Skip the Resolution. Make it a Goal!

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You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.

-C.S. Lewis

Welcome to 2014!

Another year is done, and a new one begins! And what are we all doing today?

Recovering from staying up all night and.....making goals.

Goals for ourselves, our children, how we use our money, what we do at work and at play....  You name it, and people are setting goals about it today.

In the next few days we'll hear and read story after story about New Year's Resolutions. In a month (or sooner!), we'll see stories about how those resolutions failed.  It's enough to keep a person from trying!

Failed resolutions have a few things in common:

  • They are driven by emotion.
  • They're made impulsively.
  • They are dramatic (big) in scope and effect.
  • They target an issue that is complex.

Goals, on the other hand, are thoughtfully crafted steps that lead to long-term change for the better. Goals are the conscious beginnings of habits, or grooves.

Like resolutions, goals have things in common. Successful goals:

  • Are 99.9% achievable when you make them. You can see how to be successful. You can taste success when you begin.
  • Are discrete. A goal focuses on one action or change. for example,  "I will walk 20 minutes at lunch three days a week"; or "will practice good posture when working at my desk."; or "I will eat a piece of fresh fruit with lunch every day."
  • Have a clear beginning and end.
  • Include a plan: what day, what time, and with whom you will take action.
  • Are easy to measure. Success - or not quite success - is clear.

For parents of children with disabilities, the concept of setting goals is a snap. We've done goal setting since our kids were born. The beauty of this is that you can do it yourself. It doesn't require a team. Your goals are your own. Working with a partner to reach individual goals is a good idea. You may even have the same ones. 

Goal Depositphotos 2304027 original-wGoals are also good for our kids! Especially around health related changes. Parents take note: your child - regardless of age - needs to choose their own goal! That choice gives the decision power and ownership. That’s essential for success. Our role is a support role. We support them in creating a goal and not a resolution without being a wet blanket for their dream. (That last part is the hardest for parents, I understand!)

What does it mean to provide that guidance so a goal is reachable?  It means using questions to help your child make an informed choice. The hardest part for families is not leading the choice so it's what we want them to do!

Here's an example of how a conversation might go for wellness related goals:

Mom:  Suzy, we're all choosing one thing to do to improve our health this year! I am going to work on walking because I need more activity. Your father is going to improve his food choices. Aunt Sally is working on her diabetes. And Uncle John is making a plan to quit smoking. Is there something you would like to do be more healthy?

Suzy:  Yes!

Mom: What do you want to do?

Suzy: I want to look like Miley Cyrus!

Mom: Hmmm. (thinking that's not the role model you had in mind). What is healthy about Miley Cyrus?

Suzy: She's sexy!

Mom: Hmmm. So what's healthy about being sexy?

Suzy: She's skinny.

Mom: Ok. So what you're saying is that you want to work on your weight?

Suzy: Yes!

Mom: Ok. What do you think you need to do?

Suzy: I don't know!

Mom: That's Ok.  Do you want me to help you figure out your choices?

Suzy: Yes!

And that's where you can start creating a list of options. This Mom was great at avoiding the temptation to point out that looking like Miley Cyrus may not be a possibility. That part is not important. It will come with time. However, you want to squash any idea that the outcome will be that your daughter is swinging around on a wrecking ball. Instead, focus on the health behaviors that are necessary to be in shape to be able to dance for hours and so on.

The truth is that working through weekly goals is the easy part, though tedious. The hard part is choosing a benchmark that is realistic to begin with. I have every faith you can do it!

To help you on your way, I'm offering a goal setting worksheet  updated from Activity 10 in my book, The Down Syndrome Nutrition Handbook. Click here to download your copy.

May your 2014 be a healthful one!


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A Little Bit of Fit

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I went to visit one of the people I work with in October. I’m lucky to get to see her at her place once a year. Most of the time we talk on the phone, over FaceTime or by text message. She’s taught me far more than I’ve taught her, I think – isn’t’ that always the case?

