Tag Archives: special needs

How to Include Homeschoolers with Special Needs

As homeschooling families grow in number, so does the number of families with kids who have special needs. Homeschool groups and co-ops have opened their hearts to include students who may struggle with academics, medical conditions, or behavior issues.

There are, however, sometimes growing pains when learning how to include those with special needs as not all activities will be easy for all kids to attend without stress. Ideally, all events will work for all kids. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to open our ears and minds so we can hear what families tell us their kids need so that everyone can have a great time while learning and socializing.

Listen to the Issues at Hand

Make sure to listen to those who have special needs. They and their families will be able to tell you what helps and what doesn’t.

If a child is scared of water, make sure to host events that do not include water at least part of the time. This way the child can have opportunities to socialize and learn without fear of something that triggers them being present during an event. If a child becomes aggressive when an event includes competitive games, find out what activities would go well for the child and consider incorporating these into the event.

Consider how best to handle a stressed-out child. Would the parent be present and help or is this a drop-off activity where the organizer may need to step in? If you do need to step in, how should you react in order to help the child calm down or feel less stressed-out? Don’t assume you know what to do. Have the parent and child let you know what is best before attending events.

Think Outside of the Box

Many families deal with food allergies. If a child is allergic to dairy, try to avoid that food during events. Often there are alternatives available that will work for most or all group members (soy ice cream, almond milk, coconut yogurt). Another option is to have events without food or drink involved. This may limit the length of time you will meet but will also allow a child to avoid allergens or foods that behavior more difficult for the child to manage.

Remember that food allergies present in different ways. Just because there are no outward signs doesn’t mean there is no allergy. Also, allergies vary in severity. One child may get a rash while another may pass out and yet another child may have gastrointestinal issues. All of these issues are serious, though some require immediate emergency care. Considering allergens when planning events is extremely important because of these issues.

Accept Others

You don’t have to fully understand why or how something affects another person to be compassionate and inclusive. Sometimes special needs of others may seem odd or different to you or your kids. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is ignoring what those with special needs say is an issue for them. If someone only likes small events, then they may choose to attend small events only. This needs to be accepted in your group even if you prefer people to attend every event. If touching bothers a child, then do not play games where touching is required (tag, red rover, dodge ball) but perhaps try other games such as “Mother May I”.

Also, recurring events you host may have to change a little bit to better include all members. You may have to forego the loud music at a party and use a lower volume in order to help children with sensory difficulties. You may need to allow parents to attend field trips or be an aid to their kids with special needs during co-op classes rather than choosing only a few parents to help during this type of event.

 

Everyone is Special

Because you care, you want to help. This is a huge support for families whose children have special needs. Your support and acceptance is important to the success of each and every family in your group. Your patience and effort will pay off. In the end, your group of friends will end up stronger and more enriched because you learned who to help one another.

4 Things My Child’s OT Needs to Know

 

Years ago, my family utilized occupational therapists (OTs) for one of my children. At that time, we had fantastic luck as both of the therapists our insurance covered were wonderful, patient, and good listeners. I assumed all OTs were trained to be this way.

Recently we began OT for another of my children. It has been extremely difficult to find someone who can accept the limitations and stressors my sweet kid has right now. I had no idea that others struggled with this issue, too, until I asked in a local mom group. Turns out that many, many people have difficulty finding quality OTs as well as quality PTs (physical therapists) in my area. What I am hearing from others is that the therapists know their field quite well. However, many do not listen to clients and families, so they are unable to learn how best to serve the client.

Based on my experiences and those replayed to me via chat and in-person, I ended up writing this post. I hope it helps give perspective. Families do want to work with therapists, but parents and children become frustrated after going down the list and trying multiple providers, then having OTs or PTs repeatedly fail their kids.

Noncompliance does not equal a naughty child.

When a child has special needs, your family will come into contact with many healthcare professionals who want to help. They are often experts in their field and have an incredible amount of experience. Ready for the “but”?

They may be experts on a topic or diagnosis, BUT they are NOT experts on your child. One huge issue that comes up time and again is the lack of understanding of anxiety. Many children deal with mutism, or selective mutism, due to their anxiety because they literally cannot make themselves speak when extremely anxious or having a panic attack. Another term to know about is Pathological Demand Avoidance (also known as PDA). PDA is, in essence, anxiety. But this kind of anxiety is extreme. A child may lash out, become mute, ignore, or even run away from a situation that gives them anxiety. Many children, mine included, explain this feeling as a growing pressure that escalates with demands for compliance. This creates an extreme amount of stress and anxiety.

