Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#Spooktacular Fun at #SesamePlace {PHOTOS}

I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but was provided with a 2013 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family. All opinions are my own.

Have you been to Sesame Place for the Halloween Spooktacular at Sesame Place this fall? Saturday and Sunday (October 26 & 27) are the last days to play. Here are some photos from our recent visit.  

Check out the rest of my photos on Instagram! Follow me @LaliQuin

Related Posts: 

I am a Sesame Place Blog Ambassador. I was not compensated for this post but was provided with a 2013 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where Do You Take Your Kid To Be Evaluated? | #T5Tue

Last #T5Tue, I talked about the difference between a psychoeducational and a Neuropsychological evaluation.

But where do you go? Here are a few suggestions of where you can start -  

What you NEED to keep in mind when searching for an evaluation site: 

  • Do they accept insurance? Or the medicaid waiver.
    • If they don't - will they work with you so that you can submit bill to your insurance.
  • Will they be able to provide specific suggestions?
  • Will the doctor be willing to testify (if you have to go to an impartial hearing)?
  • Ask how they will structure the written evaluation (and roughly how many pages).

Catch up with the #T5Tue Series: 
Last week's post: Finding the Appropriate School Placement 
and follow the #T5Tue series: More Tips for Turning 5 


Upcoming Reminders

10/24:  Special Needs School Fair at the JCC in Manhattan. 
Register for the event - HERE.

FREE Talk with Special Needs Consultant Sarah Birnbaum

Date: Wednesday, November 6, 6:30-8:30pm
Location: Watch Me Grow
361 East 19 Street

Sunday, October 20, 2013

AW Sunday Review | Body Talk: Teaching Students with Disabilities about Body Language

Disclaimer: Woodbine House provided me with a complimentary copy of  Body Talk: Teaching Students with Disabilities and Body Language  for review purposes.  The opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Ever since The Boy was diagnosed with autism, doctors and therapists have told me that The Boy has no sense of personal space. (Neither do most of the folks on the New York subway, but that’s for a different blog…)

As The Boy gets older, personal space has become more of an issue. People are more likely to laugh off a two or three-year-old touching their face. A big seven-year-old touching an adults face? Probably not. The older The Boy gets, the more worried I become. Living in a city like New York, getting in someone’s personal space is the kind of the thing that could lead to serious trouble.

Working on personal space has become a goal at school and at home.

I was really excited about reviewing Body Talk: Teaching Students with Disabilities about Body Language by Pat Chrissey. It’s the kind of book that I know I will return to again and again.
Children and teens with autism and other developmental disabilities can be taught the language of nonverbal communication with the practical strategies developed by veteran special education teacher Pat Crissey. More than 100 activities break down elements of body language into teachable components.
What I appreciate about Body Talk is that it really goes step by step and breaks down all forms of body language: emotions, facial expressions, posture, body orientation and eye gaze, personal space and touching and gestures.

However Body Talk just doesn’t tell you what to do – it shows you. The activities and games are great ways to make learning fun. It’s simple enough to be done at home one on one or in a group setting at school. What’s especially helpful about this book is that it comes with a CD so you can easily print out all the activities. I printed out the personal space activities for The Boy's teacher. 

The activities vary in age and functioning levels and you can easily modify activities to suit your needs. Body Talk is a must have book if you have a child with autism. And it's a book that will grow with your child from the early childhood years to young adult.

Body Talk: Teaching Students with Disabilities about Body Language is available on Woodbine House for $23.99.

Disclaimer: Woodbine House provided me with a complimentary copy of  Body Talk: Teaching Students with Disabilities and Body Language  for review purposes.  The opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How Autism Impacts Minorities

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Everyday Health explores how Minorities are disproportionally impacted by the rising autism rates. With less access, it could drive up healthcare costs for all in the long run.

Oh...and I'm also in the video.

You can read the article - Autism Strikes Some Families Harder Than Others - on Everyday Health.

Just to clarify some things in the video:

* Norrin was still getting home base (and center base) services from a SEIT (Special Education Itinerant Teacher) between 3 and 5 years old through CPSE (Center of Preschool Special Education). Unlike like our Early Intervention experience where we got really lucky with an amazing therapist, we went through 6 SEITS in 2 years before hitting the jackpot with a really great person. One SEIT quit after 3 days because of parking (she was used to visiting homes, where she could park in a driveway) and another SEIT told me, "my husband has concerns about me coming to this neighborhood." One agency dropped me after I expressed concerns/complaints about a SEIT.       

