my website, know that until recently, I've shared my favorite monthly quotes with you there. I'm now continuing that practice right here on my blog. I hope the insightful wisdom shared by others inspires you as much as it does me.

Feel free to send along your favorites and I'll try to include them. The words we run through our brains each day are mighty powerful. Choose wisely!


"What we need is more people who believe in the impossible."
-theodore roethke

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Introducing the Question: DO YOU EVER WONDER WHY?...

I'm introducing a new monthly comment on my blog. I'll try to do my best to update it more frequently if the muse proves willing, awake, active and I'm not out-of-town doing a book signing or media interview!

Consider these musings my simple attempt to add a bit of humor to help balance out all the dicey, not-so-funny world news circulating around out there.

(Note: as a journalist, it's important that I remain ever observant of what's happening around me, or so I've been told. It's supposed to make me a better writer. I like to think that it does. Plus, I'm really nosy- both a curse and a blessing).

I'm calling this new rambling: DO YOU EVER WONDER WHY?... simple words easily understood by the masses, followed by examples of exceptional life moments that either deserve an answer or defy any possible sane explanation. You decide which take works for you each time, then comment freely, including around the water cooler, or while you're getting dinner on the table. You can even e-mail me your own ramblings to include here! But please, keep them clean.

Some people think it's okay to invade your privacy (and their own!) by having cell-phone conversations in public bathroom stalls?!?!?!

Does anyone really want to hear what's going on in there, and are people offended when I chime in 'cause I think they're talking to me?

Just asking...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Updating My Website

Heads up to all those visitors to my website who have noticed that a few things on my site need updating! You're right on! Fact is, I'm in the process of a new website redesign with my creative team, so I've been holding back on additions/deletions until then. In the meantime,I'll try to keep you up to date and current (including fav resources, news, media, etc) here on my blog, which is much easier and much less expensive to update! Stayed tuned for new great changes to come! I promise they'll be worth the wait (hear that promise dear creative team? No pressure there)!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Sandwich Kid- A Great New Film about Siblings in Special Needs Families

I am honored to be featured in the just-released film 'The Sandwich Kid,' about the lives of siblings of kids with special needs. This timely and powerful film is produced by Keri Bowers and her son Jace (, whose older brother Taylor has autism. Taylor is a talented filmaker whose first film with his mom entitled 'Normal People Scare Me,' has already won rave reviews.

You can see a ten-minute promo of 'The Sandwich Kid' by visiting You Tube: The film is available for purchase (as is 'Normal People Scare Me') at

Please pass this info on to everyone you know! The film isn't just for those facing special needs, it is a great tool to help build greater awareness of and sensitivity for the special needs population, while giving my heroes- the sibs in special needs families- a well-deserved voice. We are all richer because of the efforts of this talented filmaker family.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Jenny McCarthy & Autism

I promised to blog about my take on Jenny McCarthy's recent media appearances to discuss her book and her son's autism, from which she now declares him recovered. I've waited a while to comment on this because I wanted to catch more than one interview before forming an opinion. Plus, I needed to let the dust and my thoughts, settle first.

In a nutshell, here's my take.

Through her celebrity status, Jenny McCarthy brings tremendous awareness to this topic. God bless her for that!

Her celebrity allows helps her open doors to major media that most parents/authors/advocates only dream of. But I am concerned by the renewed focus on 'curing' children with special needs and/or 'recovery' and how such terminology may be interpreted by others.

I am not alone in my concern. In spirited conversations I have had with people since Jenny's appearance on Oprah and Larry King Live (among others), I've heard such concern repeated often.

This e-mail came to me from Lisa, a mom of a child with special needs:

"I want to comment about Jenny McCarthy on Oprah. In my opinion, she focused too much on curing the child. She did qualify her statements by saying that the treatments may not work for everyone. But I still thought the focus could have been more on how she adjusted to the diagnosis and maybe given more emphasis to good educational programs and giving attention to the many foundations set up to help children with special needs. I wish Oprah would have a show with mothers of all types of special needs. This way everyone will have someone that he or she can relate to."-- Lisa G, M.S.,CCC-SLP

Well said, Lisa.

We should also remember that Jenny McCarthy's son is still very young, and while I am thrilled for both of them at his apparent progress (as well as for the hope she's providing millions of other families), I can't help but wonder what future challenges this child and mom may still face, especially during the challenging school years.

Is he really as saved from this diagnosis as she now believes? And if not, then what?