This trip my goal was to introduce a new tool: The FitBit flex.FFF

I didn’t prepare her in any way for this purchase. I was completely prepared for her to flat out reject the idea. I had done some research on the different trackers and chose this one for it’s simplicity and water resistance. It also pairs nicely with an iPhone and the LoseIt App, both things she uses well. But my preferences don’t matter. What matters is her choice.

Off we went to Best Buy to look them over. She looked at different styles. She liked the colors of the FitBit Zip until I told her that it goes on your waist and could be forgotten and washed. (This is something I would do, without a doubt. I’ve also flushed my phone in the past…)  In the end, she chose the slate FitBit Flex and I followed suit.

After making dinner, we watched a movie while I tried to get hers all set up. She got a few good laughs as I talked to the computer. By the end of the night we were all set and sync’d. We also set up a bonus: We’re FitBit Friends, which in my mind is like doing a pinky swear. 

I honestly thought this was going to be enlightening. I knew she was more active just to get through each day than people realized. What I didn’t know was how much more active!  Let’s just say…she is crushing me in the steps category!  Maybe being able to drive isn’t such a good thing?

I’ve also found a number of really useful things this device does:

  • When you reach a goal, it explodes with vibrations on your wrist. The first time it did this I thought it was broken.
  • It tracks sleep quality. Ok, it’s not as good as a sleep study. But it does give an idea of how much a person is tossing and turning, which is useful.
  • Unlike her parents, I know when she gets up and goes to bed. And I’m not telling, because she knows the same thing about me! (Grin). It’s part of our support agreement.
  • It’s a great silent alarm. You can set the alarm daily – for many different times – or have it repeat on a cycle.  I actually like this better than my clock. No one else is bothered by my need to get up. I am now using it to remind me when I need to wind up my work for the day.  The possibilities are endless!
  • The app is fun. I can cheer, taunt, or send a brief message to my FitBit Buddies.
  • I earn badges on the FitBit site for doing good things.
  • It tracks different levels of activity (light, moderate, heavy), giving me an idea of what needs to be changed.
  • It takes just 15 minutes to charge, once every five days.
  • It goes in the shower just fine!

I have to say it’s a success. My friend is enjoying it also. She likes knowing that she’s crushing me. From a health coaching and parenting standpoint, it’s a great tool. You may need to help get thing set up and teach how to turn it on to sleep mode, but after a little coaching, it’s quite easy to use.

What I like most is that it gives everyone some data to work with and is much easier than a pedometer. One can focus on increasing the number of “very active” minutes, number of steps in a day, distance walked in a day, or the calories in/calories out equation. 

One of the great things about using the FitBit is that no denying what activity is or is not done. Heed this advice: Take a neutral tone. Discover what your child’s fitness level is (and yours) together. You may find he is far more active than you think (and you are not!)!  Take advantage of the newness to focus on meeting goals rather than focusing on what is not happening. And when a goal is met, get a new color!

One thing: The newer FitBit Force is also a possibility. I don’t have hands on experience with it. I am tempted to buy one though – it tells time. Yep, your water-resistent activity tracker can also be your watch.

We’re looking for more friends to connect with. In fact, we’re particularly interested in growing a circle of friends of folks with Down syndrome who are using one of the FitBit family of devices. Join us! We can cheer each other, taunt each other, and learn from each other.

Look for me (Joan Medlen) on FitBit or drop me an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We’ll all get connected.

Have a GREAT Thanksgiving!


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Adventures of a "Picky Eater's" Mom

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As a toddler, my “picky eater” would not let his fries touch the ketchup until he dipped them.  In elementary school, he shunned my healthy tuna sandwich because his friends picked on him. As a teenager, new foods were considered with great caution and barely tasted. Dinners were dismissed unless they were ones he chose.

My “picky eater” had a mild case in comparison to many, but the issues were the same. Food was about sensory acceptance and needed to be understood before tasted...and
drinkstasted...and tasted yet again before accepted. He inspired me to dig into the research around sensory issues related to food choice and apply it in a practical way.