* Norrin was placed inappropriately during his kindergarten year. That was the year I had to sue the Department of Education because the school failed to provide an Occupational Therapist. After 8 weeks of paying out of pocket (totaling $1250.00), I was given a waiver letter to continue outside OT services and no longer required to pay out of pocket. The OT was able to bill the Department of Education. I sued the DOE for full reimbursement for the money I spent on OT and later that year, I had to sue again to have Norrin removed from the school

* For the last 2 years we've been paying out of pocket for ABA therapy at home (after school) from an agency called Center for Autism and Related Disorders. We use our medical insurance to pay for this therapy. I am very lucky to have a job with really good health insurance coverage (we have an autism advocate that helps file medical paperwork) and thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I live in a state with autism coverage.    

* Over the last five years, I've read many books that were helpful and inspiring. However, they are predominantly written by white, upper middle class women who were able to either move, hire an attorney and/or quit their careers to stay home with their children. These were not options for me. And reading these books in the beginning, I felt as if Norrin would never be able to "get better" since I could do any of the things I was reading about. I now know better.   

Friday, October 18, 2013

How NYC Schools Are Failing Our Children

image via

I’m not even going to mince words here. I don’t think the New York City Public School System is equipped to handle kids with autism.
Autism is an invisible disability and it’s easy for many autistic kids to pass for “regular.” But when there is a population of kids with autism in the same building as “typical” kids, there needs to be training and awareness. Everyone in the building needs to understand what autism is and what it ‘looks’ like. If the Department of Education is not prepared to do that, then maybe they should start creating public schools exclusively for kids with autism and/or special needs.
The school was also aware that Avonte was a runner and in need of “constant supervision.” There is surveillance video of Avonte walking through the school alone and running out of the building. It was also reported that the school waited an hour before notifying Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, that her son was missing. When Dennis Walcott (Education Chancellor) was asked about how this could happen, his answer was evasive and Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, doesn’t believe the security guard did anything wrong. This should have never happened. Avonte should’ve never been left unattended and he shouldn’t have been able to run out of the school. The public school system failed Avonte and they need to be held accountable.
Read the rest of the article on

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Remembering Della

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month to think pink and have faith for a cure. 
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Latinas. Even though Latinas have lower breast cancer rates than white women, they are more likely than whites to be diagnosed at a later stage, when the cancer is more advanced and harder to treat. Latinas are also more likely to die from breast cancer than white women diagnosed at a similar age and stage.  

The other day I was scrolling through my phone, trying to clear out space by deleting photos, messages and apps I don't use. I came across a text message I couldn't delete. It was from my friend, Della.   

Aside from a few photos, a signature in my yearbook, memories and her funeral prayer card - that text is all that I have left. And I'm not ready to let it go. It still doesn't see real. Or fair. Della was too young to die (only 38). She had a daughter. A mother. Family. Friends.  

Back in June, my blog friend Shell of Things I Can't Say allowed me to guest post  and I decided to write about one of the last times I saw Della alive. 

(note: when I originally wrote the post, I changed Della's name to Martha.) 


“Remember the picture of us on the field?” Martha asked. “I love that picture. It’s one of my favorites.”

I remembered. It was taken twenty years earlier, on the last day of senior year. I wore a blue and white floral shirt, she proudly wore our senior class t-shirt, my arm around her shoulder, both of us smiling into the camera, our yearbooks in our laps.

We were just girls then, with bright eyes, big smiles and bigger dreams. We believed we had our whole lives ahead us. It was a time without boundaries or regrets. Before responsibility, motherhood, disability and sickness.

We were girls who didn’t know the years between then and now would go so fast. We didn’t see ourselves, twenty years later, sitting in a hospice room on a Saturday afternoon.

“It’s one of my favorites too,” I said.

She smiled. “I looked healthy.”

I said nothing, not wanting to agree but we both knew Martha was right. I looked away ashamed that I put off seeing her for weeks. But I was scared. I had never visited anyone at a hospice before. I hadn’t seen Martha in a little more than a year. But I knew the breast cancer spread to her brain. And I knew that Martha had little time left.

