Category Archives: Anecdotes

The Little Things That Shape Lives

Lincoln Logs & United States Puzzle Maps

by Bob Doman

Great Gift Ideas for Holidays, Birthdays & Special Occasions from NACD

Our staff at NACD has been busy creating lists of toys and gifts that we can recommend for parents. We have been asked time and time again to help parents find toys and gifts that will be fun, useful and that will hopefully help advance their children’s curiosity, development and education. As we have gone through this process of researching toys and gifts, we have all thought back to the gifts we bought for our own children at various stages of their development and gifts we received as children as well.

As parents, we are often in a quandary as to what to buy. Sometimes there is something our children are begging for that we may reluctantly purchase, but more often than not we wander through the stores, catalogs and websites looking for inspiration. Sadly, within days or weeks of having purchased gifts for a birthday or holiday, we find these gifts neglected and start deciding what closet to relegate them to.

Pondering the parental dilemma of what to buy for the child, I decided to look at the word “toy” and to see if we were perhaps starting off with a quest grounded in a misconceived perception. Going to the trusted Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I looked up the definition of a toy and discovered perhaps part of the problem. The significant pieces of the definition included: “something for a child to play with, something that can be toyed with, something (such as a preoccupation) that is paltry or trifling”. If this is in fact our underlying perception of a toy—a paltry, trifling thing to be toyed with—it’s no wonder most of what we buy for our children could fit under a general heading of “garbage” and often sadly, expensive garbage.

I believe what we want to do as parents is find things that are fun and entertaining, but also things that actually do something for the child. Learning can and should be fun, exploring can and should be fun, creating can and should be fun, building, designing, imagining and thinking can all be fun. These things do not sound like “toys”. What perhaps differentiates a “toy” from what we really want is a new educated perspective. What can I give my child as a gift that will be fun, but significant?

When I was a little boy, my parents, my little sister and I would often go visit my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was the custodian of his church and my grandparents lived very modestly. Throughout my childhood, there were only two toys at their house for us to play with. One was a set of Lincoln Logs and the other a United States Puzzle Map. Lincoln logs for the uninitiated are wooden dowels of different lengths notched at the ends so that they can be stacked like the logs in a log house and other various pieces that could be used for roofs, windows and such. The puzzle map had each state as a puzzle piece and on the piece, you could find the capitol and some symbols that indicated anything from what they grew or did in the state to historic landmarks. I wouldn’t want to guess how many hours I spend with these two “toys’. But, I can tell you that I built many different structures with the Lincoln Logs and enjoyed being creative and seeing how many different things I could design. I believe that because of my Lincoln Log experience I spend time as a teen designing houses and actually went to college with the plan of becoming an architect and designing energy-efficient, economical semi-subterranean houses. I was perhaps a little ahead of my time in 1965. A summer job working with special needs children changed that direction, but I have designed and build three houses, one of which is my present home. That inexpensive “toy” actually helped in making me who I am today.

I suspect that I could identify where every state was by the time I was four or five and could have drawn a map of the United States from memory by the time I was six—I can still do it. I never had an inclination to be a map maker, but I did develop a strong interest and knowledge of geography, which became a subject in school at which I excelled (there weren’t many) and has led to my traveling to all 50 states and seeing a lot of the world and being much more intellectually and socially conscious and aware than I would have otherwise been. I still remember as a child being amazed that so many of my friends had virtually no interest or curiosity about the rest of the country, let alone the world. I suspect their grandmothers didn’t have puzzle maps at their houses.

The right things at the right times can have very big and significant impact.

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, take some time and give some serious thought before purchasing a gift. See it as an opportunity to help shape a life—that certainly is not a paltry or trifling thing.


To view the list of gifts our NACD staff has put together, visit:

Plan C

NACD Bob Doman Blog Plan CI’m in LA, flew in this morning and spent the afternoon working with a couple of great families.

I had a quiet dinner and read my book in the hotel restaurant. When I left, I saw the hotel manager and we passed pleasantries. I’ve been coming here for many years, and Arthur and I have kind of grown “older” together. He asked how I was and I commented “okay,” but he had observed my slower than normal pace. I acknowledged that my back was giving me fits. He said that getting older was better than option A (not getting older). I suggested that I wasn’t happy with Option A or B (accepting the inevitable) and was going to pursue Plan C.

What is Plan C? Plan C is investigating, working and fixing my back so I can actively pursue life. For so many of our children and us, the perception is that our choices are limited; accept the diagnosis and prognosis, follow the typical path, and accept the inevitable. I don’t think so!

The medical model—make a diagnosis, based on the diagnosis make a prognosis, and then apply accepted procedures—doesn’t work for me. For children with developmental problems, that means accepting labels, creating expectations based on the label and on how the “professionals” have failed those with the same labels, and then making accommodations and accepting limited potential. Hooray for all of you “average” people who choose to be exceptional. Hooray for all you parents who have children with educational or developmental problems who choose to believe your children have unlimited potential.

Let’s hear it for Plan C!


Two A’s and a B and Lots of Smiles

I believe we are at about thirty-three thousand feet and the pilot is about to tell us all to stay put as we enter a storm system over the Rockies. I’m heading home. Today was my last day on a two-city trip. On this trip I saw adults and kids in Cincinnati and St. Louis.

As I’m heading home I can’t help but smile as I think about the kids and adults I’ve seen over the last two weeks and all we shared.

