Photographer with Down’s syndrome ‘sees the world differently’


Photographer Oliver Hellowell has Down’s syndrome, which his mother says means he sees the world differently from most people. Oliver’s unique way of capturing the natural world has recently gained him a lot of fans. 

Just over a year ago, his mother Wendy O’Carroll set up a Facebook page for the 18-year-old’s photography. That page now has more than 10,500 followers. “It’s not just the numbers that have surprised the family, it’s the range of people,” says Wendy. The page has fans from Brazil to Alaska. 

Oliver hopes that photography – particularly of birds – can become his full-time profession.

Video journalist: Kate Monaghan

Walk Now for Autism Speaks 2014

Walk Now for Autism Speaks & Team PTT
Walk Now for Autism Speaks & Team PTT

Personal Touch Therapy is participating in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks walk to help find the missing pieces of autism. The walk will be held at the Sam Houston Race Park on Saturday, September 27, 2014.


Please join us in our fight as we raise money and walk for Autism Speaks. You can donate to Autism Speaks and/or join TEAM PTT for walk day online using the link at the bottom of this page.


Please sign up to join our walking team by clicking on the link below. REGISTRATION IS FREE! If you have any questions please call or email Carmen Narvaez at (713)422-2455 or at


Thank you for taking an important step in the fight against autism.



Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Autism Speaks 501 (C)(3) Tax Id #: 20-2329938

15 Truths of Parenting Special Kids

The post below is by Lisa Smith, the mother of seven children, two with special needs. Her son Tate has autism. Lisa blogs about her experiences and can be found on Facebook at Quirks and Chaos or here.


1. Parenting a special needs kid does not make you super hero. I seem to have given some of you the wrong impression. I am not supermom, not even close. I rarely cook anymore. I don’t spend enough one-on-one time with any of the kids. I lose my patience and raise my voice occasionally. I feel really successful on the days I keep the laundry done, the house fairly clean, and the kids happy.


2. Parents of special needs kids havea lot of insecurities. Sometimes I don’t know what to do. I’m winging it here. Oh, I’ve tried to read all the right books and surround myself with people who can advise me about my kids’ disabilities but I’m the one who makes the ultimate decisions and sometimes I do not know what the right decisions are.


3. (In spite of #2) Parents of special needs kids are experts… on their own kids. I could never claim to be an expert on autism, but I do know Tate and Sydney really well. When a teacher or doctor tries to tell me what is best for my kids instead of asking me to collaborate about what is best for them, we will not make any progress. Parents of special needs kids want to be asked, not told, how to best interact with their child because WE are the experts.


4. Parents of special needs kids like to talk about their kids… a lot. Something seems to happen to women when they give birth. The number one topic of conversation is no longer clothing, hair products, recipes, or movies. The conversation now revolves around their child. Parents of special needs kids are no different. I cannot seem to help myself. I am sorry, friends.


5. Parenting special needs kids is sometimes lonely. I am lucky in that I got to do this five times with typically developing children. But in some ways that may make it a bit harder because I know all the things my special kids and I are missing out on.


6. Parenting special needs kids can be exhausting. Yeah, I know; all parents are tired. Remember I did this with five typically developing kids. I know the difference between being tired and being exhausted. It’s not just the physical rest that we sometimes give up. There is so much stress. A disability often taxes a family emotionally. Typically developing kids grow up. They learn to do things for themselves. They eventually leave home. Think about it. Now, are you really THAT tired? I’m really THAT tired. Really.


7. Many parents of special needs kids hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We know where all the exits are, carry a bag of emergency supplies, and have a plan B in place at all times. Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst also applies to the long-term as well. Parents of special needs kids have to have very flexible plans for their children’s future as adults. Many of these special kids will never “grow up.”


8. Special needs children are expensive. They require therapies, doctors, medications and schools that typically developing children do not. One of the things we hear a lot is, “You get help with all of that right?” I always want to laugh. Just who is supposed to be helping us? The federal government? The state? The insurance company? Who? We mortgage our homes. We take out loans. We work extra jobs. We do without things. We use our savings and our retirement accounts. Parents of special needs kids are often deep in debt.


9. Parents of special needs kids hurt when their kids hurt. Sometimes our kids have to do really hard things, academically, physically, or mentally. And we just have to watch, hands tied, while they struggle. Sometimes our kids’ pain, anxieties, and fears are incapacitating and there is nothing we can do to relieve them. Sometimes when I watch Tate pace, wringing his hands, or even breaking out in hives, because he is fearful of what lies ahead, I become physically ill myself.


10. Parents of special needs kids need encouragement, not pity. We are proud of our kids. We celebrate smaller milestones than you will for your kids but they are just as precious to us. We love our special kids just as much as you love your kids. We do not often feel sorry for ourselves. We are not ashamed. An encouraging word means so much to us, probably more than you will ever know.


11. (Similar to #10) Parents of special needs kids hear a lot of clichés. “Everything happens for a reason” and “God only gives special kids to special people” are two that I hear the most. Neither of these things is even true! I hate clichés. I’d rather hear, “I prayed for you today” or “Your kids are sure making great progress.”


12. Sometimes, once in a while, there are a few of us, not many mind you, but a few of us parents, who feel guilty. What if I had not taken that cough syrup or used all of those cleaning products while I was pregnant? What if we had started the early intervention sooner? What if we had tried harder and done more therapies? Sometimes we think about these kinds of things…. but mostly we don’t.