The problem is that these behaviors look like naughty behavior when they are actually behavior borne from anxiety attacks and panic. Sadly, it may be difficult to tell the difference between naughty behavior and panicked behavior when they present so similarly and both mean noncompliance and sometimes even unsafe behaviors. The problem that many families run into is that medical professionals, therapists, and teachers often do not realize that what they assume to be a naughty child is actually a child struggling with anxiety or PDA. It is important for therapists and other professionals to  listen to parents, children. Don’t take these behaviors personally or as a refusal to cooperate. Instead, take time to grow a rapport with the child, then things go much more smoothly.

SPD, PDA, and anxiety may prevent touch.

Sometimes touch is seen as part of a physical or occupational therapy session. This is understandable as a therapist may need to show or help a client do something. Some therapists are very thoughtful of boundaries, but others are so focused on meeting goals as fast as possible, that they forget that the clients have boundaries which should be respected in order to build a positive bond.

Children who are sensory defensive will not likely want to be touched. They may have a family member who they tolerate if they need help with writing or buttoning pants. Understanding this is a huge help and knowing when not to push an activity can help build bonds between therapist and client. In short, consent matters. As my child said after a negative therapist appointment, “I am the boss of my own body, not you or anyone else.”

There is plenty of time.

Much of therapy is goal-driven in that there is an evaluation, goals are written, then insurance companies and parents often want to see that progress is being made toward those goals. During the yearly re-evaluation, progress is supposed to be shown. The idea is that, eventually, the client will no longer need the occupational or physical therapy service. However, this is not realistic in all cases.

The problem is that a goal-driven therapy model often does not respect the pace at which a child with special needs can handle demands, changes, and activities. The adults may forget that rapport takes time and working as a team means getting to know the client even if it takes months or years. One of my children recently said, “I don’t think the OT knows me at all. If she did, she’d know not to put pressure on me. It makes me have anxiety and then I can’t talk.” A child having an anxiety attack because a therapist did not take the time to find out that child’s triggers is not going to be successful with the child. Patience is key here. Forcing things won’t help. Sometimes slow and steady is the way to win the race. Yes, even if moving at a tortoise’s pace.

My family will stick up for me.

There is a saying, I’m not sure who coined it, that says something like, “A parent is the expert regarding their child.” I agree. Loving, invested parents ARE experts. They are experts in the child’s special needs, likes, dislikes, and behavior patterns.

If a parent is telling you not to do something, then immediately stop. The same goes for the child telling you no with either behaviors or words. Just as a parent is an expert, so is the child. Your client may have difficulty explaining the issues but learning those behavior patterns and understanding how a child reacts when upset versus happy is a HUGELY important skill for anyone working with clients who are children or who are nonverbal. “Thanks, mom!” That’s what my child said after I had to fire a therapist who thought they knew better than my child and I regarding the child’s needs. The therapist knew us all of 90 minutes total, yet thought they knew more about the child’s needs and caused a panic attack and subsequent regression in the child.

Here’s the thing. An OT or PT may know a diagnosis. They may be experts in their field. That’s wonderful! But they are not experts on each client until they take the time to get to know the client.

This is an ongoing process and forcing a relationship, creating an adversarial process by being authoritarian, and pushing things that trigger a client are never going to help establish rapport. Parents will tell you to stop. Parents will fire you if they see you refuse to listen. The client’s family WILL stick up for them. We are, after all, their best advocates and don’t take that job lightly.

 

As one of my children recently said, “I want them to understand me. Being pushy doesn’t help.” As adults we may get wrapped up in goals and our agenda. But that’s not important. It is important to support clients and clients’ families by listening, observing, and putting the client first. Work as a team to find out how to help. Make goals together. Listen, observe, and use patience. As I mentioned above, slow and steady wins the race.

