Personalized Books

Manasota BUDS recently hosted a workshop with guest speaker Natalie Hale, founder of Special Reads for Special Needs.  Manasota BUDS is a volunteer organization based in Bradenton Florida that provides networking and support for families and helps promote understanding and acceptance of Down syndrome.  Natalie was an excellent speaker, with so much information to share.  Her program Special Reads for Special Needs provides specialized reading materials for learners with Down Syndrome, Autism, and other developmental delays and Natalie has so many wonderful suggestions for making reading more fun and effective.  One of her recommendations for helping children learn to read is making personal books.  So, how do we do this?

Materials you will need:

A “hot topic” list of at least 9 of your child’s favorite people, family members, pets, foods, toys, activities, sports, character, etc.

5×8 index cards

110# card stock paper (for printing the book)

Red marker (for making flash cards)


Choose a vocabulary list of 10-15 words.  Some of these will be your “hot topic” words, and some will be Dolch Sight words appropriate to your child’s current reading level.  A full list of Dolch words can be found here:

Write the text for your book.  Keep your sentences short and simple, each one will be on a page by itself.  After each sentence page, the next page will be the sentence plus a picture.  Be sure to end your story with “The End”.  I created a book about the Minions from Despicable me.  I kept it very simple and incorporated numerical words one to ten.  The entire book had 11 vocabulary words.

Create flash cards for all of the words in your story.  You can do this by writing them as large as possible using your red marker, or printing them on your computer in red ink (red has been known to help children learn).


Find photos online, cut out pictures from magazines, or take your own photos to go along with your text.

Write the text on your computer and print it, with these guidelines (directly from Natalie Hale’s website):

Use landscape mode

Set font to size 70-100 black, and choose one of the Sans Serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, Tahoma). Almost everything we read on a daily basis (newspapers, internet, books) is in a Sans Serif font.

Type one sentence per page, alternating sentence only and sentence with picture and print using the 110# index paper stock (or use plain paper in a pinch, and laminate to help your book hold up longer)

Assemble your book with the text ONLY on the right hand side.  You can take your book to an office supply store for binding.

Time to Read!

Using Fast Flash, a method of reviewing flashcards at a rapid pace, which helps maintain a child’s attention and helps with instant recall, review the vocabulary with your child.  You can find more detail about the Fast Flash method here:  Once you have reviewed the flashcards, it’s time to read the book to your child and enjoy it together!  Finish up by showing/calling out the flash cards again, and you’re done!

You can continue to create new books with the same topic and new sight words, or create books with new topics.  In addition to the Minions book, I also created a book about a baby doll, to help teach some verb vocabulary (Baby Eats, Baby Sleeps, Baby Drinks, Etc).

Once we read the book and review the vocabulary, we get to play with the baby!

I hope you enjoy making your own personalized books!

Blog by: Rebekah Greer

For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit our website at


For more information about Manasota BUDS, visit their website:

For more information about Natalie Hale and Special Reads for Special Needs, visit her website at:

How Does Your Backpack Feel?

Does your child complain that their backpack is hurting them? Do they have achy arms and backs? The cause may be that your child is carrying too much weight in their backpack or not wearing it properly.

Approximately 55% of students carry backpacks that are too heavy for them.¹ In one study of American students between the ages of 11 to 15 years, it was reported that 64% of them have back pain related to overloaded backpacks.²

Here are some tips to help your child ease the load on their growing bodies.

Loading a Pack

  • You child’s backpack should be no more than approximately 10% of their body weight. I.e. a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack with more than 10 pounds in it.
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Arrange books and materials so that there is the least amount of shifting items while wearing their packs.
  • Check from time to time that they are only carrying around what is necessary for school, and not items that are only increasing the load with no school purpose.
  • If the weight in your child’s backpack or bag is too heavy they may opt to carry an item or two in their arms.
  • If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis consider a bag on wheels if it follows the school guidelines.


Wearing a Backpack

  • Wear the pack with both straps on to evenly carrying the weight. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder can cause your child to lean to one side causing the spine to curve and increasing the chance for injury or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the arms, neck, and hands when too much pressure is pulling on them.
  • Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits snugly to your child’s back. A pack that is too lose can pull your child backwards and strain the muscles.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest at the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below your child’s waistline.
  • Most importantly is to purchase a backpack that is appropriately sized to your child.

If your child has a locker, help them work regular stops into their schedule between classes. This will lighten the load that they carry around between classes.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

If you have any further questions please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at


1. Graduate Program in Physical Therapy, Simmons College. (2001, February 12). Children’s Backpacks Are Too Heavy, New Study Shows [Press Release]. 

2. UC Newsroom, University of California. (2004, August 26). Back to school; heavy packs endanger kids’ health, study shows [Press Release]

American Occupational Therapy Asssociation, Inc.,

Voice For Health September-October 2013 Vol. LX, No. 5