Surviving the holidays with a special needs child

  • Written by Amy Sabol, Special to The Weekly

With the holidays right around the corner it is important to remember the families in our community raising special needs children.  For these unique families simple things that we all take for granted, such as shopping trips and traditional holiday events, can be at times very overwhelming and seemingly impossible.

As the parent of a six-year-old with autism the holiday season has been trial by fire for us, but with each passing year we are finally starting to pick up a few useful ideas.

The big event last year was a trip to a nearby tree farm to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. Because of my son Daniel’s autism, he is very sensitive and reacts unpredictably to loud noises, and in last year’s case, we had failed to recall the power saws they use at the farm.  My little guy spent the entire time screaming, covering his ears, trying to lie down and hide his face on the muddy ground and climbing up my leg looking for relief.

The experience was a total bust. By the time we had the tree tied to the top of our van, even the Grinch himself would have been ashamed of our attitudes.

Ever determined, we will once again venture back to the farm, but we are going to do things a bit differently.  It is tremendously important to us that our son gets to experience as many of our family adventures as possible.

Of course, being one of four siblings and unable to express what he is especially interested in, he gets dragged along on a lot of outings. I understand that his screaming and trying to climb my leg was a wild attempt to tell me that Christmas tree farms were not his thing, but we are a family that loves our adventures and I am still going to give it one more go.  I have a couple of reasons for this.

For one thing, Daniel is keen on repeating the word tree lately and as any special needs parent can contest, if your child expresses an interest in something you bend over backwards to accommodate it.  Furthermore, I feel that his being able to see where the tree came from and the process involved in bringing it into our home is important.  I understand that this will not explain why there is suddenly a huge pine tree in the middle of our living room when he’s not permitted to bring in so much as a branch, but he will at least know where this big tree came from.

So what will I do differently? To start, I will bring along the construction grade ear muffs that I bought Daniel for last year’s Fourth of July parade.  They seemed effective at canceling out the fire engine sirens so I am hoping they will put a damper on the chain saws.  I am also going to bring along his favorite treat, fruit snacks, and hand him one out of my pocket every few minutes to keep him feeling like there’s something worth while going on here.

We are not going to be picky about a tree; I am happy to take whatever we can grab.  Truth be told, they are all exquisite at this farm.  We will make things short but sweet.

Last not least, we will bring two cars just in case.  A back-up plan that allows me to leave with Daniel while our other children finish the outing is always the ideal.

If my plan does not work, then my son and I will stay home next year and bake cookies while the rest of the troop venture out for a tree.  More accurately, I will bake cookies and Daniel will throw flour passionately into the air and watch it slowly sprinkle down, dusting the kitchen making it look like a winter wonderland. You see he can be very festive in his own way.

My advice to parents of little ones like mine is keep trying.  Do not let one failed experience stop you from giving the same adventure one more go.

Whether it is a trip to the grocery store or a day at the farm, put as much planning and strategizing into the event as possible and know that although our little ones can not always express appropriate excitement or appreciation, I believe that they are truly happy when they get to be just one of the kids.

Woodinville is home to over 2500 children with varying degrees of special needs. Please remember to have a little extra patience with these families and their children during this busy time of year and know that an understanding smile goes a long way.


  • Written by Valley View Staff

Local farmers highlighted in Jerry Mader’s latest book

jerrymCarnation author Jerry Mader signs a copy of his book “Saving the Soil” at the Duvall Farmers Market Farm and Holiday Artisan Fair on Nov. 1. Photo by Lisa Allen.

Jerry Mader didn’t let any grass grow under his feet, so to speak, after completing “Carnation Verbatim—A Snoqualmie Valley Memoir,”  a close-up look at some of Carnation’s oldest residents.

The local author went to work immediately on his next project – a book about local farmers, which has just been released.

In researching “Saving the Soil – The New American Farmer,” he interviewed several Snoqualmie Valley farmers to get a grasp of the challenges they face today and the reasons why they tackle such an obviously difficult job.

Mader says that among all the issues concerning Americans today, the quality and safety of the food we buy every day for our families is near the top of the list.

“We want to know where our food comes from and the identity of the people who produce it,” he says. “Yet most of us feel it is impossible to find out. Who your farmer really is remains a mystery.”

