Another fun party!

The staff of CIELO de Amor put on another fun party. We now have two more staff helping us out; Carmendelia a preschool teacher, and Yereld a psychologist. They have been training with us for the past two months and are now ready to work while Liseth has her baby. At this party we gave each family a bulletin with a photo of their child, and their goal sheet with progress update. Yerling was excited to see the photo of her and Wilmer.

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The pinata, cake, and juice are always enjoyed by all!

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Two new children joined the class this week. It was great to have them at the party to meet all the other families.

Milagrito quickly made friends with Yerling and giggled wholeheartedly throughout the day, enjoying all the activities.


Keren (on the right below) rarely leaves her house so needed some time to get comfortable. By the end of the day she was smiling and participating. As well as supporting Keren with physical therapy and school, parents also get an opportunity to connect with other families who have a child with a disability.


It’s so rewarding to see all the joy! Adriana seemed so excited watching the pinata being destroyed, and Dayana in the picture below hugging our volunteer Lisanne, loved whacking the pinata!

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Before and after photos of children in wheelchairs!

We provided four more wheelchairs this week! My goal was to provide 22 chairs when I returned in November, and we have now provided 40! So rewarding! Calling it good till next visit! Special thanks to Keith Schwartz, Rebecca Trujillo and staff of Familias Especiales, Dave O’Brien, Lisa Fernandez, Kids Abilities, Carol Gilligan, Jenny Sargent, Ross, your financial donations, CIELO de Amor team, Cheryl Henderson, all the families who donated their chairs, and the many kind people who helped transport chairs from Eugene to Nicaragua! It takes a village!

Here are some before and after photos.

Joni’s family were creative providing head support. So thankful we found a chair for him that reclines in the angle of his body.

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Jessica slid out of  her old chair. Her new chair provided her with all the necessary support, and has a tray. Her mother seemed very happy.

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Francisca has juvenile arthritis. Her family had made a tray to fit her chair. The chair was too large and had no foot support. She seemed more comfortable and relaxed in her new chair that fit better and had a head support, and large tray.

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Escarlet sits most of the day in her wheelchair. She had no head support and her feet did not reach the foot plates. Escarlet seemed thrilled with her new chair with a comfortable cushion, head support, and a good fit.  We just need to make a small adjustment to her tray.

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wheelchairs, walkers, and inspiration!

Last week I took my staff on an overnight trip to Matagalpa, three hours north, to visit Familias Especiales and work alongside their staff and PT’s from Kids Abilities, Minnesota. It was a rich learning experience and inspiration for all of us. This was my fourth visit and I am always renewed by the experience. We left early in the morning and took four chairs we do not need, to trade for four larger chairs.

IMG_0683 IMG_0686 We learned so many creative ways to adjust a chair to provide the needed support. Here Jenny shows Carmendelia how to make a lumber support.


Hands on work with the children was so useful. We could easily relate to the children we know in La Concha .IMG_0694

Wilmer and Yerald  jumped right in learning about how to adjust wheelchairs with staff from Familias Especiales. They also learned how to use gestures to work alongside their talented staff who are deaf. IMG_0695 IMG_0698

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Juan translated and also helped adjust the chairs. He is a treasure. We learned from Sugey the physical therapist at Familias Especiales.

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We learned how to fit chest straps, how to make a chair smaller, build custom made trays.IMG_0721 IMG_0724

Thrilled to receive two walkers as we had none.IMG_0726 IMG_0727

In one afternoon we put together five chairs specifically for children in La Concha, learned so much in the process, and made new friends. Great team. Thanks so much to all.

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Day two we visited the inspiring projects where adults with disabilities, or mothers of children with disabilities work. First we had fun in the accessible park, saw the classrooms and PT room. Next over to visit the yogurt factory. The yogurt was so delicious, inspiring garden project, impressive crafts including bags, quilts, painting, piñatas, and the recycling project. Something for all abilities.

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Sad to leave. Quite a challenge packing everything in the back of the truck and space for three people!

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One last stop at the yogurt factory! So delicious! IMG_0805

A week in the life of CIELO de Amor!

It’s been another full and rewarding week working with the children every morning, and a wide variety of activities in the afternoon. We used the strategies taught to us by the specialists last week. Several children were very successful using the work boxes, others were more resistant. We got at eye level with the children and broke words down into syllables, waiting to give them a chance to imitate or initiate sounds. We used touch math technique and continued building literacy skills. We enjoyed the resources the visitors brought, including a toy phone, microphone, puzzles, reusable stickers. Darling continues to squeal with delight using the big mac, which we program to give her a voice during routines.

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We continue to provide resources to parents, such as the physical therapist teaching them how to massage their children, the psychologist providing strategies to support sibling dynamics, and financial assistance to purchase glasses. We referred two families to the special education school in the nearby town, and are encouraging more families to sign up. They can provide school five days a week and have had great success integrating children who are deaf into regular school. We are building a strong relationship with the special education school, and provided three of their children with wheelchairs this week.

