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Educate the Teacher About Your Child: A Back-to-School Introduction Letters-free download

Writing a “Dear Teacher” letter is an important tool to start the school year.

I learned early on that writing a letter to Becca’s teacher was an important tool to help her with starting school.  I continued the tradition with writing Mac’s Dear Teacher Letter at the start of the school year.  A simple version of the letter is contained within Furry and Macs story.

Back-to-school introduction letters

I found this valuable resource from
Download your FREE Back-to-school Introduction Letters.

“Writing a back-to-school introduction letter to your child’s teacher can help get the school year off to a good start. It’s also a great way to start building a positive relationship.

You can use the letter to share important facts about your child and the strategies that have worked in the past. For example, you can call out any accommodations your child may use.

Involving your child can help him build self-awareness, too. Tell him, “Your new teacher may not know the same things about you as last year’s teacher. Let’s write a letter to give her an idea of what you like to do, what you do well and where you may need some extra help.” (Filling out a self-awareness worksheet can get your child thinking about it.)

Use these back-to-school-introduction letters as guides. There’s one for older kids and one for younger ones. You can use the one for older kids to gather information to write a more traditional letter if you and your child prefer that approach.”

I hope you have a great school year!

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The Night Before School Starts (Trauma Informed)

Trauma Edition

It Was The Night Before School Started
By Ann Yurcek

 It was the Night before school started

And all through the house,
Not one person was sleeping not even the mouse.

The children were anxious and worried with fright.
While Mom was all worried things wouldn’t go right.

The backpacks were packed and set out with care.
While visions of morning haunted Mom with a scare.

Her children were anxious and for them school was tough

Would the teacher understand or makes things too rough?

For children of trauma, school can be drama.

Or was it school can be drama for children of trauma

School is anxiety and too much change.

They cannot learn when all is not arranged.

When everything’s new the children are blue.
Mom checked her list for fidgets and chewls?

The IEP papers were approved but Mom has her doubt.
Would the school help her children or cause them to act out.

While Tommy cannot sit still, and Sally can’t read,

Mom knows that they have different kinds of needs.

Would her children find empathy and understanding

Or would they be bullied and met with demanding?

Mom woke up the children and into the pack I went,
to help the children was the job I was sent.

Mom kissed the children and hugged them goodbye,
The children put on their courage and tried not to cry.

One foot in front of another, off the children, went.
To be met by a smile that was heaven sent.

Each school can make a difference for those who are left out.
With trauma-informed teachers and accepting students with FRIENDSHIP throughout!

Everybody Matters.

Wishing everyone a productive and calm school year!

©2018 Furry The Penguin

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Be A Friend – Acceptance and Inclusion

School is starting and we are filling backpacks and getting into a routine of starting our day with our children.

School has already started for some.  Right now it is a good time to have a discussion with our kids about how to be a friend. It is especially important in having discussions about how to be a friend to children with special needs.

We need to teach ACCEPTANCE of what it means to be a good friend.
If we start teaching FRIENDSHIP maybe, just maybe we can stop bullying.

For kids with disabilities, school is scary and often very lonely.  Your child and your lessons can make a difference for those children and help them start the school year on the right foot or wheel whatever the mode of transportation.  In every classroom in our country or the world, there are children who have differences, visible and invisible disabilities, or with social struggles.  We all have Differing Abilities as we are all Unique. We all have strengths and purpose to bring to our classrooms, schools and the world.


Teaching about Friendship with those who have Differing Abilities

Acceptance, Understanding, Inclusion, and Caring.

AAcceptance that we all have differences. Everybody Matters
CCare about including Everyone.
CCompassion to reach out for someone who is sitting alone or struggles with having a friend. Be Understanding.
EEmpower your Friend.  Speak up for your friend if someone is teasing or not including someone.
PPatience and Kindness.
TTalk to your friend about what they like and talk clearly and ask them questions. Teach by being a good example.
AAbility find your friends ability and find out the interests you share in common and just play. Ask questions if you are wondering.
NNotice what a friend does well and where they have a challenge, then find ways to help your friend.  See a need, fill a need.
CCreate a friendship with someone who needs a friend and invite them to your birthday party or to do an activity outside of school.
E Everyone needs a friend! Help your friend to be included with Everyone. Invite others to play or do an activity at lunch or the playground. No one should ever be sitting alone.