In the book, Mader succeeds in clearing up much of that mystery, at least as it relates to local food production, as he shares the experiences and histories of nine of the Valley’s local farmers who produce everything from vegetables to milk.

He says the farmers, although most of them came to farming from non-agricultural backgrounds, all share in wanting to grow healthy food and have a relationship with the community that eats it, through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.

“Saving the Soil” is a 350-page coffee table book (81/2” X 11”) with 272 black and white photos.

Mader is also the author of “The Road to Lame Deer,” an anthropological memoir about tribal life on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana in the early 1970s.

“Saving the Soil—The New American Farmer” is available for $39.95 directly from Tolt River Press, or by calling (425) 333-6989.

Mader says he is in the process of  interviewing the subjects for his next book – the local Hmong people (many of them also farmers) who came to the area from Laos as refugees decades ago.

Men in Kilts! The Celtic Arts Foundation annual Masters of Scottish Arts Concert

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

It’s one of the finest assemblages of world class Scottish performing artists ever. And yes, there will be lots of men in kilts! Traditional bagpipes, borderpipes, smallpipes, fiddles, drums and dancers will all descend on Benaroya Hall for one night only at the highly anticipated Masters of Scottish Arts Concert February 10, 2012, 7:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall. The Scottish people have a reputation for fun and celebration, and this concert is exactly that.

The Mount Vernon Wash.-based Celtic Arts Foundation works all year to gather the best of the best from around the world and the 2012 roster includes:

•   Eight pipers (6 from Scotland, 2 from Canada)

•   Five drummers (1 from Northern Ireland, 1 from Scotland, 2 from Canada, 1 from the United States)

•   Three fiddlers (1 from Scotland, 2 from Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia)

Of the pipers, Fred Morrison’s unique free-flowing yet expressive abilities on the Scottish smallpipes are in sharp contrast with the award winning Dr. Gary West whose impressive knowledge of Celtic folk music and bagpiping history is not to be ignored. Match them with Roddy MacLeod, MBE, one of the most successful piping competitors on the circuit today, and you have an unforgettable evening of pipes.

Flying fingers and tunes performed with unbelievable precision – Scottish natives and Celtic newbies will all delight in the skillful presentations by multiple piping and drumming Gold Medalists and world champions.

Fiddlers include: Andrea Beaton and Troy MacGillivray, (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) and Deirdre Morrison (wife of Fred Morrison, Bishopton, Scotland); Pipers: Brian Donaldson (East Lothian, Scotland), Murray Henderson (New Zealand) Stuart Liddell (Inveraray, Scotland), Willie McCallum (Glasgow, Scotland), Roddy MacLeod, MBE, (Glasgow, Scotland), Jack Lee (Burnaby, BC) and Bruce Gandy Halifax, Nova Scotia); and Drummers: Michael Cole (Chicago, IL), Tyler Fry, (Ontario, Canada), John Scullion (Ireland),) Arthur Cook (West Lothian, Scotland), and Blair Brown (Ontario, Canada). Four dancers from Seattle and Vancouver B.C., skilled in the art of traditional Celtic dance, add to the evening.

Tickets are on sale now. Prices range from $23-$44 and are available by phone 1-866-833-4747, through the Benaroya Hall box office (M-F 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat 1-6 p.m.) or online at

Celtic Arts Foundation

The Celtic Arts Foundation (CAF) is based in Washington state. They produce Scottish, Irish and Celtic cultural events, provide scholarships to aspiring Celtic artists, and have an international focus. The Celtic Arts Foundation was founded in 1997, and received its 501 (c)(3) status from the IRS in March of 1998. The CAF mission is to “sponsor, encourage and promote Celtic culture through events and educational activities.”

Helping your child stay safe online is of paramount importance in the age of digital technology

  • Written by Deborah Stone

Timbercrest Junior High student Corie Leib, 13, and her mother Tami share a computer which is located in their home’s family room. Photo by Lisa Allen
The sky’s the limit when it comes to technology options these days.

Kids, who are quite savvy at all the various devices available, spend much of their waking hours cruising the Web, checking MySpace and Facebook, using Twitter or texting on their phones.

