About Me

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Orem, Utah, United States
My name is Annie Campbell and 9 years ago my son was diagnosed with Autism. Over the years of treatments, therapies and schools (with my son) I have learned countless techniques for dealing with children with special needs. Through my experience in primary, I have come up with some specific tips to create a happy atmosphere in church.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Random info for parents

So just a couple things that have come up at our house.

First, I explained to my 9 year old that he has Autism and what that means.  I am a big believer in labeling what's different.  An amazing mom I know say's it this way: "People will label what they see so it's important, as parents, that we give the proper label".  I feel like it's better to be labeled with Autism or Aspergers than rude or weird or mean or even stupid.  It also explains why the child feels like things are harder or like she/he doesn't understand others emotions.

My son is very artistic and visual so I talked about how he can see in his mind the Lego pirate ships he builds and how it's because his brain works differently.  Most people, like me, can't do that.  Our brains can't remember every Lego piece and where it goes.  But, also because his brain works different, sometimes school can be harder.  He now understands why he is different, but different is ok.

Also, I found some awesome DHA chews for kids that my son LOVES.  Most parents have probably heard about or tried biomedical treatments.  We did a lot when Jackson was little with some success. Actually, the diets and supplements helped him a lot.  After a while though, he refused to take omega 3 anymore.  Frankly, I couldn't blame him!  It's yucky oil!  A neighbor/friend of mine told me about these omega 3 purple chews to try again and I'm seriously impressed!  Jackson thinks they are candy and since he's started taking 4 a day, he's more emotionally stable, sleeps better and has fewer stomach issues.  I just thought I'd share this info for anyone that wanted to try omega 3 but has had a difficult time getting the child to ingest it.  Check it out at www.anniesnutrition.com

Last, I wanted to share this adorable video of my son Jackson.  Call it my mommy bragging moment.  Sorry about the little girl complaining about eye pain.  My daughter had rubbed her eyes with lotion on her hands and was still struggling with the idea that the pain would take a while to go away after washing hands and washing her eyes.

I hope everyone is doing well and please let me know if there is anything I can do to help make primary or school a little easier and more successful!

Friday, July 15, 2011

What's with the puzzle pieces?

Recently, I have needed to give a brief explanation of what Autism is to my daughter and my son's best friend (Alex).  It happened when Alex noticed that I wear a puzzle piece necklace and Jackson has a cape (that he wears A LOT) with a puzzle piece on it.  Alex asked me why and I told him that the puzzle piece is the symbol for Autism.  He thought for a second and then asked what Autism is.  After the first question, I was expecting it.  Here is what I said:

"Autism means that someone's brain works differently than yours.  Not bad, but different.  It means that some things are much harder for Jackson than you and some things are much easier for him than you.  Jackson has a hard time understanding jokes.  But he can remember movie lines forever."

My Jackson showing off his cape!
This was a quick explanation but it was enough for 9 year old Alex.  I wanted to give this example because as teachers and parents, we sometimes need to explain why things are different for one child than another.  I hope this helps if your ever in this situation!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lesson help

So when I started this blog, I said that I would never give lesson advice but I'm about to do just that. Over the last 4 almost 5 years of teaching very young primary kids I've learned something. I always try to make my lessons interesting but some are better than others. What I've realized is that the best lessons are when I'm animated and try to make the scripture stories more like a super hero type story. The last one I did was the story of King Noah and Abinidi and Alma. I could tell the kids were going to be lost and bored right away if I didn't do something drastic. So I acted it out. It's horribly embarrassing but completely worth it if the kids are listening and get something from it.

Tis last lesson I tried something different. There was a story about a boy who took something from a store without paying. So I asked a boy in my class, who usually doesn't pay much attention to the stories, what his favorite name is. He responded with "Indiana Jones". My story sounded something like is: "Indiana Jones didn't like that his mom said he couldn't have the toy he wanted. So guess what he did? He watched his mom and as soon as she turned her back, he took it and put it in his pocket. But when he got home and started to play with it, Indiana didn't feel very good. Why do you think he didn't feel good?". All the kids thought it was hysterical that I used that name. But they also listened.

Just a couple thought!

I hope things are going well for everyone and that your having a good summer!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just keep swimming

Sorry about the long break between posts!  I started school for the summer semester and my nephew was recently diagnosed with reactive attachment disorder.  So it's been crazy at our house.  