I also find it interesting that high functioning Asperger's syndrome has not even been addressed in any of the author's lengthy interviews (partly because the interviewers are probably not fulled versed on their subject matter either). My belief is that the interviews Jenny has given have been far too limiting given the complexity of the topic.

Still, one can clearly hear the loud sigh of relief from millions of frightened parents hoping beyond hope that Ms. McCarthy is the new autism Messiah who's right on with her story of courage and hope and yes, recovery.

Are these families being well served? Or is it far too early, and misleading, to call Jenny's son 'cured,' even recovered, and is it important that we do so? Or are we again in danger of perpetuating stereotypes that there is something wrong with these children and because they have a disability they need fixing? Could we better spend valuable media time and discussion talking about how to best address having a child who struggles in any way in all its richness and complexity?

One thing these discussions make clear, the research for a cause(s) and potential cures for autism must continue. Families are struggling and they need and deserve both answers and support.

Which brings me to my own hope that the millions of families whose attention Ms. McCarthy has now commanded will not forgo other important early intervention programs and services and limit themselves soley to what are still unproven treatments for autism. Such a decision could cost some children valuable time and developmental gains they cannot get back later. Early intervention is critical to these children, as it is for many children with a wide range of special needs. I know without a doubt that it made the difference in my own son's life.

I believe a more valuable approach to addressing autism would be a discussion that opens up the possibility of new treatment and causes, in conjunction with the use of proven programs/services.

Jenny McCarthy's emotion and deep love for her son have clearly played a key role in his developmental success, something which drives home my belief in the power of a parent's love to move developmental mountains! Kudos to her for her example.

But I also believe she must become better educated about the definition of autism itself (a definition she struggled with when asked on Larry King Live), as well as challenges facing the disability community, if she is to continue to speak effectively to the topic given the sacred platform to which she has now committed herself as a spokesperson and advocate.

Self education goes with the media blitz & advocacy territory that comes with being an effective spokesperson for any important social cause. Those of us who have been doing this work for years understand the demand well. Unfortunately, with it's focus increasingly on celebrity guests, the media often loses sight of this.

I've been writing, speaking and advocating on special needs topics for nearly twenty years. It's a complex discussion not given to easy answers or simplistic solutions, especially as it involves autism. Ms. McCarthy has helped open the door to valuable discussion. My hope now is that the media will look past her celebrity and expand this discussion to include the voices of parents who have walked this road as long-term advocates and spokespersons.

Perhaps then we will be able to share with other not only the hopeful emotion and love that this mom in particular speaks to well, but also the needed facts and resources about a wide range of disabilty. The challenges facing these families are often universal, but too rarely discussed when we focus soley on one disabilty. There is power in numbers...and disabilty numbers are huge.

Jenny has been given an amazing opportunity to inform and educate the public. She must be prepared to do justice to that role, or risk having her valuable story and experiences easily dismissed as little more than an emotional mother who is not facing the reality of her son's diagnosis (an argument most parents have heard against their hopeful declarations at one time or another!). I admit that too often I found her answers a combination of clear relief at her son's progress, a mother's mountain-moving passion, and well, Jenny McCarthy being Jenny McCarthy on camera.

I wish this loving mom and her son the very best in the future, and hope Jenny continues to bring awareness to a difficult and frustrating diagnosis. I also hope that her son continues to thrive while serving as an inspiring example of what is possible for other children. I applaud this gutsy, famous mom for what she is doing with her talent and celebrity, and for fearlessly addressing special needs- no easy feat when you live in La La Land, where human perfection too often determines human value.

(One footnote: I am impressed with Holly Robinson Peete and look forward to hearing more from her).
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jenny McCarthy & Holly Robinson Peete on Oprah Tuesday, Sept. 18th

Just a heads up to those of you who want to catch Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete's discussion about their children's autism on Oprah. The program airs tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 18th.

McCarthy is no doubt making the major media rounds with the release of her new book Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Austim. The book is already #1 in special needs titles on and I would not be at all surprised to see it hit #1 in overall titles after the Oprah appearance. That's the kind of exposure to a cause that celebrity (and Oprah!) can bring, and such exposure can be great for awareness and understanding of the diagnosis, if it is handle well.

Like many of you, I will be watching the program closely, curious to see what the hour's focus will be, and hoping that it isn't so much about 'fixing' children, as it is on how to best accept such a diagnosis while working to give your child every opportunity for life success, regardless of the challenges presented.

Autism is an especially challenging diagnosis for many families. Let's hope this hour is time well spent and that it proves of value to the millions of families who tune in searching for needed support for their children, and for themselves.

