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A VIDEO GAME THAT HELPS KIDS Page 10 PARENTS, we’ve got you covered for Special Needs resources in the Twin Cities!

-fr Gluten


peachr! cobble Page 28

Kit, 3, Minneapolis












May 2019








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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.







Catering to kids

Too shy?

Vantage point

A local mom shares her favorite destinations and events for children on the autism spectrum in the Twin Cities.

Is your child’s clinginess normal? Probably! But if it feels like too much, check out these coping strategies.

Siblings of children with special needs have special needs themselves. Two local moms share what kids and parents need to know.




Children with unique needs have so much to teach us.

Cats like to bring you dead animals, but this is too much.

What’s the secret ingredient? Yellow cake mix from Aldi!




Looking for special-needs childcare? Check out this app.

Coping when one parent is out of commission requires support!

These new stories encourage kids to appreciate diversity.




Dive into our ultimate playlist for every stage of parenting.

Avoid books you ‘should’ read. Instead try these parent picks.

Seeing your kids with their grandmas warms our hearts!



If you lose your child in public, keep calm and ask for help.

What can you do when spring allergens cause asthma attacks?



Our teacher-mama shares ideas for slowing the summer slide.

Watch for these signs if you think your kid is falling behind.

Not so different

On demand

Sing it!

Flight risk

Stay sharp


May 2019 •

Hello, kitty

Help wanted

Paperback therapy

Breath support

Cues and clues

Gluten-free dessert

All are welcome

Golden grandmothers

& About 46 Out CA L E N DA R

About our cover kid

Parents: Christine and Charlie Broder Personality: Exuberant  Favorite toys: Dollhouse, kitchen and anything outside Favorite books: Where the Wild Things Are and Little Miss Big Sis Favorite activities: Taking walks, swimming, helping with family dinners  Favorite foods: Pizza and pasta Her story, as told by Mom and Dad:  Kit was born April 10, 2016. To our surprise, she was born with an extra chromosome and a Down syndrome diagnosis. Since that day, our lives have been changed in the best and most wonderful way! Kit is a beautiful and amazing child, who is discovering life and spreading love to everyone she meets. (She quite literally blows kisses to everyone she meets.) With her family, Kit continues to spread the message of acceptance and love, reminding everyone that being different is awesome!

Cover kid Kathleen ‘Kit’ Broder, 3, of Minneapolis, with her sister, Isabelle, 10 months

Photos by Tracy Walsh Photography • May 2019



All of us W


Janis Hall •



Zoe Gahan •


Sarah Jackson •


Lorena Armstrong-Duarte, Dr. Gigi Chawla Melissa Danielson, Megan Devine, Katie Dohman Ed Dykhuizen, Melanie Fountaine Laura Groenjes Mitchell, Shannon Keough, Deb Mallin Emma Nadler, Mary Rose Remington, Brenda Taylor Erica Wacker, Tracy Walsh, Jen Wittes


Valerie Moe •




Amy Rash •


Hannah Dittberner 612-436-4389 •


Marlo Johnson 612-436-4388 •


612-436-4360 • 40,000 copies of Minnesota Parent are printed monthly, available at 1,100 locations: Go to to get this magazine mailed to your home for $18 a year.

Minnesota Parent (ISSN 0740 3437) is published monthly by Minnesota Premier Publications. POSTMASTER send address changes to: MINNESOTA PARENT, 1115 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55403. Minnesota Parent is copyright 2019 by Minnesota Premier Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Address all material to address above.


May 2019 •

elcome, parents and all, to our third-annual Special Needs Issue! I’m so glad you’re here. And I’m delighted that, three years ago, we decided to build an issue around this theme. Although not every story in this month’s magazine touches on special needs, our focus on this topic has been an amazing learning experience for our writers and entire staff. Whether or not you have a child with special needs, you’re affected by the challenges all kinds of children face. Our kids go to preschool/school together and become friends, weaving all of our lives together into a community of typical and not-so-typical kids. You know what else I’ve learned in my almost Photo by Delaney Patterson 11 years of parenting? Who’s to say your typical kid doesn’t have a special need that just hasn’t presented itself yet? So many special needs reveal themselves as our kids move into formal schooling. And even then, things can slip below the radar. In other words, aren’t we all in this together? In the age of social media, it can be easy to feel that everyone is “normal” — and not dealing with anything other than choosing the most flattering Instagram filter. But the truth is, our public highlight reels don’t show it all — the recently diagnosed autism spectrum disorder that fell below the radar until the fourth grade, the school-day struggles with ADHD, the eating disorders that came up in middle school, the severe social anxiety that spiked in high school or the many other trials we don’t make public. Cheers to those parents who share their real stories of distress — and triumph — because they make space for the rest of us who are different. In this issue, our writers not only tell stories of the differences some kids might exhibit, but also explain how to talk to typical kids about what differences mean — and what they don’t. On our Bookshelf pages — featuring five books that address all kinds of diversity — our writer, a father of three, makes the point that ignoring differences actually does kids a disservice. In one book, a boy meets a girl with limb differences. The boy clearly needs guidance on how to acknowledge the physical difference. (Kids can’t turn off their exploratory minds.) But he also needs help learning how to move past this basic observation to move on to something truly special: Friendship. That’s what I want for my son — an open heart that isn’t blind to difference, but is led by that Minnesota-born mantra: All Are Welcome Here. Now that’s a meme I can get behind.

Sarah Jackson, Editor

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Sarah Jackson


A therapeutic video game Dolly Lowery couldn’t take it anymore. The Excelsior mom had spent 10 years taking her son to more than 1,200 appointments to treat his severe dyslexia — and nothing was really working.

Full-body gaming is the secret behind BrainyAct.

BrainyAct taps into the power of neuroplasticity, the brain’s natural ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections in response to changes/challenges in one’s environment. Its software measures a child’s movements and then provide

So she made it her mission to find her own solution. During her

customized activities to target that child’s specific learning needs.

research, she met a Florida-based physician, Dr. Nelson Mane, who

Games are fun for kids because they use responsive motion-

specializes in treating children with ADHD, dyslexia and autism

sensing technology and other interactive elements, such as those

spectrum disorders using fine/gross-motor therapies.

used in games like Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Sports.

Using Mane’s experience and research and her own knowledge

BrainyAct is currently offered at Kinuu in on Highway 7 in

of technology and data, Lowery and a team of experts created a

Minnetonka (Kinuu is Lowery’s company name), where coaches

new therapeutic video game called BrainyAct.

facilitate sessions.

Geared toward ages 6–15, BrainyAct guides kids through

Initial consultations cost $89 and can be put toward packages,

targeted, full-body exercises designed to improve balance, rhythm/

which cost $1,995 and include 40 sessions, ideally scheduled two

timing, visual-motor perception, memory, planning, communication,

to three times per week for best results.

handwriting and, ultimately, performance in school, including behavior and social skills.

New this month, Kinuu is launching a BrainyAct home option with similar pricing (plus an equipment rental fee). Virtual coaching — as well as optional online group sessions to help families connect — are both included in the ← BrainyAct is offered at Kinuu’s center in Minnetonka (above) or parents can rent the equipment for home use.


May 2019 •

home option. Though BrainyAct took years to fully develop, Lowery’s son was able to test-drive many elements of the game along the way — and experienced significant improvements in his coordination and reading as a result. In fact, he’s getting ready to graduate from high school this spring. Learn more at

On-demand care! It’s healthy for parents to take breaks from child rearing, especially when the parents involved have children with special needs. However, simply jumping on a babysitter app or care site doesn’t work for families who require specialized, on-demand care. Fortunately, two Minnesota moms have created a first-of-its-kind disability carebooking app that connects parents of children with special needs with qualified, vetted, experienced caregivers. Joshin is the brainchild of Melissa Danielsen and Melanie Fountaine, twin sisters who both live in North Oaks with their families. They were inspired to create the app by their brother, Josh, who had special needs and tragically died in 2009. Launched in February, the app is currently available in the Twin Cities market to connect families with disability caregivers known as Joymakers, who are thoroughly screened and background-checked. Rates are typically $16–$22 per hour, plus a Joshin service fee of 20 percent. Subscription options are $24–$34 per month. Learn more at To read a story by Danielsen and Fountaine — about growing up with a sibling with special needs — see page 42 of this issue.

MacPhail Center for Music MNP 0118 2-3page_#1.indd 1

12/8/17 1:29 PM • May 2019


Jen Wittes


The B, B and B playlist T

he power of music is undisputed. It makes us laugh, cry, sing, shout and move. Whether toe-tapping or heartbreaking, songs can lift our spirits or give us permission to succumb to cathartic sobs. Music sets the mood, sets the tune, brings us back, propels us forward. You will love the moment your baby first smiles at a pleasant song or dances, clumsily, mere days after learning to walk. In celebration of music’s power, I present the B, B and B playlist — just a starter pack! I invite you to add your own tracks.

