Category: autism

How a Mother of an Autistic Child Started My Entrepreneurial Journey – Signing Families

“Welcome to Signing Families”.  I first wrote those words “officially” in 2006, the year that Signing Families became an educational / instructional company focused on teaching novice learners how to communicate with sign language.

Since then, hundreds of classes and sign language trainings have been conducted and thousands of DVDs and sign language communication charts have been sold or donated to people across the globe.  My goal is simple – to build communication bridges one sign at a time.

How did it all begin?  Well… one day while I was a School Psychologist working at an elementary school I was asked to attend a  special education IEP meeting with a parent who had a child with moderate – severe Autism.  Our school based team had just recommended that to help try to facilitate spoken speech or any communication,  she may want to consider taking sign language classes.  With tears in her eyes she looked at us and asked one simple question, ” Who will watch the child you just told me needs 1 on 1 assistance in his special education self-contained classroom due to his severe needs while I leave for hours to learn sign language?”

My heart stopped.  As a mom of two children, I knew exactly what she meant.  I had a child who was born with conditions that meant he needed specialized babysitting when he was a baby.   I could relate to the  challenges that this parent was facing. There was no way she would be able to leave her child with a “regular” babysitter.  She was a single parent. She had limited financial resources. She was frustrated.  But, most of all – she was upset because she couldn’t provide the one thing she yearned most for her child – an ability to learn to communicate.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning because I continued to hear her voice… “Who will watch the child you just told me needs 1 on 1 assistance..?”  The next day I decided I needed to help this mom.  It just wasn’t fair.  She was dealt a tough situation and we just made it worse.  That was unacceptable. So, after a while I created a temporary “fix”, I would make a sign language video with a few dozen basic words and put it on a basic DVD.

Word got out and before I knew I was in the DVD business – making dozens of copies for teachers, friends and even for relatives of people I didn’t know. The phone kept ringing. Email requests flooded my inbox.

That is when “Hubby” said… “I think you have something  here.”  So, we enlisted some talented people to help create the first DVD from Signing Families:  Baby, Toddler and Preschool Sign Language with Louise Masin Sattler and Friends.  The differentiator between my DVD and many others was that the audience was “language role models” and not kids. There were no dancing bears or signing birds.  Moreover,   I open captioned the DVD and added a Spanish – English – Sign Language component.  I did this because there was virtually very little sign language instruction available for parents of children with communication needs who were from Spanish speaking homes but living in the United States or Canada.

DVD sales started off slowly but then the momentum kicked in when Borders and Barnes and Noble started to order. Before long sales were in the hundreds, then thousands.  I then created ancillary components to the DVD.  A sign language chart to help with expressing  WANTS and FEELINGS.   This was followed by a website with  a plethora of free  learning opportunities.  And, a very full nationwide training schedule for special needs groups, schools, preschool programs, Head Start and much more.

In 2010 my second DVD series  and training program launched.  The Sign Language For Emergency Situations was born out of necessity.  Simply, we as a nation were not offering equal access communication opportunities  to those who were Deaf or had limitations with  functional needs. I have written about my journey in the field of emergency management on this blog before.  Please feel free to ask me about resources in the comment section below.

Related Reading: Why I Created Sign Language For Emergency Situations

Now it is 2019 and the world is a different place than 2006.  Instead of DVD sales we have ‘streaming”.  So, that means that I have to make a shift in the way I reach an audience.  I have uploaded many free YouTube videos  for people to either start learning sign language or continue honing their basic skills.

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I must confess, a year ago I nearly closed Signing Families.  I had lost my “WHY”.  I wasn’t selling huge lots of product or traveling as much for trainings. I was the “lost entrepreneur”.   But,  then I started to look over boxes of materials I saved.  Letters from families. Drawings from children.  Emails from teachers.  Commendations from First Responder groups.   I was humbled and knew that I couldn’t stop. I just needed to reinvent.  So, I started to teach ASL at a high school, I began to think of new ways to reach an audience yearning to learn to sign and clicked the keys of my laptop once more to inspire parents and teachers via media articles  not to give up.  At last, I remembered my WHY.

