We had the pleasure of attending a gifting suite at The Golden Globes this past weekend in Hollywood!

It was so much fun!  We met several celebrities, had our pictures taken with them and enjoyed showing them Sienna’s Locket.  They loved it!

Sienna was so excited that we found some cute high heels for her to wear!  Unfortunately, though, it was a lot colder there than we thought it was going to be when we packed our clothes. Sienna was freezing!!

After the gifting suite, we had a book signing and Sierra had her LA singing debut that night!

One thing I did notice while we were in LA was that so many of the sinks in the restrooms were so high–even the soap and towel dispensers.  I’ve put the places we visited on my list of places to contact about my Equal Restroom Access for Little People Movement.  I was quite surprised the restrooms weren’t more accommodating.  LA seems like such an aware place where they’re very sensitive to making sure accommodations are made for people with special needs.  So, I was very surprised.

The people we met with were so excited about the message Sienna’s Locket is spreading.  Everyone is looking forward to the second book in the series!!


2 thoughts on “Hollywood!

  1. Hello Bernal Family,

    My name is Kate Morrow and I am a Speech & Special Education Teacher in New York State.  I’m sure you have already had a great deal of advice from ‘Educational Professionals’.   It is my strong hope that my views and insights will assist you in the choices and decisions you must make regarding your daughter’s education.  

    The information provided stated that Sienna’s educational level was about that of an ‘eight’ year old.   The reference to a child’s cognitive ability in relation to ‘age’  is no longer commonly used due to its vagueness.   A better determining factor for predicting cognitive potential (like achieving a High School diploma),  in my opinion, would be her IQ and reading level.  If Sienna has reading skills of about a second to third grade level (able to encode and decode  4-5 letter words and becoming proficient with compound words), I believe she will be able to achieve a regular High School diploma.    In New York, a child with special needs is entitled to attend school until they are twenty-one.  At thirteen, your daughter has at least seven more years of school to which she is entitled.  
    Remember the decision of attending public school verses home-schooling is not irreversible.   If you choose to home-school for a year or more, you still have the right to return to a public school setting the following year.  I would recommend that you use the summer break to experiment with home-schooling before you make a decision.   

    As far as resources are concerned – use the school!  I’m pretty sure you can sweet-talk a teacher into borrowing a textbook for a summer, especially if you sign a receipt for it.     Pick a chapter/unit you plan to address during the summer, like the Civil War or The Solar System.   Review the material yourself first.   You’d be surprised how much you forgot.   Use the quiz/test at the end of the chapter as Pre’ and ‘post’ tests.    ( I am a strong believer in testing.)    Use the SAME test for both, just reorder the questions.   Do not discuss the topic prior to the pre-test.  If Sienna gives you the standard response of ” But I don’t know”, give her the standard answer “Come up with your best ‘guess’, watch your spelling & punctuation and use complete sentences.”  Yes, teachers are mean.  Do not go over the results with Sienna.   Pre/post testing is done to determine what is already known and then what has been learned.     Tell Sienna the test shows how well you have taught her.   After you have finished with your unit and Sienna has taken the post test, then you can both go over the results.   This method can be used for short lessons as well as summer-long units.

     When Sienna is attending public school be aware of the type of class in which she will be enrolled.  Depending on the quality of your school district, Special Education classes have been know to become little more than holding tanks for students with antisocial behaviors, poor attendance and, lastly, children with physical/intellectual differences.   (I’m sorry if that is disturbing.)   If you want Sienna to comprehend and pass the ‘Regents’ Testing (New York State’s standardized high school evaluations for diplomas), she must be familiar with the testing language and be included in ‘Regents’ classes not segregated into self-contained Special Ed. Classes.   The ‘Regents’ classes WILL be faster paced but remember, because she is eligible to attend until she is twenty-one, she has the time to take it twice!    Know what the class will cover and be prepared to do as much ‘home-schooling’ when Sienna is attending public school as when she is actually being ‘home-school’.  

    To earn a High School diploma you need to focus on four distinct areas. 
    And with the exception of math, reading is the most important skill/tool that will allow your child to unlocking her own potential to learn and fulfill her dreams. 

    1.   Reading/writing/speaking skills:

    There have been new studies in the field of neuroscience relating to intelligence and brain function/structures.   An article I suggest you read is “How Reading Rewires the Brain”, by Greg Miller,  November 2010.  It basically states that 
    reading CONTINUALLY improves brain development.   If Sienna is a slow/poor reader now, don’t be discouraged.   Please remember, reading is a skill that continues to improve the more do it – practice, practice, practice.  If Sienna reads for 30-60 minutes a day she WILL improve.  