I'll blog more on this after the program airs.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Friday, August 24, 2007

LETTER TO ERIC- Back to School Inspiration for Parents of Kids with Special Needs

It's that time of year again when back-to-school advice is everywhere you turn.

If you check out my previous blog, you'll see that I've added my strong voice to this discussion as well. But getting ready for school is about more than new backpacks and jeans and IEPs and figuring out how to work with brand new team members. It's also about attitude adjustments and big parenting dreams.

This is often a highly emotional time, especially for families of children with special needs. It's a time when guards are up, and a parent's expectations are often questioned by others who may have never met their children, yet act as if they already know all about them and their future outcomes.

Not all back-to-school needs can be met at Wal Mart.

So I've pulled a sacred letter from my writing archives to provide you with some back-to-school inspiration to help calm some of those frayed nerves that might be working overtime right about now. It's a letter I wrote my son as he left the safety of our family nest to test his fragile wings at his neighborhood school in 1995.

Talk about an unnerving time...

Instead, it turned out to be the beginning of a challenging and rich journey filled with life lessons that remain deep in my heart and soul today, powerful experiences that continue to fuel my work as a writer/speaker/advocate. They have molded me into the person I am today, someone of whom I hope Eric is proud.

Unfortunately, my son passed away in 2003 at 12, ending our back-to-school adventures. But every Fall, I feel Eric's special presence, smell his sweet hair, see his enchanting smile, and remember with deep love and gratitude the back-to-school adventures that we took together. They turned out to be the adventures of a lifetime.

May these heartfelt words of one mother inspire you in much the same way as they continue to touch me. Perhaps you'll even be moved to begin your own letter-writing tradition. I highly recommend that you do just that.

Now, please pass the Kleenex......and have a wonderful first day of school!

August 28, 1995

Dear Eric:

Today, as you begin kindergarten, I’m writing you a letter, a tradition I began with your big sister, Jenna, seven years ago.

The first day of school is a fall rite of passage, like brilliantly changing leaves, crisp evening air and earlier bedtimes. For our family, it also represents hard-won success. Some professionals believed the physical challenges of cerebral palsy would prevent you from learning in a regular school environment. Armed with cold, hard statistics, they warned of a life of segregation. But our family doesn’t bank on statistics. We invest in the human stuff, like love, faith and hard work.

We chose a different road.

From the moment you first dramatically graced our lives, we’ve focused on your ability. In turn, you have exhibited a spirit of survival that astounds me. We’ve endured too many moments of grief and ignorance. Yet, what I remember most is your first smile and giggle, your first word and your success at a regular preschool.

You are a wise and handsome child, with inquisitive brown eyes that miss nothing. Much of your ability to positively impact others has come from their first impressions of you as a cute child. Your long and lanky frame holds just thirty hard-won pounds, but you are far from being a lightweight in this life. There have been critical hospital stays, invasive procedures and moments when your life was in peril. But today, we celebrate school and a powerful lesson in letting go.

Today, our family is no different.

In your back-to-school outfit of GAP overalls, white Mickey-Mouse T-shirt and black Oshkosh shoes, you charm me. But there will be challenges. The ground we tread is fresh, presenting a challenge to those uncomfortable with inclusion, a word promising equal educational opportunities for all children. Some people won’t understand our fight and won’t want too. Yet, other educators will also teach from their hearts.

This will be a year of new challenges. When people assume physical challenges include mental impairment, you’ll be the first to forgive. I pray that others in this new world take time to discover how gifted and talented you really are. I want to meet the new friends willing to look past your wheelchair and into your eyes—and into your soul. I eagerly await book fairs, walking down school hallways and making red finger Jell-O at Christmas.

As your special bus disappears from sight, I’m a wreck. In a rare moment, I doubt. Are you ready? Am I ready? Your bus is equipped for wheelchairs and separates you from your able-bodied classmates. Someday, that too must change.

You grin at me through the tinted bus window. You are more ready than I am.

As the bright, yellow school bus disappears from sight, as its larger version did with Jenna many memories ago, I’m overcome with emotion. Safely inside, I release the tears of far too many harsh moments spent in the presence of people wrongly judging your value. But my tears of frustration and anger give way to unconditional love for the wise little soul who has become my greatest life teacher.

You are much wiser than most.

As you begin this new journey, son, you must continue to grow increasingly independent, just like other children. But I promise that dad and I will be right beside you ready to dry your tears on the roughest days, and thrilled to champion the dreams that others will try to tarnish.

Forgive them.

On this exceptional day, words can only begin to express what I feel in my heart, Eric Richard Winter. Thank you for coming into my life and teaching me more than I ever thought I had to learn. I’m incredibly proud to be your mom.