So… dear readers – thank You for allowing me to tell my story.  You are groovy, indeed!

xo,

Louise

Related reading: My interview with SLATE MAGAZINE and others

Aside

Little child crying with tear on face

Too close to home. San Bernardino is too close to home.  

As a psychologist and the owner of an educational company that focuses on matters of communication and safety, I have trained First Responders on how to engage and communicate with those who have unique circumstances – such as Autism or Deafness. I have trained thousands of emergency responders how to help evacuate people who don’t communicate verbally, use sign language or don’t speak English as their first language. Most of the practice scenarios were in case of an earthquake. tornado or vehicular accident.

But yesterday it wasn’t a practice scenario. It wasn’t a workshop video.

Yesterday it was REAL LIFE.

 Real people. Real suffering. Real blood. Real tears. 

Yet unreal.  Surreal.

 While my eyes were affixed on CNN and the reporters – I couldn’t help but notice the people in the background. The First Responders I trained were there. On TV.  Helping so many of the helpless who had been shot by two or more assailants. There they – my students –  evacuating those with functional needs and their caretakers. WOW!

Everything seemed to be going according to protocol.  I was so impressed!

But then I realized that there was a question gnawing at me.

WHY did the First Responders have to practice what they learned at all?

Oh wait… let me answer my own question…

First – We don’t address mental health needs in this country. We often have programs in place that are less than effective. We don’t staff mental health centers with enough service providers. We often don’t use multi-modal treatment plans. We don’t have enough resources to help those who need help. Ask anyone who works in public mental health if they have enough of what they need to help their clients and I bet they say. “no”.

Secondly – We have easy access to guns and copious amounts of ammunition. Please don’t quote me the right to bear arms stuff. I know all of that. Any 8th grader who has taken an exam on the US history knows that. What I am asking is WHY do we need to have as many guns in homes as we have cars? Why don’t we have stricter laws about guns? Why can’t we find a solution vs. spinning our proverbial wheels about guns?

and…

Lastly – We don’t teach people in life that disappointment is part of LIFE and not a reason TO TAKE A LIFE.
So a HUGE thank you to ALL First Responders who risk their lives everyday. And to their families who know that when the alarm sounds their loved one is going towards the disaster vs. away.

Now folks- let’s stop talking and start doing! Demand constructive changes that SAVE LIVES.  Let San Bernardino not be another example of the “new normal”.

Enough is enough!

 

December Newsletter: 2013 in Review, ASL Style

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Happy December! I know every year has 12 months, yet this year  seemed to have gone by in a flash!  I use to keep better track of the seasons, and time in general,  during those “parenting years”.  Back then I knew what month it was by which PTA project I volunteered to do.  October was the Halloween parade, December was buying teacher holiday gifts, and so on.  Now that my kids are grown and my status is that of having a “low occupancy home”, I realize  that I must  resort to keeping track  of time the old fashioned way- by using the Calendar app on my ipad!    Which explains why the alarm went off yesterday with a reminder that read:  “WRITE ANNUAL YEAR IN REVIEW BLOG TODAY”.

I know myself too well,  so I set another alarm and it went off  today with a bit of attitude  as the reminder message  read – “YOU FORGOT TO WRITE YOUR ANNUAL YEAR IN REVIEW BLOG – DO IT NOW!!”

So here it goes…  Nearly 4800 people have found our SIGNING FAMILIES  Facebook page.  I have used this social media page to help people to learn about sign language  (ASL) and the deaf community.  I also focused during the year on issues regarding Autism, Down Syndrome and education.  Then I sprinkled a hefty dose of humor, inspiration and giveaways!  We grew and grew with more than a thousand new friends joining us!

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Surprisingly, one of the most popular posts  was that of Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter.  In an effort to improve awareness about sign language usage in the United Kingdom, Daniel was asked to pose with a simple sign that asked readers to learn how to sign GOOD MORNING.  I found this article interesting and posted it, too.  WOW – what a response!  In fact, worldwide this campaign went “viral”.  I was glad our little “hamlet” could participate.

