Reach for the Stars!


Last night I watched the movie, A Smile as Big as the Moon.  The movie was based on a true story of a special education teacher in Michigan and his students with special needs.  In the late 1980’s, this teacher and these amazing students attended Space Camp.  The classroom consisted of teenagers with Down syndrome, autism, cognitive delays and learning disabilities. They were the first ones to attend Space Camp and paved the way for many more children wtih special needs to attend this program.

I loved this story.  It was so inspiring.  Initially, they were told that Space Camp did not have any programs for those with special needs.  Their teacher didn’t give up.  He believed in his students and knew they could overcome any obstacle to reach their goals.

These students completed the same tasks at Space Camp as their “typical” peers.  They practiced and studied for 7 months to learn the skills needed to work together as a team.  They held fundraisers, took on part-time jobs, held bake sales and car washes to raise $50,000 to attend the camp.   They didn’t give up.

Too many times people assume those with special needs can’t or won’t be able to do certain things.  Never underestimate the power of the human spirit.  As therapists, teachers and parents, we need to encourage all children to reach the full extent of their capabilities.  Every one is different and has their own strengths.  We must encourage them all to reach for the stars.

Story Time


Books.  I love books.  The feel of a book, the smell of a book, the colors – they all mold together to create this wonderful adventure.  When I was a little girl, I didn’t always get a toy when we went to the store, but I could always get a book.  I remember getting my first dictionary when I was in Kindergarten and my mom showing me how to use it.  All those words and pictures – it was so much fun!

Reading to children opens up a world of opportunities.  Stories are full of excitement and adventure.  These stories build on your child’s imagination and promote language development and literacy skills.

Reading to your child every day and having them see you reading are beneficial because:

  • Children learn to love books by watching their parents read
  • Reading aloud is fun for children
  • Reading aloud teaches children a great deal about words and the world around them
  • Reading allows children to learn about and pursue their personal interests and passions
  • Hearing stories about other children helps develop a sense of empathy
  • Reading exposes children to a variety of cultures and places
  • Books create connections between everyday situations (such as going to the dentist)
  • Books encourage pretend play
  • Reading together creates a special bond between parents and their children

I know books can be expensive.  Libraries are great resources.  Their children’s book section is wonderful and many libraries even offer a children’s story hour.  Visit the Memphis City Libraries to learn more about their programs for children.

Another program you might want to check out is the Books from Birth program.  This is a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  This program provides free books to children from birth to age 5.  Each month, your child will receive a free book mailed to your house.    Since 2005, the Books from Birth program has provided books to more than 60,000 children in Shelby County.

Books are important tools to have in your house and your child’s room.  Take some time to read with your child – it will create wonderful memories for both of you.

Spread the Word


Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  A man with a vision so great, and a dream so strong that he changed the face of America. His views of courage, truth, compassion, dignity, respect and unconditional love still resonate throughout our great country today, except perhaps when it comes to those with special needs.

Yes, our treatment and acceptance of individuals with special needs has come a long way over these past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. For example, the movie industry continues to portray individuals with special needs as “retarded.”  For those of us who work with those with special needs, this word, the “r-word” is degrading and insulting.  It reinforces stereotypes that are untrue and hurtful.

In February 2009, the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign was created.  This campaign has been influential in using people first language and to show others how hurtful the “r-word” is to those with special needs.

In October 2010, Rosa’s Law removed the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from federal health, education and labor policies and replaces them with people first language such as “individuals with an intellectual disability.”  This law is a significant milestone to promote people first language and acceptance for all people with intellectual disabilities.

Using positive language is important.  The way we talk and the words we choose say a lot about what we think and value.  In his famous, I have a Dream Speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”   As a society, we must move forward with our thinking and views of those with special needs. We must pledge to be advocates for the acceptance and equal rights for EVERYONE.  We must work towards creating an environment with positive language, an environment of love and acceptance for EVERYONE.  Take the pledge with me.  Spread the word to end the word in order to show courage, justice, dignity, respect and unconditional love – just like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Tips for Writing Therapy Goals

Over the past 9 years of my working career, one of the most constant concerns from parents arises when it’s time to write goals for their child.  Goals are important for everyone.  They help us get to where we want to go. To get to that ultimate destination, we must have clearly defined goals.  By establishing these goals, we can then take actions steps to accomplish them.

For a goal to work, there must be 5 components:

  1.  Goals Must Be Specific – Goals need details in order to be accomplished.  Dave Ramsey says, “a vague goal is only a dream.”  For example, a goal that states, “Johnny will say words” is not specific.  How many words?  What type of words?  For a goal to be the most beneficial, it must be specific and detailed.  A specific goal would be “Johnny will say nouns.”
  2. Goals Must Be Measurable – Goals need parameters that can be measured.  This is how we’ll know how and when the goal will be reached.  A specific and measurable goal would be, “Johnny will say 10 nouns.”   Now we know how many and what type of words we’re working on.
  3. Goals Must Be Relevant And Attainable – Goals must focus on a skill that is meaningful to your child in their home or classroom setting.  You don’t want to spend valuable time working on skills that are not functional or beneficial.  An example of a relevant goal would be “Johnny will say 10 nouns to request things he likes to eat.”
  4. Goals Must Have A Time Limit – Goals must have an end date in mind in order to measure progress.  Having a time limit gives us the parameters for when we want to reach that goal.  In IFSPs (Individual Family Service Plans) and IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), goals are typically developed with the time frame of 1 year in mind.  An example of a goal with a time limit would be “By the end of the school year, Johnny will say 10 nouns to request things he likes to eat.”
  5. Goals Must Be In Writing – Goals must be written down.  When a goal is in writing, the details are clear and everyone is on the same page.

The next time your child has an IFSP or IEP meeting, take some time to think about what goals you would like to have for your child.  Your input is important and the professionals working with your child will appreciate your participation in the goal writing process.  Remember, you know your child better than anyone.  By thinking about these guidelines, you will be able to develop functional goals to help your child reach those important milestones and benchmarks.

New Year – New Blog!


Brightsong, LLC is proud to announce that we have started a blog titled Milestones and Benchmarks.  Each blog entry will focus on celebrating the moments of your child’s development.

As a team of pediatric therapists and teachers, we enjoy celebrating the progress your child makes.  Each step, each word and each milestone your child reaches are important steps in their development.

We look forward to sharing this blog with you.