With much love always,


p.s. Have a wonderful first day in kindergarten!!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, August 13, 2007

QUICK TIPS for Back to School & Special Needs Students!

I can't believe that summer is almost over, but with the back-to-school media and retail blitz beginning in earnest, it must be true! So, I'm coming in from the beach briefly to give you my seasonal input on this important subject- I can't completely let go of the summer sand, surf and blazing sun quite yet....even if it has been too darn hot and humid!

Global warming anyone?

We all know we shouldn’t judge others based solely on outward appearances and physical beauty, right? But fact is, in today’s celebrity obsessed universe, looks do matter more than ever before— especially when trying to lay claim to a coveted place in those unnerving and rigid school social hierarchies, including at the lunchroom table!

Remember some of those awkward moments and the guts it took just to show up, much less eat the food???

Navigating school social systems can be tough reality for kids with special needs at greater risk for teasing and bullying because of their differences. The social challenges facing these students hoping to fit it with their peers can make the annual rite of back-to-school preparation extra important.

So here are five simple back-to-school tips for parents to help get their children with special needs off to a great school year start—allowing them to navigate the often unnerving school hallways with a tad more confidence:

•Get your child a good haircut in a current style.

•Go back-to-school shopping with your child and allow him/her to select a cool backpack, the necessary school supplies, and their clothing.

•Outfit your child in stylish, up-to-date clothes and include a sharp new first-day-of-school outfit. If your budget is of concern, shop discount stores, sale racks, second-hand shops and garage sales in upscale neighborhoods. Make preparing for the school year FUN for both of you!

•Pay close attention to your child’s personal grooming every single day—that includes clean hair, clean body, and clean clothes.

•To help reduce stress and alleviate those first-day jitters, visit your child’s school before the school year begins and allow him/her to meet their teacher, principal and bus driver. Talk about the first day of school in advance.

Also, as most of you know by now,the choices made by parents of children with special needs are often the key to determining that child’s educational— and life success.

Here are five tips to help parents become increasingly empowered and effective child advocates:

•Believe in your child’s value—no matter what!

•Believe in your child’s right to an appropriate education, and to their right to attend their neighborhood school whenever possible.

•Check your child’s school file to make sure that the information included is accurate, up-to-date and appropriate. If it’s not, take further action.

•Foster your child’s growing need for independence; don’t further disabled your child—enable him or her!

•Educate yourself about your child’s needs and their educational rights under the law. It’s tough to advocate effectively without such knowledge.

Now, I've got to go get the sand out of my ear....

For these tips and more for families of children with special needs, check out my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations (Jossey Bass/Wiley Publishers, copyright 2006), or visit

Monday, July 16, 2007

2007 Maui Writers Conference

Attention all you writers and wanna be authors out there!

There's still time to sign up for the Maui Writers Conference retreat and/or conference held Labor Day weekend. According to the official MWC website, New York Times bestselling author John Saul calls this 'simply the best writing conference in the world.'

Lots of other talented and accomplished people in the writing/publishing world seem to agree. The organizers are especially skilled at attracting accomplished, and yes, even famous individuals representing a wide range of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriting, publishing, etc.

Access to top agents and publishers (for a fee) is always a big draw, making it easy for starry eyed writers to get caught up in the intoxication of an exciting, face-to-face career opportunity. It may help lessen the sting of rejection if you understand upfront that few writers will leave with an agent or book deal in hand. Fact is, many writers and their works may not be ready yet. Still, the opportunity to get top-notch professional feedback on your work is priceless, and yes, it can be life changing for some. My advice is to listen carefully to professional feedback that can help make your work even stronger and increasingly marketable.

The MWC has been especially good to me, and I've always had a fantastic time while attending, especially once I've learned to slow down the pace (it's way too hot to multi task there, something the locals discourage anyway!). True, I found my agent at the MWC and a book deal soon followed. But I have also benefited from many terrific sessions and outstanding guest speakers. In addition, the professional comaraderie shared easily among the writers in attendance pays off handsomely in lingering professional inspiration (and valuable contacts) throughout the year. I have also formed some cherished, lasting friendships.

Unfortunately, a previous commitment will keep me away from the enchanting Island this year. But I will be in Maui in spirit. Once you have gone, it's hard not to remember the experience fondly.

The MWC is a motivating, inspiring, at times electric experience that improves each year, one worthy of the investment. It's an event I highly recommend, and the views alone are pure inspiration! You can find out more at

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all you terrific dads out there in parenting land!