As with every good company, we were busy adding products and also revamping our website to reflect the change in how people do business online.  Our SIGNING FAMILIES website now offers online downloads for workshop attendees, more interactive elements and our newest product, the SIGN LANGUAGE EMERGENCY CHART  in American Sign Language with captions in English, Spanish and Mandarin (simplified).  Why did we create a quadra-lingual product? Simply, First Responders asked us to do so to help those with access and functional needs (AFN).  Plain and simple.

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This card has found its’ way in to thousands of emergency vehicles, uniforms and disaster response shelters nationwide. We were the most proud to have been able to donate many to our friends in Oklahoma, where I visited following the awful the series of tornadoes they experienced last May.  I invite people who work as emergency personnel to email me if you wish to learn more and to receive a complimentary copy:  Louise<at>Signing Families <dot> com.

It would be remiss of me to forget to mention that, it has been an honor to have met via workshops and conferences scores of  our First Responders, including CERT / NERT members. These people bravely  go towards disasters when most of us would flee.  I hope that my disaster preparedness and response workshops gave food for thought to all who attended as I know you all taught me so much, too!

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imageMeeoMiia came to us during 2013 to let us know that they were so  inspired by our logo and wanted to use it as a basis for their newest LOVE necklace. We were thrilled!  And, to celebrate we gave one as a giveaway to one of our subscribers!

It seems that wherever life takes me, including to events via OmgInsider or 411 VOICES I find people who are willing to take a few moments and give some love – ASL style. I posted some of my favorites photos below for you to enjoy!

It is no secret that social media overload can happen to anyone.  I am humbled that you found your way to this little ‘ol blog and read it to the end. Feel free to add your blog url below or to comment. Thank you and…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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When the Earth Shakes and Spins! How to be prepared for Earthquakes and Tornadoes!

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikkipedia

If a hurricane hit your home today would have an evacuation plan? If you awoke in the middle of the night to the earth trembling and your home shaking violently- would you know what to do? Green skies are often the first warning of a tornado coming – where should you go?  Dangerous chemicals were let in to the air following a train derailment near your home – would you know what to do and where to get credible information for either evacuation or sheltering in place?

It has been my privilege to work with disaster specialists throughout the United States. They work tirelessly on all of our behalf.

Therefore, in the interest of public safety I will be posting as series of articles about how to PREPARE for potential disasters AND also offer resources for you to learn more.

To start I would like to discuss two very REAL threats to our personal and property safety-  earthquakes  and tornadoes.

EARTHQUAKE PREPARATION

 You may think that earthquakes are only on the west coast of the United States or in remote mountain regions of Asia.  But, that simply is false. Earthquakes happen in almost every state in the US and throughout the world, from the islands of Japan to the mountains of China.  In fact, earthquakes can occur anytime, anywhere. Just ask the people of Washington DC who experienced a good size earthquake of a magnitude of 5.8  in 2011 (The epicenter was in Virginia).

Click here to find your area and see if you are in a location of where more than one million registered earthquakes occurred this year. (Approximately 13,000 were a 4.0 magnitude or higher).  States with the most earthquakes? Alaska and California  have the most (no surprise) but you may not have thought of Utah as a top earthquake location?

So how can you prepare for an earthquake?

 What to do during an earthquake?  We use to think that standing in a doorway was the best idea. NOPE.  What about running outside? Not the “A” answer, either. According to the United States Geological Service (USGS) the best idea is to DROP, ROLL UNDER something STURDY and HOLD ON! (View demo video here)

This new safety information is so important that an effort known as the SHAKE OUT will be conducted this coming Fall.  What is SHAKE OUT? Simply it is a designated date and time where as many US and Canadian citizens participate in a  mock “earthquake drill”.  The SHAKE OUT drill will be on October 17th at 10:17 in the morning. (Interesting piece of trivia – October 17th is the anniversary date of the Oakland earthquake of 1989)  To register your family or business for the drill or learn more click here. 