What I wanted to talk about was something that happened yesterday at church.  I was waiting for my son to do the scripture in primary and an older man that teaches primary in our ward, came to me and said that the training I gave a couple months ago was the best training he's ever been to in all his years of religion.  He went on to say that it changed the way he taught and saw the kids.  WOW!  That's all I could say.  I hoped that it helped people look at things a little differently.  You just never know who your going to help. So, in the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, "just keep swimming".  Everyone can make a difference! 

Also, I just learned that the diagnosis of Autism/Aspergers/PDD-NOS will be changing.  Here's a link with more info!


Hope your summer's going well and let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Interesting Autism rate article

I found this article through a friend of mine today. I found it very interesting!


Hope everyone had a Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Handling speech and communication issues

Lately I've had a lot of questions about how to teach and help a child with little to no speech.  The first piece of advice I always give is to be patient and go slow.

Something that I learned while going through early intervention with my son, is the PECS.  It looks something like this.  The blue part is stiff paper and the white part is Velcro.  You print pictures of things that happen in church, such as:  praying, talking with a microphone, singing, teaching a lesson, scriptures, etc.  I also include getting a drink and going to the bathroom.  It's best to have pictures of ANYTHING you may do in primary or class.

I use it as a picture schedule.  You can either put the pictures on the bottom when it happens or take it off.  It helps the kids understand better by seeing what is expected to happen.  I use it for both the class and sharing time.  One thing to remember, if something like this is used, it might be a good idea to sit in the back or to the side so the other kids don't see it and get distracted. 

The next important thing to remember is to make statements instead of asking a lot of questions.  There is less pressure on the child and they will be more relaxed around you if you make simple statements like "Wow!  He is brave.  Lions would scare me!"

If you do ask a question, make it simple and give them time to answer.  If it takes a "typical" child 10-15 seconds to answer, allow 30 seconds for a child with Autism.  

I'm truly amazed about how many caring primary workers/presidencies are out there now.  As a parent, I know how much it makes a difference.  I can't tell you how many families find it too difficult to attend church and just stop going for a time.  My husband and I were in this category until we moved to our current home and found an amazing primary teacher that went out of her way to connect with Jackson.  

Good luck to all you primary workers!  I feel strongly that it's a calling that can change your life if you let it.   

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Giveaway/Input results

Thanks for all the input about our next video! It's very beneficial to hear what would be MOST helpful to families and wards right now. It was very close but the Autism explanation won! So we will begin putting this one together ASAP.

Also, the winner of the first copy of the new DVD as well as a copy of Primary Angels, is.....

A Daily Woman!

Congratulation! Please email me with the address you would like them to be shipped to.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Appearances can be deceiving

Lately I've come up against the same situation over and over with my son, kids in my primary class and my nephew. What's the issue, you ask? Well, all these kids physically appear to be normal. However developmentally, they are not.

My nephew was adopted from Haiti about 8 years ago and came here with some pretty significant health issues. Due to these health issues, he is developmentally delayed. So even though he appears to be physically 11, developmentally he is 6. An Adults expectation's of a 6 year old vs an 11 year old differ quite a bit.

I've seen this with my own son as well. He looks and acts very normal most of the time. So when he gets upset and throws a fit, it can be rather shocking for others. My family is great with Jackson, but when this happens, they freeze up and don't know what to do. What I try to remind them is that he is a couple years behind in some areas. In a few ways, he's like a 5-6 year old.

What I want people to get from this, is to try and remember to have patience for kids with developmental disabilities. They most likely look and act "normal" but keep in mind, they are not. Their brains function differently and at different levels too.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

(dis)Abilities and the Gospel!

So a friend of mine wrote a book called (dis)Abilities and the Gospel that comes out in May! In celebration of April being Autism Awareness month, she is doing an awesome promotion! For every 10 books preordered though her website (www.danyelleferguson.com) she will donate one book to a church, charity or library. Names will be chosen from the preorders and they get to choose where the book is sent to.

I'm really excited about his book! I've known the author for about 5 years and she is a great resource for parents and teachers.