While we too often overlook the critical role dads play in healthy families, I hope you never underestimate the power of your parenting role. Kids needs their moms and their dads in their lives.

If you are a dad who isn't involved in your child's life in meaningful and loving ways, maybe it's time to do a gut check and reevaluate your priorities. A child's welfare, and their future, is the responsibility of both parents.

To those of you dads who give it all you've got every day, you deserve to enjoy today's recognition and thanks. The rewards of your efforts are priceless. Enjoy them.

Have a blessed day!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wall Street Journal Infiniti Ad

For those who are interested, feel free to check out my profile in the Infiniti ad campaign that appears on page A3 of today's Wall Street Journal. I think the creative team did a terrific job of capturing what I do and why I do it in the space allowed. (Although, there is no way I'm complaining about being included in a one-half page ad in this outstanding newspaper!). Here's hoping this terrific exposure creates even greater awareness of this important topic and population, one that needs to be covered more often and in greater depth by the mainstream media.

If you don't have your own copy of the WSJ, note that I will put up the direct link to the ad once I have it.

Huge thanks to Infiniti and its creative team/agency for recognizing the value of what I do, and for sharing a part of my story in their cool weekly ad campaign.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shrek the Third Missed the Mark

Okay, I admit that I went to see Shrek the Third this weekend, even though I don't have any young children, and I know that it knocked Spideyman from his skyscraper perch because the entertainment news is all over that reality.

But I don't get what the fuss is all about. I'm not trying to be an ogre with a bad attitude, but I went to see this movie to be entertained. I expected to laugh loudly along with all those adorable chatty kids in the theater, especially the curly haired little cutie sitting next to me who asked boldly what I was doing sitting next to her daddy?! I assured her I was only there to see Shrek!

I was expecting the easy laughs that came with the first two movies, laughter that made me leave the theater still smiling and feeling fine. But this time, not so much laughter or enough movie-goer satisfaction. My husband and I agreed just a short time into the plot that this was going to be a long movie...and we should have visited the restrooms first!

As a writer, I found the writing tired, the plot repetitive, and the jokes too few and far between. What happened to all the great humor relief provided by Donkey and Puss 'N Boots in the first two installments? Why did they save this winning duo's best work for the closing credits- a highlight of the movie?!! Give me more cat and donkey interaction and less ogre, please!

If you're looking for a fairly harmless movie to take your kids to, especially if you like noisy movie theaters so you don't have to worry so much about keeping your child quiet (I remember having that concern many times when my son was young and noise/touch sensitive!), then go see it. But you might want to leave your great expectations at home.

Unless the writers get their creative mojo back on track, Shrek may have run it's magical course.

But that's just my humble opinion...
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs Raising the Bar of Expectations

Parent Letters

Huge and long-overdue thanks to all you terrific moms and dads and other assorted family members who have written me during the past year to tell me how my book is changing your lives, and the lives of your children.

One of the best parts of my work is connecting with other parents all over the country. I wrote this work for you, so it's been a blast connecting with so many of you these past months. I've listened to your heartfelt stories in major cities and the suburbs, in neighborhood cafes and airports, in television and radio stations as I prepared to be interviewed, and even in bookstore bathrooms!

We've shared tissues and tears and laughter and big hugs. Your words of struggle and success have touched me deeply, and provided me with the kind of powerful inspiration and motivation that allows me to continue my passionate work in light of my son's death.

Too many times your heartfelt words have reminded that as a nation, we have a long way to go to better serve this important population and their dedicated, often overwhelmed families. Like many of you, I'm doing what I can to help change that harsh reality. There is more than enough work to go around. Take on the piece that you can.

One amazing reality has become incredibly clear to me: There are lots of good folks taking on the challenges of special needs parenting with no experience or training, and doing so with remarkable determination and guts, and a whole lot of love for their children, no matter how tough the challenges those children present. I salute each and every one of you for the battles you take on each day for your children, especially when those demands go way beyond just being tough.

As I take a bit of breather and lighten up my travel schedule this summer to recover from the hectic pace of the past year (and to work on my tan!) I will be sharing some of your thoughts, including about my book. Thanks to those who have already shared their words and their permission.

If you want a forum to share your special needs parenting successes and topics for discussion, please email me through the form on my website, but no attachments, please. I won't open them. Put your message/photos in the body of the email. I'll do my best to share your words in the hope they will support others in their daily special needs challenges. You will increase your chances of seeing your wisdom appear in print if you stay brief and concise in your emails.