NACD Bob Doman Blog - AllyMy trip started off with Ally. Ally is one big giant perpetual smile. She smiles as she comes in the door, she smiles as I speak with her parents about what a “turkey” she can be, she smiles after she shows me her walking and she smiles and waves goodbye—“See ya Bob.” Ally is twelve and is now, after lots and lots of work, starting to walk on her own. She is in a typical classroom and doing well academically. She still needs large print, but reads well. She talks up a storm and is generally a delight, although she loves to torment her mom and dad. I first saw Ally when she was 10 months old. Ally was shaken by her babysitter when she was four and half months old and severely brain damaged. By the time I saw her, just months after her injury, she had shunts in both sides of her brain to relieve the pressure, had suffered retinal hemorrhages and essentially had no vision, was diagnosed with infantile spasms (severe seizures), was on two different seizure medications and was recovering from breaks to both legs and her left arm. Devastating, but Ally’s parents are exceptional folks and have worked wonders with her. Every time I see Ally I remember where she was; and although she has many pieces yet to be put together, she is a trooper, doing great and smiling!

NACD Bob Doman Blog - Abby - Down SyndromeSt. Louis started with Abby, a seven-year-old ball of fire. She runs in the room with her mom and throws her arms around me and gives me a big smack on the cheek. Abby has Down syndrome, but it surely isn’t slowing her down. She’s in a typical 2nd grade class—academically and socially right there with her peers. But I’d be willing to bet that Abby generates more smiles and warms more hearts per minute than 99.9% of the kids on the planet. Typically, when she leaves her evals she turns, waves, throws me a kiss and impishly says, “Bye, Bobby.” More smiles!

Today, my last day of the trip, I saw Brae who just started on program in February and today her two sisters came in for programs. Both of the girls are going to be absolutely brilliant. Brae has a genetic disorder that has the long name of Inverted Duplication Deletion 8p. To her family and me, she is just cute, fun, smiling Brae with unlimited potential. Today she came in and from across the room looked at me, eyes focusing and working together, converging and gave me a huge smile—a smile that remained in place throughout our time together. Today I got to see her walk by herself without as much as a finger of support. Big deal! Gargantuan deal—wonderful!  I also got to hear her talk. Big deal! Gargantuan deal! And I got to see her smile, I got to see her mom smile and when they left, her mom gave me a big hug and we shared the miracle of her girls. Brae and her sisters made my day special. Another in a stream of literally thousands and thousands of wonderful days filled with incredible people.



As I sit here in the plane and think about the trip and the incredible range of issues that needed to be addressed, I ponder, as I do in virtually every waking moment and through most of the night, how do we do this better. I know there are a lot of things our kids and adults aren’t doing yet, that we need to figure out and work on, but as I review our time together, we had smiles—big smiles and lots of them. Wherever they or their children are on their voyage, however far we are striving to go, everyone of them, everyone of the parents were smiling about who their kids are today, valuing them for who they are and appreciating where they are on their journey. We were all thankful for them.

We see kids for who they are, for what they can do, for what joy we can bring to their lives and what joy they can bring to ours and others’ and we all share in the joy of watching them grow. I feel humbled and privileged to be able to participate in the process.


Mother’s Day

NACD Mother's DayI hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

If yours was, or perhaps wasn’t particularly wonderful, I hope you are still taking great pride in being a mother.

As Charles Dickens said, “Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues—faith and hope.

Speaking of faith and hope, I have been fortunate to be home this past week and to be able to observe a mother to be. From my window I can look out over my little pond and I have been able to watch a mother Mallard duck sit on her nest. It has been raining almost nonstop and to make it really unpleasant, we’ve been getting hail and serious winds with temperatures here in the Utah mountains still dropping down close to the 30’s at night.

It’s now been five days since I spotted this very well-hidden and camouflaged hen and as many days since her mate has been absent. I believe the colorful drake stays away so as not to attract attention to their nest. So, there she is all alone, through the cold and the rain, day in and day out. I have not seen her leave her nest for even a minute. I’m wondering if she will remain on the nest throughout the 28-30 days I believe it will take for her to hatch her ducklings. Tough job! But, you Moms know it’s a tough job and I’m sure a lot tougher on many days than you would wish, but you hang in there.

Here’s to you—all you moms who make my job possible, because we can’t really do anything except through you. So on behalf of all your children who perhaps can’t say it yet and those who can, but don’t really yet understand what you have done and are doing for them, I’m going to do it for them.

Thank you mom—you’re the best!!!!!!!!!

– Bob



Yesterday I saw Amy, a bright and delightful six-year-old girl. While I was speaking to her mom, Amy walked over eating from a bag of Cheetos. I looked at Mom and softly said, “You know those aren’t good for her, right?” (I thought that Amy had been ignoring us, but I was wrong.)

Amy’s mouth drops open and wide-eyed she looks at her mom and says incredulously:

“Soooooo—why do you give these to me?”

Soooooo parents, why do you give such things to your kids?

Our children trust us. They trust us to take care of them and taking care of them includes making good choices and at times, hard choices. One of those choices is providing them with and teaching them about good nutrition. Amy’s assumption was that her mother wouldn’t give her anything harmful. Amy’s mom, a really super mom, certainly represents the majority of parents. Parents that often find it easier to give children what’s easy and convenient, what they like and to be truthful we like making our kids happy—but at what price?

Parenting isn’t easy.