I hope things are going well for everyone! As aways, please let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The power of perspective

I had an experience yesterday with my son I wanted to share with you. Jackson created a Lego movie and entered it into his school art contest for film. He won 1st in his school, and then 1st again at regionals for his division. Last night was the awards ceremony for the state competition. He was very excited and was expecting to get a trophy even though we had discussed that he might not win, and that's ok. He had fun making the movie and he already did so well. Well, last night his name was called and he got an "Honorable Mention" certificate. He was very sad that be didn't win a trophy. This is where the art of perspective comes in. I kept a smile on my face and told him how proud of him I was. I continued on to explain that he won 3rd place out of the whole state and that is amazing! His division is 3-5 grade so he is in the youngest group. To go so far against older kids and on his first movie ever was incredible! Then we talked about what kind of movie he wanted to make next.

The point is, everything is in how you say it. If I had said "oh you got 3rd place. Good job. You can try again next year" he would have been devastated. But because I said "Wow! You got 3rd place! That's amazing!", he was proud of himself and told everyone he saw that he got 3rd place.

In my Primary Angels DVD, there is an example where I'm giving out reinforcements to kids. In that scene, I ran out of candy treats and only had gold fish left. All the kids saw what kinds of treats I had and who got what. So when I only had goldfish left, I had to "sell" it. I got excited and said "guess what you earned today?! You earned goldfish! Good job!".

Remember that the kids respond to your attitude about things. If your excited, they will be. If your neutral, they will follow your lead.

Keep up a positive attitude and good luck in your callings!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ever think about making a short video?

So, just quickly, my husband started his own blog! He filmed and edited the Primary Angels DVD for me so I think he's amazing. He produces short (60 sec) videos for marketing purposes and he's giving away one on his blog! Check it out at http://videofrontier.blogspot.com for all the details and to enter!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Getting creative

This last couple of weeks my son developed a new bad habit of sorts. He began kicking and hitting people when frustrated and angry. We tried talking to him about how it hurts people. We tried positive reinforcements when he didn't. We tried negative reinforcements when he did. And then I asked the school psychologist for input. She suggested deep breathing anxiety reducing techniques. So we practiced those with Jackson for about 20 min daily. The problem with that, we discovered, is that the kicking had turned into an instinct. He barely thought about doing it so he couldn't get angry and stop everything to do his breathing exercises. He is only 9 after all. So what else could we do?

When Jackson was very young we did a lot of occupational therapy with him. Because of this, I picked up a lot and I'm actually beginning school this summer for occupational therapy. Anyway, my brain started working overtime trying to come up with any way to stop the aggressive behavior.

This is what I finally came up with. I went to the dollar store and bought a bag of silicone frogs. I put one in my sons pants pocket and explained that if he felt angry and wanted to kick or hit, I wanted him to pull out the frog and try to rip it apart. Sounds crazy I know. My husband just smiled and called me a hippie. Well, the first day we tried it, I had explained to his teachers about the frog and what he was supposed to do. I picked him up so excited to hear about his day. He was so proud to show me the frog. It was in pieces! He said he felt himself getting upset so he pulled out the frog and ripped the legs off. Then the arms. And finally the head. I know it's a little morbid but it worked! It was something that he could transfer the anger to and it was fun too! It also let him expel some energy. He's been taking a frog to school for the last week and a half and he hasn't kicked or hit since! It sounds like a crazy idea but I'm for whatever works.

When trying to get rid of aggressive behaviors I always try positive reinforcements that creates good behaviors first. Sometimes that doesn't work and you have to get creative. Parenting and teaching kids with Autism requires thinking outside the box. What things have tried to extinguish aggressive behaviors?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy Autism Awareness Month!

Since April is Autism Awareness month, we decided to give TWO free finger flashlights with all online orders of the Primary Angels DVD!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ups and downs

A friend of mine from one of Jackson's schools used to tell me that kids with Autism only behave in ways to get their needs met. So to remember that Jackson will have difficult behaviors but that he is only trying to tell you he needs something. It's our job to figure out what that is.

Recently I've had a reminder of this. I also think this concept can transfer to most kids. When kids, either my own or in my class, suddenly begin acting out, I try to step back from the situation and look at things objectively. What am I NOT doing that this child needs?

Sunday I realized I have been forgetting to observe positive behavior. Of course I have told them thanks for cleaning up and such but I had dramatically decreased the times I said thank you for having good listening ears or walking feet. I know a couple kids NEED this and when they are consistanly good I easily forget.

