Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 21, 2013, World Down Syndrome Awareness Day

 A guest post by author Madonna Dries Christensen

Through The Eyes Of The Differently-Abled  

On a visit to Virginia, I accompanied my daughter and two of her children to a creative arts class for those with special needs. Eight-year-old Sarah has Down syndrome and six-year-old William has autism.
      The program was founded by a high school student, Samantha Hall. While working as a counselor at a soccer camp for youth with disabilities, she met a girl who didn’t enjoy playing sports. She loved the arts, but this camp offered only soccer. Samantha recognized that this child’s need for expression probably affected others. After obtaining funding through a grant from the Arlington Youth Philanthropy Initiative of the Arlington Community Foundation, Samantha founded Doing Art Together (DARTT). Her simple request in the grant was for a safe place to hold classes, art materials, and volunteers. She got all three.
      The free program, held in a school cafeteria, was initially for children, but now includes adults from group homes. Participants are each assigned a volunteer to guide them through the session. Parents must stay on the premises, but are asked to not help unless assistance is needed.
      The young woman assigned to Sarah told me that as a member of the National Honor Society she gets credit for community service, but quickly added, “That’s not why I volunteer here. I love these kids.” Indeed, all the volunteers seemed to be enjoying the session.
      The main activity this particular morning was painting on t-shirts. Sarah chose a shirt color and then sat at a table and decorated the shirt with various designs and one color, purple, her favorite. Her face lit up when she saw Connor, her best friend since pre-school. They worked side by side, moving from painting shirts to drawing and coloring.  
      At another table, William used an array of vivid colors to draw on paper. He is attracted to the color red. Creating art is especially helpful for children who are nonverbal, allowing them to communicate feelings and emotions.
      If you frequent the Internet, you’ve probably seen the work of Stephen Wiltshire, an autistic young man with the ability to study a scene for 15 or 20 minutes and then, from memory, recreate the panoramic view in pen and ink on mural size paper. His renditions are astounding and are shown and sold at galleries and museums around the world, along with small gift items on which the scenes are duplicated. See his site at:
      Amanda LaMunyon is also a presence on the Internet and around the world. She began painting at age seven, shortly before being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Her childhood paintings were impressions of the songs she loved. Now a teenager, she expresses herself and her faith through singing, painting, and public speaking. She encourages those with challenges of any kind to not give up on big or small dreams. She shares her talents with organizations that raise money for children’s health.
      Amanda says on her Website: “It is important that we as Americans must take the lead to find the cause, cure and prevention of autism. We have the privilege and freedom in our great country to raise money and speak about our concerns. It has been my privilege to work with Children’s Miracle Network, Autism Speaks, The Lili Claire Foundation, Dr. Rosa Martinez with Strokes of Genius, and other organizations. I hope to continue to share my art and my story of overcoming challenges.”
      Her work has been included in several books and she has received awards, including The President’s Daily Points of Light and The President’s Volunteer Service Award. She felt honored to present her painting of “Our Flag Was Still There” to President George W. Bush, and her portrait of President Ronald Reagan to former First Lady Nancy Reagan.
      See Amanda’s site at
      My grandkids delight me with their creations. Those from 10-year-old Grace, a typical child, are detailed and artistic. Sarah’s stick figures have a distinctive style; we all have wheels for feet and hands (sometimes that would be helpful). Grace says that William’s drawings are abstract. I didn’t know that term at her age, let alone how it applies to art, but look for yourself.

William, age 6 

 Sarah, age 8

 Grace, age 10

Learn more about Madonna Dries Christensen on her website On Worlud Pond.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Jade, Kelly, Pine, Grass, Emerald....

I tend to favor all shades of purple. Lilac. Lavender. Plum. Grape. Violet. Framboise. (Yes, it's really a color. I looked it up.) On one day of the year though, my heart bleeds shamrock green.

My mother is to blame. Every year on March 17, little green antennae sprang from her head and bouncy four-leaf clovers dangled from her ears. A vivid green t-shirt proclaimed her heritage. She wasn't above sporting a springy green wig. Now for the shocker--she went to work like that.

Her daughters and granddaughters carry on the tradition. (The males play along, but only so far as food is concerned.) Em and I sent Kay a pair of St. Patrick's Day socks (which she'd better be wearing today!) I am wearing a Celtic green skirt. Em wore a lovely minty green top today and her daughter Miss Baby Elephant had on a white shirt splashed with tiny shamrocks and a green bow in her hair.

My camera batteries died today in the middle of the festivities, so you won't get to see the green french toast, the corned beef and red potatoes, our homemade shamrock shakes, or a shot of me in my skirt. However, here's a shot of the skirt from the Holy Clothing website. It probably looks better on the model anyway.

Basket of green goodies for the grandkids

Clover rolls and cookies made by Em's clan


If you would like to make your own pie for next year, or for tomorrow, the recipe is as easy as, well, pie.

1/2 package of Mint Oreos, crushed, then mixed with a little melted butter.
Form into pie pan.
Stick in freezer.

2 small packages of pistachio pudding
1/2 the amount of milk it calls for on the package, then prepare as directed on package
Pour into chilled pie shell and return to freezer.

We serve ours frozen, like an ice cream pie, but we let it thaw just a tad lest we break off a tooth and look "shanty Irish" as my great-grandmother would say.

If my mom still lived I would buy her the most incredible St. Patrick's Day t-shirt I have ever seen. It says, "Kiss me, I'm Iowish."  And I would, because she is.

Mandatory disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way by Holy Clothing, Oreos, or St. Patrick for mentioning them.

Thanks to Auntie M. for the info about my great-grandmother.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...