In the meantime, stay strong and focused. Keep laughing!
And give your child an extra big hug for me.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Belated Happy Mother's Day

Dear Moms!

Forgive me!

I meant to say Happy Mother's Day to all of you yesterday on what was the official day of celebration. But my own celebrating got in the way!

So here is my slightly late tribute to all those hard-working moms, especially those who take on the challenges of addressing a child's special needs. What an amazing bunch of worker bees you are-- too often underappreciated and undervalued, and certainly underpaid. Yet what you do each day is critically important to the healthy growth and development of the world's children.

It's a mighty big job, with big responsibilities. You must endure the sometimes harsh judgement by others certain that the job could have/should have been done better. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart...especially when your child has special needs.

As I've traveled the country extensively the past year promoting my book, I have been honored and blessed to meet some of the most amazing women. They are passionate, gutsy moms who are facing their children's challenges head with deep love and amazing determination. I believe that mothers who work hard to raise their children with (or without) special needs to feel loved, valued and a true part of this world are the best moms that anyone will find anywhere. They inspire me. Some even make it look super easy. You and I know darn well that it's anything but.

Well-deserved kudos for a job well done can be tough to come by much of the year, making Mother's Day extra special. My own mother passed away just a few months after my son was born. Talk about lousy timing... There were so many moments during those early parenting challenges that I could have used her support and wisdom. Still could.

Many years have come and gone, but I still miss my mom. There's nothing quite like having a loving, supportive, and good smelling mommy in your corner, especially when life takes a particularly tough, unexpected (even stinky) life turn. If mom's a good cook, that's even better! Try hard never to take your mom for granted. Savor all her hugs and kisses and unwarranted advice, and her cooking (for better or worse), while she's still here. Because a mother's absence, and the resulting loud silence, may be realized much sooner than you expect, and you can never change that harsh reality.

My hat's off to each and everyone of you for the demanding, sacred role that you play in the lives of your children each day. My applause might be a day late, but then I believe moms should be recognized and celebrated every single day for the remarkable parenting loads they carry so well. Rather than being late, consider my words a well-deserved extension of yesterday's all-too-short celebration!

Huge thanks for all you do, because Moms Rock!

Happy Mother's Day!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Autism & Aspergers w/Peter Finch KFOG

I'm back from a terrific San Francisco campaign, and still playing catch up! I will blog more about those incredible experiences, and some other important recent world events, soon.

Today, I want to share with you a terrific program on Autism & Asperger's Syndrome hosted/produced by Peter Finch of KFOG. Peter is a popular radio personality in the Bay Area who has an 18-year-old son with Asperger's. He's been doing a terrific job of supporting and covering this topic in the media and in his community for some time. Peter is helping create priceless awareness of special needs, especially about ASD.

That's parent & dad power at work!

Peter's program, The Beat of the Bay, aired this morning and it includes an interview with me. But that is just one part of what I find to be an informative, energizing program on the challenges of ASD and special needs parenting. I know I learned some exciting new things. I think it's worth a listen. Here's the link (click on: May 5th/Autism and Aspergers)

You can also view my appearance on the popular new San Francisco Show (simulcast on internet worldwide) The View from the Bay with Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang, two terrific hosts! Here's that link!

I'll be blogging more on all that other news soon.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If this is Spring, it must be IEPT time!

For many families, Spring brings with it the promise of increasing daylight hours, blooming flowers, fun outdoor activities, and thoughts of summer vacations-- and yes, an abundance of those pesky Individualized Education Program Team (IEPT) meetings that help state your child's goals and objectives and services for the next school year. (Sorry to sneak in the IEP with all that fun family stuff!).

The reality is that IEPs are often unnerving and frustrating events, even for the most well-prepared families. So here are five key tips to help you make the process a little less stressful, and increasingly productive. You can find more in my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs:Raising the Bar of Expectations.

Sometimes, the simplest actions can make you feel more empowered and effective!

First, you must believe in your child's value and their right to appropriate educational opportunities before ever setting foot in that meeting. Everything else stems from embracing this belief in your child. It will make you fearless. Do a gut check- what do you want for your child?

Educate yourself about the IEP process.
Do your homework before the meeting and answer the following questions: What exactly is an IEP? How important is it to your child? What does it include? What is your role in the process? How does the law support your child's educational needs? How does it all work? Several good resources can help you do just that, including:

Dress Professionally and Be on Time!
Listen without interrupting. Use good eye contact and sit up straight. Avoid profanity and threatening behaviors that escalate tension and do little if anything to help your child get what they need. Taking the high road can help you feel increasingly confident and competent in what is often an emotionally charged atmosphere. It may earn you more respect and support- and yes, even results. Look and act like the important team member that you are!

