Category: Arts & Fun

Celebrating Holidays During COVID-19

This holiday season will be different for most of us.  Here are some resources to help families cope with the challenges that COVID-19 brings to friends and families.  Practicing safe social distancing and limiting gathering sizes is important.  Practicing safety measures such as mask wearing and hand washing can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Many families and groups of friends are planning on holding virtual parties and get togethers.  Zoom, FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat are some options. Scheduling a get together works best so that people can all be together virtually at the same time.  You can send invitations.

Popular Science has some suggestions for hosting a virtual party or get together.

Holiday Resources:

Building Healthy Friendships

Children on the grass laying in a circle
(Photo from Wikipedia- Creative Commons license):

As a nurse, I enjoy helping people to lead happy, healthy lives.  Having friends is one way we can make our lives more joyful. Friends can talk and relax together, and have fun together! Having friends is not always easy, though.  We do not always know everything we need to know about how to make friends. We also may not know how to be a good friend.

Here are a few tips to help.

  • If you would like to make new friends, tell somebody! Find somebody you trust, like your mom, dad, brother, sister or caregiver. They can help you think about:
  • What you are looking for in a friend.
  • Things you like to do, and things you may want to try.
  • If you like to spend time with groups of people or if you like to spend time with one person at a time.
  • Make a plan for making friends! Think about places you to go and things you like to do near where you live.
  • You can look in the local newspaper or web sites for special events and activities that interest you.
  • Maybe try joining a sports team or try a fitness class like Zumba or karate.
  • Volunteer at a school or soup kitchen and you can make friends and help other people at the same time!
  • Do you like to read or watch movies? You could start a movie or book club.
  • Practice! It may sound silly, but sometimes making new friends can make us feel nervous.

Try to practice talking to a make-believe new friend in front of a mirror or with a person you trust. Then, when you meet a new friend, you will have ideas of what to say.

This can make you feel less nervous.Then you can enjoy yourself when you are with a new friend!

  • Get ready! This will help you to feel good about yourself when you meet someone new.
  • Make sure you are clean and fresh with good personal hygiene.
  • Wear clean clothes that you feel good wearing.
  • Comb your hair and brush your teeth!
  • Keep working at it! Making new friends can take time. It can take a few visits with a new friend to feel comfortable together.
  • Talk with your friend about how often you would like to see each other.
  • You can talk about what you both like to do, and take turns choosing what you do or where you go.
  • Ask for help! Sometimes friends do not always agree. This is normal! People are not exactly the same and do not always like the same things.
  • If you and your friend disagree try to focus on the things you have in common.
  • If you are having trouble with a friend, talk to somebody you trust about it. They may be able to help you and your friend work through the trouble.
  • Know the signs of a bad friendship.

A friend should NOT:

  • Make fun of you or call you names
  • Hit you or touch you in a way you do not like
  • Lie or tell you things that are not true
  • Always want to know where you are and what you are doing
  • Keep asking for money or gifts

Tell somebody you trust right away if a friend is doing one of these things! You can choose not to be friends with a person who treats you this way.

Making new friends may seem hard at first. You may need to give it a few tries to find someone you have things in common with. Keep trying and soon you will be relaxing and having fun and enjoying time with your new friends!

For more information, visit:  Widening the Circle

Winter Activities

icon of a sit-skier Staying active in the winter is hard. You want to stay warm and cozy inside. But it’s important to stay active year round. Just because it’s cold and snowy outside doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. There are many fun things to do outside. There are outdoor activities for people of all abilities to enjoy. There is skiing, sit-skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, kick-sledding, and sled hockey.

In western Massachusetts, CHD lists activities like bowling, skiing, sled hockey, and wheelchair basketball.

To find information on outdoor recreation in Massachusetts look at The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

For fun sports programs in New England that offer downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing, check out: the Winter Adaptive Sports & Recreation Activities for People with Disabilities

If you want to stay indoors you can enjoy bowling, dancing, basketball, and drama. Other activities available are sensory friendly movies and theatre, and adaptive music programs.

The Carroll Center has a listing of Audio Described Theatre shows and schedules.

SPED Child and Teen lists events in Massachusetts including arts and theatre, music and dance, sports, museums, and movies. They also list sensory-friendly arts, museums, movies, and story times.

Find Sensory friendly movies in the Boston area at Sensory Friendly Films.

Find Sensory friendly movies on the Cape at Chatham Orpheum Theatre.

Autism Swim and Water Safety

Young child using kickboard and guided by a female swim teacher in a pool
Young child being guided by a swim teacher

When a child is diagnosed with Autism, the last thing parents are thinking about is swimming and water safety. But, there is information that tells us they should.