 

About the Author

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.; Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Several years ago I left my teaching job to spend more time with my children. I was sad to go, but am thankful for the experiences that classroom teaching provided. I now provide Florida homeschool evaluations and homeschool help in the form of consultations, transcript writing,  and tutoring. My educational experiences paired with real world experience give me a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.
I specialize in tutoring and homeschool help for students living with special needs and am an approved Gardiner Scholarship tutor. I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and master’s degree to work for you. Please contact me with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

Our Trip to Legoland

My family recently visited Legoland-Florida. I know my youngest enjoys Lego blocks and rides. However, I was slightly concerned that my preteen and teen would find less to do than my youngest kiddo.

We were pleasantly surprised! There were a ton of

activities for ALL ages!

Legoland-Florida was decorated for Christmas when we arrived. My kids were delighted to see this tree made of Lego bricks!

Everyone found rides they enjoyed. We ended up going on several rides multiple times. A huge favorite was driving school. Flying school was a close second.

Of course, my oldest enjoys roller coasters, so she became our official guide to make sure she had a chance to ride each coaster during our visit.

Driving school is fun! This popular attraction also has a version for younger kids close by.

Between roller coasters, water rides, driving and boat school options, everyone had a blast!

Children attempting to drive is quite interesting. We have some work to do before anyone takes a real driving test.

To cap off our day of fun, we enjoyed Milo’s Journey which is a STEM class you can choose to pay for and attend. The classes are inside the Imagination Zone which has literally TONS of Lego bricks for your children to use for physics and engineering activities.

What’s even better is that there are several other classes we plan to go back and try out, too!

During our class, the children had a laptop and Lego kit. The instructions for their assignment were on the laptop and easy to access.

During our class, students had the opportunity to build and program a rover!

Each child had access to their own laptop and Lego kit. After the kids programmed their rovers, a race was held!

Our instructor was extremely patient, clear, and helpful. It was so much fun that my kids asked to do it again!

I highly encourage homeschoolers to attend Homeschool Days as the rate is slightly lower if you reserve your tickets and pay in advance. Remember to bring your homeschool ID, which your local support group is likely to have, when you arrive at the park.

For a list of rides, parking information, and class info, check out the Legoland site!

Be sure to check out hours of operation and note that the water park area is open only part of the year. We live close by, so we will visit again when the water park is open (in warmer weather).

If you live far from the area, consider making the trip and staying at the Legoland Hotel or Beach Retreat

Legoland is inclusive. You are encouraged to contact Legoland personnel in advance of your visit to discuss any special needs and how they can be of service to you.

In addition, our STEM class teacher was extremely helpful and read my children’s cues. She was able to determine how much or how little assistance they needed and backed off if help seemed to agitate a student.

I have no doubt that the new STEM classes and teachers are well-equipped to help those with varying exceptionalities.

I highly encourage families, teachers, and homeschoolers to visit Legoland as well as the new STEM classes. There is far more to see, do, and learn about than a single blog post can cover. 

Make sure you check for events as well. The Christmas Bricktacular is just one of many events each year.

My family looks forward to going back again soon. We hope to see you there!

Misbehavior During Tutoring Sessions? Perfectly Normal.

What To Expect During Tutoring Sessions

I work with many families as a tutor. Most of my clients sought out a tutor due to a special need or because they want assistance in home educating their child. I know that each child is different and each child will have their own strengths and things they are still working to achieve. I want to stress that parents may feel anxiety, but their child’s behaviors and current achievements may be similar to what everyone else is doing, too.

When Your Child Says “NO!”

Your child will probably say no or refuse to participate at one point or another. They may do this often, or rarely. This may be due to illness, a bad mood, or fear of getting it wrong. Also, some children like to control the activities because they feel less anxiety when in control. Don’t worry. We will work on this. We will establish a routine and your child will feel more comfortable with me helping guide activities which are new.

You may see that I change topics or activities if a child is shutting down. This is one way to change the child’s mood and help encourage participation. If we can learn the same information another way, I may try that. I may also come back to the lesson or activity later in the session or later in the year. I won’t skip a topic forever, but I will work with your child to find fun ways to learn the information. We are a team.

When Your Child Is Distracted

Everybody gets distracted. Whether I tutor at your home or a public place, like a library, there will be distractions. Your child may also lose interest. It is rare for anyone, even adults, to have an attention span for long tasks. I will try to keep tasks short and full of academic information. If your child has difficulty with the length of an activity, I may break it up into parts. We may take a break to sing a song, color, or stretch.