The world is at their fingertips, ready and accessible. But, it is important to note that all this information and conduits of communication come with inherent risks.

Stefanie Thomas, victim advocate for the Seattle Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, wants kids to be more aware of the impact of their online behavior.

Over the past two years, she has given 315 presentations on the subjects of cyber bullying, social networking, online postings, sexting and tips for staying safe online, reaching close to 30,000 children, teens and adults.

“I think the biggest problem with kids is that they have a complete disconnect with how they act online, as opposed to their behavior in real life,” says Thomas. “They use different rules and standards online because they don’t believe they’re going to get caught if they do something inappropriate. They don’t perceive there will be any long term consequences to their actions. What they don’t understand is that they really don’t have any control over what they put out there. They believe if they establish their privacy settings, no one else can see what they post. This is just not the case. In the world of copy and paste, nothing is sacred anymore.”

Increasingly younger children have access to computers and other forms of technology. The younger the child, however, the more impulsive and immature he/she is when it comes to dealing with conflict. They lack the necessary skills to resolve their problems independently. They act without thought or caution, assuring themselves that nothing will happen to them as a result of their behavior.

In their narrow view, bad things only happen to other children, not them. “It’s a boost to kids’ egos when they can say they have hundreds of online friends,” comments Thomas. “In reality, they don’t know this many people, yet they so readily share tons of images and personal information with these ‘friends.’ And as soon as they hit send or post, they physically lose all control over what’s done with those pictures or data.”

Thomas warns kids that they need to be aware of not only the content they’re sharing, but who is getting access to it. She notes that the images are not kept between one or two people. Rather, they’re sent out via mass texting, which can cause embarrassment, humiliation and potentially ruin a person’s reputation.

She adds, “And then there’s the content on Facebook postings, which can return to haunt you later on when it’s accessed by colleges or potential employers.”

Two of the most serious problems among kids and teens today are cyber bullying and sexting, according to Thomas. “We’re seeing cyber bullying occurring at the elementary school level now,” she notes. “By middle school, it’s rampant. It is happening every day in every school.”

To combat the issue, she stresses that schools, parents and law enforcement must each have a “buy-in.” The schools need to have an aggressive policy to hold kids accountable while parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing and keep the communication lines open. Law enforcement’s job is to investigate cases and see that the laws are carried out.

Sexting, which Thomas describes as sending any image of anyone under the age of 18 in a state of partial or full nudity, is common in middle and high school. She says, “These kids and teens view sexting as not real life,” explains Thomas. “They’re using it as a way to discover themselves and experiment sexually, but they forget that no one their age can keep their mouths shut about anything. And so, things get forwarded and it all goes viral.” She adds, “The latest problem is ‘sextortion,’ or blackmailing for the pictures. An individual threatens to forward the photos to everyone he/she knows if the victim doesn’t comply by providing more pictures.”

According to Thomas, parents can contribute to such problems by being naïve about technology and the pitfalls it can present to children. She notes that for some, the cyber world is overwhelming and they accept that their kids are so more knowledgeable than them when it comes to digital devices.

“They also trust their kids, thinking that problems happen to others, but not to their own children,” adds Thomas. “They are unwilling to accept that their kids could be involved in certain risky behaviors and are blind to the situation.”

So, what can parents do? “They need to educate themselves on how the Internet works,” emphasizes Thomas, “and then they need to keep tabs on their children’s computer use.”

Experts suggest parents create a written Internet safety plan, setting rules for usage, email and texting, as well as establishing strategies for handling inappropriate communication.They advocate reminding kids regularly about not disclosing personal information online or sharing passwords, warning them that anything they write can be forwarded or printed for distribution.

“It’s also a good idea to keep the computer in a common area in the house,” adds Thomas.

Local parent Leanne Christensen took this advice to heart with her two daughters. She set up a homework room, which also serves as the family computer room.

“I made the mistake initially of letting my older daughter do her work in her own room,” explains Christensen. “For one year, I basically never saw her and I didn’t really know what she was doing. I decided to change that when we moved to a new house. Now, we’re all together and I can monitor the situation. I also found that when you do this, kids are more likely to share the messages they receive. And if they get derogatory comments on Facebook, which has happened before, they are more apt to tell me and it can then become part of a discussion.”

