Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holiday Toys and Games On Review

1- Build and Learn Geometry Kit
Company: Lakeshore
Players: 1 or more
Ages: 7 and older
Approximate Duration: Less than 1 hour.
Players’ comments: Math concepts can be pretty dry stuff for young students and keeping their interest is always a challenge. The Kit seemed a fun way for students to start to learn geometry, and maybe even start to like it. 

2- Cluck ‘N’ Chuck
Company: PATCH
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 4 and older
Approximate duration: About 20 minutes
Players’ comments: Instructions were initially confusing, yet game was easy to understand once it got underway. The instructions directed players to “chuck” the chickens onto the coop, but the chickens easily fell off the coop. Still, it was fun to play. 

3- American Trivia Family Edition
Company: Outset Media Corp.
Players: 2 or more
Ages: 9 and older
Approximate duration: 1-1/2 hours
Players’ comments: Very educational for both children and adults. Up to date on current events about the United States. Instructions were easy to understand.

4- Professor Noggins Presidents of the United States
Company: Outset Media Corp.
Players: 2 to 8
Ages: 7 and older
Approximate duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on number of players.
Players’ comments: Great learning game for both kids and adults. There were lots of interesting facts about presidents throughout history. 

 5- Professor Noggins Wildlife of North America
Company: Outset Media Corp.
Players: 2 to 8
Ages: 7 and older
Approximate duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on number of players.
Players’ comments: Great way for both kids and adults to learn about wildlife and the environment. And, like the Presidents of the United States card game, it was fun to play.

 6- Word on the Street
Company: Out of the Box
Players: 2 to 10
Ages: 10 and older
Approximate duration: About 30 minutes.
Players’ comments: Awesome word game. Liked the timer because it prompted you to think fast. Word on the Street is a real brainteaser, and a great word game for those who are tired of Srabble and Words With Friends. 

7- Don’t Rock the Boat
Company: PATCH
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 5 and older
Approximate Duration: Game can be over in less than a minute, depending on players’ ability to balance things.
Players’ comments: The game was fun and suspenseful in that you never knew when the boat was going to tip. It was a neat variation on games like Jenga. 

8- Hello Kitty Earbuds
Company: Sanrio
Players: 1
Ages: 13 and older
Comments: Sound quality is just as good as any other earphones on the market. They are compatible with all iPod/iPhone/iPad/MP3/MP4 players, as well as portable audio/video devices and game systems.

9- Tall-Stacker Mighty Monkey Playset
Company: Lauri
Players: 1 or more
Ages: 3 and older
Approximate Duration: 30 minutes
Players’ comments: Great game for imaginative play, and to help children improve both logical thinking and fine motor skills.

10- American Doll House Ice Cream Shoppe
Company: It’z Purple
Players: 1 or more
Ages: 3 and older
Approximate duration: As long as you want to play
Players’ comments: Great doll house for girls to use to store their 18-inch dolls and is available in three sizes – one room, two rooms, three rooms and four rooms. Easy to assemble.

Our Top 5 toys and games for 2012

By Rex Robinson
    What are children going to be most excited about finding under the tree this year? Will it be a remote controlled truck or boat? Maybe it’s the hottest new Nintendo system on the market? Children are not all the same when it comes to favorite toys and games. Thus picking the “Top 5” for 2012 is not an exact science by any means (Note: We will more than likely revisit this topic again next month with more top toys and games for this holiday season so stay tuned). Anyway, here’s our November top five gifts we think many children will have on their lists for Santa this year.  

   1- RC Hot Wheels Terrain Twister. Kids are sure to love the Remote Controlled Hot Wheels Terrain Twister. It’s like a remote controlled boat, truck and tank rolled into one. Mattel claims it to be “one of the most flexible, versatile and most popular RC vehicles of all time.” It features an auger-like drive system that allows it to “float over virtually any surface in its path.” Batteries are included. The suggested price is about $100.

     2- Nintendo Wii U GamePad. Set for release November 18, the new Wii U Gamepad is a controller with a touch screen that, according to Nintendo, “redefines how people interact with their games, their entertainment and one another.” The suggested retail price for the basic set is about $300, while the deluxe set is about $350. These devices are likely to be flying off the shelves.