Thanks for everyone who reads and comments and I hope things are going well with all the parents and teachers! Good luck and let me know if I can help with anything!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Living with Autism

Right after my son was diagnosed with Autism, I began looking for hope. I read all kinds of books about "success" stories of Autism recovery. I didn't necessisarily care if my son was considered recovered, my hope was for him to be able to have a fullfilling life and that's all. Now 6 years later, he's definitely NOT what would be classified as recovered but he is able to go to school in a regular classroom and be an active participant in primary. He will always have Autism and it will always effect his life and how he sees the world.

Sunday, we had a reminder about that. Jackson woke up off. He was upset about everything. So I wasn't too surprised when the primary presidency came and got me out of my class to ask for help with him. Apparently he got upset when they tried to sing happy birthday to him and broke the pencil. He's usually so calm, it kinda freaked everyone out. I, however, have seen him turn "hulk" before so I wasn't really worried. He had calmed down so I told them to let him zone out and not to bring any attention to him for the rest of they day and to come get me if anything else happened. I'm trying to give him some space from me being a crazy over-protective mom. No 9 year old wants that hovering around them. Well, I thought everything went fine for the rest of sharing time but after church, we found out he yelled at his teacher etc. We talked through everything and he made amends as well as apologized but it hit me again. THIS IS MY LIFE. It will always be like this. He will do great for months and then one day he has had enough and blows up. I've always been told that Autism wasnt something he was going to out grow and I accepted that but Sunday was the first time I really came to the acceptance that there is no "finish line". He will always struggle holding his emotions together.

I guess my point is that sometimes when a child is being "difficult" that doesn't translate to naughty. The only thing you can do is be consistent and have an obscene amount of patience. Jackson wasn't trying to show off or just being difficult. His mind and body weren't in sync and he was struggling to keep it together.

I know how frustrating it can be sometimes. I also know how amazing it is when kids do something incredible. Keep that feeling with you so you are able to handle it when times get tough. Good luck to all you parents and teachers!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Last Sunday, my husband and I taught an in service training for all primary workers on "How to create a happy and more productive class".  I was shocked with how many people came out!  Almost all primary workers from my ward as well as several primary presidencies from other wards were there!  We started by showing the Primary Angels DVD and then went onto other ideas and charts as well as anything tangible.  Everyone was incredibly receptive and excited about the information.  We ended with questions.  Finally after 2 hours, we finally had to just end it and say if anyone had any more questions to call us.  It was amazing to see how many people feel the same way about primary as I do!

Here are some charts I made for the meeting:  

This one can be used alone or with another for tracking a child's progress.  I use it as a game for my class.  I place star stickers on the squares that have prizes (i.e. choose a song, tell a story, choose a prize from our treasure box, choose a sticker) and when they reach the end, they get to choose a class treat!  The kids love it.  This pic is only 1/3 of the actual size.  Keep in mind when making this kind of chart to make it so the children will get a prize VERY easily for the first 2 months.  After that, move the timing to about every other week or so.

I use this chart as a visual reminder of how the kids are to behave.  If they need no reminders, they stay on green, one reminder is yellow and two or more is red.  I am always much more lenient in the beginning and after about a month or so I up my expectations.  For example, in the beginning I would consider asking a child to keep their shirt down and them listening to be fine.  After about a month or so (depending on the kids) I would consider having to ask them as a warning.  Make sure you make the requirements suitable for YOUR class.  Each child is different and its ok to have different expectations of each.

This chart is just the class rules.  Since the class I teach is young, I always try to add pics to help the kids understand and know what I mean.  By "Have good listening ears" I have a pic of ears.  Its an easy way for the kids to remember the rules.  I always make sure the kids know what is expected from them.  I have one child that his behaviors turned around just based on knowing the rules.  He is my biggest enforcer of them now.

Good Luck with your callings and let me know if I can help in ANY way!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Teacher trainings

I've been asked by a couple primary presidencies to come and do teacher trainings for their wards. I've decided I love this idea and want to help as many people as I can. So, if you live within 30 miles of Orem, Utah and would like me to come help educate your ward primary teachers about how to create happy and productive classroom environments, let me know! Leave me a comment or email me at Annie@Primaryangels.com.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Picture schedules

A tool I use sometimes to help kids with communication delays, are picture schedules. It is a strip of poster paper laminated with Velcro on it. Then you get small pictures of kids praying, giving talks, singing, etc. and laminate them. Then place Velcro on the backs. In sharing time, they can use it by placing the pictures in order. For example, when it's time for prayer, they would place a pic of prayer. Then when it's time for singing, they place the picture of singing on the strip. It's a great visual way for them the understand and accept the order of primary. It also gives their hands something to focus on.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Working together