  • 9 of 10 children who die before age 14 do so by drowning.
    • National Autism Association, 2012
  • Drowning is a known danger for children who are 1 to 4 years old. The risk decreases with age for most children. For many children with Autism, the risk does not decrease with age.
  • Drowning is the number one cause of death for children with autism age 14 and under.
    • National Autism Association, 2012

Why are children with Autism at greater risk?

Many children with Autism are drawn to water. Scientists and researchers do not know why.

Running away from safe places is a problem for many with autism. This behavior stops happening around age 4 for typical children. For many children with Autism, it continues well beyond age 4.

Professionals rarely teach parents about the risk of children running from safe environments.

Language delays and sensory problems can make learning to swim difficult. Many children with Autism learn differently. What they hear may not be what is said. What they have to say may not be heard.

Sensory differences are also a challenge. Water temperature. Noise level. Touch. All can get in the way of learning.

Autism-specific swim programs are hard to find. Typical swim programs may not be best. Some children may need trained teachers. One-on-one teaching may be necessary.

What can parents do?

Manage the surroundings. Make your home safe. Use fences. Use door and window alarms. Consider a tracking bracelet for your child. LoJack Safety Net is waterproof and can be tracked under water.

If you have a pool, call a professional to help with making it safer.

Speak to your local fire and police departments. Be sure they know you have a child at a higher risk for running from safe environments.

Work with your ABA provider and/or school system to develop a plan at home and at school. Make sure plans are in place. How can your child be kept safe? What is in place to make running from safe settings more difficult? What is the plan if your child is missing? Ask your school or ABA provider to work on words such as “DANGER” and “STOP”.

Tell everyone who works with your child if your child is drawn to water. Identify nearby water sources. List them in your plan.

Helpful Resources

Why Visit a Museum?

kids touching baby head sculpturePersons with disabilities can:

  • Learn the past
  • Talk about big and small issues
  • Share ideas
  • Listen to others
  • Make things to share your ideas

The community gains:

  • A place for everyone
  • A place for everyone to learn new things together
  • A place to share ideas

I lead an organization called Our Space Our Place, Inc., an after school program for youth who are blind. We visit many museums. Our students learn about different cultures. They write stories and poems. They talk about the stories in art. They talk about their favorite paintings and sculptures with their families and friends. Taking a tour or making art opens new worlds.
For more information about museum programs for people with disabilities contact:

  • Museum of Fine Arts
    • Hannah Goodwin
    • Phone: 617-369-3189
    • TTY: 617-369-3395 or
    • Email:

Nature Play Blog

two boys playing on stonesWhat is Nature Play?  Nature Play is going outside to play and explore.  Kids spend more time indoors than ever before. Kids who play outside more often sleep better.  Those who play outside are sick less than those who stay inside.

Nature Play helps kids be happy and creative.  It shows how to solve problems and deal with stress.

Nature play uses the colors, textures, sights, and smells of the outdoors. There are many ways to make your own areas in your backyard! As a mom of five children, here are some cheap ideas that we have around:

  • trees, flowers, and plants;
  • water;
  • sand and stones;
  • seek and finds;
  • music; and
  • bug hotels.

For more information, please see: What is Nature Play?

Arts for Everyone!

a concert with musicians on stage and families in the audienceWhile some still think of theaters as a place for quiet adults, there are many shows open to everyone! People of all ages, young and old, and children and adults with a wide range of likes and dislikes are welcome at many shows, concerts and performances.

What are “Sensory Friendly” Performances?

Just a quick search on Google for “sensory friendly” leads to over 6.5 million hits! There are sensory performances at movie theaters, big stages in major cities, and small community and college shows. There many ways people with disabilities to enjoy the arts in the community.

What are “Sensory Friendly Concerts®?”

“Sensory Friendly Concerts®” are spreading around the country. CJ Shiloh, a Board Certified Music Therapist, and her non-profit “The Musical Autist” are making music concerts available to everyone.  Sensory Friendly Concerts® create a welcoming and accepting space for people who love music and with any type of disability or differences. These concerts are adapted to be friendly for children or adults with sensitive sensory systems. Noise level, lights and seating are comfortable for people with autism spectrum disorders. The artist may be a professional artist, a music therapist, or a musician who wants to share their love for music. Sometimes the performer has a disability. The concert includes the support of a music therapist to share the love of music with everyone in an accepting and inclusive space.

Where do they happen?