     3- Lego Friends - Olivia’s House. Lego is not just for the boys anymore. The company this year launched the “Friends” collection for girls. Olivia is one of cadre of new girl characters created by toy maker. It’s about time… Boys aren’t the only ones who like to build things. The suggested retail price on Olivia’s House is about $70. This one is sure to be a hit with the young ladies of the house.

     4- Fijit Friends Yippits. Girls who loved Fijit Friends will love the innovative nurturing play of Fijit Friends Yippits. Go to any Google and type in top games for 2012 and you’re sure to find this one on nearly every website. These dancing pets perform tricks and feature three different modes of play – Dancing, Training and Game. They come with multiple songs and movable feet. Yippits utilizes Sonic Chirp technology, a special embedded audio coding that when detected triggers various programmed reactions.  The suggested retail price is about $38.

     5- WWE Brawlin’ Buddies. Go to any of these World Wrestling Entertainment events and you’re sure to find lots of fathers and young sons. Translation: This WWE stuff is huge with boys (and maybe some girls too?). Anyway, for 2012 Mattel has introduced the WWE Brawlin’ Buddies. According to the toymaker, “these 16-inch figures are soft enough to squeeze but bold enough to throw down.” Each figure features signature superstar phrases recorded by the WWE superstars themselves. The figures are designed for children 3 and the suggested retail price is about $30.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Marriage and Family Matters

Setting the stage for good holidays

By Lisa Pisha    
     Every year, immediately following Halloween, my office begins to bustle and  phones begin ringing with people who are looking to figure out how to get through the holiday season. This is the time of year that is the most exciting and stressful for so many people, and often upon talking through it, the stress and negative emotion associated with this time of year has been around for a very long time, even starting in childhood.
     The holidays are a sure thing - we’re sure they’ll come every year, and so the anticipation builds waiting for them to come around again, and again. It’s the same kind of stress, every year, over and over, until something changes.
     A recent article in Psychology Today about life lessons detailed the real truths about interacting in healthy relationships versus unhealthy ones. The article wasn’t about the holidays, but it solidified the importance on our health, of having positive relationships (which I think rings true at all times of the year), stating “the higher the quantity and quality of your relationships, the longer you live.”
     Well no pressure there. But, our relationships are one of the reasons I see stress being so profound around this time of year: they’re not satisfying in ways that give back to us, and most people have a hard time continuing to water seeds that just won’t grow.
     It’s not too early to begin envisioning the kind of holiday you want to have, the way you might want to handle certain relatives you don’t have to see too often or situations that are less than comfortable. This also includes learning to foster the relationship you have with others as a limited one, taking and giving what you can, when you can and learning to be satisfied with the relationship being “good enough.”
     This might mean having tough conversations with your spouse or other family members or looking inward to see what you might be able to do differently this season. No doubt there are so many things to think about when it comes to this time of year, and many more ways of thinking about them. Yet again, we come back to the relationships that have an impact on us and the choices we have in handling them.
     The holidays can feel the same as last year and the years before, or you can start looking into what you want to keep, and what you’re willing to let go of this year. Again, the holidays are a sure thing, and while that can put the pressure on, it can also have the advantage of taking the pressure off. If you try something and it doesn’t work out, they’ll be here the same time next year to do something differently.
     Start the season off by having an honest conversation with yourself about what it is that you’d hoped would’ve been different this year. Is it the driving all over the place? The gift-giving? Is it seeing Uncle Joe make an idiot of himself again in front of the kids? Can you withstand it without feeling the negative impact of stress and having that trickle down to the rest of your family members? Or is it just too much for you to bear this year? How about the pressure? Are the 10 family traditions that involve all of the long days away from home feeling like too much? The expectations you perceive that others place on you may have a part to play here, as do your own expectations. What do you feel people expect of you versus what are you willing to give/do/offer? Again, that honest conversation should break it down for you in terms of identifying where the problems lie, which will hopefully give you a path to travel down in terms of thinking about a new approach.
     Lastly, don’t forget the legitimate reason of “it’s just not comfortable for me.” There’s a reason it’s not comfortable, a reason you don’t want to relive it, and if you’re looking for a justifiable reason to change things, look no further. Harness the feeling you have and try to see it in all of it’s different dimensions to gain an understanding of it. By looking into yourself and your personality traits, you may just find that the change you’re looking for this season doesn’t have to be justified by anyone else but you. Before the holiday season begins to buzz too loudly, take some time now to imagine what yours will look like as you envision a happier, healthier way to spend these special times.

