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In This Issue
Holiday Survival Strategies
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Online Toy Stores for Holiday Gifts
Craft Ideas for the Holidays
Self-care Gifts for Parents
How to Get Your Teen to Talk
Quick Links


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LogoEvanston Citizens for Appropriate Special Education (CASE) is a community advocacy organization working to improve the range, quality and accessibility of special education services in Evanston/Skokie District 65 and ETHS District 202.

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On the CASE 

 December 2014

Hello Evanston CASE community,


As winter break approaches, you may be feeling the stress of the holiday season.  This newsletter contains strategies to help your special needs kids cope with changed schedules and increased stimulation. 


Also, please join us for our next Parent Connections Support Group meeting:


Evanston CASE Parent Connections Support Group

"Managing Winter Break"

Join us for light refreshments and good company


 December 16th 7:00-9:00 pm at 1940 Sherman, Suite A. 



The group will be moderated by Cari Levin, LCSW.  Let me know you are coming by calling (847) 556-8676.   Drop-in's are welcome.


Warm regards,


Cari Levin, LCSW

Founding Director

Evanston CASE 


Holiday Survival Strategies

Help Your Child Participate and Enjoy the Season



     Dawn Villarreal, of One Place for Special Needs, wrote a comprehensive article about all the ways in which the holidays can be challenging for our kids with special needs.  She includes creative strategies to help our kids enjoy and participate in holiday activities and celebrations, while avoiding meltdowns and sensory overload.


     For example, she discusses holiday traditions, presents, family dinners, gift giving time, etc.


To read her article, click HERE


SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder 


     Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder related to depression. It typically occurs during the winter months when the hours of daylight are reduced.  During the holidays the demands of gift shopping, entertaining and stressful family dynamics can leave some feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated.  And they can increase depressive symptoms in individuals with other mood and behavioral disorders. If on top of all of that you are parenting a child with special needs, your experience of SAD symptoms may be even more debilitating. 


     Doctors often recommend "light therapy", which increases your daily exposure to bright light and decreases the body's production of melatonin, a sleep enhancing hormone.  Light boxes have become smaller and more affordable in the last couple of years.  You can find them online from $40 to $300 depending on the size and light spectrum "LUX".


     Dr. Norman Rosenthal has written a book called, "Winter Blues, Fourth Edition: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder" available in paperback on Amazon for around $12.00.   Click HERE to see the book. He has also written a workbook to help you customize your own SAD treatment plan.


     "Rosenthal explains how to evaluate your own level of seasonality, get the most out of light boxes and other effective self-help options, and make informed decisions about antidepressants and psychotherapy. The thoroughly updated fourth edition features a new chapter on different meditation practices and their benefits. Packed with information and insights, this is a tried-and-true survival kit for weathering the winter blues."


Recommended Gifts for Children With Special Needs


  provides a list of awesome online toy stores for children with special needs that offer a wide variety of gifts that encourage fine-motor and gross-motor skills, speech, communication, imagination, cognition and social skills. To view the full list of online stores, click HERE 


     The writer of Love That Max: Special Needs Blog, has a list of suggestions: "This year's selection of gifts and toys for kids with special needs is based on recommendations from therapists. The toys, crafts and games encourage fine-motor and gross-motor skills, communication, coordination and brain power. But above all, they encourage F-U-N. And there's only one thing here that might annoy you!"  To read her list, click HERE 


     Fat Brain Toys offers toys and games categorized by special needs, challenges and development goals.  Explore their list HERE

Free and EASY Craft Ideas for the Holidays


   If you're looking for simple ways to engage your child in celebrating the season, here are some simple craft ideas:


  • Santa's Countdown Beard is a cute and easy way to help your child manage the anticipation and track the days leading up to Christmas.  Free download pattern HERE
  • DIY Sleigh Bells are quick and easy to make.  See directions HERE
  • 40 Sensory Play ideas! Check out the list HERE
  • Jingle Bell Streamers. Great for dancing and singing! Directions HERE
  • Hanukah Handprint Menorah HERE
  • Lego Menorah Ideas. Examples HERE

So many more ideas available online.  I love Pinterest for DIY projects you can do with your kids all year long.


Happy Holidays! 


10 Free Gifts Parents of Kids with Special Needs Should Give Themselves 


   Don't forget to treat and take care of yourself during this holiday season, and all year round. 


     Posted on the Friendship Circle Blog -- "Caregiving is a round-the-clock job with few breaks. Caregivers have a tendency to put most of their energy into another person's well-being, while their own needs take second place...or third or fourth. But there are many gifts that caregivers can give to themselves to help sustain that energy. Fortunately, the most meaningful gifts usually don't cost a dime."


To read the post, click HERE


"How to Talk to Your Parents About Getting Help" 


     Parenting teenagers is a challenge.  Their lives are stressful and they are trying to figure things out independently.  Often, they become taciturn and don't tell us about ANYTHING, whether it's "what's up this weekend with friends", or "how was that Algebra test?"  When it comes to sharing their concerns about their emotional struggles, they can be even more closed off.


     Rachel Ehmke, Senior Writer for the Child Mind Institute, has written a helpful article for teens to give them strategies to discuss their emotional distress with parents. 


     "I think it might surprise many parents to know how difficult teenagers find it to talk to you about emotional problems: They're worried you might be angry. Judgmental. Disappointed. What if you blow them off? ("It's normal to feel moody at your age-don't worry about it.") For teenagers it's especially hard to admit that feelings aren't "normal," and it can feel like failure to ask for help."


To read Rachel Ehmke's article in full, click HERE