While Sensory Friendly Concerts® are an aspect of Community Music Therapy, there are other kinds of shows that are sensory friendly. Check your local listings for organizations that offer these kinds of shows. In Boston, you will find them at

  • Local colleges and universities in Boston
  • Broadway shows coming through town
  • Local movie theaters

How can I get involved?

There are many ways you can get involved.

  • Attend local sensory friendly shows!
  • Let the organizers know that your family wants to be involved in the arts scene!
  • Learn more about the Sensory Friendly Concert series by exploring The Musical Autist.
  • Talk with a Board Certified Music Therapist in your area to make your program more sensory friendly.

Whether enjoying Sensory Friendly Concerts® or going to a sensory friendly showing of a film at the movie theater, children who are sensitive to dark spaces and loud or startling sounds can enjoy the arts with their families. As opportunities like this increase, I look forward to seeing more arts experiences that are welcoming to all children, adults and families.  We need more family friendly open mics, accessible performance venues that welcome everyone and arts performances that invite the audience to participate, rather than be quiet.

To learn more visit The Musical Autist .

Recreation Programs for People with Disabilities in Massachusetts

bike riders
As the parent of a young man with special needs, I know how important it is for people with disabilities to be able to learn and take part in sporting and recreational activities with family and friends.  These activities help people be healthy and happy; and form social connections.  Massachusetts has a wide variety of adaptive sport and recreational programs.  Some are free and some charge a fee.  Most programs that charge a fee offer scholarships.  Here is a sample of the many programs that are offered to people with disabilities and their families. Now find a program that you enjoy, get out there, and have fun!


Horseback Riding

Variety of Summer and Winter Activities


Here are two additional websites that list programs in
Massachusetts and all over the United States
Sped Child and Teen
MNIP Fact Sheet Recreation Opportunities For People With Disabilities

Music Therapy 101

Mom smiling with toddler boy with Down Syndrome smiling and clapping on her lapMusic is a powerful way to connect people. Did you know that it also helps people of all ages achieve their personal goals every day? I first heard about music therapy from a teacher at my summer arts camp. I mentioned that I wanted to be a music teacher because I wanted to help people with music. She asked me, “Have you heard of music therapy?” At that moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my life’s work.


Music was a healing force long before music therapy was a defined field. Going back to the days of David playing his harp for Saul, music can heal, soothe, connect, comfort and excite people all around the world. Beginning after World Wars I and II, musicians visited hospitals to bring music to the veterans. It was there that the future of music therapy began. Formal college programs started to train music therapists to meet the increasing needs of the returning war veterans in the 1940’s. As Ronna Kaplan noted, “Doctors and nurses noticed patients’ positive and emotional responses to music” (Kaplan, 2011). To learn more about the history of music therapy, visit the American Music Therapy Association

And Today

There are over 6,000 music therapists certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Today, Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) around the country work with a variety of people, including:

• Mothers preparing for childbirth and in labor and delivery
• Infants in NICU
• Young children
• Children and adults with disabilities
• Children and adults with mental health needs
• Adults looking for increased insight and social connections
• Older adults to increase health and wellness
• Elders with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other age related conditions
• Individuals of all ages at the end of life

Music Therapy…
Gives children with special needs fun ways to develop their skills in a creative space
Supports adults with disabilities by using music as a way to connect to others in formal and informal ways
Invites older adults to participate and share in meaningful verbal and non-verbal music making
Where can I find a music therapist?

Board Certified Music Therapists can be found working in
• Public and private schools
• Hospitals
• Long term care and skilled nursing facilities
• Assisted living facilities
• Music therapy clinics
• In-patient and out-patient mental health centers
• Hospice programs
• Community centers
• Recreation programs
• Early intervention and 0-3 programs
• Children’s library programs

Music is not one size fits all!

You can’t just hit play on a CD player or an ipod and enjoy the effects of music therapy. Music therapy demands responses from a music therapist. He or she must carefully choose the music and instruments in the moment to help meet the person’s goals. Music therapy uses music to increase connections, develop new skills and reach one’s full potential.

The music and instruments change because of the people involved. Everything is adapted to meet the client’s needs. No matter what the music sounds like, music therapists use music to work towards very specific goals.

What are the Benefits of Music Therapy?
Music therapy creates new conversations and can help people connect without the need for words. Music therapy can help many people from young to old, by:
• Enhancing quality of life
• Developing new skills
• Reducing stress or loneliness
• Encouraging teamwork and new solutions
Clive Robbins, a leader in the music therapy field once said, “Almost all children respond to music. Music is an open-sesame, and if you can use it carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child’s potential for development.” Although he worked mostly with children, as a music therapist, I can truthfully say that music serves as an open sesame for all people.