Bump songs ⊲⊲To Zion by Lauryn Hill: “I touched my belly, overwhelmed by what I had been chosen to perform.” ⊲⊲Haven’t Met You Yet by Michael Buble: “And I promise you, kid, that I’ll give so much more than I’ll get. I just haven’t met you yet.” ⊲⊲Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel: “When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all.” ⊲⊲Ooh Child by The Five Stairsteps: “Someday, we’ll walk in the rays of the beautiful sun. Someday, when the world is much brighter.” ⊲⊲Danny’s Song by Kenny Loggins: “People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one, and we’ve just begun. Think I’m gonna have a son.” ⊲⊲Golden Slumbers by The Beatles: “Golden slumbers fill your eyes, smiles await you when you rise.” ⊲⊲All La Glory by The Band: “I wanna hear pitter patter. Climb up your ladder now. It’s time for you to dream.”


May 2019 •

Birth songs ⊲⊲This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush: “I stand outside this woman’s work, this woman’s world. Oh, it’s hard on the man. Now his part is over.” ⊲⊲Put Your Records On by Corrine Bailey Rae: “Girl, put your records on. Tell me your favorite song. You go ahead: Let your hair down.” ⊲⊲Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce: “Smart enough to make those millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.”

me, I saw you when you came out. You’ve got your mama’s taste, but you’ve got my mouth.”

Baby songs ⊲⊲Pink and Blue by the Mountain Goats: “What will I do with you? Pink and blue. True gold. Nine days old.” ⊲⊲This Will Be Our Year by The Zombies: “The warmth of your smile, smile for me little one. This will be our year, took a long time to come.”

⊲⊲Push It by Salt n’ Pepa: “Can’t you hear the music’s pumping hard like I wish you would? Now push it. Push it good.”

⊲⊲Stay Up Late by The Talking Heads: “Mommy had a little baby. There he is, fast asleep. He’s just a little plaything. Why not wake him up?”

⊲⊲Invincible by OK Go: “When they finally come to destroy the earth, they’ll gave to go through your first. I bet they won’t be expecting that.”

⊲⊲Lord Protect My Child by Bob Dylan: “For his age he’s wise, he’s got his mother’s eyes. There’s gladness in his heart. He’s young and he’s wild.”

⊲⊲Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder: “Isn’t she precious, less than 1 minute old.”

⊲⊲Songbird by Fleetwood Mac: “For you, there’ll be no more crying. For you, the sun will be shining.”

⊲⊲Gracie by Ben Folds: “You can’t fool


Play things! Are you setting up a baby registry right now? Put down that scan gun and check out Lovevery, a new Idaho-based company offering Montessori-friendly, neuroscientist-endorsed play kits. We can’t get over the gorgeous wooden rattle, the play socks (with tabs your baby can pull) or the magic tissue box. Lovevery — founded by Minnesota native and mother of three Jessica Rolph — also sells a top-notch play gym ($140). $80 for each two-month kit •

⊲ Forever Young by Bob Dylan: “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung. May you stay forever young.” ⊲ (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin: “Now I’m no longer doubtful of what I’m living for. And if I make you happy, I don’t need to do more.”

EXERCISE PREGNANCY STUDY The University of Minnesota is seeking women who are currently less than 20 weeks pregnant to participate in a research study examining the effect of exercise and wellness on mood following childbirth.

ESTUDIO SOBRE EL EJERCICIO DURANTE EL EMBARAZO La Universidad de Minnesota está buscando mujeres con menos de 20 semanas de embarazo para participar en el estudio de investigación que examina los efectos del ejercicio y la salud del estado de ánimo posterior al parto

• Program delivered to you via the mail and phone

• Programa ejecutado vía correo o teléfono

• Must be 18 years of age or older

• Debe ser mayor o igual a 18 años de edad

And now …

• Must not currently exercise regularly

• No debe hacer ejercicio regularmente

SING to your baby — now, often, always. And skip the headphones-over-the-belly Beethoven; the best way to expose baby to sound and music is through the sound of your voice. DANCE through labor, whatever your jam. It’s good for you, it’s good for the process, it lightens the mood. KEEP DANCING after baby arrives, including that sweet, sweet sway by the moonlight, with your eyes so tired, but appreciating the way things look at midnight, and that specific smell of Baby’s hair.

• Must not take antidepressants

• No debe tomar antidepresivos

• You will receive $100 & a FitBit for your time (you will be allowed to keep the FitBit after the study is over)

• Usted recibirá $100 y un FitBit por su tiempo (será permitido quedarse con el FitBit después de la culminación del estudio)

• Program can be delivered in English or Spanish

• Debe considerarse de bajos ingresos, lo cual se define como:

• Must be considered low-income, defined as: - Enrollment in any government assisted program (e.g., WIC, SNAP) AND/OR - Annual income that is considered low (less than $45,510 for a family of four, less than $30,044 for a family of two, and less than $22,311 if single). English: Call or TEXT to 612-345-0325 or to see if you qualify for this research study.

- Inscripta en cualquier programa asistencial del gobierno (por ejemplo, WIC, SNAP) Y/O - Ingresos anuales considerados como bajos (menos de $ 45,510 para una familia de cuatro, menos de $ 30,044 para una familia de dos y menos de $ 22,311 si es soltera). Español: Llamada o TEXTO 612-237-1004 o para ver si califica para éste estudio.

Jen Wittes is a marketing director, writer, certified postpartum doula and mom of two living in St. Paul. U of M - Kinesiology Dept MNP 0318 S3.indd 2

2/14/18 11:13 AM • May 2019


Shannon Keough




n the Laura Ingalls Wilder book By the Shores of Silver Lake, there’s a scene in which the family toddler, Grace, gets lost. First, the family searches the perimeter of their prairie shanty. Then suddenly, Pa exclaims in horror: “The Big Slough!” Ma and Pa and go running off into the nearby swamp grass, calling out Grace’s name in mounting desperation. Twelve-year-old Laura thinks about where her sister would go and concludes she wouldn’t go anywhere near the nasty slough. Laura instead runs toward the prairie and eventually finds Grace gathering violets in a buffalo wallow. In true toddler fashion, Grace is unperturbed by her frantic sister and clearly unaware she has just been “rescued.” This scene gets at some of the emotions you will find horrifyingly familiar if you ever have the misfortune of losing your toddler — panic, terror, an overwhelming sense of doom and the feeling of being a total parental failure. It also conveys the sheer, exhausted sense of relief you experience upon finally reuniting with your lost child.


May 2019 •

MayDay, Mayday A couple years ago, my husband and I lost our 3-year-old son, Felix, at the MayDay festival in Powderhorn Park for a nauseainducing half an hour. We were all sitting under a tree, attempting to divvy up a bunch of food-truck fare onto flimsy paper plates that kept fluttering away in the wind. At this point in life, Felix was a known

flight risk. He required constant observation; even a five-second lapse could give him enough time to bound across a soccer field. After finally portioning out everyone’s lunch, I looked around our little picnic site and realized Felix was gone. I looked at the groups of people surrounding us — not there. I looked up the hill, down by the lake, over by the food trucks, on the way to the

Actions you can take! Parent contact info: Make sure your child is carrying identification information, plus parent contact info. You can make your own or order something from Road ID (, which makes silicone bracelets for kids and tags that can be attached to a shoe (pictured opposite). Talk to your child: Before heading out to a summer festival, fair, amusement park, airport or other places where a child could get lost, talk to your kids about the importance of sticking by your side. Discuss what to do if they get lost: Stop wandering and stay put; find another parent with children or a person in uniform; ask for help. Have realistic expectations based on your child’s development: For example, a young toddler might not even realize he’s gone missing

playground — nowhere. He had vanished. It immediately began to feel like a tension-filled scene in a movie: Weird music with lots of drums filled the air, people in freakish costumes traipsed about and the free-and easy, party-time atmosphere seemed to mock our parental terror.

No safety net The MayDay festival is just about the worst possible place to lose your toddler. There is no “information booth” staffed with security guards on hand to help you find your wayward son; the best you can hope for is that he falls in with some friendly anarchists with a giant, dancing skeleton puppet. Nick and I started fanning out, making circles. We finally flagged down a couple bike cops who joined the search, walking their bikes around while peering into the crowd, just like us. (I don’t know what I was expecting from the police, except that it would be somehow more “professional” than our aimless wandering.) Just like Laura’s parents, we imagined the worst thing for a toddler — water! — and dashed over to the shoreline of the lake to see if he’d toddled into a dragon boat or fallen off a dock.