Lisa Pisha is a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with individuals, couples and families in Naperville.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Don't Miss the Special Needs Seminar November 17 at Moraine Valley Community College

By Rex Robinson

Expert speakers in two separate rooms and more than 35 vendors with tables displaying products and services will be at Family Time Magazine’s 3rd annual Autism & Special Needs Seminar Saturday, November 17 at Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 W. College Parkway, in Palos Hills. The seminar will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Building M on the campus.

Caroline O’Connell, Family Time Magazine’s publisher, founded the seminar in 2009 after seeing a need to provide more resources to families with loved ones with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“Anyone with a child or family member with autism or other developmental disabilities will want to make sure they attend this year’s seminar,” O’Connell said. “The speakers we have lined up for this year are all experts in their respective fields and will offer vital information for families. Many of the speakers have spoke at the national level.”

* CEU's, CPDUs and Early Intervention Training hours have been approved for the seminar.

** Purchasing tickets now can save you up to $15 off the regular door price admission of $25 with the coupon attached here:

Here are the experts scheduled to speak at the seminar:

Keynote Speakers: Dr. Valerie Nowinski  and Drina Madden, MA, CAS,
Pediatric Neuropsychology Diagnostic
and Treatment Center

“Beyond Genes and Advances in Brain Science”
The Brain can change and children can develop their potential

Dr. Valerie Nowinski (left) and Drina Madden
Times: 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Room 1

Dr. Valerie Nowinski and Drina Madden will discuss how with advances in brain science children with autism and related developmental disorders can develop to their full potential. Dr. Nowinski is the founder of the Pediatric Neuropsychology Diagnostic Center, Orland Park, Illinois. The Center houses three specialty programs: Brain Injury Program, Autism Spectrum Program, and Neurodevelopmental Disorders/Attention and Learning Disorders Program. These diagnostic and training programs incorporate an interdisciplinary team of pediatric specialists including neuroscientists, educators, speech language, movement, child development and learning specialists. Bridging neuroscience with education is a primary focus at the center.  

Drina Madden, MA, CAS, is a neurodevelopmental specialist who has multifaceted experience working with people of all ages who have dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities, and other brain/behavior difficulties. She is also certified to work in birth to 14-year-old programs, Montessori programs and special education programs. She is member of the Neuropsychology Diagnostic and Treatment Center’s valuation and treatment team. She also explains diagnoses and treatment plans to children, families and schools. She is a speaker and educational consultant for multiple local, national and international organizations.

“Insurance 101: What Families should know about
the Autism Insurance Mandate in Illinois and Surrounding States”
Speaker: Dr. Karen Fried, Little Leaves Behavioral Services

Dr. Karen Fried

Dr. Karen Fried will discuss how many employer-provided insurance plans now cover the treatment of autism, including ABA therapy. Dr. Fried will give practical information about autism insurance reform in Illinois and surrounding states. She will give pointers on determining whether you have coverage and on understanding and using your autism benefit. Dr. Fried, BCBA-KD, is the clinical director for Little Leaves Behavioral Services’ Chicago office. She is a licensed psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has worked with children with special needs for the past 20 years.

Times: 10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. in Room 2

“Managing the How and Why of Difficult Behaviors”

Speakers: Lindsay Rice, MA, BCBA,
and Stephanie Beaulieu, MA, BCBA, both with the Center for Behavior Intervention and the Academy of Excellence and Learning

Lindsay Rice
Stephanie Beaulieu

Lindsay Rice has been working with children and adults diagnosed with autism and other neurological and developmental disabilities for more than 16 years. Stephanie Beaulieu has with individuals with autism and other neurological and developmental disabilities for more than 10 years. Ms. Rice is the President of the Center for Behavior Intervention, Inc., the owner of Dynamic Behavior Consulting and the Vice President of the Academy of Excellence in Mokena. Ms. Bealieu is the owner of SandyToes Behavior Consulting, in Chicago, the Vice President of the Center for Behavior Intervention, Inc., and the President of the Academy of Excellence 
in Mokena.

