Tag Archives: special needs

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.

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  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.

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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.

Tips for Trips to Theme Parks

Going to a theme park can be a lot of fun. Some families try to go once or twice in their children’s lifetime, assuming funds are available. (Please don’t get me started on how unfair it is that so many children and families want to go, but cannot afford to go. It’s sad and the prices at some parks are beyond unreasonable.) Theme park attendance can be challenging for even the most peaceful of parents with “typical” children. (Who gets to decide what is typical anyway?!) Trips to theme parks can be more than exhausting if you attend with someone who is living with a special need. I have compiled some helpful hints that can help if you decide to go to a theme park, special needs or not. I hope they help.

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Look at and study the map in advance.

Watch Youtube videos of each ride and each area of the park in advance.

Bring a change of clothing.

Bring snacks and drinks you like. If the park won’t let you in with them, keep them in a cooler in the car.

Bring sunscreen, a hat, and/or protective clothing.

Discuss expectations and the attractions in advance.

Bring support if it all possible. You can never have too many helpers or hands.

Have important papers, modes of payment, and your phone in a plastic, or other, bag that can close.

Prepare for the noise and crowds. If a member of your group avoids these things you may be able to use headphones or other options to help, but keep in mind they may not hear you speak if you employ this type of tool. Keep the person close by you if you use headphones.

Label your kid. Seriously, use gps on the phone, label in the shirt, do something if you have a child who may wander off.

Take a picture of each child in case you get separated.

Write down or take a photo of the lot where you parked. (Bonus points if you can do this with the exact aisle.)

Be aware that most parks allow re-entry and this may be your best option for seeing everything, taking breaks, and not losing your patience. Find out the park’s rules and be sure to enjoy this option.

Be aware of water features and other hazard issues.

Be aware of food and bathroom options.

Bring baby wipes of some sort.

Bring hand cleaner of some sort.

Bring a fan if possible. It may seem cool out, but in the sun most days are still going to feel hot when at a theme park.

Be prepared to stop for food, bathroom, and to rest often.

Know when to head home. (You may not see and do it all. That is just how it goes.)

Call ahead to find out which services are available to you and your loved ones due to special needs. (Wheel chairs, allergen free menus, shorter lines, help getting to and from the parking area, and more may be offered.)

HAVE FUN!

I feel as if I am forgetting some things. Don’t be surprised if the list grows.

theme park 1A

I Might Call 911 on Another Parent

An article about free range parenting recently made the rounds of all the mommy pages online. The article made some lovely points about free range children and how to help if you feel a child is in trouble. I whole-heartedly agree with the recommendations. I agree that if a child has a free range kid card, which I have never seen but I love the idea, we should carry on and not worry. I also agree that if we do not know our neighbors we may fear the unknown. It would be nice if there were people we could trust in our neighborhoods to help out. The only way to build that trust is to get to know our neighbors.

However, the article appears to come from a place of privilege. It is not always as simple as watching the child in question until your worries over safety subside. It is not as simple as learning to meet and make connections with neighbors. I do not consider the world to be overly dangerous in general, however, there are some places where free range life is not the best choice for a child even if that child has skills which would otherwise make a free range childhood safe. Privilege has to be part of the free range conversation.

privilege

I taught for many years. My students often told of shootings, illegal drugs being sold, as well as violent crimes in general. They had to hide, hop fences, or run to a neighbor. Upon reading the paper later in the day and reviewing bus routes along with addresses, all stories were verified every time. Not once did a student lie to me. These students had neighbors who would take them in. They needed that for survival on some days. However, free range life was a not the safest option for these children even when they stayed in the area near their homes and close to neighbors who looked after them.

I’m not saying call 911 if you see children walking from the bus to their home or to the park. I do think you need to use thoughtfulness when making a choice. If I see 2 older elementary children, I am more likely to walk on and not worry. They are using the buddy system so if one child gets hurt, the other can call for help. I have children living with allergies and while young they use the buddy system when out and about in case of emergency. I do not remind them of the potential emergencies because that might upset them for no good reason, but they do stick together.

If I see one child who is about 4 then I may worry a bit. If I see a child who is disoriented or bleeding, I would check on the child. Imagine if I had not called the police to do reverse 911 when I found a 2 year old who was nonverbal in my back yard near an intersection. What might have happened? It’s all about the situation.

So here is my suggestion, instead of saying that people who call children’s services or the police are bad because they do not understand free range living, stop and think about how the situation may have looked. Maybe it appeared that the children were very young, hurt, or ill. Maybe there was gang activity in the area. Maybe there are starving coyotes nearby even during the day, similar to the area near my old home. Maybe there is a reason that person called for assistance.

If you want your children to be free range, and they all should be at some point, then you have to do some outreach in your neighborhood (After all, preteens and teens walk around the mall in my town quite often.) If my four year old is running down the road, there is problem. He is living with some special needs that prevent him from making safe choices when stressed. My older children, however, are responsible enough to go out together in our neighborhood and ride bikes or take a walk. My neighbors are aware of these facts and have been extremely helpful in not only understanding why my older children are out and about, but also understanding the limits of my youngest child.

I won’t condemn free range parenting or free range children, but I also won’t condemn those who make the call for help. I am a mandated neglect and abuse reporter, but also human, and have called for assistance when something looked concerning. I think both sides of the argument are valid, and we would get further if we stopped vilifying “the other side” and began understanding that not every other person has our frame of reference and our privilege.

Free range isn’t going away. The fears some have will only go away if we do outreach AND if the fears are invalid. Let’s work together instead of tearing each other apart in another mommy war.