At last Finally, our daughter, Lydia, scanned the park and said, “I think I see him!” The girl must have pretty great eyesight because Nick took her over to where she thought she’d seen him — a full 1,000 yards away or so — and there he was. He walked up to Nick and said, “Hi, Dada! Look what I found!” and showed him some cool shrub or something. Just like in By the Shores of Silver Lake, he was completely oblivious to the drama MNPannual 0319 12.indd 1 2/11/19 12:44 PM he’d caused; he’d just wandered off to lookCenter for Irish Music6th at some stuff. When Nick exploded with, “Never do that again, love!” he started crying, realizing on some level he’d done Saturday, May 18, 2019 Saturday 10am–12pm something “bad.” Rosland Park, Edina Later that day, Nick and Felix were playing cars when Felix said, out of the blue, “I won’t All proceeds go directly to support, advocacy, awareness and training about perinatal health in MN ever run away from you and Mama again.” He later became upset about the whole incident, and made us promise not to tell anyone about it. I guess we’ve broken that promise, but I think he’ll understand when he’s older.

Daisy Dash 5K

Do you live in a multigenerational home?

Pregnancy Postpartum Support [Daisy Dash] MNP 0519 12.indd 3/26/191 4:10 PM

Shannon Keough lives in St. Paul with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to

Share your story!

SEEKING RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS for a study on grandparent-parent relationships in 3-generation households

Eligibility: or might not be able to identify a police officer’s uniform. Take a picture: Be prepared to provide a detailed description of your child. Snap a picture of your kids at the beginning of the event so you can provide accurate information about their clothing. Be bright: Dress your child in bright, distinctive clothes that stand out in crowd, especially if he tends to wander. Neons are hot right now anyway. Take action: Many public places have a “lost child” protocol in place. If your child goes missing, visit the information desk or other centralized location to set the process in motion. And don’t hesitate to call the police if your initial efforts aren’t successful.

• grandparent-parent pairs who currently live in a 3-generation household • parent is over the age of 18 • English speaking • both the grandparent and parent agree and are able to participate in the study Compensation will be given to each participant upon completion of the interview. For more information contact

Tanya Rand

Doctoral Candidate • Saint Mary’s University

651-373-6397 | • May 2019

Tanya Rand MNP 0519 V6.indd 1


4/15/19 5:49 PM

How to prevent ‘summer slide’ I

t’s May! If you’re a teacher, like me, you know this month absolutely flies by with special events, field trips, programs and activities. And I know we all feel it as parents, too! Our children (and those of us whose careers revolve around the school calendar) are certainly looking forward to the change of pace that accompanies summer break. I bet you have some fun things brewing on your family agenda. I know our family does! This summer, it’s my hope that every child will get to spend time with their family and friends as well as find outdoor time for swimming, playing, wandering and exploring. It’s also my hope that our children are exposed to experiences that enrich their minds. Consider these kindergarten teacher-mama recommendations for summer learning:

Seek out special programs There’s strong evidence that summer learning programs — such as those offered by community organizations or your child’s school — can improve participants’ reading and math outcomes. This can help offset the “summer slide” that so many students experience with a long break from school. Seek out programs with a good mix of structure, learning, community and fun. Also check out the searchable summer camp guide Minnesota Parent offers — with more than 100 camp ideas — at

Read! Read! Read! In Minnesota, nearly every public library offers a summer learning program for kids.


May 2019 •

While programs vary by library, most consist of two components — a fun way to track self-guided reading (sometimes including incentives) and tons of free and fun educational activities. Visit your local library to learn more about what it has to offer and/or check out Reading Is Fundamental — the nation’s largest children’s literacy nonprofit — at for summer reading collections and activities. Also, remember read to your child, listen to your child read or simply read side by side with your child.

Get a smARTpass Speaking of libraries, the Metropolitan Library Service Agency’s (MELSA) smARTpass program is another way to keep kids learning. This project offers metro-area library users free or discounted admission to Twin Cities museums and performance venues such as Mia, the American Swedish Institute, Stages Theatre Company and SteppingStone Theatre.

Think STEM STEM of Minnesota ( offers a searchable list of STEM opportunities for students at every grade level, including events and programs sorted by region, type and topics. Free educational sites that offer math games by grade level include the nonprofit Khan Academy ( and Math@Home (

Apps and websites There are thousands of free educational apps marketed to young children, but some offer a limited experience or can be

littered with pop-ups and advertisements. Content and quality can vary greatly, too. As an educator and mother, I work to make intentional choices with the tools I use to facilitate learning. The following kid-tested and teacher-mama approved websites are both educational, developmentally appropriate and engaging for young children. • ABCya! ( lets kids practice grade-level math and reading skills through fun, interactive games. • National Geographic Kids (kids. helps children learn geography and animals. • Highlights Kids ( features stories, games, jokes and inspiration for hands-on activities. • PBS Kids ( provides wholesome games and videos — and summer adventure ideas for parents.

Get into games Playing board games as a family can be a great way to unplug from electronic devices. Board games, stacking games and card games can also provide educational opportunities for children to practice important social skills, such as taking turns, practicing self-control and perseverance. Some of my favorite games for both the home and classroom include Bananagrams, chess, dominoes, Scrabble and Uno. (Find more fun game ideas at

Practice skills Summertime also can be the perfect time to work toward mastery of many easy-to-grasp


New board game! If you’re tired of checkers and chess, check out Chickapig, geared toward ages 8 and up. Its laser-cut birch plywood pieces — chicken-pigs, hay bales and a pooping cow — make for a refreshing change of pace in a market filled with plastic. This challenging but fun strategy game — apparently endorsed by musician Dave Matthews — requires two-steps-ahead thinking from parents and kids alike. Also check out the related book Little Joe Chickapig.

Tracy Walsh Photography MNP 0419 H6.indd 1


3/7/19 4:29 PM

$24.99 •

foundational skills, such as learning how to tie shoelaces, reciting and dialing phone numbers and reciting addresses and birthdays. Keep a shoe with laces in the car for kids to practice tying shoes on road trips. You can also use summer’s many family outings, neighborhood cookouts and play dates to help kids work on social skills such as manners, selfcontrol, listening and speaking in turn. These skills need to be taught, modeled and reinforced to develop into positive, lifelong habits. Now: Let’s hear it for summer! Megan Devine lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her blog — Kids, Lakes, Loons and Pines — at or write her at Breezy Point Resort MNP 0419 V2.indd 1

3/1/19 10:07 AM • May 2019


Katie Dohman


Zhoop, there he is! L

est you don’t believe that when you have children you are imbued with a certain set of superpowers automatically, let me submit the following for evidence: I was having an extraordinarily rare relaxing moment with my husband. We were watching Better Things on our iPad in bed. Eero, our youngest, was snuggled up, sleeping on my chest. The other two had been asleep for a while in their shared room. If you’ve read this column at all, you have by now noticed the utter lack of relaxing moments. That’s because I write what I know. So if it’s quiet, and we’re all home, something is terribly wrong. Or, maybe more accurately, something terribly wrong is in progress. Let me backtrack now. We got our cat, Zhoop (pronounced like “zhuzh” of the original Queer Eye fame, with “oop” at the end instead) when we moved into this house. Initially, the kitten was a bribe for our oldest, Ruby. But after my husband, William, got a gander at the mouse-poop situation, let’s just say he was increasingly on board with another pet — one with claws, night vision and a natural hunting instinct. For the first six months, all Zhoop was interested in were my daughter’s smaller stuffed animals, which he would carry around the house, and increasingly, use to engage me in games of fetch. None of my dogs have capably or reliably fetched, but this cat loves it, dropping the toy politely in my hand each time, awaiting another toss. And if I don’t move fast enough? He drops it again on my face. Little did I realize he was honing his hunting skills.


May 2019 •

On this particular evening, at dusk, we had been treated to a view of six deer, milling about in our front yard, scooping up leftover acorns. I crowed on and on about how much I love wildlife, nature, et cetera, as I took photos of our hooved visitors. About three hours later, the cat came into our bedroom. I couldn’t really see him with the dim light, and the baby in the way. It’s common for him to come in and try to disrupt the peace right as we are winding down.