13. Sometimes parents with special needs kids are defensive. There are reasons for it. Some of us have had a few really bad past experiences with our kids’ peers, other parents, and teachers. We have learned from past incidents that not all children or adults are kind to us. Also, we know people are watching us, and our kids. We are different and we know it.


14. (Despite #13) Parents of special needs kids are approachable. We WANT to spread awareness about our child’s disability. Ask us your questions. We will answer them. We would much rather explain the how and why than have you guessing and misunderstanding. Don’t stare but come over and ask us what you want to know. Remember #4, we love to talk about our kids just like you do and we don’t bite. Our kids don’t either (usually.)

15. Parenting a special needs kid is rewarding, more so than anything I’ve ever done. The small things are often huge in our worlds. I had heard it before I had my own special kids: “He has taught me more than I could have possibly taught him.” I used to wonder what that could really mean, imagined that I might know; but I did not. I’m not sure anyone could understand without walking in the shoes we walk in. It’s life lessons we learn. It’s compassion, patience, joy, and empathy on a level that no one could have ever described to me before I became a parent to a special needs child.

One Simple Recipe, 5 Speech and Language Goals

What is something you make all the time in your kitchen? How about fruit salad? Fruit salad is simple, healthy and requires no cooking. With the summer almost here, summer fruits are delicious and nutritious. Why not take a simple recipe such as fruit salad and work on speech and language goals with it? Here are five simple speech and language goals to work on when you are making fruit salad with your child.

1. Expanding vocabulary
Expand on vocabulary by reviewing different fruits. When first introducing a fruit, tell your child the name of the fruit. Expose your child to new fruits they may or may not be familiar with such as kiwi, papaya, mango and passion fruit. Even if your child is resistant to trying new foods, it is still fun to learn new names and explore the fruit in other ways. Teach your child the name of different kitchen tools, such as a peeler, scooper, and other utensils that you may be using.

2. Describing
Talk about the similarities and differences of the fruits. For example, a peach and nectarine taste similar but they feel different. How does a peach feel? Fuzzy! How about a nectarine? Smooth! Discuss the texture, color, shape, size, taste and look of the fruit. Play a game by having your child close their eyes and give them a whole fruit. See if they can guess what the fruit is based on touch and smell alone. Take turns and have fun!

3. Actions
Work on action words such as peel, cut, smell, taste, eat, scoop, mix, put in, take out, etc. There are so many action words that can go along with something as simple as fruit salad. While you are engaging in a particular action, label it. For example, say “I am putting the mango in the bowl” or “I am peeling the mango”. By providing models, your child will benefit and begin using the action words themselves. Give choices such as asking your child “Should I cut or peel the fruit first?”

4. Requesting
Have your child request which fruit they want to put in next. Your child can also request specific actions or sizes. For a child who is minimally verbal or nonverbal this can be a great opportunity to use a communication board. To create a communication board, use software such as Boardmaker or a visual engine such as ConnectAbility.

5. Recalling information
Help your child recall information and sequence steps to making a fruit salad. Discuss what you did first, next and then last. If might be helpful to take some pictures while you make a fruit salad. I love the app canplan. It is a free app that you can easily upload photographs in order to help a child or a young adult follow steps in a specific task such as recipe.


HKD Image Invite










Join Personal Touch Therapy at the Wendel D. Ley Family YMCA to celebrate Healthy Kids Day®!

When: Saturday, April 26, 2014

Where: Wendel D. Ley Family YMCA
15055 Wallisville Rd, Houston, TX 77049

Time: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Admission is FREE!
Come ready to have a healthy fun day with PTT!

Fun Ways to Encourage Your Toddler’s Speech Development

therapy session
Toddlerhood starts, and — finally! — you two can have a conversation. Try these tricks for sharpening your toddler’s language skills.

Quit the baby talk
You might naturally stop using that singsongy voice with your toddler once you realize how much he truly understands — you’ll ask him to bring you a book and he’ll walk to the bookshelf, or you’ll wonder out loud where the cat is and he’ll point to Chester. Baby talk isn’t necessary anymore, since he’s already paying attention to your words and making meaningful associations.

Keep it simple
When you talk to him, use straightforward, simple words and short sentences to keep him from getting confused. “Think of it as mini bullets,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, child and family therapist and author of The Self- Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child. “The fewer words, the easier it is for the child to comprehend.” Slow down and enunciate clearly, so he can learn more of your words.

Become a narrator
Talk to your child about what’s going on around him — and if he’s communicating nonverbally, give him the words. For example, if he’s raising his arms to you, says Walfish, “say, ‘Sam wants mommy to pick him up. Pick up the baby!’” it might seem weird to call yourself “mommy” instead of “me,” but young toddlers don’t really get pronouns just yet, so your point will be much clearer.

Listen closely and reply
In the beginning, your toddler’s words will be hard to understand — you might not know whether he’s actually talking or just babbling. But if you really listen — and look at what he’s pointing or motioning at — you’ll start to get it. Up his confidence level by showing him you understand. if he’s saying “da” for “duck,” respond by saying, “yes, that’s a duck!” Resist the urge to start calling things by his words for them, and he’ll more easily learn the correct pronunciation.

Practice patience
Kids learn to talk at different rates, so if yours seems behind, he’s likely just fine. Keep talking with him to help him catch on. It’s worth it to mention any delays to his pediatrician so the doc can check for explanations (like a hearing problem) or lead you to a pro who’s trained in helping kids learn to speak.