I usually set a timer so we use our time to the fullest. This may mean I set a 2-5 minute timer for the break, too. Don’t worry, though, your child is learning about study skills and how to break large or frustrating tasks down into smaller portions. This helps lessen the chance of refusal to participate and enables the child to make similar choices on their own, in the future.

When Your Child Throws Or Hits

There is very little I haven’t seen. I worked as a classroom teacher, have children of my own, and worked in childcare prior to earning my teaching certificate and master’s degree. I have had kids hit, throw things at, bite, yell, and curse at me from time to time. When your child throws or isn’t gentle when handing me a paper or bottle of glue, don’t worry. I will gently, yet firmly, correct the behavior and you are welcome to do the same.

Sometimes kids push, hit, or throw because they feel anxiety over a new situation or difficult subject.

There is a lot of practice in early childhood education. I constantly must remind children to be kind, gentle, and to use words or show me the item they do not have words to explain, yet. I am not offended by your child’s behavior and, depending on your child’s developmental stage, it may be that throwing is part of learning about emotions, self-control, choices, and motor skills.

When Your Child Has Difficulty With Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to movements used to cut with scissors, write with a pencil, and other small muscle motions. Gross motor skills refer to large movements and control of the muscles that allow these movements. Sometimes children have low muscle tone or have a special need which makes them less likely to have control of muscles. When this happens, they may feel pain or frustration when participating in activities such as jumping, climbing, cutting, or writing. Your child may be resistant to these activities to avoid a feeling of failure or potential pain of an activity.

I often break tasks children find challenging into multiple steps with breaks in between. Also, sometimes is becomes necessary to use tablets or computers with keyboards to help students who struggle with writing. If they get stuck on the letter formation part of the task, they will have difficulty with expressing themselves through written word. Another important point is that you can strengthen muscle tone by doing activities that are not writing. I may use tasks which include tweezers and sorting, clay, or similar activities to help with fine motor skills. Sometimes doing something that doesn’t seem academic helps a child feel less anxiety and more interested, though there are still positive outcomes when using the activity.

When Your Child Has Limited Expressive Language Or Is Nonverbal

When I taught in public schools, the common ideal was that even if a child had a special need, the teacher had to find a way to teach and assess understanding. This often meant non-traditional activities, extra lesson planning time, and alternative assessments. One issue that often required a slight deviation from typical lessons and assessments was when a student had limited expressive language, or a limited ability to verbally explain their thoughts.

I encourage parents to work with me so I understand what milestones a child has reached as well as what skills are still being honed. This way, I have a better understanding of what can be done during lessons and assessments to accurately gauge student learning. I am not a big fan of paper and pencil testing, but for those who have limited language, a written test may work best. For younger students, tutor/teacher and parent observation may be best. While these are not the only two options, they give an idea of what can be done to adjust for a student’s needs.

When Your Child Has Limited Receptive Language

Receptive language refers to the ability to understand oral information given in your first language. (English language learners who have a different first language would not be considered low on receptive language for the purposes of diagnosing a special need and may be given different assessments than those for whom English is a first language.) When a student has a low receptive language score, I consider other potential issues such as shyness or refusal to cooperate with the assessor. Sometimes the scores in tests such as these are accurate, sometimes they are not. I often use very basic, one-step instructions for all tasks, whether complicated or not. In addition, repetition is great for all kids, but is imperative for those with low receptive language scores. Predictability and easy to follow processes help.

What Does All This Mean?

There are many other potential issues which may come up during tutoring. Every student is different and deserves attention, patience, and positivity. This may mean that we use activity cards, a specific procedure or order to lessons, or take breaks to get up and move. Don’t worry. The behaviors and choices of your child are most likely something I have seen multiple times.

My job is to work with you and your child.

All I ask is that you work with me, express any concerns or tips you have, and advocate for your child as you already so perfectly do every day. Don’t worry about your child behaving in a way I will dislike. I won’t be offended. I promise. We are a team and it’s all normal.