William looked up from the screen and said, “That’s not a toy.” And before I knew it, there it was — a bat. On my lap. Next to my baby. All I could see was the unmistakable leathery wing sticking up over the baby’s head. I mean. I had just said how much I love nature. And I do actually love bats. They eat a lot of mosquitos. OUTSIDE. But I don’t love when my cat catches a bat and puts it in my lap so much. Every single cell in my body was screaming to jump up, whip the duvet off my lap and primal scream. But the baby was sleeeeeeping. So instead, I stage-whisper chastised my poor husband for not moving faster, while he got up to find something to dispose of the body. I laid there, body stiff, while I imagined a wing beginning to flap as it reanimated, waking from a kitty TKO. (It didn’t; it was deader than a doornail.) My thigh bones went to Jell-O and I itched all over, and I had to take a bath. But my husband removed the bat from the room, securing it in a trash bag. I didn’t scream. And the BABY STAYED ASLEEP. My poor cat, thinking he’s sharing his bounty with me, gets booted out of the room, doors shut on his big blinking moon eyes. Good Zhoop. Sorry, Zhoop. He did his job. The job we hoped he would do. But I jump every time he comes in the room now. I’m really never sleeping again, am I? Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a total full-house renovation with her family of five. Follow her adventures at

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Mary Rose and Laura NANA & MAMA

When a two-parent team is down to one MAMA As full-time working moms — of a toddler and newborn — my wife and I were just hitting our stride, feeling like skilled multitaskers, who handled the challenges of day-to-day life pretty well, all things considered. However, when my wife needed to have surgery — that required an intense recovery period — we were reminded how hard life can be when one parent is out of commission. In fact, the weeks that followed her surgery were the hardest of both of our lives. But we survived — with a ton of help from our family/friends, some creative problem solving and patience. Here are my tips for making it through the tough days when a two-parent household is down to one.

Plan ahead, if possible • Prep freezer meals and stock the pantry with essentials and favorites. • Rearrange furniture/sleeping accommodations (if needed). • Buy a couple of new high-interest toys to help keep kids entertained. • Schedule times you’ll need help with kids, including weekend playdates for toddlers. • Write down reminders for yourself about things you need to do — a lot can fall by the wayside when you suddenly become responsible for everything around the house.


May 2019 •

Say yes to (specific) help When folks say, “Let me know how I can help,” take their offer seriously and try to get a specific commitment right then and there. “Actually, we could really use help with X on X day. Would that work for you? Thanks so much for your help!” Services like are handy for organizing meals. You can set it up yourself or have someone else do it for you.

Adjust expectations This is NOT a time to take on more stress (at work or at home) or to try to achieve perfection. Our daycare wanted to start our toddler on potty training the same week my wife had surgery. We agreed to have them work on it during the day, but after he had an accident on the couch the first night at home, we decided he’d stay in pull-ups until we were in a better place to support him. We eased up our rule on screen time a bit as it was helpful to keep the toddler entertained when the baby was fussy or needed to be put down to bed. (Tip: There are lots of kid-friendly educational apps available for iPads/Kindles.)

Find time for yourself You won’t be able to keep up with the demands if your cup is empty, so be sure to do things that help you recharge, too. Nap when the kids nap, go to sleep earlier at night, treat yourself to your favorite coffee, take a bath, go for a walk and/or meet up with friends.

NANA Hats off to the military families who march on when one spouse is sent off to serve, and credit to all the single parents out there juggling daily demands. You are unsung heroes and heroines, for sure! My time to be brave came in 2011 when my husband was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. First we shared the news with our kids, who were all young adults. Each one took it a little differently. Once the shock wore off, I moved into action. Preparing for the worst, I called our life insurance agent to check on our policies: We’d be OK. I went online daily and researched the disease. At times this made me feel worse, not better. Work schedules were altered, as we had doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions to attend. My husband may have been a little annoyed (I know his doctor was) when I asked three times as many questions as he did. My quest for knowledge was based on my struggle to hang onto hope. Due in part to my husband’s positive attitude and stoic constitution, he didn’t miss a day of work! And while he was technically functioning day to day, more often than not, his disease — and the uncertainty it brought — was the hardest thing we’ve ever faced. Here’s what helped: • Seeing a therapist; • Using family medical leave to reduce my hours at work;

← Laura Groenjes Mitchell’s aunt-in-law, Andrea Mitchell, visited with a surprise — yet perfectly timed — meal of mac and cheese. Groenjes Mitchell’s brother, Tyler, also helped out by taking her toddler, Kellan, out for adventures, including a trip to visit horses.

• Friends and family who would ask about my husband and then add, “And how are YOU doing?”


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• Taking things off my plate that weren’t crucial; • Self-care, including massages, exercise and my daily mantra: “This too shall pass.”


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Family Day Day Family @theM Family @theM Family Day Day

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• And when it got too much, having a good cry alone in my car.

SUN., MAY 19, 1-4 SUN., MAY 19, 1-4 @theM @theM

Suggestions for helpers



• Instead of “Let me know if you need anything,” offer something tangible like, “I have Saturday off. Can I take the kids to a movie that day?”

Free Free

Free Free






• Call ahead before hospital or home visits to see if everyone feels up for visitors. Keep visits short (a half hour or less). MN Museum of American Art MNP 0519 12.indd


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• Sanitize your hands when visiting and, at the hospital, KNOCK before entering! 7 Metro Locations

• Don’t stay away, fearing you’re invading their privacy. Help is the priority now. • Don’t worry if you can’t cook. Offer to grab takeout from a favorite place.

• Letting my close circle of friends and family know what was going on and communicating with them frequently; • Saying yes when people offered to bring over meals; • Letting our nearly grown kids take the lead on how much they wanted to know; • Recognizing that everyone deals with news like this differently. Some people were frightened and stayed away, while others rallied by our side;

• Don’t forget essentials. Offer to go shopping and, if you can afford it, cover it. It all equals out in the circle of life. At the risk of sounding sappy, miracles happen! Seven years later, my husband is still here, doing great and we both have a deeper appreciation for this gift called life. Mary Rose Remington, a baby boomer grandmother living in Minneapolis, is documenting her journey in this occasional series with her daughter, Laura Groenjes Mitchell, a millennial mother of two who lives in Denver now, but is moving to the Twin Cities soon.

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Emma Nadler


Read a bit. Feel better. D

id you know that reading — good old-fashioned reading — can help reduce stress and anxiety? According to a 2009 research study by the University of Sussex, people who read for only six minutes had lowered stress levels, including reduced heart rates and decreased levels of muscle tension. Six minutes! Even busy parents can find that kind of time. Reading, in all of its understated glory, is a rare chance to focus on one thing at a time. In a harried world, this is a beautiful thing. In addition to relaxation, reading can provide the therapeutic experience of another perspective. Although some people restrict reading to a before-bedtime ritual, books can provide an effective breather at any hour. Also, engaging with someone else’s narrative can add inspiration to an otherwise business-as-usual day. One of the keys to following through

with reading is to have a book on hand that you’re actually interested in — not something you think you should read, but just can’t get into. You can request pretty much anything online for pick-up at your local public library, including periodicals. When something is right within reach, it increases the likelihood of engagement, so keep those good books close by. For example, stashing one in your purse or where you can see it — like the front seat of the car — will likely increase your page count. (To clarify: As much as I am pro-reading, I’m not recommending reading-while-driving.) For the sake of stress reduction, avoid anything overly intense/difficult to enjoy. You may want to escape with a good novel, so if that’s your desire, dive in. Here are three other ideas. They’re all great non-fiction books I love and often recommend to clients. And they all share a common denominator — being good to yourself.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown, Ph.D.

This book is so good, if you lose it you’ll want to buy it again. I lent out my original copy and recently ordered my second copy. Pioneering and straightforward, Brown has created an influential guide to becoming more authentic, courageous and connected. Bravely drawing from her own experiences, she encourages readers to let go of perfection as a way of life.


May 2019 •

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Self-compassion is an alternative to self-esteem, which is rooted in three components — identifying a common humanity, mindfulness and selfkindness. Neff ’s selfcompassion journey began, as many things do, after a series of difficult life challenges, including her son’s autism diagnosis. One of the best things about self-compassion is that it’s a skill like any other and can be developed. This is a book that’s both helpful and hopeful. Do you know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a little more self-compassion?

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

Yep, this is a sex book. It’s an excellent and accessible read for anyone who wants to add more confidence into their sexual experiences or who might be struggling with low levels of desire. Come As You Are challenges cultural norms about women’s sexuality and replaces tired myths with well-researched facts delivered with a dash of humor. Read this to gain strategies for enjoying a positive erotic life. Bonus points for reading it in public with an owning-it attitude.

Emma Nadler is a writer, mama and psychotherapist in private practice on the border of Minnetonka and Wayzata. She specializes in relationships, perinatal mental health (pregnancy and postpartum) and life transitions. Learn more at

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4/16/19 4:56 PM • May 2019


Dr. Gigi Chawla

Asthma and spring allergies My son has asthma. What can we do to keep his symptoms under control during spring allergy season? Asthma affects 1 out of every 14 children in Minnesota. This inflammatory process causes airways in the lungs to swell, trapping mucus and triggering the muscles surrounding the airways to spasm, resulting in breathing problems such as shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing. Though these problems are reversible with recognition and treatment, allergy season can make them more challenging. Spring hosts many common allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms, such as pollen and higher mold spore counts. An allergy to these triggers won’t cause a child to develop asthma. But asthmatic children with allergies can experience worsening asthma symptoms when exposed to allergy triggers, which can irritate the lungs and make it difficult to keep asthma under control.