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Carla, the early interventionist at the special education school introduced us to these children and helped adjust the chairs.

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We shared extra materials brought last week by our visitors, with teachers in rural areas who have children with disabilities integrated into their class. We also try to help our host school when possible. We bought a hose to help deal with all the dust.

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Joheyner was over his fever, so we took him his cardboard chair, beautifully painted by Wilmer. Later we added a box to support his feet, and he looked more comfortable.

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I continue to meet new children needing wheelchairs.

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I need to learn to manage my stress, and overwhelm, but there are so many memorable moments that make it all so rewarding. We gave Maria Isabella her first walker. She took off at full speed with such joy and pride. To see someone walk independently for the first time was magical! She even wanted to go over the grass. Her mother was also thrilled, as just that morning her wheelchair had broken so she had to carry Maria in to school on her shoulders.

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We are addressing all areas of development, and have fun while we are doing it!

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Kyla and Jenna, bilingual speech pathologists arrive!

Thrilled to have Kyla and Jenna, newly graduated speech pathologists join us on Tuesday. They too jumped right in seeing children, and giving recommendations. We learned so much from watching them, and were amazed at how in one session they were able to expand the language of so many of the children we work with. Some of the many strategies they taught us, were how to use routines to expand language, breaking down words into syllables, getting on the child’s level, using the child’s language plus one, making it fun, practicing target phrases or sounds, using actions to assist lip formation, waiting for the child to initiate, the power of the mirror and microphone, and practicing language throughout the day.  I was glad that not only parents came, but also Andrea and Charly’s teacher for next year. I am sure having parents and teachers with us, multiplied the impact of their trainings.

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Kyla spoke with Maria who has arthrogryposis. IMG_0312

Kyla and Jenna gave an excellent presentation to staff and parents from the surrounding area on communication strategies for children with ten words or less.

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Kyla, Jenna, and Sandy fine tuned our work using PEC’s with the children with autism. IMG_0359 IMG_0360

Thanks to Cheryl, Kyla’s mum for the fabulous donations, and Heather and Emily for sending us some new music.

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We had some delicious meals together, including a lovely farewell party. Definitely too short a visit, but nonetheless they left us with some great strategies, and made an impressive impact in just a few days! I look forward to their return.


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Sandy, special education teacher, and her niece Natasha come to visit!

It’s been a very full, fun, informative, and rewarding week. Sandy a newly retired special education teacher,  came on Saturday, with her niece Natasha. Natasha did a fantastic job translating, as well as building many new friendships! Her positive, supportive energy both with staff and children, and willingness to help out in all kinds of ways was such a gift. Sandy with her many years of experience, was able to demonstrate an incredibly wide variety of strategies without even knowing the children, and made an immediate impact. Sandy’s flexibility, adventurous spirit, kindness, and support to me was priceless. Thank you both so much! We packed in as much as we could in their short visit. Here is a glimpse of their week in La Concha!

Sandy and Natasha brought two more wheelchairs with them, and we bought a few on the way to the airport. We have now brought over 11 specialized wheelchairs at no cost aside from the airport pickup!

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We enjoyed delicious coconuts on our way to La Concha! Sandy brought some great materials with her. It was amazing how much we were able to teach with the help of the wind up snake and horse!

There were so many memorable moments. Sandy has so much experience and was able to jump in and demonstrate powerful and useful strategies, that I know we can continue. Sandy showed us how to position toys for easier engagement. She showed us how to help Darling make choices, by bringing the toys midline and then moving them in opposite directions, and watching her eye gaze for her choice. So simple, so effective! Sandy also taught us how to empower Darling by having her share the beads with her mother and aunt. Darling’s squeals of delight brought a smile to all of our faces.

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Sandy taught us how to build length of engagement and expand skills, using work systems. It was incredible to see how she was able to virtually wean Nelson off of his dependence on eating plantain chips in one session.

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Sandy showed us how to be patient and take time to wait for the child to initiate communication. Everyone was thrilled  when Gina initiated signing “more”. It has been great to see Nelson initiate getting the stop and go card, to play red light green light. This week was the first time he has done that.

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Sandy taught us strategies to teach math, literacy, and cognitive skills. It was great to demonstrate to our staff, parents, and also the teachers who will have them integrated into their class next year.


There has been lots more socialization recently from Yerling helping our new student Carla on the playground, Brithany wanting to sit on Darling’s lap, Wilmer playing a social game with Nelson, with Nelson initiating to continue playing.

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Sandy gave a presentation on strategies to use with children with autism. We had a great turn out of parents, staff, director of the special education school, and staff from the nearby towns. Sandy was very flexible, as the initial plan was just to have people from La Concha, but last minute other staff showed interest even though they are still on school break.



We also found time to have some fun! From going to the beach, watching folk dance practice, lunch with my host family, and a farewell party. It has been an incredible week! Look forward to Sandy and Natasha returning. A week simply is not long enough.

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