You can read the rest click -->  Just Breathe 


Early detection is key. For more information please visit: 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Pumpkin Story | #YoursToTell

Be sure to have your volume on - Enjoy 

And did you know we live a short drive away from Sleepy Hollow? I shared our experience over on Babble...check out our  Sunday Afternoon At Sleepy Hollow for Halloween Fun

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Tale of Two Rings (The Lesson I Learned When I Lost My Wedding Ring)

We were married on a whim. The decision came to us on a plane en route to Dominica. “You want to?” he asked. “Sure!” I answered.

Without a plan or a care in the world, we made the arrangements to marry on our very first vacation together. We strolled through the market place in search of silver rings. 

We exchanged our vows in casual cloths by a waterfall in the courtyard of the hotel for all guests to see. 

When I returned to work as a newly married woman, I told one of my co-workers. Before congratulating me, she demanded to “see the ring.” I explained that it was unplanned and held up my hand with my silver ring that was too big.  

“Oh…well, congratulations,” she said. But I could tell that she thought I was cheated out of a princess cut diamond ring like the one on her finger. (She was divorced the following year.)


A year later on our 1st year anniversary, The Husband and I threw a wedding reception. The party was for our family. I just wanted the pretty dress. But even that day was low key. 

It was on that day - our 1 year wedding anniversary that we were supposed to exchange rings once again. The Husband picked them out, really. I wanted to go to the local jewelry store but he did his homework. He found this Japanese jewelry store in Soho. We picked out our rings and had them engraved. 

Mine: He won me over

His: She wore me down.

On the day of our anniversary party, we meant to exchange/renew our vows. But we got so caught up with family and friends and the dancing, eating and celebrating - we never did. At the end of the evening, when it was just us - we exchanged rings. No vows or words were said. Just our rings and a kiss. 

1 year wedding anniversary June 2004

As I sat on the floor of my hotel room, unpacking my suitcase and shaking out my clothes searching for my ring for the 20th time, I wondered: How could I lose my wedding ring? Where could it be

I searched the room and all of my bags. I checked under the beds and behind the toilet. I even took a cup and turned it upside down before looking one last time - it's an old wives tale someone shared with me. I asked the cleaning woman and reported it to the hotel. No ring.

I thought of The Husband, home with The Boy so that I could attend a blog conference. It's because of The Husband's commitment to me and our family, that allows me to do what I do. Without his support, I couldn't do it.

As I sat in the hotel lobby on Sunday morning with my suitcases packed, staring at my naked hand, I started to cry. 
I thought of my flight from New York to Atlanta - how with every bump of rough air I clasped my hands and looked at my ring. How could I get back on a plane to New York without it?  

Hours later, I walked out of LaGuardia airport and was greeted by The Husband and The Boy. Both were happy to see me. And I was happier to see them. 

By then The Husband knew I lost my ring and he was upset but he helped me put things in perspective. "That's not the ring I first put on your finger. The original ring means more to me."  

Both rings have a sentimental value to me for different reasons. When he offered to buy me a new ring, I refused. I don't want a new ring. I want my ring.

Later that afternoon, before heading out to lunch I slipped on the silver ring - my original wedding band and smiled. It's still too big and the ring guard annoys me but it's mine. I still wanted my other ring but I was grateful I had at least one. A ring is a ring - it means everything and yet ultimately it means nothing. 

Last June we celebrated ten years of marriage. It's been a decade of highs and lows. Our marriage is far from perfect. There are days we wear each other down and days we win each other over. We laugh, we love, we fight, we move on. 

A wedding ring is symbol of our commitment but it's not the thing that binds us and keeps us together. Our love does that.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The New York Birthday Show {Hope to See You There!}

Disclaimer: The Mamas Network has been provided me with press pass tickets to attend The New York Birthday Show with my family. All opinions are my own. 

The New York Birthday Show comes to the New York Hall of Science in Queens on October 20, 2013 with the biggest birthday party ever to provide families with tons of birthday experiences under one roof. Open to parents and children of all ages, attendees will have a blast at the ultimate birthday party and receive unprecedented insider access to some of the best entertainment, hands on activities, dessert samples, and DIY products currently available in area.

I have never been to The Birthday Party Show before and I'm so excited to be going next week! The Boy will be 8 years old in January and it's been years since we've thrown him a real birthday party. Every year it's the same thing - should we or shouldn't we? But this year, I really want to do something special. I'm hoping The New York Birthday Show will give me some ideas. 

