Category Archives: Disability and Autism Management in Alabama

Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and Birmingham Scrollworks

For the past two years, the youngest son has been taking percussion classes at Birmingham Scrollworks . I have talked about his Drum Wizard before in this post and watching his progress has been really fun for me. Here they are in a pic I took during class one day. The great thing for me as I’ve watched him learn music, hasn’t just been in monitoring his ability to play, but watching him develop confidence in himself along with an understanding of music and how it works and what he can do to help keep that passion alive as he grows. Observing him as he starts to identify himself as a musician, has really been rewarding.

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Scrollworks is a 501c3 non-profit music school. We serve kids who are often unable to get music lessons otherwise, foster kids, low-income, disabled, etc.
We use donated instruments via a type of instrument “library” where a small deposit is paid once for the instrument and given back upon its return. Once the kids have progressed in their skills, they try out for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and play together as a group, occasionally doing community performances.

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This coming April 2, 2016, we will be having a fundraiser, the first ever Forte Music Festival, at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. Tickets will be $15 and includes food, drinks, and live music from local musicians. There will be a silent auction, which I’m proud to say I have had a hand in soliciting donations to be included. The funds raised from this will go towards music books, instrument repair, consumables, and basic expenses to keep the school going.

Scrollworks is dedicated to making music instruction and ensemble playing available to all, thereby developing character and sense of community. Young people of diverse racial, social, cultural, and economic backgrounds are encouraged to explore and cultivate their musical talent and contribute to Alabama’s musical culture. Over 200 students participate each year. Many have been denied music education in their neighborhood schools. Since our founding in 2007, the MYOCA has generated two Alabama Symphony Orchestra Rising Stars, as well as placing almost two dozen students in the prestigious Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Art programs are important, and music is important not just for kids but for humanity, especially in a time when schools are cutting these programs in order to focus on kids being able to pass tests.

Some of the donations we have received so far are:

Gift certificates to Cantina, Vecchia, Bottle and Bone, and Yogurt Mountain
Bowling passes, Vulcan Park passes, Barons tickets, Red Mountain Theater tickets, Red Mountain Adventure Park, Santa Fe Day Spa, Splash Adventure, Alabama Ballet, Paper Source, Birmingham Zoo, and Oriental Trading Co

We have received art related items from Virginia Jones Photography, dsart.com, Naked Art, Ashley Homestore, Stampin’ Up, Leon Loard, and Make ME That.

We have a gift certificate to Hanna’s Garden Shop and spring is the perfect time for it.

As time goes by, and more donations roll in, we will be keeping you guys updated. You should consider following Scrollworks on social media for regular updates. You can find them here:
Instagram! https://www.instagram.com/scrollworksmusicbham/
Learn! http://myorch.org/
Like!http://www.facebook.com/Scrollworks
Subscribe! https://www.youtube.com/myorch
Follow! https://twitter.com/scrollworks

If you’re interested in donating, whether it be instruments for our kids, music books or other music related items, cash, or items for our silent auction, you can contact me directly though my contact form and I can put you in touch or you can email from the myorch website. Any shares on this post would be appreciated, as well.

You can also access the Donor Form Here if you would like to get the ball rolling directly without having to email anyone.

If you’re interested in attending the Forte Music Festival, tickets can be purchased through this eventbrite link. .

Remember, please don’t hesitate to contact me if necessary and I can put you in touch with the right people. I’m always happy to help.

Special Needs Dentist in Birmingham

One thing that was hard for us when we moved here was finding a dentist. We tried a few places and each one would act like Superman was much younger than he was. They would have ceiling TVs that played preschool shows and such, and so we kept looking because he was 10-12 ish and would always leave unhappy.

And really…when did it become standard for children to always have to have a screen? TV everywhere, even in cars…smart phones, tablets, and so on. When are kids allowed to just dream? That’s another post. This is about dental care.