 

If you would like information about tutoring, homeschool and unschool evaluations, a consultation to discuss mapping out your homeschool year or curriculum writing services, please contact me here or at 407-712-4368. Let me put my experience to work for you!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Step Outside of “The Bubble” – Inclusion Matters

I worked for many years as a public school teacher. I always worked in Title I schools which means that they had a high free and reduced lunch rate indicating a low-income level for a majority of the students who attended the schools. With this label often came behavior issues and other concerns. The job wasn’t easy, but was important. My friends and I would often talk about the schools, especially private or charter, who had this type of socio-economic issue less often. We considered them to be in The Bubble. Some schools were more of an eclectic mixture of people, backgrounds, and income levels. Others were more closed off and likely didn’t even realize it.

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Some of my former colleagues moved to a school in a lovely neighborhood filled with high income housing and 3 to 4 figure incomes. They remarked about how easy it was to get supplies, volunteers, and other resources. They also noted how little the families knew about those with special needs or who lived within a low-income. It was like two different worlds to these colleagues.

I noticed this, too. Sometimes people in The Bubble don’t realize that special needs or not having what you need in life due to income level is a real-life situation every day for many people. I don’t mean to categorize everyone who has plenty of money or a nice home. However, when this cycle of parents in The Bubble raising children in The Bubble continues over and over, it is easy to lose touch with the many, many people not in The Bubble who deal every day with these issues. It’s one of those “you don’t know that you don’t know” situations in many cases.

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The Bubble is about more than the key to a nice home. The Bubble is a place of privilege, away from the stress of other people’s life experiences.

What is “The Bubble”?

The Bubble is a place where privileged folks hang out. It’s more about a comfort zone and state of mind than a place. In The Bubble, you won’t find many people who have a low income or special needs. The Bubble is where you are safe from the unpleasant parts of the human experience. Sounds fabulous, right? The Bubble is a calm, relaxing, lovely place to be. You don’t have to step out of your comfort zone too often and you certainly don’t have to deal with the things that make you feel uncomfortable or sad on a regular basis.

What’s so bad about that?

Here’s the problem. The Bubble isn’t the real world. The Bubble hinders our emotional development and the development of our children. When children attend schools and after school activities in The Bubble, they don’t usually have regular contact with those who have profound differences such as those who are who are living with special needs.

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How will children learn empathy if they don’t see those who struggle and learn to help?

Children need to see differences. They need to work on problem-solving and helping those on their team or in their classroom. Sometimes this may mean physically helping a child who has limited mobility, but other times it means being a cheerleader who urges a friend to try a task until she succeeds. This builds character and empathy.

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What if a child is profoundly disabled?

Though a child may need a carer with them, the child should still be seen and allowed to interact. The Bubble prevents this. By segregating those who are able and those with special needs, we cheat our children out of the chance to help others and emotionally support one another.

But she is noisy and he is messy!

Some children make loud noises or messes due to their special needs. This should not hinder them from typical classrooms or a variety of extracurricular opportunities. The children in The Bubble NEED to see, learn about, and learn to support students with special needs just the same as they would those in The Bubble. Noise, messes, and other differences are no reason to keep someone out of a classroom, school, or extracurricular program.

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Those with special needs that affect attention and distraction will have an opportunity to work on using strategies they have learned to focus and, of course, teachers can give them a quieter space if needed in most cases, too, though this may depend on the school or program facility and staffing specifics.

Real life can be distracting. Our children need to learn that they can ignore these distractions when necessary and help when necessary.

What about the students who are unsafe?

Some students make unsafe choices. This may mean they have a carer with them to help when they become agitated. If a safety plan is in place, and followed, students who are working on making safe, well-thought out, kind choices should absolutely be present in classrooms, even in The Bubble. This allows the student with special needs to learn from those who are typically developing and for those who are considered able and neurotypical to practice setting boundaries, following through on rules and routines, and practice empathy.

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Children grow up to be adults and continue previous cycles.

The Bubble is present in many of our communities. It has perks. However, the downside of The Bubble is that many are not included and children in The Bubble don’t know much about the real world or how to adjust to new and different things. These children grow up to be adults who continue The Bubble by not including others and placing a stigma on those who are different. They may even throw a tantrum when things are not perfect. This sense of entitlement is unacceptable in the real world and hinders the acceptance of those with special needs.

Do we really want to continue this cycle, or is it time to end The Bubble?

The Bubble sounds great. Who wouldn’t like a break from real life? But, we have a responsibility to raise our children outside of The Bubble so they learn empathy, that differences are okay if everyone is safe, and how to handle new or different situations which may slow their day down a bit.