“Furry The Little Penguins That Could” 

When we teach our kids to CARE,


we are all EMPOWERED.


We will have better schools, caring communities and a KINDER WORLD.

These are important skills our children will have for life.

And maybe, just maybe EVERYONE will have a FRIEND.



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Snuggle Down Cuddle Up – Red Shoes Rock Challenge

Starting the first day of any month, or any day you want to begin, Furry and Mac challenge your family to a “Snuggle Down, Cuddle Up” Challenge of one month of bedtime reading. We offer a whole bunch of FREE ideas for each chapter of Furry: The Little Penguins That Could to help children grow and families enjoy time together.

We want you and your children to cherish this time together of memory making.

Reading is a tradition that will follow your children through adulthood and these cherished moments are gifted to your future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Table of Contents

Just click the chapter to discover fun ideas for your family

Chapter 1 Let Us Start at the Beginning…… 6

Chapter 2 About Stuffies………………………..16

Chapter 3 Stuffie Jobs……………………………23

Chapter 4 I Forgot………………………………….34

Chapter 5 More About Stuffies…………………39

Chapter 6 Let’s Begin……………………………..43

Chapter 7 The Day to be Remembered……..47

Chapter 8 Ready-Set-Go!………………………..53

Chapter 9 The New Boy and the Kids………. 60

Chapter 10 A Letter from a Boy…………………64

Chapter 11 “Snack” Penguin…………………….75

Chapter 12 Sleepover Penguin…………………..81

Chapter 13 Twin Penguins…………………………88

Chapter 14 Hello, New Penguin………………….92

Chapter 15 Furry & Mac…………………………… 97

Chapter 16 Furry & School……………………… 103

Chapter 17 A Roomful of Stuffies…………….. 107

Chapter 18 Stuffie Support……………………… 110

Chapter 19 School Days Red Shoe Days……118

Chapter 20 Stuffy? No School…………………. 127

Chapter 21 Mom Hatches a Plan!………………137

Chapter 22 The Christmas Miracle……………. 143

Chapter 23 Snow Piles are Growing………….. 153

Chapter 24 Birthday Surprise……………………. 165

Chapter 25 Thank You Thank You……………… 173

Chapter 26 Mac’s Back……………………………. 176

Chapter 27 Kindergarten Circus Graduation.. 188

Chapter 28 Penguin Classroom Wisdom……. 193

Chapter 29 First Grade Here We Come………. 197

Resources………………………………………………. 205

Red Shoes……………………………………………… 207

Yes, we can! Together we can do it……………. 208

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Stuffed Animal Sleep Overs Encourage Reading

Did you know Stuffies can help children learn to read?

Stuffies do not care about difficulty sounding out words or missing a word or getting frustrated. They are designed to listen quietly.

One way parents have discovered to help children learning to read is take a stuffie to the library and leave it for a sleepover.  The stuffie job is exploring the library to look and read and listen to books specially picked for the child. Pictures are taken of the Stuffie reading favorite books so when

Children take their toys to a library for the night and drop them off before going home.

The animals then ‘search’ for books they want to read in the children’s absence – staff and volunteers take staged photos of the animals exploring the library and reading together.

The next day, the children collect their stuffed animals and the photos of what they did during the night.

They’re also given the books their animals ‘chose’ to read.


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Telepresence Robot Buddies for Home Based Students

“BUDDY DOUBLE ROBOT” can provide a telepresence into a classroom for children who must remain home due to illness, injury, or disability. This “Buddy Double” can move through the classroom and record learning experiences providing in classroom participation when you cannot be in class.