    Start with books she has read and/or is familiar with the basic plot (The Little Mermaid).  Be careful not to make the mistake of keeping books at the lower level as she progresses.  If vocabulary words are difficult, have her use a yellow high-lighter to mark the words for later discussions (depending on the complexity, every paragraph, page or chapter).   Encourage Sienna to write down her guess as to what the word means, given the context in which it is used.  It is important to keep track of any misconceptions.   Mistakes are an important insight as to how a child sees the world.  Confusions between homophones and homonyms tend to pop-up during reading.  They are difficult concepts and are easier to address in a written format.   Have Sienna read out loud as well as silently.  Reading out loud helps teach how to pronounce multi-syllabic words.  Fluency in pronouncing complex words is dependent upon oral-muscle memory (again, practice, practice, practice). 

    OTHER SUGGESTIONS:  Watch tv with the ‘closed captions’ on, have her read articles from the Sunday morning paper to the family at the breakfast table.   This can quickly become an enjoyable routine that brings the family closer together.   In addition to ‘reading to learn’, have Sienna read for enjoyment – get her magazine subscriptions, encourage her to read any type of book in which she shows an interest (Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, Hanna Montana etc.).  Play educationally based family games like ‘The Game of Knowledge’ (I love it! It is similar to ‘Trivial Pursuits’).  Always think in terms of future employment opportunities.   For example, secretarial skills can be practiced by giving Sienna ‘Adult’ type reading/writing based responsibilities.  You could put her in charge of special occasions and holiday cards/letters.   Transposing telephone messages will give her the opportunity to practice writing, use her expressive/receptive  language as well as drawing on her inferential knowledge.   

    2.  Broad historic/global concepts:  PUZZLES! 50 piece puzzles to learn the states/capitals, global puzzles, foreign country puzzles, 3D puzzles of monuments and famous buildings, puzzles of famous works art – most come with short descriptions of the artist, style and historical setting.   Ask Sienna to use a ‘paper’ map (not just the’GPS’) to plan trips to historic sites in your area. 

    DVD’s can be incredible learning tools.   Have Sienna watch classic/historical movies (especially cartoon versions) like “A Tale of Two Cities”.   Think about the vocabulary and historical changes  (clothing styles, horse/buggy, lanterns, quill pens) being shown in Micky Mouse’s “Scrooge”!   If your child is an attentive movie watcher, I suggest two showings of the movie.  The first showing is to enjoy the overall essence of the movie in its entirety.  The second showing is for learning.  (This can be done on a separate day.)   Stop the movie frequently to discuss story elements (plot, characters, setting, vocabulary and historical differences).   Have her take notes!   Remember to teach and USE terms that are used in testing ( i.g. plot, antagonist, protagonist and point view).   The answers should also use the correct terms ( The protagonist is … ).   Comprehending and PASSING the ‘Regents’ means being as fluent as possible with the language. 

    3.  Basic biology/science:  
    Cooking and baking! Think about the similarity in the skill sets with which you become familiar.   Whether it’s a deciduous plant or a kitchen herb like rosemary you need to observe and describe specific types of organic materials, follow a formula, measure and assess the results of your experiment.   If you haven’t already, bite the bullet and embrace the metric system!   Most kitchen measuring tools use both systems.  Color code your recipes to make learning easier.  For example,  standard larger dry measures can be marked using the eight basic colors:   1 cup/225mL marked  – red and 1/2 cup/120 mL – blue.   Then use pastels for smaller standard dry measures like 1 teaspoon /5mL marked with pink and 1/2 teaspoon/2mL marked with ‘baby’ blue.  Have her plan menus, research recipes, write out the weekly grocery list.  

    4.  Math:   
    The basic measuring concepts learned in cooking will generalize to math concepts as well.  In addition, set Sienna up with a checking account, making sure she uses CHECKS and not just the debit card.  Have her write and post the checks for magazines, newspaper subscriptions and anything else that needs to done on monthly basis as she becomes more proficient.  Work with her on determining a budget plan for her monthly ‘billing’ responsibilities.  Percentages can be taught with SALES at the mall – even math can be fun.  Teach her how to measure using a ruler, both meters/millimeters and yards/inches.   Crafting projects can help to make measuring fun.  

    A child with special needs can earn a high school diploma, but it takes a lot of work.  The reason Special Ed students have until twenty-one to graduate is so that this huge amount of work can be accomplished.  

    As for extracurricular activities, what is your goal for the activity.   Is it for enrichment? In that case find the areas such as art/dance classes and/or music lessons etc that Sienna enjoys most or shows an interested and have her stick with it, again, practice, practice, practice. 

    However, if your goal is educational, determine how these activities may assist in your daughter’s development.  For example, if her handwriting needs help, fine motor tasks like piano or art will help develop that type of muscle control and skill.  If larger muscle strengthening and endurance is required, it could be done through dance lessons.   Breath support when speaking may be an area of weakness for your daughter.   An instrument such as a flute or singing lessons would have a strong beneficial effect in this area.  Therapies such as these require perseverance and, yes, practice, practice, practice. 

    I hope you find my suggestions helpful and not overwhelming.  If you would like additional help please feel free to contact me at my email address: ktmrrw@gmail.com


    Kate Morrow

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