Which Homeschool Preschool Curriculum Should I Choose?

Parents often ask how to get their children ahead in time for kindergarten. This is true for families of children in preschool who choose homeschool and those who choose brick and mortar schools. Parents want their children to excel. We want our kids to do better than the best. This is why many homeschool newbies ask which curriculum to use for their toddler and preschool students whose parents plan to homeschool. I see this question asked at least once a week in homeschool forums. Thankfully, I have an answer that will help you no matter who you are or how young your child happens to be.

The good news is that you do not need to purchase a curriculum for your child just yet. Instead, focus on social and academic skills through everyday situations. Don’t push children to recite letter names or count constantly. Do model how to count, how to be kind, and other skills. Model cleaning up after yourself and work as a team to do this. Model how to care for someone who is hurt or sad. In short, play and interact. How easy is that!?

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Some people will ask why so many preschool programs push literacy. The answer is that they are not always developmentally appropriate programs, but they are required to prepare children for a rigorous kindergarten year. In Florida, where I taught kindergarten for nearly a decade, teachers graded preschools based on how incoming kindergarten students did at social and academic skills. This can affect funding of those pre-k programs so they HAVE to be rigorous, too, though this is not appropriate for children.

What should a prekindergarten program look like?

I will blog in depth about this at some point, but for now the things you need to look for include, among other things:

A variety of open-ended activities

No forced reading or pencil and paper activities, though these should be available and used via free choice

Students making decisions and having interpersonal interactions in with watchful teachers who can step in should students be unable to resolve an issue

Teachers who are patient and willing to work with students to find solutions rather than immediately punish or yell

What should a homeschool preschool program look like?

Your preschool or toddler homeschool day should be similar to what is included above for those who run preschool programs. Have a variety of toys, writing utensils, bubbles, gardening options, or any other thing your child can safely use and in which he is interested. Be available to answer questions and interact, but do not take over the activities. Your child may use materials differently than you expect, but unless safety is an issue, let your child go for it and try to do things differently than you might. Work on negotiating, caring for others, and other social skills, too. Use real-life everyday situations to teach rather than making your child sit and listen to you or sit and read during the day. Go on field trips to explore your town or county.

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What about children living with special needs?

It is highly important that children with special needs receive necessary treatments, therapies, and instructions for how to use coping skills. Early intervention is proven to be helpful in these cases. However, this does not mean you ought to force a four-year-old child to read early due to a special need. Honor your child’s developmental level. Offer a variety of activities and model how to do things he cannot yet do. He will eventually want to copy you and you can implement the information your therapists have given you and your child. Yes, you may need to work harder on skills with your child when she is ready, but most children who are younger than six learn best through hands on activities and you modeling how to do things.

How can I get started?

To get started, use what you already have. Lego blocks, bubbles, construction paper, and other items can spark a child’s imagination and create a pathway to learn a multitude of things. Play with your child. Have siblings and friends play as well. Everyone plays a bit differently and different topics will come up along with the chance to practice different skills. Don’t be afraid of mixed age play groups. This can aid in teaching your child without it being “work” or boring.

We don’t want our children to burn out on education before they hit kindergarten. In fact, we want them to be lifelong learners who seek out education from a variety of sources rather than hiding from education because they were forced to do too much, too soon. Remember, some children do read at age three, while others do not read fluently until closer to age seven. Some children are not yet ready for complex math at age 16 while others may be ready when younger than age 12. The goal is to honor each student’s developmental level without forcing them into a curriculum at such an early age that they may become frustrated with school. School should be hands-on, fun, developmentally appropriate, and lead to a lifelong learner lifestyle. Introducing a rigorous curriculum in the preschool years can sabotage this completely.

But we already began a curriculum.

No worries. If you began and your child loves it, great. However, if your sense that your child needs a change, then change things. It really is a luxury to be able to consider an individual learner’s needs at each stage and change when needed.

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For further information

If you would like more information about education or behavior management, sign up for my email list. If you feel that a consultation would benefit you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide advice and behavior plans in order to help your home or classroom work efficiently and in a positive manner. Remember, you can do this. ?

