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