I applied the "trust model" for eating. He learned that there was no requirement to eat something. He learned there would always be something he would eat at a meal.  He learned it’s Ok to leave food on the plate (I learned to quietly fume about how much got left behind). I learned to create meals with his preferences in mind. He learned I was listening. Somewhere along the way he learned to be a food explorer.

Now as an adult, his palate is continually expanding. Why, he’s eating some nuts now! But the best part is this: he invites me on food adventures. It’s great fun.

On a recent visit (he lives in Texas at the moment), we had some time to fill before leaving for the airport. What did we do? We went on a food adventure!

My son had spied a shop he wanted to try, called The Teahouse,  where one can order different types of teas (blended, iced, cream tea, and tea with tapioca). We walked to the mall and hit the food court to try it out.

We spied the menu, and both knew we were most intrigued by the tapioca tea, which I now understand is called “bubble tea.” After pondering the overwhelming number of options, he chose the honeydew cream tea with tapioca. I chose hazelnut cream tea with tapioca. We both chose unblended.

At this point I want to remind you all of the sensory stages to accepting a new food. Everyone goes through them. Some have more steps to each stage. Here’s how it went for me:

Step one: existence
Check!picture of person drinking tapioca tea

Step two: smell. 

Step three: appearance. 
Check! (or so I thought) We took pictures of the drinks, including the lids with Japanese writing. I did wonder about the diameter of the straw that came with it (wider than a Slurpee straw), but it looked fine.

Step four: taste. 
Check?  A small sip reveals it’s a little too sweet, not enough hazelnut.

Step four-and-a-half: mouth feel.  
ACK!  Complete freak out. There are weird, huge globs in my mouth. They come at random moments as I suck on the straw and catch me by surprise. 
It’s a little freaky. I don't like it. 

Jump back to step three: appearance. 
OMG!  There are black things going up my son’s straw! 
OMG! They’re all over the bottom of the cup! They’re in MY cup! They’re in MY straw!  
I thought tapioca was clear. It is in the pudding I make. They look like bugs! OMG! 
We’re drinking BUGS!  (As my brother knows, three OMG's is cause for alarm)


Step-five: eat.  


Who freaked first? Not the picky eater! He drank more than half of his, analyzing how it tasted, how it made him feel, and so on. Meanwhile I kept hopping around like he was drinking actual bugs and making freaky girl noises. This made him laugh and drink more.

I’m not sure, but it may be the first time my son has seen me freak out over a food before him.  What’s the lesson? Trust and taste works. Teach and trust your picky eaters to listen to their body. Then add touch and taste to your family’s food experiences. These are important life skills. When they grow up, you may find you have a food explorer on your hands!

Oh, and “bubble tea” isn’t for me. 


Celebrating Down Syndrome Month: Pay With a Tweet!

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The nation – and world – will be filled with all sorts of community events to celebrate the blessings people with Down syndrome bring to our lives on this typically unexpected 

journey. To celebrate, I will be offering a different product for a unique price: Pay with a Tweet.

This edition’s Pay with a TweetProduct is  My Tasting Journal: Keeping Track of Foods I Try.  This E-Book, valued at $9.95, is designed to promote tasting and learning about the sensory components to food using all your senses and universal design for learning. It’s a nutrition activity. It’s a writing activity. It’s a literacy activity (visual and print). It’s a science activity. Reduce behaviorally selective eating through learning! 

All I ask is that you Pay with a Tweet. How does this work? Click here to download My Tasting Journal: Keeping Track of Foods I Try.  You will be directed to a download page and given instructions to pay for your purchase by sending out a tweet, posting on Facebook, or posting an update on LinkedIn. 


my tasting journal page 01Get your copy of My Tasting Journal: Keeping Track of Foods I Try for the price of a tweet. tastingjrnlsample

Download for free if you pay with a Tweet!



This offer is ends October 7th, so don’t delay!