Recently I had a child in my class throwing a tantrum because he wanted his mom. Now he's almost 6 and I've taught him before so I know this just means he wants to get out of primary. Not that he's feeling insecure or something similar. So I took him to the hall (so that the the rest of primary isnt disturbed) and I calmly express to him about how we act in primary and as soon as he calms down we can go back in. About 10 min in to the the power struggle, a fellow teacher and the child's neighbor, tries to help by taking him with her to the younger class. I understand that she was trying to help so it didn't upset me but it did frustrate me. It was then I realized the importance of communicating and working as a team. If I had informed the primary presidency of my plan for the child, this teacher would have known I had things under control, even though it may have appeared to others differently. I know with my son I always try to communicate my wishes and plan of action to support. I did learn from this experience and since have spoken to the parents of the child, primary presidency and everyone else involved about how we will handle similar situations. It can cause confusion with the child about who is in charge as well as who to listen to if their isn't a clear plan for all parties about what their role will be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Senior primary help

Last Sunday we came home with a very frustrated 8 year old boy. Our oldest, that has Autism, was getting upset because the senior primary lessons are a little too advanced for him. As a mom that is a fixer, my mind went crazy with ideas about how to make this better for him. After talking with my husband and discussing several ideas, my husband came up with the winner. We will begin having family home evening about my sons upcoming Sunday lesson. Sometimes I'm amazed the ideas that come from my husbands brain.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Working with "typical" kids too

Today in our primary, my daughter gave a talk and so my husband was in there to help. My partner was a little late so I was alone with 7 five year olds for about 15 min. Three weeks ago this would have been a HUGE issue but now it's no problem. The class behind me was having an exceptionally rowdy Sunday and afterward my husband came to me and asked what the difference was between the classes. The only thing I can come up with, is that I am prepared with plans for creating good bahavior. The kids actually come to me and say hello and then ask if we are doing the "check marks today?". While all the techniques I use are NECESSARY for children with special needs, they work wonders for typical kids too. In a "normal" classroom situation, behaviors can vary week to week. But if the teacher has a behavior plan, kids will rarely act out. As a result, the entire primary becomes more teachable and a happier place to be. My goal for this blog, and the Primary Angels DVD, is to help teachers make primary a happy, enjoyable and educational environment. Primary IS a child first introduction to religion classes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Routine, Routine, Routine!

One of the most important things you should remember when teaching a primary class with children who have special needs or difficult behaviors, is to create a routine. The children will LOVE it. Especially children with Autism NEED the structure that the routine offers. It doesn't need to be anything huge, just make sure that they can predict what will happen next. In my class we first go through the different positive behaviors I saw in sharing time (Lucie sitting quietly, Daphne singing her best, Jackson zipping his lips)and then move onto the prayer. The lesson is next, followed by some sort of art (coloring pics, cutting things out, etc), then the closing prayer and FINALLY the last 10 min of class we have play time. It's easily predictable in their minds. Last year, a couple of the kids in my class were hyper active so we always started with a walk around the church. You can make the routine anything that works for your class. I always try to keep in mind that MY goal is to help the kids learn something and also to LOVE coming to primary. GOOD LUCK and let me know if you have any questions or issues I can help you with!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Positivity is contagious!

The first sunday of the year, and my class doubled in size. Let's just say, there was A LOT of planning before church. Of the class of eight 5 year olds, there are 2-3 kids that are consistently well behaved. The other 5-6 are consistently difficult. So how did my partner and I attack this? We tried to be VERY positive. You would be amazed what happens when you praise kids. One of the kids I was MOST worried about today, THRIVED off the positive praise. In fact, we had NO issues with him AT ALL. That's never happened! What types of things do I say? I always try to notice what they are doing right and say, "Wow! I like the way Lucie is cleaning up! Thanks for cleaning up Lucie!". Or, "I like the way Daphne is having walking feet! Thanks for having walking feet Lucie!". This actually serves 2 purpopses. The first is to praise them for doing something right. The second is, because kids are competitive and they want to be noticed too, so typically kids will start doing whatever that child was doing to get noticed. It always amazes how fast the kids start doing what I want them to!