About the Author

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. is a former teacher, behavior coach, and tutor who works with families and students to help them reach their full potential in a peaceful, positive environment. Melissa’s educational experiences paired with real world experience give her a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.  Please contact Melissa with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

5 Reasons to Read Picture Books to Older Children

Educators and parents often consider picture books to be for young children in early elementary grades. However, I have found picture books extremely helpful for older children in late elementary, middle, and high school grades. Read on to find out 5 reasons why you should read picture books to older children.

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1. Reading to another person reaffirms that you care.

2. Reading to another person shows that you value literature.

3. Older students may have special needs or English may be a second language which can make comprehension or reading difficult. By reading to older students, you remove some of the roadblocks preventing the enjoyment and understanding of a story.

4. Reading picture books to older children helps them to understand pronunciations, story lines, and other constructs of literature which they may miss through lectures and by reading to themselves.

5. Reading to older children lets them sit back, relax, and enjoy a great story.

He Bit Me! What to Do About Biting

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Biting is a common behavior among young children. When teaching in public schools I noticed that some of my students living with special needs also exhibited this behavior. Every parent, teacher, and relative seems to have advice about how to stop a child who bites in her tracks, but does the advice help? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

Here are some of the helpful comments, paraphrased, from friends of my Facebook page. Thank you to all who spoke up. I didn’t plan to add your information, but you had a lot of wisdom to share!

The child needs positive attention so notice when he is doing good things.

Spend time one on one together.

The child needs more autonomy and choices.

I wouldn’t react to it, but end play date or activity if it happens.

I would state expectations ahead of time.

Why is this happening? Find out why.

Pick up the biter and move her from the area. Tend to the hurt child.

Try to mediate the issue once all is calm if both parties are capable and willing.

 

Below is a list of additional strategies which may help when children bite.

Role play before issues occur and also after emotions have calmed.

Practice using replacement behaviors.

If the issue occurs because the child needs to chew or bite a certain texture, look into other things he can safely bite, for example Chewelry like these.

Have a continuous dialog with the child.

When children harm each other, separate, but do not punish. If you punish, that will encourage sneaky retaliation rather than in the open communication and problem solving.

Make sure there is an enriching environment.

Encourage peaceful communication even if it is nonverbal.

Make sure there is plenty of space for opposing priorities and personalities.

Healthy foods that are not processed tend to help lower the chances of behavior issues.

Avoiding triggers like hunger and being tired can help with behavior issues.

Stay calm. It is not because the child want to upset you.

It is because the child I feeling a large emotion.

 

Remember, it takes time and patience, but you and your child can

get past biting!

Teaching Tip: Helping a Reluctant Writer

Writing is about more than getting the words on paper. Sometimes students struggle with anxiety over “getting it right” and meeting expectations. The anxiety or fear of failure may prevent them from beginning a writing project. We can ease this stress by allowing flexible assignments, flexible presentation, and by backing off on other concerns (like grammar). Get back to the basics and focus on getting the story out instead of focusing on getting the story put on paper immediately and without mistakes. Below are nine of my favorite tips which may help your reluctant writers.

writer

  1. One way to help a student who struggles with writing is to use a frame. A frame creates part of a sentence while allowing the student to personalized the rest.

I feel _____ when I hear my favorite song.

The dog ________.

Yesterday I ______.

 

  1. Another way to support your struggling writers is to create lists. Have your class sit down and brainstorm lists of adverbs, adjectives, and other words that they may forget to use. Make lists of words that are more exciting than the typical “good”, “happy”, “mad”, “okay”. Make sure the lists are displayed in your room and also in each student’s writing notebook or folder for easy access. When a sentence seems short or less than interesting, ask the students to add one or more words form the lists to help create a more exciting sentence.

I saw a dog run.

I saw a fat collie jump and run across the field.

  1. Use a recording. Have your student speak the story while record it using a digital recorder or computer program. Then, when it is time to write, the student can listen as many times as needed while writing down the information.
  2. Act as a scribe for your students. Write what they say. Now they can read or write the information anytime.
  3. Use flexible presentation options. For example, allow the student to write a play instead of a typical composition. You could also allow the student to retell the story using felt boards, puppets, or a pretend campfire setting.
  4. Type it out. Use a computer or tablet instead of paper and pencil. If motor skills are a concern, this can help alleviate the extra stress that occurs because the student’s hands don’t work as neatly or quickly as he would like.
  5. Use a topic the student knows about or is fascinated with. This will encourage the student to be vested in learning and sharing information.
  6. Don’t rush the timeline. Good writers might complete an entire story in one day. However, most writers spend days, weeks, or longer to create their work.
  7. Use examples. Have you ever tried to create a new meal without a recipe? It’s nearly impossible without help. Our students need us to share examples with them so they know what good, quality writing looks like. Examples can come from trade books, textbooks, the Internet, and more. Make a habit out of discussing writing practice as you come across them in class.

