Here we go, summer . . . we’re off to the movies!

This is a more personal blog post. I want to get this particular blog back up and running again.


Here we go, there are just a few days of school left. I need to make up a schedule for the weeks he won’t be in summer school. I have some ideas for what we can do.

One, we could go to the movies. There are some local movie theaters here in upper Pinellas County (or close by) that have free or reduced price, family-friendly screenings. And of course, the Sensory-Friendly Screenings.

In Citrus Park, which is relatively close to upper Pinellas, at the Westfield Town Center, there is a Regal Cinema. Regal has $1 movies for kids, from June through August, at 10:00 a.m., every Tuesday and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Cobb Theatres have free movies for kids, Tuesday through Thursday, starting on starting during the second week of June.

AMC Cinemas, of course, have their Sensory-Friendly film screenings. But not all of the films are kid-with-autism-friendly, like Wonder Woman, or Transformers. But, Cars 3 may be a good choice for some on June 24th. But we’re going to be at our local area Special Olympics Swim Meet.

So, another choice we may have, and others may have, is the independent movie houses that have family movies for a reduced rate. Last year, we went to see The Peanuts Movie at Cinema 6 on U.S. 19 in Port Richey. We enjoyed the experience, with the exception of someone shushing my son without knowing our situation.

Anyway, one other place I recently took my son to was the Sunset Cinemas independent movie theater. I really enjoyed it, and I liked that it is local and independent, and when I can I like to patronize small businesses.

So all in all, I think going to the movies may be one way to stay busy this summer, when we have some cash to spend. And patience to burn.

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A Review of The Florida Aquarium, and a Special Event they’re hosting soon

I am currently researching all of the aquariums in all of Tampa Bay. I’m interested in aquariums because we took Kyle pretty recently to the largest aquarium in Tampa Bay.

The Florida Aquarium, located in Tampa, sits in between Port Tampa and Channelside, the shopping mall-like cluster of restaurants and shops.

When we went to the Aquarium in early March, it was so crowded in the animal viewing area where they were going to show the penguins. He was anxious. About the dark, about not being able to see the penguins. Then, another animal handler showed up at the back of the area. We were so glad for that. He got a good look at the penguin she was holding. So that was a plus. As were the two screens that were in the front of the standing-room only theater. But Kyle couldn’t see those easily, he had to be hoisted up by his dad.

He was anxious while visiting some of the other areas, as well. He tried not to be. I could tell. But, he did ask to go back. That made me smile.

It’ll have to wait, though. Even though we’ll be too busy with something else in two weeks there is an upcoming event being held there for special needs kids.

On May 4th, there will be a special event held just for kids with autism and similar sensory issues. The event is a result of the partnership held between the Florida Aquarium and C.A.R.D. USF and is called “A Day of Discovery.” C.A.R.D. is the Center for Autism And Related Disorders, and is

From the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., special activities and animal interactions are planned just for our kids.

This will be beneficial to all of these kids, because they won’t have to be jostled in a crowd in order to see the animals, in addition to reducing their stress levels because of the reduction of the noise level. As we know, kids with Autism Spectrum are very sensitive to sounds.

While the event ends at 9:30, guests of the Day of Discovery event are invited to extend their stay afterwards, and attend any part of the Aquarium, including the water park, Explore a Shore. This splash zone is a zero-depth water park and play area.

Admission for the event is $5 before, and $8 at the door. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time by calling 813-273-4000, ext. 4255.

In addition, you can prepare your child in advance for their trip by visiting their website and showing them pictures of what the building looks like, and some of the animals. I did that, even though he’d been there before. It’s still a good idea to do that, to lessen anxiety about knowing where he’s going.

But, there’s more on their website than I noticed before.

On the Explore the Aquarium section of their website,, the Aquarium has an Accessibility page that includes information for those with autism. There are social stories (wish I’d known that!).