Times: 10 to 10:50 in Room 1

“Unlocking the Puzzle of Autism”
Speaker: Brendan McCormick, Good Shepherd Center

Brendan McCormick
Brendan McCormick’s session will focus on how individuals with Autism are unable to understand the intricacies of the people or world around them nor can they fully explain themselves to the rest of the world. Individuals without Autism also have difficulty understanding those that are in the Spectrum. This is why the symbol most commonly associated with Autism Spectrum disorders is the puzzle piece. This course serves as an introduction to Autism to assist parents, & educators to better understand the disorder to support families in promoting their childs optimal development and to facilitate the childs participation in family and community activities.
Times: 11:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. in Room 2

"The F.A.M.I.L.Y. Blueprint - Advice from a Father and Certified Financial Planner"

Speaker: Gregory Zibricky, CFP author and President

Provider Group Wealth Advisors
Gregory Zibricky

Greg Zibricky, will share anecdotes and insights he has learned from more than 19 years of fathering a son with autism and 27 years of experience in the financial services industry. The tone is fresh, fun and informative. Mr. Zibricky’s goals are to inspire action and promote positivity. He uses the word “F.A.M.I.L.Y.” to breakdown difficult financial planning concepts into easy to understand segments. Start to learn the techniques that will help you chart your child’s future with confidence. Mr. Zibricky is the author of “F.A.M.I.L.Y. Autism Guide Your Financial Blueprint for Autism.”

Times: 11 to 11:50 in Room 1

"Physical Therapy and Autism: What's the connection?"
Speaker: Amber Brim, PT, DPT, Unlimited Mobility Therapy

Amber Brim
Amber Brim, PT, DPT, owner of Unlimited Mobility Therapy, will discuss will discuss some of the motor challenges that kids with Autism typically have and treatment strategies that are utilized by physical therapist to address them. I will also include discussion regarding the connection between motor skills, social skills, and speech/language development.

Times: 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.

“Exercise Strategies for People with Autism”
Speaker: Suzanne M. Gray, Right Fit Sport Fitness Wellness

Suzanne M. Gray
Suzanne M. Gray, M.S. will discuss how exercise programs are one of the most underutilized yet effective treatments for youth and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Traditional Fitness programs, though fun and appropriate for typical populations, are not usually a good fit for this special population. Right Fit’s focus is therapeutic play-based functional movement, helping to facilitate neuro-development growth, improved body awareness, increased balance, sensory integration, mobility skills and most importantly having fun. Because one size does not fit all, the Raise the Bar fitness program provides each participant a pre and post assessment to identify movement dysfunctions, body composition and strength and sensory deficits impeding success.

Times: 1 p.m. to 1:50 p.m.

“Piecing the Puzzle Together”
An Autism Prevention and Recovery Program

Speaker: Dr. Ashly Ochsner, Maximized Living/Autism Whispers

Dr. Ashly Ochsner
Dr. Ochsner is a chiropractor for Maximized Living in Orland Park, and founder of the Autism Whispers Program. His program is designed for children on the Autism spectrum (autism, aspergers, PDD, sensory integrative disorder, ADD/ADHD) and offers effective action steps for parents to implement and care designed to address the tri-fold problems causing autistic symptoms.  Different from any other program designed for autistic symptoms, the AW Program incorporates and addresses the often missed neurological component of “recovering” from autism, according to Dr. Ochsner.  The often severe neurological damage can be treated and coupled with a researched optimal nutritional program and lab based detoxification program. The Autism Whisper Program is helping save and change lives across the U.S. It is not a cure but a recovery program.
Times: 1 to 1:50 p.m. in Room 1

"Instructional Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities"

Jennifer Conwell-Barnes

Speaker: Jennifer Conwell-Barnes, Brehm Preparatory School

Jennifer Conwell-Barnes is an instructional technologist with Brehm Preparatory School in Carbondale. She will discuss assistive technology for students with learning disabilities. Brehm’s mission is to empower students with complex learning disabilities and differences to recognize and optimize their potential throughout their lifetime.

Times: 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. in Room 1

* A representative from Pace Suburban Bus also will speak at the seminar. The Pace representative will speak from from 3 to 3:50 p.m. in Room 1 about transportation services provided for those with disabilities.