UAB has a clinic called the Sparks clinic. It is a division of Civitan International. They offer a wide array of services there, from the PEERS program for social skills training for Autie kids to a clinic that does diagnosis (it’s got a really long waiting list, so if you suspect, get on the list asap), to a special needs dentist. We were really happy when we found the dental clinic. It’s also not uncommon to see flyers about there that are for studies that our kids might be able to participate in. There is also a room in the front office that has racks all over the wall that are filled with flyers and booklets regarding area services.

The dental clinic is small. I think it seats two patients. It is staffed by dental students from the school, and overseen by a doctor who may, at times, come out and chat with you. Teeth cleanings are only $45! They also accept Medicaid and insurances, but 45 bucks is awesome! It totally keeps tooth cleaning affordable for our loved ones as they age if they do not have dental coverage.

The clinic is able to accommodate a variety of disabilities.
They also have a clinic there called “The Adult Down Syndrome Clinic” but since we don’t have Down Syndrome, you would have to call them to find out what services they offer.

So far, we do really like their dental. Everyone does a great job, so if you’re looking for a dentist for your special needs person, give them a call. I have listed the website below.

UAB Civitan-Sparks

Weekend Family Camps with Full Life Ahead Foundation

For the past few years, we have attended family camps with an organization based in Birmingham called Full Life Ahead Foundation. FLAF is a 501c3 non-profit with a goal of helping families of disabled kids with transition issues, transition being the time from middle school age through adulthood. It is because of FLAF camps that Superman is taking classes in Improv comedy.

One of the purposes of these retreats is to help parents of children and adults with disabilities network with each other and with professionals who can help lay the framework to get them ready for a “full life”, whatever they conceive it to be. Our participation in the camps has transformed over time from the four of us sitting through seminars and children’s and teen groups, to both Mr. Incredible and Superman becoming weekend volunteers in different capacities. I still sit in the parent seminars. The information I pick up in them proves itself invaluable not only for us, but for me to be able to pass on and help other families, including directing them to Full Life Ahead.

The FLAF offices are based in Birmingham, while the camps are at the Children’s Harbor campus on Lake Martin in Alexander City. Camps run from Friday afternoon until Sunday noon-ish for checkout. Each family gets a private cabin that sleeps four twin beds plus a foldout couch. The cabins are built in sets of four, like a fourplex, with a big, covered back porch with doors leading out and fully outfitted with chairs to sit and enjoy the lake view during your down times.

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The campus is fully handicapped accessible, from the wheelchair showers to the banks of the lake, so it can accommodate all levels of people with disability. It is owned by Children’s Harbor, which is another entry entirely, and they host camps year round for families and children with special needs.

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During the weekend of camp, you can be introduced to a wide variety of people who want to help you help your child find his/her place in society and by that, I mean getting out and working and experiencing life as independently as possible, not sitting on their couch, playing video games forever.
Some of the seminars I’ve attended include Vocational Rehab, SSI, setting up a special needs trust, “customized employment”, parent support, they bring in professionals who work with Medicaid, ADAP, schools, and many more places I had never even heard of, all for the purpose of helping them show you how to locate resources.
Your food is provided. They have a team of volunteers (Including Superman!) in the kitchen who work themselves weary all weekend to provide us with 3 squares. Superman loves volunteering in the kitchen. WHY doesn’t he volunteer in the kitchen at home? The world may never know, but he would likely do literally anything for Lisa, the kitchen manager.

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So, you eat, you attend seminars, you network with parents and professionals, you learn how to help your child. This isn’t really meant to be a respite weekend, although there is something about being on the lake that centers you. It is also set up for young people who are middle school age and older, except for siblings of older disabled people and they are still accommodated in a class for kids. Your child’s needs are provided for so you can attend seminars without worry if they require supervision. You make so many connections and forge relationships at these camps that you will want to come back. And you will love Henry and Judy and Jan, who are the ones who dreamed it up and made it all happen. There is something to be said for being in a place where you’re not different by virtue of your family’s differences.