Use children-first language and request that others do the same. Don't allow others to define your child by disability or use limiting, negative labels and language to discuss him/her. Don't ignore your child's needs, but ask that all present address those needs in more positive, productive ways that focus on solutions, not problems. No child's potential should be limited because of negative perceptions from inappropriate or excessive use of labels.

Include your child in the IEPT meeting. They have a right to be there. It is their life everyone is discussing afterall.

Debrief after the meeting.
These meetings can take your breath away- and not in a good way! Adenaline is pumping and stress levels are high, no matter how well it all seemed to go. Take time to refuel and recover by doing something fun. Go out for pizza, take a walk, watch funny movies, or read your child his/her favorite story. End your day with some much-needed balance.

One final note: Never skip out on your child's IEPT meetings! If you don't care enough to advocate for your child's best future, and yours, why should anyone else? Make a better choice- one worthy of your child!

Remember: You are your child's first and most important teacher-and not just for a school year, but for life.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Today is National Sibling Day 2007

Did you know that today is National Sibling Day?

That presents a great opportunity for families to recognize and celebrate the important sibling bond, especially in families with special needs. Perhaps in no other family is the sibling bond so incedibly challenged, yet so remarkably rewarding. The emotional and physical challenges these brothers and sisters face together often build a rock-solid bond and fierce loyalty that is too rarely understood by the rest of the world. It's often an inspiring bond to witness.

Take some time today to check in with all of the sibs in your household and talk about the gifts that come from the special sibling bond, regardless of the daily challenges presented. Perhaps this is a great time to open up that honest discussion, too.

Siblings in families living with special needs are my heroes. Today, I salute their valuable, life-changing roles!

They serve as a much-needed example to all of us.

For more information about siblings and special needs, including SIBSHOPS visit: The Sibling Support Project of the ARC of the United States, at
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Congratulations to NCAA Champs the MSU Hockey Team!

Congratulations to the Michigan State Spartans who got themselves a shiny new 2007 NCAA title! No, not in football, not in basketball (men's or women's) but for HOCKEY! Who would have thunk it????

Kudos to my Spartans who beat Boston College 3-1 last night.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Easter 2007

One of the things I love most about Easter, (besides decadent chocolate coconut eggs!), is the focus on spiritual renewal and new life. That gives us permission to experience our own seasonal rebirth, something especially comforting after a long, dreary Winter, or abstaining from red wine for Lent!

We get the chance to start anew, again!

No matter what other bad news is going on in our dangerous world, Spring always brings with it the marvel of new life. There's those spunky little flowers that push boldly through frozen ground, or swelling buds on tree branches that moments before seemed barren, and birds singing sweet melodies confidently at dawn, replacing all those annoying alarm clocks. Nature's orchestra is in full production with a glorious show worthy of Broadway- one not to be missed!

Dare I say it's even magical?

This week, take a needed break from your daily grind, the 24/7 news reports, and those worries about your child's next unnerving IEPT meeting, and notice the rites of Spring unfolding in your own backyard. Explore its meaning for your own life. Then start fresh.

Because after all the chocolate bunnies, marshmellow peeps, and grandma's leftover ambrosia salad and salty ham have been consumed, rebirth is the empowering message of Spring.

Try hard not to miss it.

Happy Easter!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Calling all Artists Ages 16-25 with Disabilities!

Calling all artists ages 16-25 with special needs!

VSA Arts (I LOVE this organization!) is holding a 'National Juried Exhibition for Young Artists With Disabilities'. The theme is 'Driven'. The exhibition is sponsored by Volkswagen of America Inc., and there are big cash prizes!!

Postmarked deadline is June 29, 2007. So get busy!

To find out more, visit

Good luck!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

National Public Radio Airs Piece on Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Kudos to National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition for airing a well-deserved and well-produced piece today about Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her on-going work with Special Olympics.

I am a huge fan of this terrific woman and the organization she began as Camp Shriver in her backyard decades ago. Ms. Shriver has been one of my role models and a stellar example as I pursue my own passionate work on behalf of those with special needs. That's why I included a special tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Special Olympics (and an insightful interview with her son, Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics) in my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations.

If you want to be reminded of the power of one person to take on a huge social justice issue and impact lasting, critical change, do yourself a favor and check out this morning's piece at and be sure to read the tribute in my book, too!

I feel better just knowing that Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her family, are at work in the world. These people are terrific examples for the rest of us.

