Dena Russell - New Jersey Special Needs writer

I could sit and write a small biography of my life for you - but the truth is my life never really started until the birth of my beautiful boys, Keith & Ryan.  Life drastically changed for me in 2005, as the two most amazing babies came into this world and changed my life forever.  Long forgotten were the days of working with inmates at a Federal Correctional Institution, being a participant in an unhappy marriage, and dealing with the everyday negativity of life!  When my children were both diagnosed with Autism Specttrum Disorder & ADHD, I embraced the positive aspects of life and made it my mission to make them experience the most fulfilled life possible.  Born and raised in Hoboken, I have started the Hoboken Special Needs Parent Group so my children will be able to grow up in my hometown with all of the same opportunities I had. I am so grateful that Mommy Poppins is allowing me to share my experiences and my knowledge with all of you!!

Latest posts by Dena

Sports Programs for Special Needs Kids

Finding appropriate recreation programs for your special needs child can be extremely challenging. Far in the future are the days when my children will understand which direction to run the bases, why the referee’s blowing that darn whistle and why kids are wearing different-colored uniforms.  And the days when my children will understand, accept and implement the idea of taking turns and sharing a ball with 20 other children without having a complete meltdown seem even farther away.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the “least restrictive environment” when it comes to educating our children.  But how can most special needs children be held accountable to the strict rules and regulations of a rigid sports program without becoming agitated with the whole process? Well, with the increase in available special needs recreation programs throughout New Jersey – programs that are appropriate for my children - I can finally be a “Sports Mom”!

Best Facebook Pages for Special Needs Families

What do you like most about Facebook?  Reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in years, the ability to spy on your old boyfriend’s wall (not that I ever did that or anything), or that browsing through Facebook can give you access to so much information? As a mommy of two special needs children, Facebook has become a wonderful source of info and resources. Many of the following FB pages also have corresponding websites, however, “liking” them will result in the information being sent directly to you, instead of you having to visit all the websites to obtain it. 

Special Needs Support Groups--Burlington and Camden Counties

Halloween is barely over and I am already preparing my Thanksgiving menu and checking names off my Christmas list.  I love the holidays, but just when I think my stress level couldn’t be any higher, this wonderful time of the year rolls around and I have to juggle the needs of my children and the desire to make this a great holiday season for them. For those of you who are in the same boat and in need of some support, here are a few support groups in the Burlington & Camden county areas.

Book Review: "Following Ezra"

"FOLLOWING EZRA: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism And Love From His Extraordinary Son" is a true story of a young Autistic boy named Ezra, as told by his father Tom, an amazing man who refused to grieve for the child Ezra didn’t turn out to be. Whether you have a child with special needs or not, this story is truly inspiring.  It made me laugh and cry, brought back memories of the struggles my boys have faced, and gave me hope for their future.

Fun After School Programs and Classes in NJ

When it comes to after school programs, one typically thinks of the YMCA or programs held in schools that offer the usual activities:  homework help, arts and crafts, movies, games, and on nice days, possibly a trip to the playground or a walk outside.  But if you dig a bit deeper into the world of after school, you can find some alternate and unique programs for your child.

Back to School Resources for Special Needs Families

[UPDATED: July 18, 2012]

Preparing your child for back to school should be simple.  Buy them some clothes, let them pick out a cool new backpack, and the best part of all – shop for new school supplies (I loved my Trapper Keeper back in the day). But as a parent of special needs children, feelings of joy and anticipation of successes in the new school year can sometimes be replaced with anxiety.  Have they regressed over the summer? How they will function socially with a new teacher and different classmates?

Special Needs Support Groups in Ocean and Monmouth Counties

I don’t know about some of you, but summer can be a very stressful time for me, when my days are dedicated to trying to figure out what to do with my boys from morning to night.  My number one priority?  Keeping them cool and happy.  My number two priority?  Keeping myself sane enough to keep them cool and happy. Anyone with a child on the Autism spectrum who can say that summer is 100% fun, please tell me your secret!

Special Needs Support Groups in Essex and Union Counties

One of the positive aspects of having a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is that there is so much support out there for you!  You just have to find it and navigating the internet through tons of websites and even more pages, tabs & links can be quite stressful.  However, the information and services you receive can actually help alleviate some of your stress, so if you’re not computer-savvy, or just can’t seem to bring yourself to spend hours looking for all these services, go to a support group.  One of your best resources is other parents who are going through the same thing, and contact with other adults is so much more beneficial than sitting in front of a computer.  Sometimes I yearn for adult conversation after being with my boys all day.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys to death but sometimes it gets to the point that if I talk about Transformers one more time I’m going to completely lose it.)  There are other things I want to talk about, other people I want to talk to, and other places I want to be at times.  A support group is a really great way to do all these things, and get some inner peace and great information while you’re there!