If you’re a parent or caretaker of a person with a disability, check out their website at Full Life Ahead and register for a weekend to see what it’s like. If you’d like to make a donation, they can always use your money or a donation of specific office supplies, items we can use at camp like coffee and snacks, and if you have a heart for volunteerism, well, there is always a need for great volunteers. There is a wish list and a donor form on the website.

Last but not least, if you love thrift stores, this camp is a MUST! Children’s Harbor operates a big thrift store right next door, within walking distance. It is always, ALWAYS loaded with great items.

Even if you don’t live in Alabama, I really recommend these retreats, and maybe this can help you see what to expect. The info and love and acceptance you will pick up here will prove itself invaluable.

Positively Funny, Inc., Birmingham Improv and Comedy School

When he was in the fourth grade, Superman started talking about being a comedian. He isn’t going to remember it, but he got his inspiration from watching Josh Blue win “Last Comic Standing”. I got called to the school so many times that year, you wouldn’t believe it.
It turns out that on Show and Tell days, instead of showing and telling, Superman would get in front of the class and perform what he called “The Superman Show”. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t a reason to admonish him, I thought it was pure brilliance. I still do.

Many people don’t realize the huge amount of tests that autistic kids go through, but one is the measure of their memory. Superman tests very low on being able to remember things. I have been thinking about this as the years have gone by, because his ability to memorize scripts would be limited. Memorizing a script for stage is different from what autie kids do that is called “Scripting”. That is many of their uncanny ability to recite movies, line for line, and even act them out.

One day about six months ago, I thought of Improv and I started researching local improv troupes. I stumbled upon PSI.

Positively Funny performs every Tuesday night at a club downtown called The Rare Martini. I called them up and asked about their classes and their shows and took him in that night to see them perform. They engage their audience and he was very interactive with the actors. He even got up on stage and did a skit with them.
He had so much fun that I knew when we left that he was going to want to take classes. He did.

The next week, the Sparks clinic called and said that they were starting a different class we had been on the waiting list for for several months, so we had to put Improv on the back burner. I actually used it as an incentive to get him to complete the class at Sparks. If you are unfamiliar with the Sparks Clinic, they are a developmental clinic located in downtown Bham, close to UAB and in that hub where all of the medical stuff is. They have autism clinics, Down Syndrome clinics, social skills programs, and even a dental clinic designed to suit all manner of disabled patients. Much of the work there is done by medical students and supervised by senior faculty. Learn more HERE

One of the things that attracted me to PFI was their work as a not-for-profit called Perform-4A-Purpose. P4AP  takes on the issues that teens often deal with in our society, bullying, suicide, and school violence. To learn more about P4AP, go here and check it out It was this that sold me on them, because instinct told me that a group that works on those issues would likely be very accepting of an autistic teen who wants to realize his dreams. I wasn’t disappointed in the way they took him right in at the show.

He started his first class tonight. I’m trying to blend in to the corner of the room and just type on my tablet and write this blog. I normally blog with headphones on and music in my ears, but not tonight.
I hope the semester stays as good as this or better because he is having fun and feels accepted and is acting more free than I’ve seen in a long time. Now, normally, he is pretty free, all things considered, but this is different. It’s like music to my heart. The instructor went on in the beginning about the fact that this class is a judgment free zone.
PFI has a show coming up next Tuesday, October 7. It is the three year anniversary of their shows at the Rare Martini. This will be a special show, a fundraiser, to gather money for a project on teen suicide called “The Color of a Ghost.” Bring dollar bills and stuff your favorite actor’s tip jar to fund this project.
This material will be distributed for free to schools. Check it out yourself here.

One last thing, PFI also does parties and special events and they have a corporate training program as well. You should check them out to see about booking them for an event.

Superman says he hopes these classes make him more funny. I think if he just has a great time, that’s all that matters to me.

Kulturecity’s Upcoming Halloween BASH! Don’t miss it!

If you live around Birmingham, here is an event that you aren’t going to want to miss this coming Halloween season!  Kulturecity’s Junior Board is hosting a costume party fundraiser called hero:KULTURE

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Come out and come dressed as your favorite superhero! Nacho Libre!