Also relevant and related to earthquake safety is to learn about tsunamis. A tsunami is a wall of water that is created following an earthquake, meteor or other disruption to the ocean.  A devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011 and resulted in mass casualty and loss of property.  (Read about recovery efforts here )

What to do if there is a tsunami?

 Many coastal areas in the United States now have tsunami warning systems.

However, the most important thing to know about a tsunami is to prepare in advance as where you can that is safe, elevated and within fifteen minutes of your home. This packet of information was very helpful to understand tsunamis and be prepared:  Tsunami Preparedness by NOAA

TORNADO PREPARATION

Tornadoes are a real and present threat to life and property.  Like an earthquake, tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time. We only need to read the headlines of recent events to see how a tornado touching down for a few minutes can cause profound heartbreak.  Moore, Oklahoma now joins the ranks of other towns, such as Joplin, Missouri, Granbury, Texas,  as a place where  giant tornadoes have  pummeled through communities, schools and farmland.

How to prepare for a tornado?

What are considered the “best practices” if you know that you are in an area experiencing a tornado watch or warning?  First, recognize the “signs” that a tornado is coming.

  • GREEN SKIES
  • DARKENING SKIES
  • HAIL
  • LOUD NOISE, described by some like a “freight train”
  • WARNING SIRENS or ALERTS RECEIVED

What should you do if you know a tornado is a true threat?

Take shelter immediately! Go to a basement, storm cellar, interior room or closet. Stay away from windows. Try to shield yourself from potential flying debris by having something over you. Be sure to have a cell phone (if possible), flashlight and battery operated radio with you.  Here is more information about planning and safety from the CDC

http://www.rvspca.org/health-behavior/disaster-preparedness

http://www.rvspca.org/health-behavior/disaster-preparedness

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR FAMILY PETS

Again, let planning be your friend. The Humane Society published these guidelines for pet owners.

You also can read more from the SPCA by clicking on the photo above or this link.

What if your family member has special considerations, such as uses a wheelchair, has Autism or lives with Alzheimer’s? 

There are many websites and videos (open and/or closed captioned for those with hearing loss) that can be of great assistance and a wealth of information . There are many sites to review, but these are some of my favorites.

RED CROSS 

READY.GOV

EMSC NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER

DEAFInc.com

SAVE THE CHILDREN

LASTLY… 

What information can I share with my family that is “child friendly”

I really liked this website (in addition to the child resources from the sites mentioned above)

USGS KID INFO (including science fair project ideas)

In the next post we will discuss safety and preparation for Hurricane Season.   Please feel free to share YOUR disaster preparation safety information below. Thank you

 Stay safe everyone!

~Louise

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Louise Satter is a Psychologist who  created the SIGN LANGUAGE FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS Series – ASL, ENGLISH and SPANISH.  Read more about how to connect with Louise for speaking engagements, including the DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR SPECIAL POPULATIONS PROGRAM (including sign language) and other programs related to safety and the well-being of children and adults with exceptional needs.

CLICK HERE for more information.

DISASTER SAFETY INFORMATION FOR FAMILIES WITH SPECIAL NEEDS – 2015 updated post with additional safety resources

Update: Sadly tornado “season” has been wicked during 2015, therefore I am re – blogging this post that originally posted in 2013. At the bottom of this post are additional safety resources including for earthquake, flood, hurricane, tsunami and wildfire preparedness.

I could not fathom what must have happened here to make a truck flip and be impaled on these trees.

Today there have been a series of tragic tornadoes that have ripped through the heartland of America causing severe devastation, including loss of life.  Some of the families impacted who have been impacted have family members with special needs.

In an effort to help families and communities who may have some unique challenges during disasters here is some information:

BEFORE A DISASTER

Be prepared.  Alert your local fire department if you have a family member with special needs of any kind, such as physical, sensory, cognitive or other.  Included would be family members with dementia, Alzheimer’s or medical problems.