When used thoughtfully and with an understanding and commitment to personal growth, music can transform lives. Music develops early childhood skills, and helps people transition at the end of life. Either way, music opens doors to new understandings, new solutions and personal development.

For more information, visit
The American Music Therapy Association
The Certification Board for Music Therapists

What Is Music Therapy? Ronna Kaplan, M.A. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2014, from
American Music Therapy Association, American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2014, from

Disability Travel

various travel photos boat, car, airplane, tropical location, suitcase.

People travel for many reasons such as work, to visit family or friends, or for vacation.  If you are a person with a disability, or mobility challenges however, this may mean you have a lot more to think about! However, that doesn’t mean travel is out of the question for you. Here are some tips and suggestions to make sure your trip goes smoothly and provides you with the ideal vacation experience you are hoping for! – Research Your Destination Before You Go: Most of the time, websites will not provide sufficient information about accessibility. Call the hotel, or place you will be going to directly, and ask about the specific features you may need (refrigerator*, roll in shower, fully ADA accessible room). This is also an opportunity to ask about any tourist attractions or other venues you may want to visit while you are there. Concierges are usually well informed about what is in the area and can help you figure out how to make the best use of your time. – Communicate Your Needs Early On- Often you cannot request or assess accessibility through the online booking features. Some websites are better than others, but it is best to go directly through the hotel or airline website instead of sites that may save you a few bucks. This way you are able to speak to an actual person and explain your specific needs. It is also a good idea to call the hotel, or place you will be staying the day before you leave, to confirm that your room is available, with everything you need. – Remember Your Health- No matter what way you are traveling, make sure you have everything you need with you to manage your health needs. Bring medications in your carry on, and make sure you have enough (maybe some extra) for your entire trip. It is a good idea to carry current versions of your insurance cards with you, as well as a summary documenting your health condition, allergies, and doctors (A good template for this is: Portable Medical Summary Template) You should also research what hospitals are nearby to where you are staying, and put the address in your phone. It never hurts to be prepared, just in case of an emergency! Depending on your health condition or disability, you may want to take your needs into consideration when booking your travel, and deciding on the length of your trip. It may not be in your best interest to book a flight that leaves at 6 a.m. or has many connections that would require you to get quickly from one gate to another. Think about what times of day you feel your best, and what would work for you. You may also want to request seats that will be best for you to stay comfortable during the flight, whether this is an aisle seat, or something near the front. Most airline staff will help to accommodate this to the best of their ability. – Air Travel- If traveling by air, it is very important to arrive at the airport early, as you may need additional time to go trough security. To feel more comfortable, it is also helpful to understand what the security process will be like before you travel. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a great resource about this: information for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. Airlines that have shown to be especially helpful for people with disabilities are: Southwest, Jet Blue, and US Airways, but all airlines must respect you and support requests for accommodations. – Know Your Equipment- When traveling, it is very important that you are the expert on any mobility equipment or devices you will have. You should know what type of battery it has, how much it weighs, and how to take it apart and put it back together (if possible). These are the types of questions you will be asked when you check in at the airport or train station. If you are unsure, most common models have the user manual online that you can download. When you leave your device to be stores, be sure to keep any loose or small pieces with you, such as backpacks, cushions, or keys that could get separated and lost. – Transportation- Be sure to think about how you will get around, once you arrive at your destination. Many airports have places where you can request an accessible shuttle to your hotel, for much less than a traditional cab service. You can also ask about the best way to get around during your trip- if the public transportation system is accessible, or for the phone numbers of cab companies have accessible vehicles. Depending on where you are traveling to, you can even book your shuttle ahead of time through different websites, such as supershuttle. This will assure you have a ride set once you arrive. – Over pack! When traveling, there is no such thing as being too prepared! It is a good idea to bring more clothes, and medical supplies than you think you will need. You never know what may happen with the weather or travel plans, and you don’t want to be caught without things you need to be safe and healthy. You may also want to bring one day’s worth of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on if traveling by air, just in case your flight is canceled or delayed. There is definitely a lot to think about when you want to take a trip and have a disability, but with the right planning and preparation, you can have the same great vacation as everyone else. Become confident in knowing your needs, and speaking up for them, and you are on the path to travel success!

*If you do require a refrigerator, be sure to tell the staff it is for medical supplies- some hotels have a daily fee for this, and specifying the medical necessity could waive that expense.

Disclaimer: This blog is written regarding people with physical disabilities, however the theme of planning and preparation is important for people with all types of disabilities to keep in mind!