It's also going to be held at The New York Hall of Science - one of the many places we go. 
(The New York Hall of Science presents 450 exhibits, demonstrations and design spaces that explain science, technology, engineering and math. A visit to NYSCI is a hands-on, energetic educational experience where you can indulge your curiosity and nurture your creativity.The Boy is familiar with the Hall of Science so it should be a fun family day for us. Other things we'll get to see and enjoy will be: 
  • Showcases of the Best Party Venues
  • Performances from NYC’s Best Entertainers for Kids
  • Cupcake and Cake Decorating Stations
  • Sampling of sweet treats
  • Cool Decorations and Supplies

Wait...there's MORE!  

  • Amazing giveaways from the show’s over 65 exhibitors including fabulous prizes like a $500 spa birthday party from Glitzy Chicks Spa Parties, 2 hour face painting package worth $150 from ShellBell Face Painting, a 1 hour clowning package worth $300 from Bubbles the Clown and more!
  • All Day Access to the New York Hall of Science and the Science Playground. If you've never taken your kid to the Hall of Science, this is the perfect time to go. 
All kids who come in costume receive a FREE trick or treat bag to collect goodies from our exhibitors.
When: Sunday October 20th, 2013 10 am – 4 pm
Where: New York Hall of Science - 47-01 111th Street, Corona, NY 11368
Cost: Free with NYSCI Admission -
Advanced Ticket Savings: Buy your NYSCI admission tickets in advance before October 19, 2013 at to save up to 20% off. Cost: $15 Adult (18+) $13 Child (2-17), Student (w/ID), Senior (62+)/ Under 2 Free

Disclaimer: The Mamas Network has provided me with press pass tickets to attend The New York Birthday Show with my family. All opinions are my own. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Too Close To Home | #FindAvonte

It's officially a week since 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo has been missing. Last step as I stepped off the 6 train in The Bronx, I paused on the platform to listen to the announcement - it was a message about Avonte. I pulled Norrin's (I usually refer to him as 'The Boy') hoody over his head, the wind was picking up.

Every night this week, I've wondered if Avonte's cold, hungry, tired and missing his mother. Every night this week, I've held Norrin's hand a little bit tighter. This story hits too close to home for me. And my emotions are all over the place.  

Avonte could easily be Norrin in a few years and it's scary to see how easily a kid could fall through the cracks of a broken system. 

Like Norrin, Avonte was in a 6:1:1 classroom in a Queens public school (District 75). Avonte walked out of his room, down two flights of stairs and passed a security guard. The guard asked Avonte where he was going, when he didn't answer (because Avonte is non-verbal), the guard assumed he was "one of the regular kids." The school took an hour before notifying Avonte's mother, Vanessa Fontaine. 

The school was absolutely negligent and it's a disgrace. How are special needs parents supposed to have faith in the public school system? For me, it's just another glaring example of how the public school system is ill equipped to work with individuals with special needs. Something NEEDS to be done.   

I think of Norrin's kindergarten year and how hard I fought to get him out of that public school and away from District 75. And while I love Norrin's current school, still I wonder. Avonte reminds me of how vulnerable we really are. There are so many people I have to rely on - teachers, bus drivers, matrons, baby sitters. Will they be able to keep Norrin safe? 

Yesterday morning, I saw Avonte's mother on television and I cried. I could see the pain in her eyes and feel her heart ache. When you have a child with special needs, wandering is your worst nightmare - especially in a city like New York. 
"[Avonte] is supposed to have one-to-one supervision at all times," Fontaine [Avonte's mother] said through tears. "He has the mental capacity of a 7- or 8-year-old." (CNN)
I don't know Avonte or any member of his family. But I grew up in Queens, I have a special needs sister who went to school in Long Island City. I have a son with autism. This is too close to home for me and I am praying for Avonte's safe return to his family.  

And I want to do everything within my power to help. 

Whenever a white child with autism goes missing, my social media feeds are saturated with posts and tweets. Blog posts are written and shared, hashtags used. There is this sense of urgency. I haven't seen that with Avonte Oquedo. When a brown kid with autism goes missing, the sense of urgency doesn't seem as great.

Autism is a spectrum and it comes in every color. All of our kids matter. Avonte could be any of our kids. And I wish that more were being done in the media.  

New Yorkers often get a bad rap for being rude and apathetic but in these moments - we all really come together as a community. That's what I've seen this week. And that makes me so proud of my city. It gives me HOPE. Hope is all we have right now. 

Tonight (Friday, 10/11) at 5pm there will be a vigil in Queens for Avonte Oquendo at the tent next to Center Boulevard School in Long Island City.