What you can do ⊲⊲The best way to combat this issue is to avoid triggers. If pollen and mold are a problem for your child, watch the forecast for pollen and mold counts and limit your child’s activities on peak trigger days. ⊲⊲Rather than opening the windows to cool your home on warm days, use air conditioning. This is especially important on days with high pollen and mold counts. Air conditioning can clean, cool and dry the air inside your home, making it easier for children


May 2019 •

with asthma to breathe normally. If you must open the windows, avoid doing so between 5–10 a.m. when these counts are highest.

and bed sheets and instead use a dryer, as it can limit the pollen and mold spores that collect on these surfaces.

⊲⊲If grass triggers your child’s asthma, don’t allow her to mow the lawn or play near freshly cut grass.

⊲⊲Exposure to triggers can be minimized, but can’t always be avoided. Allergyrelieving medications are important for controlling asthma symptoms.

⊲⊲After playing outside, children with allergies should shower and change clothes. Avoid hang-drying clothing

⊲⊲Asthmatic children should continue taking long-term controller medicines when they feel well, as they are

designed to decrease inflammation and stabilize airway muscles. When children are exposed to triggers, their asthma symptoms may suddenly worsen. This is called an asthma exacerbation or “asthma attack.” In case this occurs, your child should always have quick-relief, rescue medicine available to immediately minimize the airway muscle spasm.

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When to talk to a doctor Sudden or gradual exposure to triggers can cause an asthma attack, especially if your child’s asthma or allergies aren’t well controlled. Signs of inadequately controlled allergies include throat clearing, nasal congestion or irritated/itchy eyes. Signs of an asthma attack include coughing that may prevent sleep, rapid or irregular breathing, chest tightness and wheezing. Seek medical attention immediately if your child exhibits signs of an asthma attack with trouble breathing, pausing while speaking, fatigue or if the areas around the ribs or neck sink in with each breath. Asthma exacerbations/attacks can be life threatening and may require medical intervention. If your child frequently experiences asthma symptoms while taking long-term control medication and hasn’t had allergy testing, ask your doctor if allergies could be worsening his or her asthma symptoms. Your doctor may perform allergy testing or refer your child to an allergist to evaluate whether allergies are making the asthma worse. Your doctor may also prescribe allergy medication or allergy shots if the triggers are unavoidable or severe. After identifying new triggers, your doctor can update your child’s asthma action plan to list additional triggers — and interventions to manage symptoms. For more information on the asthma program at Children’s Minnesota, go to

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Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota. • May 2019


Deb Mallin


How to spot learning problems I

knew in my gut something was wrong, even though my son’s school was telling me he would catch up. I asked questions. I asked for help. Finally, in second grade, we had him tested; he was diagnosed with dyslexia, and our journey began. Our story is all too familiar for families across the country; one in five children has a learning difference, and one in four boys has dyslexia. A diagnosis can be overwhelming, but I can tell you this: Everything will be OK. It will just be different. As a parent, you are your child’s best advocate and champion. Early intervention is key to your child’s academic, social and emotional success. Look for these signs that point to potential learning differences and be ready to build a team to support your emerging reader:

Preschool Warning signs include limited vocabulary, struggling to pronounce words and trouble recognizing the letters of the alphabet. Children may show extreme restlessness and get distracted from simple tasks. They may also have trouble interacting with peers.

After fourth grade Between third and fourth grade, a child transitions from learning to read, to reading to learn. Without the strong foundation of basic literacy skills, a child falls further behind. If children are suffering from an undiagnosed learning difference, they have to play catch-up. That’s not to say it can’t be done. I’ve tutored children in high school, and every child is worth our time and effort.

Remember Every child is on his or her own path, so it’s not necessarily a cause for concern if your child shows one or two of these warning signs. You know your child best, so listen to your gut and begin asking his or her teacher questions if you have concerns. If your child is diagnosed with a learning difference, assemble a team. In our case, our pediatrician referred us to a clinic for testing. I worked with my son’s teacher

K–4 Watch out for consistent reading and spelling errors, including if your child inverts, transposes or substitutes letters. Does your child confuse basic words like go, stop and run? Be aware of an awkward pencil grip and poor coordination, which can also be warning signs of a learning difference.


May 2019 •

Literacy Matters Foundation CEO Deb Mallin works with a student on reading skills.

and principal to build a team of advocates who we trusted and who helped guide us. Read all of the materials your pediatrician or medical practitioner may send home with you and then ask for more! Read books, listen to podcasts and attend meetings at your school/within your community. Network at your child’s school and find — or start — a support group. You’re not alone in this, and it’s important to find parents who will share and exchange ideas and information. These parents are walking a similar path and will understand what you’re going through. After my son was diagnosed with dyslexia, he needed a tutor. I interviewed Orton-Gillingham tutors to find the one who best fit his learning style and personality. I found a tutor who was similar to the type of teacher I am — compassionately relentless. The more I saw my son progress, the more I wanted to help others.

A fun summer reading program! Literacy Matters Foundation is offering a Doodle Corps program this summer for emerging readers in grades K–3. Mighty Doodle software provides engaging, child-friendly literacy instruction in a gamified lesson format delivered on an iPad. Learn more at or call 612-216-2206.

Already a reading teacher, I became trained in the Orton-Gillingham method and opened my own private practice as a literacy specialist. I’ve watched this method work at home and at work. This passion is what led me to start the nonprofit Literacy Matters Foundation. Our mission is to close the literacy gap by empowering young learners with the basic skills needed to break the reading code. I often told parents of children I tutored to allow me to be the teacher. They get to be the parents: Continue reading to your child. Share books and make reading fun. But don’t turn your home into another classroom. That’s my job. Your job is to love and advocate for your child. Hold her in your lap and tell her it’s going to be OK. And believe in yourself. You can get through this. My son is 18 years old now, and he is thriving! And I believe he’s a more compassionate person for walking this journey. And I know I am a better person and better teacher for the privilege of having walked this journey by his side.

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Deb Mallin is the founder and CEO of the Minneapolis-based Literacy Matters Foundation, a nonprofit organization on a mission to close the literacy gap. She is a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and has experience as a classroom teacher in grades K–6. • May 2019




Just Peachy Need a quick and easy dessert that’s gluten free, but still super tasty? Check out the fastest, sweetest cobbler you’ll ever make, which we adapted using liveGfree cake mix (made with rice flour) available for less than $3 at Aldi.


May 2019 •

Photos by Brenda Taylor

PEACH COBBLER 2 (15.25-ounce) cans sliced peaches in light syrup 1 package yellow gluten-free or regular cake mix 1⁄2 cup butter or margarine, melted 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar Heat oven to 350 degrees. Dump peaches and syrup into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or a shallow 3-quart baking dish. Distribute dry cake mix evenly over peaches. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over cake mix. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until the top is deep golden brown. Serve warm or cooled and, if desired, top with whipped cream or ice cream. Source: Adapted from Elaine Christiansen’s peach cobbler, as seen in our sister publication, Minnesota Good Age.

It’s as easy as this!

Ed Dykhuizen


The fun of diversity Kids love to learn and explore; in fact, that’s their most important job! But some parents unwittingly discourage their children’s curiosity by telling them to ignore the differences they notice in others. That approach can rob children (who can’t simply turn off their observations) of the chance to understand and appreciate the fascinating diversity around them. These stories let them do just that! In this clever metaphor for a mixed-race family, Gondra is a dragon girl with an Eastern dragon dad and Western dragon mom. She loves to explore both backgrounds; for example, her dad breathes mist and was celebrated by humans, while her mom breathes fire and was feared. Rather than feeling torn between two worlds, she relishes being part of both and is thrilled to think of what she can accomplish. Ages 4–7 • $17.99

Kirby was excited to share her invention with her new friends. The bears loved learning to make Flipper Slippers of their own and couldn’t wait to try them out. But their laughter woke up Parker.

Parker, the mayor of Polar Bear Island, is hostile to change and maintains a strict “No Others Allowed” policy. When Kirby the penguin washes ashore, he wows the other polar bears with his generosity and his new ideas, despite Parker’s resistance. This funny story shows how accepting those from different cultures can truly enrich a community. Ages 3 and up • $16.95 “What are those things on your paws?” he growled. “Flipper Slippers!” said the bears. “They’re toasty warm and tons of fun! Try some!” Parker shook his head. “Polar Bears have paws, not flippers. I knew something like this would happen. Start packing, penguin!”