Experts additionally urge parents to save or print inappropriate messages and pictures that their kids receive and to contact parents of others who sent those emails.

Your Internet service provider should be contacted and a complaint filed if you think the messages violate the Terms and Conditions of your contract.

Finally, Thomas urges parents to contact the police if their children receive violent threats or pornography, or are harassed in any way. “That’s when we step in and investigate,” she says. “Our taskforce takes this work very seriously and we do charge kids for these crimes.”

Women’s self-defense class to emphasize jiu-jitsu techniques

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Whitney Neugebauer. Courtesy photo.
Whitney Neugebauer started jiu-jitsu because she thought it would be a fun sport to try and a way to meet new friends, as well as stay in shape.

Her boyfriend, now husband, Bryan Alvarez, was involved in the discipline and encouraged her to take a class.

She says, “I didn’t get into it for self-defense reasons, but I thought it was really cool that something that I was doing for fun was also something that might protect me if I ever got into trouble. I also found the sport really intriguing because it’s like a chess game in that you use a lot of strategy when you do it.”

The local woman, a 2005 WHS grad, and UW alumnus, took to the sport and eventually earned her second degree blue belt.

She is now a teacher at Evergreen Karate and Jiu-Jitsu in Bothell.

“I teach Gracie jiu-jitsu,” says Neugebauer. “It’s a martial art, which was founded by Grandmaster Helio Gracie in Brazil almost 100 years ago. Gracie was a small man and he adapted judo techniques taught to him by a friend of his father, who was traveling the world to spread the art he learned in Japan.”

She continues to explain that Gracie’s adaptations emphasize leverage and technique as opposed to brute strength and power. They allow a smaller, weaker person to successfully defend him/herself against a bigger, stronger opponent.

Originally a male dominated sport, Gracie jiu-jitsu has gradually been attracting women in recent years, who are drawn to the activity for a variety of reasons.

“They like it because it’s great physical exercise and it’s fun to do,” comments Neugebauer. “But, they also like the sense of empowerment it gives them and the useful skills they gain.”

She adds, “Jiu-jitsu is non-violent, but at the same time it can protect you from violence. We know that the first line of self-defense is always to avoid trouble and to run away if you can. However, if you end up in a situation where you don’t have those options, it is good to know something — some moves or holds you can do that will perhaps save your life.”

Neugebauer wants to help bring awareness of the sport to more women.

To this aim, she has created a self-defense course using Gracie jiu-jitsu techniques, geared specifically towards women to aid them in threatening situations.

“It’s pertinent to rape defense and sexual assault,” comments the local woman. “It will show women how to get out of a situation where someone is grabbing their arms and wrists or their throat. We’ll teach them techniques that they can use standing up or even when they’re on the ground and someone is lying on top of them.”

The course, which will meet on Saturdays over a period of seven weeks, will utilize demonstrations and emphasize ample practice time for participants, who will work with partners, to ensure they are able to master the moves.

Neugebauer stresses that the classes will be held in a non-threatening environment and that no experience or particular level of fitness is required.

“I think this is important stuff that all women should learn,” she notes. “Nobody ever thinks something violent will happen to them, but the fact is that it can. One of our students, Rosie, started taking jiu-jitsu classes because her boyfriend Richard was doing it. About one month after her first lesson, she saw a man attacking his girlfriend in a Safeway parking lot on Highway 99. She called the police and they told her to stay in the car, but the guy was really pounding on the woman and none of the bystanders looking on were doing anything.

“So Rosie got out of the car, snuck up behind the guy, put him in a rear-naked choke and rendered him unconscious. The cops showed up, woke him up told Rosie that it’s never a good idea to take the law into your own hands, but also congratulated her for her heroic actions.”

Neugebauer adds, “Even a little knowledge proved helpful in this situation.”

For registration information, contact Whitney Neugebauer at: (425) 770-0787 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

What: 7-week women’s jiu-jitsu based self-defense course
When: Classes start Saturday, November 19
Where: Evergreen Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, 10116 NE 185th St., Bothell

Space is limited.