Here is what you will need to know. First, if you aren’t familiar with Kulturecity, please, learn all you can! If you have a loved one with autism, do it for them! You will learn something valuable. If you have no loved one with autism, do it to enrich your life.
Check my tags for my personal experiences, go to their website Kulturecity.org, read their social media, follow them on facebook and twitter and just google it. In the meantime, here are the cliffs notes.

Kulturecity is a young non-profit based out of Vestavia Hills, Alabama. It is a little over one year old. They take the funds they raise and use them to reach directly out to families affected by autism and provide them with the necessary tools and therapies their children need for success. These tools and services are often expensive and not paid for through insurance. Did you know that a non-verbal autistic child can use iPad apps to be able to communicate? One of the goals of this organization is to put iPads in the hands of children with autism. My son is (very) verbal. They gave him one. He uses it to (take selfies…j/k) keep track of his appointments and necessary daily tasks. He has checklists on it for things he needs to remember but can’t, contact info for people, lists of meds, and so on. He has a form on it for special requests for jewelry he makes.

Another thing they do is place weighted therapy blankets in the hands of kids who need them. A therapy blanket is heavy and provides sensory stimulation that our kids need while they sleep. They are expensive. I made my son’s. The supplies alone cost $125. These blankets are very often out of reach for these kids.

Another thing they do, and this is not the last nor the least thing, but do a little research and don’t just take my word for it…they are brainstorming ideas to help get autism families out into the community not just for the sake of the families and the kids, but for the sake of the communities as well. Our kids have so much to give! We often keep our distance because of a lack of acceptance from others. There are families living with autism who have even been asked to find new churches and can’t even go to their chosen house of worship because other people were unable to accept having their child as a member.

Now, here is what you need to know about this event. It is on Friday, October 17 at Rosewood Hall at SoHo Square
2850 19th St South, Homewood, Alabama 35244

Come dressed as a superhero or heroine and come ready to party!
Tickets are $25 available in advance HERE and $30 at the door.  Dinner will be provided, there will be a cash bar available.  Music will be provided by Will and Sarah Mason, DJ Syndicate, celebrity DJ Full Service Party, and some surprise guests.  I LOVE surprise guests! The party will also include a best costume contest along with amazing prizes. There will be a cash bar and they will be serving several mixed drinks including a ZOMBIE-rita. I’ll have 13.

There will also be a raffle and to enter the costume contest, bring a new toy to donate as your contest admission.

If you decide to go through Amazon to buy your costume and supplies, you can further support KC by going through their Amazon Smiles link.  Amazon will donate a portion of all purchases bought through this link to Kulturecity. In fact, just use their link for your Amazon shopping for the upcoming holidays and, well, forever.
Amazon Smiles

If you own a business, there is even more you can do for this wonderful 501c3 Non-profit. You can give a fully tax-deductible sponsorship for this event. We need sponsors and there are perks that come with it.  By perks, I mean some great advertising, free tickets and free drinks!
There are three tiers of sponsorship $1000, $500, and $250. Each tier comes with its own set of perks, so please see what you will get for your sponsorship.

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS

SUPERMAN ($1000)
•  Company name and logo recognition featured as SUPERMAN Sponsor on main HD screen.
• Company recognized by Host at event.
• Company recognized on all Kulturecity website and other social media.
•  Sponsor gift.
• 12 tickets to event
.• 12 drink bands

WONDER WOMAN ($500)
• Company name and logo recognition featured as WONDER WOMAN Sponsor on 3 tables.
• Sponsorship recognized on KultureCity website and other social media
• 6 tickets to event
• 6 drink bands

BATMAN ($250)
• Company name and logo recognition featured as BATMAN Sponsor on 1 table.
• Sponsorship recognized on KultureCity website and other social media.
• 2 tickets to event.
• 2 drink bands.

We would really appreciate your support! By committing a sponsorship, you will make a huge impact on a local, small non-profit and an even greater impact on the lives of kids and families living with autism every day, Thanks.