One day at the playground, Charley points toward a girl with limb differences and shouts, “Why does she look so weird, Mommy?” The girl, Emma, is hurt, and Charley’s mother encourages him to apologize and try to be friends. Charley and Emma then engage in an honest and sweet discussion about how they’re different, how they’re the same and how much fun they can have together! Ages 3–5 • $16.99


May 2019 •

The titular boy of this story is a genius at science, languages, art … everything except making friends. He appears to be on the autism spectrum (though this isn’t explicitly stated), as he offends his classmates by exhibiting little awareness of their feelings. Just as his class is about to rise in revolt, curious Shirley urges everyone to give Albie a chance. Ages 5–9 • $16.95


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A vibrant joy bursts through the rhymes in this depiction of a thriving, diverse school. Many children — including those who wear hijabs, yarmulkes and/or glasses and/or use wheelchairs — can easily see themselves (and their parents) represented in this book’s wide range of colors, cultures and family types, all collected into a double-fold-out finale at the end. Bonus: The book jacket doubles as a cool poster! Ages 4–8 • $17.99 Ed Dykhuizen is an associate editor at Minnesota Parent and father of three who lives in St. Paul. • May 2019


BEYOND SHY Why is my kid so reluctant to participate? And could this be a bigger problem?



May 2019 •

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN of organized activities. As a kid, I participated in sports and dance classes, and went on to join things like student council and my college newspaper. Today, I’m involved in moms’ groups and the PTA. If there’s a schedule and a coordinating T-shirt, I’m there. So as soon as our first son was old enough, we signed him up for swimming lessons. “This will be fun!” we thought. We’d meet other parents, our son would make new friends and everyone would go home smiling and smelling of chlorine. Boy, were we wrong (about everything except the smell, anyway). For the entire six weeks, while all the other babies gleefully splashed and clapped along to Baby Shark, mine cried and clung to my shoulder for the full 30-minute class, inching his way up my body to ensure as little contact with the water as possible. OK, we thought, maybe he’s not ready for swimming. So we took a break from the pool and signed up for toddler tumbling. Parents were sent out of the room so as not to distract the gymnasts, which sent my child directly into the fetal position. We kept trying — T-ball, soccer, basketball, cross-country skiing. There were improvements here and there, but more often than not, the reluctance and fear took hold. And it wasn’t just organized sports that caused him angst — birthday parties, playdates and a particularly memorable preschool graduation ceremony all made him freeze up and want to hide in a corner.

When we asked him what was wrong, we got only a shrug or barely audible, “I don’t know” in return. Sometimes we’d make him stick it out; sometimes we’d go home early or skip a week entirely. We didn’t want him to be miserable, of course, but we also wanted to teach him the importance of following through on commitments. A playdate with his best friend from preschool? That couldn’t possibly be scary … could it?

participate in class, which can lead to feeling isolated and ignored. “I worry sometimes that they get a little lost in the shuffle,” said Erin Hamel, an early childhood special education teacher, who has experience with exceptionally shy kids. Some teachers, she said, might be more likely to walk away from the “easier” kid — who will just sit there — to deal with more pressing matters, such as a child coloring on the wall.

There’s a name for it

Looking for social nuances

As is usually the case, even when it seems like your kid is the only one exhibiting a certain behavior, he’s most likely not alone. Extreme shyness, formally known as “behavioral inhibition,” affects 5% to 10% of kids, and refers to a temperament that causes someone to feel distress or fear when faced with new environments, situations or people. According to Megan Gunnar, director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, it can be identified “as early as the first few months of life.” It may start as oversensitivity to stimuli such as loud noises or bright lights, and over time can become more focused on people, “because people are very unpredictable,” Gunnar said. While behavioral inhibition is a temperament and not a disorder, it can still have adverse effects on children who have it. For one, if they get hurt or need something, they’ll be less likely to tell a grownup who could help them. It can also make it harder to develop relationships with peers and make them reluctant to

Hamel, a mother of three, also has experience with extremely shy kids at home. She first noticed her oldest daughter’s shyness when she was an infant. Comparing her daughter to her nephew of the same age, Hamel was struck by her tendency to sit back and watch while he played. It really hit home on a trip to Michigan to meet some of her extended family for the first time, where well-meaning greetings and hugs made her daughter cry. In fact, her daugther physically pushed the unfamiliar relatives away. Wondering if her daughter’s behavior could be an early sign of autism, she consulted with her pediatrician, who explained that there are many nuances of communication that aren’t verbal — but are still social in nature. One test the doctor suggested was to feed her daughter one piece of food at a time, while trying to see if she looked at the food or the person’s face when she wanted more. “She looked at my face every time,” Hamel said. “So she is socially wired; it’s just not something she’s comfortable with.”



Dr. Sarah Jerstad, a child psychologist at Children’s Minnesota, said some shyness is developmentally normal: “For babies and early toddlers, there’s something healthy about fearing new and novel situations.” But, she said, if it persists or gets worse, it can disrupt functioning. While many people consider themselves shy, behavioral inhibition takes it a step further and can be a precursor to a more serious diagnosis — social anxiety. Typically diagnosed between the elementary and early high school years, social anxiety presents as extreme avoidance or real distress in social situations, and is a persistent pattern, Jerstad said. It also has to be present with peers, not just adults, and centers around a fear of scrutiny.

Exposure is key If any of this reminds you of a child in your life, the good news is there’s a lot you can do to help. Talking to your pediatrician and, if recommended, seeing a child psychologist, are good places to start. Jerstad boils down a typical treatment plan into three key steps: 1. Try to discover why a child feels fearful or anxious and learn how to support him or her. 2. Help children develop coping strategies they can use in situations that make them feel anxious. 3. Make a plan for slow, graduated exposure to new situations that will give the child a chance to practice socializing, including praise and rewards for being brave. Hamel learned that a little bit of preparation could go a long way for her daughter, who’s now 9. After that memorable trip to Michigan, she made a picture book of their extended family members that she could pull out before subsequent family gatherings. As her daughter got older, she prepped her with common


May 2019 •

questions relatives might ask, and modeled how to appropriately greet them. Once a parent or other adult recognizes that a child is shy, it can easily become one of their defining characteristics: “This is my son. He is 5, and he is shy.” Even though that may be true, it doesn’t have to be pointed out to everyone your child meets. Instead, Jerstad coaches parents to focus on the positives, such as being a good listener or being observant.

In the classroom and beyond At school, pairing quieter kids with a peer can be very beneficial, said Alicia Estrellado, an elementary school teacher and mother of two in St. Paul. Forcing a child to read a passage in front of the entire class is fortunately no longer the norm, and sharing learnings one-on-one with a classmate can be much less intimidating. “If you’re uncomfortable, you can’t learn. Our brains don’t work that way,” Estrellado said. “Find what makes them comfortable, and how they can best express what they’ve learned.” In her classroom, that means asking quieter kids if she or a peer can share their ideas with the class, or even recording a presentation in advance rather than making them do it live. Jerstad said continuing to expose behaviorally inhibited kids to new situations and people is key. While it can be tempting to just stay home, doing so can send a signal that there’s something to fear after all. “As much as possible, this is a behavior that has to be practiced,” Jerstad said. “Get kids involved in social interactions in some way — sports, activities, programs

HELPFUL RESOURCES ⊲⊲Children’s Minnesota Behavioral Health Program, ⊲⊲Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), ⊲⊲Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety,

↑↑Erica Wacker was surprised when her son didn’t love swim lessons.

like ECFE, where kids and parents can be interacting with other kids. Practice from an early age is really critical.” Gunnar encourages parents to stay the course: “The temptation is ‘They don’t like it, so let’s not go.’ But the reality is, the more they are exposed to new people, new places, the better. Pretty soon, what was novel isn’t novel anymore.” As for my son, he started a new session of 6U soccer this spring. Between having 100 days of kindergarten under his belt, plus a couple familiar faces from school on the team, his participation and enjoyment have significantly improved. He may not volunteer to be team captain or shout for someone to pass him the ball, but he’s there, he’s participating — and he’s even having fun. Erica Wacker is outnumbered in St. Paul by her husband, two sons and dog (also male). A transplant via Chicago, she has adopted Minnesota as her forever home — winters and all.

And they’re ready to share their zany personalities. Walk among them without barriers at Llama Trek at the Minnesota Zoo.

presented by

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! y t i c y r o s n Se

The Bell Museum in St. Paul — featuring an 11-foot-tall woolly mammoth model from the Ice Age — offers one Sensory-Friendly Saturday per month, which involves opening the museum two hours early. (The next two events are May 18 and June 15.) Photo by Joe Szurszewski / Courtesy of Explore Minnesota


May 2019 •

By Lorena Armstrong-Duarte

These laid-back, judgementfree escapes in the Twin Cities help kids on the autism spectrum enjoy exploration and new experiences!