In addition, studies show that humanoid robots can act as peers and help give autistic children the social skills they need…

For children like Mac, Stuffies can become Emotional Support Partner and for some children, Robots as buddies in a similar way.

Maja Matari,a professor of computer science, neuroscience, and pediatrics at the University of Southern California, who has done several studies on humanoid robots and how they can act as peers and help give autistic children the social skills they need states, “Something very special happens when you put a machine and person together.”

Plus, Double saves schools money.



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Craft – Paint a Waddle of Furry Penguin Friends


Special thank you for Chester Zoo
More ideas can be discovered at

To make your own perfect penguin, you are going to need an empty toilet roll.

If you don’t have one right now, maybe wait a few days and keeping checking around the around. One will appear sooner or later! You could also find an empty kitchen roll and just cut it in two. The more toilet rolls you collect, the more penguins you can make. You’re also going to need some black and white paint, a few google eyes, and black and orange paper.

Here is your list

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Google eyes
  • Black paper
  • Orange paper
  • Black paint
  • White paint

Got everything? Let’s get started!

1. Lie your toilet roll flat and draw two straight lines upwards from one edge. Draw a curved line to connect the two straight lines. This is the outline of the penguin’s white tummy fur.

2. For the feet, use a pencil to copy our design (above) on to some orange paper. Then cut them out using scissors.

3. For the beak, draw and cut out a kite shape from the orange paper.

4. Fold over the shorter half of the kite to make the top part of the beak.

5. Cut a pair of penguin flippers out of the black paper. The look a bit like long leaves.

6. Paint the toilet roll body of the penguin, keeping within the lines you drew earlier. Do the black paint first so that you don’t accidentally get any in the white tummy area.

7. Use some glue to stick on the googly eyes and orange beak. For the beak, only put glue on the larger bottom half of the kite shape, so that the top half still folds over.

8. Use the glue again to stick on the flippers and feet. Attach the flippers to the back of the toilet roll so that they point outwards. For the feet, fold over the back of the paper and stick this to the inside of the toilet roll. It’s a lot easier than trying to stick the paper to the thin toilet roll rim!


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Acceptance Changes Stigma

Furry says, “Let’s Stomp Out Stigma!”

Stigma continues due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about rights, legality and how to empower people with a learning disability.

Stigma and discrimination makes people with a learning disability more prone to lower self-confidence and increased vulnerability (Jahoda and Markova, 2004)

Stigma and discrimination

Beyond school time

  • People in the local area calling them names
  • People in the local area ignoring them
  • Violent physical contact by people in the local area
  • Their parents restricting them
  • Their siblings calling them names

Within school time

  • Being ridiculed/called names by other pupils
  • Violent physical contact from other pupils
  • Being ignored by other pupils
  • Teachers giving unwanted extra help
  • Teachers refusing to help
  • Teachers getting angry about the mistakes they made
  • Being ridiculed by teachers

(Cooney et al., 2006)


  • Cooney, G., Jahoda, A., Gumley, A. & Knott, F. (2006). Young people with learning disabilities attending mainstream and segregated schooling: perceived stigma, social comparisons and future aspirations. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 50, 432-445.
  • Jahoda, A. (1995). Quality of Life: Hope for the Future or an Echo from the Distant Past? In I. Markova and R. Farr (Eds.) Representations of Health, Illness and Handicap (page range). Singapore: Harwood.
  • Jahoda, A. Cattermole, M. & Markova I. (1989). Stigma and the self-concept of people with a mild mental handicap, Journal of Mental Deficiency Research, 32, 103-115.
  • Jahoda, A., Dagnan, D., Jarvie,P., & Kerr,W. (2006). Depression, social context and cognitive behavioural therapy for people who have intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 19, 81-89.
  • Jahoda, A. & Markova, I. (2004). Coping with social stigma: People with intellectual disabilities moving from institutions and family home. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 48, 719-729.
  • Jahoda, A., Trower, P., Pert, C. & Finn, D. (2001). Contingent reinforcement or defending the self? A review of evolving models of aggression in people with mild learning disabilities. British Journal of Medical Psychology


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Inclusive Playground in Lancaster, Wisconsin

Yes, we can! Kids and Volunteers can do BIG THINGS

Inclusive playground ribbon cutting

Winskill Elementary School students celebrated a ribbon cutting for their inclusive playground in September.