One is a booklet and is called “A Visit to The Florida Aquarium.” It’s got a lot of information about what to expect while visiting the exhibits, and even explains to the child how to ask for things he or she needs. Then there are four social stories for specific areas and tours the Aquarium provides.

Wow, when we do go back, we’ll have to use these.

TTFN, Heather

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Kyle’s Basketball Season is over…

Kyle’s done with Basketball. He had his award ceremony over the weekend. He was looking forward to the party, as were most of the kids, of course. Mostly, though, he wanted cake. 🙂

Kyle’s done extremely well. One coach told us a week ago he’s made so much progress, partly because one older player, Joey, has taken him under his wing, and partly because Kyle now knows the drill–literally! He knows what the routine is, and what to do, when. That’s important for Kyle. He needs to know what’s expected of him.

Here’s the “drill”: They start with a warm-up, in which they practice dribbling, and then they practice shooting baskets (Kyle uses a shorter practice goal, as he’s too small for the regular basketball goals). Then, all the kids split up, and half of them go on each side of the court. Then these two teams are split again, according to ability. Then the proper drills start. Players take turns dribbling the ball across the court. Then they spend the rest of the remaining time playing basketball games. The players take frequent breaks, so that they have these mini quarters.

Today, after a quick warm-up and stretch, they separated into their usual teams, and proceeded to have a proper game, with scoring on the lighted score board. The kids were excited about that! Especially with the timer going off when each quarter was finished. They would count down from the last ten seconds (Kyle covered his ears, as he doesn’t like loud sounds).

It was quite an exciting game. Some of the players were running full-tilt, doing layups and rebound shots (see? I’m learning the lingo). Kyle made a goal on the first try. The final score was, I believe, 40-39. I was very proud. Especially as this was his first-ever proper, scored game. Most of the teams he’s been on are more relaxed about some of the rules. As long as they’re learning the basic skills, some of the teams for kids with disabilities don’t worry about keeping score.

The basketball program is run by the Pasco County Parks and Recreation Department. In 1999, Parks Director Mike Buckman and his wife wanted to find a basketball league for their son Ricky, so that he could learn to play. There wasn’t one, so they started one. They had helped Jim Scheuerman start his Clearwater Little League Challenger League, so Jim helped them start the basketball league.

Today, the program boasts 34 members, and Rick still coaches. At the ceremony, they boasted about a volunteer coach who has been involved with the program from the start, since she was in high school. She has since gone to college and law school, and now has a job with the state, or something like that. Now that’s dedication.

The players are also very dedicated. Many were talking excitedly about playing next year, and about all of the other activities they’re involved with. Some of them started playing basketball back in 1999, and are still playing.

There is no specific age range for eligibility into the program. “It’s an ability sort of thing,” Buckman said.

If anyone is interested in getting their child involved in this program, they can contact the J. Ben Harrill Recreation Complex at (727) 934-4198.

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Blog Renaming/Back to School

I Need a New Blog Name

I am going to try posting weekly here. I am also looking for a new name for this blog, that maybe I could use also for a YouTube channel. I am thinking hard about starting a channel devoted to Autism Awareness.

I want to do vlogs, at least weekly, about our family and how autism affects our lives. As I have written blog posts before about my son, I feel this is a natural progression from this blog to a YouTube channel. And I think that having information about autism on a YT channel would be a natural progression as well, also because I have written about autism specifically here.

I think Sunday nights would be a good time to post about our family’s latest news, and about the week ahead.

What do you think? Blog title suggestions are welcomed. And, what would you like to see? Is there anything you’d like to know specifically about autism? Questions are always welcome.

Back to School

School starts tomorrow, here in Pinellas County, Florida.

Getting a kid with autism ready for school isn’t just like getting a neurotypical kid ready for school. My son doesn’t really care what kind of clothes he wears. He doesn’t care what kind of backpack he uses. He doesn’t have a favorite brand of shoes. So, there isn’t that kind of parenting going on.