“IT’S TOO SCARY, MOM.” That’s how my son, Nico, explains his reluctance to go to the zoo, the museum or for a walk. Nico is 5. He’s sweet, funny, curious, smart, silly — and he is autistic. Any parent of a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will tell you that, like anything, there are positives and negatives of life on the spectrum. Nico’s reading skills are already advanced and he can tell you exactly where the dwarf planet Ceres lies in the solar system. But his anxiety around large crowds, reluctance to try new things and tendency to bolt can make new experiences quite a challenge. Of course, he needs to get out. He needs to go to museums to feed his innate curiosity. He needs to be challenged in social situations — so he can learn coping strategies. And he needs to appreciate the beauty and importance of the natural world around him. But how to do that without overwhelming his senses? Without the kind of epic public meltdown that all parents dread? In his 5 years, Nico has taught us a lot. And one of the biggest lessons is that nothing is impossible for a kid on the spectrum. You just might have to go about things a little bit differently.

Special programs Fortunately for us ASD parents, many organizations and institutions are realizing the importance of providing sensory-friendly options and resources. Some locations are opening early for sensory patrons and/or reducing extraneous stimuli and providing “quiet rooms,” to name a few. Every second Thursday (9:30–10 a.m.), there’s the sensory-friendly story time at the award-winning Wild Rumpus Bookstore in Minneapolis. The Walker Art Center offers Sensory Friendly Sunday events from 8–11 a.m. once a month. The next event is May 12. On select dates the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul offers Autism Friendly Early Entry (9–10 a.m.) with upcoming dates on May 12 and 15; and June 9, 12, 23 and 26. AMC movie theater locations present sensory-friendly screenings on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month (check local listings for times at seven Twin Cities locations). Simply Jane & Artable in Minneapolis offers art programming for people of all ages and abilities in a space adapted to their needs. The Bell Museum in St. Paul offers one Sensory-Friendly Saturday per

month from 8–10 a.m., which involves opening the museum two hours early. (The next two events are May 18 and June 15.) This programming existed in the old space, and the Bell’s Adrienne Wiseman said the museum staff are excited to continue it. “Parents said that they typically didn’t go to museums because of the social stigma,” she said. “They appreciate the laid-back, judge-free atmosphere.” Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) in Minneapolis offers highly customized sensory-friendly performances, which involve additional staff, take-a-break spaces and modified lighting, sound and audience interaction. (Up next is a sensory performance of Matilda: The Musical on June 21.) Pre-visit resources include social stories (more on that below), video tours and even meet-your-seat opportunities scheduled prior to the performance date. “We tailor the experience — getting to the theater, being inside the theater and the performance,” said CTC’s Melissa Ferlaak, noting the overwhelmingly positive feedback the theater’s received from ASD families. She shared a comment from one

↑ Sensory Friendly Sundays at the Walker Art Center include sensory tools, specially trained staff and designated quiet spaces. The next event is May 12. Photos by Galen Fletcher / Courtesy of Walker Art Center / Explore Minnesota • May 2019


of their patrons: “My family gets to spend time together where I know my son is having a great time enjoying the play. He interacts, claps along and, at times, gets up and does a few dance moves with the performers.” Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins also offers sensory-friendly performances and a detailed guide to preparing for a visit to the theater. Upcoming sensory shows include The Most Magnificent Thing on May 4 and 8 and Willy Wonka on July 13. Surprising as it may sound, one of Minnesota’s largest, busiest and most stimulating places — the Mall of America — is Minnesota’s only official  Certified Autism Center. That means at least 80 percent of the public-facing staff have received autism-sensitivity training. Check out a sensory guide for the rides and attractions at Nickelodeon Universe at

Geocaching During the summer in Minnesota, you want to get your kids outside. But Nico, like almost half of all kids on the spectrum, exhibits “wandering behavior,” also called “elopement.” He’ll wander off, run away and, despite our pleas, won’t stop. It made walks — even in our own neighborhood — very difficult. That is, until we discovered geocaching. Geocaching uses your cell phone (or any device with a GPS) to find hidden containers, called “caches,” at specific locations. The caches contain little “treasures,” like a rubber bracelet or small toy. Geocaching (learn all about it from a local mom at combines three things that many ASD kids love — technology, clearly defined goals and a reward at the end. It’s every occupational therapist’s dream, and for our family it’s been a complete game changer. There are thousands of geocaches all over Minnesota — in neighborhoods both rural and urban and even in state parks!


May 2019 •

↑↑Geocaching (whether in state parks or your own neighborhood) combines three things kids on the autism spectrum often enjoy — technology, clearly defined goals and a reward at the end.

Amy Barrett from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said that while the DNR doesn’t have specific data on autism and geocaching, it’s been a popular activity for all types of families. Barrett said the DNR makes geocaching in Minnesota state parks more accessible by allowing visitors to borrow GPS kits free of charge. Last year, it also kicked off a two-year program called Aquatic Quest,

which encourages geocachers to visit a variety of aquatic sites to collect 82 different cards that feature photos and fun facts. (Learn more at

Social stories For our family, every visit to a new place requires a social story — a narrative in the form of a video, an app or a list that explains where we’re going, what it’s like and the types of activities allowed.

E Adventure Memories



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They’re powerful tools and are becoming more readily available all the time. (AUSM has a list of social stories for everything from going to the airport to visiting Santa.) Children’s Theatre Co. provides in-depth video social stories for both of their stages. “Much of the anxiety of the experience is in going to a new space, with a new experience, without any preparation,” Ferlaak said. “Social stories support the need of people on the autism spectrum

to prepare for a new environment by describing the social setting, expectations and positive ways to respond.” The Minnesota Historical Society, The Works museum in Bloomington and Mia are a few of the Minnesota organizations that offer social stories for parents to download and watch with their children. The Minnesota Zoo offers a free app, MNZoo4All, that explains the zoo experience with communication tools, sensory-

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May 2019 •


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friendly maps and tips to plan your visit. For destinations without their own bespoke social stories, you can always write your own. And although there are apps to create them, I prefer to make mine out of small photo albums, pictures and handwritten stories. It takes only a few minutes, but it’s made a world of difference for Nico and our whole family — so much so that there’s a lot less “it’s too scary” lately and a lot more “Mom, I want to go find treasure!” Swedish Motors MNP 0519 H6.indd 1 4/4/19 4:32 PM

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←←The Minnesota Zoo offers a free MNZoo4All app — designed to support those with autism and sensory-processing disorders. It includes social stories/guides presented in multiple formats to explain the zoo experience, which can help set expectations and ease anxiety. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Zoo / Explore Minnesota

Need more? The Autism Society of Minnesota (AUSM) has an extensive resource list of recreation and leisure activities on its website, including community events and sensory-friendly locations. If you know of a great place to recommend to other sensory parents, go to, the brainchild of Roseville-based Pediatric Home Service. Each year the independent health-care agency — which provides pediatric home-care services to help kids with medical complexities — surveys local families to create a list of the best places for families with special needs. This year, they’re looking for recommendations in 12 categories. Vote, starting May 1, at This summer, parents can be on the lookout for a new sensory-certified designation for local businesses. Twin Cities-based Fraser — Minnesota’s largest provider of autism and early childhood mental health services — will officially launch a sensory certification process as a new professional service. Though Fraser has been providing expertise upon request to local and national outlets on serving individuals with special needs, this program will include a website that describes the certification process and will include links to sensory-aware business partners. Stay tuned at Lorena Armstrong-Duarte was born in El Salvador, raised in Minnesota and educated at Harvard University. She’s worked as a journalist, poet, speechwriter, editor and spoken-word artist. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and their two boys. Learn more at • May 2019


A SIBLING’S VIEW 5 things siblings of a child with special needs need to know By Melissa Danielsen and Melanie Fountaine


May 2019 •

We are twin sisters. And while many people may think that’s what makes us special, that word — special — has an entirely different meaning for us. Our older brother, Josh, had special needs, including developmental disabilities, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury due to recurring brain cancer. Though that might sound extremely difficult — and at times it was — we see now that growing up having Josh as our big brother truly was a gift. And who we are today is largely related to the many challenges we experienced having a sibling with special needs. We learned flexibility, resilience and ability to see the greater picture. It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it was frustrating and downright tiresome for all of us kids. But that’s only part of the story. Here are five things we think you should know:

1. You’ll be special, too. Your sister or brother will be instrumental in your development as a human being. And yet, you won’t even notice, at least not at first. As a small child, you’ll engage with your sibling as if he or she were any other sibling on the planet. You won’t even realize he has a special need because he’s just your brother. You’ll play, tease, fight and make up with him because he’s simply … your brother. As you get older, you’ll begin to recognize he truly does have unique needs. You’ll process what this means and, without even knowing it, make a choice to accept it or reject it. This won’t be a concrete or forever decision. It’s a decision you’ll make within each developmental stage of life — and your decision will never be “right” or “wrong.” You won’t realize that during these times, you’re also receiving the rare gift of seeing life in a different light than your peers.