Winskill’s inclusive playground dedicated

By Robert Callahan

Lancaster Community Schools celebrated the addition
of inclusive playground equipment when the
2017-2018 school year began.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held near Winskill Elementary School’s Kids Courtyard on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 5. Winskill Elementary School students and staff attended, joining members of the Lancaster Community Fund Advisory Board and Lancaster Mayor David Varnam.

Joe Krantz is a member of the Advisory Board. The night before the ribbon cutting, his son asked him what “united” meant.

“When everyone comes together as one,” Krantz told Winskill students prior to the ribbon cutting. “A perfect example is today, when all of you are united as one. We have the inclusivity with this playground and together all of you will be able to play together now.”

Winskill Elementary second grade teacher Melissa Sperle explained to students what a ribbon cutting ceremony was.

“It symbolizes that this playground is now ours,” she said. “It is a playground for all, for everybody to play side-by-side together, which is what it should be all about.”

Discussion of an inclusive playground began a few years ago.

“We had talked about just making the playground more inclusive for a while. We do a 5K every year, so I think it was three years ago we talked with the kids about trying to raise money to make our playground more inclusive,” Sperle said. “That is kind of how it started. We ended up raising I think it was about $5,000 or so.”

The Lancaster Community Fund supported the playground effort through grants. Approximately $60,000 was raised through grants, the 5K fundraiser and pizza sales.

“It was between the Friends of Winskill and the Community Fund and basically our kids. Our kids are the ones that sell the pizzas,” Sperle said. “Our kids really had a huge part and they are the ones that raise the money for the 5K. It really was a combination effort of our kids and the Lancaster Community Fund. It was awesome.

“When the Community Fund agreed to the grant I remember I am pretty sure I cried.”

Furry the Little Penguins That Could book and Furry Stuffie
Click photo to purchase. Inclusive playground story is included.

Sperle credited Lancaster Community Schools Maintenance Supervisor Dan Yoose for his assistance on the project.

“Dan Yoose was a huge help. Dan Yoose was the one that knew what we needed to do to prepare the site, what we needed to tell the people when they come to set it up, etcetera,” she said. “Without Dan Yoose, there is no way the project would have happened.”

Sperle said the playground has earned rave reviews to date.

“The kids love it. It is really cool to see all of the kids playing together,” she said. “You don’t have to be in a wheelchair to enjoy it, but you could be in a wheelchair and enjoy it. It is not just a playground for our kids with special needs, it is for everybody. That is the one area of our playground every kid can enjoy.”

It only makes sense an inclusive playground was truly a community effort.

“Everybody that I ever talked to made it work. Everybody believed it was something not just our school, but our community, needed,” Sperle said. “We look around our school and community, and there are a lot of kids with special needs in our community. You take for granted being able to push your children on a swing. What parents shouldn’t get to push their child on a swing or play with them in a park? That is something so many of us take for granted until you have a child that can’t do that.”

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All Inclusive Playground In Lancaster

Play and laughter is a vital part of childhood.

An all inclusive playgroud has become realy because of the Lancaster Community fundraisers and through grants.

Approximately $60,000 was raised by Lancaster volunteers through:

  • grants,
  • the 5K fundraiser
  • pizza sales.

Yes, we can!
Together we can do it!

“It was between the Friends of Winskill Elementary, the Community Fund and basically our kids. Our kids are the ones that sell the pizzas,” Sperle said. “Our kids really had a huge part and they are the ones that raise the money for the 5K. It really was a combination effort of our kids and the Lancaster Community Fund. It was awesome.

Learn about playground equipment for different ages and stages so ALL CHILDREN can play with friends.

Thanks Landscape Structure – Inclusive Playgrounds – we love you!