He’s just concerned with getting back to a regular routine. He’s been anxious and acting out a little. But that’s nothing new.  My son needs his routine. He is so much happier when school is in session.

So, here’s to a new school year! How’s yours going?


The Pettet Family

(Heather, Kevin, and Kyle)







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A local chili cookoff and fundraiser

I just love to write about local events in the Tampa Bay area. Maybe that’s because I was a stringer for newspapers at one time.

Or maybe it’s because I just love to do it.

At any rate, there is one event coming up — in two days — that I am drawn to because I love so many aspects of it. First, it’s a food event. And those who know me know I love food. Second, it’s a fundraiser that benefits kids. And last, but certainly not least, in fact the most important to me: it benefits kids with disabilities.

It’s the Spice it Up! Chili Cookoff, a fundraiser held at the Clearwater YMCA to raise scholarship funds for kids who attend Camp COAST, a camp for children with autism. Camp COAST operates out of the Clearwater Y, and is for children whose families live in upper Pinellas county.

Weather in our area on Saturday at lunchtime is supposed to be cool and partly cloudy, perfect chili weather.

Also, there will be lots of vendors in attendance, including yours truly. I will be selling my handmade, crafty awareness items. So if you live in the Tampa Bay area, love chili, and want to raise autism awareness, come find me!





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Special Olympics Swim Meet

This is a more personal post, not necessarily a review.

We attended our very first regional Special Olympics swim meet this morning. It was a great experience, and my son did well. He has been attending Special Olympics Swimming since last summer, and since then, his abilities have increased. So far we have enjoyed  watching him get better at staying on task with swimming laps.

There were lots of people there, cheering on family members. Sons, daughters, and grandchildren of many ages. We saw friends from other sports Kyle has been participating in for years. And we made new friends. It was a great day!




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Blog Mission, Book Idea, and Writing about Characters with Special Needs

Please pardon my dust as I am trying to reorganize my writing life. As part of that effort, I am trying to restart my blogs. Here goes. . . .

This blog is about the experience of having a child with special needs, and what we do with our son to prepare him for the real world. I also like to write here about local events and other things that are family-friendly, that any family could attend, in addition to reviewing local and regional attractions from the perspective of a parent of a child with special needs.

Now, my readers may remember that my son has autism. We have to keep a lot of things in mind when we go anywhere, any time. So I try and include information that parents of children and teens with autism (or other kids with special needs) would want to know.

By the way, I would like to let everyone know that I may compile some of these experiences together into some kind of self-published booklet of some kind — I’m thinking of a travel book — and make it available to parents of kids with special needs. What do you think?

So, please send me feedback on this idea, if you would. Thank you in advance!

One other thing. . . As I am a writer (and artist/crafter), I have multiple projects going on all the time. One of my current works in progress is my novel, which I have been working on, off and on, for several years. My main character has ADHD. I wanted that from the beginning. I always wanted that to be a large part of her character, and something that would make things, well. . . less than easy for her. I guess I’m mentioning this because I am working on it so much these days. And I keep thinking about how to write about the experience of disability — keeping it real, as they say — and not make it seem that terrible, either. Because I do want to show the ability. Because people with special needs are more than their disability. They do have skills. They have abilities that are not always noticed. And maybe they should be.





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I’ve been volunteering for a couple of months now at Horsepower for Kids, a local nonprofit horse barn and so much more.

It’s great, in that I get my animal fix there. And there are so many animals! I also get to work outdoors, which I like. I have always been an outdoor person. It feels good to volunteer, and especially to take care of animals. It really helps me to de-stress.

And the other volunteers are so great, too. There are so many nice people who work hard to make Horsepower a great place to visit.

Horsepower For Kids is a 501 C(3) nonprofit organization that is part horse barn, part petting zoo and home to all kinds of animals.

A lot of the animals at Horsepower have been rescues. There are many animals there that people have tried to keep as pets, then realized they couldn’t keep them. For example, there are a couple of wolf dogs. Their owners had bred them, wanting pets. But they couldn’t keep them, so they found Horsepower. The wolf dogs howl a lot.

A lot of the rescues are exotic animals, like lemurs, snakes, iguanas and parrots. They have a lot of parrots.

The parrots were some of the first animals Kyle ever met there at Horsepower. He likes parrots. Actually, he likes animals of all kinds. Which comes in handy when we go to Horsepower as a family!

Lots of different families would enjoy visiting the farm.

It’s even disability-friendly, so the enjoyment of seeing farm animals would not be hampered by non-access. First, there’s a new, handicapped-only parking spot, all proper.

Then, there are lots of boardwalks located around the farm, so there is access to the Nursery, where there are chicks, rabbits, and other cute fuzzy animals, the birds and parrots, turtles, and ducks. Oh, and there’s a pig named Chi Chi near there who loves attention.

Plus, there is a boardwalk that leads to the lake, so that someone with mobility problems could have access to watch the swans and ducks that call that lake home.

The volunteers are always improving the boardwalks.

Armando Gort, the farm’s founder, told me recently they plan on adding more boardwalks so that there will be some in the back of the lake as well. There will be boardwalk circling the lake. Gort also said the reason they put the boardwalks in is to make the facility more accessible to those with disabilities. They have had kids come from Paul B. Stephens, a Pinellas County public school for kids with disabilities, for field trips for years.

They are selling memorial boards for $50 each to fund the building of the boardwalks.

Here’s another interesting disability-related bit of information: Horsepower also hosts an annual Summer Camp for kids with autism. The local nonprofit Warriors for Autism holds this camp in June, July and August.

Those who are animal lovers know how expensive taking care of animals can be. So Horsepower holds fundraising events to help fund the care and feeding of the animals. They host two fundraisers during the year.

Horsepower For Kids’ Fifth Annual Spring Fest takes place this weekend, March 28th and 29th, and Saturday April 4th from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. There will be pony rides, hay rides, a bounce house, and baby bunnies, chicks and ducks to pet. There will also be face painting, outdoor games and an egg hunt. The Easter Bunny will also make an appearance for photos.

Cost is $6 for adults and $10 for children. Concessions available at a reasonable rate. Located at 8005 S. Racetrack Rd., Tampa. For more information or directions to the farm you can visit or call 813-855-8992.

We can’t wait!

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My Peter Pan

(I haven’t posted in a long time. Trying to get back in the spirit of things by trying something a little different. Thinking about the broadcast of “Peter Pan Live” got me thinking, and remembering things.)

I have been in love with the character and story of Peter Pan ever since I can remember.

I saw a stage version on TV when I was a girl, and loved it. I do believe it was the version with Mia Farrow from the mid-70’s. It’s on YouTube.

NBC broadcasted the original musical production with Mary Martin. She may have come out of retirement to do that. And maybe they broadcasted the same musical version with Sandy Duncan. I’m not sure. Both of these are on youtube as well.

Then in high school, I was involved with a production of Peter Pan (the original musical version). I wasn’t in it, I just worked behind the scenes. But the experience of it re-ignited a spark.

I ended up writing a research paper on Mary Martin for a theater class. Then, as an adult I researched J.M. Barrie and found the novelization he wrote. I like to pull it off the self and read it about once a year. So, I know the story and characters well. In fact I do remember that this month will be the 110th anniversary of the first performance of the original play, “Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up.”

Fast-forward to a few years after that, and I discovered that my young son had autism. It took some time to re-discover him and his abilities and gifts.

He, I know, will have a hard time with growing up. Kids with autism have a very hard time moving on.

I have called him “My Little Peter Pan” in my mind. He even has an elvish look about him. Especially when his hair starts to grow out.

He looks like a classic picture of a boy fairy, with his ringlets framing his fine features.

I’m not sure how much Kyle will grow up. But until then, he’ll be “My Little Peter Pan.” And I’ll love him for it.

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