You won’t have a choice: Your brother or sister will show you that the simple things a person does in “regular” life could be a lot harder. (Our big brother was sick a lot, and he had to go to the doctor and the hospital often.) Through all this, you’ll start to realize that “regular” life is actually pretty remarkable. Experiencing how you and your sibling navigate the world can teach you to not get stuck in the simpler irritations of life. You’ll see that there’s a world bigger than yourself and you’ll learn to value what your life — even with its challenges — has to offer. You will also come to see yourself standing among a great group of peers. Know that you’re actually lucky for the opportunity to develop a deeper compassion and understanding for all people.

2. You’ll need to find your way. Get involved. Find an outlet, a friendship, a space to call your own. Read that line again. These outlets will be the key to processing challenges/regrouping and finding your inner strength. You must have your own life — where you can be carefree and connected to others and yourself. You’ll be fiercely protective of your sibling — and may even feel guilty about all the things that are easier for you. However, just as you give your sister with special needs space to be her own person, you must allow yourself to develop as well. You aren’t being mean or selfish, but self-loving. Maybe you’re athletic, creative or adventurous. Find a group with similar interests. From there, the world is yours for the taking. It’s your special place to cherish. If you’re not sure where to start, check out University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital Sibshops ( and the Sibling Support Project ( for ideas. • May 2019


3. It’s OK to feel upset. Hey, guess what? You’re a real person with real emotions, which means, at times you’ll be angry, frustrated, sad or fearful for many reasons. Of course, you’ll also be happy and silly, too. Don’t beat yourself up for how you feel. (You’re even allowed be angry at your sibling.) A University of Michigan article (tinyurl. com/u-mich-sibs) addresses the upsides — and downsides — of being the sibling to a brother or sister with special needs. It acknowledges that you can feel pressure, resentment and a range of other emotions. It is OK feel these things. Talk through it all with a friend, a parent, school counselor or support groups.

4. It’s heavy. At times, you’ll bear the weight of caregiving for your sibling or you may notice your parent(s) are spending more time with your brother or sister because of his or her needs. Twin sisters Melanie Fountaine and Melissa Danielsen grew up in north central Minnesota with their brother, Josh, who had special needs.

We understand. But we also know (now) that this is one of those things that fuels a depth of compassion and understanding that can carry you throughout your entire life. It also, without you even knowing it, can create a fire in you to do something impactful in the world. But if you’re in it right now, we get it. It’s tiring and hard to explain to others. Know this — your sister or brother loves you so much and dearly appreciates all you offer within the family. We encourage you to speak up when you feel like you need a break or when you

want your parents’ undivided attention. As parents of young children ourselves now, we would do anything for our kids. Your parent or guardian wants the best for you, too.

5. You will find peace. Eventually, as an adult, you’ll look back and be filled with gratitude for your sister or brother. When this moment arrives, your ability to see the positive in any situation will rise up. It also will offer you peace. Everything you’ve just read up until this point is a bigol’-snowball that leads up to this moment. You’ll realize you wouldn’t recognize the person you would have been — had your brother or sister not been who they are. And you don’t want to. Because you are this amazing, compassionate, emotionally in-tune human being. Having a sibling with special needs gives you the unique perspective that their needs are different and “special” — not as a negative, but rather, as a wonderful gift. We often look at Josh’s picture and whisper, “Thank you, Josh. We love you.” Melissa Danielsen and Melanie Fountaine live with their families in North Oaks, where they founded Joshin, an app-based care network for families of children with special needs in the Twin Cities. Their dream is to offer the kind of specialized, trusted, on-demand care that they would have wanted for their brother, Josh, who died in 2009. Learn more about Joshin at or on page 11 of this issue.


May 2019 •

Out & About


Museum of the Moon ⊲ A 23-foot, internally lit, spherical sculpture of Earth’s Moon will be on view day and night, suspended from the ceiling with only a few feet between it and the floor in the new Bell Museum, in honor of the anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 10 mission, which orbited the Moon in May 1969. Numerous special events include a Super Moon Pajama Party and Moon Yoga (both June 1). When: May 21–June 9 Where: The Bell Museum, St. Paul Cost: $10–$12 for adults, $9 for ages 3–21, free for ages 2 and younger Info:


Workshop for Moms ⊲ Mothers of kids with special needs lead this workshop — Self Care and Connection for Mamas of Special Needs Kids — twice a month. Participants will have a chance to share their stories, followed by a short yoga practice. When: 7:30-9 p.m. May 1 and May 20 Where: Blooma, Minnapolis Cost: $20 per workshop Info:

MAY 3–5

Festival of Nations ⊲ Celebrate more than 90 ethnic groups with cultural heritage performances, exhibits, and ethnic cuisine. When: May 3–5 Where: St. Paul RiverCentre


May 2019 •

Cost: $8–$11; FREE for ages 5 and younger with a paying adult Info:

MAY 3–19

Tuck Everlasting ⊲ Young Winnie Foster discovers a family that never grows old in this play recommended for third graders and up. When: May 3–19 Where: Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, Minneapolis Cost: $7–$15 Info:


MayDay Parade ⊲ Ring in spring with giant puppets, handmade masks, music and street performances.

When: May 5 Where: Watch the parade on Bloomington Avenue in Minneapolis, followed by family-friendly activities at Powderhorn Park. Cost: FREE Info:

MAY 11–12

Mother’s Day Weekend ⊲ Help plant seeds, harvest the first greens of the season and meet the baby animals (and their mothers) at a historic farmstead. When: May 11–12 Where: Oliver Kelley Farm, Elk River Cost: $6–12, FREE for ages 4 and younger; mothers accompanied by a child will be admitted for free. Info:

MAY 18

Daisy Dash ⊲ Strollers and baby carriers are welcome at this annual event, which includes a 5K fun run/walk, a kids race with an obstacle course and family-friendly activities, all to support Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota, which provides advocacy, awareness and training about perinatal mental health for local families. When: 10 a.m.–1 p.m. May 18 Where: Rosland Park, Edina Cost: $10–$30 Info: Register at daisydashmn.

MAY 19

Viking Family Day ⊲ Viking reenactors will present demonstrations, Icelandic Saga scholar Gisli Sigurosson will host “Viking University Jr.” (aka storytime) and kids can take part in Viking-themed crafts. When: Noon–5 p.m. May 19

Where: American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis Cost: $6–$12, FREE for ages 5 and younger Info:

an all-ages community concert finale, featuring hundreds of students and VocalEssence ensemble singers. When: May 21 Where: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul Cost: FREE Info: Reserve seats at

Linden Hills Festival ⊲ This 45th-annual festival features a bike parade kick-off event (11 a.m.), local musicians, food vendors, a beer garden, an arts and vendor marketplace, kids games, crafts and face painting, inflatables, a used book sale, yoga and more.

MAY 25–27

Memorial Day Weekend

When: May 19 Where: Linden Hills Park, Minneapolis Cost: FREE Info:

MAY 21

Cantare! ⊲ Now in its 11th year, this program invites composers from Mexico into Twin Cities classrooms where they teach students to sing and compose in traditional Mexican forms. Their year-long project ends with

Bike Rentals

⊲ Explore the grounds of Historic Fort Snelling, visit with interpreters, play historic games and engage with the many stories that make up the site’s history — including those of local Native Americans and African Americans — in addition to witnessing cannon-firing demonstrations, hearth cooking, blacksmithing and more. When: May 25–27 Where: Historic Fort Snelling, St. Paul Cost: $6–12, FREE for ages 4 and younger Info:

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Out & About


Flint Hills Family Festival ⊲ This annual event features music, dance and theater performances inside and outside the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, plus hundreds of free activities in Rice Park and the surrounding areas. When: May 31–June 1 Where: St. Paul Cost: FREE except for select performances, which cost $8–$13 Info:

Crossing Bridges Festival ⊲ Students from 11 schools choose a story, reimagine it through their own perspective and perform it on CTC’s UnitedHealth Group Stage. When: May 14–15, 21–22 Where: Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis


Go to for dozens more events in May — and beyond!

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May 2019 •

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Thank you, Grandma! In honor of May, we’re celebrating not just moms on Mother’s Day, but also grandmothers, who bring our kids so much joy.

↑ Baur, 8, of Minnetonka, with his Grandma Po-Po

↑ Lamin, 3, of Savage goes fishing with his Grandma Laurie.

↑ Abel, 21⁄2, and Millie, 61⁄2, enjoy face painting with their Grandma Deborah in Minneapolis.

↑ Londyn, 3 months, of Rochester, with her Grandma Michele

↑ Lily, 6, and her Grandma Linda tend to honeybees in Brooklyn Center.

Want to see your kid on this page? Send photos with your child’s first name, age and city to


May 2019 •

Introducing Walgreens Express Pick Up and Delivery Learn more at or text JoinRx to 21525

Profile for Minnesota Parent

May 2019  

May 2019