Now, what are you doing today to change a child's life?
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, March 18, 2007

MTV Program: True Life: I'm Autistic

I admit that I'm not always a fan of MTV programming, but I applaud what they aired on March 18th. The program True Life: I'm Autistic profiles the lives of three teens living with varying degrees of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as they go about their daily lives and pursue their dreams.

The remarkable young men include:

Jeremy, 17, who uses a simple portable speech machine that allows him to finally communicate directly with his peers.

Jonathan is an autistic savant, the term used to describe someone who has a significant disability and exceptional talent. Jonathan's talent is painting.

Elijah is 16 and has Asperger's symdrome, the term applied to higher-functioning autism. He wants to be a stand-up comedian.

The program does an outstanding job of letting the story tell itself as each of these young adults, with the amazing support of their incredible parents, pursue their life dreams in the face of a complex, often frustrating disability.

For more information on the program, and to view a clip of this terrific show, visit the MTV website:

This is the kind of responsible programming that MTV can be proud of- and a valuable media effort that can help others have a greater appreciation for and understanding of autism and other disabilities.

Another terrific resource for those interested in learning more about autism is the documentary Normal People Scare Me. For more information on this and other important film projects in the works by the mother/son film team of Keri Bowers and 17-year-old Taylor Cross, who has autism, visit:

Both looks are worthy of your time!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Spartans Make Us Proud

Okay, so my Spartans came up a bit short against UNC in last night's NCAA Round two game. But they gave us a thrill, leaving everything they had on the court and allowing even the most doubting fan to believe that the seemingly impossible might just happen afterall. What a thrill ride!

Like most Spartan fans today, I couldn't be prouder of this team. They showed guts and resiliency, tons of class, and a never-give-up attitude, a tribute to their terrific coaching. The best news for Spartan fans this morning is the realization that all that tremendous talent, plus some new blood, is coming back.

Last night, this group of exceptional young men gave the nation a preview of coming attractions. The Spartans served notice--they will be back. And while MSU may have ultimately been beaten by a deeper bench and some remarkable athletic talent, in no way is this team a loser.

If there's one thing I love it's seeing a perceived underdog rise above the tough odds, silence the naysayers and create some magic. That's just what this team did in 2006/07. Unfortunately, this Cinderella story ended too soon

But just wait until next year....

Congratulations to Coach Izzo and the men's MSU Spartan Basketball Team! Thanks for another great season!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Go Green!! ...Spartans not Leprechauns

Sometimes you just gotta put aside your focus on all things special needs and try to put some much-needed balance back into your life. That's what I'm doing today.

I'm a wee bit Irish (aren't most us?!?) so my focus today is all about being green. But I'm not talking about the green of Leprechaun lore and colorful beverages that make you a wee bit giddy.

I'm talking about MSU Spartan basketball!

I admit I'm not much of a sports fan, although I have suddenly adopted my husband's life-long passion for Tiger baseball. You live together long enough, and those kind of strange things begin to happen.

But I do love my Michigan State Spartans (my alma mater). I'm a big fan of coach Tom Izzo, who with all his coaching fame seems to still have his head on straight, and his ego in check. Plus, he's built a terrific program focused on nurturing, even demanding, the responsible growth of his players both on and off the court, something alone worthy of recognition. Each year, Izzo's program is filled with talent, integrity and class, and good kids.

How often can we use those words when talking sports today?

NCAA tourney time, complete with the Green & White, comes along just when us hearty Michiganders are in desperate need of some real proof that winter weather is almost history. That sleepy groundhog 'Pete' just loves tormenting us with that all shadow no shadow stuff...... But if Tourney time is here, it must be Spring, right?

Today, my team, a #9 seed, is clearly the underdog in the NCAA round two game with the highly favored #1 seed, North Carolina. That's a fact, we know it because they say it's so in all that rabid media coverage by all those people supposedly in the know.

But the Spartans and their die-hard fans are used to being underdogs, especially during football season when we have to boldy face my twin sister's alma mater, the Michigan Wolverines. That record? Not so great.

But we're talking basketball now, folks. Being the underdog is a role that we Spartan fans even relish at times. It makes us who we are. 'Cause just when the bulk of the positive kudos is going to the other team, the big Green machine likes to sneak up and spoil the party-- and screw up the odds.

And that's exactly what those of us who bleed Green/White are hoping will happen tonight!

Afterall, today is St. Patrick's Day, the day when we celebrate and honor all things green, right? And there's nary a Wolverine in sight....

Go Spartans!

May the Luck 'O the Irish be with you tonight!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations