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Making Speech Therapy Fun

Therapy can be such hard work. A good therapist, though, turns the time spent learning and practicing into a game. I should know, as I have two kids right now in weekly speech therapy! One of my children has an issue with articulation. Currently, there are a lot of “Ch” and “Th” and “St” sounds being made around my house. Plus, plenty of reminders to ‘get that tongue back in your mouth’ where it should go when he says his sounds. Sometimes I think speech delays can sneak up on us. We always thought he would outgrow his and before we knew it he was six and we realized that nobody but our immediate family could really understand him. It has been amazing how quickly he is improving with the encouragement of a good speech therapy program and more at home practice.

I also have a daughter that is on her fourth year of speech therapy, and her progress has been much slower. There have been many times that I doubted if therapy was making a difference at all. But, it is. Its just a gradual difference that is harder for me to hear. In a way her PROGRESS is sneaking up on me and sometimes after not hearing her improvements for a time I will suddenly realize that she has made leaps and bounds. She has issues with articulation and Apraxia of speech. Her articulation and placement issues are a result of having bilateral cleft lip and palate, unrepaired until she was three years of age.

While we waited to bring her home, I remember many people treating cleft lip and palate as if it were “hardly a special need.”  This couldn’t be further from the truth. I do not say this to deter anyone. In fact, let me scream if from the roof tops….”Adopt a sweet one with cleft lip and palate!!!!!”

I just ask that you go into it knowing that it is in fact a special need, and may require years and years of encouragement, therapy, surgery, and growth (for all of you!) in order to attain “normal” speech. I wish I had known that, but that is a story for another post. Today, I want to share with you a few speech games that I think are a great way to bring therapy into the home.

These games could be played in the car, at the table, or just about anywhere. They can help with word retrieval and planning so they are appropriate to play with kids that need help with speech practice and also language development.

Pack for Me
This is a fun little speech planning and word retrival game. I tell my children I am going on a trip/errand and they tell me what I need to bring. This helps my daughters practice retrieving words that often get lost en route form her brain to her mouth. For example, I might say, “I am going on a trip to the beach. I can’t remember what to pack for the beach. What should I bring?”  My daughter gets into this game and she loves telling me what to do. She might suggest, “A towel, umbrella, sunscreen, snacks, and a swimming suit.”
There are few incorrect answers and the game is very open ended.

Sequencing Game
This game requires my children to tell me what order to do something in. I usually choose something they are familiar with. For example, “Mommy would like to make cookies but I can’t remember what to do first.” They then use their memory and tell me what needs to happen first. This is a game, so I am not “requiring” that they be correct. I might put the bowl on my head and ask “is this what I do?”…that usually gets them going!

Synonym Game
Now that we have made big speech progress in the articulation area we are really focusing in on the word retrieval. There are times when my daughter can not think of the word she is looking for and as a result of her Apraxia, and she often shuts down when this happens. For example, she might be trying to tell me a story about how she brought her brother a drink of water. As she is talking, she can not recall the word for “drink” and so she will stop and stare and in her own frustration she will give up. The synonym game is a no pressure way to practice other words that she can use in a moment such as this. To play this game I will say, “Tell me all the words that you can think off for the word HOT.” Together with her brothers (because they always like to play too) she will connect that word with its likeness “warm”…

Speech is a big deal for our precious children that struggle with making the sounds and finding the words to be understood. The one thing I have learned in the past four years is that getting frustrated as a parent does nothing to encourage my children to overcome the struggle. The best ways for me to be an active participant in their speech progress is to be their advocate and biggest fan, to read aloud to them as often as I can, and to play games that make them think we are just having fun… drills or high pressure….games to practice and draw out of them words that they can build on.speech1

Waiting for Love

On a sweltering July day in Southern China, a passerby was going about his day, when he heard a whimpering in the grass on the side of the road.  There, amongst the weeds and wild flowers, was a tiny, confused little baby.  Aubrey 3The man quickly scooped her up, and took her to the local orphanage.  Upon admittance, the orphanage staff met a round faced frail baby girl, who, despite weighing only 10 pounds, they guessed was about 10 months old.  She was hot, upset, scared, and tired.  The staff did their best to get her fed and settled.  The child’s beauty was so striking, they named her ˜fine jade.’

Fast forward twelve years, and this beautiful soul, Aubrey, still lives in that orphanage, waiting.  She is a kind, quiet, sweet girl who loves helping the other children and the nannies.  Aubrey always has a smile on her face, and enjoys interacting with people.  She shares that she likes basketball, and would love it if someone would teach her to play.       

AubreyTwelve years is far too long for a child to wait for love.  Please do not let her wait any longer.  Be love for Aubrey this summer, and host her for four weeks. 


Aubrey is available for hosting this summer in Pennsylvania, or for adoption anywhere.  Significant grants available for those families who qualify.  You do not have to be interested in adoption.  You simply need to be interested in being love for Aubrey for four short weeks¦.and agree to teach her how to play basketball.  Email for more information, or visit us at our webpage.   


œWhy are they mean to me?  He wonders.  œWhy do they make fun of me? He wonders.  œWhy do they hurt me?  He wonders.  Jacob does the best he can.  He goes to school.  He listens.  He keeps to himself.  But he is still bullied.  One reason he is bullied is because he isJacob edited the only one left.  He is the only older boy who hasn’t been chosen by a family.  He has seen his friends come and go.  Go to their forever.  But he still waits.  And while he waits, he suffers.  He suffers at the hands of other kids.  And he has no one to turn to.  There is no Mommy to kiss his boo-boos.  There is no Daddy to teach him the words to fight back.  There is no big brother to watch out for him.  There is no one.  Just Jacob.  Feeling completely alone.  Hurting.

œMaybe if I’m quieter they will stop.  œMaybe if I looked cuter they would pick me.  œMaybe if I was bigger they would leave me alone.  œMaybe if I was smarter they would pick me.  œMaybe¦ œMaybe¦ œMaybe¦.  The maybes continue to swirl around in Jacob’s head Jacob 4as to why he’s bullied.  As to why he’s not picked by a forever family.  He can’t figure it out.  And frankly, neither can we.  This sweet, quiet, precious little boy has endured far more than he deserves.  He deserves love.  He deserves protection.  He deserves safety.  He deserves forever.  Help us find his forever by stepping up to host him this summer. 

Jacob is available for hosting this summer in Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Illinois.  Significant grants available for those families who qualify.  You do not have to be interested in adoption.  You simply need to be interested in being love for Jacob for four short weeks.  Email for more information, or visit us at our webpage.

Dear Max

Dear Max,

I hear you aren’t too sure about the idea of a forever family.  They tell me you just love your foster Mom so much, that you can’t imagine leaving her!  They say you are scared, and worried, and don’t really want to come.  I get it.  I do.  It is a big and scary thing this thing called adoption.

Max (9)

Max, not too sure about us asking questions about trips across the world

Let me tell you a little bit about what being a part of a family is like.  It’s fun.  It’s messy.  It’s hard, and somehow it’s easy.  Above anything, it’s safe.  Family is the one thing that is always there.  And Max, I promise to you that your family will love you through the hard.  They will hold you through the pain (only if you want them to).  If you need to grieve on your own, know that you won’t be grieving alone, and they will wait for you, for as long as it takes, to grieve your losses.  Family is good like that.  They are always there.  And they are always there forever.

Max (3)

Max and his foster Mom

But do you know what the funny thing is?  I don’t have to tell you how special family is, because you DO know what it is like to be part of a family.  Your foster Mom taught you that, and continues to teach you that every day.  Your foster Mom did the most selfless and important thing she could for you¦loved you fiercely and taught you how to be loved.  And I’m happy she did.  In a way, I’m happy you will hurt, because feeling the loss of love proves you have the ability to love.  Speaking of hurt, I’m not going to lie to you, it is going to hurt, a lot, to say goodbye to her.  But the good news is that you WILL love again, and the next time you love, you can be sure it will be forever.

Max, I promise you that as hard as it will be, the good will outweigh the hurt.  I promise to find you a family who will honor your foster Mom, and celebrate her always.  I promise that once you process your grief (and it may take a while), you will see the good.  I promise you will laugh.  I promise you will love.  I promise you will be loved.  Forever.  I promise you this IF you do me one little favor¦..come on this hosting trip so you can see it’s not too scary.  Come on this hosting trip so you can realize that you want to say yes to adoption.  You want to say yes to forever.  And it won’t be as scary as you think.




Max is available for hosting this summer for a family in Pennsylvania or Maryland.  If we do not find a host family for Max within the next few days, it will be too late.  Please consider this sweet boy.  We are looking for a special family who will embrace him, fears and all, and show him that it isn’t as scary as he thinks.  You don’t need to be interested in adoption.  You just need to be interested in being love for this boy for four short weeks.  The lesson he will learn will change his life (and most likely yours) forever.  Please email Sarah at, or visit,  for more information about hosting.

Coffee with Ann McKinney, Mom to 14

by Katie Brabson

Ann Mckinney is the proud mother to fourteen amazing children. She and her husband, Dale, are an inspiration to be near and they are a family that I have been so privileged to work with through Madison Adoption Associates over the past four years.   Dale and Ann have two œhomegrown children, Brogan and Patrick, both of whom are adults and beginning families of their own. They have adopted both domestically and internationally over the years and have welcomed Keagan, Brownyn, Tobin, Rory, MengYan, Daley, Brittany, Brianna, Brian, Wen, Wu, and Miles into their family.  They have experienced domestic infant adoption, domestic special needs adoption, domestic older child adoption, and China special needs adoption.  The Mckinneys have helped children heal from prenatal drug exposure, infant drug addiction from exposure, and severe abuse and neglect. They have experience with sickle cell disease, hydrocephaly, epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, limb and arm differences, Thalassemia, autism, PTSD, bi-polar, and more. To state that they are an experienced adoptive family feels like an understatement as best. Despite all that the McKinney’s have taken on, they remain defined not by any special needs or circumstances, but by the fact that they are above all things a wonderful, loving, supportive family!

Here is an interview with Ann, who can teach us all so very much. So, get your coffee mug ready, sit down for a little bit, and get to know this amazing woman with me!

Ann, did you and Dale always know that you wanted so many children? No! We laugh now, over our attitudes when we were first engaged!   Dale has always wanted a very large family¦..he wanted 8 children.  And I did not want children at all!  Our pastor asked us to please complete extra pre-marital counseling, because of this difference in our desires!   For me (Ann), it was only after I truly surrendered my life and heart to Jesus Christ, and allowed Him to show me His desire for me, that I realized the blessing that children are.  We prayed together that God would give us the courage to follow His path for us.  The path has been a crazy, but wonderful one!!!

Tell us about your first adoption¦.   When we originally began looking into adoption, China had just closed adoptions to couples with biological children.  So, we began to look at domestic adoption. The more we prayed about adopting, the more we felt that God did not want us to œcompete for a child.  He wanted us to adopt a child who needed us as much as we needed him/her.  We met with an adoption attorney who desperately needed families for minority or special needs children.  Within a month of meeting with her, we were matched with a birth mom.  Keagan’s birth was amazing!  I was in the delivery room with his birthmother, I was the first one to hold him, and we were allowed to room-in with him until he was discharged.  We built a strong relationship with his birthmother, and still consider her a close friend. It was a magical experience, and I knew we would do it again.  I just didn’t know we would do it 13 more times!   

What has been the process in which you and Dale have decided to adopt each time? Every one of our children came to us through a unique situation.  Some we had months and months to plan for, some we had a week to plan for!  Every time we are called about a child, or asked to consider a child, the first thing we do is pray for this child, asking God to show us His perfect will. A family meeting is also called, to discuss the possibility of another adoption.  It is very important to us that all of our children are included in adoption decisions, as it will affect all of them.  They are each allowed to share their opinion, both bad and good.  And then we all pray that God will open the door wide for us, or he will close it.  And that if the door closes, we have to let it close, and not try to break it down.  We have had many doors close.  Many heartbreaks.  But we also have 14 blessings, where God opened that door, and gave us the courage to walk through!

What have been some struggles in the adoption process? Finances are always a struggle.  Those numbers always look so huge, and my checkbook numbers always look so small!  But I have to honestly say that even in completing 12 adoptions in 16 years, we have never had to get a loan, never fallen short. We have fund-raised our tails off¦.but God has always provided!   Many times through friends and family, who are not necessarily called to adopt themselves, but want to help unite children with their forever families.  Another huge struggle has been with the state of Illinois.  Laws have changed now, but in the past, Illinois has had a very poor view of large families, especially those that are Christian and home educate their children.  Our wonderful caseworker literally had to fight to get Illinois to approve us to adopt our twins, and it was brutal.  There were many times we thought Illinois would close that door for us, but through prayer, persistence, and a wonderful caseworker at Madison Adoption Associates, they are our sons today!  The state of Illinois was our mountain, and God chose to move it!  

What are some challenges of raising a large family and how to you manage those challenges?  Several years ago I found a wonderful book called œManagers of their Home.  It has changed the way our household is managed, and made things run so much smoother.  I have also learned a lot through various Duggar family books.  Through these resources, I have learned to manage our home, rather than take care of the household myself.  Everyone in our family has chores, responsibilities and obligations. The older kids each have a œbuddy – a younger child to help with.  This means they own the role of helper for that child when it is time to go somewhere – putting on shoes, coats, buckling into car seats, etc.  I am also an absolute schedule freak, and a list-maker.  I have to do these things to keep on track.  We have discovered Cozi, a family calendar app, that has been extremely helpful with organization.  This calendar will notify all family members of their appointments throughout the month, and will remind us all of things daily.  Probably my biggest challenge is managing medical care.  Many of my children have on-going medical needs, and doctor’s appointments are very frequent.  I have tried my best to schedule all appointments on specific days of the week, and to have a friend or family member available to help with transportation or babysitting those who remain behind.   

What has been the community response to your family? There are many people who just simply think we are crazy!  Maybe we are!   I am very thankful that my church family has not only welcomed us with open arms, but they have actually partnered with me to start an adoption ministry.  By summer 2016, we will have welcomed our 70th child home in this ministry! This includes children adopted through foster care, domestic and international adoption.  My van¦..that always comes up!   vanWhen we bought our van, we were disappointed to find that most 15 passenger vans only come in white. My sister-in-law had just opened a vinyl banner/sign company, and so I gave her some basic adoption/orphan information that was near to my heart and told her to go crazy!   I also asked her to make a specific œperson for each family member, to add to the van.  So, now my van is a driving adoption/orphan care bill board!  It embarrasses the older teens, but I love the opportunity it gives Dale and I to share our hearts with those who ask about it. 

What has God taught you about family?  And what would you tell a young family considering adopting for the first time? God has shown us that family isn’t biological.  Family is a group of people who love, encourage and uplift each other.  God has shown us that everyone is valuable!  We believe that God has given us a little glimpse of heaven, through the diversity of our family and also given us a glimpse of his heart!  To that family who is adopting for the first time, I will tell you to hang on, because it is an awesome adventure!   Seek friends who can mentor you, research adoption, read the Connected Child, develop a good relationship with your caseworker and agency.  And don’t let fear or poor advice deter you from following the adoption path God has shown you.  

Can you share about the journey to your son Miles?  We heard about Miles almost 2 years ago.  We began praying for him, advocating for him, and felt that all too familiar œtug.  We watched as two different families stepped forward, and then both backed out for various reasons.  And all the while¦..time was ticking, and Miles time was running out.  He had to get home before his 14th birthday.  For Miles, it was not just a matter of aging out, it was a death sentence, as he was so medically fragile.  Getting him to the US was his only hope to live a full life.  It was actually Dale who finally said to me, œYou know we have to go get him, right?  The very next day we called Madison Adoption Associates and started the process!   Miles’ adoption was much different than the others, basically because we were not necessarily seeking to add another child to our family at that point.  But we knew we could give Miles all of the things he so desperately needed and we knew we could love him.  We have always told our children, œIf you see a problem, and you can offer the solution, you need to do it.  So adoption #12 began!   Miles’ adoption was expedited because he was so sick, so things really moved quickly¦   About a month before we were due to travel, I have to admit, I started to get worried.  I let the older child adoption œhorror stories get into my head.  I started thinking about have SIX teenagers in my home.  I worried about what we would do if he declined the adoption, or did not like us!  So many things going through my head.  I think I prayed more than ever that month!   I think anxiety in adoption is very common, but I did my best to ask God to take that from me, and we moved forward.  The moment we met Miles, every fear dissolved quickly.  He is amazing!!  His orphanage did a wonderful job in preparing him for adoption.  He was excited!  He is a cheerful, happy, very sweet, affectionate child, and we could not be happier.  He has only been home a month, and it already feels like he has been with us forever.  Absolutely NO regrets¦.this has been a very, very good thing!

As we take our last sips of coffee, Ann, is there anything else that you would like to add? Yes!  Just do it!  So many children are waiting!  The joy a child can bring to your life is something you can find nowhere else.  Having adopted four children over the age of 10, I have to say that older kids are dear to my heart!   Please consider them!  Especially the boys!   No child should ever be without the love and support of a family.  Just put your trust in God, and take that first (or second, third, etc.) step, and do it!  

familyDo you have a question for Ann Mckinney, mother to FOURTEEN and orphan advocate? (By the way, she also manages her home, cheers wildly at the kids games, leads mission trips, has home educated, speaks and writes, and is currently taking classes! She is dynamic!)  Let us know what other questions you may have for Ann.  Although she is busy, her heart for encouraging adoption is strong and she wants to answer any questions that may support and help others choose to adopt, or adopt again!

Happy Mother’s Day, to us…

by Katie Brabson

This post for the blog has been on my mind all week and each night I have told myself I would set aside time to do it the next day. We know it is not really a post. It is a letter. From me, to you. I write one every year and probably it does not change much from year to year.  Just like any good tradition though, maybe there is something grounding found in the fact that it remains the same. If every single year we had to reinvent our traditions then they would lose something and would no longer fill our hearts with comfort and the anticipation of what we know is to come. And, so My Friends, this letter to you will be much like the past ones. These things remains the same: The children that you birthed are still loved beyond measure and they have grown leaps and bounds as young ones do.

The reason it has taken me all week to finally pen these words to you is because of the way life is whirling around us in beautiful chaos. The kids are making messes and their art work is taped across the walls of the house. They wake in the morning ready to play and as the sun rises the noise level does too. They are happy noises, safe noises, laughter and goofiness and play. The kind of noises that I believe you would hope to hear from them.  The kind of noises safe children make all across the globe regardless of language.  If you come across children and they are happy, vibrant, and wildly playing, please dear Friend, have peace down deep into your bones knowing the children that you birthed are doing this too.

A few times this past year I have stood back and watched him take care of his baby brother. Can you believe he is ten now?  There are moments when his back is turned and I take pause, struck at the broadness of his shoulders these days.  His neck is thick and his back is strong and he is slowly becoming a man before my eyes. I know that you do not get to see this and my heart hurts in places I didn’t know existed.  Let me be your eyes for a moment and tell you that he is such a handsome boy. He laughs at me when I tell him to freeze, and I run to the house for my camera. There is this time in the evening when the sun is setting in brilliant orange that it hits his skin just right and he seems to radiate warmth. I can’t help myself from running for the camera. He is beauty, standing there with brown skin aglow and that grin that melts me. Wouldn’t you know that a girl tried to kiss him this year!?  I told him he could have a crush on any girl that he wanted (because we can’t help that much can we?), but until he was older it was you and I that held his heart. He liked that. He is bigger than me now yet he still snuggles close. His feet are larger than mine, yet he walks gentle.  You grew a wise and witty soul in that womb of yours my Friend.

Then there is the little girl. Oh, she is brilliant and vibrant and a whirlwind of fresh air.  My favorite thing do to is stand back and listen to that laugh of hers. I know you can not hear it today, and my heart hurts for that. Let me be your ears. Something will make her laugh and she starts out with this giggle that turns heads, it grows louder until the giggle stops and ends with a squeak. Giggle, squeak. Giggle, squeak. Her happiness and her joy is so contagious that all around her have to join in.   She is smart and kind and she gets irritated when she can’t climb as high as the boys. Her spirit is adventurous, yet in a crowd she huddles close and clings. I know she fears getting lost and, Dear Friend, I pull her to me and I tell her that I will always hold her tight.  Her body relaxes under that care and her bravery returns. The other night she laid in bed with the baby and she rubbed his back and sang a song that she made up about love. He fell asleep under her tending and she came running out to us with pride beaming on her face. You grew such a force of sweet love in that womb of yours my Friend.

Dear Friends, those babes that you grew and delivered and parted from are still safe. They are still profoundly loved.  They are still growing strong in heart, body, mind, and spirit.  They are still being raised as best we can to walk humbly, show mercy, and seek justice for others.  This year, as every year, I want you to know too that they love you. We love you.

You are spoken of. You are thought of.  You are seen. You are seen in them and in all the things you gave to them from the way their toes are shaped to the things deeper in their soul you passed onto them as they were formed within you. Seeing you does not shake me, no, no.  It connects me to you, to all that I know and don’t know.  I am so grateful for that connection.

We light the candle for you today, Dear Friends¦.the women who carried and grew and Mothers Day smalldelivered these children that are ours. Yours and mine.  May it shine in our home today as evidence of the way in which we hope for you, pray for you, and honor you in our lives.

Happy Mother’s Day, to us.


Mucosa of what?

Nov 1,ECG: nodal tachycardia Oct 26,chest X-ray: lung marking of both lung was obvious Sep 14, gastroscope: 1.upper gastrointestinal bleeding,2.mucosa of the end of stomach eminence, varicose veins of the end of stomach3.HP negative Sep 12 ,upper gastrointestinal barium meal:no obvious varicose vein was found for the stomach and esophagus, Sep 9,UCG: hepatomegaly,damage of liver.Spleen and kidney was obvious engorged  lymph node was found in abdomen cavity, abdominal dropsy(-) Sep 9,chest x-ray:lung marks was a bit obvious.

Have I lost you yet?  I’m definitely lost.  Lost in trying to figure out how this jumbling of medical terminology describes Linus.  I mean, what on earth is ˜mucosa of the end of stomach eminence’?  Of course I can ask a doctor.  I can delve into his medical history (and I will if considering his adoption) to gain a better understanding of his physical well-being.  But that would be a disservice to him if I stopped there, as it would only be telling me such a minuscule part of what makes Linus Linus.  Linus is so much more than this cacophony of medical terms.  He is so much more than MALE, DOB 8/10/2004, HEPATOMEGALY.

Let me tell you a little bit about Linus.  Linus is a lover of the arts.  He is a performer, an actor, and an artist.  Check him out on stage, putting on a show (he’s on the left)!  Linus Linus enjoys performing, and is eager to explore different avenues of artistic expression.

Linus also loves to draw, and is quite good at it!  What is this drawing of Linus?  Is this a picture of a distant memory you have of your childhood before you lost all that was familiar?  Or, is this a current dream of yours? Linus 3 A home to call your own and a sister to pick flowers with as the happy sun shines down on you both?  Either way, I see happiness, I see optimism, I see Linus’ heart, in this drawing.  I see so much more than MALE, DOB 8/10/2004, HEPATOMEGALY.

Linus is an artist.  He is an actor.  He is talented.  He is a good listener.  He is so much more than MALE, DOB 8/10/2004, HEPATOMEGALY.  So, of course, ask your doctor what hepatomegaly is.  But, more importantly, ask yourself why not.  Why not bring this budding artist into your family and allow him to flourish in the home of his dreams?Linus 2

Linus is available for adoption through Madison Adoption Associates.  There is a $5,000 Bright Futures Grant available for the family who adopts Linus.  Please email Sarah at, or visit our website at, for more information about Linus.