Protecting My Child: We Met an Ignorant Bully

Yes, my title is strong. Here is why.

Today we had an unfortunate incident. My significant other has been ill and needed yet another test under sedation. Sometimes we can find a sitter or family member to help out, but today we could not so the children went with us. We packed food, books, games, phones with games, some of our homeschool supplies, and more. I took the children to lunch during the procedure so we would not have to be in the waiting area for an extended amount of time. We even sat in the car and spent time outside before going back in because I am no fool. It gets BORING waiting inside that waiting room. If I get bored, imagine how the kids feel!

After lunch, we went back into the waiting room and sat for perhaps 10-15 minutes. My son, who has sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and other concerns, was out of his seat so I directed him to sit back down so he would be safe. After all, which I explained to him, there is a walkway and if we are up moving around we will get hurt when people walk through. He was headed back to his seat the long way so he could hug a sister first when an employee, who I think was headed to lunch because she had her purse, offered crayons and a coloring page. I thanked her, but explained that he isn’t into that. (Trust me, we try, but he is not a fan of fine motor skills practice so we find other ways to develop his muscle tone. He even has special scissors because cutting is extremely frustrating for him.) So far so good, right? It was kind of her to offer an activity to my child. I appreciated that. This is where the situation gets troublesome. She looked at my four year old child, the kid who used to run away because he was afraid of new people and even family members he knew for years, and she said…

“You wanna come with me? You better behave or I am gonna take you!”

All three children gave her “the eye”, then turned to me. Oh, they knew this was NOT a good choice of words. They were right. I said, nicely actually, “We do not threaten, punish, or shame. Thank you for trying to help, but that is not something we need you to do.” Well, apparently that was a blow to her ego because she said she was not doing any of those things. I explained that we don’t operate our family that way and she was welcome to go on to her lunch break. I thanked her again for the offer to color and for trying to help, then turned back to my kids. She raised her voice and refused to leave us alone. She was in full bully mode! I repeatedly told her to go away. (Yes, I was blunt and stern at this point because she was being irrational and after saying she would take my son, I hope that was only a threat but who knows, I was concerned.) She repeatedly yelled at me, I asked for the supervisor and got the employee’s name. The supervisor hid “on the phone” in the office beside my chair the entire time and never did address the issue before we left to take my ill spouse home.

bully yell A

On one hand, some people have no clue how to behave. On the other hand, how are we supposed to protect our children, especially our children living with special needs, when folks like this pop up in our lives? I have a few suggestions, though I am sure some of you out there have even more ideas. Feel free to email or message me with your ideas. I am happy to credit you if you want them published in this blog post.

First, keep an eye out for your kids or use the buddy system. I know this puts a dark cloud over free ranging it, but sometimes you need eyes on the kids if in a new situation. Second, if someone approaches your child, know when to step in. If your child can handle walking away or saying leave me alone, great. If not, then you or the buddy can do this. Also, you can prepare your children by role playing and discussing what to do if this occurs. Third, educate. If I had a chance today, I would have explained my child’s special needs (even though he was behaving quite well) and asked if the employee had any questions. I know I know. It isn’t your job to educate. Unfortunately, sometimes it may be necessary even when you have no time or energy. I might have explained my experience with children, teaching, special needs, and child development then offered a discount on a service of her choice through my business. Fourth, if you are truly being harassed you may need to get a supervisor, security, or even the police involved. That shouldn’t be a first option, but there are times when we need a helpful hand from a perceived authority figure.

It really sucks when people are rude, mean, or ignorant. It sucks more when the person they are being rude to is your child. No one likes a bully. After the issue today, my child became hyperactive and ran laps around the house which he does not usually do. Climb, yes, run laps, no. My child and I were left with the after effects of the employee’s poor choices.

How you treat people matters. It really does. I guess some people didn’t learn that lesson in childhood. All we can do is prepare our children, do our best in the moment, and protect our children.