Reserve your tickets for the seminar today by calling 
(815) 806-8844. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dave & Buster's Now Open in Orland Park

By Jessica Crotty
Some of the outer perimeter lots around Orland Square Mall have seemed a bit desolate in recent years. Orland Square Theaters closed in the late 1990s, and Al’s Diner, 56 Orland Square Drive, served its last customer in 1999. More recently, Sam Maguire’s Irish Pub, 39 Orland Square Drive, closed in January.

Things, however, appear to be looking up around the mall, at least in the form of food and fun for families.

Interactive video games can keep families
 glued to the screen at Dave & Busters.
Dave & Buster’s opened Sept. 22 in the former theater lot, next to the Toys “R” Us. Another parcel east of the mall that was home to a second Orland Square Theater later became home to Robert Morris College.

“We’re very happy to have the old theaters taken down after several years of being vacant,” Orland Park Mayor Daniel McLaughlin said.

Dave & Buster’s, McLaughlin added, is a good fit for the village and the region.

“There isn’t much of that type of entertainment in the southwest suburbs and I think it will be a big success,” he said.

While the Dave & Buster’s Orland location is slightly smaller than those at the Addison and Chicago locations, it boasts the same amount of games and amenities. Plus, it’s the inside that General Manager Mike McCormick says is so impressive.

“Every Dave & Buster’s has its own character,” McCormick said. “The d├ęcor in Orland Park is so modern. It has a definite wow factor when you walk in. This is the place to be.”

With everything Dave & Buster’s has to offer guests, it’s more than just an arcade, McCormick said. Yet, games are still the biggest draw. With 140 games and 100 player stations (big video games that accommodate multiple players simultaneously), there are more than 200 games in the whole building for people to play at one time. Gamers will find everything from the arcade classics to the latest interactive and video games.

After a few hours of playing, guests can hit the Winner’s Circle to redeem their tickets for prizes that range from electric guitars to a PS3 or Xbox to small candies and gifts for the kids.

“Dave & Buster’s is all about a fun, interactive atmosphere. We know our guests have a fantastic time when they are here. We can tell just by the look on someone’s face when they win 1,000 tickets,” McCormick said. “When we put this type of entertainment out there, they have a blast with it.”

As much as Dave &Buster’s caters to families, it’s also a late-night hangout for the young adult crowd or parents looking for some fun without their children. After a 10 p.m. “kiddie call,” or curfew for anyone under the age of 21, the place becomes an adult playground where they can hang out and interact with their friends, McCormick said. And with a 2 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays (midnight Sundays through Thursdays), adults get plenty of time to eat, drink and party.

“You don’t have to go to a movie theater and out to dinner again,” McCormick said. “Why pull out your credit card several times each night when you can do everything at one place? We’ve got everything they could want: a restaurant, sports bar and entertainment.”

Sports fans should feel right at home at Dave & Buster’s. They can cheer on their favorite teams on 65-inch TVs in the bar and 80-inch screens in the restaurant. Guests watching the Bears at the Orland Park location can play the Watch and Win game in the bar. When the Bears score or complete whatever task an employee chooses, a name is drawn to spin a wheel for prizes that could include free food, the whole bar getting a percentage off their bill, a table getting free dessert, t-shirts, or other prizes.

“The game is great fun for everyone in the bar, even if they are not there to watch football or they’ve been dragged along by their husband or boyfriend. They can still have fun interacting with the crowd, too,” McCormick said.

Two of the many things that make Dave & Buster’s more than just an arcade are what McCormick calls the “FUN”ction or party rooms. These flexible rooms can be rented for birthday parties, holiday gatherings or any other special event. They are equipped for business meetings/luncheons with an 80” TV and a projector, connections for laptops, iPhones or iPads, and presentation capabilities.

“These rooms allow you to separate yourself from the rest of the building if you want to, but there’s so much going on at Dave & Buster’s that you’re going to want to be involved in everything,” McCormick said. “We have continued fun on a daily basis. Where else can you go for that?”

McCormick is excited about being in Orland Park. Like McLaughlin, McCormick said the location, next to the mall, is perfect location because it’s right in the heart of everything.

For more information, visit