Have a family plan for sheltering in place and evacuation.

Be sure to have an emergency kit in your home and car.  To know what should be in your emergency kit go to the RED CROSS Disaster Information page.   Don’t forget to add to your kit personal effects, such as your insurance information, copies of marriage and birth certificates and photos of your family members.

For families with children, especially with special needs, have a quick “grab and go” kit of favorite items and things you know will comfort your child during a time of distress.  Stuffed animals, battery operated video games, and books or drawing pads all are good things to bring along. So, be prepared in advance with this GRAB AND GO KIT.

Let others know your plans if you need to evacuate. Where you intend to go and how you will try to check in.

WHAT TO DO IF DISASTER STRIKES

Many agencies including FEMA and the RED CROSS offer much information, including for for families with special populations.

GENERAL ASSISTANCE, including Access and Functional Needs Information:

 RED CROSS disaster safety checklist in multiple languges

DISASTER ASSISTANCE by FEMA 

ASSISTANCE FOR THE AUTISM COMMUNITY:

Spirit of Autism

Autism Speaks

ASL / SIGN LANGUAGE RESOURCES FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS for the DEAF

SIGNING FAMILIES

DEAFinc VIDEOS  (including the one below)

Other Disaster Preparation Resources

Earthquake Country Alliance 

ShakeOut Earthquake Drill registration 

Hurricane Preparedness 

TsunamiZone

Ready.gov for many disaster preparedness resources, including Floods and Fires

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IF YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL RESOURCES PLEASE SHARE BELOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION

LIGHT IT UP BLUE for AUTISM with SWEET CRUSH ICE

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TOMORROW, April 2, 2013 is
LIGHT IT UP BLUE for AUTISM AWARENESS.    So, it is my pleasure to introduce you to SWEET CRUSH ICE, a Los Angeles based dessert company who will be helping to give back to the Autism community with every taste of their incredible low-fat dessert on this special commemorative day!

What makes this the perfect synergy is that SWEET CRUSH ICE is a healthy, low-fat dessert with gluten free, lactose free and sugar free options. It even is certifed Kosher.  Flavors range from creamy vanilla, chocolate, espresso and coconut (to name a few) to non – dairy options such as guava, strawberry-lemonade (the kid favorite) and lychee (exquisite and so unique!)

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I first met, Yael Lustman, owner of SWEET CRUSH ICE at an OSCAR party given by OMGInsider.  This high energy entrepreneur impressed me so much with both her business savvy and her delicious sweet product that I invited her to be my guest on the 411 VOICES radio network SPOTLIGHT show.  (Click here to listen to our interview).  What I discovered is that Yael didn’t want to skimp on the taste of her shaved ice  nor the quality of her storefront (Which rocks with non intrusive changing lights and ipads which take photos of happy customers!).  All this truly shows from the moment you enter the SWEET CRUSH until you take the last bite of this naturally flavored shaved ice with oodles of toppings sprinkled with Asian flair!  I thought it would make the prefect place for kid birthday parties or ladies’ night out.

During our interview I discovered that family and wanting to do “more in life” was what prompted this once Wall Street attorney to leave it all behind for the long hours and the trials and tribulations of owning a food based business.  Yael shared her pearls of wisdom on air (won’t give away too much here), as she stressed that the smiles of people young and old and the versatility of owning a community shop gives her much joy and feelings of accomplishment.  She also mentioned that without the power of social media she wouldn’t have met as many connections resulted in garnering the attention OMGInsider and the OSCAR committee.

If you are looking for a company that provides something yummy, healthy and has a heart for giving back to the community please check out SWEET CRUSH ICE.  Address is below. Conveniently located next to Whole Foods in Brentwood.

Help them LIGHT IT BLUE for AUTISM on APRIL 2nd!  A portion of their proceeds on this day will be donated to local Autism charity.

11753 San Vicente Blvd. · Los Angeles, California · 90049  MAP

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Note: I received nothing more than a groovy t-shirt and free Sweet Crush Ice to sample in exchange for this blog.

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